Saturday, October 22, 2016

Remembering our Grandma Luz

My mother-in-law, Grandma Luz, was the Filipina Martha Stewart.  Every holiday, she would decorate her house, meticulously design her dining table and execute a perfect mix of Filipino and American dishes.  I always told her that her tablescape and food could be featured on Bon Appétit!  Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday.
Being the oldest of three brothers and a sister, Mom took on the caretaker role early as they lost their parents at a young age.  I learned from her brother that when Mom and him worked summer jobs during their youth they ate rice and eggs for lunch for days as that's all they had.  That gave me some perspective as to why  Mom cooked with painstaking care on everyone's birthdays and holidays, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  Perhaps the times that she experienced going without resonated with her and made her resolve that if she could help it, she would not have that happen to her loved ones. Seeing us and her guests eat her food and come back for seconds always filled her with joy. She beamed with happiness and pride when someone commented they always accepted an invitation to her home because of the delicious food she served. 

No matter the formality of the occasion, she always served a hearty meal when the family was together, even for a regular Sunday supper.  Mom would order the prime rib from the commissary a week ahead.   Then Mom and Dad would drive to a certain bakery to pick up a caked that we liked. Then they would make another trip to a different store/bakery to pick up dinner rolls that Mom knew was a favorite of my daughter's.  For a big party, Mom would plan her menu days, even weeks ahead.  Mom  would make the itinerary of places to stop and Dad was the designated driver.  Two days ahead, she would prepare her pecan tarts. The day before she would make her signature bibingka, chop up her vegetables for her vegetable lumpia and pancit.  Hours and hours would be spent in the kitchen.
It has been a little over a year since Mom went home to God.  We definitely felt her absence during the holidays as there was no paella, lumpia, pecan tarts or bibingka.  I spent each one eating half-heartedly with a lump in my throat and a hole in my heart especially in the immediate months following her passing. Celebrations have just not been the same.

On July 9th, 2016 we had family and friends over to pray a rosary in her honor and celebrate her life.  Dad made sure her standards were met.  Dad made a huge roast beef and lechon kawali. Mom's balae's (in-laws) also made beef mechado. There was a dish each featuring chicken, beef,  pork, seafood  and noodles.  Mom would have wanted it that way. Dad also did his best to make her famous pineapple upside down cake.
Months ago I found Mom's leche flan recipe written in her own hand. I have made it a couple of times at family get-togethers.  One day I hope to find more of her recipes and try them. I promised myself though, that not until I can dedicate and replicate wholeheartedly the time, effort and love she put into cooking would I attempt one of her signature dishes.  I am lucky that Mom passed on her cooking skills to her son Eric, my husband.  As the saying goes, "Like Mother, Like Son," Eric spends a lot of time in the kitchen.  He also makes special trips to out of the way places to bring home his kids' favorite foods. He spoils us with the meals he makes.  Through him, Grandma Luz's legacy of love through food will continue.  It is evident that every day, he lives the love he received from his mother's kitchen. Every day, we remember our Grandma Luz.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Sugar Spa - Chula Vista, CA!

The Sugar Spa is a new Do It Yourself (DIY) beauty spa specializing in teeth whitening and facial treatments.They have been opened since August 2016. The franchise originated in Miami, FLA and the concept was created by the CEO when he realized there was a lack of beauty spas that focused on affordable DIY treatments with the help of a trained technician. The name comes from the bubbly nature of treatments available at the spa. 

The location is a bit hidden as it is in the back of an industrial building in east Chula Vista, but I soon realized that this is actually helpful to the tranquil atmosphere.  As you enjoy your treatment, you can relax and listen to the soothing music being played without the distraction of noisy traffic or pedestrians. This is what the entrance looks like.

It has a modern, minimalist look.  It is also a shared space, there are no private rooms, just lounge chair beds separated by curtains. 

These are the products they have on the side table for customers to use.

I enjoyed the 24K gold facial treatment which infuses collagen into your skin.  The mask was cool to the touch when applied.This mask is paired with the red LED light treatment. 

I sat under the light for about 35-40 minutes.  Afterwards, I did notice my skin was much softer and felt very refreshed!  The manager asked me how everything went and even applied sunscreen to my skin before I left for the day.

They recommend coming in every 3 weeks or so to really see the optimum effects of the treatments. Although the cost of the masks may be high to some, I was told these are about half of the price sold in other spas simply because they cut out the middle man and you do it yourself.  

Everyone was friendly and helpful.  If you want to treat yourself to your skin and teeth looking better, please arrange a visit with them!

The Sugar Spa is located at 881 Kuhn Drive, Suite 105 Chula Vista, CA 91914. Follow them on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram @thesugarspa 

Disclosure: I was given a complimentary treatment in exchange for this post.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Decoy Delivers Dockside Dining in San Marcos!

Update (As of October 2016, Chef DJ Tangalin is no longer at Decoy)

My husband and I had the pleasure of experiencing Decoy Dockside Dining at their soft opening recently at the invitation of the chef.  Under the leadership of Executive Chef Danilo "DJ" Tangalin, tapped from JRDN, the service was outstanding and the food, impeccable.  I have dined on Chef DJ's food a couple of times now (see these posts here and here) and the more I engage with his food and get to know him as a person, the more impressed I am with his talent, work ethic, dedication and humility.

Decoy is an upscale lakefront restaurant located at the Lakehouse Hotel and Resort in San Marcos. Currently Decoy upstairs will be open for dinner while downstairs will be open for lunch.  They are aiming to start Sunday brunch at the end of September 2016. The food can be described as hunting lodge home-style cuisine revised.
The hunting lodge theme is apparent right when you enter the restaurant with the words "OPEN SEASON" greeting you and by the artwork on the walls.

A chandelier of buoys adds a splash of color to the ceiling and imparts the "dockside" aspect.
A lit onyx background gives the bar character and appeal. 
The restaurant is airy and huge. Intimate seating for two up to a large banquet style table is available, plus plush couches are available for groups if drinks and bar food is all your party needs.
A long banquet table is available for large parties.
Lounge seating area.
Bar menu which features lumpia!
We had some drinks, the Smoky Mango-rita (a bit too strong for me), the Madre Mojito (forgot to take a picture, but it was delicious) and a Lemon Drop (my favorite of the night)! Although we didn't have wine, something different at Decoy is that they will bring the bottle of wine to you and pour it table side. I observed this happen throughout the night as people were enjoying their glasses.
A mango-rita
Lemon Drop
The dining menu at Decoy is high end, with something for everyone.  For appetizers, we started with Foie Gras Pate, served with toasted peanuts, basil, seasonal jam and baguettes. Because I had not had foie gras since the ban in California was lifted, I had to order it!  The silkiness of the foie gras paired with the crunchy peanuts, sweet preserves and chewy baguette were a perfect combination.

My husband is a fan of game meats so he had the Bison Tartare. It contained caper salsa verde, cornichon emulsion, egg yolk vinaigrette, and was served with black pepper flatbread. I'm more of a beef girl, and hesitate to try other meats but I took a bite and.... it tasted like beef, hahaha! My husband was even talking about the dish the next day so I know he really liked it! Decoy also has elk and duck items on the menu too.

Chef DJ incorporates his Filipino heritage in the menu with not only lumpia, but also offering bibingka as an appetizer. Bibingka is a rice cake made with coconut milk and cream cheese. Oh. my. gosh. This was by far, one of the best bibingkas I have ever had. I am not kidding.  If Chef DJ opened a bakery that sold these, it'd be like Portos and their guava rolls! It was soooo good, I wanted to take a whole one home for my parents to try! The only suggestion I have is presentation-wise, to maybe serve it on a banana leaf or in a small basket or something because all the other plated items were so pretty. 
For our entrees, we had the 8 oz. Prime Filet Tenderloin served with creamed kale, smoked potato puree, buttermilk fried onions, au poivre. The filet was so tender, cooked just to my husband's liking, medium rare. You could slice this meat with your fork, it was that tender. Those onions mmmm-mmmm...I suggest they offer those as a side so you can get a whole bowl of them!
We also had the Sea Bass, served with roasted artichokes, chinese sausage, braised beans and clams. This is one of my favorite fishes. My fork gently parceled big white pieces of the fleshy fish straight into my mouth. I really enjoyed this. The broth was tasty, in fact I wish there was more! If I had some bread, I would sop up the broth with the beans. I didn't care too much for the sausage bits though, too salty and chewy. I think the dish was great enough without the sausage.
As a side, we ordered mac and cheese. This had just the right ratio of cheese to pasta. The delicate pasta was not drowning in cheese.  My mac and cheese loving daughter would have really liked this.  We liked it too, as evidenced by the empty bowl at the end.

For dessert, we shared the Brown Butter Blondies, served with salted caramel nut spread honey orange poached figs, purple haze goat cheese semifreddo and candied pecans. Salty, sweet, sour, crunchy, smooth, all the textures covered in this dessert! It was definitely edible art!
Overall we had a fantastic dinner service, thanks to Alyssa and all the other attentive Decoy staff! It was a special night out as we considered it our wedding anniversary celebration, 24 years on August 30th!
Decoy Dockside is located at 1035 La Bonita Drive in San Marcos, CA and will be fully opened as soon as next week. I'd love to go back and appreciate the lakefront view during the day and also try the Roasted Bone Marrow, the Kung Pao Crispy Sweetbreads and the Tomahawk steak for two!! As you can see, I already have my food selections ready! 

I wish the restaurant featured an exhibition kitchen so that you can see the chefs work. There is however, a window looking into the kitchen from the outside. I snapped this picture waiting for the right moment and probably seemed like a stalker of some sort, lol! Chef DJ Tangalin is definitely a chef to watch. Follow him on IG as he is doing big things in the culinary world here in San Diego.
Thank you so much Chef DJ for your kind invitation to your newest venture. I anticipate Decoy being another great success! Follow Decoy on FB: /DecoyDockside and on IG and Twitter: @DecoyDockside   

Monday, August 8, 2016

Disney's next Pacific Islander film, MOANA!

Its been years since we've had a Pacific Islander themed movie from Disney.  Lilo and Stitch came out in 2002 and MOANA arrives in theaters everywhere on November 23rd, 2016. On our first family vacation to Hawai'i, I saw Lilo and Stitch everywhere we looked! They were Disney ambassadors connecting Disney fans visiting from the mainland to the locals. On our next trip to Hawai'i, I'm planning to check out Aulani, and am certain I will see the MOANA stamp everywhere there too!   

What's the movie about? Well, besides being guaranteed funny due to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson being one of the main characters, Maui, the movie is about an adventurous teenager, Moana (voice of Auliʻi Cravalho) who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the mighty demigod Maui who guides her in her quest to become a master wayfinder. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity.  The description of Moana reminds me of another animated Asian-themed heroine seeking her identity, Mulan!  I hope the soundtrack for MOANA is just as good.

Check out the latest TV spot on the movie:

So mark your calendars and after a thankful meal, round up the family to see MOANA opening on Thanksgiving!

Connect with all things #MOANA

Like MOANA on Facebook:

Follow MOANA on Twitter:

Follow Disney Animation on Instagram:

Visit Disney Animation on Tumblr:

Visit the official MOANA website here:
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