Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Winter Food Discovery

My past trips to Europe have been pleasant and memorable. Most of my visits were during the summer season, hence I tried mostly their summer delicacies.

This time around, I am here in France and Switzerland for a winter adventure. Let me share to you some interesting stuff I have tried so far...

My mother-in-law prepared some "winter" salad like: betterave (red-looking jelly-like salad which was yummy); endives (whitish yellowish salad that grows only in winter).

During my stay with hubby's aunt, she made some gratin de carde (which is another vegetable that grows only in winter).

Now let's move to the highlights of my gastronomic experience.

RACLETTE -- My yummy first raclette experience! It's a Swiss/French type of cooking which uses a special cooker to warm the cheese, which after it's melted, you put on top of potatoes. We ate it with some dried meat, small pickled onions and cornichon (green small things which I have never eaten in Asia). It was fun to cook while eating, something like a little shabu-shabu experience but European style with lots and lots of cheese. A highly recommended gastronomic experience if you do spend winter in Europe. It was memorable for me and I do hope to have more of this in the winters to come. I took a photo of our dinner at chez Claudette !!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raclette

FONDUE -- We had some serious cheese indulgence during our visit in Geneva. We had a good time at the restaurant Edelweiss, which had a nice chalet ambience and traditional Swiss live music. Hubby's aunt, who used to work in Geneva informed us that this restaurant is always full, and one needs to make reservations to ensure a seat. We started with some dried meat with Girolle cheese. Then followed by the hot cheese fondue, which was very nice for winter. We dipped the crusty bread into the melted cheese while sipping some Swiss White Wine (which were not white in color). A must try when in Geneva. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fondue

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Au revoir Kuala Lumpur!

On my way to my Christmas holiday! Bye bye KL... and hello Europe!

About to start my holiday journey ... a very long flight to France.

Took the flight from KL to Singapore. Stop. Dinner in Singapore airport. Then a flight from Singapore to Paris. It was a pleasant surprise to see that SQ had new planes flying to Paris. The in-flight entertainment was better than before. The dinner was superb (very tasty steak) and you can see that the quality of the blankets were wow! And by the way ... I was just in economy flight. I would highly recommend Singapore Airlines to anyone who has extra money to spare (since it's pricier than other airlines) ... it's really worth it!

CDG Paris Airport.... cold, very cold. It was -3 degrees outside. My poor body was not built for winter season, so let's see how I will survive my first ever winter Christmas!

Hubby met me at the airport... We had a quick baguette lunch at Paul .. yummy! Incidentally, Paul will be opening shop soon in Kuala Lumpur. We are definitely waiting for that.. and probably the other French expats too!

We took a flight from Paris to Marseille. And then my in-laws picked us up from the airport.

We're off to our Christmas holiday in South of France!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Penang Trip Again...

Just last week I went off to Penang for a business day trip... flew out of KLIA (KL International Airport) at 7:30am and came back through the 10pm flight out from Penang... which means by the time I got home, it was almost past midnight. And yes, I was dead tired. Day trips are tiring!

A few days after that trip, I had to take another one and this time... I stayed overnight. It was a tiring day full of meetings and training... but with a pleasant ending. We wrapped up the evening with a good dinner at Kampachi (Equatorial Hotel). The japanese food was great! After our late dinner, I checked into the G Hotel (at 11pm already!) The G Hotel is quite new (as I was informed) so I decided to go for it. The design is quite modern in design. It's not your traditional hotel. The place was clean and the breakfast service staff were quite friendly. I wasn't surprised that the waiter's good service is because he is Filipino :)

I think I paid a little below RM300- per room per night with breakfast. Not bad... especially since I got a room with a great view of the sea!

For business trips, G Hotel is a good choice. New, straight-forward and hip. But if you go to Penang for a vacation... I would highly suggest that you stay in Batu Feringghi. It has more of a holiday feel, nearby the sea and the beach. Our last trip was Nov 2007, and we stayed at the boutique hotel called Lone Pine. Good choice and value for money. I think it was around RM280- for 2 people with breakfast. They serve nice bread (which you can toast over charcoal fire, one of the speciality of Penang, if I am not mistaken. Topped with butter and kaya toast, the bread is really tasty!)

