it starts now.

the view from the Porter Airline's runway from my iPhone – landing, May 2011

September will mark one year, the first, that I've (ever) lived in Toronto. The city, for the most part, has welcomed me with warmth and open arms. I have learned a great deal and have had a very successful year thus far with regards to all aspects of my work. I am immensely grateful for this and all who have been supportive. It hasn't been without it's challenges. One of which is figuring out my place in it in my own time. Quite distinct from trying to fit into someone else's expectation of what I will make of this new city (and inevitably disappointing them). I do believe that in order for me to truly make Toronto my own, to be able to carve out my OWN version of it, I need my own space. New York was easy to make my own. Perhaps that is the nature of the city. Perhaps it's because I didn't go into living there with someone else's preconceived version in mind. New York was all mine to carve out. I had nearly 12 years to do so. 

So the official hunt for my own Toronto digs is ON (not ready to own just yet, but to rent). Starting this weekend. It's all VERY exciting. 

My Brooklyn apartment building is over a hundred years old. I've had that place for eight years. There are things everyone is willing to give up to live in New York. I had a good amount of space in Brooklyn, so that wasn't an issue. I'm realizing (for reasons that include my age) that there are conveniences I am no longer willing to do without. Namely, an en suite washer/dryer situation. I loved the charm and character that my Brooklyn apt had. And perhaps down the line, I will be more interested in a fixer-upper, renovation project type of apartment or house. But for now, I want new(ish), clean, modern, bright and easy. Why not? Between my 9-5 work and freelance projects, it doesn't leave me much time these days. But I'm hoping it's doable (maybe with a little professional help). The idea of decorating a whole new space is BEYOND exciting. I can't wait. I will, no doubt, be documenting the process. Stay tuned and wish me luck!


food truck eats toronto

In an effort to promote better street food culture in Toronto as well as to urge loosening the very strict rules surrounding food trucks in the city, Suresh Doss, publisher of Spotlight Toronto (and friend), organized Food Truck Eats. It's the first of three gourmet food truck events happening between July and September. The overwhelming response to his proposed event from numerous chefs and food vendors in the city has extended the event to three separate dates. They're being held at the historic (and beautiful) Distillery District in downtown Toronto. I was asked to design a poster for the event (above!). You know where I will be on July 2nd. Check out the Facebook page for more info. Torontonians, come on down! 

meet belinda, my new bicycle

The last time I had a bicycle to call my own, I was about 14 in southern California. I was in 7th grade. The kids at school made fun of me and my bike. They would sing the Pee Wee Herman theme song whenever I rode by. NO ONE rode a bike to school in my part of the world then. It wasn't considered cool then. But I really couldn't care less what other kids thought. I liked my bicycle. It was new, cream coloured and had a basket in the back. Fairly non-descript. I rode that thing to school until I started catching rides on the back of a friend's Vespa a year later. 

After I got a taste of cycling earlier this month, I knew I had to get one. I had planned to start off with a used bike but got a GREAT deal on this new one. It had very minor scratches. I knew I had to strike a balance between aesthetically appealing, modestly priced, easy/comfortable to ride. Theft is apparently rampant these days, so I invested in a good lock, too. This was perfect. As soon as I saw it, the afternoon of shopping was over. I had to have it. Of couse, my favourite part is the leather seat and handle bar covers (if there's a proper term for this, I don't know it). 

Eventually, I'd like to get a beautiful wicker basket similar to the one below by Nantucket Bike Basket Co. instead of the mesh one. The bike shop employee mentioned that the wicker baskets actually last much longer than the powder-coated metal ones. Who knew? They even have baskets designed for pets. Too adorable. 

I rode my new bike into work today and I love it even more. It was a summer defining move to purchase this gem. I'm calling my bike Belinda. For some reason, I heard Belinda Carlisle's singing one of the Go-Go's songs when I saw the bike. I have absolutely no idea why! So the name has stuck.

p.s. I don't plan to join any Toronto hipster cycling cults worthy of an episode of Portlandia. I'm still essentially that nerdy 14 year old just enjoying the ride and the sunshine. 

Cheers to summer!


tasted toronto

I attended my first Toronto Taste event this past weekend at the Royal Ontario Museum. It's the biggest fundraiser for Second Harvest (same idea as City Harvest in NYC – I sometimes volunteered my time to them when I lived there). Imagine 60 of Toronto's best chefs, 30 wine/beverage purveyors and 1500 people inside the museum and outside — in large white tents. It was amazing. I walked around with a plate (at one point, two plates!), a fork, a beverage and my iPhone. I somehow managed to take a few photos of the food. This event is not only a great cause, for someone relatively new to the city, it was a perfect way to sample the food from some of the city's best restaurants. I loved it! Although crowded at times, it was a festive event and the food was FANTASTIC. The dishes that had me positively speechless are below (tried as best as I could to remember the exact names). 

top left: Truffle Polenta from Scarpetta (NY/Toronto), top right: Lamb with Chocolate Nib and Raisin Tacos from Auberge du Pommier, bottom left: Chilled Strawberry, Rhubarb and Lobster Soup from Tundra, bottom right: French Onion Soup Dumplings from Forte Bistro and Hiro Sushi

behind the scenes at canoe restaurant

This week I had the privilege of doing a photo essay of Canoe Restaurant's kitchen. I was kindly grated access to all the behind-the-scenes activity of one of the most highly regarded restaurants in all of Canada. Not only did I get to witness the flurry of fast-paced activity in preparation for yet another busy evening, I also got to sample the fantastic food I watched being prepared. I was honoured to be a fly on the wall of an incredibly busy and tightly run ship that is this kitchen. I had to quickly figure out the myriad of code words being exclaimed loudly by the staff to one another in order to maneuver themselves around the space with ease (and avoid accidents). Despite the very hectic atmosphere, it was very friendly and fun work environment. The friendly staff gladly answered any questions I had. I was able to document certain dishes from preparation to plate. I enjoyed hearing from Chef Horne the back stories of specific local ingredients – many of which are harvested specifically for Canoe's chefs.

The food was, needless to say, superb. The Chilled Asparagus Soup left me speechless. It was such a beautiful, fresh and delicate soup. Perfection. In addition, Canoe's sommelier Will Predhomme, paired delicious white wines with my dishes and graciously answered my queries about wine and wineries. It was a wonderful and fascinating experience – especially for someone who is relatively new to the Toronto dining landscape. It was an inspiration to not only see first hand Chef de Cuisine John Horne's passion for food and unique culinary perspective, but also skillful artistry and dedication in everyone who works there. The 54th floor views of downtown Toronto from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the restaurant are breathtaking and ensures the entire space is flooded with the day's changing light. 

Many, many thanks to: Executive Chef Anthony WalshChef de Cuisine (and my host) John Horne, Sommelier William Predhomme and the wonderful staff at Canoe for the wonderful – and very informative – experience. 

Chef Horne's on-the-fly creations

Japanese Asparagus (foraged from the wild especially for the chef)


White Bean, Carrot and Ginger spread

Forming Lobster Salad

Yarmouth Lobster Terrine being prepped for plating by Chef John Horne

Yarmouth Lobster Terrine, Octopus, Pickled Cabbage, Squid Ink Mayo and Saffron Vinaigrette

Left to right: Wellington Beef Sliders, Hand harvested Spicy Asian Greens and a view of the kitchen from the chef's rail and my delicious glass of wine

Beautiful, buttery and crispy: phyllo pastry baked into spirals (for asparagus soup below)

Probably the best soup I've ever had in my life: Chilled Asparagus Soup, Phyllo Spirals with Elderflower Yoghurt Mousse, Chive Oil

My view from the chef's rail

Corn Nut & Hazelnut Milk Chocolate Cake, Caramelized Banana, Chocolate Sugar Crisp with Espresso Ice Cream

seasonal cycle

I went for my first bike ride in six years this past weekend. I have not been on a bicycle since my Paris trip in 2005! The weather could not have been more beautiful. It was a mostly a cloudless sky with a light breeze and no humidity. Perfect day for cycling. I had not visited High Park since the fall. The park and Grenadier Pond reminded me a bit of other parks I've spent some time in (such as Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Stanley Park in Vancouver, pre-1999). I was enjoying the first ride so much and didn't realize that I over did it. I ended up having to ice my knees last night after coming home. But all in all, it was a great day and a wonderful introduction to cycling in Toronto. It was topped off by a beautiful, grilled summer dinner with good friends. What could be better? 

I plan to relish the few short months of warmth in Toronto and explore the city some more this summer. Bicycle ownership is imminent. The numerous benefits of cycling are, of course, obvious. And I get why people are so passionate about it. It was exhilarating. It was the best way to see Paris, why not Toronto?  

so guu'd

I finally dropped in at Guu Sakabar (Toronto's newest, 2nd, location) with my sister this weekend. My third attempt to come in was a success – there was no wait for a table. On a busy night, there are one to one and a half hour waits to get seated. That's how long we waited the first time visiting their Church Street location! Never again. The trick is to just get there very early – 6pm or even earlier. And at six pm, the place was already packed. The popularity of this place combined with the fact that they don't take reservations really warrants a webcam (much like Shake Shack's 'Shack Cam' in NYC). It would benefit them to allow people to monitor the line from anywhere before attempting to drop by. 

That aside, the place does not disappoint. The food is really fresh and it's inventive while still remaining authentic. It's also beautifully plated. We sat at the sushi bar and saw all the dishes coming out – all gorgeous. My absolute favourite dishes were the Maguro Tataki and the Udon Carbonara. Deelish!

It is consistently very, very lively atmosphere. The staff greets everyone so loudly upon arrival and when they depart. They also exclaim loudly at each other (I'm assuming they're relating food orders to each other). It must make the staff hoarse doing this each night but it's quite entertaining and puts a smile on everyone's face. The atmosphere is part and parcel to the whole dining experience. It's like a nightclub and carnival with really good food. I definitely plan to come back and explore more of the menu. Hai!

"MAGURO TATAKI" Loghtly seared B.C. albacore tuna sashimi with ponzu sauce and garlic chips

Hamachi sashimi


Udon Carbonara

Black Sesame Ice Cream w/ Sesame Rice Cracker, Sesame Ball


I can't even begin to count the number of times I get asked the "Are you going to live here permanently?" question. It's been happening a lot lately. I was asked constantly by visiting friends in New York during the nearly 12 years that I was living there. To some, the idea of permenently living in New York was inconceivable. My answer was and still remains: "I have no idea." I never actually PLAN how long I will be somewhere. I've lived in seven cities and four countries in my lifetime (if you count my leisurely month long stay in Paris in 2005). My theory is that people don't feel at ease unless you give them an absolute. People can't grasp the idea of impermanence. I even had a recent email conversation with a friend about this very same topic. He sees it as people not being able to accept that your plans (or the absence thereof) are not the same as theirs. Is the idea of not knowing how long I plan to stay in any particular city somehow threatening? People can be very myopic. We are also repelled by and need the idea of permanence at the same time.

I'm a romantic like most people. For women, the idea of "settling down" is pretty much shoved down your throat, expected. Tradition dictates that you're not a 'real' woman until you've found a man. Well, guess what? It's 2011. I'm not prepared to "settle" because I'm expected to. I've never made it my job. I'm too romantic for that. Besides, I just moved away from New York, a city that is all about impermanence – even when it comes to dating/relationships. It's always been about growing careers and being onto 'the next big/hot thing' – same goes for the way people approach dating there. New York dating suffered from attention deficit disorder. Frankly, it was an unbelievably disheartening experience. 

Look, I am an idealist. I DO want to fall truly and madly in love. I might even stay put if that were to happen. But I'm also a realist. I know relationships are hard work. I've witnessed enough dysfunctional relationships to avoid getting into one myself. I would never end up with someone who did not have strength, character and dynamism. I want to find someone who will make me actually WANT to stay. So until I find the love of my life, I can live wherever I damn well please and for however long I choose! I might even move away with someone should we choose to – for an indefinite period of time. People can continue to feel uneasy and even threatened by it. They can continue to ask me, my answer will remain the same. 

Moving and change, in general, is hard. It always has been. My dad would say to me as a kid, upset that we have to move again: "Nothing is permanent." I would get so incredibly upset when he'd say this to me. I never fully understood it until I got older. It never gets easier to move, but I've done it many times. You inevitably become "the new kid" whenever you move – which can be painful and scary. You don't always have kind, compassionate people around you to give you space and time to readjust. But there are always important discoveries to make when a major life shift happens. I realize now that my dad was only trying to teach me to not become too attached to anything in life. And to accept that change is what's permanent

My recent move from New York to Toronto has changed many things. I will probably always miss it there for countless reasons. I've had to let go of important people, attachments and ideas. Full disclosure, I would not write off the idea of moving back. But ever since I've moved, I've noticed an incredible shift in my creativity (for the better). It's an exhilarating time for me both creatively and professionally – in ways I had no way of foreseeing. As much as I loved living there, I realize now just how much I stagnated during my last couple of years in New York – personally, professionally and creatively. It was begging for a shake-up. Despite it still being a struggle, my recent move is starting to feel like a great beginning to my next chapter in life. I look forward to seeing what's next. 


st. lawrence market, old town toronto and... food.

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I finally stopped in the St. Lawrence Market in the area of Old Town Toronto. It's been mentioned to me by a number of friends in Toronto. Apparently, the market is 205 years old. It's a beautiful, brick structure, a huge space with numerous food vendors. I loved the architecture of the area, too. It might be the most interesting and as well-preserved as I've seen in Toronto. It reminded me of San Francisco (and a little of Paris). It's also similar to Dumbo, Brooklyn. The market is situated on Front Street – which also happens to be near the water. Maybe next time I can make it past the street level and venture downstairs. I did get a chance to enjoy the famous pea meal bacon sandwich (YUM!). And I couldn't help but take photos of some of the food. Can you tell that I've been addicted to shooting everything up close? 

tasting spring

A meal I shared this weekend (with great company) at Foxley's was a great reminder of spring and summer eating ahead. I literally enjoyed the big, fresh flavours so much that I forgot to photograph the rest of the meal following the amazing scallop ceviche above! Even I couldn't believe it. If this is any indication of what's in store for lighter, summer fare, then I am even more excited. 

oysters, mussels and knives

On Monday evening at Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill, owner, author (and oyster shucking world champion) Patrick McMurray, was unveiling his new oyster shucking knife. Above are just some of the luscious treats we enjoyed. I loved the vermouth and parsley mussels! I even learned a little bit about oysters and their shelf life from different parts of the world. For instance, oysters from colder climates (like Canada) travel better and consequently have a longer shelf-life because they do not react adversely to refrigeration. Whereas oysters from the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, pretty much die as soon as they feel cold temperatures. Therefore, they don't travel very well at all. Interesting, no? 

oysters galore

I'm not a raw oyster connoisseur by any stretch. But I have had very good experiences thus far. The most recent was at the 86'd (foodie night!) hosted by Ivy Knight at The Drake Hotel this past Monday night. It was a decadent evening of seemingly endless (and free!) raw oysters thanks to the Oyster Boy shucking competition. I didn't overdo it despite this fact. I savoured each and every one that I did have. I realized something for the first time on Monday: oysters go very well with vodka (and alcohol, in general). And that fresh hot sauce, delicious. The oyster's reputation for being an aphrodesiac must be based purely on the experience of the slippery texture, the flavours and manner in which you eat them (by pouring it into your mouth). ...They do possess an unusual beauty – but they're not the "prettiest" subject to photograph...


blog birthday no. 2 + a giveaway!

Wow. It's been two whole years since I started this blog. I can hardly believe it! I can only hope that you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed sharing :)  

To celebrate, I am giving away this beautiful scarf necklace designed by my good friend, the talented, Melissa Clemente. It's one of my favourite pieces of hers this season. It's made of a very soft knitted yarn (100% cotton). It's the coziest kind of necklace to have on in the winter.

To qualify to win: check out her website, follow her Tumblr or on Twitter and leave a comment and your email address below. You'll have until Friday, February 4th at 6pm to enter. The winner will be chosen at random. Good luck! 

For those of you in Toronto this Saturday, February 5th: Come by the Drake Hotel between 9am and 4pm for The Guilty Pleasures Designer Sale and you'll be able to see and purchase Melissa Clemente's jewelry. I will be swinging by there, too. So come by and say hello :)   


come up to my room and other activities

As part of Design Week in Toronto, I paid a visit to the Gladstone Hotel's annual Come Up To My Room event as well as the Do Design walk down Dundas Street West. Below are some of the photos (artist/designer listings are on respective websites). All in all a good day of visual inspiration and some good nibbles of food along the way. It actually made me toy with the idea of maybe trying to participate next year. Hmmm...

max's restaurant

One of my new foodie friends mentioned the recent opening of Max's restaurant outside of downtown Toronto a couple of weeks ago. I definitely remember the name from my early childhood in Manila. I knew they've been known for their fried chicken for as long as I can remember. It's been an institution since 1945. I knew I had to try it now that they had a Toronto location. It had been long enough since I had eaten it to forget how good it was. The conversation somehow lead into a plan for a field trip to try it out. I even asked my mom about this place. She told me that the reason the chicken at Max's is so good is due to the fact that those whole chickens are deep fried in – not vegetable oil or chicken fat – but pork fat. That's correct. Pork. Fat. 

