Monday, May 28, 2007

Late breakfast

What do you do when someone emphatically states that they have had the best tapsilog in Manila? A mountain of it, the perfect antidote to a drunken spree, the epitome of all tapsilog greasy spoons in a city full of them? The birthplace of it all? You go. So long as they drive. And not when they're drunk, no thank you.

After being told that it was a must try, we collected ourselves on a rainy Friday night to look for Maty's, along Quirino Avenue in Paranaque. The gods may have smiled down upon us that night, as the traffic wasn't extremely horrendous, and we even caught the fireworks show at Mall of Asia as we drove down EDSA. Quirino is a side road off the avenue known as MIA road or The-Road-That-Leads-To-The-Airport. On the map, Quirino becomes Harrison if you head into Pasay city. But we were going the opposite way, into the hinterlands of Paranaque and possibly into Las Pinas. It was mentioned that if I ever find myself eventually going to the Bamboo Organ Festival, I would probably take Quirino. It's not an aesthetically pleasant street. Like many Manila roads, it has no sidewalks, the stores, homes, offices, churches, detritus are smack on the road, which also serves as a side parking lot. Eventually, you see three signs with the word Maty's on it, two on the left, one on the right. It's in the middle of inasal spots, carinderias, and other notable food points. Um. Ok, so according to our guide, the original Maty's is the one on the right. The family made enough to expand and they decided to do so in a triangle no further than 10 feet away from one another. Was it the monopolization agreement? Competition between Maty Sr and Jr and Tercero? Wouldn't you have wanted to be the fly on the wall for that discussion! Maybe not. Probably get bitten by the spider hiding in the eaves.

So you enter, and the waiter takes your order, then you sit at the plasticene table and wait (was it Maty himself? hmmm, I suspect Mr. Maty was the fellow standing in his sando by the large woks full of shredded tapa. He had that typical grill cook look, a man in charge of his domain. Mrs. Maty may have been the wizened lady manning the counter and the money.). We asked for four tapsilog and a few sticks of barbecue. In a flash, we had our plates dished out, the food on the table, and we were wiping away our sweat with the tissue paper provided on the side. We mixed our vinegar and red chilli pepper dipping sauce, to add a piquancy to the meal. The tapa, shredded to a fine consistency, was flavorful, a bit gamey, and reminded me of a well cooked corned beef hash. The egg was fried to death, I would have wanted it to be a bit undercooked, but it was mainly to give added texture (not taste) to the rice. As much fried rice as you could want or eat. To complete the experience, don't order any multi-national brand of soda, go for Pop-cola! Pinoy na pinoy. Even down to our local poison.

Total bill for four: P300.

Open 24 hours
Quirino Avenue (3 spots)
No phone
No reservations needed
CASH only.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Another round through the bookbins

A recent quiet afternoon was spent making difficult decisions. How many hardbound books can I comfortably lug around given that they only cost P65 (or the equivalent of US$1.44) each, but weigh a lot more than their paperbound copy? And if I do buy these books, what books in my current collection will I end up giving away or sell on consignment?

Weighty issues indeed, pardon the pun. I opted for 4 hardbound books and a paperback copy that weighed as much as the other books due to its size. And where does one find P65 books these days? At National Bookstore Cubao, the 4 story cornerstone of the book seller's empire. I've had previous visits over the last couple of years, but hadn't been back since they completed a facelift. What I didn't know was that they'd also be overhauling the insides, plus moving things around. In the past, the 4/F was the booklovers bin. A whole floor, about 300sqm of shelves, and books, no order, no system, just go through it and see what gems you can find. Average cost for the paperbacks, however, was between P100 to P250.

On this last visit, things were noticeably different. There were book bins of P65 books on the 2nd and 3rd floors, plus BARGAIN signs on certain tables. The 4/F was now shared with children's books, hobbies, and only half of the space was made over to the bargains. However, most of the bargain books were now priced at P200. Somehow, I'd prefer to rifle through the P65 bit below.

As to the 2nd question, I plan to do a review of all my books after I return from a short trip in June. I will sort, donate, and sell. Painful to lose the sense of floating in a bookworld around the house, but it's also necessary. The sense of being oppressed by one's possession presses down on me and I need to yank the yoke of that weight off very soon.

"Dinosaurs were on the ark"

A couple of nights ago, I caught the Simpsons episode dealing the issue of teaching evolution vs creationism/intelligent design in schools (Season 17, Episode 21: The MONKEY SUIT. A Springfield law ordered that creationism must be taught instead of evolutionary science, and Lisa springs to the defense of science. She is caught illegally promoting The Origin of the Species, and during a trial reminiscent of the John Scopes "Monkey Trial", the battle is waged for the benefit of the souls and minds of the townsfolk.

Today, rummaging through the online news, I learned that creationists are not going to simply stand by and let evolutionary beliefs take over the landscape. They've opened a Creation Museum in Kentucky, with dioramas of Eden, Noah's ark, man's descent into a world full of evil (a young teenager in front of a computer is labeled "looking at pornography"), and conceptualizing the 6000 years of life since God first cobbled the Earth. What it has also done is to incorporate some of the more typical "natural history" elements into the picture: dinosaurs. They have our reptilian brethren trotting around 6000 years ago, and supposedly all fossils are remnants of dinosaurs that perished in the great flood. However, there were a few that survived, hence the belief that they managed to get on that ark.

The dinosaurs must be rolling in their graves.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Rare, unique, or just a freak?

Your Personality is Very Rare (INTP)

Your personality type is goofy, imaginative, relaxed, and brilliant.

Only about 4% of all people have your personality, including 2% of all women and 6% of all men
You are Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Last minute text invite for dinner yesterday, and what a dinner it was:

Appetizers: spanish tortilla, sardines in oil with crackers. Served with Tio Pepe Fino Sherry.
Main meal: cassoulet, wild rice, green salad (with toasted jamon iberico?), and a beef bourguignon. Served with red wine, whose name I can't recall since I wasn't taking notes!!!! Flowery and peppery notes, but an initial woodiness.
Cheese plate: 2 aged cheddars, a pecorino, and a guava pudding.
Dessert: homemade vanilla ice cream (made with 4 vanilla pods), prunes d'armagnac, and a dessert wine (vin de liquor) that was reminiscent of raisins.

The cassoulet was wonderful, with salted pork, the sausages, the lamb layered with the beans in a baked ceramic cassoulet pot. Dip the serving spoon way down into the pot, and as it comes back up, you have a slice of the layers taken from way down deep. A piece of baguette slathered with butter to sop up all the juices, or drizzle more olive oil over the serving for a final palate glide.

The beef was tender, meltingly good. Drive the fork into a mushroom, a piece of roasted onion, and then top it with the beef. Comfort food? More than comfort, more like happiness in a mouthful.

The guava pudding for lack of a better term is reminiscent of a very thick guava jelly, the perfect compliment to sharp cheeses. I wonder why we don't make it here, we have a plethora of the fruit, yet it has to be bought all the way in Mexico or Cuba. Calling Fidel!

"A" has reminded me to post the photos, as I now have a new digital camera! I will see if any of the photos I took are worth posting, testing phase of the camera's abilities means tons of pictures that look weird in a bad way. Don't blame the camera, blame the taker of the photo!

"Your room is booked"

This is my kind of hotel!

I'd reserve the Travel, Fairytales, Culinary Arts, Art and Art History, Mystery, Gen Lit, World Lit, Women's Lit, so many rooms, so little time!

Monday, May 14, 2007

My beans

Friends recently came back from a summer trip to Bali; they had asked if there was anything I wanted, and the only thing that came to mind was vanilla beans. While Tahiti, Madagascar, and Mexico are famous for their vanilla beans, I remembered seeing plantations of them in Bali. And I had a hankering to make my own vanilla extract.

I'm not one to sew my own dresses, cobble a shoe (although given my predilection i probably should), or build a table. I can make a simple fruit bread, and follow most recipes, although I am also fond of just winging it (au pif), but the idea of making my own extract didn't crop up till I saw a link online about homemade extract. Vanilla beans, vodka, and time. That's it! With the bonus of 4 beans from Bali, I went out to hunt down a bottle of vodka, and now, on my dining room table there's a bottle of vodka on it's 3rd week of distilling them beans.

Some recipes say 6 weeks, others say wait for 3 months. I'll probably wait till the end of the 3rd month and take a sip of the brew, before going on a vanilla crazed existence.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Fruits by any other name, but not by any other price

Rockwell, May 8 '07, comparison shopping between the Rustan's Fresh supermarket and the fresh fruit stand stationed near Milkyway (that central aisle cum market).

Item number 1: Bing cherries, 500 grams. At Rustan's, the plastic wrapped bag is priced at @P570 (I saw two different prices on two bags, so approximate price given) or US$11.90. Along the central aisle, the same weight of cherries is P500 (price told to me was P1000 for a kilo) or US$10.42.

Item number 2: imported (and hormonally enlarged like Jessica Simpson's breasts) strawberries. Prepacked, with a Driscoll label. Rustans: P 848; central aisle: P800.

Convenience of getting them from Rustans is paying by credit card. Cash only at the central aisle.

Side note: the avocados in the central aisle were better than the puny, pale, rockhard avocados in the supermarket. Price not asked.

ADDENDUM: At Salcedo Market last Saturday, fruit shoppers may have found the same container of Driscol strawberries (see above) for only P600.00! And who says the Salcedo market is too expensive?

Gazing down


Number one rule about living in the tropics: don't wear shoes that will soak up water like a sponge. An espadrille is a case in point. If caught in the rain with one of those, expect to toss them after. They'll smell and no amount of drying with deodorizers will return them to their natural state.

Suede is another material I have foresworn. I put away my suede loafers and pumps when I returned to the tropics. Then they got moldy, so I ended up spending more money! Curses on thee, humidity!

Lately, my basic shoe choices are my clunky Naot black sandals, bought on a splurge a few years ago in DC, and two pairs of ballerina flats (a pair in black and a pair in brown) from Via Venetto. VV can customize a pair of choice so long as they have the last. And they've been churning out ballet flats for generations so it was easy enough to tell them what style and color I want.

Shoe shopping in Asia can be a horrible experience. I'm a size 10 (US), and most shops in Asia don't know what a size 10 is. Over the years, I've had to deal with the innumerable annoying suggestions from sales personnel to try the size 9, when they don't have a 10. Sometimes I ignore them, other times I put them in their places with well deserved scorn. In the past, I'd anticipate my US trips just to buy shoes. Books and shoes, my luggage would be packed with both. Favorite shoe binging destinations are Nordstrom Rack, Filene's or Macy's, Saks, and those wonderful shoe outlets up and down the West Coast.

These days, I'm committed to buying local shoes, especially if Via can support my needs. On my wishlist are a fantastic pair of stacked maryjanes, another black pump (the basic work shoe), and perhaps, one day, a customized knee high brown boot (that won't be much good in the tropics either, but it's more of a dreamshoe than anything else).

Saturday, May 05, 2007

What I missed, what I would miss

Going through food blogs, or blogs in general, one always comes across posts that elicit a certain nostalgia from the writer, or the commenters that have likewise read the essay. On many a Marketman post, comments from overseas based Filipinos mention that the food or fruit or vegetable in question is impossible to find, or they'd mention finding a facsimile of it. And with a future trip looming for another blogger, she recently listed the places she'd miss the most while away.

When I left to go to college, I was not as homesick for Manila as others, probably because I believed I'd be back, although there was no guarantee of that. And it was 5 years before I did return. In that time, I did miss many a dish, or the fruit I couldn't find overseas. But I wonder what I'd miss now, older, not necessarily wiser, but with more food experiences. And what do I miss from other places that were my temporary homes?

What I remember missing the most included:
- mangos; this probably is on most Pinoy lists. And having tried to enjoy other mangoes elsewhere, there's no mango like our mangoes.
- boiled peanuts. I remember getting weird reactions when bringing this up. I couldn't get boiled peanuts in LA. Luckily when I moved to China, they were a lot easier to find. "Mani", especially the boiled form, was a regular snack and bonding ritual with my dad and me. He'd come home from his mahjong games, usually with a bag of boiled peanuts. Either the same night (if I was awake watching tv) or the next day, we'd shell the peanuts, read the newspapers or just contemplate a quiet moment together. Peanuts make me think of my father.
- PopCola/Sarsi. Another weird, eyebrow raising reaction. I once came across 6 bottles of Sarsi at an Asian store in LA; bought them all, and hoarded them for moments when I wanted a taste of home.
- Calamansi; see mango above, but perhaps even more so, since soy sauce and lemon don't have the same bite as toyo+calamansi.

Other things I also missed included ube ice cream and ube jam, pastillas de leche (I got a German friend hooked onto pastillas, and had to send a box over one year), and sineguelas. The first dish I made sure to have when I came home was kare-kare with bagoong. Of course our longtime housekeeper had to make it since I wouldn't have it any other way but hers. Now that she's moved on, I also miss her adobong pusit, but I can find that in many places these days, with some general persistence. In those days, it wasn't a craving as I did with the other things mentioned above.

Away from the US, China/HK, several food things I miss include: good Persian food, the soft tacos in Los Angeles (our tex-mex places come up short), amazingly cheap and tasty chinese dumplings (especially from Beijing), walking at 3 am around HK for a steaming bowl of shrimp dumplings and cheap beer. And very good Indian/Sri Lankan food. Xinjiang lamian, made with mutton and homemade stretched noodles. Buying kumquats, lychees, and the tart strawberry like haw berries during season. I miss cherries and strawberries in the US (although a friend in LA told me that the all you can pick strawberry buckets in Oxnard are now $8.00 a bucket! They used to be $2.00 when I was there!). Going to jewish delis, and in-n-out burger drivethroughs after a long day of school, then a long day at work. And while not a food item, I really miss road trips. In my old job, I'd tell all my students to make sure to use their time wisely but never pass up a chance to get into a car and drive and drive and get lost along the way. You'll surely find wonderful experiences to treasure by leaving things to chance.

Off to make new memories...


My older sister sent me a text:
"Hey there, we may have left someone you know confused. I am at Rustan’s Makati, didn’t notice until after a couple of minutes that a woman was calling out your name. When I glanced in her direction, she was looking at me intently. I looked away, and only realized that she probably mistook me for you. Funny that people still get us confused for one another.”

This is not the first time that we’ve been mistaken for one another. Although she is nearly a decade older than me, my sister and I are close enough in appearance, but particularly in voice, that my friends have accidentally started telling her stuff thinking she was me, or her workmates would sit next to me and ask about the kids, or even our parents would first ask over the phone “who am I speaking to? Which daughter is this?”

If I ever hoped to have a twin, my sister is as close as I’ll get. I might be a bit taller, and she might have lost her girly figure after giving birth, but we can still pass for the other especially when we’re not together. And as I’ve noted in the past, when we are together, we can come up with a naughty plan or two.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Note to self: add to wishlist

This book looks interesting! Would make a good gift for a lot of foodies I know.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


In lieu of going all the way to Italy for gelato, hop over to Greenbelt 3 in Makati, and get yourself a cone or cup of gelato from Gelantone. The gelato display is in front of the cafe, attracting a good throng on these hot summer days. My friend A and I had a sandwich inside, followed by 2 scoops of gelato each. He had pistachio and black cherry, while I had the lemon sorbet and white chocolate. The lemon was a crisp, bright flavor, perfect for summer. Combined with the white chocolate gelato, the zing of the lemon lifted the other flavor. I got to taste the pistachio and cherry (colorwise, it was the perfect match to what I was wearing - pink and green); the pistachio was not as nutty as I'd like, while the cherry was mildly fruity.

Other flavors available today included a Nutella, a number of chocolate based flavors, a lime sorbet, raspberry, vanilla with apple, and a berry mix. While we were talking with the proprietor, she offered us a taste of the coffee topped by espresso, turning it into an affogatto (pardon any spelling errors).

A single scoop is P100, and a double scoop is P190. Half a kilo for takeout is P550, and a kilo is P990.

Gelantone is an offshoot of Pagliacci over at the Podium. Same gelato, and they use the bread made at Pagliacci for their panini, although our orders weren't pressed today (does that make it a non-panini?). I found the sandwiches to be a bit basic for the price they were charging (P220 to P270), but I'd definitely enjoy trying out the other flavors over time.

Gelantone is on the 2/F of Greenbelt 3, across from Tropezz, beside Cafe Bola.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies