Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Corregidor haikus

Straggler ("struggler")

Japanese mountain
soldier who does not know that
war is over na

Best eaten chilled

"Your favorite break
enjoyed in air-conditioned
places, Kit Kat Bites"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Winning the night

Not to generalize but what sports bars are to Americans, pubs and particularly quiz night pubs seem to be a British/Irish animal. With very few real pubs in this town, the only place to head out for a night of pub food, beer, and social gathering around trivia is Murphy's, along Rufino St., Legaspi Village.

The first time I attended one of the quiz night events (Tuesday's from 8 pm onwards) our team composed of two Americans and two Filipinos, didn't do too badly. We seemed to have hit our stride with Irish films and actors (go DDL!), but lost it when it came to Irish sports and politics. We patted ourselves on the back for making it as far as we did, had some sticky toffee pudding and promised to do it again.

Unfortunately, the two Americans had to move on to another post, but last night, with the encouragement of another set of expat friends, I joined a team that was diverse in all manner of speaking - race, age, experience with quiz nights. We had folks who were strong in general information, literature, sports, and surprisingly science (we were all taken aback by how well we did in the latter topic). It worked out to our advantage that we maintained a steady score for most of the topics, and only faltered in one area - geography (ports in Finland? mountain passes in Eurasia?? gah!). At the end of a nail-biting evening, two teams breathing down our necks, we scraped by with a win! The lemon-pledgy shooters notwithstanding, we enjoyed working together to get over 80 answers right. B+ for us, and a free roast lunch one of these Sundays.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I want a death ray

A book and a Broadway musical by the same name, Wicked took the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West. The same author of Wicked took another fairy tale and churned out another book, asking how the stepsister of Cinderella felt during the whole glass slipper incident. Within the sci-fi genre, there's always a crazed scientist, loosely based on Dr. Frankenstein and probably a throwback to another form of egotistical madness brought on by the desire to rule the world. Mad scientists are a great form of entertainment of course. They have their robes, usually white, their dorky sidekicks (Igors), high tech laboratories thrown together from what seems to be wires and switches, and usually found in isolated locations. And the laugh. Mad scientists must be able to laugh; insane laughter goes with mad scientist (fill in your own SAT question here)....

Josh Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has created his own mad scientist and shares what an evil guy to be wants out life. Do they not bleed? Do they not love girls from afar while doing laundry? Do they not enjoy a large service of froyo? During the writer's strike late last year till the early part of 2008, Mr. Whedon and a few of his acting friends put up an internet movie in three acts. Make it a three part movie musical. Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog is a downloadable dark comedy, noir romance; boy meets girl, boy wants to be evil genius, boy loses girl to nemesis superhero, will the boy get girl back and win membership into evil league? Watch and find out! See Dr Doogie Howser sing!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


My cat, Gabi, is in a very touchy feely mood today. It might be the rain, as she prefers to stay nearby when it pours outside. Today, she's rubbed my legs a lot, jumped on the couch for a few minutes to sit by me, and then took a nip at my toes. Argh. That isn't kibble, missy!

Gabi is a calico, otherwise known as tortoiseshell. She's predominantly white on the underbelly, with a swirl of black and orange. She has white booties on her front paws, and the black pattern makes her face look a bit like a Venetian mask during Carnivale. In the morning, she chirps, demanding to be fed. As I walk down the stairs, her meows become more insistent and I may be deluded, but it seems to be in perfect time with each step I take.

She's never had to show her skills with mice (and I hope I never have to find an offering laid on my feet), but she kills cockroaches! I owe her eternal gratitude for not having to kill them myself. I just have to make sure she doesn't eat them.

I don't think I'll ever take a photo of Gabi that would be posted on the uberblog Icanhazcheeseburger, but this photo is my vision of her with a bit of futzing (my fault!).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In the 80's

Fiddled with the online radio, couldn't quite figure out what I wanted to listen to - started with jazz instrumentals but felt myself dozing at 8 am. Changed to Big Band Vocals, and squirmed when listening to a sappy rendition of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon". Brit pop, my head started to hurt after two songs, and I was starting to feel disillusioned with music.

Then I popped over to 80's music and found myself singing along to George Michael, Rick Springfield, Spandau Ballet, Human League... and all is well in the world. Enough energy to keep me awake, some nostalgia, some silly songs (Whip it)!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday's end

12 hours into a sleepy Sunday, with a few things accomplished, nothing of much import. The dog is clean though, and I actually managed to finish one sudoku puzzle; I had not been having much luck with the ones I had found, and finally got one done! I'm rewarding myself with a simple dinner on a rainy night.

