Viewing: food

Paris eats: Le Dome Cafe’s seafood platter

More than romance and lights, Paris to me means fantastic restaurants and superb food. After living in a city with rather limited dining out options, I salivated over the idea of being able to waltz into practically any cafe or brasserie and feast on more than just the regular complement of sandwiches and soups.

We decided to splurge on our first evening out in Paris with dinner at Le Dome Cafe in Montparnasse.

Le Dome Cafe Paris Montparnasse

Le Dome Cafe is the quintessential Paris brasserie at its turn-of-the-century, glamorous best.

Le Dome Cafe Paris Montparnasse outside seating

All sumptuous reds and gleaming brass, Le Dome is a throwback to turn-of-the-century Paris, where leading intellectuals, artists and authors of the day would gather here for food and conversation. 

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Paris eats: Du Pain et des Idées

It isn’t every day I can savor breakfast from one of the best bakeries in Paris—if not the best. So, one crisp and sunny morning, I trekked across Paris on foot, baby and husband in tow, to worship at baker Christophe Vasseur’s temple of bread and ideas…

Du Pain et des Idees Paris boulangerie

the aptly named Du Pain et des Idées.

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Date night: Lion Noir

Much as I love our little tradition of traveling somewhere (or being “whisked away”, as Marlon and I like to say) to celebrate a birthday, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to do it this year. Not even within the Netherlands, not even to a hotel in Amsterdam. How life changes with a baby! The pinnacle of my ambitions could be summed up in four words. Babysitter. Heels. Cocktails. Dinner.  

My dashing date gave me all of that in one smooth move by taking me out to Lion Noir, a restaurant on the Reguliersdwarsstraat in the center of Amsterdam.

Lion Noir Amsterdam exterior

The Reguliersdwarsstraat is one of the most happening streets in the city center for wining, dining and partying. It’s also a well-known gay and lesbian strip, good to know if that’s what you’re after. I love my gays, but I wasn’t out to be a fag hag that night. I just wanted to put on red lipstick, totter around in heels, and get all fancy.

Lion Noir Amsterdam birthday dinner

Lion Noir, with its stylish interiors and moody, slightly mysterious atmosphere, is the perfect place to do just that. The dim mood lighting also gave me a chance to test my new Sony RX100 MII in low light.

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Big Brunch at NDSM-Werf

For my birthday, all I really wanted was to be surrounded by people and things that I love. If you know me, you know what a few of those are: I love my daughter and husband, I love food, art, living in Amsterdam, food, and art… and I love brunch. So, what better way to kick off my birthday weekend than with brunch?

The birthday factor required extra oomph. It couldn’t be just any ho-hum brunch. It had to be Brunch with a capital B. Something Big. In a Big place. With Big things going on.

And the Big Brunch at the NDSM-Werf was it.

Welcome to the Big Brunch NDSM Amsterdam

As part of the 24H Noord festival, five cafes and restaurants operating out of the NDSM-Werf—Noorderlicht Cafépllek, IJkantine, Bbrood and Loetje—joined forces to cook up one Big Brunch… right on my birthday morning! It was a gift from the brunch gods, dropped right on my brunch-loving lap.

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Greece: a few last things

Whenever I come back from a trip, it takes me ages to unpack. For me, the magic of travel doesn’t end when the plane touches down, or when I step inside our home—it’s when all my things are packed away and my suitcase is empty. Reluctant to end the spell, I often leave my suitcase on the floor for days, picking things up and putting them away one at a time.

I feel that way about my photos from Greece. I take a ridiculous amount of photos when I travel, and only post a fraction of them on the blog. I was feeling a little sad about relegating all those images to my hard drive, so I thought I’d choose a last few details to share as a sort of farewell to Greece.

There isn’t really much of a story to tie them all together. But these are the little things that made me smile:

Waking up in, and coming home to, our lovely room at the Kavos Hotel in Naxos.

Naxos Hotel Kavos

Aromatics—dried lavender and garlic—hung over doors in Naxos’s old town.

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Naxos: Traditional charm at Taverna Lefteris

If you read up on the town of Apiranthos, most travel guides that mention this tiny village in the hills of Naxos will point you toward Taverna Lefteris for food and drink. While exploring the village, we decided to ask a few locals: “What really is the best place to eat around here?” Their answers all matched: Lefteris, indeed! So we couldn’t leave Apiranthos without dropping by this taverna off the teeny-tiny main square for a late lunch.

Apiranthos Taverna Lefteris6

Inside, we discovered the most appealing combination you could ever ask for in a traditional Greek taverna: zero tourists (except us, sorry!) and loads of traditional charm.

Apiranthos Taverna Lefteris1

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Let’s Do Brunch in… Munich

Since I’ve had Tala, finding a baby- and family-friendly brunch spot to indulge my love of brunch has become more important than ever. Now before entering a restaurant, I run through a quick mental checklist: space for the stroller, peace and quiet, a spot to breastfeed discreetly, and families with babies or young kids are always good indicators.

We’re lucky that at five months, Tala doesn’t need space to play yet, and is still too small for a high chair. But families with older kids need more. So I’m glad that this month’s guest blogger Bronwyn Darnoc chose a family-friendly restaurant perfect for Sunday brunch. And it’s in Munich, Germany!

Bronwyn is the creator of the Simply for Flying flight logbook, which you might remember from Tala’s first flight and my first giveaway. An Aussie living in Munich and a traveling mama with two little ones, Bronwyn recently relaunched Simply for Travel, her blog about kids and travel. This month, she brings us to her favorite kid-friendly brunch spot in Munich.

When I first moved to Munich nearly three years ago and asked everyone for the best coffee location in town, there was an overall unanimous response for Bar Centrale. Being a bit of a coffee snob, I was desperate to taste a good coffee without long-life milk! I can definitely vouch for this location, as the moment you step in you feel like you are in a typical Italian coffee bar, which you would find in places like Rome or Milan.

It didn’t take long to realise that the owners of Bar Centrale own a whole group of fantastic venues throughout Munich, like the Cortina & Louis Hotel. But it’s the Brenner Grill that deserves a big nod for its kid-friendly Sunday brunch!

Brenner Grill Munich

Image from Brenner Grill

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The Lobster House

Lobster again?! I know, I know, we had a fabulous lobster dinner at home just a few days ago. But weekends are too short, and Marlon and I have been feeling the need to spend more time together during the week. So a few days ago I took Tala to visit Daddy at the office, and we walked to The Lobster House nearby for a mid-week lunch out.

Lobster House bakfiets

The Lobster House is a new-ish snack bar at Frederiksplein that serves up fresh seafood as is, or in the form of light, casual bites such as burgers, soups, salads, wraps and pastas.

Lobster House Amsterdam restaurant

The specialty of the house, as you can probably guess, is lobster.

Lobster House Amsterdam

My husband loves their deep-fried soft shell crab. Me? I love being able to grab a ginger beer from one of the fishing baskets under the counter. Ginger beer, particularly the Bundaberg brand, is one of those rare expat treats that’s hard to find in Amsterdam.

Lobster House ginger beer

There’s also a big industrial shelf with a small selection of deli items. Truffle mustard and cookie mix in a milk bottle? Intriguing. This definitely deserves a closer look on my next visit.

Lobster House deli

Since it was a nice day out, we ordered a couple of lobster burgers to go, ate by the fountain at Frederiksplein. I enjoyed the crispy bread and zingy sauce, but was dismayed to find the entire bone of the lobster claw still in my burger. I also felt this was somewhat closer, size-wise, to a sandwich than an actual burger.

Lunch by the fountain

Still, I’d give The Lobster House another try—if only for their perfectly crispy, wide-cut triple-cooked fries!

Lobster House triple cooked fries

We finished our meal with gelato from nearby chocolatier Van Soest (disappeared too quickly for pictures, sorry!). Altogether, it was a lovely little mid-week pick-me-up. As a kid, I loved visiting my mom at her office, so I hope we can make these weekday family lunches a tradition of our own.

This weekend we’re staying in again and gearing up for a big trip. More details to come… in the meantime, have a great weekend!

Simple joys and something special

How was your weekend? Feeling tired and a little broke after our recent trip to Maastricht (plus we’re saving up for the Big Trip of the year in a week’s time), Marlon and I decided to stay in all weekend long. I know, married couples are boring, they never want to go out anymore, blah blah blah. Am I just getting old, or is staying at home simply more appealing now?

Whether forced by an empty wallet or by choice, staying in can be extremely recharging and satisfying. I think the key is to mix simple pleasures with a little something special. A Masterchef Australia marathon (such a good show!) on the couch with this adorable face napping on my belly (yes, a long naptime helps!)… now that’s a prime example of a simple pleasure that doesn’t cost a thing.

Tala napping

So is being treated to the sight of the funniest bedhead ever…

Tala bedhead

… and using cuddles and playtime to put the work week firmly into the past (especially for Daddy).

Daddy and Tala

The fun part is injecting a little something extraordinary into what would otherwise be an ordinary weekend. Just one well-chosen treat can make staying at home closer to being a pleasure than a belt-tightening measure. It could be a decadent hot chocolate or a new book to curl up with on the couch.

For us, of course, it’s food. On Saturday mornings, Marlon likes to take Tala for a walk to the Noordermarkt, giving me one precious baby-free morning a week. This weekend, he came home from the market with a large, very pregnant and very LIVE lobster, wild and not farmed, from the Netherlands’ own North Sea.

Marlon's lobster dinner

If you can get over the creepy factor of a plastic bag rustling in your fridge and can handle them without getting pinched, lobsters are the easiest luxurious dinner. Just drop in a pot, cover and wait a few minutes. We had ours with potato wedges and sweet potato fries, a lime, cilantro, garlic and butter sauce, and white wine from the grocery.

Lobster and wine

What simple joys do you enjoy during a weekend at home? And what’s your favorite way to inject something special into a stay-at-home weekend?

NeighbourFood Market

It’s no secret that I love my neighborhood. Among my friends, I’m the unofficial Westerpark Tourism Bureau—I’m always trying to get people to come over to one of the many cool things happening just around the corner.

We are so lucky to live right next to a park that hosts not one, but two awesome weekend markets. On the first Sunday of every month, there’s the Sunday Market; and every third (or sometimes fourth) Sunday, there’s the NeighbourFood Market.

Neighbourfood Market table

With long communal tables, grandma’s living room furniture and homey flower arrangements, the Neighbourfood Market has a warm and friendly community atmosphere. The setting is extremely baby- and child-friendly; seeing young families with babies just like us, Marlon and I felt reassured that moving here was the right decision.

Neighbourfood Market communal table

Neighbourfood Market vintage chairs

Neighbourfood Market Vedett deck chairs

The shared seating makes it easy to start a conversation, so we got to meet people who live in our neighborhood. And that’s really nice. Admittedly, growing up in Manila has made me me suspicious of most strangers, so I’m never the one starting a conversation—but once people talk to me I’m too polite to say no. Then if I decide the person talking to me is totally un-creepy, I’m happy to open up. I don’t bite, promise!

Casual eats in Amsterdam tend to be all the same (read: sandwiches), so I always jump at the chance to have something different. And variety is something that the Neighbourfood Market has for sure. It was tempting to run around trying to eat everything, but I had to remind myself that I live here and that I can try something different every month.

Neighbourfood Market Baq-fiets

Neighbourfood Westerpark chocolate and cookies

Neighbourfood Market Branco bread

The stalls seem to be mostly home cooks and small businesses, with quite a few of them run by expats and immigrants. From Mexican tacos to Vietnamese bun cha, South African style meatballs to American baked goods, it’s a fairly diverse selection. I even had a Singaporean curry puff, although the spice level was adjusted to Dutch palates. Still, it was a nice reminder of my morning walks to the office past Killiney Kopitiam and afternoon escapes to the curry puff stall on Killiney Road. Now if I could only find a good char siew bao

Neighbourfood Westerpark Mexican Vietnamese

Neighbourfood Market meat

We’ve been watching Tala for signs that she’s ready for solid food. She has never shown any interest in our meals, but yesterday she suddenly lurched toward my blueberry cinnamon bun. Looks like someone has inherited her mother’s taste buds!

Tala and the cinnamon bun

And if you want to take away more than just a few extra pounds, the NeighbourFood flea market allows you to bring home a piece of the homey vintage atmosphere.

Neighbourfood Westerpark flea market
I love exploring weekend markets. Is there a good weekend market where you live?