Monday, 23 July 2012

Summer in Forte Dei Marmi

One of the main problems of doing something interesting instead of sitting at home, is that I have to sacrifice internet and my connection with the world.

Although the beach along the coast (Forte dei Marmi, Cinquale, Massa, etc.) all claimed to have wifi, it was obviously a piece of shit and never worked (unless I started walking up and down the shore waving my ipod touch around like a lunatic).

I have been going to Forte dei Marmi since I was 5 or 6, so here are some things to do in the area.

  • The boardwalk is filled with "bagni" or beach clubs, all complete with a restaurant/bar, cabins and umbrellas with loungers for you to rent for a day, a week or the whole summer. Of course, prices vary and so do the facilities. On a budget? Look around for the communal/free beaches. You will have to either burn to crisp in the sun or bring those huge umbrella things. 
Photo found here

  • Apart from basking in the sun and ogling hot lifeguards while running up and down the beach trying to stalk celebrities or the famous footballer, Buffon at his own Beach Club, Forte dei Marmi is well known for it's shopping. With many cute boutiques and typical designer shops. But beware, the stuff here isn't cheap. 
Photo found here

  • Tired of the sky high prices of the shops and boutiques mentioned above? Well on Wednesdays and Sunday mornings, there is a huge "mercato" or market in the square/area (don't worry you'll find it), selling branded/designer bikinis, shoes, clothes, fur coats, cashmere, accessories and everything else that constitutes a woman's wet dream. (Seriously, prada shoes for 80 euros!) There are also a lot of stalls selling home stuff, so table cloths, plates, glasses, whatever. I recommend you go early, like 8:30/9ish as it gets packed already at that time, and it gets hotter and... (going onto my next point)
Photo found here
  • There is never enough parking, so I also suggest you rent a bike if your beach, house/hotel and the shopping area is relatively close by. Forte dei Marmi is always filled with stylish tanned women, with 6 inch wedge heels cycling around on bicycles. How they do it? Even I don't know (believe I've tried, and had to run back home to change into flip flops)
  • The Clubbing here is supposed to be quite good. With some really fancy clubs with footballers and celebrities. There are also a few parties on the beach and I went to one one night, but it was rather average, it was so dark I couldn't see the faces of the guys who tried to dance with me 
  • There's also a luna park in between Forte dei Marmi and Cinquale every summer. They have some really thrilling rides (which are sort of expensive as you pay each ride you go on), but it's always great fun with a group of friends. 
Then there's the food. To be precise, the SEAfood. There are a whole range of fancy expensive restaurants for the rich (Russian tourists) to splurge all their cash on, as well as a small little shack on the beach serving plates of fresh calamari at very low prices

 Looking for something impressive but more in the middle? Try Gilda. It looks fancy actually, but the prices won't force you to sell your house and camp out under a bridge for the next month. A bagni/beach club in the daytime, it transforms to a beautiful candlelit restaurant on the beach, in the sand. Remember not to wear heels as you'll look like an idiot  (like me).  

Service was kinda iffy. They seemed to be understaffed, as they were all running around frantically, while yelling at each other. Not to mention there were enough tables for the people waiting, but not enough people to prepare the tables for the customers. But they apologized and all.

Since we're asian and like to try each other's food, we ordered three dishes to share. 

Grilled Tuna. There was so much tuna that I kind of got sick of tuna for the day. (There was more tuna under that mountain)

Raw fish antipasto. The closest to sashimi i've had in weeks. Pardon the empty oyster shell, I have an oyster obsession and ate it the second it arrived. Personally I thought that the oyster wasn't cold enough.

Steamed seafood salad. With cuttlefish or squid, I can never tell the difference. Each dish cost 15 euros, and was quite a big portion so it filled me up quite nicely!

The website of the bagni/beach clubf and restaurant can be found here

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

LV for Lago Verde! (not Louis Vuitton...)

What do you do when you're buried deep in the Alps, and it's a sunny day? You go hiking of course! At least, according to my dad, who decided to take us to "Valle Stretta" or "Vallée Étroite" or "Narrow Valley" in English, which is politically speaking part of France, but geographically in Italy, about 20 minutes away from Bardonecchia in the Piedmont region.
From Bardonecchia we drove to "Rif 3 Alpini" where you then have to park your car and continue by foot. We went up to Lago verde and then back.