So last night we feasted after an hour long wait. It was so busy that people waiting to be seated were asked to wait in their cars due to fire code violations! Foodies present (aside from me): @PanCanCooks, @foodie411, @ortdavid, @spotlightcity, @benchamel, & Alex (the only other Filipino in the group). There were at least four cameras out documenting every dish as it arrived. Our table could barely accommodate the number of dishes we ordered. 

I can't even begin to describe how delicious the chicken was – and it was fall-off-the-bone tender. The skin was not covered in batter but thin and crispy. Corny as it may sound, as soon as I tasted it, a rush came over me. This was a flavour I fondly remember from my childhood. It was amazing. It wasn't just me. As I recall, a few members of our party were rendered speechless after taking their first few bites. My apologies to the lovers of Korean Bon Chon chicken in New York, this chicken is just better. And I'm a fan of Bon Chon. In fact, the entire meal was really, really good – it exceeded my own expectations. The stand-outs for me were the chicken and the lechon (broiled pork belly). I also really liked the buko pandan dessert. Not pictured were lumpiang shanghai and sisig. I don't believe I have had a proper Filipino feast like this since my Purple Yam dinner in Brooklyn. And what a feast it was.  

Indulgent meal. Great company. I will be back for more. If there's a Max's in your city, GO.

Max's legendary fried (whole) chicken

Lechon: broiled pork belly (crispy and amazing)

Kare-kare: oxtail/beef peanut stew (w/ shrimp paste as a condiment)

Sinigang: tamarind-based pork stew/soup

Chicken adobo: a sauce and marinade of vinegar, garlic, bay leaves etc, then browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade

left: Halo-halo is shaved ice topped with purple yam ice cream, leche flan, toasted rice, sweet red bean, coconut, jack fruit and evaporated milk; right: Buko Pandan dessert is young coconut and pandan ice cream, strips of coconut, toasted rice, pandan gelatin, pandan tapioca balls and coconut milk (YUM!)

xiaojing yan

The work of artist Xiaojing Yan was part of Gladstone Hotel's 5th Birthday open house exhibit last weekend. I'm assuming that these paintings are portraits of various Asian women with their mother's or grandmother's portraits on the other side of the transparent, hanging 'discs.' (photos taken with my iPhone) 

The painting technique reminded me of colour-by-numbers paintings from childhood. These double portraits were beautifully presented, lit and suspended from the ceiling in such a way that allowed the viewer to walk around them. I like the idea that a 'front' or 'back' doesn't exist, both sides of each portrait have equal visual weight. It brings to mind my own thoughts and experiences on bicultural identity and personal history. 

inspired art/interiors : the gladstone hotel

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One of Toronto's more interesting hotels would have to be the Gladstone Hotel on Queen St. West. I attended their 5th Birthday party this weekend – five years since it's doors opened following a major renovation. The hotel is known for the design of 37 of the rooms, each by local artists. I had the chance to see some of these rooms during the birthday open house. Room 417, the Chinoiserie Room by artist Millie Chen, I found to be one of the most interesting. The ironic chinoiserie 'wallpaper' was what captured my attention. It's more accurately a large painting. Upon closer inspection, the cast of characters are revealed. Among others, it included a tourist holding a camera, a man with a CN tower hat and a monkey with a saw. I loved the blend of cultural, historical reference and humour. 

Some other rooms I loved: the Felt Room (great perforated wool felt lamps and very tactile wall covering) 
photo on right from gladstonehotel.comThe beautifully-done Victorian-era room – Echame Flores. This room actually felt to me like somewhere unspeakably dark or deeply hidden, naughty things happen...

photo from 

The Teen Queen Room was hilariously stuck in the 80s – complete with a wall covered in 80s Teen Beat posters, unicorns and horses. The colour palette and choice of bed covering emulated the decade to a 'T.'

Check out the Gladstone Hotel website to see the rest of the rooms.

100 photographs of #61 jewel street

I recently discovered the work of artist John Monteith at the o'born contemporary gallery. I found this particular image so beautiful. From what I gather, the artist uses multiple images of the same scene, combines and layers them together to create vibrations and shifts. His work reminds me of the way we sometimes remember time, place and history. Memory can be blurry, seductive and even idealized.

If you're in Toronto, go see the show. It's up until January 29, 2011.

100 Photographs of #61 Jewel Street, Archival giclée print