Duck Press | Photo Credit: D'Artagnan

The minute that the Halloween decors were stowed away, Christmas ornaments came free from their hiding places and quickly transformed hotel lobbies and shop fronts here from creepy to festive. Even the Amihan winds have started blowing more powerfully, giving us cooler nights and a feeling that it’s slowly ushering in the holiday season.

Tonight, fake pine trees, luminous baubles and shiny tinsels put on an impressive display, especially with all the tiny fairy lights amplifying their colours and intricate designs. This is the time of the year when I start thinking about Christmas prezzies.

As a personal tradition, I like giving food-related gifts: a box of cookies, a recipe book, bags of dark-roast coffee beans or an interesting kitchen tool.

Contemplating about it as I walked past a massive Christmas tree surrounded by gold foil-wrapped gift boxes, I began to wonder. What if sourcing is not difficult and price is no object, what sort of presents would I get my family and friends? Given that I like to dole out gifts that I myself would appreciate receiving, I’ll probably pick out items that are not only functional and of quality but also unique enough to become conversation pieces. How great is it to have something you can actually use while preparing meals or entertaining friends and when you’re not in the mood, can stand on its own as a beautiful tabletop accessory worthy of being included in civilised chitchattery?

Take for example a cool kitchen tool I discovered through Anthony Bourdain’s Paris Layover episode (pictured above). He featured one of his favourite shopping destinations in the French capital and introduced his viewers to the duck press, which he described as something that looks like a medieval torture device. It’s used by French chefs to crush a duck’s carcass and internal organs for the sole purpose of extracting all the flavoursome juices from the bird to be later blended with a bit of red wine and reduced to a delicious, bloody sauce. That sounds to me a great topic you can pluck out of the air when you run out of things to talk about at dinner! (By the way, this costs close to $2700 a pop from Sur La Table so if you get one, you must be loved!)

Below is a list of other things which I think would fit nicely in the great-but-not-necessarily-practical holiday presents:

Girolle or Cheese Curler | Photo Credit: Bon Appetit

Girolle or Cheese Curler

If you want to make a statement at your house party, get a whole wheel of cheese and display it on a girolle like this. It’s a fancy way of serving cheese curls to your guests, although indeed a bit on the extravagant side as you can’t obviously buy only a wedge of fromage for this tool to function properly. However, if you rarely skimp on party-spending and have a general appetite for showing off, by all means tell me to get you another girolle so you can plunk a wheel of chocolat right beside the cheese for a sweet alternative. Your guests won’t be forgetting your party that easily, I tell you. Boska | $50.00

Boska Cheese and Chocolate Curler | Photo Credit: Boska

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This is certainly not the first time I’d be celebrating Hallow’s Eve on Boracay Island. I’ve done so with flourish 13 years ago but back then, I was more focused on getting the perfect bat wings and perfect hair & make-up for the glamorous manananggal look I was going for.

This year, I leave the costume worries to those who still get the kick out of dressing up during Hallowe’en. After years of spending money on outfits that I never want to be seen in again, figured it’s more fun (and economical) to sit back and watch all the youngsters compete for attention with their pleather cat suits, ubiquitous angel wings and red demon horns. I’ll probably just chill in my usual uniform (which pretty much translates to bright bikinis, denim shorts and island-given healthy tan). Ok maybe, just maybe… I’ll tape a partially opened zipper and throw a rainbow of mermaid powders onto a portion of my face. Darlings, I’m not exactly known for being a party pooper.

My drink, however, will join the merrymaking.

As a nod to the rum-soaked, free-spirited ragamuffin skippers that command Boracay’s red-trimmed paraws, I’m serving this spiced rum cocktail to friends all night as we mull over who among the costumed revelers is trying the hardest and who is pulling it off with ease. It would be nice to see someone putting on something with a more local or island flavour than going for the cliché witch-with-the-pointy-hat or Dracula. Arriving as Chuck Noland with Wilson (Castaway, 2000) would be awesome, not to mention destination-appropriate. I’ll defo also flip out if I spot Grendel’s Mother (Beowulf, 2007), minus the stupid heels of course. Or the voodoo priestess, Calypso (At World’s End, 2007), who I actually contemplated on coming as. But should I catch Jack Sparrow, though I sure hope he comes damn close to looking like Monsieur Depp, he’ll get a complimentary pitcher of this drink.