Penang reminds me of Cebu, Philippines. Should you one day get to go to Cebu (there are direct flights to Cebu-Singapore; while for KL it will be KL-Manila-Cebu via Cebu Pacific), the must stay place is Shangri-la Mactan. Good for honeymooners. Or even families with kids. You will surely, and I mean SURELY enjoy your stay there!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pinoy's Itinerary: 4-day KL Visit

Recently I had the chance to have some Pinoy guests over to visit me in KL. They are Chinese-Filipinos armed with serious shopping plans.

So in that 4-day short visit, I suggested the itinerary, which turned our pretty well! They went home happily and satisfied with the maximized shopping, sight seeing and food tasting in Malaysia!

The group flew into KL through Cebu Pacific. Unfortunately, they experienced a very bad flight delay on their way to Malaysia (from Manila). But still, they were in high spirits when they arrived. Instead on landing at 1am in LCCT (Low Cost Terminal where Cebu Pacific lands), they ended up touching down around 4am.

On their 1st day in Malaysia: The Curve, Ikea, 1 Utama (barely enough time at 1 Utama since we reached there quite late and shops started closing after we had dinner). Pretty good shopping, but nothing major yet....

2nd day : shopping at Suria KLCC, tour at the Petronas Twin Towers Sky Bridge, and dinner at Pavilion

3rd day: whole day shopping at 1 Utama. Major shopping bags! Then dinner and slight shopping at Sri Hartamas Shopping Center

4th day: a short walk at the park at TTDI, lunch and major shopping at Mid Valley Megamall and The Gardens

They flew out that evening (actually the next day but 1am)... so the 4th day meant having dinner at home before they took the cab at 1030pm, to reach airport at 1130pm.

Overall, they had a good stay. It was practically a tightly packed schedule. And they really enjoyed seeing the beautiful decors in the shopping malls.

So should you one day have a Pinoy or any nationality guest with major shopping plans... you can follow that schedule! :)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Where to Eat: My Reco to Expats

Malaysia is one of those blessed countries with a vast selection of food. It's a happy place for food lovers... like me!

I am sure that people have different views and criteria for food. Price. Taste. Freshness. Style.

Whatever I state here is merely my own opinion. I feel that there are places where newly-arrived expats must visit. It's based on our experience, our trials (and errors). Feel free to check them out (and maybe comment). This topic popped up today only because a had a good chat about FOOD and WHERE TO EAT with a new colleague of mine who just moved from U.S.

  • Dimsum lovers must try Xiao Long Bao - go to any branch of Dragon-I (The Curve, 1 Utama, etc) Pricing is average. Good recommended place for foreigners who want Chinese food yet affordable.
  • Pasta lovers must try the Duck Confit of Delicious (Bangsar Village 2, 1 Utama)
  • Good salad is hard to find in KL! Must go to Delicious (again)
  • Mouth-watering desserts -- must visit Delicious (yes, again!) By the way, pricing is above average at this place... which explains the good food!
  • For local flavor : Nasi Lemak, Yummy Beef Rendang and the killer dessert Bubur Cha Cha please, please visit Madam Kwan (KLCC, Bangsar, Pavilion) Pricing is above average.
  • A nice get-together for friends to dine and have drinks (all in one place) is La Bodega at Jalan Telawi Bangsar (I cannot count how many times I have been there. It's a great place for 1st impressions to my foreign guests) Definitely the pricing is above average.
  • Yummy pancakes -- I just love, love pancakes & crepes -- do not forget to visit Paddington House of Pancakes at The Curve / 1 Utama / Sri Hartamas Shopping Center
  • Authentic Japanese Food - Raku Zen at Sri Hartamas Shopping Center or KL. You get good quality Japanese with pricing that is above average only (can compare to hotel-quality Jap food, but less pricey than hotels)
  • Really authentic Indian food, dine outdoors under the trees, use your hands to eat on banana leaf! The place is called Raju at Section 5, Petaling Jaya (warning: do not attempt to go there if you just moved to KL recently, I doubt you will know how to drive there!)
  • Bread: to those who are bread lovers like us ... I am sure you will not settle on just buying Gardenia! Some note-worthy bakeries to buy bread from are :
    • The Bakery - owned by French people, located at Sri Hartamas / Ampang. They also serve food at the Sri Hartamas branch (bakery-cafe type of place)
    • Provence Bakery: small, small bakery inside the grocery Citi Super in Sri Hartamas Shopping Center; they have friendly staff, freshly baked bread all the time. Love therir french baguette
    • Sun Moulin: great selection!!! Freshly made too! Even have nicely packed fresh sandwiches; I went to KLCC and 1 Utama branch
I am sure there are still many places we have not discovered. Places we have yet to visit and yet to taste. I will update in the future. But for now, I just wanted to share a few basics which hopefully someone out there might appreciate :)

