Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Hate Judy Ann Santos Because

She's so lucky to have met the great Anthony Bourdain!

And now I hate her even more!

And why Cafe Ysabel?!? I may be bitter but Cafe Ysabel is NOT a good REPRESENTATION of authentic Filipino cuisine! Take him to the provinces instead!

Note: Pictures were asked to be taken down since they are not mine and I didn't ask permission to grab them. They can be found here instead.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dive Bohol: This Is What We Live For

October 24-26, 2008
Beach Rock Resort
Balicasag, Bohol

5 Sea Turtles in one dive. Massive school of Jacks. Awesome dive buddies. The beauty of Bohol. This is what we live for! Other photos can be found here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bohol's Food Eden

October 25, 2008
Bohol Bee Farm
Panglao Island, Bohol

I've never really been a fan of buffets. Stuffing yourself silly with everything you see just for the sake of increasing the rate of affordability is not anywhere near my list of things to do. Gluttony is definitely my least favorite deadly sin. The tired, bloated feeling you get after a buffet meal is, in my opinion, the closest experience to hell one can get. If palpitations and meat sweats are not your cup of tea, it'd be best to stay away from these kinds of spreads. With everything in this world though, there are exceptions. I'm not a fan of buffets but I am open in trying some out. Heck, you know I'm open in trying anything once! The best buffet so far for me is the Bohol Bee Farm buffet:

The whole buffet starts with a refreshing drink of fresh lemongrass juice. First time I tried it, I didn't quite like it. It was a surprise to me that lemongrass was made into juice and used for beverage. I didn't quite like it though the last time. I felt that it tasted a bit weird. Maybe I was caught off-guard with the drink. This time I knew what I was getting into and surprisingly, I kinda liked it. It had grown on me. The coldness of the drink amplified the taste and texture of its actual freshness. It was very refreshing. Something to take that buffet-overload taste out of your mouth.

After sampling the beverage, the food came to our table one after the other. We tasted just a little bit of each dish before going all crazy on everything. The way to conquer a buffet is by tasting each dish once and then going back for seconds. Focusing mainly on the good dishes is key and the secret to an efficient lunch/dinner buffet. The problem with this buffet was that everything was so damn good, so you had no choice but to just dig in. Our mantra for this buffet dinner changed to "Eat now, think later" as soon as we saw all the scrumptious dishes.

Camote Bread/Squash Muffins. Just tasted this dish... didn't want to get filled up by carbohydrates this early into the buffet. The camote bread was normal... Didn't have that sweet potato aftertaste that I was expecting. It is best served when you lather some of the homemade spreads over it. The squash muffin was really nice. It was still moist inside which is always good. You can really taste the squash in it so you ARE sure you're getting your money's worth. I'd prefer it to be warm though, ours was served at room temperature.

Homemade Spreads. This is one of the best parts of the Bohol Bee Farm experience and also one of the reason for actually going there. I was tasked to buy some to take back to Manila for my friend Warren. The last time we went here, we loved this stuff. I remember we used to buy a lot to take home and let others sample it. It was definitely addicting. There are 3 kinds of spread: Pesto, Mango, Honey spread. The pesto spread for me was the best. A hint of margarine at the tail end of the flavors is a bad sign for those health conscious people but trust me, it's all worth the heart clot.

Cab-Cab with Pesto and Green Tomato. I almost forgot about how good this was. It is a healthier alternative to potato chip. It is made from cassava which is an abundant root crop in Bohol and the harvesting of it has been one of the many livelihoods in Bohol. The cab-cab dish was awesome and having the dip of their version of a sweet green tomato salsa was magical. I just wish they also placed the other dip of coconut jam together with the dish like the way it was served my first time here. Cab-Cab and coconut jam is also a good combination.

Seafood Soup. My favorite among all the dishes served to us. It is a very hearty serving of seafood in a spicy-ginger-tasting soup. As you take a slurp of the soup, you can taste immediately all the flavors infused in it. Surprisingly, the soup is not fishy to the taste given that it is in fact filled with different kinds of seafood. Maybe because of the ginger and spices used that seem to mask the fishy taste. The soup itself is not sharp to the tongue like MSG-laden soups out there and it is very flavorful even without it. The best part about the soup is the after effects of a stinging spicy sensation of heat from either the ginger of some chili. The soup dish is perfect for the buffet since it's not that heavy on the stomach that you can still have space for the remainder of the dishes.

Organic Garden Salad. The photo of this dish doesn't do it justice. You have to literally dig in the salad and find servings of mango chunks, kesong puti, carrots, and yam bean (singkamas) then pour the mango-honey dressing over it. As you can see, flowers act as ingredients-slash-decoration on the salad. It also brings out those aromatic oils from the completely homegrown flowers and vegetables. The arugula also added some bitterness to it. I just love arugula! All the different tastes in one dish, we couldn't help but have seconds. I mean, I've tasted many salads but I've never tasted anything this good! Do I dare say it? Best salad in the WORLD!

Grilled Marlin. Probably, in my opinion, the best viand in the whole buffet. The fish was perfectly cooked and I'm sure fresh. The meat still succulent and tender. The flavor was also infused inside the fish meat which showed the intense marinating process done over the marlin. The meat was sweet and had hints of sourness within. I didn't like the sauce accompanying it though since it would only mask the true and ample flavor of the meat. I suggest you only try a little bit of the sauce over the fish and not drown it.

Baked Spareribs. I'm not really a big fan of this dish. Maybe that is also the reason why the photo itself got messed up. Kidding aside, I really don't like this dish because it is tomato-based. I never really liked tomato-based dishes (except for Lasagna). Bohol Bee Farm's version of the Baked Spareribs is quite good. The meat is still tender having sat a few minutes waiting for us to sample it. More tendons than meat though. Tendon lovers would definitely want a piece of this. Maybe the buffet isn't that perfect after all... Nahhh! A minor hurdle.

Seafood Lasagna with Carabao Cheese. Lasagna has been one of my favorite pasta dishes. This was no exception. Again, I would like to apologize for the food shot (if you can call it that), lighting was kinda dim so I had to compensate with some photo-editing. Anyway, the Lasagna was superb! Add this to the best Lasagnas that can be found out there. The cheese was awesome also. The carabao cheese was light and complemented the pasta dish very nicely. It tasted like mozzarella but tastier. The only downside though is that I didn't quite see any seafood. Maybe all were grounded up but it would've been nice to infuse some actual seafood bits in it to give it some personality.

Honey Glazed Chicken. Organic chicken and local honey was used for this dish. I have this hatred for this type of chicken because at home we used to eat it deep-fried and we would have a hard time eating it. Organic chicken is small and the meat little. Hence, if you fry it without looking over it and making sure it's not overcooked, it'll become like bits of rock. My fear for organic chicken turned me off of this dish at first but as soon as I tried it, I loved it. The chicken meat was not at all tough. They maintained the meat's tenderness during the cooking process. Kudos to the chef. The honey glaze was also amazing and it coated the chicken pieces nicely. Perfect Honey Glazed Chicken.

Organic Red Rice with Camote. The rice served was very healthy but we didn't get to eat that much of it. The carbohydrate would not be a really good idea in a buffet. We just tried some to just experience it. The rice was very aromatic and the bits of rice were really fluffy looking. The dish is a healthier alternative to the normal white rice but I think it'd be much more filling. The color alone would psychologically make you think it's richer. But for rice lovers out there, this would be nice for putting some of the soup over and eat viand with. The rice is not flavored rest assured your kidneys are safe my dear readers.

Homemade Ice Cream. For dessert. The ice cream was served in two flavors: mango and buko. I liked both but I prefer the mango flavored one. They were very creamy and rich. When you taste it, your taste buds will tell you that this is real homemade because of the intense creamy texture and strong milk flavors. The dessert is packed and not full of air like conventional ice cream that can be found in the grocery. This is the real thing. The flavor also included a salty aftertaste which was kinda weird but interesting. Up to now, I still don't know where that saltiness came from. A theory of mine would state that if everything was made naturally, the ice cream maker would have been surrounded with ice and salt. This is done to even lower the freezing point of the ice which makes it faster for the cream to stiffen and eventually freeze. Some of those may have cross-contaminated over to the cream that was being made. Well, this is just a theory. Maybe they just put in salt so that the taste would be different. I don't know. Just know that it's very good. A perfect ending to a perfect buffet.

