Wednesday, September 30, 2015

L'Aperitivo Italiano launches the Valentina cocktail at the Intercontinental Manila

After the great success of the second L'Aperitivo Italiano event, the Italian Chamber of Commerce is organizing the third L'Aperitivo Italiano event together with #Travelife Magazine, the leading travel and lifestyle publication, and other partners.

This will take place on October 7, 2015, from 6 PM to 10 PM at Intercontinental Hotel.


L’ Aperitivo Italiano offers the authentic Italian way of enjoying a pre-dinner drink, meant to prepare the palate.

A new cocktail called the Valentina, which will be a synergy between the Italian style and the tropical ingredients and flavours of the Philippines, will consist of a mix of rum, coconut jelly, calamansi juice, guava juice and ice. 

There will be an Italian corner of special food such as prosciutto, mozzarella and several kinds of bread and dessert, sponsored by ItalyBySkill, the Italian importer based in Naples.

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Tickets are PHP 1,100 for the members of Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines and PHP 1,400 for non-members. This entitles you to three (3) glasses of the best Italian wine and/or the Valentina cocktail and an unlimited serving of various Italian finger foods. 

You will also have the chance to win two airline tickets to Italy, sponsored by Qatar Airways, or one weekend for two at the Flushing Meadows Resort & Playground; a beautiful resort in Bohol.

For more information, contact the
Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCPI)
Tel.  02-978-0279
Mobile  0917-5638-633 

The opening of XO46 Bistro Filipino at SM Aura

With XO46 owners Andrew and Sandee Masigan and friends

There were lots of things happening all over the city tonight, including a dinner at the City of Dreams hosted by a car company and the opening of the BenCab exhibit in Makati. But I didn't go to any except the opening of XO46, the delicious Filipino bistro with a new branch at SM Aura.

Here I bumped into lots of friends including several who had joined our #Travelife to Turkey so many years ago. How nice to see them again. 

Then, of course, some people traveling to Casablanca this weekend to join me for a #Travelife to Morocco next week were there, too. I'm so psyched for this trip, by the way.


The who's who of the Spanish community were also there, beginning with Spanish Ambassador Luis Calvo and his wife, and the top businesspersons behind La Camara, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.

The food alone was worth going for as all the dishes are well-researched and then very well adapted to improve on the old tastes and flavours.

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I started with a kinilaw that I could not stop eating and then went on to a bihon noodle dish with crab fat, before ending up with callos, embotido and chicken pastel.

I couldn't pass up dessert either, as they had these very colourful sapin-sapin desserts which tasted as good as they looked.

I've been trying to be very good before this big gastronomic trip to Morocco with 35 friends beginning this weekend.

In fact, I've booked two Pilates sessions and have been diligently doing my 10,000 steps on my FitBit although tonight I stopped at 7,800 steps.

But it hasn't looked good at all on the food front, having wonderful dinners every night, living a never-endingly delicious #Travelife.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Frenchman with fine wines. And about trading places and ghosts in hotel corridors.

Somewhere in the city tonight, living a #Travelife, I met a very interesting Frenchman involved in the fine wine trade.

By fine wine, I literally mean the best wines in the world.

Interestingly, this Frenchman deals only with private individuals around the world who purchase fine wines for their own consumption -- so you can guess what kind of clients we are talking about that he personally flies around the world for.

The international multi-billion dollar league. He doesn't even deal with luxury hotels or top restaurants, just the richest people in the world.

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But this wasn't what caught my attention.

He had that very good combination of niceness, ambition, energy, competitiveness and focus that generally encourages me to keep talking to someone. Unfortunately I don't meet very many people with all these criteria often enough.

Of course, we talked about Travel and Life. And fine wines and good food.


We both travel a lot, although I've been to way more places than him. He said with a chuckle: "You probably know Paris way better than me." Yes, I would think so. And in his hometown, there is actually a luxury hotel in a perfect location that I stay in whenever I'm there, and we talked about the ghosts in the corridor and the interesting rooms they have.

However we are very similar in the places that we have actually been to and like. And by the nature of his job, he exists in the multi-billion dollar world so he gets to eat in the best restaurants, have great food and excellent wines.

