Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lessons

Manila- Friday morning after dropping my nephew off at school, my cousin and I headed to Megamall for the Forever 21 (50% off) Sale. It took us two hours to get there because of the traffic, normally we could have gotten there in a minimum of a half hour. It was mentally strengthening for me. When we got to the mall it was SOOO packed (there was also a mall wide 3-day sale) that my cousin got her car valet parked in order to avoid being infuriated while waiting for a parking spot. Once I got into the mall I was so struck. There were soo many people! It was like God dropped a cookie crumble (the sale) and a freaking truckload no maybe more like several dozen cruise ships full of ants (people) were clawing their way to a piece of cookie. I had to practice inhaling/exhaling meditational breathing tactics to avoid pushing people out of the way.


When we finally got to Forever 21 there was such a long line up! While we wandered to the end of that line I over heard people saying they had been waiting for two hours! My cousin and I decided to take turns leaving line for food/break/bathroom so I guess the line up went pretty fast. Once we were given the chance to go into the store it was like a freaking circus. Clothes, although some were still in good order, were thrown about everywhere! People were pushing and shoving and changing in every corner they could find because the line ups to the fitting rooms/ the cash registers were at least meters long. I picked up a couple of items but really I think I was dismayed by the clutter and the havoc. While I like to think I am a patient person, I am not a fan of aggressive crowds. I can never handle sample sales or crazy markets like Divisoria. It became more evident that my cousin and I are truly related because we left without a single purchase hahaha. I realize I can and do say this because of the privileged situation but one of the many lessons of the day: Sometimes, more often than not, sales are not worth it.


After braving that crowd we ate at Café Ysabel. After

finding out that Anthony Bourdain had hosted one of this episodes at this restaurant I made it one of my goals to eat there.

Located on a not so busy road Cafe Ysabel was attached to a culinary school in San Juan

City. It was decorated almost like an Spanish colonial house with pristine white pillars and a Koi pond and fountain. Inside was furnished like a quaint Spanish café while the inner dinning area (which I saw after our meal) boasted large chandeliers and elegant dining tables. I’m guessing that the restaurant was an old heritage house. I ordered Pan Seared Halibut and Four Cheese Mushroom Risotto. Before our meal came their house made bread with secretly made sauce (which I think was balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and maybe sugar or something sweet—it looked a tad bit more red than the usual). Anyways I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this bread. I actually loved it more than my meal itself. While the Four Cheese Mushroom Risotto was good it reminded me of my cousin's cheese and mushroom and truffle risotto. Ysabel’s risotto made me sad (I miss you!!) BUT my cousin's risotto was actually far better.


When my halibut came, I guess I elevated my expectations of how these dishes should taste. I think my most favorite seafood dish was from Market Market by Jean Georges at the Shangri-la in Vancouver. I still remember having perfect pan-seared scallops and the ArcticChar… soo freaking amazing. So I guess I went in what that expectation and sadly it was not at par. The Halibut was a bit dry, it was only towards the centre that it was moist. And the sauce, which I originally thought was pesto because of its appearance, was actually of some kind of lemony mixture AND was quite limited --- so while the halibut was okay there was really no sense of originality for me with the dish as it kinda lacked any specific flavor besides being halibut.


Dessert, however, was another issue. Their Jack Daniels Chocolate cake was sooo freaking good. It was so rich but not overbearingly sweet that I ate so much of it! I usually don’t have much of a chocolate sweet tooth but I ate all of my share of that one, taking turns with the strawberry shortcake we were treated with by one of the restaurant’s chef.


Divisoria

So I haven’t written in a while and there is a reason for it. I had to give my food spending a break. Although that doesn’t mean that mind has not been racing with thoughts about blog topics! This past week I’ve been staying in, thankfully to my cousin (no sarcasm intended).


During the first day (Tuesday), I went to Divisoria (a plethora of market sales- by market I mean like stalls and stalls and stalls of things like bags, shoes, anything really). I went to buy decorations for my parents wedding anniversary. It was such a gloomy day that started off a bit later than I initially expected and it was raining. I was exhausted after walking through the inside of two three level malls and then throughout the street where I walked in dirty muddy puddles, into sweaty dirty people and inches away from moving vehicles with a tantamount of smog. I initially wanted to hunt down a decent restaurant but after five hours of that madness I settled with a Jollibee yum burger which I think is half the size of any burger in America and some of their Filipino Spaghetti. It was yummy and I was tired. I went home and scrubbed hard with soap and then with alcohol.


Wednesday, I didn’t really do anything all day but download episodes of Glee and Cougartown that I missed AND I also finished reading Eat, Pray, Love. Which the end really wasn’t quite as powerful as the beginning. All of this while spending some quality time with my Lola and Titas.


By Thursday, I was already quite … bored. After staying with my Lola all afternoon and watching her soap operas (or teleseries) I decided to venture outside the house and walk about the village. It was a surprisingly breezy day but it was still quite warm in the sun. By the time I got to the entrance of the village I was so sweaty I felt embarrassed to be in public. I was supposed to buy ice cream and bread for my Tita but in my embarrassment I bought the first things I saw, vegetarian chicharon, peanuts and cooked corn from a street vendor (I felt like such a nut asking him to double bag the three cobs I bought, it took about five minutes for him to understand). It was also getting dark out so I hurriedly walked back home.

Broke


Yesterday (tuesday, october 12) I hung around Santana Grove for a good five hours. I was waiting for my cousin and tita to come but they said they’d already had lunch so I decided to find lunch somewhere. By find I mean eat at a restaurant. I chose to have lunch at TapaKing and had the Tapa Queen which included marinated pork, a sunny-side up egg, some garlic rice and some atchara (pickled papaya?). I thought it was yummy although there were some slices of meet that were quite tough but I loooooove egg. For lunch, after we had gotten our manicure/pedicure spas, I treated them out to Yellow Cab Pizza. We had these amazing baked potato wedges that were so crunch on the outside but soft and gooey on the inside with their garlic mayo dip. We also had a 10” New York’s Finest pizza with all sorts of meat, peppers, onions, mushrooms and olives on top. It was all pretty yummy I have to admit. But I went home that day feeling a bit broke.

Salcedo

(this is way overdue)

(last last last) Saturday I went with my cousin to Salcedo Market. It’s like an open air market with different kinds of food cuisine. I was able to try an Indian Samosa but chicken, the Ilocos empanada and a chocolate filled Japanese pancake. Out of all those I only liked the Samosa. The pancake was decent, I think it was just too hot out for me to eat something that was fresh off the cooker. The Ilocos empanada I felt tasted like nothing and it was sooo deep-fried that I could only attempt to bite it twice.


Later that day we went to Don Henricos at Festival Mall and ate their Buffalo wings (ultimately I believe these were chicken legs cause they were massive). Their seafood pasta with pesto cream sauce and an Italian Pizza. All were pretty yummy!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Some deep stuff


Death and new life. These two occasions when experienced can be earth shattering but right now as I write it and as you read it, seems nothing more than entities. I dreamt of a dog, one that I’d never seen before but in my dream I knew it was mine and it was dying in my arms =*(. I don’t know why or what happened but the moment I realized it was dying I started crying … and this is how I awoke. Seems silly that I write this blog based on my dream but there’s something to be said about it.


Today after working out at this fancy gym with my cousin. I commuted on my own. With traffic the commute that normally takes a half hour took one and a half. Within that time I thought about how I can never really melt in with the place in which I was born.

I came to the Philippines because I thought I could. I mean, because I was born here I figured I could blend in and assimilate. The problem is that I can’t. I feel like I don’t belong. I feel excluded as I pretend to be from here to avoid being ripped off by cab drivers. I feel excluded when people don’t think I’m Filipino because I look different when in fact I am fully Filipino and born here. And worse of all, I feel as though I don’t want to belong to what I have seen. I don’t want to be the poor grassroots beggars on the street. I don’t want to be those ritzy people who turn their nose to poverty as they drive their fancy cars. I think the problem is that I don’t know who I want to be. I’ve tried so hard to fit myself into a culture that I can’t understand or don’t really want to tolerate with their social hierarchy

.


Maybe all this contemplation has been brought about because I just watched Eat, Pray, Love. It was funny because after I had enjoyed a yummy Shabu-Shabu restaurant experience at Powerplant Mall at Rockwell I proceeded to purchase a decently priced bag. And after this movie, I felt like I was on my own quest to find myself and my happiness. So maybe that is what my dream was about this morning; I was sad to be losing a part of myself.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Another thursday =)

Thursday I accompanied my cousin to another casting shoot which did not take as long as last Saturday AAAND I got to ogle at the Keanu Reeves look alike who I’m pretty sure was younger than me (or maybe not, I somehow feel like everyone is younger than me these days).

Anyways, afterwards we went to SM Megamall in Ortigas. This mall was special becaaaauuse it housed FOREVER 21!! I’m such a big fan of that store. The minute we walked in I suffered from heart palpitations after seeing the vast variety of clothes, shoes, accessories in different colors! At first I had to practice some form of self control to avoid shoveling all everything I liked into a provided shopping bag but towards the end of it (after two hours) I was suffering from over exposure to too many beautiful things. Being the indecisive individual that I am, all the choices I was given (clothes, shoes etc) led me to mental and physical exhaustion.


My cousin and I both were famished and wandered

through to the Atrium to eat at Chef’s Quarters. To my surprise, they had a fairly decent Seared Tuna Tataki with Garlic ponzu which we had for appetizers. For entrée I had a Cream Dory with angel hair pasta. It was sooo good. The cream was not too heavy and tasted fairly light while

the Dory, wrapped around chopped mushrooms and topped with alfalfa sprouts, was cooked perfectly –not over done or undercooked. We stopped by Red Mango for their green tea frozen yogurt (I topped with almond slices) which I thought was better than The Coffee Bean’s maybe because it tasted more like frozen yogurt.


I know I have been overindulging lately, especially

with the poverty that I am surrounded with. There are times during the day when I am struck with guilt or even shame that I am able to spend ten times what the beggars on the street are making. While I know I owe it to myself (yes, I’m more honest than humble), I can’t help but feel sad when I see people, especially children wandering the busy streets at night looking to sell flowers/cloths/cigarettes. At the time I will try and rationalize my stoic nature that they are probably working for someone and will not even get the money I give them. But at the end of the day I am left to wonder, who is really looking after them?

It’s really a sad thought. But what can I really do now? Will giving one or several children money be a solution? Who really has the power to change this society? And why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? ---Can anyone really do anything?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

FAB - week two

Well I began the week with cute little pancakes made by my cousin. Then later on in the evening we went to a fairly nice gym in Quezon City called Arena Fitness. Yeah I know it’s super far (well with traffic it took us about an hour to get to), but the facilities included a sauna, a boxing class, hip hop dance class, an air-conditioned weights/fitness room, AAAAAAND it was free! So after I was finished busting my bum, it had been three months since my last decent work out, we went to Charlie’s Grill and Grind. I had a Roast Chicken with Shrooms burger. It was soooooo freaking good! It had a massive Portobello mushroom crusted in Panko. And I tried their San Miguel Light there also, it was okay but super carbonated (duh).


Tuesday wasn’t quite as eventful. I gave my Lola a manicure/pedicure then went to a nearby bazaar where I bought flip flops and a cardigan (how contradictory I know). Before this I tried Tequila Rose Ice cream which at first I thought was yummy but soon after turned gross (too creamy).

Wednesday I was able to visit my other Lola with my Titas. There I tried a hot bibingka (not sure what that is in English but its this soft bread like dough served on top of a banana leaf), Chicken empanada (similar to the Mexican empanada), a longan and some rambutan! They were all pretty okay.


In the evening my cousin and I went to World Trade Centre to watch her boyprend play with his band for the Fashion and Beauty conference. I was able to sample food from the food stands outside. I tried the corndog (didn’t like) and the squid balls (I’ve had better). It was quite a disappointment BUT I only spent about 68Pesos ($1.20 roughly) so no biggie! After we browsed through the stalls inside the conference we went to Cedars Grill in BF to smoke some Sheesha. Their hummus there was pretty yummy as it was run by Lebanese owners. I had one of the BEST beers there! Guilby’s Premium Strength with Green Tea Extract! … I had four =S AND since I was tipsy enough I tried the Chicken Isaw (I’m going to translate this in another blog since it still makes me sick that I ate it). So grosssssss!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First weekend in Manila

While I was having my pedicure done I was reading Eat, Pray, Love and I read one line that stuck with me, a Buddhist teaching that said, “the world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world" (173). I feel like this was a nudge forward in respect to the contemplation I’ve been doing from the night before. And so I move forward…


Saturday was quite the experience topper. After waking up at 5am to head out with my cousin and her son to their casting shoot I waited for three hours until I got restless and ventured out to find my own way to a shopping centre. I took cab to Greenbelt where, looking back now, I can say that I definitely overindulged. I impulsively got my hair cut at Piandre’s and a foot spa pedicure at Tips and Toes I then proceeded to spend 1/3 of my travel budget!

You must want to know on what but to be completely honest I’m not really sure. Aside from my hair and nails, I bought impulsive splurges, I think I’m subconsciously trying to forget about it because nothing specific comes to the top of my head. I did venture to try out this Japanese Restaurant on the second level of Greenbelt 3. It kinda sucked hence why I forgot about their name. I ordered a “California” roll but it had a stick of crab, cucumber and sliver of mango and on top I assumed it was Japanese mayo. It was not very flavorful. All I could taste was the surge of mayo and the overpowered mango. For dinner however, I ate at Cyma’s (which was reminiscent of my last trip to the Philippines, specifically to Boracay with my cousin who is not with me now =(). We ate Chicken Souvlaki and Giant Prawn with Ouza.

Sunday, I decided to take a cab to visit my Tita who had just undergone a mastectomy. Afterwards my cousins (from my mom’s side) and I ventured to Festival Mall. Why they call it festival, I’m not technically sure BUT with the amount of activities, levels, stores and people that surge throughout each branch of the mall I am not surprised with its name.


Before we left their home though I was able to try some completely authentic Chicken Adobo. I haven’t had this dish in a while so when I ate it I was completely overwhelmed with thoughts of how good it was, when the last time I had it was, when my mom ever made it, when the last time I ate at my house was and when the last time my mom cooked it was. Yes, I know, sometimes my mind is like a horse race.

At festival mall I ate at Fresh Lumpia, Roasted Chicken and this other shrimp dish I forgot the name of at Max’s Restaurant. The chicken was yummy juicy inside and roasted outside. The fresh lumpia was good but my family friend in Coquitlam makes better ones. And the shrimp dish was a bit plain but it came with toasted bread and the bread was reaaallly yummy!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Curry


So I realized that the reason my mojitos have been quite dissatisfying is because their grocery stores don’t seem to carry lime or mint (aside from Vietnamese mint). Today, after spending about 1950P on eye cream by L’OCCITANE (a habit that I was encouraged to start early). I felt so completely shameful after we had encountered a child working on the street in the rain. He was selling cloths and while residents here are used to them, I was not. I felt completely miserable for them and started thinking how they got there, would the money even go to them or would it go to their “employer”? So many questions that I guess I asked to rationalize their existence on the street and their unfortunate situation. I just hoped that they had someone who loved them and an aspiration to make good of themselves.

I went home and celebrated one of my aunt’s birthday. We bought Thai green curry with duck, Chicken Satay and mango cake from Red Ribbon. I LOVED the curry it may have been a bit too sweet but it was still yummy. I’d have preferred it with chicken or even shrimp, only because I’m not a fan of duck. I also loved the sauce that came with the Chicken Satay. My aunt also had some Prawns with lemon butter sauce and Filipino Pancit.

While it seems that I have completely overlooked the poverty that exists within this country, it is only a means of my attempt to maintain a ‘vacation’ mode. And what can I really do to help? I’ll have to contemplate that.

Mojito attempt #2

After having such a crazy day on Wednesday, I woke up yesterday morning feeling quite refreshed and thankful that no spiritual figures decided to grace me with their presence again, or that I was able to keep my eyes shut at all times. I woke up, spent time with my Lola and then proceeded to complete a Powerpoint slide show presentation for my aunt (I know, some vacation right?). But then she gave me these addictive rice crackers that I, along with my cousin consumed by the end of the day.


For lunch I had this pineapple chicken and radish stew and for dinner I went to Ziggurat. A Lonely Planet tourist destination restaurant with middle eastern influenced cuisine. They served all kinds of curry, rice, bread, skewers and you could smoke a shisha while being there. The interior was fun with rugs and floor pillows of all kinds. We sat on the floor upstairs (to our disadvantage since there was a tendency to forget about us with the large party downstairs). Anyways, we ordered the Lamb Mushroom Truffle Curry, Indian curry rice and chicken tikka with some Pakistani Roti. The only dish I really enjoyed was the rice and the chicken tikka. I’m not really a fan of lamb (which according to others is unfortunate) and the curry sauce tasted very different maybe it was the mushroom or the truffle but it didn’t taste very curry-esque. The Pakistani Roti was okay but quite dry. Maybe I’m just used to a different kind of roti? I don’t know.

After dinner we went to Ardi’s to watch my cousin’s boyfriend perform with his band. I was so impressed with their musical ability and over all sound! I ordered a mojito hoping that it would be the right kind but was disappointed. My search for the perfect mojito has just begun!