Monday, December 31, 2012

Hogging it in Hong Kong

The day after we arrived from Paris, we were on a plane again, this time with the rest of the family to a well deserved break in Hong Kong.  We used to spend our  new year holidays in this lively and lovely city every year but had stopped doing so after 2006.  This would be our first time back as a family after all that time.

This bright shiny inflatable pig with wings greeted me in Hong Kong.  
With pink letters that screamed "LOVE ME!" it was a sign!  
The food gods were telling me that since I had fallen off the vegetarian wagon in Paris, it would be hypocritical and just plain wrong to get back on it in Hong Kong.  
"Eat Pork" they chorused at me from on high -- "We are sending you this huge pink pig as our messenger!"
I am not one to refuse to heed a message from the gods so off I went to follow their commands.

For me, there is only one place to indulge in all my porcine fantasies in Hong Kong -- Guangdong Barbecue House in Hankow Road, very near our hotel.  Gleaming brown roasted meats hung at the doorway -- just waiting to be ordered and chopped.

I headed straight for the kill  -- the dead baby pig of course.
Sympathy and tender heartedness be damned!  A plate of suckling pig please!
The portion was just seven thin slices but each was succulent, crisp and had hardly any fat
between the crackling and the meat -- as it melted in my mouth, all my reserve and doubts melted away too.   My baser foodie self had once again won the day!

Everyone in the family loves char siew pork, my son most of all.  That reddish, sweetish, slightly charred, honey-and-hoisin basted hunk of roasted pork goodness is our collective waterloo. 
Char siew pork comes from a single recipe with the same ingredients but there is something about Hong Kong and how they make it -- it tastes like no other char siew pork in the world!

My husband is particularly fond of lechon kawali or deep fried pork belly, Philippine style.  That is, when he's not being prudish, prissy or watching his diet.
Guangdong Barbecue House serves up the  chinese version called roast pork with crispy skin.
Since it's been hanging on top of the counter for quite some time in the chilly December weather, the order comes to us cold but surprisingly, the skin is wonderfully crisp and the fat has not congealed at all.  It's like a plate of cold cuts ... chinese style!

After that dinner at Guangdong Barbecue House, I willy-nilly trod the path to porky perdition -- throwing all caution and reserve to the winds.  Vegetarian, excuse me -- is that a word?
Next meal is a bowl of milky white ramen from a Japanese noodle chain, Aji-sen.
The thin pork belly slices are well flavored and go well with the broth of pork bones.

I even have a side order of gyoza to mark my descent to porky hell.

The buffet breakfast at the Prince Hotel where we are staying was quite a spread -- chinese, indian vegetarian, japanese, american and european cuisines were all well represented.  
What made me truly happy though was the large platter of soft cooked bacon -- just the way I like it.  Some people like their bacon cooked to a crisp but I find that akin to eating thin sheets of paper.
I like my bacon thickly sliced and gently cooked so it comes to me soft, salty and melt-in-my-mouth irresistible. Aaaah!  I go into raptures just thinking about it.
This was my breakfast everyday at the Prince.  With a cup of hot steamed rice -- the only thing missing (and that I was too shy to ask for) was a saucer of good old vinegar.  That combination of salty and sour would have really made my piggy day!

Alas,  Pork Yorick, I knew him -- but  all good things must come to an end.
I have vowed on the bones of all the poor pigs slaughtered before their time that after 2012 -- I shall go back to my vegetarian ways.  A stroke after midnight, the first minute of January 1, 2013 will find me a new,  renewed, born again, fundamentalist, rightist, hawkish vegetarian!
Otherwise, I am sure that I will end up looking like this pink pig should I not repent of my porcine sins!
Ad astra per alia porci! In the literal, not literary sense, if I do not mend my hoggish ways.

Happy new year everyone!

Paris the 3rd Time Around - Day 14 The Pleasures of the Airport Lounge

Airline lounges are not always necessary specially during short flights with little time to waste.  But on long haul flights with lengthy lay overs, they really come in handy.  
KLM's Taipei stop over added 8 hours of waiting time for us -- 4 hours in Charles de Gaulle and another 4 in Schiphol.

Our morning started at the CDG Airport Lounge and this being Paris -- breakfast was a good buttery croissant, honey and demi sel beurre to go with it.  A bottle of Evian, naturally.

We waited so long for our flight, before we knew it, the makings of lunch were served.  I decided to keep things light and had a good hearty mushroom soup with crackers -- plus a small packet of chips.

Jay's lunch plate had roast beef, jamon serrano and a tomato quesadilla.  The glass of white wine on the table is mine and not his.

Another long wait at Schiphol before our 8:45 pm flight to Taipei then on to Manila!