For extra drama appropriate for the holiday, I’ve taken a page out of Hannibal Lecter’s book on skull-sawing techniques (although mine turned out to be the work of an axe murderer instead of a skilled surgeon!) and transformed coconuts into the perfect cocktail vessels. Bit morbid in theory but nothing should ever be taken seriously anyway when it’s Hallowe’en. Except perhaps choosing your costume.

Because dude, admit it, that knife stuck through your head is a bit dated.

P.S. Got an extra zipper, if you need one.

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Menu at Docklands | PHOTO CREDITS :: LAUREN HOM

Have you done anything just so you can get free chow? Woke up early perhaps and dragged your butt to McDonald’s on National Breakfast Day so you can be one of the first 1,000 to get a free McMuffin? Or checked in like mad on Foursquare so you earn the Mayor badge at a restaurant and get a complimentary glass of house vino?

Mountain Cafe Menu (L) :: ITAL KITCHEN MENU (R) | Photo Credits :: Lauren Hom

Menu at Nourish Kitchen + Table | Photo Credits :: Lauren Hom

Well, one young lady decided to take one step further. She shares her knack for writing beautiful typography by prettifying your shop signboard and seeks payment only in the form of whatever the contents of that same signboard are!

Her name is Lauren Hom and she is a New York-based freelance designer, illustrator and letterer who transforms her doodles into veritable works of art. She has participated in several collabs with magazines, done branding projects with establishments in her locale, even created the hilarious drinkware called Ex Boyfriend Tears.

Ex Boyfriend Tears Products | Photo Credits :: Lauren Hom

She is also the brains behind Daily Dishonesty, a collection of illustrations about the ‘lovely little lies’ that we say to ourselves or one another.

But it’s her Will Letter For Lunch gig that made me a bit jealous, made me want to be in her shoes.

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Whew! Where did time go? October is upon us and we have moved very quickly into the last quarter of the year. A couple of months ago, I’ve marked one year since coming back to this island. I’ve seen roads built where mud tracks used to be; endured several crises brought on by a super typhoon; witnessed establishments open then close. Despite being plagued by erratic power supply and unstable internet connection, there seems to be no stopping its (over)development. Can you believe there’s a second (even bigger!) McDonald’s restaurant that just opened at the heart of the island’s business hub?

Yet it never ceases to amuse me, how some things that I remember growing up with in the 80′s (the 80′s!) are still thriving on this tiny piece of prime real estate. Sure, progress and advancement are screaming their presence on the now paved streets, the electric tricycles that quietly ply the (creatively-named) Main Road or the local police officers proudly riding their Segways like Maximus Meridius on his gladiator chariot!

However, there are these ‘relics’ that have somehow survived the fast-paced urbanisation of the island. For instance, local grocery shops that still sell those corn tube snacks, whose fake cheese powder coating I particularly enjoyed at recess during my years in primary school. Or Coke that are still distributed everywhere here in tiny 8-oz classic Coca-Cola bottles.

Imagine my delight going one day into a store that sells ice cream sandwiches from Korea and discovering items that date back to the 50′s. Heck, someone here has a taste for vintage goods!

I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic, especially when I spotted a shelf of retro ice cream sundae dishes. Those heavy glass bowls brought me straight back to my Sam’s Diner days, where my sister and I spent many college nights studying for final exams and slurping on malt shop treats served by a wait staff on roller skates.

I’m a happier bunny eating ice cream from this dish than scarfing down a handheld frozen carp-shaped treat but not wanting to purchase an item that had a singular purpose, I left the store and spent that afternoon trying to picture other ways I can make use of this transparent receptacle. Here’s a list I came up with:

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Homemade Lemon Curd | Our Recipe Below

Bread. Best when fresh out of the oven. It can take on many guises too: as a bowl, as a seasoning, as a main ingredient. It’s good even when stale for it can cleverly metamorphose into glorious pudding by simply joining forces with milk, sugar and eggs. But one of the most beloved form it takes is that of a crisp canvas, a supporting role to wonderful spreads and schmears, all beautifully offering themselves to the delicious ritual that is breakfast.

Blah, blah, blah-di-blah. We love these stuff on our toast. You?

Dulce de Leche

Dulce de Leche | Photo Credit :: Bakers Royale

Caramelised White Chocolate

Caramelized White Chocolate | Photo Credit :: Food52

Good Ol’ Peanut Butter

Homemade Peanut Butter | Photo Credit :: Brown Eyed Baker

Honey-Macadamia Spread

Honey-Macadamia Spread | Photo Credit :: The Moonblush Baker

Snickerdoodle Cookie Butter

Snickerdoodle Cookie Butter | Photo Credit :: Parade

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