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.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies