5 Must-Visit Places for Foodies

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Parmjit Parmar wrote in her Huffington Post article that the trend in ‘culinary tourism’ has grown massively, where globetrotters are now planning vacations specifically to incorporate culinary delights. With so many destinations to choose from and food to sample, it can be overwhelming to pick somewhere you should consider for your next trip. Here’s how to select a travel destination for your next foodie adventure.

Spain

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Photo by Feda Wong via Flickr

When it comes to the best seafood rice in the world, we have to hand it to Spain’s classic Paella recipe. Its savory taste mixed with the freshest veggies, shrimp, clams and squid is exactly why people flock to Valencia to try this authentic dish. Although many countries tried copying the rice recipe, there’s nothing like the authentic taste of the original Paella in Spain. It must be the crunchy rice at the bottom of the pan that makes you want to have seconds, and even thirds, of the most flavorful arroz in the world.

China

When it comes to Asian food, China has become the most common destination for food travelers in search of the best of the best. When delving into dumplings, don’t miss the “Xiao Long Bao.” This juicy spiced pork dumpling explodes with just the right amount of spice, heat and flavor. Although you can find Xiao Long Bao everywhere in China, the best one can be found in Shanghai served with other gastronomic delicacies such as the Sichuan Hot Pot which is ideal for extreme spice lovers.

India

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Photo by Paul Joseph via Flickr

Indian food consistently ranks in the top slots for foodie destinations, and is well-known for its mouth-watering mutton recipes and delectable vegan food. With plenty of delicacies to choose from, wherein each region offers a particular dish, the best way to try all of these treats together is by ordering a “Thali,” or a huge plate full of rice, bread (chapatti or naan), curries, papadums, lime pickle, chutneys and a sweet dessert. No need to order them separately as the whole plate combines each tasty dish for one affordable price.

Iran

Looks can be deceiving: The Koobideh Kebab in Iran is a must-try for carnivorous foodie. Made from ground lamb or beef with parsley and chopped onions, the Iranian kebab is reason enough to collect another passport stamp. The classic dish features deliciously fire-toasted meat on a ‘Shish Kebab’ and is served with perfectly cooked basmati rice mixed with a special sauce. Other mouth-watering kebab dishes, as featured by Dream of Iran, will make you want to come back to the country again.

 

Italy

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Photo by Lummmy via Flickr

The land of pizza and pasta has to be on every foodie’s list when in search of the best comfort food in the world. Italy is not only visited for its grand architecture, but also for their irresistible cuisine. You can never find another well-made spaghetti carbonara in the world similar to the ones you’ll taste in Italy, especially those from Rome. There are many variations to this dish, but the most popular involves bacon, cheese and pepper.

There are many more destinations worth traveling to for their authentic delicacies, but to start with the list above will you give you a leg up in the world of gastronomical delights.


The above is a guest post.

 

 

I was published – AGAIN – in Mabuhay Magazine!

I’ve been blessed these past few months with my freelance travel writing. If I said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: Hard work and dedication really do pay off.

This is the June feature on Honolulu for Mabuhay Magazine, the Philippine Airlines in-flight magazine. “Honolulu: Land of the Happy” is meant to convey how happy life in Hawaii really is.

For the full readable PDF, click here.

Enjoy!

Shine on you crazy diamond: Observations on life nearing 30

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I’ve often thought that in order to speak about anything from a place of authority, you had to be 30, or at least close to it.

Well here it is.

I’m coming up to my 30th year, and things that seemed so impossible to figure out are only now beginning to make sense. Life’s mysteries and lessons are beginning to reveal themselves to me.

The worst thing about your 20s is everything. The best thing about your 20s? Everything.

After I graduated college, I wanted to be “one of them.” I so badly wanted a job in public relations, so I could get someone else’s point across, be a sassy Chicago office girl. Or I would write nonsensical news bits on the Frisky, which now I see how pointless that would have been.

I thought I’d manicure my nails, marry my college sweetheart, rise to the top. In every version of my old self, I was some hard-nosed Chicago bitch that accepted the status quo, or a shitty job, shitty weather, or all three of those things.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Now I’m stretching my aching back on mornings before my bus commute to work in Honolulu. My neck has a permanent crick in it, and I’ve already had skin cancer removed. I lived hard and fast in my 20s, and I don’t regret a moment of it.

I got an internship at an advertising agency right out of college. I thought I’d become some savvy marketer, a slick bitch with a grin and gimmick. I’d write copy that’d make the masses swoon.

