2019 Year-End Wrap-Up & Favorites

2019 Wrap Up COVER - 2019 Year-End Wrap-Up & Favorites

2019 is a bit hard to put into words. On one side, it’s one of my least productive blogging years in terms of number of posts I managed to produce. At the same time, I kind of feel like in terms of quality posts, this year has been one of my best. In the past I’ve always been grasping for my identity as a content creator, but this year I felt like I was truly growing into who and what I envisioned. I was putting a bit more effort doing content that really mattered to me even if it took me longer. Even if it was a little more difficult. Because I knew I was making content in a way that was worth my time, and in effect, worth the time of anybody who cares to see it.

And I could feel myself slowly evolving and peeling off my shell, more so this year than any other.

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I feel like I should be upset that my readership and stats showed a drop this year. (It’s partly my fault too for updating so erratically.) And yet I can’t find it in me to sulk because of everything else that I discovered about myself inside and outside this blogging ecosystem. It just goes to show, you never stop learning something new as you go through life. Whether its about yourself, or about the same old things you’ve been doing for what feels like a long time, life is a continuous journey of discovery.

I wanted to make this year-end wrap-up part of my process from now on. I find a lot of value in being able to look back and take stock of the ups and downs from the past. Based on experience, it simply gives a better perspective for the future. Speaking of the future, I want to say I have a lot of plans for 2020, but perhaps ‘goals’ would be a better term to use. I do have intentions to fulfill these plans after all. Recently I started an “Ideas Notebook”, and already it’s helping me see things a little clearer. I don’t know why I never did this before.

[READ ALSO: Chocolate Chili Cupcakes Recipe]

This year I made quite a handful of things I’m rather proud of, including that video above. So I thought it would be nice to have a specific post dedicated to reminding me about stuff like that, for those days when I feel particularly uninspired or burnt out. So without further ado, let’s talk about my 2019!


2019 Recipes Recap

[READ ALSO: Calamansi Muffins Recipe]

In 2019 I managed to write a total of 78 posts, and out of that 36 were recipes, and one was a compilation of recipes. A handful of these recipes ended up in my “Recipes to Keep” folder. These are the stand-outs that I have plans to shoot and turn into a personal cookbook of sorts, complete with full-page photos. I’ve added an asterisk to those recipes that have made my “Keepers” list so you can easily see which ones my favorites are. Maybe you’ll find something to make over the New Year break. 🙂

Here are all the recipes I’ve made in 2019:

Grilled Cheese Sandwich, 5 Ways*

By the way, any one of these Grilled Cheese Sandwiches would make an amazingly indulgent New Year’s breakfast, wouldn’t you agree?


2019 Favorite Eats

My natural tendency to shy away from hype, and my occasional bouts of homebody-ness, have really done a number on my restaurant-hopping habits this year. I went through the restaurants I talked about on the blog this 2019 and could not pinpoint a single favorite that jumped out at me. There were no “perfect” restaurants that completely wowed me this year. (I feel like the last time that happened was when I ate at Hey Handsome, now closed.) So I though I’d write about the DISHES that I really enjoyed from the different restaurants I ate at this year. There were standouts in THAT department for sure.

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The Wild Juan’s Gumbo-lalo
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Half Saint’s 64% Dark Chocolate Tart
  • I started my year writing about a restaurant called The Wild Juan. It’s a restaurant located in Tagaytay that fuses Filipino cuisine with Creole cuisine. It’s quite a rare fusion, but the results are surprisingly awesome. I wish their service was as good though. Their Gumbo-lalo and Dirty Rice are two great examples of how this fusion makes the two cuisines really shine.
  • Meanwhile at Half Saints, there is a 64% Dark Chocolate Tart that is silky, chocolatey, and just SUBLIME. (And no wonder, they use Auro Chocolate, which is my favorite local chocolate brand!) The touch of salt gives the tastebuds a tickle and highlights the dark chocolate flavor of the tart. Paired with their equally delicious Dirty Matcha drink, Half Saints has a dynamic duo that makes me forgive some of the other misses I encountered from my meal here.
  • I fell in love with newly-opened Sourdough Cafe‘s Basque Burnt Cheesecake at first bite! But before that, their Granchi e Gamberi, in its creamy and crab fatty glory, had me hankering for more. This restaurant has such great potential to be a favorite of mine as well, if only they could be a bit more consistent!
  • From Canton Road at Shangri-la The Fort comes a surprise favorite. It’s a dish called Szechuan style poached chili grouper fillet with pickled vegetables. The name may be a mouthful, but you’ll also be craving for a mouthful of this if you like sour and spicy things, like me. Some would argue that this bowl of soup and fish is rather expensive at nearly Php 800, but I’d be happy if I just ordered this, ate it all, and left. 
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Dewz Restaurant’s Atlantic Salmon Filet
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Sourdough Cafe’s Granchi e Gamberi
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Canton Road’s Szechuan style poached chili grouper fillet
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Mr & Mrs Bund’s Long Short Rib Teriyaki
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Mr & Mrs Bund’s Lemon & Lemon Tart
  • During my visit to California in September, I had the pleasure of eating at a restaurant called Dewz. Their Atlantic Salmon Fillet with miso-sweet corn puree was absolute perfection. Not to be outdone was their flourless Chocolate XTC with that sweet and tart Zinfandel cherry puree underneath. In a trip filled with good food, to say these were my favorites meant they were legitimately amazing dishes.
  • Heading over to Shanghai this time, let’s go the route of semi-luxury dining and talk about some truly memorable dishes I had at Mr & Mrs Bund. Truth be told, this was the only restaurant that came close to getting that favorite title for me this year. (I guess that was no surprise, since this restaurant was conceptualized by a Michelin-starred chef.) The dishes here were different and really delicious. They have a Long Short Rib Teriyaki that is cooked for 12 hours, then basted in a special teriyaki sauce with orange reduction. And then there’s the Lemon & Lemon Tart. From the outside it looks like a normal lemon, but the surprise inside creates an explosion of tart, tangy, and sweet in every single bite.

2019 Favorite Market Finds

It will come as no surprise to anyone that a foodie like me would be pretty hyped up by food products and grocery items. I can literally spend hours in a local supermarket when I travel lol. However, out of all the things I may end up trying out in a year, there are only a few that actually make it into my repurchase cycle. In this list you will find all the products that really made an impact on me this year. Some of them I can only wish I could buy on a regular basis!

2019 Market Finds - 2019 Year-End Wrap-Up & Favorites

  • I fell head over heels for Harang‘s Sinantolan just recently, and everyone I’ve gifted them to had pretty much the same reaction as me. That is to say: We had to practice a lot of self control not to eat the stuff straight from the bottle! As far as perfect combinations with a steaming bowl of rice go, this is certainly up there with the best of them.
  • I don’t remember if I’ve ever added this newly packaged version of Made by Maxine nut butters in a favorites list before, so I will give them a spot on this list. I love their almond butters like no other, especially the Dark Cacao Almond Butter. SO GOOD.
  • Cacao nibs are a newfound addiction of mine, but Chili Cacao Nibs are something else. A creation of Chocoloco Inc., this is made from Philippine cacao, which is a plus. It also spices up the cacao nib munching experience, which I like!
  • Out of all the local coffee brands I’ve tried so far, I have to say Basilio makes it to the top. Everything from the aroma to the flavor of the coffee is utter perfection. It’s a little pricier than other local brands, but I can taste and smell the difference. I love that they’ve packaged their coffees into drip bags, and that they’re always in stock at Uni-Mart.
  • Another coffee discovery that I particularly enjoyed this year is Black Coffee. The quality is certainly up there with Basilio, and I love that they offer a sampler pack of coffees from the different coffee-producing provinces in the Philippines. It makes me feel like I’m supporting every single one of them.
  • Even though I love cereals and granolas, I am rather picky about it. Amazin’ Graze passed my standards with flying colors, which is both an advantage and disadvantage for me. On the positive side, I discovered their amazing Coconut Kaya Granola. It is a bit like eating not-too-sweet coco jam-covered cereal for breakfast. On the negative side, it’s too expensive to buy regularly. But that’s what sales are for, right?
  • Now we get to my favorite finds from my trip to the Bay Area, starting with McEvoy Ranch‘s delightful jams. They are PERFECT with cheese, whether in grilled cheese form or simply slathered on bread with slices of cheese on top. You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors! Fair warning though: Because these are artisanal products, they carry a hefty price tag.
  • Although the photo I have above shows the Single Origin Colombia blend from Peet’s Coffee, my favorite is actually their Major Dickason’s Blend Coffee. Out of all the beans and brands I’ve tried so far, the Major Dickason’s Blend yielded the most fragrant and most flavorful cold brew. You all have no idea how crestfallen I was when we ran out.
  • This year, I discovered the best chocolate chips for cookie baking: Ghirardelli‘s 60% Cacao Baking Chips. The taste and mouthfeel of these baking chips scream premium, and I always end up eating quite a few pieces before dumping them into my cookie dough. Sorry not sorry. Definitely worth shelling out extra for what you get!
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California cheeses from various brands
  • Finally, I have to say that of the best things I had the honor of indulging in this year were California cheeses. I don’t say this because I worked with them a lot this year. It’s precisely because I love California cheeses that I would keep collaborating with them. When I went on a cheese crawl in California a few months ago, I managed to haul a bunch of amazing cheeses inside my luggage. Some of these, like the Fiscalini and Point Reyes cheeses, are available in certain stores here in Manila. However, certain specialty cheeses, like the Oakdale Cumin Gouda and the Valley Ford Estero Gold Reserve, are sadly not. I have to think long and hard about when to book my next flight to California!

2019 Travel Diary Recap

I was a little surprised by how many travel posts I managed to churn out this year. Most of them were places I visited in 2018, nonetheless, I didn’t realize I managed to write 22 travel-related posts this year. Let’s have a little look back to incite some wanderlust for 2020!

My first travel post was about Nagasaki, which I forgot to post about when I wrote my Fukuoka series. I had round-up of 6 Things to do during a day trip to Nagasaki from Fukuoka, and also a dedicated post about the lovely Glover Garden.

[READ ALSO: Sample Spring Itinerary for Fukuoka & 1 Day in Nagasaki]

Afterwards, I somehow ended up in a very cheesy event in Boracay. It was my first time seeing this new and refurbished Boracay, but more so my first time spending my days in Shangri-la Boracay. It’s a beautiful resort that gave me the relaxation I needed, compelling me to write about my favorite memories.

Not soon after Boracay, I was whisked away by the same organization to the Bay Area. I was thrilled to have been able to go on a California Cheese Crawl and discovery some new favorite cheeses, as well as new favorite eats! To immerse ourselves into the “cheese culture” of the Bay Area, we visited places like the San Francisco Ferry Building, Hilmar Cheese Company, Fiscalini Cheese Company, Valley Ford Cheese, as well as the Louis M Martini Winery in Napa Valley, where we enjoyed cheese with wine.

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In the midst of all the cheese, we also got to eat so many other wonderful things during the trip! There was enough for me to make a round-up of my favorite eats from our California Cheese Crawl!

Heading back to Asia now, I wrote about my experiences in Hokkaido during the earthquake of October 2018 a full year after it happened. It was a big one and made for a very unforgettable vacation, and you can even read about my day to day inner thinkings during the said event in this post.

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If you would rather focus on the sights you could see in the summertime whilst in Sapporo, I highly recommend visiting the Hokkaido Shrine, as well as taking day trips to Otaru City, and the neighboring Biei.

Of course, no trip to Japan is complete without a food trip, as well as the hauling ofJapanese snacks, most especially in Hokkaido! Also known as the land of seafood, produce, and dairy. 

[READ ALSO: 5-Day Sample Summer Itinerary from Sapporo]

Managing to squeeze in a bit of free time during a brief business trip to Shanghai, I was able to stop by two foodie hotspots in the city, namely the Shanghai Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Mr & Mrs Bund. Both were impressive in their own ways!

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Starbucks Shanghai COVERR - 2019 Year-End Wrap-Up & Favorites

The last travel post I managed to churn out before the year end was one that I really wanted to make right before the winter holidays, right in time for those who were traveling to Seoul, South Korea over Christmas break. I wrote about my favorite spots in the Seoul Metropolitan, as well as 4 Quintessential Day Trips to take if you wanted to get out of the city for brief periods of time.


Favorite Blogger Moments of 2019

There’s no doubt that the highlight of my 2019 is the California Cheese trip with CMAB/Real California Milk. Actually, both trips to Boracay and the Bay Area were truly unique, memorable, and educational, but those things aside, I would like to put a spotlight on the fact that I FINALLY met THE Pepe Samson this year. Some of you might be wondering why I’m making such a big deal out of this. Don’t bloggers meet each other regularly when they attend events? Well, it’s an interesting story really.

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[READ ALSO: 3 Awesome Way to Take Cheese Appreciation to the Next Level]

Pepe and I have been online friends since way before our meeting. Neither of us attend too many blogger events, especially me (I RARELY attend), so meeting in real life wasn’t as easy as you might think. And every time we’ve tried to set a date to finally meet face to face something always comes up. Who would’ve thought we’d finally meet at a posh resort all the way in Boracay, AND THEN we’d even take a trip together to the US not soon after? It’s pretty cool how the circumstances added to the sentiment of finally getting to meet someone you’ve considered a friend but never actually got to meet in person. You know what I mean?

And as I expected, there’s never a dull moment with Pepe! 

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The blogger crew I got to travel with in Cali!

[READ ALSO: Highlights from the California Cheese Trail with Real California Milk]

Jumping into this world of blogging has brought me a lot of unexpected things in my life. I’m just this girl who likes to take photos and write about food and travel, and yet I get to have these surprise blessings. Trip to America to stuff myself with cheese? Making friends with some genuinely awesome people? Never did I expect any of these things going in, and now I have no words to explain how grateful my heart feels. Passion and hard work pays off!


This wrap-up has been fun to write! I know it’s a bit long but I enjoyed reflecting on the year that was. I hope you guys enjoyed reading it too! This post was scheduled before my self-imposed holiday blogging break, so I’ll see you next year with all the bigger, better, and shinier content I’ve got planned. Fingers crossed I can deliver them on regular intervals! For now, I hope you’ll check out some of the stuff I’ve made this 2019.

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Hope you had a blast over Christmas. And now it’s time to celebrate the coming of a new year! Cheers!

~~~

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