May 13, 2015

The End of the Beginning

Hello friends of Dolma! 

I have some bittersweet news to share - this will be my last post on Dolma. I started this blog in order to explore and develop my photography skills, which it has undoubtedly allowed me to do over the years. However, as time passed, I've wanted to create a blog with a broader scope to cover other things I'm passionate about. 

Last month I launched Little Greenhouse in the Big Mango - a wellbeing and lifestyle blog that's focused on health and sustainability in an urban setting. I hope that many of you will check it out and find something there that catches your eye. As such, all past posts of Dolma Photography will continue to live here as well as on my photography portfolio site. 

Thanks for your readership and support these last few years and hope you'll come to visit the Little Greenhouse soon!

Dec 5, 2014

Flashback Friday - Breakfast

Just the other day, my mum turned to me and said, "I'm sorry for the frozen foods we fed you as a kid. We didn't know any better back then!" I can't recall what compelled her to say that, but she's referring to the microwave mac n' cheese, french bread pizza and Toaster Strudel they bought so I could make it for myself when my mum or dad were traveling for work. A typical breakfast was a Toaster Strudel or two, and maybe a glass of OJ. At my grandma's house during the summer, my daily breakfast would be two eggs over easy, with buttered toast and grape jelly. To this day, that combination of salty egg yolk and sticky, sweet grape jelly makes my mouth water, and I recall the days I sat in my grandparents' dark, cool kitchen while my grandma sipped her vanilla Slimfast and smoked her second or third cigarette of the day. 

Now my breakfasts are more varied, pastries and coffee one week, homemade juice and greek yogurt the next. But it's interesting to recall those childhood breakfasts and what impressions last longest about certain types of food. I remember being surprised when Pem explained in France that eggs aren't commonly eaten for breakfast, or finding salad at the breakfast buffet in Asian hotels. 

Check out this NYT magazine article, which takes a look at what kids around the world typically eat for breakfast. Which one comes closest to what you ate as a kid?

(Photo credit: NYT article photographer, Hannah Whittaker)

Nov 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday - The Treehouse

Once again time has gotten the better of me, as it does. Now it is already mid-November and I have yet to share the rest of our Italian adventures from August. Alas, the show must go on - so I'm starting a Throwback Thursdays (aka "TBT") series. The series will revisit adventures and photos of months or years past that I've missed along the way. 

For this first edition of Throwback Thursday, I'm taking us to June of this year. For a friend's birthday, we traveled to the outskirts of Chiang Mai to spend our weekend away from the constant construction and traffic in the city. After a perilous drive at night in a wide van on a narrow, winding road, we arrived in utter darkness to our accommodation. The next morning, we awoke in the treetops - not another house nor human in sight. We were cocooned in nature, cut off from the rest of civilization. 

Over the weekend, we hiked to a delicious, cool waterfall in the nest of the forest, sampled homemade curry made with fresh banana flower, rode down the river on a bamboo raft and were expertly prodded and pulled by three local masseuses on the deck of the treehouse. For our friend's birthday, we toasted beers at the local 'pub' (someone's house where we drank semi-cold beers on their stoop), watched a fat lizard hunt for dinner, played some games and ate fluffy birthday cake before falling asleep under a carpet of stars. An unforgettable, and much needed, get-away to recharge.

Here are some more photos from this week's TBT...

Sep 13, 2014

When in Rome, Mangia! - Best Eats


Silky pumpkin and sage custard. Crumbly sour cherry and ricotta frolla. Fragrant, thin slices of potato rosemary pizza. These are some of the new tastes I encountered in Rome, a food-obsessed city that has delicious vegetarian options at reasonable prices (Traveling to Italy as SE Asia resident means everything seems comparatively expensive. Except for wine. Thank god for small miracles.). Here are some of my recommendations for veg-friendly feasting, guilt-free gelato and gifts for foodies.

*Where to Unwind with Friends for Hours over Wine and Good Conversation*
On our first night, we had dinner with Sebastiano and Diana, who we met via our Italian friend in Bangkok. They brought us to Meridionale in the hip Trastevere area across the river from Rome's centro storico. Sebastiano explained that Trastevere is so interesting because it's right in the heart of the city, yet it's built just like some tiny villages in the Italian countryside. This trattoria, tucked away from the bustling crowds of tourists, is instantly welcoming with its low-key but funky interior. This is where the aforementioned pumpkin and sage custard happened, incredibly creamy and bursting with rich flavor. After the antipasti, I had a decadent, perfectly peppery cacio e pepe with a lovely Italian white wine that helped cut the richness. 

Over the meal, we discussed Rome recommendations, talked about what it's like to live in Bangkok, and how challenging it is for young professionals in Italy to find suitable jobs these days. But despite the difficult times, it seemed like everyone still recognized the importance of good food, drink and company. The flow of patrons to Meridionale's few tables never stopped, even as our jet lag came crashing down and we had to leave. By then, the streets were much quieter, emptier as we strolled back to the river and I got a sense of what Sebastiano meant about the tiny Italian village. It was undoubtedly the perfect way to kick-off our exploration of Rome. Thanks, Sebastiano and Diana!

*Where to Enjoy Guilt-Free Gelato*
After our Vespa tour of the city the next afternoon, we were well overdue for some gelato. On our way back to the apartment (AirBnB = best decision ever), we popped into Cambiovita - an organic, vegetarian/vegan cafe and gelateria. Vegan options were abound, including vegan pistachio, dark chocolate and hazelnut, in addition to the usual fruit-based gelato. I went for a sour cherry and (non-vegan) cream combination that absolutely hit the spot, especially after a morning spent on the back of a scooter in relentless sun. With a mission to promote healthy and smart eating, I figured Cambiovita was a good cause and as I daintily threw back the melted dregs of my cup, I promised to return the following day.

*Where to Fuel Up Before Visiting the Vatican*
Recommended by Italian food expert/blogger Katie Parla and her amazing food app, Romeo was a much needed treat after a long morning of spontaneous exploration devolved into two hangry people (okay, maybe only one) getting lost. This restaurant/deli offers just the fuel needed to face the hordes of tourists at the Vatican later that afternoon - huge slabs of varied pizza cut and weighed to order, fresh sandwiches on pillowy foccacia, and an interesting selection of wine and craft beers. Pem had a nice glass of wine wine with an Asian take on spaghetti - green beans, sesame and some soybean paste. It was creative and tasted good, but a little too heavy and salty for me. I opted for a ladylike and delicious Duchessa beer, paired with two un-ladylike slabs of pizza - a heavenly potato-rosemary combination and another with plump cherry tomatoes, oregano, hollandaise and fresh mozzarella. Sharing was tough and the service was wonderful - a winning combination. 

*Where to Have a Romantic Dinner*
Thoroughly battered from an afternoon touring the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica, we treated ourselves to a relaxing, romantic dinner al fresco at Obika. Although a global chain, Obika started ten years ago and has been a long-time partner of the Italian Slow Food Presidia, committing to using local products and traditions. Interestingly, contrary to what one may believe are staples of Italian cuisine, none of their dishes feature garlic or onions (I was dubious, Pem was thankful). We chose their Parlamento location - tucked into the corner of a tiny piazza, it felt more like a neighborhood locals' spot.  Our waiter, who excitedly shared he was also vegetarian, recommended us a refreshing chickpea and mint salad, which we paired with a wonderful smoked mozzarella and grilled vegetable pizza. Everything went down smooth and easy, and no one remembered the missing garlic or onions at all.

