On a saturday night, the PhD students of plant sciences, bioinformatics and medical sciences gathered in an apartment at Poststrasse and played mixology, aka, cocktail mixing.

I had very little knowledge about cocktails, and even much more limited idea on mixing.  But the scientist in me knew this is gonna be a fun little experiment.  So before I went to the cocktail party with a bottle of tequila, I googled a bit on the topic.  I was surprised.  There is in fact a term molecular mixology (!).  Mr. Wiki defined it as:

Molecular mixology is the term applied to the process of creating cocktails using the scientific equipment and techniques of molecular gastronomy.

These methods enable the creation of greater intensities and varieties of flavour, flavour combinations and different ways of presenting drinks, for example using gels, powders, foams, atomised sprays etc., as well as affecting the appearance of the cocktail.

Isn’t it cool?!  I am, BTW, eversince I can remember, have always been intrigued and interested in food science.

Going back to the party… Since we are so fond of experimenting and we just can’t get enough of it, we experimented on some ingredients and tried our hands and taste buds on them.  With some alcoholic drinks, fruit juices, syrups, sugar powder, and ice cubes in hand, equipped with the usual kitchen stuff like knife, cutting board, glasses and shaker, and geared with the most important experimental protocol recipe, we had fun cutting, mixing, and tasting.

The recipe.

We started with a simple drink Mojito – In a glass, gather some fresh mint leaves and tear them down (or crush it a little), add some brown sugar, throw in 3-4 ice cubes, pour some Sprite until half glass full, and add a punch of rum.  Ahhhh!  Refreshing and so easy to make!

After our first drink, we next prepared the colorful drink Tequila sunrise – Add a couple of milliliters of Tequila, pour in cold orange juice until half full, slowly pour in about 20 ml of grenadine syrup, and watch as the rich red color of the syrup slowly diffuse into a gradient with the orange  juice to create a layer of  “sunrise” colors.  Beautiful (!).

The next is a fairly strong Alibi – In a shaker, add 10 ml grenadine syrup, 10 ml cream, 80 ml vodka, and 30 ml amaretto. Throw in some  crushed ice and give it a hard shake.  Pour into a fresh glass and enjoy every sip.

What I really liked about this drink is the after taste.  On my first sip, I was a bit frightened by the very strong kick of vodka. But right after the vodka, my mouth is tickled with the pleasant taste of amaretto, the sweet syrup, and the richness of the cream.

This next drink was popular to the girls of the group. I call it the Pitu lemon –  Cut a fresh green lemon into cubes and throw it in a glass.  Crush the lemon until its juices came out, add a spoonful of brown sugar, throw in a handful of crushed ice, and add about 10 to 20 ml of Pitu.  Mix thoroughly and enjoy a refreshing drink perfect for a warm summer night along the beach.  Only, we are in a kitchen in a cold gray night.  But it was not that bad.  And we had fun!

This last mix was my favorite.  I call it Vipul’s concoction – In a shaker, pour in Pitu, grenadine syrup, and cream (sahne) in 1:1:1 by volume, throw in lots of crushed ice, and give it a really hard shake.  Pour it in a glass and get creative with some cocktail decorations.  Here we used a slice of green melon secured on one side of the glass and on it stacked an umbrella and a toothpick carrying a fruit tomato.  You can also throw in some cranberries which are perfect to complement this creamy drink.

Cocktails are great for entertaining.  We had so much fun mixing and drinking.  Just perfect for a rather cold and boring weekend. Cocktail parties will definitely be in my schedule the next time I entertain.  And oh! I can’t wait to try this with my best friend!  Only, we are in the opposite sides on the world 😦


I love doing experiments.

I need to do experiments.

I enjoy working in the lab.

This, I know, is what I am born to do.

As much as I love experimenting in the lab, I too, love experimenting in the kitchen.  I somehow associate experimenting with cooking.  And these words are interchangeable in my dictionary. 🙂

AT WORK:  The lab is my kitchen and my samples are my recipe.  My results are the products of my hard work- they are the food I have created.  But I also understand that doing science is not just about the fun part- cooking.  It is actually about serving your meals to the people a.k.a. your costumers.  It is about the purpose- the costumer´s satisfaction and their nourishment.  It´s purpose is to nourish- to promote growth, to better knowledge and deepen understanding, to foster the development of research and technology for the betterment of humanity.  Science involves writing and making it known to the public.  It is about publishing.  “Publish or perish” right?  And so, the pressure is up, but the projects are most often than not frustrating.  This cooking career requires skills, patience, lots of troubleshooting, and tons of faith and prayer. But I enjoy it anyhow…

AT THE KITCHEN:  I experiment on new recipes. I search for ingredients and I get a bit creative and flexible with it.  I look for alternatives, and this is the fun part of it. It takes courage and experience to create new things, and this is what it takes to create new recipes.  And resourcefulness wouldn´t hurt either.  And this is what I just did.  I used my resourcefulness 🙂

I picked some fresh sour cherries at my institute´s garden, washed them thoroughly and patiently pitted them one by one. I then transferred the pitted cherries in a cooking vessel on a low heat. I added a handful of white sugar and I brought it into a boil.  I set aside some of the juice extracts from the marmalade and then I poured a half bottle of red wine into the pot.  I continuously heat it up until the alcohol from the wine was reduced.  This is to concentrate all the rich flavors from the sour cherry, the sugar, and the wine.  I came to a product I call cherry wine marmalade.

Oh my, I love the taste!  It is perfect for my early morning (plain) yoghurt (I also tried it with freshly cut banana, and it´s wonderful!), or top it on a vanilla ice cream.

I also turned the juice extract from the marmalade into a wonderful cherry cocktail.  I filtered the extract it into a bottle, added some sugar for added sweetness, or vodka, for a kick.  I gathered some ice cubes and put it in, gave a hard shake  and  wahhhlahhhh!!!! My refreshing cherry drink.

I served these to my friends when I hosted a dinner one Saturday night in my apartment and they loved it.  It just complemented the pineapple chicken and buttered veggies I served for the main course. We did enjoy the ice cream topped with cherry marmalade and the cherry cocktail while we sang our hearts out in youtube karaoke and laugh our night through it.

That´s the thing with experimenting in the kitchen over cooking in the lab – I always get good results, a smile on my face and a happy stomach.

Being an Asian who grew up in Asia and has only been to Asia (confined to the Philippines and Taiwan, and has recently been to India), I am so inquisitive on anything (different) about the Western culture, its people, its weather, its vegetation, and all nice things this temperate region has to offer.

I had experienced my first snowy wet winter.  Oh goodness!  That was hard.  It was always gray, gloomy, cold to the bones, and depressing.  Okay, I’m exaggerating… I know it’s not Alaska or Canada or Norway. It’s just Cologne, Germany. But you can’t blame me. I flew from hot Philippines to white, snow-covered Germany.  It was heat shock, if you must say.

I too had experienced a pleasant spring that filled my soul with colors and glow.  Oh!  How I loved those spring flowers abloom, the warm kiss from the sun, and the birds’ singing that greets me a nice morning.  Most of these flowers I met the first time.  Here is an interesting species of flora and fauna and I enjoy every sight of them.

Summer is not less fun either. I am so loving the long days here. Winter depression is now long time gone, and the spirit is on high. I am even much more productive and effective at work, even in doing  (frustrating) experiments.

The days start early at about 4:30 and ends at about 22:30  Is that not awesome?  That even after a long day’s work, one can still enjoy the sunshine for a jog… a stroll in the park….. or…. apple and cherry picking. How wonderful.

BTW and FIY, this was my first time to meet Mr. Apple Tree, Ms. Cherry Tree, and their friends Ms. Pear, little Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Bilberry, lovely Olive, and beautiful Plum.   My eyes twinkled at the sight of them!

Thanks to the gardeners who painstakingly maintains the MPIZ gardens.  Great to know that my new friends are just around the campus and I guess I will be their constant visitor from now on 🙂

Photo: Rain

I’m spent.

But in a good way.

I am happy. Blessed.

But tired. Exhausted.

I haven’t had time to write for a while.

That’s because I am busy. Busy with lab works. With experiments.

And right now, I have to admit, I am enjoying the pressure and stress.

I need it to push me. To somehow motivate me.

But I know too that I need to stop for a while.

Body is shouting for rest and long sleep.

Bones and muscles are crying for massage.

So while, I cannot write more…

I am posting this photo.

Taken last May in Austria when I attended an ‘omics’ meeting…

during our last dinner after it just had rained.

Spring Walk

It´s spring time and I am so loving it!  The weather, the fresh plants, the green trees, the flowers, the butterflies and the bees, the birds, the sunlight, and the longer daylight.  And it´s the best time for a walk.

And so our group went into what we call a spring walk.  Into the small village called Eifel.

It was nice to be out of the lab as a group.  We enjoyed nature together; and basked in the sun, smelled the fresh air, and adored the breathtaking view of the vineyards.

We saw new things, new plants. Talked about different flora and fauna. Picked and ate wild strawberries.  Saw slugs of different colors and sizes.  Discussed about the movie Into the Wild… as we hiked up and down the wine road and mountain tracks.  While I enjoyed taking photos and documenting our walk. 🙂

It was tiring. However, refreshing. And cathartic.  It was a lovely walk indeed!

Out of the many frustrations in the lab these past few days,  I went home early, picked up some flowers on the way home and decorated my room.

I love plants. I’m a plant biologist, obviously.  And I love working with them in the lab.  Down into the molecular level.  But sometimes the lab works just drown me down…

I then go back to the plants, because I find them relaxing. Especially the flowers!  Oh, how I love to have my own garden. Someday, I would have my farm.

Right now, I am so loving my flowers.  It gives life to my room.  Another living organism in my rather empty room. Whom I can talk to, or sing to.. why not?

Oh, Thank God for plants!  Especially the flowers 🙂

Smart talks

If you are to survive in this scientific community, you must learn how to do humor… And see humor in every situation and conversation possible.

This email sent to everyone in our institute just gave me a pleasing smile.  What a wit, isn’t it?

Hello there. If accidentally you ran over a couple of toads and smashed them in the floor on the latest days you may be missing your glasses. I found them! Please pick them up at B’s office. Do it for the toads.