Monthly Archives: January 2015

The #Balikalindog Chronicles

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Ahhhhh… January. Gym memberships skyrocket, parks get crammed full of posers joggers, and food consumption gets healthier.

Yes folks, it’s that time of the year again when post-holiday regrets catch up to us and grip us with a vice-like hold.

January.

In the advent of technology, we Pinoys even invented a hashtag for it: #BALIKALINDOG. “Balik” is return, and “alindog”, according to Google Translate, means charm. We, however, equate “alindog” to something a little more… Sensual. I think “balik alindog” is closer to “a return to sexy”, but hey. I’m not a linguist. I can be wrong!

Even I have fallen prey victim to this craze. I have resolved to up my exercise routine and limit my consumption of soda and beer (sigh). While I’ve accepted that genes and age have caught up to me (and my hips), I refuse to get winded easily.

Even Schrumpf, our Yorkie, is in. Part of his #balikalinDOG program is to climb up and down multiple flights of stairs everyday, just to build up his endurance for puppy agility (I now have no excuse).

Anyway. With getting healthier in mind, I have taken to rediscovering our tea stash. Tea is always a good beverage for digestion, and green tea is synonymous to fat loss.

We have a lot of tea available in the market, but for health benefits, here are three of my favorites:

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  • Thé Vert Bio Silhouette (a wellness store in Bercy, Paris) – I’m a huge fan of loose leaf tea (especially while doing Downton Abbey maratons). This green tea has notes of mint, orange, and raspberry. The earthy, malty pu-erh notes compliment the grassy green tea character of the tea, making it a deliciously multi-dimensional drink.
  • Stash Lemon Ginger Iced Green Tea Powder (also comes in tea bags, Rustan’s Supermarket) – I can get lazy, and sometimes drinking hot tea is just not practical in our weather (read: HOT!). A good, quick alternative is this tea, with gentle notes of ginger and lemon. Bonus: Ginger is good for the throat (get slimmer/healthier while you hit the high notes).

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  • Q Yellow Ginger Tea (call +63998-4842628 for orders) – My mother-in-law introduced me to this instant tea wonder. Comes in powdered form (read: Instant Gratification) and best served hot, this yellow ginger tea is essentially turmeric. Turmeric fights bloating and is good for liver detox (I so need this given the amount of alcohol I consume). I love mixing it with some of the homemade lemon zest infused honey I got from a B&B in Chile, but any honey would do. It’s proudly Philippine made, and every purchase helps local communities in Quezon.

Of course, nothing beats drinking tons of water (add some lemon slices for vitamin C, further detox, and some taste), exercise, and practicing moderation.

For those embarking on a #balikalindog program, best of luck, and do share your tips as well. Cheers!

Viva Il Papa… And The Wine To Match

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As a Filipina who grew up in the 90s, I know that there is such a frenzied adoration during papal visits. I remember (then pope, now saint) John Paul II’s World Youth Day in 1995… Daily practicing of the song “Tell The World Of His Love” in our Catholic school, our family having hosted a nun from Iloilo who needed to attend the event, and attending loads of masses.

What on earth is a beverage writer doing, writing about the Pope’s visit?

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, you cannot omit the fact that there is wine in the bible, and during the celebration of mass. Jesus’ first miracle involved turning water into wine (Wedding at Cana). During the last supper, Jesus used wine to symbolize His blood.

Therefore, there is an undeniable correlation between Christianity and wine.

That being said, there is nothing evil about consuming alcohol in the Christian sense… It’s the OVER-consumption of alcohol that is advised against.

Ok, before I start sounding too preachy, let me get to a more interesting point: What wine is used during Holy Communion?

The wines are generally classified under “Sacramental Wine”. There are many variations on the stuff, depending on the Christian denomination. Some allow only red grapes, some do not allow any additives, and some do not even allow alcohol to begin with (instead, grape juice is consumed). By and large, Sacramental Wine makes use of grapes that are only intended for Holy Communion.

In the Philippines, we traditionally use Mompo. It’s cheap, sweet, amber in color, and some altar boys I know (my cousin included) have had naughty moments and consumed a little too much of this behind closed doors (tsk tsk).

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Vin Santo Wine Tasting (photo courtesy of Jocen Villongco) 

One of my friends and I had the Italian counterpart one time during a tasting event. The Vin Santo (or “Holy Wine”) is a more refined, elegant, and varied version of the Mompo. Technically classified as a dessert wine and served after espresso, this native of Tuscany can be bone dry to brutally sweet. It is also served during Tuscan wedding ceremonies, which the bride and groom drink.

Let me end this entry by telling you why I like Pope Francis enough to actually write a wine blog in relation to his visit. I like that he embodies the spirit of what being a religious leader (Christianity or otherwise) is all about: Love. We’re not only told, but we are shown that we should love one another, no matter what our beliefs and religions are.

I am free to choose my religion, make informed opinions on each religion that I know of, and express my beliefs. I am free to talk about my love of lechon with a mid-range Pinot Noir and make no apologies about it. I’m free to be a woman and travel halfway across the globe, discover new things (and new wine), then write about it. I’m free to be a Pinay blogger writing about beverages, alcoholic or otherwise, grammar fiends’ and wine snobs’ opinions be damned. I’m free to be spiritual as opposed to being observant of every sacrament. I’m free to love, and upon doing so, show you what (and Who), I believe in.

What we shouldn’t be free to do is harm, kill, hate, and scare others into silence. We shouldn’t be free to insult another person and/or his beliefs, religious or otherwise.

Phew! This is getting too heavy. With that, I am off to dinner… With wine of course! Cheers!

A Chilean Geography Lesson… With Wine

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It must be interesting to live in a country where wine is such a big part of your culture that in huge celebrations (a holiday, a birthday, a wedding, or what have you), there is a go-to brand for sparkling wine.

Such is the case of Valdivieso in Chile.

Before I visited the country, my notion of Valdivieso is that it’s all about the reds. This is because I’ve been accustomed to thinking of sparkling wines from Spain, Italy, Germany, and of course, France.

In Chile, however, Valdivieso is closely associated with sparkling wines.

The reason for this goes way back. See, Don Alberto Valdivieso founded the vineyard in 1879 with the purpose of making sparkling wines, in effect being the first sparkling wine vineyard in Latin America.

Their history is reflected on the quality of the sparkling wines they produce.

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Sparkling Line: Blanc de Blancs, Brut, and Brut Nature 

Take for instance their best seller, the Brut. The acidity reminds you of the sparkling wine greats, rounded by citrus fruits and floral notes. Bready, light, and perfect as an aperitif, it’s a great peg for a sparkling wine. You don’t need to break the bank to buy one too!

If you’re feeling a touch fancy, try their Blanc de Blancs, made from 100% Chardonnay (blanc = white, in the case of wine, white grapes, which is what Chardonnay is). I’ve always referred to a BdB as a food friendly sparkling wine… It has less acidity than your standard mixed Bruts. The Valdivieso Blanc de Blancs is no exception: richer, more complex, has notes of ripe fruits, and begs to be paired with food.

For those looking to try something different, go for the Brut Nature. Brut Nature is the driest (least sweet) classification of sparkling wines. Most bottles of Brut Nature are guaranteed to make your mouth pucker, but if done correctly, it is simply refreshing. This wine is very citrusy, yet creamy on the texture. Excellent balance of two seemingly opposing characteristics. *

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One of the yummiest Cabernet Francs I’ve tried!

This is not to say that Valdivieso is all about the sparkling wines. I took home one of the best Cabernet Francs I’ve ever had. Cabernet Franc is a tricky grape to work with. Most of the time, the grape is used as a blend for Bordeaux classics (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), because if done wrong, it ends up being too tart. The one seen here is rich, elegant, and has none of the harsh acids one would expect from a 100% Cabernet Franc.

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Go Loco with Caballo Loco!

Their Caballo Loco line (all reds) is a good range to explore, and gives you an understanding of Chilean wine geography. Caballo Loco translates to “Crazy Horse”, which is a reflection of the characteristic of the winemaker.

Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t whinny or buck. Apparently, he is an immensely energetic (horse) genius (crazy), hence the name.

Anyway, each wine from the range is labeled by grape, harvested from regions in Chile that they are best produced. This not only guarantees good wine, but it also gives you an idea of the best regions in terms of geography for Chilean reds. Try the Malbec from Sagrada Familia, Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo, the Carmenere from Apalta, and the Shiraz from Limari.

So whether you’re looking to pop a bubbly or go loco with a fabulous red, give Valdivieso a try and let me know what you think. Cheers!

*Cheat Sheet: Oftentimes, wine critics look for a good balance in a wine. You don’t want a characteristic to dominate. For instance, a wine shouldn’t be too fruity. Or jammy. Or woody. There has to be a different element to add another dimension.

#groceries

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Now that we’re over the holidays, it’s time to get back to reality… And hit the groceries.

Yup, so much partying happened over the holidays that we have officially depleted our stock of food and booze.

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Went home with these babies!

In the beginning of the year, I make it a point to shop for adequate amounts of spices, cooking essentials, snacks, toiletries, and drinks. There’s just something about an overflowing stockpile that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

#shopaholic #foodaholic #alcoholic

My favorite place for good, affordable booze has always been S&R. Granted, as with any imported product in the Philippines, the stocks can vary, which means you really have to look for the good stuff.

I normally buy tons of Sauvignon Blanc, as S&R always has a wide selection of Marlborough (my favorite region for the grape). The selection ranges from the affordable but yummy Matua (which my girls and I go through like air), to a lovely Saint Clair. Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs are a wonderful sensory overload: The smell of grass, crisp green fruits, and gooseberries is always a wonderful treat to the nose. Since we don’t have gooseberries in the Philippines, the closest thing I’ve found to smelling like it is our local kamias.

OK now I’m craving for Sinigang sa Kamias. Moving on…

A great surprise in my last trip was the Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. I just could not resist but purchase a bit of history. The label is legendary for its role in the Judgment of Paris. Their 1973 vintage rated best in the red wine category during a blind tasting (no labels!) where the judges were French. This caused quite a stir, since French wines were generally regarded as THE best wines.*

I also found a cute flask of Cognac on the shelf. I know, you normally don’t associate the word “cute” with what is perceived to be a gentleman’s drink, but just look at the photo. It’s so tiny and PINK! Granted, it’s the lowest tier (VS, as opposed to VSOP or XO), but it’s PINK!!!

Besides, I actually learned to love the stuff from Audrey Hepburn, who used to drink a glass of Cognac after dinner. #notjustforguys

CanadaDryPhoto courtesy of Chad

I also needed to get some of the non-alcoholic stuff (contrary to popular belief, I do not subsist on booze). Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale is crisp, refreshing, delicious, and perfect for loading up on antioxidants. Granted, it’s not as healthy as natural juices or water (100 calories per can), but it’s a great alternative to soda. #slightlyhealthier

What are your interesting shopping finds? Cheers!

*Editor’s note: Try to watch BOTTLE SHOCK to see the full impact of the event.

New Year Traditions of the Educated Alcoholic (Holidays Part 2)

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The Morning After: Lapostolle Carmenere and a bottle of Moët

Ushering in the New Year, wherever you are in the world, is such a festivity. Fireworks, toasts, kisses… Good, fun vibes and (drunken!) parties all around.

Customarily, festivities of this magnitude call to mind (and mouth) bottles upon bottles of sparkling wine, preferably Champagne.

Our family (and most friends), as you can probably tell, is pretty unconventional. We wouldn’t be averse to partying with the more affordable Champagne alternatives (like Cava, Prosecco, or a new world Brut), but we’re not the types to shy away from a fabulous bottle of Champagne, especially when brought by a fellow wine-o.

Our chef BFF normally comes around during Christmas with a plated dish for a present (fancy!). This year, with our family home from the US, our schedule just could not accommodate his usual yummy delights. He settled instead for the next best thing and brought over a bottle of Möet. Champagne plus crazy conversations (and the latest gossip!) equals fun fun FUN!

Champagne being an aperitif, we decided to raid our cellar and got a bottle of red, the Lapostolle Carmenere. Wonderfully complex, it went famously with the Puttanesca.

Typically, after watching the fireworks (either from our window or with fellow revellers along the streets of CBD), we would venture out to Chihuahua and have some of their killer margaritas. It would be such an adventure, walking/driving through the last bits of fireworks just to get there. We would be rewarded with some of the best booze, conversation, and tacos in town. Going through what seems like a warzone has always been worth it.

This year, however, we celebrated the coming of 2015 in our parents’ house, setting off fireworks, and having a bottle of Asti. Refreshingly sweet and easy even for novice wine drinkers to consume, it went perfectly with the 12 grapes we had.

Eating 12 grapes on the stroke of midnight apparently symbolises good luck for all the 12 months in the year. Interesting tradition we inherited from Chad’s side of the family.

As you can see, I like my grapes fermented or fresh from the supermarket. 😉 2014 was a fabulous year. I say 2015 will be even more stupendous. Happy New Year!

Christmas Traditions of the Educated Alcoholic (Holidays Part 1)

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For those unfamiliar with Filipino Christmas celebrations, let me be the first to inform you… We have one of the LONGEST. Christmas decorations get put up immediately after Halloween (or for some homes, as soon as the ‘ber months hit), and won’t be taken down until the middle of January. We just LOVE Christmas.

One of the most important elements of a proper Pinoy Christmas is family. Members from far and wide come home to our shores for the best Christmas spirit in the world… Our family from San Francisco included.

Under normal circumstances, a Christmas in my nuclear family (Chad, Schrumpf, and I) is celebrated with traditions that are uniquely ours.

It all started when I was still single. Back then, my brother and I had the weird tradition of counting down to midnight in my room, laughing our heads off watching horror movies/slashers. We marvelled at how stupid the heroes/heroines are for running UP THE ATTIC to get away from monsters as opposed to getting out of the haunted house (I miss you, bro).

After I married my husband, we agreed to merge his family’s traditional rituals with ones we’ve developed. Christmas dinners with the entire family in his parents’ house, Christmas lunches with mine, counting down to midnight watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Meet Me In St. Louis, Home Alone, and/or It’s A Wonderful Life, and TONS of wine over dinner.

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Our Christmas Dinner Wine of Choice, Monte Rekewa (descriptions in a later entry)

One of our favourite unusual rituals is to go over to Cyrano a few weeks before Christmas, while their friendly bartender, Alex, play the year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

Wait, what?

People have found this custom of ours bizarre, but to the three of us, VS is one long, feel good, festive music video with beautiful women. The angels are aspirational (man, how can they rock those bodies after giving birth just xx months ago?) to (secure!) women, and eye candy to men.

The way we three watch the shows is with so much analysis and data (this angel improved her physique versus 2012, this angel must be retiring soon, she s 5’9” without the heels, where is Cara Delevigne, Taylor’s music is so much better this year than last year and she is SO not lip synching, blah blah blah).

All this play by play is best enjoyed with some of Cyrano’s wines, of course.

CAH

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Cards Against Humanity, Just Add Alcohol (photos courtesy of Chad and Nick, quote from Chad)

Another tradition Chad and I have is to host our geek friends’ annual Christmas party, complete with board games and alcohol. This year, it was all about Cards Against Humanity (with all 5 expansion packs), and Dixit. The CAH games exist to prove how terribly geeky and cruel we could be, and I’m proud to say that Chad was the cruelest of them all in 2014. The 2014 games involved tons of Scotch and Paul’s Chicken Tikka from heaven.

Like I initially mentioned, however, we had extended family from the US come over. Not really the drinking types (what with kids and all), we all enjoyed something wonderfully (and wholesomely) Pinoy: proper mango shakes. See, mangoes in the Philippines are nothing short of DIVINE. Sweet, succulent, juicy… You just can’t get mangoes like ours anywhere else in the world.

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Back to Work!

Alas, the Christmas holidays had to come to an end. A beer shot with the laptop means only one thing: Back to work! Admittedly, this is part one of my article. New Year coming soon! Cheers!