I love brunch

I love brunch. I love waking up a little later on the weekends and think about what I’ll have that morning.

Coffee is an essential part of the meal but it is equally appropriate to have champagne cocktails. You can have a sweet and savory meal at the same time.

But, most of all, I love lingering over my food and catching up with friends or family after a busy week.

I took the first three pictures last January at Untitled in what essentially is the basement of the Whitney Museum in New York. It has a relaxed and casual atmosphere making you feel refined and homey at the same time.

The last two pictures were taken at two different restaurants last February in Johannesburg.

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Apple pie

On a cold winter afternoon when I was in DC, I met David at Kramerbooks Cafe for dessert and coffee.  We didn’t really plan on the dessert part but, I saw the apple pie in the display case.  It had me at hello.

When I was growing up in the Philippines, apples were a luxury.  We could only have them on special occasions. Back then, I associated apple pies with Christmas.  I remember the smell of butter and cinnamon wafting throughout the house on Christmas eve when my mother baked them from scratch. I could never wait until after dinner to eat pie.

All of this changed when we moved to the U.S. many years later.  Apples were inexpensive and every store sold pie. My mother didn’t have to slave in the kitchen all day.  My father bought apple pie from the grocery store every week.

There was a downside to all of this.  The store-bought pies were always a disappointment.  It never tasted as buttery as my mother’s freshly baked pie. It contained too much sugar masking the tartness of the apples. It also had a gelatinous consistency I didn’t like.

Baking was always intimidating to me.  I love to cook but baking, to me, required more time and work. But, a few years ago at Christmastime, I craved freshly baked apple pie.  Intimidated or not, I had to have one and the only way I could was to make it myself.

I remember vividly that first pie crust.  I’m sure I missed a step or forgot an ingredient. The dough was fragile, breaking in bits and pieces when I rolled it out.  Although the filling was delicious, I couldn’t quite call it a pie without a fully formed crust.  Luckily, my next pie baking episode was much better.

Over this past holiday, I had every intention of baking one but, I never quite got around to it.  So, when I saw the pie that January afternoon at Kramerbooks, it was kismet.

Brunch at The Dutch

Some photos from the weekend before Christmas taken with instagram.

I met Sarah and her sister, Alyson, in SoHo for brunch on a chilly morning last Sunday, perhaps the only time I’ve ever seen the streets there empty.  Priceless.

We went to The Dutch, the new restaurant by the same chef at Locanda Verde, Andrew Carmellini.  We ordered the pastry board to share, which came with a curry sugar donut, apple cheddar scone and a banana nut muffin.

Sarah had the fried chicken with coleslaw and honey biscuits.  I had the eggs with chorizo and hominy grits and Alyson had the cornmeal flapjacks with blueberries.

We had to wait for the bloody marys (in NY, alcohol isn’t served until noon on Sunday) but it was worth it.

Breakfast at Bar Al Parlamento

This is how you start your day in Venice,  you open the windows and shutters of your rented apartment overlooking the Cannaregio canal.  Sunlight enters the living room and the whirring sounds of boat motors and the clink of cups from the cafe downstairs invades your sleepy consciousness. The cafe aromas seep in, waking you up.

Walking barefoot across the smooth Venetian mosaic floor, you feel the sun start to warm the tiles.  It’s time for your morning café.

You walk downstairs to Bar Al Parlamento.  Inside the small bar, you order café and brioche while the local next to you drinks his glass of red wine.  It’s 9 a.m.  After placing an order, you walk outside and take a seat canal-side.  Sit with the sun at your back and take in the view of the Venetian traffic on the canal.

You’ll see the number 52 vaporetto on its way to Murano, mostly occupied by tourists.  As you watch them return your gaze, you almost feel sorry for them.  They’re about to spend a lot of money on hand-blown glass just as you did the other day.

As the vaporetto passes by, the waves ripple out behind the boat, sparkling as it reflects light from the sun.  As the water ebbs and reaches the edge of the canal, the parked boats sway with the waves. After a few minutes, the owner of the bar brings your café.  You take a bite of the sweet brioche, the perfect foil for the bitter café. You sip your café and watch the world go by.

Cannaregio is a Venetian neighborhood where locals live and work.  Some parts of it far enough from Piazza San Marco and other tourist attractions that you often find quiet places.  In this corner of Cannaregio, locals outnumber the tourists.

A man drives by on his boat, his dog, a spaniel of some sort, perfectly balanced on the boat’s bow.  They stop nearby and begin to back up into a spot that can barely fit his boat, parallel parking Venetian-style. They both jump off and walk away, on their way to do an errand, you suppose.

Across the canal, a man pulls up in his boat stacked with several boxes.  He unloads some and drops them off at the office supply store.

By this time, you realize it’s getting late.  If you were truly a tourist, you would have been out and about standing in line at the Basilica or the Palazo Ducale instead of lingering over your coffee and savoring a slow morning in la Serenissima so, you ask the waitress for the bill, “il conto per favore.”

Then, three nonnas (grandmothers) arrive and take the seats at the next table.  One of them is sporting designer sunglasses.  You spend a few minutes listening to their rapid-fire Italian punctuated with elaborate hand gestures. The more they talk, the more you’re sorry you didn’t learn Italian. Whatever they’re talking about, no doubt it’s scandalous.

Now, it’s time to go.  You pay your bill and start to walk away.  You’re sorry to leave and miss the rest of the nonnas’ tableside tales. You envy them.  They have it all, breakfasts at Bar Al Parlamento, gossiping girlfriends and Gucci sunglasses.

Bar al Parlamento
Fondamente San Giobbe 511
Sestieri Cannaregio, Venezia

Afternoon tea

Recently, I went with a friend for afternoon tea at The Wolseley in London.

The Wolseley is set in a building that originally housed the Wolseley Car Company showroom in the 20’s.

We had scones, cucumber sandwiches, cakes and strawberry tarts with tea.