Tag Archives: Christmas

On Leaving Hearts and Holidays

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It takes nothing short of a huge miracle to get a severe introvert like myself out of the house (my friends are amazing for putting up with me… Thanks I and K). Severe introverts take so much comfort in silence and routines that the idea of spending the holidays in a place we’ve never been is petrifying.

This is exactly what I was thinking, as I struggled with a massive panic attack in the last couple of days leading up to our trip in San Francisco.

Normally, Chad and I have a tradition of counting down to Christmas by watching old holiday films (“It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Eloise at Christmastime” are some of our favorites). We would wait for midnight to open presents, eat a snack, drink some wine, and marvel at how I’ve transitioned from horror movies with my brother to proper Christmas flicks (Chad hates horror movies, but my brother and I shared a strange sense of macabre during Christmas).

This is followed by yet another countdown for the New Year in front of our window. Our high-rise faces the fancy subdivisions a few blocks away (they try to outdo one another with fancy fireworks on new year’s eve). We would toast at midnight, eat 12 grapes (a tradition from Chad’s family), laugh at the thought of people inhaling firework residue in some crowded place (we’re quite antisocial that way), then brave the streets (which by 1 am would resemble a warzone) to meet up with friends in Chihuahua Makati Avenue (now Woody’s).

I was comfortable with the routine. I loved it.

Fast forward to Christmas of 2015. I was mentally kicking and screaming in NAIA as I waited to board the plane (then again, maybe the fact that NAIA is consistently one of the worst airports on the planet had something to do with my anxieties). I proceeded to do what any wino would do: knock myself out with the free wine on board Philippine Airlines (not the best stuff, but it had to do) and hoped my apprehensions would not transform into some form of rebellious angst.

Luckily, things totally turned around when we touched down in chilly San Francisco.

Maybe the efficient airport did it? The lack of traffic or pollution? The fact that my in laws were feeling the festivities and the massive post-holiday sales? Whatever it was, the festive mood was both intoxicating and infectious, like a delicious virus spread through lethal cocktails (I had to relate it to something intoxicating and infectious, so humor me).

When we got to my in laws’ house, we were greeted by some of the best things in the planet: a wonderful cold that a person who grew up in the tropics (me!!!) needed to get accustomed to (yay for fashionable layering!), an 80-something pound Golden Retriever (who needed to reconcile his actual size with how small he thought he was), and… Wine.

Our (adoptive) BFAM (Brother From Another Mother) gifted us with two bottles of wine: a Duckhorn Chardonnay from Napa and a Decoy Pinot Noir from Sonoma. Equally sublime, the wines represented some of the best in California winemaking… I particularly adored the Pinot Noir for its elegance and complexity.

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Beautiful Wine on a Beautiful Christmas Morning

From this point, we basically ate, drank, and shopped our way through San Francisco.

 

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Best Non-Alcoholic Drink Finds Near The Wharf!

Must Drink: Hot Chocolate from Ghirardelli (richest, creamiest, thickest hot chocolate ever!), and Irish Coffee from Buena Vista (where the first Irish Coffee in America was made… Guests can buy ingredients from their gift shop, too). There’s a Peet’s Coffee wherever we looked… It’s heavenly (especially during chilly days), and my brother in law swears it’s best when it’s freshly ground (totally agree).

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Fancy Ambiance for an Equally Fancy Brunch!

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Ferry Building Food and Beverage Finds

Foodie/Wino Restaurants to Visit: Have brunch in Fairmont and The Palace Hotel (brunch is apparently a big deal in San Francisco… Expect free flowing Champagne or Mimosas!), then have a gastronomic feast in Michael Mina (seems pricey, but the food is absolutely worth it and the wine pairings were on point… Look for Claude for the most concise food and wine pairing explanation). Go to The Slanted Door for a delicious modern take on Vietnamese food, then go around the Ferry Building for foodie finds (Blue Bottle Coffee is a must try!).

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What A Haul!*

Must Buy: Chic insulated wine shoulder bag from Bed Bath & Beyond (for your fasyon BYOB needs), huge frou-frou coffee cups (Anthropologie), manual ceramic coffee drip (Sur la Table), spices (I loved the Pumpkin Pie Spice from Trader Joe’s, which is now a necessary addition to my morning coffee), and metal ice that wouldn’t water down a glass of whiskey (Brookstone). Look for funky-girly bar stuff (from sparkling wine inspired wallets to cute mugs) in Kate Spade.

Since San Francisco is a hop skip and a jump away from Napa, our BFAM one-upped his presents by taking us to Napa for a wine tour…

…which I will save for another article. 😉

So. Did I leave my heart in San Francisco? Surprisingly, I did.

Being the introvert that I am, however, I need to recharge (and get over my jetlag) for a week.

Coming up: Adventures in Napa.

Cheers!

Special shoutout to our family in San Francisco, thank you so much for having us in your home and showing us around your side of the world. You are infinitely amazing. Thank you to our BFAM for everything. To the P family, you were so wonderful to host us for a dinner; You are also welcome in our home whenever you’re in town. My home office smells divine, thanks to your Christmas present. 🙂

*Thanks S for the Kate Spade Stuff! You’re right, it’s totally us! Missing you from across the ocean!

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year!

Our family is spending the holidays in San Francisco (which explains my absence). We are loving it here. The weather is nice and chilly, the people are amazing, and the sights are so beautiful.

That being said, I admit to debating whether or not to post right now. Given the time difference, however, I want to be able to put up a post in time for New Year’s Eve in Manila.

If we were back home, we would probably be sitting in front of our window, watching the fireworks in the village across our apartment, having 12 grapes, jumping at the stroke of midnight.

Given that we are a hop skip and a jump away from California’s famous wineries, Chad’s sister’s BFF decided to treat us to a New Year’s Eve romp around Napa.

That being said, we will be welcoming the year with the best buzz ever. 😉

Coming soon, a proper look at the year that was, and a San Francisco special.

How are you spending your New Year’s Eve? If you’re in the Philippines, please don’t drink and light up a firecracker. 😉 Cheers and Happy New Year!

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A little sneak peek on the upcoming San Francisco special (shot in Fairmont Hotel San Francisco)

Kapehan With An Old Kumpadre

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I was once again hit with a terrible bout of writer’s block (hence the absence). I ended up looking for inspiration from one of my all time favourite gourmands on the planet: Anthony Bourdain.

With the expectation of yet again capitalizing on another European beverage discovery, I decided to watch Bourdain’s No Reservations episode shot in Burgundy (featuring celebrity chef and Burgundy native, Chef Ludo).

The funny thing was, instead of finding a European inspiration, the overarching theme of the show resonated with me (I’m paraphrasing here): You really have to look to your roots to find inspiration.

I looked back at recent posts and realized that I have been featuring so many foreign beverages. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose… After all, one of the goals of this blog is to provide accessible content for Pinoys who want to learn about beverages in a safe, anti-snob environment.

The thing is, I feel I’ve let go of the other goal: Highlighting our wonderful indigenous products.

Next question was: What do I feature? Where can I find something truly Filipino and new?

I found answers from an unlikely source: A Christmas bazaar. Over the years, Christmas bazaars have exploded and have become part of the Filipino holiday tradition, so much so that many of these have popped up everywhere. St. James Bazaar is legendary for its size; the Noel Bazaar causes a bigger traffic jam than usual in Pasay with shoppers coming from all over… Of course, there’s the Rockwell Bazaar.

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Loving the #hashtag!

In Rockwell, I was particularly interested with a group of people who promised good coffee without the acidity (perfect for someone like me who has a tendency to drink copious amounts of wine), packaged in funky looking black bags with, of all things, an owl.

As I talked to Doctor (that’s right) Mitch Villafania, I found out that the owl was conceptualized because hardcore coffee drinkers have a tendency to share nocturnal qualities with an owl (excellent point made). They named the owl “Old Juancho”, which ended up becoming their catchy brand name (and mascot). Old Juancho is a collaboration between family and friends: Doctor Mitch, John (his younger brother), Jessica (his wife), and John’s former schoolmates Steve Cardona and Jan Michael Jose. This close-knit group is very hands-on with the production and sale of the coffee, making sure that each bag maintains impeccable quality.

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The wonderful team behind Old Juancho (L-R): John, JM, Jessica, and Doc Mitch (not in photo: Steve)

Before I go any further, a little coffee 101:

  • Coffee aficionados are probably familiar with the “big four”: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsia. Old Juancho uses Liberica, the rarest of the four. The beans originated mainly from Libya (which gives an insight to the etymology of the name), and were brought to our shores around the 1800s.
  • Liberica is the most resilient of the four (pest resistant, and once upon a time, it outlasted Arabica crops during the “coffee rust epdemic” 0f 1890).
  • Proudly Pinoy fact: These beautiful, rare beans are mostly cultivated in Batangas. A familiar Pinoy coffee term is “barako”. Much as barako harkens thoughts of a muscle-bound dude (barako means “tough man”), there is more evidence that the “barako” are the men who climb Liberica trees (which could reach upto 30 feet high).
  • Liberica coffee is a dream for people who suffer heartburn because of its naturally low acidity (I can’t stress enough how happy this fact makes me).

Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve had a difficult time trying to find a good, affordable source of these gems in groceries or gourmet shops. Thank goodness for Old Juancho. A guarantee of quality: the coffee is sourced directly, and the process from roasting to grinding does not exceed three days.

Now, the all-important question remains: What is it like? Mitch says the taste is “initially smoky and a bit bold, which later shifts to a more subtle style with rich caramel tones”. I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, though… It’s like a warm, fuzzy hug in the morning. 😉

Interested in having your own Old Juancho experience? Bags can be bought through:

Mobile: 0919-8014957 (John)

Email: oldjuanchos@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/oldjuanchos

Makes excellent stocking stuffers too. 🙂