Not being an outdoor-sy type at all, I completely ignored my mum's suggestion of packing a pair of sneakers into my suitcases. Now, I'd hate to admit it but I do kind of wish I did listen to her since I showed up "hiking" like this :

I have to admit, I love this outfit! But I guess it is more suitable to shopping in Milan than hiking! At first, when I arrived, I thought, pfft yeah whatever, hiking my asshole, it's a path on flat ground. NO PROBLEM! But I was so wrong.

It was more like climbing up/down rocks like this! We walked from Valle Stretta where we parked our car, to a nearby lake named "Lago Verde", or green lake. (See map above)

About 1 hour later, we arrived at "LV"! Yes, it is literally a green lake, which should be due to some algae or something. It looked like a nice place to have a picnic and chill, but we didn't bring food so we rested for a while and then turned back.

Overall I thought it was nice to take photos, as there was some beautiful scenery in the surrounding mountains and rivers and for people who like hiking or trekking this would be a  perfect activity on a sunny summer's day.  

Oh and Nature lovers would love this place as well. There are so many multicoloured flowers, green grass, butterflies (and horrible bugs). Obviously not really my thing, as I am more of a city girl (Hong Kong <3) but I must admit it was very beautiful nonetheless. 

After our long 3 hour walk,we were absolutely starving. We have heard that the polenta here is absolutely to die for so we decided to have polenta. (Not to mention that they only serve polenta at the only two restaurants there)

They have three types of polenta here : with sausages and meat, concia (which is with gorgonzola and fontina cheese) and also with porcini mushrooms. We decided to order a bit of each and try them all. I mixed my concia with mushrooms (as I do not eat meat). I must say, although I am usually not a big fan of polenta, this polenta tasted different from the polenta that my nonna makes and tasted really good. Only problem was there was a bit of meat in the tomato sauce and so I couldn't eat any, and I found a piece of meat in my mushrooms too and freaked out. 

I recommended that you make a reservation before you hike, as it is a very small family owned restaurant and a reservation is necessary if you intend on eating here.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Medieval Festival in Briançon, France

I apologize for the lack of posting in the past 2 weeks! Normally, I tend to sit at home a lot doing nothing, hence allowing time for me to blog to the extent that I don't know what to blog about. However, the past few weeks, I have been going out so much, everyday, with friends, eating, drinking, shopping to the point that although I had loads to blog about, I had no time to blog! I guess we can't have it all in life!

Anyway, I finally left Hong Kong for her annual summer vacation in Europe. For the first week, I will be staying in Bardonecchia in Italy, which is in the Piedmont region . I have to admit that I am more of a beach girl than a countryside/mountain girl, and I generally have more fun at the beach, meeting new friends and swimming. In the countryside..I don't really know what to do (well now I can catch up on blogging I guess!). I like taking walks, but mainly around town/shops! The only plus to the countryside and the amazing mountains that surround me is the fact that they are much more fun to photograph.

Bardonecchia is only about 10 minutes away from the French border, and 30 minutes from the city with the highest altitude in the European Union, Briançon, famous for it's UNESCO World Heritage site - a huge citadel/fort built in the 1700s. And what luck! The day we went was during the weekend of the Medieval Festival!

We were taken back in time to the Medieval times,with people and children dressed up in costumes. All waiters and waitresses included! There was a marketplace, full of stalls selling jewellery, food (medieval style), costumes and shoes for those willing to join in and even weapons and armours for kids (or adults) wanting to try out the medieval way of life. Hay and straw was scattered throughout the streets, and there was live music and dancing, not to mention very entertaining "beggars"/tramps to really enhance the theme.

I must say the kids running around the town were simply adorable! The little boys all holding swords and bows, trying to fight each other. The little girls in long dresses and pink or purple head dresses with flowy bits running around living their dreams as princesses in a castle. It made me want to be a kid again to join in the fun! 

We decided to go for some crepes to rest our legs and have a snack. Instead of going for the regular Nutella and banana that I love, I decided to try something new. The crepe flambee with triple sec and vanilla ice cream particularly caught my eye. 

It was basically a crepe with a scoop of ice cream on top, which was drenched in cointreau, and then set on fire! However it didn't burn very well, so a lot of the alcohol remained, so I basically had a crepe drenched in alcohol, but the burnt bits tasted orangey and made the crepe kind of crispy too. At first, they brought me a crepe with grand marnier, but they misunderstood and didnt give me the ice cream, so they brought me another one. Thank god, since the ice cream really helps balance out the flavours.

My dad on the other hand had a crepe with honey and walnuts. I didnt really like it (but maybe it's because I dislike honey and I'm not a big fan of walnuts either), but he thought it was good. I personally prefer crepes which have the ingredients inside the crepe, not folded and just dumped on top. For mine, I think it's acceptable for the ingredients not to be inside the crepe as it wouldn't really work otherwise.

From the outer walls of the citadel, there are some spectacular views of the hills, as well as these little cubby holes, presumably used in the past as lookout posts. 

We soon got thirsty, and decided to go for a glass of wine...and French fries too! (Diet? What diet?)

It sure was a great outing for the afternoon, and the old citadel is stunning, with it's quaint little streets, and water flowing down the middle of the main road in a little canal thing. And being lucky enough to witness the fantastic Medieval festival was more than I could ever ask for!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The best waffles (格仔餅) in Mong Kok, or even Hong Kong?

So today I want to talk about my favourite Hong Kong style waffle aka 格仔餅 shop. I have surveyed pretty much all the shops in the Prince Edward/Mong Kok region, only to run flying back to this one. For those who do not know what Hong Kong style waffles or 格仔餅 are I shall explain!格仔餅 literally means "grid cakes" or "grid biscuits" and are usually made by street hawkers and eaten warm on the street. Hong Kongers live a very fast paced lifestyle, and people don't always have time to sit down and eat. So it is very common to see people eating while walking, shopping, and chatting with friends. This is also another reason why I always gain weight when i'm in Hong Kong (due to the highly captivating aromas that surround me, not to mention the sight of everyone munching away) . The waffles (which are different to eggettes, the waffles that look like a collection off balls stuck together) look like traditional waffles but they come in circles with the grid parts divided into four quarters. The waffles are then  spread with butter, peanut butter and then sprinkled with sugar, and then folded in half and served hot. They are a delicious treat especially in winter. These waffles are more floppy than Belgian waffles, and more bouncy/springyin texture. They usually range in $7-$20.
So the shop that I will be reviewing today, lies on Mong Kok Road, on the block in between Fa Yuen Street (fashion heaven! Blogpost soon!) and Tung Choi Street (also known as goldfish street due to the fact that it is full of goldfish shops (duh!) and pet shops full of cute puppies and kittens!). It is directly opposite the road from Fa Yuen Street Market and is exactly where the crossing is. 

Apart from making the best waffles in the area, they also make fresh smoothies and juices. My favourite here is the coconut sago drink which is only $8 and is a perfect way to cool down during a hot day while shopping at Fa Yuen Street.

Service is quite slow and it usually takes a while to wait for your food as there is usually only one lady making the waffles, although the shop is quite big and also has another side selling siu mai, fishballs and other various typical savoury street food.

The price is very good! It is one of the cheapest in the area, with the average waffle price being $10+. I have yet to try the other more exotic flavours, as I prefer the original. I have this thing where once I find something that I like I always choose the same thing over and over again! 

One time, I tried the eggettes (in chocolate and original flavour mixed together). Sadly they were extremely disappointing and lacked that eggy taste that they were supposed to have. It feels as if the mixture was watered down too much, so I would go for the waffles here. They make the best eggettes in  Tsim Sha Tsui on Nathan Road. 

Voila! Le waffle! The waffle itself is crispy on the outside yet soft and moist in the inside (which I think is the best). Although, I think that the waffle lacks eggyness, the lady always generously drowns the waffle in butter and peanut butter without putting too much sugar (just the way I love it!)

And for some reason, everytime I eat a waffle here, I always manage to get peanut butter on my clothes. I guess this is just proof that they put enough sauce!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

3 days in LA - Day 2 (Warning : may inflict an increase of appetite)

What better way to start the day than with some good old breakfast food? And what better way to have good old breakfast food than have true American brunch at IHOP?! IHOP aka International House of Pancakes (which I beg to differ, is not really International at all, since we do not have it in Hong Kong!  ) is a place which I suppose serves all day breakfast! 