*Where to Find Breakfast and Snacks for the Train to Naples*
After Katie Parla's Romeo recommendation, I decided to also follow her advice on pastries and baked goods - Roscioli. A deli/bakery with a separate restaurant, Roscioli is basically a carb-lovers' dream. Breads, pastries, and other carb-y goodness piled atop one another, smelling fresh and inviting on our last morning in Rome. We (I) determine we are going to starve on the one-hour train ride to Naples and buy enough for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next two days. And even then, I wish I had bought more of their pizzette rustiche - mini tarts with a dollop of the most delicious tomato sauce I've ever had. Even soggy and crushed from the train ride, these were delectable. And for more days than probably recommended, we kept nibbling on their ricotta e spinaci torta, a heavy, quiche-shaped pastry that was actually much bigger, and more delicious, than it looked.

*Where to Buy Local Food Products/Gifts*
On our way to the Vatican (before the hangry phase kicked in), we stumbled upon a cute shop in Trastevere that I ended up buying basically all of my gifts from. La Cardellina is a bio/eco-friendly shop with citrus and herb-infused olive oils, organic honey grappa, and loads of natural beauty products. The fellow there was very friendly and enthusiastic about the products and the prices were right. Also, the bottles of honey, grappa, and olive oil come in various sizes so it's perfect for gift-giving to family and friends!

Sep 7, 2014

When in Rome...

What can one say about Italy that hasn't been said before? We had an incredible time traversing the land of abundant and stunning architecture, history and art, and sampling as many incredible wines, pizza and gelato as we dared. Over ten days, we took a Vespa tour of Rome, discovered Naples' underground scene, hiked to the crater of a volcano on the Aeolian island of Vulcano, and celebrated our friends' beautiful wedding in Reggio-Calabria.  It all went by like a flash as most vacations usually do. But I know now that my first trip to Italy will certainly not be my last! First up, some highlights from our four days in the Eternal City...

Central Rome in August feels a little bit like Washington, D.C. in summertime. Most locals have fled for more tranquil environs, and tourists, busloads of them, overtake the city. Perhaps this befalls the historically-blessed cities with culturally significant sites scattered in every neighborhood. The Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum - you can be completely clueless wandering Rome's Centro Storico and still stumble upon some grand, ancient edifice. Our Italian friend in Bangkok explained this was why Rome didn't have any central subway stations - every time they would start digging, they found another ancient ruin! This was perfect for us, since Pem and I usually have conflicting opinions about directions most of the time. 

There is no better way to get a sense of Rome than from the back of a Vespa. Our Scooteroma guides Ipatzio and Jacopo were safe and courteous drivers, and had a wealth of knowledge about their city. They showed us how the real Romans drink from the copious, and decorous, water fountains around the city -  instead of dipping your head down to drink, you plug the flow with a finger and sip from the stream of water that jets out from a small hole in the top of the nasone like a water fountain. Jacopo, a former history scholar, was particularly careful about accuracy. As we rested at the Porta San Sebastiano, he explained to us the cultural significance of the via Appia Antica, where it is said that Jesus appeared to St. Peter as he was fleeing the city and St. Peter asked him, "Domine, quo vadis?" Jesus replied, "I am going to Rome to be crucified again" after which St. Peter returned into the city and was promptly crucified. Pointing my finger down the road, I said, "Oh wow, so down this road is where it happened?" Jacopo replied with a shrug, "Well, maybe..."

The best part of our time in Rome was being able to walk everywhere and anywhere. In Bangkok, walking outdoors is usually brief and in designated areas. It was such a treat to meander the back lanes, discovering inspired street art, being quietly but carefully observed by the neighborhood cat's suspicious gaze, or tucking into a small bar for a glass of rose and being treated to complimentary, and delicious, slices of vegetarian pizza. The gelaterias every few blocks didn't hurt either, except that I still had to fit into my dress for the wedding!

Visiting St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican museum were incredible, albeit overwhelming. Hundreds of tourists were waiting in line when we arrived early afternoon, and I was thankful for the Vatican museum's online booking system. However, the hordes hardly stopped from when we entered to when we left in the early evening, feet aching and minds reeling. But there would be those moments, like when you suddenly realize you're staring at Michelangelo's La Pieta or the beauty of the afternoon rays of sun streaming through the ornate, dark Basilica, to help you remember why you came in the first place.