Last Friday I wandered over to Santi's (Rockwell branch) and rummaged through the vegetable bin. There were several packets of brussel sprouts, a large basket of plump tomatoes, assortment of lettuce, mushrooms, and herbs. I took one of the b-sprouts, and saw, hidden behind the braggadocio tomatoes, a small container of what I thought were more sprouts, but upon further investigation, turned out to be very young looking kohlrabi! Wow! The leaves had been trimmed and likewise their elegant stems, but otherwise it was a hidden treasure indeed. I took it into my basket as well, tucking it gently among the sprouts, the nut bread, and some cheese.

Tonight, I roast my brussel sprouts, lightly tossed in olive oil and salt, while my kohlrabi is sliced along with some apple slices and a quick chop of dates for a crisp, slightly sweet, and refreshing salad. A healthy dinner reward for a pleasantly quiet Sunday.

Bad rap

It's a relatively early Sunday morning, there's a full length animated Ironman movie on Star Movies. After sipping a cup of hot tea, I realized the central story had Ironman fighting the hordes of some resurrected bad spirit, a chinese mandarin whose last descendent, Li Mei, is the paramour of Tony Stark. As I watched the fight between Ironman and stone warriors reminiscent of the Qing Dynasty warriors discovered in Xian, I thought that it must be some kind of coincidence that the upcoming Mummy movie (the third installment starring Brendan Fraser et al) is also centered around a resurrected "Dragon Emperor" and his stone warriors come to life, whose only ambition lies in world conquest! Using my movie esp, I foresee scenes where all the stone warriors are shot and beaten to mortar and dust in the action flick, just as they are blown up by Ironman's laser beams. Methinks this is not so subtle China bashing from the entertainment sector during a potentially controversial Beijing Olympic year.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

In season

It might be a bit early, but I found a good stash of mangosteens at the Sungee fruit and produce store near my office (along Pasong Tamo Extension). Pricewise, P160 a kilo, so I got four plump looking ones, and paid a bit over P80 for them. I'm waiting till I get home to have my way with them, for I am not a neat mangosteen eater and I must have solitude when tearing them open, sucking each sweet globule down.

Last year, after a visit to sunny southern Mindanao, friend M sent us home with four kilos of mangosteen each. Freshly picked from one of the islands nearby (and better known as a refuge for bad pirates), we were thrilled to have our personal stash of these lovely fruit. Maybe I should text M and ask her for a couple of kilos when she returns hither. I'll swap cheese for mangosteen! I'll buy her flowers! I'll make her eggs benedict!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

4 without rival

"Is this a sans rival restaurant?" "Why do they have four kinds of sans rival?" "I'm getting drunk from the sugar." "Are you a crunch or a chew?" "Malaswang buttercream!"

Being a part of a food society has its perks. We get to attend great dinners, taste darn good wines, and become friends with amazing and talented women. Three of those amazing women and I have regular email exchanges that make us sound like cake-maniacs. We've been tracking down sources of the tastiest tidbits for a few months now, and last night we finally sat down to our first horizontal tasting.

A horizontal tasting is not about us collapsing in a prone position from stuffing ourselves silly. It's about one type of cake, four to six different sources, and enough taste buds to confirm, argue, critique, and absorb, and in a big splashy (or not) finale, announce what we think is the best of the set.

Last night, our focus was the multi-layered, buttery, sweet, and nutty Sans Rival. It is a difficult cake to make. Layers of meringue, topped with layers of buttercream, a good spread of nuts. Before pulling the collection together, we had to decide if we would bring traditional or non-traditional types of sans rival - cashew seems to be the agreed traditional version, but there are pistachio options and macadamia versions available too. Eventually, after some long email debates and face to face voluble dialogue, we bowed to tradition and chose only cakes with a cashew topping.

We were also facing a bit of a deadline. There was a sans rival that had been brought from the province and was in the freezer awaiting its destiny. We knew that we were already compromising the taste and texture factors by waiting it out this long and it would definitely not improve with age.

