Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pyramids, moonlight, and sheepish admission

Small coincidence throughout the weekend took place in the form of samosas. Last friday, we held a potluck for a departing friend and one of the dishes that we laid out was a towering load of samosas. Due to an abundance of food, we never got to try it, and our host made me bring some to the dive trip I was leaving for that evening. I then forgot all about the food until the next morning, finding the sodden bag in the trunk of the car. Oh dear. Tossed it into the fridge with the intention of reheating it for dinner, but that never took place either. For all intents and purposes, it may still be in that refrigerator. Sunday afternoon, at a friend's gathering, they served - samosas. I conceded the fight and graciously had one.

While the dive weekend quickly turned into a lazy one, a gentle memory was the lovely evening we spent watching the moon's reflection on the water. It had been so cloudy during the afternoon, the sun had no place to set. But the moon broke free from the clouds and we were in awe over its seductive glory that night.

And back here in Manila, I broke my vow not to buy a book, and ended up at Buy the Book at Waltermart, Makati. Hauled 7 new books back to work. Lordy lordy lordy

Friday, August 24, 2007

Amnesia or Alien Invasion?

I've recently caught two action movies, which is such a big change from my usual video fare. While one was better than the other, I still feel the genre is not value for money for my viewing pleasure. Action flicks don't excite me, which is odd given that they're packed with special effects and enough adrenaline rush tactics to raise one's excitement. But most of the time, I leave the theater bored.

In INVASION, a remake of the 1950s science fiction book and movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Nicole Kidman is the heroine out to save the world from alien invaders, represented by a gooey substance that creates facsimile of a person by tossing the soul out the mental window. Since I became a Daniel Craig fan (post-Casino Royale), I had to choose between watching a film with one actor I like and an actress I don't like. Cannot for the life of me understand why she continues to get major roles for acting that's as cold as a witch's tit. In Invasion, her relationship with DC is barely beyond platonic. Here's the review from Slate:
"She's aided by ... Dr. Ben Driscoll (Daniel Craig), a kind, hunky doctor whom Carol likes only as a friend (more evidence that she must have been body-snatched already: What flesh-and-blood earthling isn't attracted to Daniel Craig?)."

As NK and DC are also working in tandem on the movie remakes of the Philip Pullman series (the books were good, looking forward to the cinematic version), I'll have to suffer her acting for 3 more films.

With a modicum of interest in the last (one hopes) Bourne movie, the Bourne Ultimatum, I was reeled in by the good reviews and strong word of mouth. I had seen bits of the first chapter, and saw most of the 2nd, hoping that, like any good film, I wouldn't have to know all the details of the first and second to understand the third. And given the relative limited dialogue in any action film, the complexities of the relationships and the reason for his quest were not that hard to pick up. He does gain the information he seeks, retribution is attained, and there's hope at the end that perhaps a fourth film will be made. But I hope not. (Spoilers) What will he do now that he knows his real name? Go back to the Midwest and raise soybeans? Will we have to watch the Bourne Harvest? Meet the Bournes? Re-Bourne? Will he run away to save Nikki from her CIA black-op avengers who won't rest until all those who oppose them are dead? And doesn't it get a wee bit implausible that a man can turn a policecar turtle several times, get smashed on all sides and still walk away with barely a limp, nary a bloody bruise?

Over the next few weeks my next cinematic forays may include Hairspray, No reservations (although the reviews have been barely positive), and I hope we get Stardust; loved the Neil Gaiman book on which the movie is based. I can only hope it's half as good.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

red-tipped thumbs

4 kilos. P5 each kilo. A steal, no matter what you call it. I'm now down to 3 kilos, having devoured one.

Each globe is full of luscious, sweet segments. There's the sap. And there's the stain.

One friend had never tasted one before. Shocking. For a Pinoy not to have tried it once in 30+ years of having lived in this country, it makes no sense. So we showed him how to crack one open. And he didn't know that it can cost a whole lot of cash, so he nearly choked on it when we told him what it goes for in Manila.

And speaking of cost, here is what it costs across that large pond to the right of us plus a large expanse of land: $11/kilo . It makes what I brought back to town a whole lot more valuable.

The only downside's been stained fingertips.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Crisis control

oh what a day it has been, what a rare mood im in (not) why it's almost like being ... well, the end of that line is "in love" but right now, i'm just plain exhausted. Another storm has entered the vicinity, and classes were suspended. While we were trying to get the kids home to their warm loving parents, I get one guy who should be suspended from parenthood. He rates his driver's convenience over his son and went on a hysterical rant about the government being effed up so why are we listening to them and their announcements about classes? Then one kindergarten kid gets left behind while the rest of the student body has left, so we stick around to keep her company, but the poor thing seriously needs to get home, and so do the rest of us.

When we all finally leave, I try to avoid traffic, but end up stuck in 3 hours of it. I figure I should drop by my parents place first to make sure they're ok, and reward myself with some of my dad's birthday cake; unfortunately no chocolate cake left. Sigh.

I get home at last, and then get the final blow. Water damage from today's strong rain. Bathroom and storage room hit. Water. 4 inches of it. Sob. But no, I can get through this. Not the first time I've had to deal with this. Call the landlady, call the repairmen, call my friend A who can listen to me bitch about the stupid contractor who didn't fix the problem right. Call the landlady again. And bail. Buckets of water bailed. Boxes damaged, papers, some school notes, my old suitcase. Am never putting anything in that storage space again.

If I were an alcoholic, this would be the right time for getting soakingly drunk. Without that option, i'm left sober and stressed on my sofa. Sleep is all that's left to me at this point. What a day indeed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

News you can use or take for a walk

The minimum daily wage in Manila just went up by P12, Manilenos are now getting P362 a day. Doesn't include household help or those that fall under private care service in a household (drivers?).

New Yorkers may have the highest life expectancy amongst Americans because they walk, and they walk fast. Does that mean Pinoys will probably be in the bottom rung in a life expectancy survey because we can barely manage to walk 100 meters without whining about the heat? Among Asian cities, I think HK has the closest pace to NY. I remember getting leg cramps the first week of living there from all the walking to and from the subway and then to work, and up the stairs to my 6/F aerie in Causeway Bay (no elevators in those old apartment buildings). Fastest escalators for sure.

For some (darn) reason, I can't perfect the daily geography quizzes on the National Geographic GeoBee. 10 questions, hard ones too, and I keep getting 9 out of 10.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Stairs in the night

Woozy from an athletic dream, I recall most of it in spurts. Lots of friends and family involved, but the one standout, common theme all night was stairs. And "thwarted". I'll get to the latter later.

First, there was the part of C and I driving UP stairs, me thinking (in the dream) "Midlevels" - aha, a HK connection! Then we end up running down the stairs, only to have to climb back up later.

Following all that up and down, I have to dash to a lunch with food friends, only to find myself having to choose between two twisty, foliage filled staircases downwards. I choose one that isn't busy, but more twisty. Down I go. After never reaching my goal, constantly bedeviled by family naysayers and people who seem to be in the way, I have to make a final run, through a strong downpour (more rain for the drying up dams?), up a staircase, while a long lost friend appears riding a scooter saying how nice it was to see me again. Eh?

No wonder I woke up with a headache and tired muscles.

On two occasions in the dream, I was hampered by the people around me. I was told by a vendor that they couldn't give me change, although from the looks of their coffers, they had enough spare coins to throw around. And I couldn't continue to insist as I was rushing to catch a train and my friends were waiting. On the way to the lunch, I was taken in by aunts, parents, long lost acquantances (on scooters) delaying my meal, one that I had organized and paid for in celebration of an event. I could even see the meal taking place when I'd crane my head, but crossing the line seemed impossible.

Frustration and exhaustion to start the week.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Taste testing with K

I came home from the grocery and a mall stopover to find a full yahoo messenger board open. So many people online, but not everyone is a prime candidate for a late afternoon chat. I also had a box of something new and wanted to share the "experience" with someone I knew would appreciate it. So I clicked on K, who we keep pestering to open her own blog, even as another blogger put, a blog of comments about other people's blogs.

