Tuesday, December 19, 2006

With whom I will spend my weekend

An email I received today made me smile. Sent by my best friend S, it detailed to a T how she planned to leave the key to her place when I arrive on Friday. Typical of S, it has bullet points, and contigency plans galore. I felt like I was receiving an encrypted code to the biggest military secret!

Likewise, S has also planned out the few days I'll be staying with her: dinner, the ballet, Christmas dinner. Those also came in a second list. Such obsessive detailed emails are not so suprising from her, since I've known her to be like that since the time we lived together in China. I don't know if it's just her Germanic upbringing that makes her like that or if she is just the kind of person who feels unable to live without order. Luckily, I'm not averse to small portions of letting her take care of everything, so long as she doesn't start parcelling out an allowance I should be fine.

S and I won't be spending Xmas alone, we have a guest, A flying in from Texas. S and A were housemates in Texas when S was an exchange student back in high school. S calls A her American sister, while I'm her Filipino sister. I didn't get to meet A during S's wedding last year in Germany, but I've heard a lot about her, and vice versa. We're looking forward to getting to know each other over the few days I'll be with the two of them. It will also be A's first trip to Asia, she'll be travelling through China for a few days between stops at S's place. I'm sure we'll spend enough time preparing her for her trip that she'll be like those kids heading off to summer camp looking like the michelin man, prepared for all contigencies, and bid farewell by teary eyed parents, handkerchief's fluttering adieu. We have maps! guidebooks! words to keep her safe from chinese toilets! menus! antibacterial wipes! bad tummy pills! more maps! A bandaid?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tis the season for sticky fingers

A little over a month ago, I saw a link on the New York Times Online to a recipe for No-knead Bread, an article by Mark Bittman who writes the Minimalist column for the Times. He featured the recipe made famous by Jim Lahey, a breadmaker in New York City; Sullivan St. Bakery makes great boules of bread, crusty loaves ready for a pairing with a slather of butter and a sprinkling of sea salt. Mr. Lahey said that this recipe is so easy, even a 6 year old can make great bread.

After reading the recipe a few times, I decided to try making my own bread. I've made fruit breads before, the no-yeast needed kind, but never a plain loaf of bread. Other bloggers, Joey and Lori, have chronicled their own experiments with bread making in the past; they've acknowledged how restful making bread can be, not to mention the delight in having your own loaf of bread, made by your own hands. Since my right arm is affected by carpal tunnel syndrome, I've avoided too much pressure on my wrist for months, and the no-knead aspect of the Sullivan recipe seemed just right for me. In lieu of kneading, the dough rests for a minimum of 12 hours, preferably 18 hours.

Before I began, I read a lot of the other bloggers writing about their attempts at the bread; most of them were in N. America and Europe. Many of them were successful, several had failed at getting the right kind of flour or using too much water. And the latter was what I was most worried about (ok, second most worried about after what pot to use, see below). I'm not much of a food scientist, but other bloggers have commented that the humidity in the tropics makes a lot of the Martha Stewartesque cooking/baking projects less than ideal. It's also dang hot to be baking, and my kitchen doesn't have airconditioning. So I knew that I had to adjust the water in the recipe.

The basic recipe calls for the ff to be mixed and then left alone for 18 hours: 3 cups flour (all purpose or bread. I used Gold Medal All purpose flour.), yeast, 1 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1 5/8 cups of water. Several of the bloggers who've tested the recipe said that the amount of water was too much, and that the video showed Mr. Sullivan scooping in flour without tamping it down the scoop, which would make it 3 heaping cups of flour, changing the ratio of flour to water from the actual recipe. Well give the guy a break folks, he's been making the bread for ages, so he doesn't have to be exact any longer! I planned to try one attempt sticking to the recipe as written, then planned another using less water.

Sure enough the first attempt was too wet, and nearly impossible to work with. My kitchen probably goes up to 28-29 degrees celcius during the day, while the estimated room temperature in the recipe states to leave the dough in a warm, draftless room of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Sorry I'm not about to recalculate that here, but needless to say, my kitchen is way warmer than the average N.American/European one. The humidity soaked in by the dough made the blob look like a wet oatmeal mixture. I added more flour on the workspace, and added more flour to the dough, but by the time I went through all that, the proofing for another 2 hours and then the baking time of 50 minutes, the bread was looking a bit too flat, and had a burnt top alongside a not-quite-cooked interior. Attempt 1: failure.

Attempt 2 had less water and a different yeast. The first time, I only had a packet of active yeast, the red star brand I think. And I dumped the packet's contents in, without measuring. Not a good idea. This time around, I made sure I only had 1/4 teaspoon of the bubble makers, and used the instant yeast as indicated in the recipe. 1.5 cups of water, same flour and salt combination. The dough looked a lot better, after 18 hours it actually looked like dough, not a wet rag imitating dough on a bad day. I folded it over to create a seam, let it rest for 15 minutes and then another fold onto a kitchen towel dusted with flour for the last rise for 2 hours. Plopped it into the pot and 50 minutes later (30 covered, 20 uncovered), I had bread! A perfect crust, and the bottom was cooked this time. Am pleased as punch, and happily filled with freshly made bread this morning. Made with my hands and the luxury of time.

The biggest concern I had making this was the issue with the cooking implements. I don't have an oven, and make do with a turbo broiler. Not too bad when I need to bake brownies, but this was bread. I did more online research and thought it would work. But while reading the bread recipe and other bloggers comments, I was starting to worry a bit more since I didn't have a Le Creuset enamel covered pot, or anything that would fit what was within the parameters stated by the recipe. Then another troll down online recipes gave me a eureka moment. One blogger said that she or he used a crockpot bowl. So I dug out the old crockpot, found a ceramic plate that would withstand the heat - instant enamel pot with lid.

I'll be tinkering a bit with the recipe to see if I can add some olive oil without damaging the texture of the dough. And maybe some walnuts. I heart walnut bread.

12/19 addendum: a third attempt last night was sort of successful. A much longer resting period (24 hours) resulted in a light sourdough flavor, but the crockpot needs to be pre-heated for more than 25 minutes, as the bottoms tend to take forever to cook! I've had nice crusts, with a chewiness to the bread that's perfect for hearty meals.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ho ho ho with a jelly belly and snowy white hair

It's really useful for schools to have a principal/headmaster who looks like Santa. It's double duty. During the holidays, dress him up in a red suit, add a bit more facial hair, and viola! Off he trots to greet parents and kids, plus have him parade later for the staff party.

I read that people who dress up as Santa's in malls and other events have one of the highest levels of stress. They have to deal with recalcitrant kids, annoying parents, long lines, sitting, kids sitting on them, kids whizzing on them, crying, puking, screaming at them, pulling on the beard. Is it any wonder that another image of those part time Santas is them walking into their neighborhood bar after a day's work, drowning their sorrows? Bad Santa indeed.

The craziest request I ever sent to Santa was a pony when I was 5.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Memory

Friend M is preparing for the office xmas party, they have planned a 10 minute version of Cats. As I talked to her about it, I remembered listening to the soundtrack of the London cast's version way way back. Songs flooded back to mind, and I could recall some lyrics. My favorite part is not Memory, but the Naming of the Cats. And as the entire play is based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and other poems by TS Eliot, I did a Google search and came across the poems online. Here are my favorite bits:

THE NAMING OF CATS
The naming of cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
..."
and the last stanza goes

"But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover -
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name."

I sincerely believe this, just try to call a cat and see if they'll listen to you. Honestly. Like banging your head against a brick wall....

Sorry.

So, along the lines of the research, I found that Memory is not in the list of Eliot's poems from
OLD POSSUM..., but taken from "Rhapsody on a Windy Night" and "Preludes":

(snippets)
"8Every street lamp that I pass
9Beats like a fatalistic drum,
10And through the spaces of the dark
11Midnight shakes the memory
12As a madman shakes a dead geranium.

13
Half-past one,
14The street lamp sputtered,
15The street lamp muttered,

50"Regard the moon,
51La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
52She winks a feeble eye,
53She smiles into corners.
54She smoothes the hair of the grass.
55The moon has lost her memory.
56A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
57Her hand twists a paper rose,
58That smells of dust and old Cologne,
59She is alone
60With all the old nocturnal smells
61That cross and cross across her brain."
62The reminiscence comes
63Of sunless dry geraniums
64And dust in crevices,
65Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
66And female smells in shuttered rooms,
67And cigarettes in corridors
68And cocktail smells in bars."
- Rhapsody on a Windy Night


I
1The winter evening settles down
2With smell of steaks in passageways.
3Six o'clock.
4The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
5And now a gusty shower wraps
6The grimy scraps
7Of withered leaves about your feet
8And newspapers from vacant lots;
9The showers beat
10On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
11And at the corner of the street
12A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
13And then the lighting of the lamps.

II
14The morning comes to consciousness
15Of faint stale smells of beer
16From the sawdust-trampled street
17With all its muddy feet that press
18To early coffee-stands.

19With the other masquerades
20That time resumes,
21One thinks of all the hands
22That are raising dingy shades
23In a thousand furnished rooms.

III
24You tossed a blanket from the bed,
25You lay upon your back, and waited;
26You dozed, and watched the night revealing
27The thousand sordid images
28Of which your soul was constituted;
29They flickered against the ceiling.
30And when all the world came back
31And the light crept up between the shutters
32And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
33You had such a vision of the street
34As the street hardly understands;
35Sitting along the bed's edge, where
36You curled the papers from your hair,
37Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
38In the palms of both soiled hands.

IV
39His soul stretched tight across the skies
40That fade behind a city block,
41Or trampled by insistent feet
42At four and five and six o'clock;
43And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
44And evening newspapers, and eyes
45Assured of certain certainties,
46The conscience of a blackened street
47Impatient to assume the world.

48I am moved by fancies that are curled
49Around these images, and cling:
50The notion of some infinitely gentle
51Infinitely suffering thing.

52Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
53The worlds revolve like ancient women
54Gathering fuel in vacant lots.
- PRELUDES


Cats and Phantom... don't make my personal list of favorite musicals of all time, but Cats has an advantage over Phantom - I like cats (chortle), and the songs are poetic. Phantom has always come off as a B-rated gothic horror to me. And don't bring up Sarah Brightman, yoiks.

Meowowowow


Monday, December 11, 2006

Health watch Dec 11

Short note to self - get rid of the cakes in the fridge and be at the gym at least 4x this week. Last 5 days have been awful: eating, drinking, not exercising, going to bed at 3 a.m. Didn't help that it rained yesterday. No excuse of course. Am probably 5 lbs heavier today. Oh well. Nutritionist will be grouchy when she sees my log.

Weekend of Tchaikovsky

An invite from A found me sitting surrounded by children at the Aliw Theater last Thursday, watching the Nutcracker for the first time in Manila (I saw it in Hong Kong and in New York several years ago). The Ballet Manila troupe did a good job, Lisa Macuja was as elegant as ever. I saw two flubs that made me wonder if she planned to fire her male dancers but figured it's hard enough to find male dancers around here that she probably will just flog them for good measure. Both times it was near accidents for her, but she has enough poise in her pinky finger to get through them, cheeks frozen in her smile.

If I had a billion US dollars, I'd definitely give Ballet Manila some of the money, primarily to help their set designers with the backdrops. There was a lopsided chandelier, teetering on the edge of falling over the dancers, and the tie-dyed curtains (made to look like, snow? icedrops? something odd and pastel) didn't make me think xmas and wintery at all. The dancers also need new costumes, although the snowdrop tutus looked very pretty and elegant. Of course professional development would be a major investment. Get those ballerinas professionalized so that they don't have to do this part time. Let's finance the Opera company as well. Sigh. So many projects, not enough dough to go around.

The next night, I met up with friends V and C at the main CCP hall for a christmas concert. I didn't know that resident musical director Castillo was not going to conduct. This year, former musical director Ruggieri was back at the baton. I usually see him conducting at the Pen xmas concert, so there was a bit of disappointment since Castillo's more modern, a bit of a renegade. However, I sat and enjoyed the atmosphere, surrounded by Leandro Locsin's modern floating architecture, and the luxury of good music. The first half was taken from several of Tchaikovsky's operas and ballets, Eugene Onegin and the Sleeping Beauty suite (I could hear several people singing along). The second half was filled with christmas carols and a strangely out of place Filipino song that was played like we were in a '70's disco lounge. I zoned out and mentally ticked off my chores for the weekend.

The final Tchaikovsky note came last night, watching the BBC documentary on up and coming violinist Niccola Bennedetti (spelling?). At 18, she's got the chops, the virtuoso, and is smouldering and sexy. She makes listening and attending violin concertos far more visually appealing. However, she is still a musician. One of the pieces she rehearsed and performed during the docu was a Tchaikovsky concerto, one of his harder pieces. I believe she recorded it for one of her albums.

I have the urge to go and play the 1812 ... boom!

Many faces on the highway

Since Milenyo, the billboards along EDSA have become the rallying cry of politics, urban developers and general noise makers. Take them down, keep them up, ugly warts of advertising, necessary marketing strategy, etc, etc. One billboard, near the Guadalupe intersection is remarkable for it's size and for some of the ads they've had up there.

The last three ads have definitely spiced up my morning ride. The first one that really made me wonder about the state of education in this country was the Myra E ad with Dawn Zulueta espousing some moisturizer. The logo was grammatically mangled and had a prepositional phrase that drove me insane each time I glanced upon it. Can't even remember what it was, must have repressed it from my memory.

The second was the Manny Pacquio ad, sponsored by Nike. Set up right before his third fight with Morales, it had Pacman in a victory pose (perhaps foreshadowing or hedging their bets); but what made it a bit questionable in taste was the distinct bloody look of the ad. Ok, so boxing is a blood sport, but it looked like he was awash with blood - his own or that of his opponent. My friend M said if they had used Morales it would have been cuter since he's got a nicer face. Er, I don't think the idea was to make it look cute anyway.

Now, the Belo ad. Several of her clients and the doctor herself stand in a photo spread taken from the Vanity Fair spreads. Dressed to the nines, espousing holiday cheer, their faces looking polished, primped, bodies tight. Yet, it's one of the saddest, glummest holiday ads I've ever seen. Not one of them looks particularly happy or in the holiday mood. They're all pouting. Ara Mina is dressed to look like she's going to her senior prom (another pink dress that doesn't cut it). Albert Martinez is sickly orange. But the topper for me is the strangely alien looking Pops Fernandez, reclining on the chaise. I didn't recognize her and it only dawned on me who she was this morning after seeing the ad several times. She's changed, not for the better. And she reminds me of the alien on the cartoon "American Dad". Her eyes have either become closer together or something about the angle of the photo seen from below that makes them look cross-eyed. One of her least attractive photos. And she, too, doesn't dare crack a smile. Oh, yes, I forgot, they all probably took their Botox shots the day of the shoot.

Hey, MMDA, when are the billboards coming down????

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In lieu of decor

Moving to my new place last year, I chose not to decorate during the holidays. I maintain the same attitude this year. No tree, tinsel, lights, fake reindeer and snow will clutter up my domain. I have enough clutter (plus a cat who is liable to chew on the lights and leave me sans furry companion, but a very bad odor that'll stick to the walls if I know my destiny).

What makes the season for me is Christmas music. Carols, the christmas concerts, even hearing the occasional Jingle Bells inside the mall, awakens the spirit inside me. I'm attending two concerts at the CCP and the Peninsula. Both will be full of classical carols, western and filipino. Two years ago, I remember attending the CCP/Philippine Philharmonic concert, and have gone to two Peninsula concerts in the same number of years. The former can be very freewheeling, especially if the conductor decides to broaden our horizons to new sources of Christmas songs. He threw in S. American carols the last time. While the Peninsula is a tried and true formula. Traditional carols, mostly western, with a couple of Filipino songs, a modern piece, then the Hallelujah Chorus at the end to top it off. The tree glitters in the background, the smell of nutmeg and butter and richness all around. I usually have to get to the Pen around 3 p.m for a decent table along the mezzanine, as all the tables in the lobby are packed. By then, I'm full of seasonal joy and goodwill, and a definite pushover when faced with my nephew and nieces' puppy dog looks for something for their proverbial stockings.

This year, I have an escape plan....

Books of the same feather

I'm reading THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TO RAIN: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel by Alexander McCall Smith, the third in the series on the life of a fortysomething single philosopher and editor of the Ethical Times. Unlike his other series on Mme. Ramotswe, which are termed mysteries, but tend to be gentle fables with a hint of a dead body now and then, the Isabel Dalhousie books are wordier, abstract, and border on the didactic. There was one "murder" at the beginning of the series, but the last book (FRIENDS, LOVERS, CHOCOLATE) and this one tends to philosophical and romantic constructs. What I enjoy about these two is the development of Isabel's emotional connection with Jamie, the younger man and former boyfriend of Isabel's niece, Cat. Isabel sees the 14 year age difference as a major obstacle, offering Jamie a gentle, dignified friendship, with a large dose of philosophy (that is her job after all). In Attitude to Rain, Jamie's feelings towards Isabel progress in a direction romantics would approve of, although it does lead to ethically or is it morally? questionable actions on the part of the two.

However, McCall Smith doesn't divert too much between the Isabel Dalhousie books and those of his more famous Mme. Ramotswe mysteries (also known as the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series). Both have female protagonists, more or less in charge of their own lives and with a general sense of fiscal independence. They're both analytical women, single, but with a past bad relationship (Precious Ramotswe was abused by her husband, and in one volume is revisited by her ex; Isabel recalls on occasion her relationship with an emotionally abusive partner). There are subordinate characters, usually female as well. And the male objects of affection are gentlemen, with their own emotional baggage, but nothing to deter the female leads from another lease on life. The author also seems to find that women in their forties a lot more interesting than younger ages. And is it just a coincidence that both roles have fond memories of their fathers, Precious more so than Isabel?

Both series are enjoyable without being too mentally taxing. I can imagine a growth in interest in visiting Botswana and Scotland by his fans, seeking signs of inspiration for the characters.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Prestige has nothing on our bees

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. What do you do when a swarm of bees builds a hive?

At 1 p.m. today, and it would have to be a Monday, one of the managers pointed out that there was a beehive along the overhang of our school driveway. With little ones running around, we cordoned off the area, not that the barriers stopped the inquisitive minds from standing within ten feet of the hive and the bees. A few more pilyo kids (brats?) gave us all instructions on how to remove the hive, attack the queen, reduce it to dust. We gravely told them that we are leaving the extermination to the experts.

Around 3, as I was walking down the hall, I noticed that the hive was looking a tad ratty. Frayed at the edge of the dome, and looking like it was holding on for dear life. My initial thought was that the rain had disintegrated the bits, but couldn't for the life of me figure out why the other bees weren't protecting the hive. As I stood there to watch, it slowly unravelled. Little by little, the edges disappeared until the entire hive was gone. Poof! I'd never seen anything like it before and it was a magical moment.

The guards tracked some of the bees to the backyard and the exterminators were directed there later. But for a few hours, we had our own honey pot that magically appeared and disappeared.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

miscellany at the end of the month

There looks to be an explosion of chocolate at Serendra; three possible spots offering chocolate in some permutation or another: Cacao, Xocolat, and Chocolate Shop. Plus a dessert place, Miss Desserts (spelling and names may not be exact, my fault).

For the first time in 3 training sessions, I didn't feel like dying during the 4 minute ab session. Getting stronger perhaps.

Bought a Starbucks Christmas CD compilation; what do the songs "L-O-V-E" and "I'll be seeing you" have to do with Christmas? I love the songs, and the former is sung in the original format, Nat King Cole; while Peggy Lee does her velvety bit on the latter (I do prefer the Jo Stafford version). Overall a nice seasonal record, classic songs, classic singers.

And I was pleased to read an early review of the movie version of PERFUME (novel by Patrick Suskind). Read it, be chilled, and hope the film is half as good.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Health report November 2006

After 2 meetings with the trainer, and 2 sessions with the weight mgmt counselor, I was pleased to see a reduction in both body fat and weight (although the latter may be staying steady after this last weekend! Glorious sugar! heeheehee). I am now 3 lbs lighter, and 4% less fatty. Whoohoo!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Aling Auring's

Bulacan is famous for fireworks (Bocaue has a whole street dedicated to selling paputok galore) and pastillas de leche and probably other toothsome delights. 3 friends and I headed North yesterday for a day trip of lunch and sightseeing, and found a few delights to share with those who stayed at home.

We ate home made quesong puti (the local ricotta/cottage cheese, made from carabao milk), a local longganisa (our hosts then gave us one kilo each which made the ride home, er, aromatic to say the least), and discovered a hidden pastillas/espasol vendor that made it all worthwhile.

Aling Auring's store is along the Maharlika Highway connecting the North Luzon Expressway (exit Sta. Rita) and the northern provinces. We were heading back to Manila and the directions given were a bit odd, but there was time and energy enough to do a bit of seek and find. We were told "look for Sevillas, then you should see St. Paul College on the right. There will be a tall column and that is where Aling Auring's is." We saw Sevillas, not one but three stalls, but not a hair of St. Paul's College. Which made us think that the column wasn't going to pop up, but just as we were thinking bad thoughts about the people who gave us directions, I caught sight of a wooden board with ALING AURING'S crudely written on it, with the movies at a local cinema listed below. We backtracked and parked in the empty lot, and peered cautiously at the dark and rather sinister looking store front. No one was there to serve, and the counter looked stocked with black plastic bags. Not quite the look of a famous dessert seller.

We walked in and after calling out to the back, a man came forward blinking and looking like we had roused him from his nap. He confirmed this was indeed Aling Auring's and yes, they sold pastillas de leche and espasol (a sticky rice dessert). We asked for a sample, but no go, so I bought a box to see if it was worth it. It was indeed! Longer than the pastillas de leche you find in commercial places in the city, and made of carabao milk, the milk candies melted in our mouths, bringing us back to childhood goodness. Size alone was enough to make us plunk our money down for 14 boxes of the stuff.

Another buyer walked in while we were waiting for our order to be released and she kindly let us try her sample of espasol. It was quite a revelation. Unlike the espasol in Laguna, Aling Auring has a finely ground paste of rice mixed with brown sugar and what tasted like ginger, steamed and cut into balls. It looked like gnocchi, browner, and sweet. The flour covering wasn't overpowering, it gave a gentle texture without choking you as the sticky rice went down the throat.

Aling Auring's pastillas de leche sells at P90 (or less than US$2.00) for 30 pieces; and the espasol is P75 a box. It was hard to figure out how many pieces of espasol came with the box, but the two layers were densely packed.

As for directions, if you're coming from Manila, you'll barely catch Aling Auring's on the left side of the road, but look out for the Rotary Club sign and there is a tall cell tower on the right side of the road, opposite to the store. If you're heading back to Manila it will be on your right and it is after all the other Sevilla's stores (which sells pastillas, and other Bulacan delicacies). I believe we were in the town of San Miguel, but I will double check and edit if otherwise.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Robert Altman, RIP

"Robert Altman, Iconoclastic Director, Dies at 81

Robert Altman, one of the most adventurous and influential American directors of the late 20th century, a filmmaker whose iconoclastic career spanned more than five decades but whose stamp was felt most forcefully in one, the 1970s, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 81." New York Times, November 21, 2006


Short cuts was a better film than Crash. And I enjoyed Gosford Park very much. Suddenly have the urge to go find my copy of Nashville and Mash.

Brunch part one

There are a few options for a brunch body like me in Manila. The endless hotel buffets are one option, but they tend to be too big, too heavy, too long, too pricey, too too. And as one friend said in passing, she's not into having sushi for breakfast.

The few places that friends have suggested in the past include Lumiere, the M Cafe, and Sala. Over the last two weeks, I've had brunch at 2 of the 3. I will leave my reviews till I complete the triad.

However, here's something to say about the amount of alcohol imbibed at brunch. If some people feel that sushi or lamb chops are not standard breakfast fare (and I have more to say about that below), what about all the alcohol these brunches encourage one to have? At one of the three brunch houses above, the meal comes with a choice of champagne, mimosa or coffee/tea. The other place we had brunch has a limitless champagne selection (our group topped off at 8 rounds of champagne), with choices of cassis, peach or orange infusions. My favorite was the peach.

I'm not sure I agree with drinking all that much at such an early hour. It makes me feel a bit like a lush. And with the lack of the alcohol digestive enzyme inherent in Asians, a glass or two of champagne is enough to make me feel unpleasantly hazy the rest of the day.

Finally, the different opinions on what to expect on a breakfast platter. Growing up in Asia, you get used to having a motley selection of food: western eggs/bacon/pancakes, continental bread and butter, filipino toci/longsi/tapa-log with the necessary garlic rice, or a more chinese inspired dimsum selection or a bowl of congee with pickles. I say, diversity is good for the soul! I'm willing to go from a bowl of hot chocolate with a piece of fruit one day, to fried fish and rice the next. I'll even have oatmeal in all different styles, plain, with fruit, mixed with cinnamon, loaded with nutella, dried in a muesli with yogurt. I hate sticking to one format all the time. The colors, smells, textures, are what make breakfast a fun meal. Whoever said breakfast was boring hasn't lived right. And from the nutritional pov, we should have breakfast, a well balanced one that lets us work long and hard till the sun is high up in the sky when we break for another lovely meal. If I had a legion of maids at my beck and call, breakfast would be the only meal I'd demand from them: a smorgasbord of meats, sweets, breads, and liquids (the champagne can be for a birthday breakfast). What a glorious way to begin each day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Card begone

Using part of the severance pay received from last job, I plunked a good portion into paying off my credit card bills. Years of accumulating debt, paid at last. And given the advise from the venerable Marketman re: the risks of identity theft and loss of credit card on the part of the consumer (check out his posts re: shittybank), I decided to make the most of my new freedom and cut up the cards. We don't have credit history in this country. Makes no sense to have P200,000 or more on one's card when it's not even helping us get loans or improve our standing with the banking system. All it does for me is make me think I have money when I don't.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ruffled Bonds

Over lunch, my friend J and I argue over the merits of femininity and masculinity in ourselves. He says that some of his women friends, including me, have stronger "inner stud" qualities, which overpower our girliness. We think more like men than he does, which sometimes scares off prospective lifemates. He suggests I have a make-over. I point out that as of last Saturday, I am now the owner of ruffled frocks.

Last weekend, needing new clothes, and having some excess funds to squander, I went off to the bazaars and the mall to find something new. My intention was to find some good pants, mostly for work; so many of my pants now are in a state of disrepair. Lining's have started to fray, the fit is starting to look off, and I am bored with the clothes. However, I only found one pair of pants that I liked enough to buy (thanks Marks and Sparks), but I did find 3 dresses at K&Co that I decided to splurge on. The strange thing was that all three had ruffled. Like lacy bits, I've never been into ruffles (except in potato chips), they always seemed like a waste of textile. Plus I had it in my head that ruffles would just add to my avoirdupois. But these three dresses weren't overly ruffly, pardon my terminilogy, and given the streamlined fit and mostly one color context, the ruffles are mere accents. Like most of the other K&Co dresses I've gotten, they're wrap jersey pieces, good travel clothes that don't make life difficult. My pragmatic side to the rescue as J would see it.

The other argument we had was over new Bond, Daniel Craig, and another sexy Brit, Jason Stratham (spelling?). I got to see Casino Royale last Saturday and suggested J watch it. He said he wasn't too keen on the new Bond actor as he had hoped Jason would get the role. We broke it down into components: DC is plug ugly, has a good body, and an amazing voice (speaking). JS has an amazing body, is bald (which J thinks is a negative, but there are a lot of women who see it otherwise), and is Cockney. From one straight woman's perspective, I prefer DC over JS, based on his diction and voice quality; that voice is sexy, plain and simple, I'd forgive any man innumerable sins if he spoke with that timber and accent. JS reminds me of the soccer hooligans, and that is a turnoff. J thinks I'm crazy. Different strokes...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Losing my custom

I know it's the christmas season and the store clerks are going to go insane with dealing with clients. I know that when you're the newest place to go, be seen, you tend to feel like the world is your oyster and who gives a flying leap how poorly you treat your customers. I know that Filipinos, in general, don't complain when treated poorly so we tend to be quiet when in reality, we're seething inside and want to take that stupid plate and knock it on the head of the inanimate creature manning the cashier.

Poor service is going to be the death of a certain "in" dessert place, that just opened and is receiving a lot of press. The owner needs to step up to the plate and fix the extremely rude service agents manning the counter, the lack of a system handling customer orders, and should professionalize the manner of addressing what the customers want. It doesn't take a genius to serve, but it requires a lot of energy and efficiency. Clearcut signs and people who smile even when they feel like collapsing. And an owner that won't sit behind the counter with her back to her irate customers while her people unsmilingly deal with the mess. I won't be going back. Once is enough for me; the desserts are not a high priority item, especially in a city where I know better options that don't come with the aggravation of going through another 20 minute wait to get 4 items.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The gods must have been listening

I started the day in a complete funk, the weather was and remains gloomy guts, my legs have been aching (and not in a just worked out and feeling strong way, more just aching and annoying), and the sense of doing absolutely nothing gripped me. I was enthralled with wallowing in malaise. All the news I read was medically related, both good and bad. I learned that my way of dealing with this cough, which I suspect to be acute bronchitis, is in line with what the research says. Rest and fluids are the best. Medication doesn't do much good. It will go away after a few days or weeks.

One of my favorite bloggers, Lori, wrote up a post on Krispy Kremes and her pictures, never fails, made me salivate. Good thing I read it before lunch, so I could think of something to have to satiate my hunger pangs. However, dealing with the bank stole my appetite away and I found myself back at the office unnourished, and rankled by the atrocious interest rates. Walking down the corridor, I came across one of my workmates carrying two familiar looking boxes. She called out that she got two boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts and if anyone wanted one they'd be at the lounge. We swooped in and had our first Manila original glaze. They were just right, hit that sugar spot; never thought I'd say this but I needed that combination of sugar, fat, formed into a fried glazed disk of joy. Close to perfect, all it needed was to be fresh from the glazing conveyor, partnered with a cup of freshly brewed cup of coffee, and I would be transported. As it is, it gave me a needed push to get through the day!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Early Christmas

Dear Santa,
Ho ho ho, what a lovely feeling you must get each year! People are happy when you've come for a visit and they wish they could throw their arms around you for a hug around that belly of jelly of yours. Yesterday, I felt just like you. I was dressed in more casual gear, and the weather was oppressively tropical; but I truly had that ripple of christmas love and joy for my fellow man, or in this case sister and brother-in-law.

A friend, B, was selling an item that he and his wife had purchased this June. A large, professional grill from Jenn-Air, built like a tank, shiny, untouched by meat or grease, not a scratch, dent, suspicious rust spot. It's got grills that weigh a ton, with hoses to attach to tanks of your choice of combustible fuel. B and K thought they'd be able to use it in their building, but found that there were fire hazards involved in grilling on their tiny balcony. I knew I'd never want one for myself, but it dawned on me that my sister and her brood would enjoy something like it for the holidays. The more I thought about it, the more the idea caught on. When I saw the photo of the grill, I knew that it was the right thing to do.

Yesterday, I got to see it before me. We unwrapped it and loaded it in the truck, drove across town and situated it near the garden. After a few minutes of attaching the side panels, there it stood, a proud silver steel monster ready to spew 40,000 btus of heat (once the tanks are attached). As my sibling was away from home, I went off to mine, slipping away like you, Santa.

A few hours later, she and her family call, and they were truly happily surprised, thrilled, and even affected by its beauty. It was hard not to share their joy. It was only natural that we began planning dinners, parties, celebrations, all with a grilling theme. We've decided that my nephew can begin his training to be the next Bobby Flay (a chubbier, chinese looking BF, sans the cocky attitude). Boy meets Jenn-Air.

It's a bit early to enjoy Christmas perhaps. On the other hand, I'm inundated with materialistic christmas imagery and this was a nice way to relieve myself of that stress. Giving is a great feeling, especially when it happens early.

Happy holidays from me.

Week 9

If there was a worse week to start a new exercise plan, the last 7 days were it. After getting my start all shipshape, I pick up not one but what felt like two fevers/sore throats, and the latter still lingers in the form of a chest racking cough (the only good thing is that all this coughing is good for the abdominal muscles, like mini-ab workouts with every hack). It has definitely screwed up my schedule, and I only hope that my lack of appetite meant some weight loss, even if it's the worse kind.

My trainer nutritionist will be seeing me today for a long-delayed follow up meeting. I will sheepishly have to admit that I've not been in the gym, and that the Polar Heartrate monitor's diary is glaringly empty. Aiyayayay.

On the other hand, this is merely a delayed start. And I wouldn't be me if I didn't procrastinate a bit.

Monday, November 06, 2006

10 weeks

Out of the 12 months of the year, November and December are fraught with temptation. Parties, bazaars, the social gatherings all lead to weight gain and credit card debt. While I firmly believe that I will be over the latter by the end of the year (and am mentally prepared for the sacrifice of giving up a great deal of credit by cutting up my cards), the former has always been a challenge. Growing up chubby, staying this way all through my adult life hasn't taken a major toll unlike the stories I read and see everyday on television or in magazines. I prefer to see food as a good thing, not the enemy. But I am notoriously lazy, and the gym is high on the list of places I'd prefer to avoid as much as possible.

However, last year I attempted to restrain myself by signing up for a weight management program at the gym. Nothing too fancy, simply met up with a nutritionist for 10 weeks and regular monitoring of my food intake alongside with exercise; I lost 9 lbs. Not bad, I figured, and attempted to sustain the effort sans support, which finds me back at the original weight I had last year. So this year, I've talked to the same trainer, she's agreed to be a bit stricter with me, plus I've signed up with a personal trainer for weight training. My goal is 15 lbs in 10 weeks, right in the middle of the fiesta season. Lordy me, am I insane?

I do think it's doable; by posting it on the blog, I plan to do a weekly update. No pictures necessary, no before and after, and what would be the point of lying to myself on the blog? Other people have used their blogs as a form of exercise/diet journaling. This will just be another facet of this medium for me.

Food reunion

Following last year's somewhat intimate gathering at Galileo Enoteca, blogger supremo Marketman pulled together another friendly food gathering at Gourdo's, Fort Bonifacio last Saturday. Over 70 food fans of his blog met up for a buffet meal, and they brought/bought/made from scratch a dessert buffet that would beat any hotel dessert buffet in town. Chef Chris did himself proud by serving a wonderful italian menu (bruschettas, pastas, roast pork loin, fire roasted pizzas). And Marketman was ably helped by family, staff and the general joie de vivre we were looking forward to.

As other bloggers will post pictures and their own comments, this is merely to enumerate my own favorite moments:
- meeting other people who read the MM blog, and who also enjoy a good meal. As the post title implies, a good number of the people at last year's EB managed to make it this year; it's always fun to see familiar faces, but it was just as fun to meet new folks too.
- it was amusing to meet Aidan, son of blogger Anton (Awesome Planet). Aidan's the poster boy of AP, so those of us who read AP immediately knew who he was. His father was a bit less familiar since Anton is rarely photographed, but is the man of many words. He and his charming wife were just as interesting and fun. I hope to make their better acquaintance.
- Catching up on news with fellow chinoys Ivan and Anson, the latter gave us a few more restaurant tips (got to try that Korean restaurant at the Phil. Film Center)
- Appropriating my share of the budbud kabog giveaway (I think I like the budbud more than the ensymada), given the backstory (see Marketman)
- hearing about N. Abueva's jail time and the S&R letter to MM
- desserts, desserts, desserts - my favorite was Joey's (homemade!) dark chocolate cake. Divine! In terms of prettiest dessert, the flower cake by Marta Matute probably wins hands down. Alicia's peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were great, chunky, flavorful and full of homemade love.

A genial community of people brought together by their love of food, talk, travel, and all the good things in life.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Segundo Monday

I sat with 6 other ladies, and one fellow, over dinner Monday at Segundo Piso, the restaurant on the second floor of Terry's Selection along Pasong Tamo. Having dealt with the business side of the meeting, we were ready to eat, drink, be merry. How merry, I didn't realize until much later, but all in good, healthy, and legal fun. Perhaps it was M's batgirl ears/wings that she sported on her head (the day before Halloween), or the fact that the pianist was playing such classic tunes right next to us; soon enough we were humming along, which progressed to filling in the lyrics and playing "name that tune". From ballads to broadway, we kept going all through dinner, the wines didn't have to help us, we were just in the mood to sing for our dinner.

As for dinner, here's a sampling of what we had:

Appetizers: an assortment of "fried tapas" (olives, bacalao)
Soup: baked seafood bisque
Pasta: Penne with a saffron and caviar sauce with two cheeses (very good, but much too heavy after the seafood bisque)
Main: choice of meat or fish (I chose the meat, the fish was better)
Dessert: a layered chocolate and nougat cake with mandarin orange sauce (lovely combination)

We had 2 sherries, a white wine and a red wine. With the exception of one sherry, which tasted like a chinese medicine cabinet, the wines were marvelous, and I had dreams of the white wine, its white pepper nose and citrus tones. A must buy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

If only we had been colonized after 1700...



An article on Slate describes the research done on several islands in the Pacific and Atlantic re: effects of colonization by European explorers (income growth, quality of life). What we may surmise from the research is that the Philippines got shafted. We were colonized by the Spaniards (who rank in the bottom rung of colonial masters, along with the Portugese), and were taken over before the Post-Enlightenment phase, when scientific discovery was more important than theocracy. However, one insight had me a bit amused: US colonies had a higher quality of life than most other establishments. So where the heck did they go wrong with us?

Stalking the mouse

Hong Kong Disneyland has an ad running on some of the cable channels. Girl goes to the park, does some of the rides (the lamest ones around - tea cup? carousel???), and is stalked by her friendly neighborhood boy, who finds a way to stay in the background and keeps tabs on her throughout the park. Eventually they end up on the MRT back to town, silently gazing at their picture. Saccharine sweet, and honestly, it doesn't lure me into wanting to go to HKD. If they used this ad during Valentine's I could see the connection.

During my short stint in HK, the issue of stalkers, molesters, and all sorts of deviants would show up on a regular basis in the weekly papers and magazines. Men who'd put cameras or mirrors on their shoes so they could stand behind a girl in a skirt and look at what color her panties were, groping on the subway, exposing themselves to kids in the parks. Personally, the only time I had to deal with weirdoes in HK was being accosted by drunken American sailors in the bus depot in Admiralty. And there was that lech who tried to pinch my bum in the library. But you could still ask me what the safest city I've ever wandered around, and it would be HK. Try walking from Central to Causeway Bay at 3 a.m. and see if anything untoward happens. Not unless you ask for it! And it's a free sight, smell and sound spectacular, unlike the outrageous prices at Disneyland.

Chinese Hamlet

I dragged my cousin out for a movie yesterday afternoon. While she may have planned on watching Demi's husband battling his way through coast guard training, I was more inclined to see the recent Chinese film, so we ended up at the Banquet. Freezing inside the cinema, the movie didn't warm us up much. Zhang Ziyi doesn't seem to be ready to play a role that is too "mature" for her, and with little opportunity to show off her martial arts/ballet kinetics. The Empress/Gertrude isn't meant to be an ingenue, and the essence of her passion with both Wu Luan/Hamlet contradicts her submission to the Uncle-cum usurper Emperor/Claudius role. I preferred her antipathy towards Qing/Ophelia as they battle their way into the young prince's affection.

At least the role of the prince, who is seen as an emotional, soulful sort who likes to have his hair washed more than he massacres his enemies, seems more akin to the pansy Hamlet of yore. He doesn't do a good job saving himself, but does a better job creating havoc in other people's lives, especially Qing. The perfect foil to him is the ultra-macho Governor Yin, brother of Qing, who saves Wu Luan from another assasination in the middle of the film. They all fall in the end, and the twist (although it's not completely clear what the end means) is that the Empress, too, falls to the sword. Who was it? Ghost of her late first husband? Or simply her going insane?

And what of all the tears? Does one really need to see every sniffle, red eye, stuffed up nose to know that the character is undergoing emotional distress? Are Asian actors' eyes too small that they must leak fluid?

I had thought this film was going to be another collaboration with Zhang and Chow Yun Fat, who might have given the role of Claudius some sex appeal. I just kept thinking how they vamped up the production value in one of the television mini-series and that it wasn't much fun to watch on the big screen. Ho hum, 2 out of 5 and not worth paying P160.00.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Intervention

Don't use the excuse that Manila is a big city. Don't come to me and say that you can't attend something because it's not in your part of town. Don't say that it's impossible to find someplace because the street signs aren't in place. Don't give me that line about bad directions. You were born and raised here, you can find it. Your not incapable of finding something if you really want it. Don't call me and go hysterical because you're feeling stupid. You were smart enough to pass the bar exam, you can find an address.
How are you going to manage when you leave for the US? Are you going to need hand holding even then? It aggravates me when you play the homely housewife giving in to her husband's demands because you think it will make him love you more. Stop pretending to be a doormat, it's a horrible personality flaw. Because I know you are better than that, and I believe in you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Smells of leather

Imagine going from one place where you were one of 10, knew everyone's foibles, whimsies, stress points, and patterns. Then the next day, you were thrust into a place where you are in charge of 40 people, plus you need to know the names of 40 to 50 more people, and there are all sort of short folk dashing in and out of the area, with nary a care (since they have other older, bigger, people to do that for them). From your own small office where you can close the door for private conversations, you have a shared space, with a hole in the wall for the other people to poke their heads through when necessary. Where everything is new, smells new, even the chair doesn't conform to one's butt yet.

Culture shock in my own backyard is what it is. This calls for ice cream therapy!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Munich 2005

I went to Munich last year to attend a wedding and came back full of a new picture in my head of what Germany had to offer. What a wonderful city Munich is, how compact the city center, yet a sprawling metropolis dedicated to its residents, who live in a mixture of Edwardian townhouses turned apartments or modern block flats that don’t necessarily lose their charm. The neighborhoods are easily navigated on foot, even with the predominant presence of those German car brands. At first glance the subway may seem intimidating, yet after a long hard look, you get a sense of how the lines were built, expanding and stretching its reach all the way out to the towns, North, South, East and West.

Many days were spent absorbing the artistic beauty of the museums and artists who used the city as their canvass. I’d always had a fondness for Rubens, and found myself in front of one of the largest collections of his works in the “Old Museum” (Alte Pinakothek). His works had a robust, sensual nature lacking in modern art. Now I know why I am enamored with the earth mother form he captured; I can say that I’d fit in that period very well without feeling corporeally out of place.

The modern masters are also easily visible in Munich, the Neue Pinakothek and Moderne Pinakotheks are chock full of paintings, art forms, and technology (like cars) that represent their eras. The collection of Bleue Reiters at the L---- Museum taught me a great deal about the 20th century works of Kandinsky and Klee.

Picture perfect castles are strewn around the Bavarian region, especially Schloss Neuschwanstein, the tragic fairytale castle of King Ludwig the 2nd. The experience of visiting the castle reminded me of the throng at the Great Wall, particularly Badaling. All it needed was some guy dressed as Ludwig II, letting pictures be taken of him in his garb to set it off. Luckily the beautiful weather made up for a three kilometer parking nightmare heading towards the castle. We found an open field available for parking and hoofed it through country paths to the ticket area, before another 30-minute climb up to the castle. The world was milling around, eating, drinking, taking enough photographs of the castle and the Arcadian environment to fill hours of snooze-filled slide shows. Inside the castles and museums, tourists aren’t allowed to take flash photography as it may damage the artwork. I wonder why nature doesn’t take similar offence to all the photos taken of her in multitudes of forms? Many of us don’t take very good photos of Mother Nature at her best, yet here we are investing in high end cameras and mucking about with them adding to the detritus of photography.

The other architectural wonders around the city and all over Bavaria, it seems, were the lavish churches built to honor the Catholic saints and images of the Virgin. Since I was in Germany at the time of the World Youth Day Celebration (although the Pope was in Cologne and not in Munich), it seemed fitting that I take a tour of the churches. My favorites were the rococo gone amok Asam Kirche and the Weis Kirche. The latter took us several hours to find as there are a few Weis towns around, quite a Bavarian road trip it was. We managed to squeeze in before the doors closed and it was a worthwhile hunt and trek. The other churches were far more modest than these two in terms of internal d├ęcor, but were larger and statelier or housed more royal bodies (the Theatinerkirche has the bodies of King or Emperor Maximilian the 2nd and some of his family members. Ludwig the 2nd is ensconced in perpetua at the Church of St. Michaels.).

The wedding itself went off without a hitch inside a beautiful baroque chapel 30 minutes outside of the city. The solemnity was in sheer contrast to all the drinking that took place at the reception in a greenhouse altered for events like this. Perhaps the city didn't want to let go right away, as I missed my flight to Amsterdam the next day, and had to take a later flight back to Asia. I'll have reason to return one day, for more visual art and baroque splendor.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

123, 5, 3

Along with other bloggers, I got tagged by Christine of Ramblings from a Gypsy Soul. The meme requires one to:

1. Grab the book nearest to you...no cheating!
2. Open to page 123.
3. Scroll down to the fifth sentence.
4. Post text of next 3 sentences on to your blog.

The first book I saw was a selection of writings and drawings by James Thurber. And the first thing I thought as I opened the book was "hope it's not the drawings," sure enough turning to page 123 is a set of two of his sketches! Ok, so adjusting the meme instructions a bit, I'm grabbing the next book on my work pile.

From "Why do I love these people?" by Po Bronson:

"She is back to being a daughter, contemplating her mother. I notice that when Jarralynne remembers with her family all around, there's a sort of safety in numbers, and she manages to laugh at all the old stories."

The book is the second of Bronson's I've read, the first remains my favorite "What should I do with my life?"

"Why do I love..." is another series of vignettes about people Mr. Bronson has interviewed, focusing on their families and relationships. I enjoyed his other book so much that I bought two signed copies of "why do I love..." from Powell's online store. I may give the other copy to my sister, as I had planned to do last year when I bought the book. Or if anyone is interested in a first edition signed copy, tell me what you would do with your life. The best response gets the book.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cleaning house part 1

I have 5 days left to get rid of 6 years of paperwork and assorted sundries. Shredding documents with student information on it that can't just be tossed in a dumpster, deciding what stays and what isn't important anymore, plus tidying up for the move to a new office.

Came across a few pictures from conferences and trips. And in one of the drawers a menu from a dinner I attended last year prepared by Chefs Carlo and Anton Miguel, now of Mezzaluna:

Canapes - Coriander and lime crab cakes
Seared foie gras and caramelized pear en croute
(wine: Conundrum 2002. I remember falling in love with this wine and buying a few bottles after the dinner)

Fish course - Crisp skin coral trout with braised celery and tomato saffron broth

Plum and gin granita

Main - Ilog maria virgin honey cured duck breast with beetroot custard, sauteed spinach and pickled orange (wine: reserve de la comtesse 2001 pauillac.)

Dessert - mascarpone semifreddo and balsamic macerated strawberry mille feuille

This dinner ended with sips of the most amazing rum from Barbados. Mindblowing memories.

Monday, October 02, 2006

3 strikes on a Monday

My lucky charm kept me safe through the storm, I was stuck in the office watching the city blow by, and even when we ventured out later that day, the floods had receded enough, no traffic hold up, and I saved two workmates from slogging it out with the thousands stranded on the street.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the days went by without too much trouble. Saw friends, heard their woes, one friend lost all of his books in a flashflood (I feel for him), another's sister seems to be battling dengue so she's been hospitalized, while another friend was attacked by hordes of mosquitoes on Thursday night so I passed on a tube of anti-itch creme, plus any support I could provide. My cousin texted me asking for help finding an apartment (I suspect her mom's giving her grief). Good samaritan all throughout.

This morning though, lady luck decided to leave me on my own. I have an early morning accident (nothing bad, but cleaning up at 3 a.m. is so unpleasant); my cellphone goes missing right as I'm about to leave for the gym (I suspect it's still in my room; leaving it on silent mode sometimes is a bummer); the living room curtain decides to collapse and my driver couldn't fix it in time; and the last straw was spending 15 frustrating minutes trying to refit the lens on my glasses which decides to pop out while I'm toweling off in the shower.

Monday, monday, this is my silent scream.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Avoiding the light

For sometime I've been meaning to write a bit about the fascinating and natural discovery right outside my front door. I have a tree growing out front and it gives my rooms a pleasant shade; sometimes I see birds building a nest, flitting from branch to the window sill.

During the last few months, the dampness round the base of the tree began to look a bit spotted. And I realized that there were mushrooms growing. Call me crazy for feeling thrilled at having mushrooms but it's not often that you see "wild" mushrooms at your feet. A part of me wonders if there might be a truffle buried under the pavement!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pandora's box

www.pandora.com

Have you opened the box recently? Come up with your own playlist. So far, I've been listening to a lot of vocal jazz and folk songs.

Shake, rattle, rain

Milenyo is a pretty strong typhoon, the first signal no. 3 typhoon over Metro Manila that really felt like a danger to life and limb. I'm sitting here at my desk at work, asking myself why am I not home?

Advantages to being at the office however include internet access, electricity, water, and access to food in nearby shops and restaurants. This will only turn ugly if we're stuck for days without a change of clothes. But otherwise this is not bad.

Post-storm addendum: the worst of sorts is over, but the lack of electricity makes it unpleasant to stay at home. A friend says the lights won't go back on til Monday. Paseo de Roxas is littered with trees and branches, makes you wonder why the Mayor who loves to litter the area during one of his anti-government rallies can't get his act together and round up some of his garbage cartel buddies to clean up the streets.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Seething, Roiling

Women are characterized as more emotional than men. Likewise, Asians are stereotyped as passive, non-emotive (vs Caucasians or Latinos). Given those odds, I should be relatively emotional, given my double x chromosomes, but nothing compared to my friends in Brazil.

This last weekend and the first days of the week then have been a test of my collective calm. On each day, I've had moments when I truly needed a punching bag, or at least a pillow to scream into. Friends have aggravated me, ex-bf's have shown up unexpectedly, and vendors I deal with at work seem to think that customer service is an urban myth. Days like these make me wonder why we don't have a regular list of therapists who we can go to for an hour of pure venting. It would be useful, healthy for us to talk to total strangers who can't share what we are talking to them about. Friends don't always work because sometimes you want to be illogical and you don't want to be interrupted or be given an answer to your questions (a lot of them these days seem to be rhetorical anyway). Someone who will simply say Uhuh, and mmmm a lot whenever you ask why? Because that's what I need, a blank slate, an animate punching bag who will just take it and then when I'm done, say I'll see you next week.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

do it yourself food tour

Fans of Anton's blog (Our awesome planet) know that he's done a series of Pampanga food tours. And the pics do make you want to lick the computer screen (don't you wish there was a virtual taste bud on the computer that would evoke the essence of a picture? Sort of a scratch and sniff, except it would be a lick and taste. Anyway...).
As I've tried and failed to attend the tour once before, I had mentioned to a few foodie friends (foodistas? food-aholics? gourmands?) that we should join or do our own. Ian the ice cream man did just that today and he said he was truly satisfied with his first outing.
Since I've got a "free weekend" before I begin my new job, I'm going to go to Pampanga, and Ian's already agreed to go with me. Who else is interested? We can follow Anton's route or try new things. It's set for October 14, Saturday. Sign up!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

30 day notice

I filed my resignation today, and it went well. Boss lady was affected and she said I'd be missed, but that she was happy for me. So that's all good, right? But it does leave me with less than 3.5 weeks to get through the transition. Paperwork, filing more papers, getting rid of rubbish (papers again). And moving my fish tank! That will be the biggest problem! Plus, what to leave behind? The plants, some books, and a whole load of paper.

I'll miss my 10/F view of the parking lot and the building next door, and my nice 17 inch flatscreen monitor. I'll miss having an office so close to the saturday market that I can dump my purchases in the fridge while I shop for more non-essentials. I'll miss being close to friends for lunch.

I'll miss going to Hanoi this December for a workshop, and the possible trip to Minneapolis next May for our annual conference.

I'll miss the friends I've made all over the world, who I only get to see once a year sometimes, but who've made my life a better, wiser, happier one.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New Years' through the year and gazing at moons

This Friday is the start of the Jewish New Year, and I've been invited to attend the Rosh Hashanah celebration at a friend's home. I will bring honey, as it is customary to dip apples or bread in honey to encourage sweet things in one's life. It is also touching to think that the friend and his family wish to have us over to his house as it means that they hope to continue the friendship through the next year.

New Year holidays, whether the Jan 1, or subsequent cultural/religious ones, are a rebirth. However, the Jan. 1 event seems to have turned into a debauched mix of drunken loutery and list making. For the last few years, I've been more attuned to the Chinese new year celebration; this year was quite memorable as I joined a walking tour of Binondo, dodging the antics of lion dance troupes and firecrackers.

This Saturday will be my third new year celebration in 2006, and the only one with a religious bent to it. A bit nervous of making a booboo during the festivity, but luckily the friend is not too orthodox, and I'm not bringing anything that requires a rabbi's seal of approval.

By the end of the month and in early October, the Chinese community will celebrate the autumn mooncake festival. I saw a display of hopia and mooncakes at Rockwell over the weekend, panicked a bit thinking it was last weekend, but was told the date was in October. Unlike most afficionados, I dislike the salted egg inside the mooncakes. I prefer my share to be egg free, or the ones with nuts for texture. Sometimes I find the one with a mix of bean and sunflower seeds, which isn't too sweet on the tongue plus has a crunch. Mooncake is usually so dense and sweet that a quarter slice is all I can take, even with the strongest oolong to go with it. Yunnan coffee might be a better pairing, but haven't found any of the kind in Manila.

The traditional Southern Chinese game to play during the festival is the dice game, where rolling the right combination of dice may win you the daddy of all beancakes (it looks like a deep dish pizza). In some places, when adults (with moolah) play, the ultimate prize is a trip, sometimes cash. I'll be inviting some friends to play a few rounds, but no fancy prizes, just the humble bean biscuits we love.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Don't judge a cheese by it's state of iciness

J had a stash of cheese (ill gotten gains perhaps) that he promised to use for dinner last Friday. When I pulled it from the fridge, it was a frozen block of 5 cheeses. Unappetizing to say the least. However, he, a veritable magician, baked them for under 10 minutes, added some plump raisins, and a drizzle of truffle oil. Each bite was different, a mystery revealed (blue! gouda! parmesan!).

The paella, however, which was a lovely picture of saffron rice and healthy vegetables, turned out to be too salty, as if the broth was rushed. And I had more than a few bites of underdone rice. I added some bottled squid to the leftovers, and later on, chicken. 4 bottles of wine helped to keep the dinner guests happy.

Jump the cat, Spanish film festival, and Nah

Gabi is eating well, pooping too much as well. Good god, she's sucking in her kibble like a refugee. I'm experimenting on her litter box, bought a new container, trying new clumping odor absorbers. And the new Lysol Naturair or Naturpure air cleaner works!!! Better than regular Lysol.

For those planning on habla-ing espanol in October, check out the upcoming Spanish film festival schedule, beginning Oct 3 at Greenbelt 3. P50 a movie. Looking forward to a few good films to wile away the month.

Good friend J (my unofficial sounding board and voice of conscience) tells me I should be perkier, girl-ier. Not to naysay offers when they come my way. Too tired though last friday to be "perky" (what am I? a blonde cheerleader?). So yes, I just said "Nah."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Move, change, learn

My heartrate is a bit faster, my thoughts are running in circles. Change is taking place. After 6 years, I face a new future. Nothing ever stays the same, and it will be a place to learn new things. I like learning something new. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Come down the stairs

The cat is now in my hands, and she's adjusting. It takes awhile for cats to resettle in a new place. At least a couple of days to a week to get used to new smells, new sounds, not be scared of the new person.
However, what I find amusing is her dislike of the stairs. She won't go down. At most a step, if she can see me then a few more. But she'll avoid descending the entire flight, and has yet to sniff around the lower floor.
She sounds like a bird, chirping instead of meowing. Plus she has a bell on her collar, so it's easy to find her as she runs to the landing to greet me.

Addendum: Sept 14 - whoohoo, looks like she's gotten over her phobia, ran up and down several times, her bell collar jingling like mad.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cheese club 2

I would like to be a cheesemaker. If I could, I'd have a herd of goats, and make chevre. But I know that the life is pretty darn hard. Wake up at the crack of dawn, make sure your goats don't go off wandering, getting eaten by, um, wolves? or whatever eats goats in these parts, feed them properly (if you want the same kind of flavor as you'd find in France, you may have to get lavendar infused hay or something crazy like that. No basic damo would be good enough.). So chances are slim that I won't be bleating along till my dying day. I'll just eat the final product.

Last night, headed off to the cheese club as guest of good friend Genny, along with J and G. Wines were average to below average, so I just had a rose, one measly glass. For the rest of the evening, I tried a variety of cheeses, including a camembert infused cheddar, a 42 month aged gouda (a favorite), a brie mieux with truffles, the locally made goat's milk feta which was dipped in olive oil, a jelly like (extremely fresh) goat cheese made from Davao, Pyrenees sheep cheese, a rather greenish gorgonzola (it had a pale green cast, and no, the lighting was not the reason for it), a runny stilton, and a quesong puti used for raclette. J monopolized one of the raclette grills and made up a few variations (4 cheese melt and a 6 cheese melt, the latter he nicknamed SS*). We munched on our bread and cheese, laughed at G's antics with the ladies, and people watched. There was one lady in particular who reminded me of why I don't want to consider plastic surgery. I'm sure she thought herself the bees knees, but her face was so pulled upward and forward, likewise her bosom. She reeked of silicone. I soon lost my appetite for grilled cheese.

*Sex Substitute (imho, not quite)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

They're big, they're back

A week or two ago, the news of butanding (whale shark) sightings near the shores of Albay or Sorsogon raised hopes that our marine life was improving. This happened during the height of all the Guimaras mess. As many as 9 butandings were seen surfacing regularly, and the local government made sure the fishermen didn't scare them, stress them out or fish them.

Today, I read on the WWF website that manta rays were seen in Mabini, Batangas, a 20 year gap since the last sighting in the area. How wonderful! Of the big fish, butandings and mantas are two of my favorite. I had my first eye to eye experiences with both 2 years ago in Tubbataha and will never forget seeing the first whale shark swim by, no more than an arm length away, close enough to see the eye swivel to take a gander at us, agape at their size and grandeur. The mammoth manta we saw soon after was just as amazing, but further down the trench, and later in the trip, had the pleasure of a feeding manta near our boat.

News of their return, albeit too early to tell if it is a sign of good things to come, is heartwarming. Makes me happy to be a certified diver.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Cooking club

Another blog find, I came across Maria's blog about her cooking club and took the time to join her and her clubmates last night. I've visited Indonesia, had Indonesian friends, wasn't it time to learn how to cook some of the favorite dishes? The first few times the club has met up, they've cooked beef rendang, and seafood, last night's theme was chicken: sate with gado-gado and a beautifully yellow tumeric rice. 8 other foodies helping out makes any meal came to life a lot faster than if you do it by yourself. 16 hands helping peel, cut, fry, boil, mix, blend, all the while paying attention to Maria's instructions and her helper, Nympha's suggestions.

Gado-gado is a simple enough dish to put together. Parboil several kinds of vegetables, we had on hand carrots, sayote, string beans, kangkong and cabbage. Small potatoes were also boiled for added texture and to decorate the plate. Boiled eggs and golden fried tofu topped the large platter of vegetables. A very healthy cooked salad is what I realized it was all about. The peanut sauce was made by cooking ground peanuts, fresh coconut milk, garlic, onions, chilli sauce, and for flavoring she added the kecap manis, or sweet soy sauce. Seeing how the dish is created from scratch (we didn't even use canned coconut milk, but squeezed the milk from grated coconut) added to our collective appetites.

The other dish I enjoyed was the yellow rice. Normally, the java rice you may find in local restaurants taste like the rice was cooked in palm oil or oil that was colored with achuete or a yellow dye. Not this dish. We combined fresh coconut milk, pounded a good chunk of galangal and lemongrass, mixed in the juice of half a lemon and cooked the jasmine rice in this aromatic blend. Oh, and don't forget a tablespoon of tumeric for that beautiful yellow color. Nympha taught us that if you cook the rice in coconut milk, it's a lot heavier than cooking it in water, so balance the fluid to rice mix appropriately. Otherwise you get a rice pudding! After cooking the first batch, we snuck a few of the cracklings on the bottom of the rice cooker. It tasted like suman.

But once all the cooking was done, the best part is always the chitchat, and getting to know people. There was A, who owns a local bakery, and G, who previously worked in the kitchens of the Makati Shangri-la but now does home based catering, plus expats in the neighborhood and friends of Maria. Lovely bunch, looking forward to another dinner with them all.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Nosing out Noisettes

Hark back to your childhood, and imagine a scene where you're at a party, and someone gives you a container of mixed nuts. Roasted, toasted, salted. Which nuts did you eat first? I always zoomed in on the almonds first, then the peanuts. I left behind the walnuts and hazelnuts and cashews as I wasn't too keen on their particular tastes at the age of 7 or 8.

Maturing, I learned to enjoy the richer flavors of the walnuts (I even spent one christmas season repetitiously slamming my dorm room door in China as we had two pounds of unshelled walnuts to use up in a pesto), and cashews came on board when I found a good source locally. Hazelnuts, however, were a distant third choice of the three for many years. I even avoided chocolate hazelnut combinations, as I still do with chocolate and coconut. Something about the hazelnut aftertaste that didn't sit well with me.

That was until I fell in love with a great and simple product called Nutella. I chanced upon it through a friend of Italian origins who would make us Nutella grilled sandwiches in college. It wasn't available much while I was living in China, but recovered my stride in HK. There are variations on the chocolate/hazelnut spread, but Nutella is the best of the lot as far as I'm concerned. A gourmand friend who imports all sorts of items overseas gave me a taste of homemade nutella from Spain, but it didn't spread as easily as commercial nutella, taste was great though.

I did come across a blog (Su Good Eats) who posted a recipe of homemade nutella. I can't believe that I first read that post close to the end of last year, now that I think about it. It made me crave my own homemade version, and the grandiose ideas I had flowed onward and upward till I could see myself drowning in a vat of chocolate and hazelnut. First, of course, was sourcing the nuts. Locally the choices were a bit limiting. A friend visiting from Los Angeles was willing to bring me some; he even brought more than I had expected. Second, the chocolate. Through all the blogs and some footwork, I found good quality chocolate that would make my homemade spread divine.

But it all came to a halt when my food processor died on me. I tried to get it started again, but the manufacturer explained that the engine wasn't in shape, i.e., I had myself a lemon. Trying to finegrind the nuts, a mere handful for the test batch, proved too much for the inept machine. I postponed my dreams till after I bought a Kitchenaid or Cuisinart food processor in the US in May/June, but after some unforeseen circumstances, I came home empty handed, and my 4 lbs of noisettes lay untouched in my freezer.

In between all this, I had met through the blogworld, ice cream man extraordinaire Ian, of Sebastian's Ice Cream. I've apologized to Ian for the fact that everyone I've spoken to about him now recall him as "the Ice Cream Man!" I can even see the caps when they say it. But he is a lovely human being doing a wonderful service to the local community by making artisinal ice cream. He and his partners are making their customers very happy. And we look forward to bigger, brighter things from their venture. Back to my hazelnuts situation, it was fast approaching a year since I had gotten the nuts and I would look at them sadly, wondering when I'd finally get to make the nutella or do something with them. Then would promptly forget their existence.

Then the perfect opportunity arose: a couple of friends were leaving for a new life abroad, plus one of them was having his birthday at the same time, so I called Ian, and set it in motion. He'd get my hazelnut loot and make us a flavor. Since he had already experimented with Nutella, and had a nutella flavor available, it wasn't too difficult to incorporate the elements together. Initially all I had in mind was adding the roasted and crushed hazelnuts into dark chocolate, but Ian had better things in mind. For the pre-celebration taste test, he laid before me three options: a white hazelnut paste in cream, the dark chocolate with hazelnuts, and then the piece de resistance - nutella ice cream with nutella swirl and loads of crushed hazelnuts. On the first spoonful, I knew, it was inevitable, but the third choice was the one. We had found our gold nugget.

Last Saturday, we launched the hazelnut heaven at our friendly shindig. After the surprise birthday cheers, and celebrating our friends' new lives, we brought forth the ice cream. I had requested that the dark chocolate with hazelnuts be included, so we had two flavors to choose from. I couldn't resist having a choice scoop of the nutella and hazelnut flavor, while the others combined the dark chocolate and the nutella together. What else is there to say? Ice cream makes us happy. But what better than to discover a new twist on a relatively recent favorite.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Blogggrls brekkie book meet

Sorry to fellow bloggers for that title, but I couldn't resist the alliteration. A few of us who meet up every so often decided to hie off to a breakfast and book fair morning. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I missed the breakfast (MOA), but got to the bookfair over at the World Trade Center. "Making it a habit" is the theme of this year's fair. Well, it's too much of a habit for me, but a lesser vice I suppose (although buying too many books just for the sake of it must fall under avarice).

What did I buy? 1. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco, 2. A Year at the Races by Jane Smiley, and 3. Hide this French Book, a Berlitz publication. Nena bought the Hide this Spanish Book, so we should be fully prepared to talk like sailors the next time a trip to Spain and France come around.

Friday, September 01, 2006

On the wings of a dove

A shadow caught my eye. What I thought was an odd bird that might be trying to escape the skyscrapers in this part of town was a piece of green paper, floating on an updraft, and dancing on the whim of the breeze. It rose, dipped, fluttered a side dance, brushed the side of a building, and even seemed to dither on the corner of one as if it couldn't decide whether to turn right or not.

Beauty in the afternoon.

Tale of two cookies

After Cyma last Monday, I picked up two cookies at Sugarhouse before returning to Makati. Not available in all Sugarhouse outlets, the Trail Mix cookie and Oatmeal Raisin cookie are sizeable hockey pucks of dessert. The former is packed with raisins, chocolate chips, and whole peanuts, which overwhelm the cookie dough at times. If one likes a simple cookie, this would not be an appropriate choice. But on days or moments when you need texture, girth, and dimension in a simple package, I highly recommend it. The peanuts add a crunch, the chocolate chips a dark note, while the raisins are just there to add that joyful bit of fruit.

The oatmeal raisin was decent, but has yet to dislodge my favorite oatmeal raisin in town, which used to be the cookie at Au Bon Pain (defunct bread and bakery). That cookie had a crisp underbelly vis a vis the chewiness of the oatmeal butter batter (say butter batter three times fast!). The Sugarhouse o/r peanut is good, you can taste the oatmeal nuttiness, and there are enough raisins that you don't feel robbed. It's not too sweet for my taste buds.

I'd rate the Trail Mix cookie a 4 out of 5 cookies, while the oatmeal raisin gets 3 out of 5. The perfect cookie? Well, haven't met it yet.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Let us eat cake

Terrorized by the thought of all the work that needs to get done before Friday, I turn to avoiding it all by checking out what's going on in the great big world. I hear from a friend that okra, one of my favorite vegies, is a great vegie. Has lots of fiber, absorbs bad cholesterol and helps good bacteria (or pro-biotics) in our intestinal tract. I will have to eat more okra, steamed with a bit of calamansi and a splash of patis with a small cup of brown rice. Or in a good pinakbet! Those ilocanos know a good thing.

Then I linked up through Mr. Ed Levine's blog to a list of ice cream sandwiches (calling Ian! Read up the bit about the hazelnut ice cream cookie sandwich!), and saw the link to New York Magazine's best ice cream sandwiches, followed by an article reviewing the new Max Brenner in New York (another case of Manila beating the big apple; we did have Beard Papa before they did), and finally, a list of great dessert lounges in the city. Something to share with a couple of friends who are thinking of a concept for our fair-ish city.

This gave me rhyme and reason to sign up for regular articles from NYMag, mostly for the travel and editorials and restaurant reviews. I care not a whit for the shopping, real estate, and other stuff.

I headed back to my list of blogs and came across a link from one site that led me to this post (first posted on craigslist/new york):

"Wedding Cake

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 2005-03-23, 11:12PM EST


So, first of all, congratulations to my good friends who got married last weekend. Congratulations, “mazel tov,” good luck. It was great and I hope you guys are happy forever. That said, I couldn’t help but look around at your wedding and think, “Wow. I don’t want any of this.” But don’t think that your wedding specifically turned me off to weddings. No, we are all now in our late twenties and wedding invitations appear in the mail with almost the same frequency that delivery guys slip take-out menus under my door. And now, having attended and been in a few weddings, I can’t help but think “I don’t want any of it.” I don’t want a country club or a church. I don’t want a hotel ballroom or a big white tent. I don’t want a priest or a rabbi. I don’t want 200 people there who I don’t even know. I don’t want numbered tables. I don’t want to put all of my random “single” friends at one table in the corner of the room, making them feel even more alienated than they already are at a stereotypically “coupled” event. I don’t want bridesmaid drama. I don’t want all of my bridesmaids wearing the same ugly color and the same ugly dress and hating their shoes so much that they curse me behind my back. I don’t think I even want bridesmaids. I don’t want anyone to sign a guestbook where they have to come up with some spontaneous wisdom about love and happiness. I don’t want cute little party favors with the bride’s and groom’s names scripted in gold, proclaiming “our special day.” I don’t want people to figure out their seating arrangements by picking up their party favors, which are also wrapped in pink chiffon. I don’t want a big white dress. I don’t want to have to ask friends and cousins whom I see maybe once a year if their 5-year-old son/daughter whom I don’t even really like can be my ring bearer/flower girl. I don’t want guys in blue shirts and khaki pants measuring each others’ dicks with the phrase, “So, what do you do?” I don’t want bored out of their mind cater waiters and bartenders, who hate weddings in a way that even I will never understand. I don’t want “cocktail hour” and passed hors d’oeuvres and most people only caring about getting buzzed before the open bar ends. I don't want to mail out then sort through 300 invitations to find out who wants steak and who wants salmon. I don’t want to be registered at Crate&Barrel. I don’t want my friends finding that all the cheaper items on my registry are gone and that, like, five of them have to go in on a set of overpriced knives. I don’t think I want a registry at all. I don’t want to have to kiss all of my mother’s friends on the cheek, or, even worse, all of my future mother-in-law’s friends. I don’t want a color “scheme.” I don’t want a creepy DJ or a weird band that does a cover of YMCA. And I don’t want the place turning the lights up at 10:30 telling us it’s time to leave. But I do want cake.
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Last night, I attended the wake of the mother of my friend J. Years ago, J opened her house to a few of us who wanted a place to meet each Sunday for chinese painting. We spent a few hours each week striving to reach oriental perfection, I continue to strive, yet fear I will never gain perfection. But it's all in the process of getting there I suppose. Anyway, at the wake, I looked around and the inevitable thought popped into my head: am I prepared to die? Do I have the wherewithal to pay for a decent funeral? Do I have my will set up? Who gets my benches? I'm just about to get a cat, what will happen to her? Will anyone attend the memorial service? What music do I want played?

So here's my ode to Funeral Cake.

Dear Mrs. J, sorry to hear you had to go. You bought us the real brushes for our painting class all the way in some dinky Shanghai shop. And you were always generous with the glasses of juice and corn chips. I hope you find the sanctuary from life ever after whereever you are now. Your family is sad to see you go, and they have brought us here to celebrate your life. All these people, all these kids, all these flowers. And it makes me think how I don't want any of it. I am not ready to die just yet, as my will isn't prepared and the living room is a mess. But when I go, I want a cremation, and then the ashes are going straight out to sea. No memorial, no flowers, no mass cards. Any money left over from my savings, I want my friends to spend on the best meal possible, enjoy a fantastic dinner, sing their favorite songs, and go on living. And have cake. Ice cream cake. The best of both worlds.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Oopa!

The world is shrinking. Migration flows have brought cultures together in a way unforeseen a few centuries back. What would the great colonizers of yore think if they could see the way things are now? Would they have been able to imagine the blending we encounter on a daily basis? Would the cities of today seem like Babel of biblical times? Or more like Sodom and Gomorrah?

One great change is having access in this semi-backwater of Asia to a variety of cuisine. All of our overseas contract workers not only go forth to save our economy on a daily basis, but they marry, have kids, bring their spouses and mixed breed offspring back, not to mention lots and lots of balikbayan boxes. While we haven't seen too many interesting Nigerian or Ethiopian restaurants open up (and we still haven't set up a really amazing Moroccan or Afghan restaurant), there are more italian restaurants and greek restaurants, most of them byproducts of the OFW economic development.

In other better, greater blogs, there have been reviews of other greek restaurants like Mati and Minos (or is it Mynos?). I've had good meals at both, usually eating lamb, yogurt, and seeking dolmades that don't taste like they've been pickled in brine. A couple of months ago I saw a sign that heralded a new mall based Greek restaurant, Cyma in the Shangri-la Plaza. Till today I haven't had a chance to try it. As I was eating solo, I had a limited taste of the menu and will reserve my opinion till I can go with other diners as more mouths means more dishes to try out.

One gimmick that Cyma has going for it, (and what Manila based restaurant doesn't need a gimmick?) is flambed cheese. In greek cuisine, this may be a sheep cheese or feta, doused in some ouzo, allowed to burn blue and bright and then sprinkled with lemon and parsley. Cyma has the pyrokinetics and the waiters are required to say Oopa! when they light the dish up. The two occasions I heard them go through this made me wonder if they knew what they were getting themselves into. For it was noticeable to me at least, that the waiters sounded either frightened for their lives (maybe they've singed more than a few eyebrows by now) or they were worried someone was going to ask them what Oopa meant. And they wouldn't be able to say anything. Is this going to be a trend? Will Gumbo's shouting waiters and Cyma's charred ones be the new wave in customer service?

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies