The Prodigal Blogger

by Kaye Tengco in

Starting something is always hard for me. I'm much too eager to hit that spot that comes right after the warmup (I can't even be bothered with stretches before starting a run). Take blog upkeep, for example. At the beginning stages of writing, I spend a heckuva lot of time to-ing and fro-ing, typing and deleting. After three hours slumped in front of the screen, I often find myself facing a sad blank screen with only the cursor blinking judgmentally at me. However, after stumbling upon a wonderful book given to me by my best friend, I was inspired to change this awful habit! Afterall, one gets to the middle (and the end) by starting at the beginning.

I've just finished Luisa Weiss' wonderful memoir, My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes). It chronicles her fantastic journey to find home in a transatlantic life that took her from Berlin, to Boston, to Paris, to New York, and finally, back to where it all began: her Berlin kitchen. It was in this once-divided city that she found the sense of belonging so elusive everywhere else she lived. And it was here that the love she thought she lost came back to embrace her with open arms.

This book resonated with me on many levels. As a child whose formative years were spent in two countries with such divergent cultures, the feeling of groundlessness is like a softly humming companion. But overtime, just as Luisa discovered, it's the strong and personal connection I formed with friends that allowed me to finally feel rooted, connected, and steady. Home, I learned, is where the heart is. And my heart is where those I love are.

There is an openness and a loveliness to Luisa's writing. You can smell the sweetness of her pfannkuchen, taste the spice of her roasted chicken, and experience the comfort of her depression stew. I very much enjoy how directly she can connect to her readers in both her book and her blog, the fantastic The Wednesday Chef. And it is because of her that I've decided to return to this blog and recognize it as a platform to chronicle my own creative journey. And so, readers (all three of you?), this prodigal blogger returns with renewed vigor, enthusiasm, and commitment.

(Pictured above: In my absence, I've done some wandering: Prague, Budapest, Toronto, San Francisco, Sonoma, Philadelphia.)

Bonjour, 2015! A New Year in Montréal.

by Kaye Tengco in ,

With a low energy reserve, I've unfortunately been ill-equipped for late night partying and reveling. On more than one occassion, I've been dubbed prematurely 77. In view of this, my New Year's celebrations usually entailed steady tea sipping while cozily munching on my mom's homemade (and store-bought) treats. The midnight countdown was comprised of running around the house and turning on every light imaginable (my mom believes that having a completely lit house brings a properous new year).

This year, I decided to do something completely different. I made my way up north to Montréal by way of the Adirondack train and rang in the New Year at the epicenter of an angry winter chill. It was teeth-chattering, but also a wonderful deviation from the norm. Hopefully, this might set the tone for a crackin' 2015!

Montréal is a beautiful city. A slice of old Europe in the new world. Yet, it was also as sleek, efficient, and modern as any of the major cities like New York. But for all of its beautiful paradox, what I found to be its most delightful aspect was the slew of mom-and-pop type of shops thriving all over. These quaint and family-run establishments (sadly disappearing from New York City) appeared to be institutions. Places like Lester's Deli (an alternative we chose over the more popular and crowded Schwartz's), St Viateur Bagel Shop, and Cafe Olimpico catered to locals and tourists alike with a personal touch only a familiar and friendly neighbor can provide.

Although a strong winter storm and intrepid cold temperature overtook the city and limited our mobility, we pushed on. We were determined to see and eat as much of this romantic city as possible.

Here are some of the trip highlights:

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal

This magnificent gothic revival church is simply a treat for any architecture and art enthusiast. Every inch of the interior - from the columns and pillars supporting the arches, to the azure and gold ceiling - was filled with intricate details. Stained-glass windows portrayed the historical milestones of Montréal rather than the usual religious passages (like the Stations of the Cross) often found in most churches. At the center is an elaborate and arresting altar that hypnotizes visitors almost immediately.

St Viateur Bagel Shop

I hate to admit it, but these mildly sweet, soft and chewy bagels might edge out NYC bagels for this NYC gal. The sesame bagels were trés deliciéux! Freshly baked all day, these bagels cannot be missed.

Lester's Deli

This was, quite likely, one of the top highlights of the trip. Initially intending to visit Schwartz's, we decided to give this little gem a try...and were we glad we did. Void of the famed lines that form at its more popular counterpart, Lester's was a quiet and intimate local food experience. A favorite spot of Montrealers, their smoked meat sandwiches were moist and simply to die for. We demolished our plate of poutine within minutes as we chatted with the very delightful Billy, it's fun-loving owner.

Style Labo

A beautiful place that holds rare antique and vintage finds. Unique items like old laboratory flasks, surgical light fixtures, and gym equipments are curated in the most sophisticated fashion.

Lost and Found

An amazing spot along Mile End, this charming store holds some very "timely" vintage items. Run by the friendliest guy, I simply couldn't walk out without buying something!

Until next time, Montréal!

2014 - A Delicious and Delightful "Mess"

by Kaye Tengco in

It feels like 2014 came and went in the blink of an eye. Yet it was a year that packed a major wallop. On a very personal level, it felt like a slightly disappointing sequel to a very challenging 2013; however the advent of summer brought with it a force that seemed to have parted the clouds and lifted the fog. And in spite of the sturm und drang at the beginning, it has been quite an educational, enriching, and magical year. There were bright new beginnings, wonderful new opportunities, and a renewed zest for living.

So before 2015 takes the baton, here's a hearty cheers to a very special year.

As we bid adieu, here's a throwback recipe for one of my favorite desserts, the Eton Mess. Inspired by the gorgeous Nigella Lawson's recipe, this refreshing delight is, in my opinion, quite an apropo treat as we ring in the New Year. And it's very easy!

Eton mess
(Adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe

2 cups fresh strawberries (cut into tiny squares)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar
1/2 pint whipping cream
5 pieces of meringue (vanilla)

In a small bowl, combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and sugar and toss until the sugar and vinegar coat the berries thoroughly. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the whipping cream with an electric mixer until the texture is between heavy and fluffy. Avoid adding too much air by overwhipping.

Take the strawberry mix and fold it into the whipped cream. Then crumble the meringues and add them to the mix (in thirds). Remember to fold them in carefully. Do not mix or toss vigorously as this will knock the air out of the cream.

Serve in wine glass, champagne flutes, or any other clear container for a nice visual effect.

A little messy, but overall beautiful, delicious, and satisfying, much like this passing year.

Cin cin, 2014! And Happy New Year, everyone! Well wishes for a fruitful 2015!

(Pictured above: a very curious cat named, Banana.)