Instead of retyping the entire dialogue, here is the discussion sans some irrelevant stuff or two:

(I had texted her that I saw the new product options of cupcakes at Gonuts Donuts, and she had expected to hear back what they were like)

Me: i have 6 cupcakes/i will photo and taste throughout the day/we sure need to organize a tasting day for cupcakes
K: Yay! Live, real-time report!
Me: ok, lesssee now, which little cupcake is going to be eaten first...
K: What are the 6 flavors? I like to go from mild to sweet.
Me: they all look sweet/frosted
ok, here's the list
i have the danish buttercake (basic, no frosting)
mexican mocha
dulce de leche
chiffon rosette
chocolate peanut butter
strawberry shortcake
do you want the descriptions per the Gonuts cupcake handbook?
K: Oohhhh... Are those all 6 flavors, or do they have even more?
Me: There are a total of 16 choices in all
K: They have a handbook? Whoa! 16!!!
Me: most of them look like they have a butter/chiffon base or a chocolate base
And since they are sold in individuals (P35), pack of 3, pack of 6 and pack of 12, there is a nice holder in the box so you don't get mushed cupcakes. not quite magnolia bakery style of frosting
ok, here's my first bite into the danish buttercream, described as sugar crystals over buttercake (ie taisan? hehehe)
K: So was it more like Taisan light, or Vargas butter cake havy, or like pound cake?
Me: Taisan light with the mild crunch from the sugar crystals
K: Like those butter cookies with sugar on top!
Me: yes, but no coconut aroma
chocolate pb: moist cake, the pb is all in the frosting/not a bad combination, although the pb too sweet
not enough chocolate to counter the pb
ok, mexican mocha: again, same cake base, all the flavor is in the frosting
sort of the like the mocha frosting of goldilocks ; not a bad thing, just not infused into the cake
of course that's why it's so darn cheap
K: Oh...but I like that frosting! I wish P----'s Brown Derby had the Goldilocks frosting.
Me: strawberry shortcake: sniff, i smell strawberry essence and i'm about a foot away from it
i bite and see - strawberry jam!
too sweet, but a good option for pink afficionados; would be perfect for a girl's bday, or a drag queen that I know....
K: LOL, we are too funny, doing this live, virtual tasting!
Me: chiffon rosette. Other than the pink rose decor, nothing to really crow about. ok, am on the last cake. feeling full actually
i've only been taking small slices of these things but am already feeling the effects.
so far, the cakes have been moist, and the flavors ok. More commercial than the homemade stuff, but not a bad deal for P35
K: How big are they, compared to S----'s?
Me: they're about the same size. Am disappointed with dulce de leche. description is custard filled chocolate cake topped with white chocolate. first custard is not really perceptible, and this ain't no white chocolate!!!! it's marshmallow cream with a fancy caramel topping
K: Hmm...there's no dulce de leche in that description. Custard isn't the same thing.
M: so other than the misnomer on that last one, the cupcakes rate a 3.5 out of 5. Points for price, accessibility (assuming theyre availalbe in all gonuts), packing for ease of transport, and having 16 kinds to choose from. flavors aren't that intense, but then pinoys veer towards sweet, not subtle.
K: I like intensity AND sweetness. Strong flavors always do it for me. Would you buy them again?
Me: If I had any, i might want to top the first one (the buttercake) with mm's kalamansi marmalade. I think i will only buy them for myself if I am desperate for a sugar rush and don't want to buy a slice of cake, but probably not in the immediate future. This taste test was enough.

Thanks K! and hopefully you'll see her on her own page, same blogtime same blogchannel!

Monday, August 06, 2007

"Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant"

I think I would like to get a copy of this book. It would suit me to read about eating alone, since I eat alone many times in a week.

I don't mind going into restaurants to dine by myself. I'll either people watch, eavesdrop on conversations (especially when they're practically screaming in my ear), or read. That's why I bring books with me, and that's why I need handbags that can fit my books. Ergo, my left shoulder is stronger than my right, since my handbags weigh a ton.

The basket

Good restaurants almost always offer a bread basket. It may come as part of the pre-emptive strike on appetizers, or as an accompaniment to the ordered soups and starters. For friends who are on low-carb diets, the bread basket is eeeviiiil! But that just means more bread for me!

I love a good bread basket, and a restaurant with good bread, usually made at the restaurant, earns points. The dips, spreads, toppings may vary, but here are my random choices for restaurants in Manila and the adjacent vicinity with darn good baskets:

* Tosca at the Dusit Nikko Hotel. Not all bread are made equal, and Tosca's breads are stratospherically wonderful. I would love to just order water at the restaurant if they'd plunk their bread in front of me. And it comes not in a woven basket but a ceramic white bowl. There is usually an assortment of bread - foccacia, grissini (and these aren't your stale crumbly sticks! They have flavor, they have texture, they make you want to be a grissini!), brioche, and a squid ink roll (black inside and out and hinting of the secrets of the sea). Made by their chef from Sardinia, these bread call to me at night. Accompanied by a selection of dips: garlic aoili, tapenade, tomato pesto, and olive oil/balsamic vinegar.

* Bohemia, Angeles. Made on the premises, the rye bread will floor you. Mild, yet full of rye, they'll serve slices of it to tempt you before the meal, and as a side dish to many of the main plates. It's so hearty, that one slice will be enough, so don't say I didn't warn you! The texture, the crumb, is well, chewy. You chew, your mouth is flooded with rye happy thoughts, and maybe you get that sense of being transported. Then you feel heavy so you're back grounded on earth again. Eat lightly, but try to buy a loaf to bring back with you. It will last months!

* Cantinetta. Sometimes they serve it and sometimes they don't. A bit frustrating, but I'm not always happy with the bread here. The one I like, the darker, wheat? bread makes a rare appearance, but when it does, I lavish it with the chicken liver spread. Or split it in half and have the tomato salsa on one half, the liver on the other. Then remember I have a heavy pasta meal on its way. Uh oh.

* Peninsula Lobby. Go there for the people watching, let me have your bread. On days when life seems to hit you in the gullet and nothing goes right, I will avoid disaster by heading to the lobby of the Pen, have my hot chocolate, and eat some bread. I can have the flat bread solo, but must have butter for the sesame roll, melting into the cavities, the perfect union of fat and carbs. A perfect escape even after being stuck in the bathroom.

* La Cabane. A recent discovery over the weekend, this place also has lovely, chewy, wheat bread and served with a small pot of butter. A bit of beurre. If the beurre weren't a wee bit too hard, the spoon on the side would have made sense. Otherwise, just dig in with your salad knife, lather like a bricklayer. No scrimping necessary.

Where do you go for your bread yearnings?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lamb and cherries

A hidden gem of a bistro, La Cabane is right along Pasay Road/Arnaiz Avenue, near the Tesoro's store and Anson's Arcade. It is labeled a resto-bar, but most of the customers there were eating, not drinking. And eat we did, filling ourselves with homestyle french food, and happily content at the end of the night. We shared the tastes of a terrine de foie gras, munched on salads full of liver or goat cheese, and slurped on creamy asparagus or mushroom soups.

The mains were substantial. We commented on how satiated we were just looking at the plating of our dishes. These were not your nouveau cuisine plates, with a couple of tablespoons of meat. There were good cuts of lamb loin, or full bowl of lamb stew with couscous, and in my case a large braised lamb shank served with caramelized vegetables and a dijon mustard sauce. Two of our group ordered the lapin aux olives - stewed rabbit with olives and penne pasta ("It taste like cheekin!" lol). And another two chose to go for the beef bourguignone. You might imagine that we were starved from runnning a marathon (kudos to Anton) or had been training for intensive swimming practice (go Ann go), but to be honest most of us had just been to watch a movie. Happy gluttons were we...

Speaking for my dish, if lamb could talk, it would say "here I am, a beautifully braised lamb shank, tender meat lovingly cooked, draped with a flavorful gravy of my drippings. Eat me you fool!" And let's not forget the hints of citrus in the sauce, and the vegetables (baby carrots, zucchini, radishes, cauliflower and broccoli) perfectly rendered in butter.

For dessert, try the black cherry pie, stewed fruit on a savoury cheese tart. It blew the other options away. All the ala mode this and that were pale in comparison to the black cherry pie.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies