Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

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So, who is the gourmet traveller? I was born in Manila. My food memories are vivid with most of them spent in my grandparents home – eating green mangoes off the tree, having fresh coconuts which we stuck straws into to sip the sweet juice, enjoying al fresco meals of grilled meat and fish by the pool. I also remember our Sunday lunches with the assortment of Filipino food prepared by my Lola’s (grandmother) cook Alice, from whom I learned many recipes that I still use today. After completing a journalism degree, I started taking French at the Alliance Francaise de Manille with the hopes of living in Paris one day. A year of French lessons later, I enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and left Manila in 1992. I haven’t stopped moving since.

Although I was already a passionate foodie before I left home, the three years I lived in Paris helped me appreciate good food and the good life. I completed the cuisine and pastry course at the school and earned my Grand Diploma. At the same time, I also did several internships, a month-long stay in Cognac, harvesting grapes and learning about eau-de-vie from Remy Martin, followed by several more weeks in Bordeaux learning about wines and in Reims learning about champagne from Krug and Piper Heidsieck. I also started working in the kitchens of Le Crillon (Christian Constant was the head chef at that time) and continued my French at the Sorbonne. I then moved to Napa for half a year to complete two internships at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville and another at the kitchen of Auberge du Soleil. Living in Napa brought the importance of farm-to-table eating with the abundance of fresh produce available making Napa, along with Paris, one of my favorite places in the world.
More travels followed after Napa – three years in post-perestroika Moscow when living there was still an adventure and finding fresh fruits and vegetables was still a challenge. There I learned, that one makes do with what one has and somehow I was able to create simple meals in my Russian-standard kitchen – homemade pizzas and even eggs Benedict with freshly-made Hollandaise. After several years in Moscow, I went back home to Manila and opened my restaurant – Beluga Bar and Bistro – with a chef friend who was at university with me and who had just come back home after finishing at the Culinary Institute of America. Beluga was the first restaurant in Manila that integrated fine wines with modern cuisine with a private cellar dining room, showcasing over 200 wines from all over the world (it helped that my mom was in the wine business and has been an importer of fine wines since 1979). It was a fantastic time and a great learning experience.

Soon after, I met my Argentine husband, who shared the same passion for food and wines. We traveled together to Bordeaux for the VinExpo and to Napa for the Mondavi Summer Jazz Festival. In 2000, we had a springtime wedding in Napa followed by a reception lunch at the Auberge de Soleil (back to where it all began for me as an intern) accompanied by more than a hundred family and friends from all over the world where we enjoyed Bollinger champagne and Robert Mondavi wines overlooking the vineyards.

Married life and more travel ensued. We spent a few years living in Santiago de Chile where our son was born, then my hotelier husband was posted to Dubai where we lived for a couple of years. Montreal followed where we spent a year and a bit, then it was off to southern Spain where we enjoyed the fantastic weather and laid-back lifestyle for four years (our longest posting so far). There, our family grew to include a daughter. After Marbella, we moved back to southeast Asia to Bali where we spent a couple of years living the island life. From the Island of the Gods, Bali, we moved to the Island of Enchantment, Puerto Rico, for another posting and an exciting luxury hotel opening on beautiful Dorado Beach. After a year and half in the Caribbean, we moved back to southeast Asia to the island city and bright lights of Singapore where we have been for the last two and a half years.

The constant traveling and relocating that comes with being an ex-pat encouraged me to start something I could bring with me whenever and wherever we packed up and moved to. In March 2007, I started chronicling my food and travel experiences with my blog Travels with a Gourmet. Since then, I’ve been writing about my travels, offering restaurant recommendations, sharing recipes and giving tips and tricks to settling in the many different countries we have lived and enjoying the many different places we have visited. Luckily, I made lots of friends from all over and hopefully inspired others to travel more, eat more and discover more places. Here’s hoping that your travels are always interesting and always filled with gourmet adventures.

N.B. Updated on 24 May 2016

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23 thoughts on “Who am I?

  1. Hi, tried to send you an El País article on Puerto cuisine. Best regards, Jose Macicior

    La nueva cocina boricua
    Los jóvenes chefs de Puerto Rico están cociendo una onda sabrosa propia de fusión criolla. La gastronomía se une a su oferta turística
    ROSA RIVAS Madrid 12 FEB 2013 – 16:49 CET8
    Archivado en: Cocineros José Andrés Fitur Puerto Rico Gastronomía Caribe Establecimientos comerciales Gente Latinoamérica América Cultura Sociedad Comercio

    El chef puertorriqueño Fernando Parrilla prepara un ‘arroz con gandules’. / R. RIVAS
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    Las playas y el ron no son los únicos ingredientes de Puerto Rico para despertar el apetito viajero de los turistas; la cocina es un tesoro por descubrir. Lo dicen Fernando Parrilla, uno de los chefs punteros de lo que ya se está llamando “la nueva cocina boricua”, y la ministra de Turismo, Ingrid Rivera. Como en otros países del mundo, las autoridades han descubierto que la gastronomía es un filón económico y la reciente feria Fitur de Madrid fue un claro escaparate del mapamundi culinario.

    “El reto de los cocineros de Puerto Rico es mantener viva nuestra cocina, porque tenemos tanta influencia de Estados Unidos en el diario vivir… Durante siglos hemos sido fieles a nuestras recetas, con una base muy fuerte española, africana y de los indios taínos… Adoramos la comida española, pero al tener otro clima y otros ingredientes le damos nuestro toque”, resalta Fernando Parrilla, director de la Escuela de Artes Culinarias y Hospitalidad de Puerto Rico (en el centro de negocios MBTI). Reconocido entre otros premios como Mejor Chef del Caribe 2007, en su restaurante Crispy y Rellenopretende “complacer el paladar local utilizando combinaciones de la comida frita de antaño. En un ambiente familiar y amigable”.

    ‘Bohío puertorriqueño’: croqueta de plátano macho maduro y carne con reducción de pimiento rojo, por el chef Fernando Parrilla. / R. RIVAS
    “Recuperando recetas tradicionales, la cocina tradicional casera la llevamos a otro niveles, la modernizamos sin perder el sabor original”, subraya Fernando Parrilla. Por él hablan sus platos, como el pescado cocido espolvoreado con crujiente de plátano y acompañado de una ensalada de aguacate; el arroz con gandules (guisantes); el bohío: croquetas (en modo tempura, que llaman bacalaíto) de plátano y carne de buey, o elsopón criollo de la montaña, “un caldo de carne y verduras con sabor a campo” que incluye pollo, carne de buey, patatas, calabaza, maíz y el sofrito puertorriqueño. Este incluye “ingredientes que no pueden faltar en la cocina boricua como recao (una nativa hierba aromática con toque cítrico), cilantro, pimiento, cebolla, ají dulce… todo molido”. “Es la base de todos los guisos. Ahí sale nuestro sabor”, dice el cocinero, y avisa que “No es una cocina picante, es sabrosa”.

    Pescados como el mero, chillo (pescado blanco), colirrubia, loros o la merluza. Mariscos como la langosta, el buey de mar, almejas, mejillones, burgao, ostras… Frutas como piña, plátano, mango, papaya, coco… Se funden con estilos, aromas y especias de herencia española. La versión puertorriqueña del arroz con leche incluye el arroz cocido en leche de coco con canela, moldeado con uvas pasas en el interior, coronado por calabaza dulce y acompañado de frutas tropicales.

    El cocinero puertorriqueño Roberto Treviño.
    Junto a Parrilla, hay más nombres para apuntar en este hervor de la nueva cocina criolla-boricua, comoJosé Santaella (formado en EEEUU y en elBulli), con restaurante y catering gourmet en San Juan; Roberto Treviño, propietario de Budatai, Bar Gitano y Lola; Ariel Rodríguez, chef del restaurante Augusto (en San Juan); Efraín Cruz, en elIntercontinental de Isla Verde, o José María Cuevas (formado con Subijana en Akelarre), que oficia en el Hotel Vanderbilt, en Condado.

    Y entre lo más nuevo, el aterrizaje del influyente José Andrés, embajador de la cocina española en Estados Unidos. Su restaurante Mi Casa, se ubica en un lujoso espacio vacacional en Dorado Beach de la cadena Ritz Carlton. El chef lo asume como “un punto de encuentro entre dos mundos, España y América” y ha puesto al frente de la cocina a uno de sus pupilos, el puertorriqueño Jacob Ramos. Ofrece antojitos a la vez que tapas y platos basados en especialidades isleñas (con recetas inspiradas en El cocinero Puertorriqueño, libro aparecido en 1859 y considerado el primer recetario de Puerto Rico). En la carta de vinos, 30 variedades de ron.

    ‘Sopón criollo de la montaña’, con carne y verduras. / R. R.
    Los hoteles están sirviendo de escaparate para el trabajo de los chefs en todo el mundo y en un lugar tan enfocado al turismo como Puerto Rico no podía ser menos. En los últimos tiempos han proliferado los restaurantes gastronómicos, sobre todo en el área de San Juan. “Muchos cocineros del patio han estudiado fuera, sobre todo en Europa”, afirma la ministra de Turismo, “y han regresado con nuevas ideas y técnicas para poder dar una oferta única no solo para visitantes extranjeros sino también para el turista portorriqueño que viaja muchísimo”. Para mantener al día la lista de la cantera, la revista gastronómica Qué Pasa y la web Sal a Comer en Puerto Rico incluyen pistas para seguir lo que se cuece.

    1. Thanks Jose! Hope the Puerto Rican cuisine scene gets even better.

  2. travel says:

    Love your blog!
    Could you please list your top 10 for Bali? thanks…

    1. Hi Mariko,
      Here are my Bali Top Ten:
      Breakfast at KuDeTa
      Lunch at Cafe DEGAN
      Sunset drinks at the Bvlgari
      Dinner at Mamasan
      Day trip to Tanah Lot and Jatiluwih
      Weekend in Ubud
      Walk through the rice fields
      Drive to Candi Dasa and Amed
      Spend the day down south in the beaches of the Bukit
      Attend a ceremony in a temple during the full moon.

  3. Wibi Udayana says:

    Love reading your blog. Can’t wait to see more!

    1. Thanks Wibi! Please check in again soon for more gourmet travel.

  4. Enjoyed reading your blog, I love food!

    1. Thanks Shayela! Hope you’re still following my gourmet travels.

  5. Stella says:

    Great food blog! Thanks for sharing your food experience! I am checking now everything under the tag ‘bali’ – to find out some places i still haven’t visited here. 😉

    1. Spasibo Stella! Hope that you find my Bali list useful.

  6. Laetitia says:

    Hi,

    Love your website and passion for fine food. ‘m the editor of a guidebook for families called Bali with Kids (www.baliwithkids.com). We’re currently researching good places for Sunday brunch in Bali. an you email me your views on that? Maybe you could contribute to our newsletter/guidebook by selecting your top kid friendly restaurants on the island. Would love to hear from you! … and my son was born in the Philippines where we lived for 4 years :-))

    Thanks
    contact@baliwithkids.com

    1. Thanks Laetitia! I would love to contribute to Bali with Kids. ll send you an email later.

  7. Hi RJ,

    Sorry none for the moment on Korea, Japan or China although now that I’m back in South east Asia, I’ll probably visit those places and post on my gourmet travels there. In the meantime, look out for my Bali posts.

  8. R J Harris says:

    Kudos, very nicely done!

    Any foodie tips for China, Korea or Japan?

    cheers,
    R J Harris

    http://www.magicalspain.com/index.htm

  9. Jerry Barber says:

    Paris has to be my favorite vacation destination. Each occasion I visit I discover new things that I adore.

  10. Dear John,

    Thanks for checking in! I’m so glad that you enjoyed my blog. How lucky to be in Buenos Aires, my second favorite city and in the spring when the jacaranda trees flower in Recoleta.

    The midnight snack must be a Pinoy thing just like the big Filipino breakfasts.

    Enjoy B.A. and hope you check in again.

    G.T.

  11. lionetecureuil says:

    Dear Gourmet Traveller,

    I haven’t read much of your blog (only 2 entries, midnight snack and spring time in Buenos Aires) but I know I will be a keen follower already. We have many similarities, like being born in the Philippines, going to France to learn French (I also went to Spain to learn Spanish), travelling a lot, being passionate about food and somehow finding fusion between two passions. Today, my wife (who is French/Canadian) and I have taken some time off busy life to travel and expand our understanding of the world. I want to do it from the viewpoint of a “mindful traveller” but also through the lense of cuisine, ie how are cultures defined by their food. I also have a blog but as yet, I haven’t really made a real start apart from just letting people know how we are. If you have time, check it out:

    http://www.lionetecureuil.wordpress.com

    We are currently in Buenos Aires, and we are enjoying spring time here (as well as the meat, which is divine!)

    Finally, I am glad to know someone else shares my midnight snack habbit. I too sneak into the kitchen to enjoy food after midnight, like eggs and bacon? My wife thinks I am mad but I guess at least I am not alone.

    Thanks again, and keep blogging.
    John

    1. dear lisa, love the blog! next time you’re in Bali, get away from the Dark Side (Seminyak etc) and Middle Earth (Ubud) and come to discover
      the Light Side (the northwest corner of Bali) and Puri Ganesha…Marcello from Gaya knows us and it would be fun perhaps to come up with them
      for a weekend? for some added excitement, you can take the earliest flight from Singapore to Surabaya, then the 35 minute flight (when the volcano
      has calmed down again!) to Banyuwangi just over the Bali strait in East Java and we’ll pick you up! Alternatively if you have the time, take the Executive Express from Surabaya to Banyuwangi (6 hours through some of the most wonderful landscapes in peace with free wifi and good food
      on ‘real’ plates!) and we pick up there too! if you’d like to know more, please email me.beach greetings, Diana

  12. Thanks Lisa! Cache was a fantastic magazine.

  13. lisakrichards says:

    Hi there,

    Great website. Shame I didn’t stumble across you when I was in Marbella working on Caché.
    Keep up the good work,

    Lisa Richards

  14. I like your blog-it is interesting and fun to read-foodies are bound to love it-I do-keep blogging

  15. ashthefoodie says:

    very refresing blog I must say.Keep bloging and making us foodies happy.
    peace and grace
    ASHTHEFOODIE
    http://ashtefoodie.wordpress.com

  16. Tony May says:

    This is a fantastic website. Maybe you both remember from Manila?
    All the best,
    Tony.

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