So I reckoned it was a pretty even scoreboard in an informal tally of "been there and done that" things, even if it wasn't a competition.

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One thing he does have up on me is a hot line to a wonderful restaurant that's on my list of places to eat in for 2016. What a coincidence is that? I had just included it in my 2016 plans.

In fact, I would've gone this year if only I had the time, but I don't.

And this guy said to me tonight: "Just tell me when you want to go, and I'll call and get you the booking and even arrange lunch or dinner with the chef and the owner."

#Travelife with us to Japan in May 2016.
We're visiting truly off-the-beaten track destinations.
Click here for more details



Wow. Plus one for him in our non-competition.

And I was so happy about this offer, as we are talking about one of the best restaurants and truly one of the most famous chefs in the world. In fact, perhaps the most famous chef among lovers of fine dining and fine food.

And hint: this is a chef I don't have hotline to myself, and I have met and spent time with many of the best chefs in the world.

So I replied: "You're going to be my new best friend."

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With the Roca brothers of El Celler de Can Roca,
currently the best restaurant in the world


He asked me about my favourite countries, and where I want to go in 2016, so I gave him my shortlists.

These pretty wow destinations kind of made him green with envy, but this is inevitable as we are Travelife, after all, and we're everywhere many people want to be -- to paraphrase our tagline.

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With Chef Juan Mari Arzak
in his private wine cellar in Spain...


And before we said goodbye, he said, with a smile: "One day, you and I should switch jobs. This way, I'll get to travel to all these amazing places and you'll get to eat good food and drink good wines."

Nice idea, in principle.

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With Rene Redzepi of Noma,
currently the #2 restaurant in the world

But just because the timing was so perfect for a tease, I just couldn't resist pulling him over and whispering rather conspiratorially: "I've got news for you."

He looked at me inquiringly, so I continued: "I always eat good food and drink good wines anyway. No need to trade from my end."

Plus one for me this time, somewhere in the city tonight, living a #Travelife.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Packing a dozen colorful caftans for Morocco. And about no wasted time, wasted efforts, wasted opportunities, or wasted space in my luggage.

I spent this morning doing pre-packing for my upcoming trip to Morocco with 35 friends, thinking carefully about what I'm going to bring to make sure every item of clothing in my luggage is useful, appropriate and maintenance-free.

I'm not thinking much about the luggage weight allocation at this point, although weight admittedly does count as the bottom line in the end.

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But right now, I'm more concerned about space and user-friendliness, as well as having enough clothes to wrap around all the breakable handcrafted plates I want to bring back home to complete one set of exotic Moroccan dishes for entertaining.

Everything needs to have a reason for being in my luggage -- and in my life, actually. Brevity and precision in thought, action and possessions is just a general philosophy I have for life. 

No wasted efforts, no wasted time, no wasted opportunities, and certainly no wasted space in my luggage either. And, oh yes, no wasted tears. Life is just too short for these.


For daytime on our #Travelife to Morocco, I've told everyone that it's casual and comfortable, so even I have packed an entire set of gym clothes in black for easy mix-and-match and quick turnaround with the laundry service.

But for dinners every night -- we are eating in some of the best restaurants in Morocco, and also in some of the most beautiful places -- I've decided to bring a dozen colourful caftans that I've assembled from my many trips to Sri Lanka and the Middle East.

The caftans are light and crumple-free and they fit right in with the vibrance of Morocco. And I can use them afterwards to wrap my plates in.


Besides, I thought it's time to bring back color into my life as I've been wearing black almost unfailingly for the past two years or so.

So every night in Morocco, I'm going to be wearing a caftan handprinted or handpainted in the most vibrant colors for dinner in a beautiful palace or exotic riad, living a never-ending, and never-endingly happy #Travelife.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Making my original spaghettini with some good Pinot Noir for Friday lunch and cold Chinese noodles for dinner. And about watching the movie General Luna tonight.

My special pasta for friends on Friday

It's the long weekend in my part of the world, and I thought I'd catch up on some overdue blog entries and actually take things easy and fix my life before my never-ending #Travelife starts all over again.

No kidding.

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Between next weekend and the end of the year, I've actually got nine countries to cover over five pretty exotic trips. That's certainly a lot of airline mileage, as well as lots of logistics planning, and hotel and restaurant bookings.

So this weekend, I thought I'd just take it easy and get my general housekeeping done before the holiday season.

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This is where I'm having one of my two birthday dinners
in Marrakech, living a #Travelife.
I've planned a very special dinner for my 35 friends.


I love de-cluttering my life and my closets, and I do it too rarely because time is always a problem.

But I've diligently spent my first two free mornings in a long time throwing out unneeded things and pre-packing for just under three weeks in Morocco, including two birthday dinners in Marrakech.


Delicious cold noodles created by the private chef
of the Ambassador of China last night...

Interestingly, for a supposed relaxing long weekend, it was pretty busy.

On Friday, some friends came over for lunch and then I attended a party hosted by the Ambassador of China in the evening.


The Ambassador of China served the famous cold noodles of his private chef. I just love these noodles and they're classic in their simplicity but incredibly good.

Basically it's just flat white noodles with a very thick spicy sesame sauce on it, along with a few slivers of cucumber.

#Travelife with us to Greenland in February 2016.
We're visiting truly off-the-beaten track destinations.
Click here for more details


The magic is in the sauce, because only his chef makes this very thick and quite spicy sauce. We have these noodles in Japan as well, but it's served as "cold Chinese noodles" at high-end Chinese restaurants and available only in the summer.

I order this all the time, but nothing has ever come close to the quality and tastiness of the one that the chef of the Chinese Ambassador makes.

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Meanwhile, today we had a big family lunch at one of the nicest Chinese restaurants in the city, and then I had an Italian dinner and a movie with my cousins at night.

We went to watch the movie General Luna tonight and it was very interesting from a historical perspective. I don't usually have time to watch movies in movie houses, but I made an exception for this because I'd heard good reviews about it.

Delicious Chinese food for a family lunch today,
living a #Travelife....

For Friday lunch, I made a spaghettini with an original sauce that I concocted in my head when I woke up.

I could have made fresh pasta yesterday as I actually had the time to do so, for once, but I deliberately used dried pasta because I really think some sauces are well suited to fresh pasta and some sauces are better with dried pasta.

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Someone recently said to me: "When you have fresh pasta, you can never go back."

IMHO, I don't think this is true because the combination of the type of noodles with the type of sauce is very important. Fresh pasta generally has a softer quality, no matter how much you intend to cook this al dente, so I use this only with very light sauces.

For a heavier sauce, I prefer dried pasta because the sauce clings better to it. And I'm sure lots of foodie snobs will have something to say about this.

I woke up in the morning with a bunch of ingredients to put into it, including spices, organic tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and some anchovies. Then I poured in the remainder of a very good bottle of Pinot Noir that someone had brought over for dinner a few days back.

#Travelife with us to Japan in May 2016.
We're visiting truly off-the-beaten track destinations.
Click here for more details



Apart from the ingredients, the secret in making a pasta sauce with depth is the simmering time, and I made sure to simmer the sauce for a long time.

It turned out so wonderfully and the good quality red wine I poured into it really made a difference.

Making this pasta on Friday reminded me of all the summers I spent cooking in the Italian countryside, living a never-ending #Travelife. Wow, another trip to Italy is long overdue. But with my nine countries in the next three months coming up, it sure won't be on the books for this year.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Competitions with the FitBit. And about walking through the entire Marrakech very soon.

On my way to a tapas dinner with friends tonight, living a #Travelife, I stopped by my neighbourhood supermarket to pick up some ice cream for someone.

What do you know?

I bumped into one of the guys who had visited me in Tokyo over the summer, and he and his wife had been responsible for getting me into the FitBit thing. In fact, until I left for my two-week cruise around Japan, he and I were engaged in some serious competition to make the most steps per day with our gadgets.

"You must be tying your FitBit on the legs of a child or a dog," he would tease me, via FitBit messaging, when I made it past the 10,000 mark. There was a time I was doing around 11,000 to 12,000 steps a day.