Dinner time at the KLM Crowne Lounge was quite sumptuous and very tasty too.  There were various types of sausages and cold ham, good Edam cheese and a hot meal of a very tender beef stew with winter vegetables. A small card beside the pot explained that it was typical and traditional Dutch fare served during the cold months.
I was surprised to find that it was very good and even better tasting than an in-flight meal.
I suppose it's true what they say -- our taste buds change 30,000 feet up in the air.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Paris the 3rd Time Around - Day 13 : I love you Paris, but this is Good Bye

I have been to Paris every year for the past four years and the last three of those were during Christmas time.  It's my favorite place in the world.   
I know and yet I don't quite know why I love it so much. 
But I think it's time to say good bye to the city that I love the most.  
Because I don't think I will be back next Christmas.
I will miss Paris -- she will leave a void in my heart.  
Just thinking about not ever seeing her again makes me sad. 
Here's my love letter to Paris and all the things I will miss ...

I will miss flying into Charles de Gaulle, on my favorite airline, the ever efficient,  always organized, extremely reliable  KLM -- with the tallest female flight attendants I have ever seen.

I will miss the first ever glimpse of the city each time  and the quickening of my pulse as the car crosses the Seine.

As Cole Porter said, "I love Paris in the winter ... when it drizzles". I will even miss the rainy days and nights.

I can drink 1664 any where in the world but it will never taste as good as drinking it in a bistro in Paris.

The food may not always be good but when it is, it's perfect.

The Paris Metro -- probably one of the oldest in the world. A great way to get around the city but sometimes, I miss the light and need to get above the ground.

I'll miss Paris' marche aux puces - her flea markets where you can buy anything and everything, even spare airplane parts.

Jay and I will miss renting an apartment -- and the illusion it brings that somehow, even if for just two weeks, we are locals and part of the neighborhood.

I love exploring the streets of Paris ---

And turning the corner and finding her grand buildings.

I will miss walking by the Seine on a cold December afternoon ...

and walking across  Paris ' oldest bridge, Pont Neuf.

And how about those gorgeous Parisian men in uniform!

We will miss sitting outdoors on those ubiquitous cafe chairs, watching the world pass us by.

And Jay will miss his favorite small shops in the Cite flower market where they sell antiques and curiosities galore.

I will miss treasure hunting through Paris' vintage shops  -- where 1 euro silk scarves and distressed leather handbags are rewards for those who can dig through the piles.

We will even miss take-out Chinese dinners from the oriental traiteurs.
Not the best food in the world but something that we always turn to when
we start to miss the taste of home.

They say Paris is not safe -- but I have never had a bad experience -- even while walking alone through quiet, deserted streets late at night.  I will miss the sound of my footsteps on her silent streets.

I will miss the Seine at night -- romantic and dreamy.

And who will ever cut my hair the way that only Willy Leyba can?  I will miss this kind, gentle and unbelievably talented Filipino hair artist who has  made a name for himself in the most stylish and chic capital of the world!

Paris' pastries are the best -- the tarte tatin my favorite of all!

But I won't discriminate -- eclairs, tarte citron, macarons, macaronade -- I love them equally as well!

I will miss dusk as it hits Paris and all the lights slowly go on, creating a magical and enchanting glow.

And I will miss her streets, decked out in Christmas colors and lights -- twinkling and shimmering through the winter cold.

I will never be able to gaze up at Marc Chagall's lovely ceiling, framing the grand chandelier of the Paris Opera Garnier.

And I will miss Paris' many outstanding museums where one can get lost for hours or even days.

But the streets of Paris are museums unto themselves where art abounds, even on lamp posts.

Where you can see sculptures framed by nothing but the vista that surrounds it.

I may not find it as the most iconic symbol of Paris but yes -- I will miss Mr. Eiffel, specially as he looms above me like this.

Demi sel beurre can make the most mundane slice of bread taste like heaven on earth.

I will miss the thrill of shopping in Paris ...

... from my favorite un grand magasin .... Bon Marche!

Paris has an abundance of beautiful old churches -- most of them still active and functioning parishes.  To my mind, the best of all is the majestic grandeur of Eglise Saint Sulpice where I have had the pleasure of listening to the Great Organ as played by head organist Daniel Roth.

I will miss my favorite park -- Jardin de Luxembourg.

Where I can indulge in my favorite pastime of sitting on a green metal chair and staring without thinking of anything but how beautiful the day is.

I will miss Paris' lively street markets which can be found all over the city -- proving that ordinary Parisians care very much about the freshness and quality of their food.

I will even miss the quietness of Paris' cemeteries where we have walked through, peering at the headstones of the famous and the unknown.  Unto dust thou shalt return.

There is nothing so identifiable as Haussmann's architecture which defines the look and feel of Paris' streets.

 From wide avenues and boulevards...

To narrow and unknown alleys, I have walked and strolled through these -- losing myself in the beauty and allure of Paris.

Her rooftops and skyline views cannot be duplicated...

And it pains me that I will never be able to open my window at early morning and peer down on her just awakening street scenes... ever again.

I love you Paris -- and yes this is good bye.  But I know that even as I have you in my heart,  you have carved my initials in yours and so, you are mine forever!