Okay, so I was more of a fresh-faced, slightly scared, but no-doubt talented writer. Nonetheless, undeserving of the scathing shit scorn I’d get from one of my “mentors.”

Back then, it being my first job and all, after a few months at it I figured everyone just fucked everything up all the time. It wasn’t until now, today, 6 years later, that I realize I wasn’t fucking shit up. I was seen, as most talented and driven people are: as a threat.

Every headline I wrote was bad. Everything I did was sent back. Every press release that looked perfect was met with a prompt email (which made me think she hadn’t even READ it yet) that coyly said “Nice try.”

I put up with it for six months. I wrote headlines and copy that eventually got picked up in print by big clients. But around the time my internship was going to end, and lead to what I thought would be a full-time job with a raise, my bitch mentor told me that they were extending my internship because I hadn’t done well enough, hadn’t performed to their expectations.

I quit the next day. And today, for the first time since I quit that job, I realize that there was never anything fundamentally wrong with me or my headlines. I interned at the Chicago Sun-Times before I got that job. I quickly went on, after quitting, to being published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I was good.

They were bad: bad leaders, bad examples. SHE was a bad mentor who made me believe bad things about myself as a person, and as a writer, for a very long time.

Around the same time I was tolling away at a place that fucked with my mind as a young writer and working professional, I was hopelessly dumped by my college sweetheart, whom I adored lovingly, out of the blue. I was utterly crushed for an entire year.

I spent so many nights crying in bed, wondering why he didn’t love me anymore. I envisioned a future with him. It wasn’t fair! Beyond fairness though: Again, someone made me believe that I was a bad woman. Undeserving of love.

I did what any self-loathing, but driven person would do – I got out of dodge.

I lived a whirlwind of adventures, was published in tons of magazines and websites, and lived the life of my dreams. I went to places people only dreamed about.

I questioned my sanity on the hard days. Was I really living in a camper, showering sometimes with cold water, getting drunk on PBR beers? Was I really living in a motel room for a winter before I permanently relocated back to Hawaii?

The answer was yes. I did do all of those crazy things, and much more, many things of which I might be too ashamed to ever even write about. But yet, as I’m coming up my thirtieth year, I can’t help but see so many doors from my past hurts and mistakes shutting with closure for good.

Fast-forward to today. I live and work in urban Honolulu, Hawaii. I live in my own apartment, pay my own rent. I have a job in marketing where my boss and the CEO are the most giving, amazing, non-judgmental people I ever met. Wherever there’s a chance to improve, I’m never met with a “Nice try,” but rather, “Let’s work on this together.” Everything I do is beyond appreciated. I’m good at it because I love it, and I love it because they love me and my contributions. I’m in a happy and positive work environment for the first time in my life.

In addition to that, I’m writing freelance travel articles. My clients are big nowadays: Expedia, Travelocity, Mapquest. I used to believe I wasn’t good enough to write for them. That same negative thought even crossed my mind the other day when I was commissioned to write a piece for Travelocity. My old editor said, “I’d love to work with you again. I love your writing, especially your narratives,” and I thought, “She’s just saying that…” No, she’s not just saying that. She believes it. And I finally do, too.

Recently, I had a coming full-circle moment. I casually checked my email on my phone. A typical “People you should connect with” LinkedIn email was in my inbox. Usually I delete these spammy messages, but this time I opened it.

The last person on the list, a LinkedIn 3rd connection (how do they even quantify that shit?), was my ex-boyfriend who crushed me so many years ago.

I felt like I was sucker-punched.

I immediately logged into LinkedIn to find out as many details as my brain could absorb.

I was unusually starved for information, you see. After he so cruelly dumped me out of the blue, we continued “trying to make it work” (admittedly, we just had sex) for a year after the breakup. One day, after having the same fight we always did, he stormed out my house and left me there, crying. I never saw or heard from him again.

Over the years, I tried looking him up a few times on Google and Facebook never to any avail. This was the first time I had confirmation that he was even living in 5 years.

And so, here I am, working my amazing job, living my amazing life (with my incredible new boyfriend, as it is) simultaneously rehashing the hurts of my past, again, via a LinkedIn 3rd connection. How could someone you once knew so intimately, someone into whose eyes you gazed when you professed your love to them, in the same lifetime become a mere third-tier connection on LinkedIn? Is life so bleak?

Turns out, he’s been living a rather boring existence. He transitioned into IT after majoring in English (where we met in college). He worked for a handful of companies in and around the Chicagoland area. He now works at some startup in Denver. He’s bald, unimpressive looking. His picture is devoid of any primary colors, and things are, for him anyway, much of the same.

This is all taken from a LinkedIn profile, mind you, so my assumptions about his life trajectory can only go as far as a 3rd tier connection will permit, but you get the picture.

I was slighted for a few days. I pondered the meaning of it all. I felt a bit sad, and hurt came and went, then came again.

But what I felt next was transcendental. When I really got to thinking about how far I’ve come since he dumped me, I felt assurance that the pain I experienced because of him started me on my journey to finding my life’s purpose. I felt closure.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Through the late nights, the cry sessions, the miles traveled, the people met, the jobs had, all of it conspired to bring me here, to this very point, to make these very real musings about the eventually and mysticism of life.

The moral of the story, from what I’ve pieced together through thinking about my early twenties until now, is this: Never let anyone, especially shit suckers and heart breakers, hold you back from the good things you are most certainly destined for in your life. People will be jealous of your successes. They will want to see you sit and listen to the same tape on repeat over and over again (like they do) for the rest of your life. People will dump you and not tell you why. You’ll have a mean boss, a boring job, or any other mess of circumstances in between.

The real work comes in when you decide to achieve anyway. You’ll emerge stronger, and you will reach further in the direction of your dreams. The power was in you all along. Don’t let some unhappy house mom or balding IT guy steal it from you. Bask in your sunshine, sweetie, and let the world see how fucking bright you can shine.

I was published in Mabuhay Magazine!

Great news! I was published in the Philippine Airlines in-flight publication, Mabuhay Magazine! This March 2016’s feature about Hawaii explores why the best things to do in and around Honolulu come with a view!

Please enjoy this spread. I’m proud of this accomplishment, and I know this a testament to the fact that hard work really does pay off!

Enjoy.

How traveling made me a low maintenance girlfriend

 

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I learned the value of a dollar

When I checked my bank account before I left for a month-long backpacking trip to Australia, I had a little over $1,000 at-the-ready for everything and anything I wanted to do. What I didn’t realize before I left was how expensive traveling in Australia would be.

Instead of buying souvenirs, I routinely told myself, “I don’t need it.” As it turns out, enough “I don’t need its” turned into saving up for a trip to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.

Today I still routinely tell myself, “I don’t need it” so I can save up for a future with my boyfriend. I’m grateful that he’s mature enough to not spend frivolously, and he remarks how refreshing it is to have a girl not obsessed with just going to the mall, keeping up with the latest brands and spending needlessly.

I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and do things for myself

There used to be a time where I kept my fingers perfectly manicured: a time where my life fit neatly into a little box. Then I gave it all up to volunteer on a farm in the jungle of Hawaii.

My days transitioned from dressing to the nines at my office job to excavating and planting, weeding, and transplanting soil around the Big Island. I had more mosquito bites than I could count, and my fingernails were constantly caked with mud.

While I’ve moved on from living and working on a farm, I’ve never forgotten the value of hard work. When I need something done, whether it’s changing a light bulb, moving furniture, or simply taking out the trash, I roll up my sleeves and do it myself.

Going with the flow is often better than having a plan

It wasn’t very long ago that I was extremely caught up with having a life plan. After graduating college, I’d marry my college sweetheart and we’d live happily-ever-after in the suburbs.

After spending a year sobbing over said college sweetheart who dumped me, I decided to change my life. I packed my car up, moved away from home, and never looked back. I didn’t have a plan other than I needed an adventure. Five years later, I’m living the life of my dreams because my “plan” was foiled.

Living through that breakup caused me to appreciate what could happen to your life when you surrender control and “go with the flow.” I stopped chasing a fuzzy illusion of what I thought my future could or would look like. My boyfriend appreciates my adventurous spirit, and open-mindedness brings excitement and opportunity to our relationship.

I’m not afraid to pee outside

I traveled to some of the remotest areas in the American West without a soul, or bathroom, in sight. I trained myself to use our R.V. toilet (more akin to an outhouse than a toilet), gas station restrooms, bushes and whatever hole I could relieve myself in. I gave a whole new meaning to the phrase, “When you gotta go, you gotta go.”

One of the first times my boyfriend and I went to the beach together I remarked, “I have to pee.” He looked worried and offered to find me a bathroom. Instead of cutting our excursion short, I simply relieved myself in the nearby bushes. He was impressed that I wasn’t a prissy pisser.

Having a positive mindset is everything

While traveling, I sometimes found myself in risky and dangerous situations. Once while hiking the woods in rural Pennsylvania, I became lost and had to be rescued by the nearby fire department. I was found 11 miles off course in bear country. I vowed to remain calm and believed firmly things would work out okay. They did.

It’s that same mindset that I bring to my relationship. I believe in the good things to come for us, and when we have a misunderstanding, I realize that staying positive is definitely a choice that leads to learning a valuable lesson. This has been instrumental knowledge in growing together from acquaintances to exclusivity.

I realize that some of the best pleasures in life are the simplest

It wasn’t until I was floating on my back in a volcanic warm pond in Hawaii did I realize some of the best things in life are free.

My boyfriend and I enjoy similar pleasures in one each other’s company. We like to go out, see movies, and dine out like the next couple. But the most gratifying moments happen when our wallets are buried deep within our pockets, when we sit side-by-side watching sunset with our arms around one another’s waist.

A day at the Waikiki Aquarium

When one comes to visit Hawai’i, the last thing on their mind is visiting an aquarium. “Why would I visit the aquarium when I could just jump in the ocean and see a living aquarium?” Great question, but let me answer you this way. The Waikiki Aquarium showcases dozens of coral species and fish, crustaceans, sea horses, sea dragons, pipefish, predators, and ocean life from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands you just can’t see on the main islands.

The most impressive spread were the variety of colorful living corals. All the corals are thriving under conditions simulated to be the ocean in its most pristine, healthy state. The key takeaway for me was that I have never seen such beautiful, developed, colorful and healthy coral in the wild. It was amazing to see what coral could look like in the more remote reefs and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It was equally amazing to imagine what our reefs on O’ahu can and will look like when we are ready to transplant species back to where they belong.

Here are some photos I took at the aquarium. I would highly recommend this visit for any visitor to Hawai’i, especially before jumping into the ocean. It’s great to learn about the underwater world and its fragile ecosystem before diving in.

The Waikiki Aquarium is the 2nd oldest public aquarium in the country
The Waikiki Aquarium is the 2nd oldest public aquarium in the country
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An angelfish indigenous only to the Hawaiian islands swims by a colorful reef
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Sea anemone attract clown fish and other species of fish to its predatory confines
Hawaiian island reef life
Hawaiian island reef life
South Pacific reef life
South Pacific reef life

Yellow striped pipefish
Yellow striped pipe fish
Jellyfish in the "drifters" exhibit
Jellyfish in the “drifters” exhibit
Beautiful coral exhibits
Beautiful coral exhibits
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A sampling of the vibrant underwater world you can experience through thriving coral reefs
This Hawaiian Monk Seal has been at the aquarium for 31 years!
This Hawaiian Monk Seal has been at the aquarium for 31 years!

Next time you have a rainy day in Hawaii, or are just looking for a getaway to see something beautiful, check out the Waikiki Aquarium. You won’t be disappointed! They also have a predator exhibit with sharks and a vast educational/conservation exhibit, as well.

Tips for Exercising with your Dog

Fido is man’s best friend for a reason. He is loyal, cute and a fur ball of energy. To keep your beloved four-legged friend his happiest and healthiest, exercising your dog must be in your daily routine. Dogs have special needs when it comes to staying active. Follow these steps to ensure you’re getting the most out of your time with your pup.

Pono and I on a hike together in Hawaii
Pono and I on a hike together in Hawaii

Check the weather: This sounds like a no-brainer, but often times dogs are left in hot cars for long periods of time unattended causing overheating and even death. Also, while on a run or a hike, a dog is exerting him/herself just like you. Cold winter months can be brutal on not only you, but on your pup. Visit your local pet store and buy a coat for you dog if necessary. In areas where it snows, salt might be dropped on the sidewalk or street to prevent people from slipping. Be mindful that winter salt is hurtful and harmful to your dog’s paws. Always think about how you like to dress and prepare for the day outside and make sure to follow suit with caring for your dog.

Pono loves the snow, but we had to limit how long he could stay out
Pono loves the snow, but we had to limit how long he could stay out

Mind your city’s off-leash rules: It might be tempting in some areas to let your dog off the leash for a full-blown run, but before you free Fido, learn the local leash laws of your area. Leash laws are not meant to limit the fun you and your furry friend can have together, but actually work to protect the two of you. Factors such as aggressive dogs, small children, wild animals and traffic can turn even the most innocent run or hike into a chaotic situation. In many areas if you’re caught by the authorities with your dog off the leash you’ll likely face a hefty fine. Do yourself a favor and follow the rules.