I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but I am actually a pescatarian meaning that I do not eat any meat (chicken, beef, pork or lamb) but I still eat fish and seafood (partly because of my unhealthy addiction of sushi). Because of this, Cindy and her family ordered this vegetarian savoury crepe for me. The crepe was wrapped around cheese and spinach and was covered in melted cheese. It was truly delicious, and the fact that it was wrapped with a thin crepe (instead of an omelette) made it not as heavy as it looked.

They also ordered a beef and cheese omelette which also came with a stack of pancakes. One thing that I noticed when reading the menu was that the amount of calories in each dish was displayed next to the price. A very good feature of American restaurants as I generally like to know how much i'm consuming and whether I should eat something or not despite how delicious it looks.

Although this was a good feature, the fact that every dish had about 800-1200 calories really put me off the food. The crepes had about 800, the omelette had about 1100. The worst part was that I knew that if I wanted to at least maintain my weight, my body needed only about 1400 calories (and if i wanted to lose weight my body needed about 1200!) so I basically did not have to eat for the rest of the day! Normally if I ate a lot in Hong Kong and I couldn't go to the gym, I would walk an absurd distance halfway across town instead of taking the MTR (subway) just to burn some calories and explore the town a little, but being in California where it was impossible to go anywhere without a car, it simply was not possible. :(

Since we also ordered a plate of sausages, bacon, egg and hashbrowns (which I did not eat as there was meat touching everything ) that also came with ANOTHER stack of pancakes. What really excited me was how they had 4 different kinds of sauces to pour over the pancakes! "Old Fashioned", "Butter Pecan", Strawberry and Blueberry. So I had two pancakes and tried each sauce over each half of a pancake. I must say though, "Old Fashioned" and "Butter Pecan" tasted rather similar... I couldn't really taste the difference (maybe because they are both brown?) :P

After shopping my tits off at the nearest CVS pharamacy and then continuing at a nearby mall, Cindy decided to take me to "Boba" or what we in Hong Kong call Bubble tea! I was surprised that it was so popular in America! Though I have to admit that the area that Cindy lived in was mainly full of Asians.  The menu too was full of typical asian snacks that I have back in Hong Kong : Shaved ice, thick toast, not to mention "boba"/bubble tea (and you could choose to have aloe, sago, mochi etc.). This made me really feel at home!

Another thing I noticed is that in this area, not only were there a lot of asians, but there were a lot of Cantonese speakers!  So I really felt as if I was still in Hong Kong! With people in the cinema and in restaurants jabbering away. Mwahahah I understand what everyone is saying! Latinos speaking Spanish, I  understand you too.

The lighting in California is always amazing. Even in the "parking lot"

We then made our way to Old town pasadena. An outdoor shopping area full of shops and restaurants. Naturally we decided to sweep through all the classic places, Forever 21, H&M, Zara etc.

After a long day of just buying everything in sight, we decided it was time for more food. Being the incredibly indecisive people we are, we kept asking each other what we wanted to eat. I am a huge fan of Japanese food (particularly sushi!) while Cindy hated raw food but loved meat. So we narrowed it down to Cheesecake factory or this Japanese restaurant that we were standing in front of. Since Cindy didn't want to walk all the way to the Cheesecake factory  we decided to eat at the Japanese Restaurant called Kabuki.

I must say that it fully satisfied my sushi craving (but only for the day, since I get sushi cravings every day! Every meal even!).

The meal started off with some salad or miso soup. I chose the miso soup as I felt like it fit the mood much more. Sadly I must say that it was rather disappointing as the tofu bits were minuscule and looked really spongy and weird.

The sushi however was amazing!  It was really comparable to the delicious ones in Hong Kong. The salmon looked almost fake for some reason, but it was really good nonetheless. I didn't know what some of the fish was as I usually just order salmon (as it is my absolute favourite), but they were delicious. The rolls were average, but maybe thats because I prefer traditional nigiri sushi.

Cindy on the other hand ordered this roast scallop with fried onion and bacon. I tried a little bit and it sure tasted good! However one of the downers of this place was the service - which was very poor. The waiters were slow and tended to forget things. For example we dropped a fork on the floor and they took about 10 minutes to get us a new one. Cindy also wanted to ask after she ordered the scallops whether they would be fully cooked, again we got ignored for so long that the food arrived before we could get anyone's attention! So it was a shame that the service ruined the overall experience at this restaurant. (The man sitting on the table next to ours even recommended that we "throw a shoe" at the waiters! haha!)