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14,000 STEPS A DAY

Most of the time he was #1 and I was #2 simply because he was diligently doing something like 14,000 steps a day. But every so often I actually beat him on the weekly average.

And as he lives somewhere else in the world, and there he was in my supermarket carrying a cup of coffee, I said to him: "I didn't know you were in Manila." Last I'd seen him was in Tokyo, and he'd been on his way to Los Angeles after that.

"I'm just here for 24 hours," he said, "but I'm doing my steps."


And with that, he whipped out his iPhone as we stood waiting for our cars in the driveway and went onto the FitBit app to check how many steps he'd already done today vs. how many steps I'd done today.

He then teased me: "I'm 6800 already, and you're just 4800."

#Travelife with us to Japan in May 2016.
We're visiting truly off-the-beaten track destinations.
Click here for more details


Not one to lose a fight, I said: "I can easily do 2000 steps before dinner to catch up with you, and finish off the rest later."

I so could not do this actually, as I was running late and there was traffic on the way to Donosti, tonight's restaurant. But I decided to step up to the plate anyway.


And he said: "Well, I'm going for a run around the polo field in a while. I'll easily double what I've already done." On his part, he really looked like he was headed for the Manila Polo Club to get a run done before dinner.

As my car drove up to the curb and I opened the door to get in, I said: "Better get ready, though. I'm headed for Marrakech soon and I'm going to walking the entire town for a week..."

Living a never-ending #Travelife, of course...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fletcher Pilates at UP Pilates Studio by Brenda Lim

Fletcher Pilates at UP Pilates Studio by Brenda Lim

So this morning, the first order of the day, living a #Travelife, was a much-needed private Pilates session with Brenda Lim at UP Pilates, which I think is the best Pilates studio in the country.

It has a complete set of Pilates equipment and it's very private. When you book a session with Brenda, it's just you and her in the studio and so you don't have to share the space with other teachers or students.

Some people may think I'm being overly fussy, wanting to have an entire studio to myself, as many other Pilates studios do offer one-on-one with teachers but you've got to share the studio with other teachers and their students.

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But it really does wonders for the concentration to do Fletcher Pilates, especially as I find that Pilates is not only a physical exercise but also a form of meditation or mental yoga.

It's fantastic and ever so relaxing having a two-in-one session for someone like myself who is so time-poor, but it's impossible to be in a state of meditation if someone in the same studio is talking about what they did last weekend or where they're headed next year for vacation -- and you just can't help overhearing their conversation.

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Today I felt like my whole body had been stretched.

It's an incredibly personalised session so you can tell Brenda what you need or want, or what you wish to accomplish, and then she works out a program for you.

Those who go regularly also have their own more structured programs, but I'm not one of those lucky ones able to go every week as I'm more often in an airplane than in a Pilates studio. So when I'm able to book a session, I simply tell Brenda my wish-list.

My wish-list includes an instantly toned body after 60 minutes, by the way; but Brenda just laughs when I say this.

#Travelife with us to Japan in May 2016.
We're visiting truly off-the-beaten track destinations.
Click here for more details



At UP PILATES STUDIO, Pilates practitioners develop a better physique by strengthening the core, relieving stress and tension in the body, and improving muscle flexibility.

The 60-minute sessions relieve overall pain and reduce injury. But most importantly, Pilates increases overall concentration, creates more joy in relationships and allows practitioners to enjoy a better quality of life.

UP Pilates Studio practices Fletcher Pilates®, an organic, movement-based approach developed by Ron Fletcher, a 20-year student and protégé of Joseph and Clara Pilates.


Fletcher Pilates® follows unique standing and centering cues which sets up body alignment. This is followed by the 12 Fletcher Pilates® Principles that focus precision, control, breath, oppositional energy and rhythm.

These principles emphasize the quality of movement that results in better posture, tone, health, and energy without the strain or fatigue of some forms of exercise.

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Brenda will be presenting an educational event from January 27-31, 2016 entitled “Every Body is Beautiful,” based on Ron Fletcher’s 1978 book.

The event, to be held at the Joya Lofts and Towers in Rockwell Center, Makati, will be lead by a guest teacher from the US, Kyria Sabin, Director of Fletcher Pilates International.

The event starts with a five-day Advance Intensive workshop for Pilates teachers and finishes with The Fletcher Experience, a three-hour session open to anyone who is interested in experiencing Fletcher Pilates.

Tel. (63)(2) 551-7002 | (63) 9154895589 

Shopping for crafts in Marrakech. And about the best stores and riads in Morocco

Shopping for crafts in Marrakech. And about the best stores and riads in Morocco
Shopping for crafts in the best stores in Marrakech
This is the heading of the guide
I've been sending out to my friends...

This post is about shopping for crafts in Marrakech, and about the best stores and riads in Morocco.

So the last two days in Manila, living a #Travelife, all I've been doing is talking about my upcoming Travelife to Morocco with 35 friends. I am so excited about this, you see.

On Tuesday, the Travel Companion and I discussed Morocco over a fun meal with lots of teasing and laughing. We remembered our own pretty amazing private holiday in Morocco in June last year, full of interesting experiences that he never lets me forget. 

More on this in a later blog entry.

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Menawhile, today's friend wanted to know why I was going to Morocco earlier than the group. "What could you possibly do there, having been there so many times?" This was the multi-million dirham question.

It was really simple. I thought I'd get a jumpstart on my shopping in Marrakech and also get a headstart on the jet lag process before my 35 friends start arriving from all over the world for two weeks of absolute fun and lots of good food.

And, shopping for crafts in Marrakech, of course.


While we were having lunch today, I just happened to glance at Facebook on my iPad while checking some important emails, and one of my friends had posted photos of her very authentic country retreat done in the Moroccan style.

She'd sent me many photos of her fabulous retreat before but today there were photos on Facebook of her collection of plates on the wall.


So I sent her a message via Facebook.

"I've just been inspired to buy more plates now, after seeing your photos," I messaged her. "There goes my luggage allowance."

Those plates are beautiful, but they're incredibly heavy. But on each trip to Morocco in the last 18 months, I've been slowly buying plates. In June last year with the Travel Companion, I ended up buying eight handprinted antique glass plates for my dinner table while he waited patiently for me to negotiate prices in my shopping French.

Then in October last year with a group of readers and friends, I ended up buying beautiful silver-hammered tagine. And now I want to complete a set of these for entertaining.

#Travelife with us to Japan in May 2016.
We're visiting truly off-the-beaten track destinations.
Click here for more details



Yes, I'm planning to buy lovely things in Morocco for my homes and I don't have too much time to do it although I have found enough shops to persuade me to stay an extra week if I could. I didn't see most of these shops last June on holiday, and I only went to a handful when I returned to Morocco last November.

Now I have a whole list of the best stores in Marrakech, which I've laid out in a nice little user-friendly sheet to give to my friends.


This is the ultra-stylish riad
where I'm spending my birthday this year,
living a #Travelife...

Unfortunately, my shopping style is going to be slightly cramped.

Not only are my 35 friends coming, but Mr. Y is flying into Marrakech from the other side of his very busy world just to join the group at the latter part of the trip and to be with me for a few days in Marrakech and the Sahara, especially for my birthday.

And he is so not a shopper.


Our private riad in Marrakech,
after everyone else has gone home...

Mr. Y has been to Morocco before but he's game to go around with everyone else again, just for the fun of it.

And he has never been to Ait Ben Haddou, one of the most beautiful sights in Morocco although a pain to get to, and he's looking forward to exploring this with 10 of my friends staying behind to join me in the Sahara for a big adventure.

And then after everyone else has left, we've booked a beautiful riad with Arabian horses roaming around all to ourselves. That will certainly be the end of my shopping sprees in Morocco, living a #Travelife, so I'd better go shopping in advance while I can.

Here are some of my favourite stores 
in Marrakech:

Embroidered caftans, tunics, toppers, and babouches 
Place Bab Fteuh 
Tel 212-6671-661307 

Beautiful designer clothing 
128 Fontaine Mouassine 
Tel 212-524-375570 

Cutting edge concept store 
33 rue Yves Saint-Laurent. 
Tel 212-524-314195