The other cakes, all sourced within Metro Manila, came from recommendations of other food/cake lovers. Flurries of texts about who was going to attend, last minute flaking, and tasting notes ensued, plus agreeing that no way were we going to survive on sugar alone. Good thing that K is the owner of a restaurant! She made sure the cakes were properly stored, and that her team were ready and willing to feed our hungry maws.

When the time for the cakes came to pass, we herded ourselves over four luscious looking specimens - the provincial offering, maintaining integrity even after a week of waiting, two circular pieces, and a large rectangular cake. We named them 1, 2, 3, and 4. Our hopes that no one would decipher which cake was which didn't work out since most people knew the shape or box size of most of the cakes. Note to self, have the cakes pre-sliced ahead of time!

We tasted cake 1 first, and even with the time lag, it definitely made most people murmur in appreciation. It has a slightly salty buttercream without a great deal of nuts, and a chewy interior.

Cake 2 had a lot of layers, we counted 7 but could have been 8. It was also notable for a strong nutty flavor, I thought more than necessary. The first of the crunchy cakes, it was one of the stronger contenders.

Cake 3 looked great on the outside. Smooth buttercream finish, a distinct sprinkle of nuts on the top, and when it was cut, definite layers of meringue and cream inside. Taste-wise we were underwhelmed. It was sweet. It didn't make us want to eat more, and some found it lacking in that necessary something that makes you want another bite. A pretty cake for parties, but it won't go down in our annals of great sans rival.

Cake 4 jostled with number 1 for champion's title. Some liked it for the seemingly intense buttercream exterior, however I argue that any cake that is plastered like a brick with buttercream only to show negligible coating inside the cake is a farce, coy, a tease, or worse. It was crunchy, and had lots of nuts, but many of the nuts were a tad too brown for me.

After a lot of noisy arguments (and sugar induced logic), the majority agreed that number one was still the champ. It got extra points for not only standing up to a week's worth of waiting, but for an overall strong presence. Not too sweet, a tasty buttercream, consistency in layering, and even the pro-crunch advocates agreed that in the end, it made us happiest.

This may not be the last of the sans rival taste tests, for we know there are many more out sources out there. Will the Visayan champion stand up against the ones we read about in Davao, Pampanga, or Laguna? And what about those non-cashew based nut cakes? Are they to be left in the annals of cake-dom? Till the next cake chapter!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Picnic food

Mark Bittman (the Minimalist) posted 101 tips for meals in 10 minutes, now in light of the summer season in N. America, he's written up a list of 101 picnic dishes. Many of them would be great for daily munchies too. I particularly like the idea of the edamame salads. Look through the short list of cold noodles and there is the kimchi sesame noodle dish again! I will take it as a sign that I've got to have me some kimchi and noods! Pack these meals in your bento boxes for the kiddies, so they don't turn towards the bag of chips and sugary juice drinks.

The weather on this side of the Pacific is not conducive to picnics, not unless you're into packing rain jackets and boots along with the wicker basket and red checkered cloth. Today's weather speaks of soup and hearty bread, a stew, and hot chocolate. Mulled wine.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Beginning in the middle

January to June are long gone, half the year is over, and I've chanced upon surreptitious christmas jingles in the bookstore. At this point in the year, I've decided to go back to old habits, or perhaps renew old vows. Yes, the dread of going back to the gym is upon us. I've signed up for a full year and I will actually haunt the place on a regular basis.

With the renewed energy of plunking down money for the service, I went off to buy vegetables and healthy (fiber-rich) food. Friend J had posted a quinoa breakfast dish recently, and while I like changing my cereals every so often, I do prefer the wheat like product as a salad. Perhaps its due to the first quinoa dish I had in salad form - with cranberries, pinenuts, and peppers, tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette.

I had no luck finding cranberries, but there's this free box of dates at home, and good looking asparagus in the market, add an orange and I put together the quinoa salad care of the recipe I found online here.

It's hearty and stick to your ribs (and palate) kind of salad. It would probably work with raisins as a substitute for dates if you just can't find them, but I do think dates aren't as difficult to source these days. The sticky texture and gentle sweetness blossom with the orange pairing. This dish makes me want to throw together a date/orange shake with yogurt!

I'm planning to put together a few more of the hot weather recipes that the folks at Serious Eats put together; I have a big basket of baby potatoes for an easy salad, and a lot of buckwheat noodles for making the kimchi-sesame noodle dish. I will reek of garlic after noshing the latter so I best make it for a weekend night, when it's just me and the cat and dog.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies