Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bruce Lim cooks Filipino food at the Diamond Hotel, and how a bespoke South African trip for a Travelife reader brought back memories of Africa

Today, in Manila living a Travelife, I went over to Diamond Hotel for lunch at the invitation of general manager Vanessa Suatengco.

The invite was too good to resist.

AFC celebrity chef Bruce Lim was cooking Filipino specialties with a twist, and I was hankering for some comfort food -- with a twist, that is.

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Bruce Lim introduced some delicious dishes for Diamond Hotel's Filipino buffet, which will run until May 25.

I think I had two servings of each of his specialties, just because the food was so good and I was having lots of fun with friends.

Thank goodness I began my day with an energetic session of Pilates this morning -- my hardest session so far! And all those spent calories went to lunch today, of course.

Some of the most interesting dishes he made today included a pancit palabok with lobster, a kaldereta with a really spicy sauce on the side, a delicious version of lechon belly.

But this killer lechon belly had lemongrass stuffed inside as the main flavoring.

That's the chef slicing a bit of the pork belly for me...

For dessert, there were all sorts of goodies including a queso de bola cheesecake that was worth all the calories, barako coffee profiteroles, some tasty lemon squares, and a unique type of banana fritter that was served with ice cream.

I'm not even a banana fritter person at all, but I had two servings of this.

That's the killer lechon belly on the left...

Coincidentally, my fellow guests at the general manager's table were all friends from the past -- many from several lifetimes ago.

We had a very good time catching up, while partaking of this most wonderful feast.


And, of course, talking about Travel and Life.

"Where's your favorite country for the moment?" Someone asked me.

It's still South Africa, which has everything from exotic nature to beautiful hotels and excellent restaurants.

The kids in Soweto on Day 1 of our trip to Johannesburg.
Read more about it in the current issue of Travelife Magazine.

South Africa has been top-of-mind since last week, as well, as I've had my hands full planning a bespoke South African trip on the spur of the moment for a reader and her family.

I helped plan this same lady's private trip to Europe last year, and I guess she liked what we did as she asked me to help her plan South Africa this year.


Fortunately, she wants best-of-breed experiences, so it was easy to point her in the right directions.

"What kind of things do you want to do?" I asked her.

She replied: "I leave everything to you."


So I basically helped her book many of the hotels and restaurants we'd chosen for our own trip last November.

It was like planning a trip for myself. And this made me remember all the wonderful places we went to.

I was positively nostalgic at the end of this planning exercise, and hankering for an excuse to return to South Africa. In fact, if only my life wasn't booked for the next few weeks, I would have probably volunteered to be her tour guide.

Read about 36 pretty crazy hours in Johannesburg
in the current issue of Travelife Magazine


So instead, I did the next best thing.

Call it the theory of compensation -- I just needed to replace my nostalgia for South Africa with a real trip to that part of the world.

We're going to Tanzania in a few months, and I have this Kalahari Desert dilemma I still haven't solved as well for September.

But Johannesburg and Cape Town are pretty special.

So today, right after lunch, I booked a weekend in Johannesburg to go along with a safari in Botswana for February 2014.

And if I have time this week, I'll book two places I've been wanting to try in Cape Town, for immediately after Botswana.

This is all ages away, of course. But it's my next available slot, in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

A Philippine Food Festival
at the Diamond Hotel


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