Offer plenty of water and food: Just like when you go for a jog or swim, you burn calories and work up to chugging about a gallon of water. Given that your dog is right by your side, make sure you bring water and a small bowl for them to drink out of. Water should be kept cool if possible and must absolutely be clean. Try to discourage your dog from drinking any stagnant or running water you don’t know to be bacteria-free. Also, when possible, bring snacks or food with so they can replenish their energy as they go.

An active dog is a hungry and thirsty dog
An active dog is a hungry and thirsty dog

Carry around plastic bags for clean up: Nothing’s worse than a steaming pile of dog doo-doo- especially if it doesn’t belong to your dog. One of the best signs of a great dog owner is one that diligently picks up after their dog. Carry some small plastic bags with you on your excursions so that when your pup relieves himself you can tidy up after him and move forward.

Let them rest: After a long hike or fetch session, your dog is zonked. Give them a space in your home that is their sanctuary: whether it’s a nook in the corner with a special pillow or a doghouse they can relax in and recharge, it’s important to give your dog time to rest their batteries in between excursions.

Just relaxing on the beach after a long hike
Just relaxing on the beach after a long hike

Offer rewards: Dogs are extremely loyal and respond well to rewards. Given your dog was well-behaved and focused during exercise, immediately rewarding them with a small treat or new bone is an excellent way to reinforce continued good behavior. It’s also a good way to see their tale wag and watch them trot off to their happy place.

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Cities Less Traveled: 3 Craft Cocktails Worth the Trip to Brooklyn

New York City teems with enough bars to never imbibe the same drink twice. While Manhattan undoubtedly sees its fair share of new cocktail joints, a burgeoning era of experimentation is brewing in the outer boroughs. The slightly more adventurous beverage aficionados might want to experience what’s going on in the city’s most populous and beloved borough, Brooklyn. Known for its eclectic, hipster vibe after undergoing a funky urban renaissance, Brooklyn is a mecca for the artisan-at-heart. Check out these 3 craft cocktails worth the trip over the bridge.

Photo by Dylan Magaster via Trover.com
Photo by Dylan Magaster via Trover.com

The Dear Chicago at Dram

Chicago’s nickname may be the “Second City,” but that doesn’t mean it can’t inspire one of the best cocktails in the Big Apple. Dram, a mixology bar in Brooklyn, serves up The Dear Chicago – an elixir made of up Citadel Gin, Merlet Pear, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Pierre Ferrand dry Curacao, Letherby Malort, and celery bitters. Always stirred, never shaken, this drink pays tribute to Chicago when it features artisan gin inspired by moonshining. A standout cocktail among many notable creative pours in Brooklyn, The Dear Chicago allows drinkers to enjoy two great cities at once.

The Clover Club at Clover Club

Tucked in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill, Clover Club is long-time New York City bar owner and world-renowned bartender Julie Reiner’s brainchild.  A no-frills atmosphere to enjoy a solid beverage program is what Reiner’s after, and she wholeheartedly delivers with a cocktail so aptly named, it begs for a second round. The Clover Club is simple yet refined with its 5 ingredients – gin, vermouth, lemon, raspberry, and egg white. The raspberry is sweet, but never overpowering, and the egg white’s frothy consistency makes for an excellent, mouthy finish. Perhaps Brooklyn’s best-kept secret among locals, snag yourself a seat at Clover Club’s bar and ask for the house specialty.

Papa’s Pride at Ba’sik

There’s something great about a place that doesn’t forget the old classics and turns their bar offerings up a notch with hand-crafted, ingenious craft cocktails. Meet Ba’sik, the neighborhood Brooklyn joint on Graham Avenue pouring up Papa’s Pride – bourbon, ginger, mint, lemon, soda, and bitters. They even divvy out bar snacks like spiced nuts and the ba’sik bar pie served grandma style. If you don’t know what that means, just go for their Papa’s Pride first, then try to crack grandma’s secret recipe later.

Brooklyn might not be the first place that comes to mind when envisioning a hip scene to indulge in a handmade alcoholic beverage, but its reputation as a leader in the craft cocktail community is gaining popularity.

Whether you live in Manhattan or halfway across the world, sampling these cocktails gives you a good reason to check out and check into a cheap New York City hotel for a great night’s rest. You won’t have to cut the night short at your favorite Brooklyn watering holes with so many New York City hotels to choose from. ♦

This article is part of the #HipmunkCityLove Project.