Friday, 30 December 2011

Tunesing out the year that was 2011

Really can't get over the fact that it's almost 2012 when I'm still trying to get used to writing '2011'. It's been a rather exhausting year (which calls for another entry) but I think blasting out the tunes kept me pretty sane. As always.

You can pretty much guess how the months went by through the moods of these songs. Here's a summary of my year in six tracks. =)

John Mayer - Split Screen Sadness

Maybe I'll sleep inside my coat
Wait on the porch 'til you come back home
Oh, right - I can't find a flight
So I'll check the weather wherever you are
'Cause I wanna know if you can see the stars tonight
It might be my only right

Danny Dove & Ben Preston ft. Susie Ledge - Falling (Disfunktion Remix)

You know I care, you know so much
You know who I am, there's no pretend
Come stay with me right through to the end
I'm falling again

Adrian Lux - Teenage Crime

We don't sleep when the sun goes down
We don't waste no precious time
All my friends in the loop
Making up for teenage crime

Chase and Status - Time

I'll be right here (if you can find the time)
Just be sincere (if you can find the time)
I'll wait for you but if you can't find the time
Then cut me loose.

Anoraak - Nightdrive With You

You're driving us down to the sunset
Where the wind blows warm on the sand
Where the old trees smile to the Ocean
It feels like your smile is feeding the day
It's like the flowers are dancing on your way

Angus and Julia Stone - Babylon

So rest your hand you’re all mine
I can’t stay awake, my eyes fall down
Said I dreamed a dream that you walk ‘round
She’s my Babylon
No I don’t want to see you go
No I don’t want to be alone

Which songs sum up your 2011? =)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Union Jacks: where it's called flatbread, not pizza

I find Jamie Oliver a bit more endearing and more fun than any other celeb chefs. There's an ease about his persona and a charming approach to his attack - even whilst taking his anti-obesity campaign across the Atlantic. Watching him in his kitchen is like watching a kid in a science lab with a mission; there's a structured way to go about his food yet you're left on the edge because he seems a bit reckless. But let's be Machiavellian about it because everything he presents actually looks stunning. And when he eats them all with mucho gusto, one can't help but say 'Mate, that plate's the bees knees, innit bruv?'

A and I went to visit Jamie's latest venture Union Jacks, a collaboration with the pizza guy from Phoenix, Chris Bianco. Brit produce advocate + pizza man = the simple concept of great British flavour and ingredients, pizzafied. It seems interesting enough, as everything can be made into a pizza these days, right? Anyway, everything is sourced in the UK and most of the pizza toppings are apparently local. As the restaurant is strategically located at Central St. Giles, Piazza I actually wondered how local is local.

A's company designed the place and it's getting as much critique on its interiors as it is on food. The place has that diner feel to it: big neon sign, '80s cinema listing style menu, distressed wooden table tops etc. A bit of rock music from the '90s blast from the speakers. It almost feels like a blokey teenage punk's room, almost a nonchalant statement of 'pick-and-mix isn't dead' .

The scent of freshly made crackling wafted when we walked in and true enough, baskets of gorgeous pork skin sat on pass-like counters. The cheeky tease, they weren't complimentary and I died a little bit cos I wanted chicharon! Our server sent us to our table and told us everything we've read online, verbatim. Everything's British! We pride ourselves in sourcing locally! Jamie Oliver this, Chris Bianco that! Our flatbread - not pizza - are really good! He was so enthusiastic he must have learned it from the big boss.

We checked the menu over Welsh farmhouse cider, Gwynt Y Ddraig. Mine was pretty good, dry and apple based. A's opted for the fruity one made with blackberries,  a bit too sweet for my liking but quite refreshing too.


We originally thought of getting a bunch of starters and share a pizza flatbread, but as we read the menu we decided to go otherwise. We shared a plate of fish fingers with tartare sauce (£5) to start - after all, we were in the land of fish and chips.

I'm not usually a fan of deep fried and breaded seafood, but this one was good. The fish was firm and flaky and there was a lot of it in five little fingers. The tartare sauce didn't overpower the fish flavour and it wasn't greasy at all. I would come back and have this again, happily.

And then our mains came - they were massive! We ordered two of their  bestselling flats, the Old Spot and the Red Ox (£12 each). Yes, it was a celebration of pork and beef. We were so excited to dig in.

The Old Spot is a play on your typical Sunday pork roast; it's topped with pulled pork shoulder, crackling, apple sauce, stilton and watercress (which quite frankly didn't have any business there). It was okay, you know. I never liked stilton much but this one jelled nicely with the quince and apple sauce - which I thought would throw the whole thing off but didn't. The pork was tender and the crackling was yum. There wasn't a lot of it and I suppose that was fine by us because the pizza flatbread itself was already oily. 

At  first glance, my Red Ox looked so rich. If brisket and oxtail bathed in Worcestershire sauce weren't enough to bloat your belly, the glorious red leicester cheese screamed 'Eat me, you effin' glutton'. The brisket was tender and nice and horseradish and watercress gave the whole dish a peppery kick that was pleasant. But it really felt indulgent from first bite; I felt my cholesterol and sodium levels on a race to the moon. Perhaps they could have used a milder and softer cheese? *burp*

In this battle of pork and beef, I have to admit I actually preferred A's Old Spot more but if I'm being brutally honest, I probably wouldn't go back to order any of these bestsellers again and just stick with the fishy starters. Unless of course the waft of pork by the door tempts me to do so.

We were stuffed by two too-rich pizzas flatbread so we decided to go light on the pud and just went with their homemade ice cream (£1.50 a scoop). We were a bit disappointed that it came in a really tiny bowl. I mean, fine we were sharing only three scoops but couldn't they have presented it on a bigger bowl where we can actually distinguish each flavour? We had the Snickers bar (nutty but light and delicious), eton mess (berry creamy!) and bramble ripple (tasted almost like the eton mess but slightly had more berries). The gingersnap biccie that came along with it? Meh.

Overall it was an alright experience. The loyalty to fresh Brit produce is outstanding, the place looks modern cool but the food perhaps needs a bit more fine tuning. I suppose the lesson here is that not everything can be made into a pizza. Oh wait. Of course. They weren't pizzas - they were flatbread. *rolls eyes* Next time I visit with a friend I'm going to recommend getting heaps of starters and perhaps share a pizza flatbread instead.

4 Central St. Giles Piazza, London WC2H 8AB | +44(0)20 359 7788
Average spend £25pp for starters, a pizza flatbread and drinks

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

People who inspire: little lady D

You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. I think, with my cousin D sharing my maternal blood line, I'm perfectly happy with that.

D's always lived in England so we didn't have the opportunity to bond like cousins who live close to each other. We kept in touch through letters, cards and the internet. We watched her grow through stories from her parents who used to send photos and news cuttings whenever she made the local papers. I always looked forward to spending time with her during holidays when we visited each other's side of the Earth, excited that I'd get to spend time with my little girl cousin and happy to have someone to share pent-up kiddie mischief with.

Years went by as we settled in different hemispheres I thought we'd grow apart yet we've become more alike than we are unalike. About six years ago, she came to Manila and after two weeks' worth of boozy revelations and heart-to-heart chats, I loved her even more. I moved to the UK shortly after her holiday but long before then I knew that distance will always be irrelevant. Whilst I've never been so open without feeling exposed nor judged, I've also never felt so protective and so 'OMG-i-wanna-take-care-of-you' towards anyone. I think that summer defined our relationship - we're always going to be around for each other. No matter what, where, when, how. It's a natural thing.

She's beautiful in and out but she doesn't realise how gorgeous she is in all sense of the word. And if that's not enough, she's a tough smartie, too. Ever so sensible and ever so brilliant with words, her CV highlights would include 'law degree', 'kickass pianist', 'poetry', 'grammar school' etc.

She's the poster child for the word 'friend'. She's generous (although sometimes I feel like kicking her in the butt for being sneakily OTT), caring and loving to her mates. This girl will do literally anything for the ones she love - bend over backwards, pay for dinner when you're about to hand your card, hold your hand when you need it the most even when she's coming from 10,000 miles away, sit and wait for hours in a condensed hospital room just so that you're not alone, etc. She's going to stick by you no matter what, and she will always do this without compromising integrity and truth of who she really is. D is cool just the way she is - no need for more nor less.

This post may come across as a cheesy declaration of love and pure vajayjay power but then I still find everything I say so limiting as to what and who she really is. She's my sister-from-another-mother, my favourite extended family member, my rock, my confidante and one of the bestest friends I have in the planet. I seriously don't know how I'd survive without her. I love her, I really do. 

Friday, 16 December 2011

Yauatcha: where dim sum can be sosyal

I think Alan Yau's casual, canteen-style ventures are pretty average. Busaba Eathai isn't the best Thai in town (portions are a bit of a rip off too) and Wagamama is, quite frankly, meh. But when it comes to his Michelin-starred restaurants, you're talking about a whole different game.

A and I went to visit Yauatcha in Soho which is 'a modern interpretation of a Chinese tea house'. True enough the menu boasts of favourites such as congee and braised, steamed, stir-fried meats and fish. The dim sum selection is fantastic and the loose leaf teas on offer leave you spoilt for choice. The twist? The desserts are French patisserie-style and the handmade macarons are too cute to resist.

Right next to Berwick Street market, the location doesn't boast any stars but it's rather more pleasant inside. The light and airy ground floor hosts the patisserie - anyone who believes dessert comes first will love this. A and I were going up for a dim sum snack so we were ushered to the basement, which looks like a different restaurant  altogether. It was dark and chic, with its candle-lit walls and dark ceiling pierced with star-like lights. There was a slight disconnect with the tables and chairs but hey, we weren't going to munch on upholstery were we?

So what did we have for our light snack? Cue in the snare...

I love flaky, buttery pastry so it's no surprise that the venison puff (£4.50) won me over. These pretty little buns were topped with sesame seeds and were filled with yummy barbecued pulled (but not stringy!) venison. It tasted like a sosyal fried pork asado siopao except this was on a different level. I would definitely go back for these babies alone. And order three servings. Or four.

The king crab Shanghai siew long bun with pork (£6.50) however was dying on another note. It failed to deliver on its promise of crab and broth; it tasted more of the extenders and was quite dry. Shame, I was really looking forward to this dish, with all my friends in Manila posting photos and screaming about xiao long bao. Oh well.

Let's talk about the cheun fun...

The char siu cheung fun (£5.60) was glorious. Three silky rolls of dimsum filled with barbecued roast pork swimming in a river of delicious broth. The meat is not overpowered with five-spice or honey, nor charred and overdone. Everything is balanced.

The prawn cheung fun (£5.90) swims on the same broth and is equally as good. The prawn was perfectly cooked and the dish is so good that you won't get annoyed by the fact that the middle parts are chives and extenders.

Sesame, Matcha, Coffee, Early Grey, Mandarin

Of course we had to have macarons (£1.50/piece). I think Laduree's better and more melt-in-your mouth but I'm not writing Yauatcha's little bestsellers yet. The sesame was my favourite and the Earl Grey one was quite tasty too. The matcha, which was the last one they had, was a bit too tea-ish for my taste buds I don't think I'd get it again. It was a tad too crunchy too, perhaps because it was indeed the last one of the pack?

Overall, our light snack date was a pleasant experience. I can't say it's the best nor the most authentic dim sum I've ever had but everything, save for the siew long bun, was pretty delicious (that venison puff probably deserves all the Michelin stars in the world but hey, that's just me). Plus points as it's pretty cheap! You pay a really reasonable price for what you get. The atmosphere (inside!) is quite relaxed and unpretentious and the servers are all nice. I just hope they've sorted out the toilets. I'd defo go back again. =)

15 Broadwick Street  London W1F 0DL | Tel: +44(0)20 7494 8888
Average £20pp for a light snack for two with tea (no alcohol)
Yauatcha on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Look ma, no romcoms!

A friend's asked me to recommend a few films I've seen as of late so I gave her this list. She's a real sweetheart who loves everything pink and sweet and sugary so when she saw there weren't any cutesy romcoms involved... she wrinkled her nose. Haha! Sorry B, I rarely find romcoms that really tickle my fancy. But give these a shot - they're really good!

1. The Ides of March
Ryan Gosling. George Clooney. Phil Seymour-Hoffman. Paul Giamatti. Directed by George and co-produced by Leo. COME ON. If that's not a casting orgy then I don't know what is. Truth be told, the story itself wasn't as complex as I thought it was going to be but it was still good. Ryan was great (and I'm saying this not because I'm biased) and so were the other dudes. I would love to be a political press officer but it must be tough aye? The job calls for a tenacious hand, and at the same time it may compromise loyalty because political advocacy and your individual beliefs and morals may not always go hand in hand.
Watch if you like politics, State of Play and if you LOVE Ryan.

2. The Warrior
With the exception of boxing, I've lost all interest in combat sports when I realised that the WWF was scripted and Shawn 'The Heartbreak Kid' Michaels broke my heart. Recent movies have been brill though. First The Wrestler, then The Fighter and now The Warrior. The storyline's not complex at all but the acting was quite superb. Both Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton were pretty effective (and steamy!) as estranged brothers battling their personal troubles as well as each other, but Nick Nolte has a scene where he melts down and just gives you a punch-drunk heart.
Watch if you like UFC and hot boys on top of each other.

3. Another Earth
'What if there actually is another Earth-like planet out there, what if there is another you?' must be the biggest 'What if' of all time. The movie is an indie drama minoring in sci-fi. As lead Rhoda (played by Brit Marling who co-writes the script with director Mike Cahill) weaves her way back to the normalcy of life after prison she finds herself torn between redemption and feelings for the man she wronged (played by Ethan from Lost!). A bit slow sometimes but you get scenes of gorgeous hues and beautiful cinematography.
Watch if you're in search for redemption or if you're in the mood to have a downer night.

4. We Need To Talk About Kevin
Tilda Swinton is amazing and all the boys who played Kevin were amazing. IMHO... this adaptation of Lionel Shriver's bestseller isn't as good as the book, but it was still as chilling. It was heartbreaking to watch Tilda and Ezra Miller portray a strained mom and kid relationship . The last twenty minutes of the movie was quite graphic, slightly difficult to swallow and quite haunting.
Watch if you loved the book or if you need to be reminded of how much our mothers love us.

5. Puncture
I think this movie finally shows that Chris Evans is more than just a pretty face who looks good in skin-tight superhero costumes. Inspired/based on true events about a David -v- Goliath battle on medical malpractice, health and safety as well as personal injury liability, this movie isn't for everyone. The ending was a bit too abrupt if I may say so, but it was defo good to see pretty boy Chris show more substance than skin this time. Well, he does show a bit still. But you get the picture ;)
Watch if you liked Erin Brokovich and if you work in the medical profession.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Rebuilding the music library

After a lot of tears and manic heart palpitations, I have decided to fight with a vengeance and rebuild my music library from scratch as a homage to the 4000+ tunes lost in Project Fix Laptop.

1. Noel Cabangon - Ang Aking Awitin
A very old tune that has a very special place in my heart. Bong Gabriel's version still gives me the chills to this day as nothing beats a torpe song by a torpe guy. However, Noel Cabangon's version is so good it might as well revert you to the golden era of bell bottoms, happy beans and classic Manila Sound. Another brilliant track from his awesome album, Byahe.

2. The Japanese Pop Stars - Song For Lisa (Barry Benassi Remix)
They are not Japanese at all. I quite like listening to Japstars and their remixes especially when I'm getting ready for a massive night (check out: Beyonce - Single LadiesGorillaz - On Melancholy Hill, Kylie - Better Than Today). They're quite good DJs and they actually have Nike trainers named after them. Gotta love this Barry Benassi remix featuring Lisa Hannigan.

3. Nadia AliStarkillersAlex Kenji - Pressure (Alesso remix)
Imagine. You + 10,000 other forever young souls + one massive field + awesome surround sound + this. Love this track, for the sheer pleasure it brings my feet. Nadia Ali's voice is meant for tunes like these - para siyang on a high most of the time. I've missed her since Rapture!

4. American Football - The Summer Ends
Long intros and slow-sung lyrics usually make me skip songs on albums, but this song always makes me feel a bit hopeful about all things to come. When people you care about come and go a lot or when you feel like nothing is certain songs like this can induce a much needed cry. And then you're okay. And then you know that everything's going to be alright. =)

There's something annoying about bands who have long names and song titles especially when their songs are quite rather hit/miss. TPOBPAT fall into that category in my book; their tunes are catchy and reminiscent of 90's 'rockternative' but I feel like there's a slight lack of cohesion on their albums as a whole. This song is possibly my favourite from Belong because it reminds me of all the teenybopper romances my friends and I had.

6. Starsmith - Lesson One
Have you heard Starsmith's remixes? Pretty decent, but his tunes are quite good too. Very reminiscent of 80's popsynth tunes, and as a child of the 80's (that's still young!) I'm well pleased with his tracks! That said, I'm digging his originals too.

What are you's listening to? Help me rebuild my tunes library!