Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top 10s: My Updated Top 10 Favorite Food Cities

It's time to update my Top 10 Favorite Food Cities list!

The Criteria
- Cities that I've visited
- Authenticity of the foods/cuisines
- Freshness and quality of the ingredients/products. (Say "No!" to processed foods!)
- Repeatability
- Forward-Thinking and Creativity in Presentation and Modernization

My Top 10 Favorite Food Cities
10. Shanghai
9. Chiang Mai
8. Paris
7. San Francisco/Bay Area
6. New York City
5. Taipei
4. Madrid
3. Tokyo
2. Bangkok
1. Hong Kong

After living in Asia for 2 years, I've definitely become more Asia-centric. There are so many great food cities here. The good eating never stops.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Top 10s of 2011: Top 10 Favorite Cities

It's been another successful year of traveling! I've been back to my favorite cities and I've discovered new favorites as well. The list constantly grows and changes after every trip and at the end of each year.

These are my favorite cities that I traveled to this year. I took out San Francisco, Las Vegas, Manila, and New Haven because I go there so often and for long periods of time that it seems a bit unfair to include them in this travel list. But, expect to see at least SF on my favorite food cities list tomorrow

These are the 10 cities I traveled to this past year. My favorite cities are ranked according to cities with the tastiest foods and repeatability to go back.

My Top 10 Favorite Cites from 2011:
10. Kathmandu (to be posted in January)
9. Pokhara (also to be posted in January)
8. Hangzhou (to be posted this coming week)
7. Boston
6. Shanghai
5. Chiang Mai
4. New York City
3. Taipei
2. Hong Kong
1. Bangkok

Can't wait for my 2012 travels!

Next Top 10s: Top 10 Favorite Food Cities

Friday, December 23, 2011

Din Tai Fung in Shanghai, featuring the best bite of food this year.

From first bite, Din Tai Fung became one of my food meccas. Every visit, every location in Taipei and Shanghai, every basket.. it's all soo good.

Just like in Taipei, when I'm in Shanghai eating at Din Tai Fung is a personal requirement. Actually, eating there at least twice is a personal requirement.

Every location has a few different dumplings on their own menus. After touring the observation decks of the World Financial Center, my family and I had a late lunch at DTF. I knew this was going to be a great meal. What I didn't expect was to have the greatest bite of food...maybe ever, but definitely the greatest bite from this entire 2011.

Last spring, I had a fantastic meal in Benu in San Francisco. One of the tasting menu selections was Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao. It was excellent with a distinctive foie gras taste and a beautifully thin wrapper.

Months later, I encountered another foie gras xiao long bao here at the Din Tai Fung in Shanghai. Without any need for a name brand chef and without any need to spend hundreds, this foie gras xiao long bao puts all else to shame.

You know when you eat something great, you get silenced for a moment. You enjoy the taste in your mouth, maybe make an appreciative sound with your mouth closed (assuming you have proper eating manners, that is), and then comment on how spectacular it was after you swallowed the food or drink.

This totally was not like that. One tiny bite from the dumpling to get the soup...the soup hit my lips and tongue. OMG, the screaming intensity of the goose liver hits you. That overwhelming goodness doesn't leave you time to enjoy a silent moment. The taste involuntarily had my mouth and brain verbalizing the utter goodness. The juice almost trickled out of my mouth because I had yet to swallow my first little bite. Manners wiped away. Any thought other than this amazing goose liver vanished. You can't help but let out an expletive to describe the goodness. It's that amazing. Hands down, best bite this year. Hands down.

Place your cursor above "Notes" below to read the captions for each photo.
The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: DTF SWFC

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hotel Eats in the Peninsula Shanghai

The first time I visited Shanghai last year, my parents and I stayed at the brand new Peninsula Shanghai. It was still on it's soft opening and it had already impressed up. Peninsula Hotels really stand up to their reputation of great service and a memorable stay.

So for my second trip back to Shanghai, we happily came back. After long days of touring and eating through Shanghai, it's such a great feeling to come back to a comfortable, clean hotel.

Last time, we dined in the Lobby Lounge for breakfast and at Sir Elly's for a special dinner. All the meals were excellent and memorable.

This time around we had breakfasts and also a late night meal in the Lobby Lounge. The food is satisfying and filling, and the portions are generous! After a long day of flying and driving, settling into the hotel with a comforting meal is the best way to end the day.

The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: Peninsula Shanghai Lobby Lounge

Aside from the Lobby Lounge, we also tried out the Chinese restaurant, Yi Long Court. I was a bit disappointed that they served only Cantonese cuisine and not Shanghainese cuisine. When I'm in Shanghai, I want to have all the local specialities.

That disappoint lead to greater disappointments. The food was decent and the service was poor, especially for a Peninsula establishment. What happened?? They were all young guys who were not trained for high end Chinese dining. You'd expect the Chinese restaurant in Peninsula Shanghai to be really impressive and memorable.. sadly, that was not the case at all. You're definitely better off leaving the hotel for a Chinese dinner. If the service improved, I think the food would have tasted better. This was definitely one of those cases where a negative affected the whole experience.

The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: Peninsula Shanghai Chinese

Monday, December 19, 2011

Back in Shanghai

If you need proof that China is taking over the world, all you need to do is visit Shanghai. The sights of their architecture leave you awestruck. The commerce and economy leave you impressed.

The rich history is evident throughout the parts of the city. Through the people and the architecture, you can see the influence from neighboring countries and Europe. You can see the old Europe along the Bund and the new futuristic skyscrapers just across the Pudong.

Day and night, Shanghai is an amazing city that can really take your breath away.

Here are some pictures of a few sights of the city. For more pictures, check out past entries from my visit last year.

The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: Shanghai Fall 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Top 10s of 2011: Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in the World

Now this is a difficult list to rank. There were countless of amazing eats this year. These past two years of living in Asia have been phenomenal for my taste buds and stomach.

My Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in the World from 2011:
10. People's Palace, Manila
9. Ye Shanghai, Hong Kong
8. Jin Sha, Hangzhou
7. Wolfgang's Steakhouse, New York City
6. Bocadillos, San Francisco
5. Every restaurant in Eataly, New York City
4. Sen-ryo, Hong Kong
3. Sala Rim Naam, Bangkok
2. Every single Din Tai Fung in Taipei and Shanghai
1. Chef's Table at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chiang Mai

Next Weekend's Top 10s: My Top 10 Favorite Cities from 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Top 10s of 2011: Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in the United States

For close to 25 years, the United States was my first home. These days, it's become my second home. When I go back, my days and nights are filled with dining in favorite restaurants and new/notable restaurants.

In 2011, I went back to the states four times. Three of those visits combined east and west coast cities. My Top 10 lists ranges from casual joints to high brow special occasion dining.

My Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in the United States from 2011:
10. Jaleo
9. Co.
8. Shake Shack
7. Ichiza
6. Howie's Artisan Pizza
5. Benu
4. Wayfare Tavern
3. Wolfgang's Steakhouse
2. Bocadillos
1. Every restaurant in Eataly

Next Top 10s of 2011: Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in the World

Top 10s of 2011: Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in the Philippines

These Top 10s are getting harder. It's difficult to narrow down 10 and, mostly, to rank them. 1 and 2 came easy, but the rest became subjective to my favorites right now from the restaurants I dined in this year.

These are restaurants that are doing great things for the dining scene here in the Philippines. They bring us to world standards for being a culinary destination. From casual, traditional eats to modern, trendy dining.

My Top 10 Favorite Restaurants from 2011:
(The links vary from this year's entries, past years' entries, and restaurant's websites because my reviews will be posted after my travel entries.)
10. Grappa's Ristorante
9. 2nd's Restaurant
8. Chef's Table
7. Abe
6. Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice
5. Cerveseria
4. Mogu Shinsen Bar and Grill
3. Chef Laudico's Bistro Filipino
2. Bale Dutung
1. People's Palace

Next Top 10s of 2011: Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in the United States

Friday, December 16, 2011

Abu Authentic Cuisine for Special Occasions in Taipei

When it comes to traveling for food there are various resources online to guide you: Trip Advisor reviews, Yelp reviews if you're in the states, newspaper and magazine articles, and of course bloggers.

The best resource is having a friend who is a renown blogger in that city. The ultimate local experience and a guarantee for good eating.

If you find yourself in Taipei, A Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei is your go-to source to research your trip's good eats.

For a special occasion (my mom's birthday - it can't get more special than that), we were taken to Abu Authentic Cuisine for some modernized French/Italian style cuisine.

When the bread and butter arrived at the table, we knew we were in for a real treat. Why? Two words - Echire butter. This is some of the best butter you can slab onto your bread. This chef knows his ingredients.

The menu is comprised of 2 degustation (tasting) choices. Every dish is high quality and delights your sense of sight and taste. If you want to splurge on a special occasion, this is the place to go.

A restaurant like this is why I love eating in Asia. There are so many restaurants and chefs that easily rival "celebrity" chefs in the states who can tend to be overly hyped from their PR teams. Asia seems to be gaining more and more Michelin stars each year compared to the western countries. Go #TeamAsia!

Place your cursor above "Notes" below to read the captions for each photo.
The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: Abu

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cantonese Dim Sum in Taipei

Since I've been finding it difficult to find really great, authentic and high quality dim sum here in Manila, I was eager for an afternoon of Cantonese dim sum in Taipei.

At the San Want hotel, Chao Ping Ji has some great Cantonese dim sum. The classic and favorite dim sum selections are typically Cantonese due to the fact that dim sum was a Cantonese creation. This restaurant is known to have some of Taipei's finest dim some.

I love the variety of the flavors and textures in a dim sum meal. The small plates are perfect for sharing and ordering multiple plates for a full meal filled with all kinds of tasty treats.

You can really taste the quality and freshness of the ingredients. My stomach was delightfully satisfied with the meal. This is good dim sum that totally is up to par with some of Hong Kong's finer Cantonese dim sum establishments.

Place your cursor above "Notes" below to read the captions for each photo.
The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: San Want

Monday, December 12, 2011

Din Tai Fung - A Taipei Staple.

Of all the restaurants in Taipei that you have to visit, and probably multiple and repeatedly, is Din Tai Fung. It's become a landmark for tourists and locals alike. It's so much better than anything you'll get in the states. Really, you have to come here.

There are so many great places to eat in Taipei, but Din Tai Fung manages to convince your stomach to go back for more. It's nearly impossible to go to Taipei and eat at Din Tai Fung just once.

The paper thin wrapper, the pork filling, and the flavor-packed soup in the dumpling captivates you. It makes you obsessed with xiao long bao. It makes you obsessed with Din Tai Fung's xiao long bao. When you leave, all you're thinking about is how you want these soup dumplings.

In this most recent trip, we visited the original location (to also have mango ice for dessert) and the newest location in Taipei 101.

There are several locations to choose from. Choose any, and it'll be consistent and memorable. And of course, it'll leave you wanting more.

DTF, The Original
(Place your cursor above "Notes" below to read the captions for each photo.)
The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: DTF Original

DTF at Taipei 101
The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: DTF 101

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Top 10s of 2011: Home Baked Goodies

As I reflect on my Home Baked posts from 2011, I found that I only had 3 posts. 2012 Resolution: Take more home baked pictures!

So, instead of my Top 10 list from 2011...
My Top 10 Favorite Home Baked Goodies since the start of Foodicles:
10. Using Bananas
9. Homemade Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
8. Eating In
7. Banana-Que
6. Chocolate Caramel Tart
5. New Desserts
4. Too many bananas and they're already so ripe? Bake with them!
3. Red Velvet, Round 2
2. Tarte Tatin
1. Always Leave Room for Dessert

Next Weekend: Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in the Philippines, the US, and in the world.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top 10s of 2011: Home Cooked Meals

It's December already! Where did the year go?... As we reflect on 2011 and begin to get ready for 2012, I'll be gathering Top 10 lists during the weekends of December to reflect on my favorites from this past year.

To kick start the series of weekend lists...

My Top 10 Favorite Home Cooked Meals from 2011:
10. Home Cooked Asian Meals
9. Home Made Sake Steamed Chicken
8. Paella at Home
7. Steak Dinner
6. Spontaneous Dinner at Home
5. Home Made Porcini Risotto
4. Dinner at Home After a Long Trip
3. Lobster at Home
2. A Five-Star Steakhouse Meal at Home
1. Katsu of All Katsus

Eating at home is always as good or even better than eating out!

Next Top 10 of 2011: Home Baked!

Friday, December 09, 2011

More Shabu Shabu in Taipei

Another favorite and go-to restaurant in every visit to Taipei is Shabu Shabu in the basement food hall of Q Square Mall. (I love Asian malls with food hall in the basement floors.)

What makes this shabu shabu place so special? Aside from meat plates, there are also seafood selections, like majorly impressive seafood plates. And, the vegetables are massive. It definitely fulfills your vegetable quota for the day.

Plus, you don't have any guilty feelings because you ate healthy ingredients with out oils or fats (apart from the protein which is so good oils and fats if you had the seafood).

At the end of the meal, your stomachs are more than satisfied and full. Now that's a good meal.

Place your cursor above "Notes" below to read the captions for a few of the photos.
The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: Shabu Shabu

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Back at Shin Yeh 101

In all my family's favorite cities, we have favorite restaurants that we seem to always frequent in each visit. In Taipei, Shin Yeh 101 is one of these restaurants.

Why? First of all, Shin Yeh 101 has spectacular views. The 85th floor location is the perfect place to take in the views of the city. Why spend for the observation deck, when you can spend a little more for a memorable meal WITH a view!

And secondly, the FOOD. The menu has local Taiwanese selections, dim sum, entrees, sides, etc, and a great selection of desserts.

When in Taiwan, eat Taiwanese foods! I'm only there for a few days, so I definitely took advantage of that at Shin Yeh.

Place your cursor above "Notes" below to read the captions for each photo.
The slide show here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: Shin Yeh 101

'Tis the Season!

The holiday season is in full speed! It's time to prepare for the holidays and its celebrations (and pre-holiday diets).

This season and as 2011 closes, I'll be continuing to post entries about my recent travels. Additionally, Top 10 lists will be popping up on the weekends (Top 10 Cities, Restaurants, etc..).

And, as the holidays near and as my plates fill with holiday foods, check out the Foodicles Facebook Page or the Foodicles Twitter Feed for pictures!

Happy Holidays! May your stomachs be filled with.. well, may it be filled!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Boba, Bubble Tea, Pearl Tea... It's all good.

Aside from shaved ice, another iconic Taiwanese dessert that is known worldwide is Boba, aka Bubble Tea, aka Pearl Tea.

Milk Tea with chewy tapioca. It's something you can have at any time of the day. And it's something you want to have at all times of the day.

Every tea house or tea chain has their own formula for the milk tea and for the texture of the tapioca. I look for a deep black tea, yet smooth and milky taste that's not at all bitter and just slightly sweet. As for the tapioca, I look for bouncy, chewy bites that's not mushy nor too tough or rubbery.

For something like boba, you can totally have a search for the perfect cup. In Taipei, you can happily find many nominees.

Here are a couple that are total contenders from Chun Shui Tang and 50 Lan.
(Place your cursor above "Notes" below to read the captions for each photo.)
The slideshow here runs on Flash. If you can't see it here, check out my Flickr album: Boba

Friday, December 02, 2011

Almond Milk Shaved Ice in Taipei

If you can't get enough of shaved ice while you're in Taipei, then you'll definitely have to grab a bowl of Almond Milk Shaved Ice. It's the classic shaved ice elevated to a crazy delicious level.

We had our bowl in the food court of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi in Xin Yi. There are so many great options here for meals, snacks, desserts, and drinks. Seriously, in Taipei it's like your constantly full because of all the good eating.

The almond milk ice comes out like smooth, powdery, pillowy, micro fine ribbons. I highly recommend adding condensed milk which is lightly drizzled on the ice. That little touch of milky sweetness totally heightens the almond milk taste. Then another great surprise is the almond tofu hidden underneath the pile of ice. Smooth and light!

Just from looking at the freshly shaved ice, I knew this could potentially be a new favorite dessert of mine. After that first bite - love. And then after the whole bowl was wiped out - so in love. This is such an awesome dessert.

(Place your cursor above "Notes" below to read the captions for each photo.)
The slideshow here runs on Flash. If you can't see it, check out my Flickr album: Almond Ice