Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bonnie Gokson's beautiful Father's Day cakes in Hong Kong

Mother's Day Cake.
Isn't this one so beautiful?
Bespoke cake shop Ms B's CAKERY, known among a certain fastidious crowd in Hong Kong for its delicious and ever-so-tasteful designs, is celebrating Father’s Day with two decadently mouth-watering cakes in Hong Kong style icon Bonnie Gokson’s signature homely style.

Bonnie Gokson is the owner of the very fashionable Sevva restaurant in Hong Kong's Central district, a great favorite of some of Hong Kong's most stylish and hip, and it probably has one of the best views in Hong Kong.

And recently she's branched out into a stand-alone shop just for her famous desserts -- equally mouth-watering for how they look as how they taste -- and these are a lot of people's favorite gifts for people they love on special days, or for bringing to a dinner party when they're invited as guests.

Her newest line of Father's Day cakes are bound to be in demand by the trendy crowd for the hardworking fathers of the family. The sweet sensations delightfully express appreciation of dads with hand-crafted candy messages:

This cake's called “Dad, You Are a Star” 

This one's called “Dad, You’re the Best”

Baked using only natural ingredients (so you can indulge without guilt; no need to worry about transfat and all those unhealthy things usually associated with good stuff), the cakes include a chocolate cappuccino crunch cake’ for chocolate loving dads, and an elegant fresh fruits and rainbow multi-chiffon cake. The cakes are priced at HK$580 / HK$960 for 500 / 1,000 grams and available from June 4 up to Father’s Day on June 17.

The celebration cakes can be ordered two days in advance from Ms B's CAKERY.

Bonnie Gokson said: “I’ve always been my Dad’s little girl so Father’s Day has always been very meaningful to me. What better way to celebrate this wonderful occasion than with gorgeous cakes made from premium ingredients?”

Memoirs of a geisha
Ms B's CAKERY is a sweet venture by Gokson, inspired by the popularity of her desserts at SEVVA. On a charming side street above The Centre in Queen’s Road Central, it raises simple perfection to an art by combining great taste and flavours from finest quality ingredients sourced from all over the world.

She also does all kinds of other beautiful cakes for every occasion (or non-occasion!), and I've included a few on this blog just for the sheer visual delight of it all. Some of them are quite humorous as well.

This cake is called
"Better than sex."


"Madame Butterfly"

Bonnie's Million dollar truffle cake
I'd like to have some of these too.

A different kind of wedding cake

Crepe Suzette cake

"Happy Bird" cake for children

Humorous cake
Make sure to drop by for a taste the next time you're in Hong Kong for some incredibly sweet temptations. I know I'll be headed this way pretty soon...

39 Gough Street, Central 
Tel: (852) 2815-8303

Ebony and ivory


Life philosophies over dinner and for success

Tuesday was a pretty nice day that started with lunch with J at Mango Tree at the Fort (see my previous blog entry) and then continued on to dinner at home with the two guys who traveled with me to Sri Lanka. A reunion had long been overdue and tonight was a window of opportunity for this as I had my first free evening in weeks.

We three hadn't been together since Sri Lanka since we'd all been traveling so much until a few days ago. Suddenly realizing I had a free evening, I immediately texted them both. Fortunately they were free and they quickly said yes, and that's how tonight came about.

Pollonaruwa, Sri Lanka

I didn't have much time to make dinner, but I really wanted to have them over at home as it's so much more relaxing to hang out in the privacy of one's dining room than to sit in some restaurant again -- especially as we're always in restaurants as it is. I made a whole slab of ribs, roasted a chicken with wild rice, and made two kinds of pasta. Everything turned out well although I was still actually full from my Thai lunch with J earlier that day.


Anyway, as I expected, I think we sat at my dining table for around four hours, engaging in more of that mental sparring we'd done so much of in Sri Lanka. We always had lunch at a very nice restaurant somewhere in Sri Lanka, and we would sit for hours just talking or laughing. And Tuesday night was the same. Or rather, the two guys just kept at it while I watched amusedly from the sidelines. It was like a mental boxing match but so much fun.

When these two guys start talking, nothing can get in their way, and I'm happy to just observe and chuck in a comment every now and then. It really made me laugh to hear them keep talking, and I remembered our equally long and philosophical conversations in the middle of nowhere in Sri Lanka.

What did we talk about? When these two are relaxed, they start talking about all the philosophical things in life including how people make choices in life, what defines a successful life, and how one's choices determine one's fate without one even knowing it. Scroll down to read some takeaways from Tuesday night...


Some of the takeaways from last night's discussions:

1. Know yourself. It's really important to very honestly know what you want and to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. There is no right or wrong answer here and you don't have to voice it out to anyone; but you need to recognize exactly who you are yourself. A happy and successful life is based on knowing following this direction.

2. Real entrepreneurship is tough. And here we mean starting your own business from scratch or really taking over the reins of a company instead of jumping in midway into the family business and then just going into office whenever you want to make some decisions and sign checks.

Lots of people want to become an entrepreneur because it sounds good. However, it's also one of the toughest jobs in the world and more people fail than succeed. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you should honestly assess whether you have the right skills and mental condition for this 24/7 career choice.

3. Financial independence is more important than many people realize. It gives you the power to make your own choices in life. Some people are lucky to be born with money. But for the rest, financial independence is still possible via consistent and disciplined savings and investments over the long-term.

4. Getting something you want almost always means having to give some things up. In a perfect world, this doesn't need to happen; but in most of our lives, we need to sacrifice something to gain something. Many people want to gain things -- the good life, career success, etc -- but they're not prepared for the hard work and the sacrifices necessary to accomplish this. But if you're not prepared to sacrifice, what you want isn't going to happen unless you're born lucky.

5. Focus is the key. Once you know what you want, you should focus on this and make all efforts to be the best you can be in this field or endeavor. It's best to focus on one or two things so that you can harness all your resources on these. Some people are good enough to do a lot of things all at the same time; but most people will end up doing a so-so job on everything, if they persist in trying to do so many projects at once.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An evening with Grace Lee at Sofitel

The evening didn't begin with Grace Lee, but it ended with her. But let me tell the rest of the story first.

Tonight was a busy round of events. There were five parties to go to, and I said yes to three and ended up going to two. Work kept me late at the office and it was well past 6 PM that I managed to get into my car and head for the National Museum for the opening party of the exhibition and sale of the works of Madame Yan Donko, wife of the Ambassador of Austria, who had painted and exhibited 70 charming watercolors of Philippine scenes in the Chinese style.

There has probably never been such an exhibition before, so if you are at all interested in seeing a very nice combination of Philippine landmarks and Chinese watercolor techniques, please go and see her exhibit at the National Museum. The pieces are truly refreshing and captivating with their uniqueness.

I'd visited the Austrian Ambassador's residence on Friday afternoon for a private viewing of the paintings pre-exhibit, and I've already written about how much I liked them, in this blog.

So as I was headed for the National Museum tonight, I'd made up my mind to buy one of the paintings that had enthralled me.

Unfortunately, I got to the party midway, and spent a good few minutes saying hello to people at the entrance as the diplomatic community had come out in full force for the popular Madame Yan's opening party. When I actually got to the exhibit venue, almost everything was sold out.

Yes, there were little red dots on each painting title. In fact, there were so many little red dots that one guest had quipped: "I thought the red dots were decorations. I didn't realize that they were actually "sold" signs." That's how many little red dots there were.


Of course I was very disappointed. I kicked myself for not having reserved something I liked last Friday. But anyway I walked around the venue trying to see if there was a painting that captured my heart that still didn't have a little red dot on it. That's when I saw in one corner a large painting of the Subic lighthouse, as seen through a nipa hut, with Chinese flowers in the foreground.

It was very pretty and it had caught my eye at Madame Donko's residence last Friday. I couldn't believe it didn't have a little red dot on it, and I knew for a fact that this very painting was Madame Donko's favorite of the entire lot.

So, I decided to buy it, not only because it's very pretty but also because it will serve as a reminder of a very lovely lady. When I told Madame Donko later that I'd bought her favorite painting, she seemed very surprised. She told me: "I thought that painting had already been sold."

I think it had, but then the first buyer had probably switched to another painting. So when I chanced upon it, it was up for sale. Just my luck. So if you go to the National Museum and see the painting of Subic, well, now you know who owns it. Scroll down to read about Grace Lee.


Then it was off to Sofitel for two events. But as I was already late for the first one, I went straight to the ballroom to attend the dinner for the Korea National Tourist Organization (KNTO). KNTO and its related agencies and companies had come to Manila in full force to start promoting Korea as a destination, and Travelife Magazine is at the forefront of these promotions. It's official. Korea is now one of our favorite countries.

And this is how I met Grace Lee. She was the emcee tonight. I know about her but I actually have never seen her photograph, for some reason. But tonight, there I was at the very front table of the ballroom and she was emceeing right in front of me. She caught my attention because she did a great emceeing job and she spoke like a Filipina, but then she pronounced every Korean name perfectly. Either she'd practiced Korean a whole lot prior to tonight or -- and this was the only time that it dawned on me -- she was Grace Lee.


The Sofitel served an excellent dinner, especially considering this was a ballroom catering event. We began the five-course dinner with a medley of appetizers, continued on to a pretty big piece of steak, and then to an excellent chocolate dessert. I have to especially write that the steak was very good and done exactly right, because steaks for large-scale events are hardly ever satisfactory. But this one at the Sofitel tonight most certainly was. I enjoyed every course.

And KNTO put up a wonderful show of Korean and Philippine dances and performances, which were both so enjoyable. The Philippine performance by the Polytechnic University of the Philippines was very lively and happy, while the Korean performance, which involved all kinds of stunts, was simply amazing.

At the end of the evening, I got to meet Grace Lee as she came down the stage to our table. She was very pretty and charming in person. When I took her photo on my phone, she suggested we take a photo together instead.
I said with a smile: "No thanks, I'm happy with a photo just of you for our blog."

It's not exactly the kind of photo I would put on a frame on my desk, after all. But I can now understand why some people would think she's pretty cool and wonderful.

Just another day in our never-ending and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


Gaita Fores brings Casa Artusi to Manila

Gaita Fores and the Casa Artusi way

This morning, for some reason, my friend J and I were talking about a sisig dish I once cooked for him at home. He'd watched me make it from scratch in my kitchen with some lechon I'd brought back the day before from Cebu, and when I put in the ginger first and then the garlic, there he was with his two cents' worth of cooking comments right next to me.

He told me with all the authority of a man who can order and pay at a restaurant: "You should put the garlic in first."

The ladies at Zubuchon in Cebu -- where I'd bought my three kilos or so of this delicious lechon for the sisig -- and I had had a long discussion on this; and they too had told me to put the ginger in first before the garlic. And this was what I'd told J, but he'd never accepted my explanation. And this morning, this topic came up again between us.

And today I told him: "I'm seeing Gaita Fores at lunch today, so let me ask her."

Once, when Gaita and I were planning Travelife Italy Night last year, we'd been meeting at her Whitespace kitchen until 10 PM straight and without dinner.

Gaita at work in the kitchen with Trish Locsin
after one of our Travelife Italy Night meetings
So at the end of our meeting, she'd whipped up a really delicious and simple pasta in ten minutes; and I'd watched her put the garlic in not at the beginning but somewhere in the middle. I asked her then about this because J and our sisig discussion suddenly came to mind. Apparently Filipinos like to always put the garlic in first because it's a Spanish practice; but it's not written in stone.


Casa Artusi in Italy

And so today, I went off to Whitespace to attend the luncheon of Gaita to launch Casa Artusi in the Philippines, the very first Casa Artusi outside of Italy. Casa Artusi is Italy's temple of cooking and good food, founded by a gastronomist named Pellegrino Artusi (1820 - 1911) from Forlimpopoli near Bologna.

Today, Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli is a vast and impressive complex that includes a library filled with books on Italian gastronomy, restaurant, cooking school, wine cellar, museum and events venue. It truly is a living museum for home cookery.

The library at Casa Artusi in Italy

The church of Casa Artusi in Italy

Almost every serious foodie in Italy owns a copy of the Casa Artusi bible, called La Scienza in Cucina e l'Arte di Mangiar Bene (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well). In many foodie homes, it is a well-used and well-worn manual to the good life of Italy centering on food. Scroll down for more on Gaita's Casa Artusi.


Pellegrino Artusi said many things about food, but his core philosophy can be summed up in one of his famous one-liners: "Always choose the finest ingredients, this will make a good impression." This, of course, means fresh, home-made pasta and recipes from Italy's Emilia-Romagna region accompanied by the best of local wines.

And perhaps the most important part of Casa Artusi is its cooking school, which is a learning destination both for serious foodies wanting to improve their kitchen skills and culinary professionals. Casa Artusi's cooking school teaches traditional Romagnolo cookery, including fresh pasta and the piadina, an unleavened bread.

Gaita Fores & Trish Locsin in Casa Artusi, Italy

Gaita Fores & Trish Locsin in Casa Artusi, Italy
Their courses center on practical lessons for preparing traditional Romagnolo dishes, menu preparations using top quality ingredients, and meetings to discuss and discover the tastes of both wine and food.

Gaita Fores is now bringing the Casa Artusi experience to Manila.

This was at lunch today


In a way, it was quite touching for me to see the Casa Artusi in Manila project come to fruition. Almost a year ago, when Gaita, Madame Silvana Fornari (wife of the Ambassador of Italy) and myself began planning Travelife Italy Night, I still remember how Casa Artusi was mentioned several times. Madame Fornari herself almost always brought a copy of the Casa Artusi bible, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, to our meetings; and I became familiar with Casa Artusi through them both.

Table setting for Travelife Italy Night
September 2012

Travelife Italy Night went on to become a truly spectacular success because of Gaita Fores and Madame Fornari, and Ambassador Luca Fornari and the entire staff of the Embassy of Italy; and much of it was due to the amazing eight-course degustation meal that Gaita had prepared that night using the principles of Casa Artusi.

I still remember how each and every guest had raved about each dish; and even today, so many successful Travelife events later, people still come up to me to recall their experience at Travelife Italy Night.


And now, almost one year to the date of our first planning meetings at Whitespace, there we all were again, but this time for the actual launch of Casa Artusi. It made me rather sentimental actually. I saw Emmanuela, the cultural attaché of the Italian Embassy, and when I congratulated her, she said to me: "Well, here we are again at Whitespace."

Yes, indeed, there we were again all together at Whitespace.

Fortunately, this time, I could actually sit back, relax and taste the delicious spread that Gaita had prepared. There was an entire table of antipasti, followed by three or four kinds of pasta, and the Italian version of the lechon. Everything was cooked the Casa Artusi way and I tasted and loved it all.

But the fusili pasta with a very simple cream sauce stole my heart. I actually had four servings, washed down with very good Italian wines courtesy of Bacchus Epicerie.


Lunch today was attended
by Ambassador and Madame Luca Fornari

Finally, to top off a very nice day of Italian experiences that made me suddenly want to change my trip next month from Munich to Italy, I returned to work and there was a bottle of excellent Chianti wine and Longchamp bag waiting for me on my table, like it was my birthday or Christmas. Actually, today's a very special day but I can't tell you why. So the nice presents are rather appropriate.

The presents were from a group of people who'd just gone on a Travelife Bespoke Tour to Italy, France and Spain for 23 days. We'd planned the trip for them, and I'd personally stayed up all night a couple of times putting together my suggestions on where to eat, what to buy and where to go in each city.

Of course you can find lots of information on these on the Internet, but it's the choosing that's the hard part; and that's where the Travelife touch came in.

I'd just been thinking about them and wondering how their Travelife Bespoke trip had gone. And now there on my table were the lovely presents and a nice card that said it all: "Thank you for making our summer trip special. The whole group enjoyed!"

Indeed. No one travels like us or plans a trip like us. This is why we're #1.

Just another day in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.