Bon appetit !!!

A Year After Moving to Malaysia

Yes, Christmas is around the corner. To a Catholic like me, this is "THE HOLIDAY". It's like the most major thing, especially in Manila where majority of the population holds the same religion. One of the jokes I used to share with non-Pinoy people is that whenever the month ends with "-ber" (e.g. OctoBER), to us Filipinos it's as good as almost Christmas. Christmas countdown and music starts playing, business slows down towards the end of the year, and people just get into that giving (and party) mood.

Now, December to me holds many things ... things of the past and things to come.

I remember not too long ago, when we just first arrived in Malaysia -- we were clueless about most things, like really basic things. We had to start from scratch. Where to go, how to drive (on the "right" side, recognize & memorize (painfully) foreign sounding street names, and so on. As December crawled in, I became nostalgic and remembered our situation last year. How things have changed so quickly!

1 year -- yes, 1 year in Malaysia. So, as an expat who has lived in KL for a year, what have I learned? What have I achieved? Discovered? Love? Hate?

Let me sum it up with a few statements.

In the first month, it's all about survival.
Renting a car. Groceries: where to buy and best bargains. Oops, I gotta bag my own groceries! And oops! I gotta push my own grocery cart to the (rented) car! Opening an account. Wiring our money! Apply for Visa / Mastercard. Should I get a local driving license? Which malls are worth going to? Do I need to "tip" at restaurants? Where are the Catholic Churches hidden? Christmas eve : shocking revelation because all the shops were open! (unlike Philippines where everything will be so, so, so closed because it is the most sacred holiday of all) Visiting KLCC.
Number of friends in Malaysia -- very few :(

Several months later ...
Braving the traffic and taking adventures. Got a "Touch and Go" card! Usually hanging out in Bangsar. Having a list of your Top 5 favorite restaurants! Been to gazillion malls -- 1 Utama, Pavilion, Sunway, The Curve, Mid Valley Megamall, The Gardens, Bangsar Village 1 and 2, Sri Hartamas Shopping Center, Low Yat, Sungai Wang, Lot 10, Starhill, Times Square, Centerpoint, etc. Discovering 2 Catholic churches (and know their Mass schedules!) Umm, got 2 police tickets (they call it "summon" here) only because of illegal parking, haha! Talked my way out of a speeding ticket. Tried driving in the SMART tunnel (alone, and I was NOT at all petrified that I don't know where it leads to). Know how to switch lanes easily and avoid those motor bikes! Having a regular place for regular massage, pedicure and haircut! In my wallet : Ikea membership card, Times Bookstore membership card ... you get the picture!
Number of friends :) - it's more than what I expected and the list is still growing!

And of course, it would have not been as colorful if not visiting the sites! In less than a year, we made time for Malacca, Langkawi, Cameron Highlands, Bukit Tinggi (Colemar Tropicale), Sabah, Kuala Selangor, Genting Highlands, Penang, Redang ..... and still so many places to go to!
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