The photos and descriptions will never do justice. Bohol Bee Farm served the best buffet I've ever tasted. A heavenly feast of organic ingredients taken directly from their farm. Rarely do you see buffets having all of their dishes blow your mind. In Bohol Bee Farm, ALL the dishes are amazing. At the same time, everything is served with the perfect Bohol hospitality. Ambiance great. Food awesome. Service superb. Other buffets can never be this perfect. It is truly the closest thing one can get to heaven through food.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dive Acacia: The Opening

October 18-19, 2008
Acacia Resort and Dive Center
Mabini, Batangas

Went over at Acacia to be a part of its grand opening. Congrats Oli for your dream finally coming true! I saw my first shark during this weekend. Black-tip! Too bad I didn't bring my camera down to take a photo. First time to see so many jacks also! Awesome awesome dives and on the way back to the resort, we saw a big sea turtle playing on the surface of the water! And being with family, friends, good food, and fun - I don't know what else to ask for?

The rest of my underwater photos are at my Multiply.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Good Ol' Days

October 16, 2008
Fazoli's
Eastwood City

I've been a corporate resident of Eastwood City and I've frequented the many restaurants and establishments within the area. I've seen restaurant changes and downfalls but one restaurant has always been my favorite. It apparently stood through the test of time and economic crisis. Fazoli's is the only Italian fast food in Eastwood City. Of course it isn't that great. It used to be ok. But now, quality has deteriorated to below average. I still love it though. It has a special place in my heart. We used to always eat here because they serve very filling meals and bottomless drinks. It reminds me also of the good ol' days working as a corporate slave. Don't get me wrong, I loved those times. The different people you meet and the sheer randomness of everyday life still brings a warm fuzzy feeling to my heart each time I reminisce about it.

Minestrone Soup

Chicken and Pesto Pasta Meal

Spaghetti with Meat Balls

Quality has deteriorated. Serving size has decreased. But I will always have fond memories of Fazoli's. I would definitely go back as long as they don't (knock on wood) close down first. I think they should introduce new food items and better the quality of their food.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dessert Of Choice

October 13, 2008
Café Breton
Greenbelt 3, Makati City

Ever since I started blogging about food, I've tried out a couple of weird dishes. This, on the other hand, may not go into the annals of exotic food but it is somewhat of a weird combination for a dessert. To tell you honestly, I'm really not fond of desserts. I really don't like the sweet stuff. Maybe on some rare occasion or if the mood calls for it, I'd try out some cakes and pastries but not to the point of gorging on it. This slight dislike of desserts might have been what gave birth to the dessert of my choice. As they would say, necessity is the mother of invention.

The dessert of my choice would be a crepe from Café Breton topped with condensed milk. Simple. Classic. Now to cut the sweetness a bit, I tried putting some salt on it. Kinda weird placing salt on a dessert but I just had to try it. Viola! A new favorite dessert of mine was born.

As you bite into the buttered, slightly crisp crepe, the sweetness of the condensed milk floods your mouth. The moment it touches your palette, the sweet-creamy texture of the condensed milk coats the roof of your mouth. The flavors rush throughout all the various nerve endings inside your mouth and you experience euphoria. You close your eyes to heighten the sensation and it is in this time you get almost rhythmic salty spurts from the tiny grains of salt sprinkled on top of the prepared crepe. It was like tiny musical notes in a beautiful song. Like the gentle tapping that mom used to give when she tucked us into bed. At that moment, everything was just perfect.

Funny how a grain of salt can make a difference huh? You guys can try it out for yourself. I promise you'll love it. Remember to close your eyes to maximize the experience though. That's also my secret to actually taste good food.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

La Maison

October 13, 2008
Greenbelt 5, Makati City

This was my second time at La Maison. The first time was for lunch and a business meeting. This time, it was for dinner and to accompany a friend on her blind date. Didn't know what I was doing in somebody else's date but I guess it's for moral support. The first time at La Maison, I loved it. I fondly remembered the very good soup that they had, lunch meals, and the Wagyu Burger. I was excited. A little TOO excited maybe...

As we were waiting for the "daters", we decided on some soup to warm our stomachs and to open our palettes a bit. I ordered the same soup I ordered the last time, the Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup. I wanted to be safe. I didn't want to try something unsure in preparation of the highly anticipated Wagyu Burger. I had the burger before but I forgot to bring a camera. This time I was ready...

Camera checked and its settings optimized, I was prepared this time. The Wagyu Burger though, was not. They ran out of stock. The very point I agreed to eat at La Maison was to take a picture of the Wagyu Burger for the blog but AGAIN, I didn't get my mission done. I mean, the Wagyu Burger wasn't as amazing as I expected and is kinda overated but I just wanted to share the photos and my review with you guys. Maybe next time the elusive Wagyu Burger will finally present itself. I'll be back for it La Maison...

Going back on track, we decided instead on sampling their other dishes. We got the Seafood Marinara Pasta, Fish and Chips, and the Baby Back Ribs. The pasta was just ok. I'm frankly not fond of tomato based pastas and this one didn't quite make an impression on me. It was normal. Same as any marinara pasta dishes I can get at a lower price range. Prices at La Maison are a little bit steep and for the price, I hope they can make better pastas than this.

The Fish and Chips, on the other hand, was a few notches above. The batter they used was really good. The fish had a very crunchy outer shell and the inside was very moist and tender. Perfectly cooked from the inside to the outside. There were also four sauces to choose from: curry, cocktail, tartar, and red bell pepper. My favorite was the tartar and the red bell pepper sauces. The tartar had no strong after taste that I usually hate about tartar sauces. The tartar sauce is perfect for the Fish and Chips and I love how it tastes. I'm just not fond of the after taste and the aweful breath you get with it. The red bell pepper sauce is awesome. A bit spicy but not to the point of burning a hole into your tongue. This was a great sauce for the "chips" (fries) as well. For me, the Fish and Chips of La Maison was fairly good but it sure ain't gonna beat Fish & Co's version. I believe that those are the best Fish and Chips I've ever tasted in Manila.

Taking place of the excitement I had for the Wagyu Burger, was the anticipation for La Maison's Baby Back Ribs. The restaurant's signage in fact said "Home of the BEST Ribs..." so I had high expectations. Good thing La Maison was telling the truth. They indeed had the best ribs I've tasted in a very long time. The meat was falling off the bone with tenderness and the flavor was through and through. The first touch of the meat on your tongue, you'd really taste all the flavors of the barbecue sauce and spices. As you bite into the meat, the intense flavors are still noticable. The ribs, I assume, were marinated really well to get this much flavor into it.

Here are a couple of things that struck me:

1. The soups are very very good. Very rich and very flavorful especially the Lobster Bisque and the Cream of Wild Mushroom. I suggest you get to taste their soups.

2. The bread made with squid ink. Ask for some. It's complementary and you guys should try it. Don't worry, it tastes the same as the normal bread but it smells really different and it has the essence of squid. It's weird when you come to think of it but it's definitely something new to try.

3. Whatever you do, don't forget to try the ribs. It's one of the best I've ever tasted.

In conclusion, La Maison may be a bit steep for those financially challenged but I think if you order the right dishes, you'll definitely get your money's worth. They have some very good entrées too that you can try which are priced on the average so you don't really have to be afraid to try La Maison out. I was not afraid, and, I'm definitely coming back for that Wagyu Burger.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crazy For Bagoong

October 10, 2008
Bagoong Club
Scout Doctor Lazcano Street
Sacred Heart, Quezon City

A birthday dinner brought me to Bagoong Club, a place I was dying to try for quite some time now. I first saw Bagoong Club from a friend and fellow blogger Jen and wanted to try it ever since. My initial insight on the place was that it looked like a house that was converted to a restaurant. This was typical in these parts of the metro. Many little bars and restaurants stem from old residential establishments. One more thing that caught my eye was that it was packed! There were so many people eating inside given the fact that all around it, they had so many competitors. Nearby, a new restaurant opened that catered more to the masses and yet Bagoong Club was full. Good thing we made a reservation else we'd be waiting for quite some time to be seated. The celebrant had already ordered when we came to the restaurant and ordered he did:

Sizzling Sisig. A staple in Filipino dining and late night drinking sprees. Bagoong Club's version was not entirely unique. It seemed to be cooked the same method and served the same way like any other Sizzling Sisig dishes out there. I was surprised though when I tasted it. It was very flavorful and indeed different from other sisig's I've tasted. Maybe it was because of the fact that bagoong was added to the dish to add a bit of fishiness and saltiness to it. Funny how all the years I've been eating sisig and this was the first time that I got to try it with bagoong incorporated in it. It was definitely different. A dish that Bagoong Club can be proud of.

Crispy Pata. Another dish that is both a good viand for family gatherings and/or accompaniment to beer for alcoholics at the same time. Their version though was not that different. I've tasted better Crispy Pata dishes. The upside though was that it had the perfect combination of a crispy exterior and a soft and tender interior. So when you come to think about it, it was a good recipe for the Crispy Pata but it wasn't any different from the others I've tried. They should have amped it a little bit more with a secret ingredient or something.

Ginataang Kuhol. One of my favorite dishes in Filipino dining. BUT when I saw the dish, I was a bit heartbroken. I've seen the dish when I was checking out the restaurant's multiply account and was excited that the celebrant would order it. He did, and I was eager to get to pick the snails to get the meat out and to taste it. When it came to our table, there were no signs of the shells. The meat had already been picked and taken out. It was as if my world fell apart. Well not to that extent, but I was definitely disappointed. The very act of picking the meat from the shell was the whole concept of the dish and because they already did it for me, I was not able to experience that. GOOD THING the Ginataang Kuhol tasted awesome! Probably one of the best I've ever tasted. A definite must-try at Bagoong Club. I just hope they leave the meat in the shells next time for the customers to pick it by themselves (unless requested otherwise).

Laing. I love this dish because of the strong coconut milk taste and how it complements the taro leaves. How the leaves are soaked into the coconut milk and infused with it. Although I love this extreme infusion of flavors, I didn't quite like Bagoong Club's version of the dish. It was a bit too milky for me. It reminded me of a local sweet delicacy called yema. Don't get me wrong, I love yema but having my laing tasting like yema doesn't really arouse my palette. My companions liked it but I felt that it tasted too "coconutty". It didn't taste like a viand but much more like a dessert.

Grilled Squid. Bagoong Club had a different approach for this dish. Instead of stuffing the squid with onions, tomatoes, and chilis then grilling it, they did a sort of "open-faced" version of the grilled squid. They grilled the squid, chopped it, then topped it with the onion-tomato-chili stir-fry. Looking at it as it arrived on the table, I didn't quite recognize it right away until the waiter announced what it was. For me, I like the fact that they tried changing the look of the classic grilled squid BUT I'd prefer that they stick with the original presentation. It is much more appealing to the eye and it was the main "personality" of the dish. The squid was also a bit overcooked also so this dish wasn't quite that good for me.

Bagoong Rice. The dish was very good, flavorful, and sweet. I really don't eat rice that much but I did try this dish. I was happy with this dish because it was only flavored with bagoong and was not at all salty. Some of the Bagoong Rice I've tasted before had a really strong bagoong flavor and was really salty at the same time. It would act as a meal-in-one and it would limit your viand intake since the dish would present itself as both carbohydrate and viand already. Bagoong Club's version was made specifically as a carbohydrate and remained a good accompaniment for the other dishes. It still maintained its quality of being JUST rice.

Dinuguan. This dish is my favorite Filipino dish together with Bopis and I have high expectations for this dish anywhere I sample Filipino cuisine. It is not actually THE barometer for Filipino food like Adobo but it is a dish I always try as much as possible and whenever available for ordering. Sad thing though, I didn't like Bagoong Club's version. I thought that it was a bit too coagulated. Too grainy. Many people really don't like Dinuguan but with this kind of texture, I'd bet they'd despise it even more. The dish really disappointed me because it was too metallic tasting. Usually the metallic taste of blood and the gaminess smell it has is masked with herbs and vinegar but with Bagoong Club's version, I think they missed this. Maybe they tried making the Dinuguan their own but it just didn't work for me.

Grilled Tuna Belly. This was the BEST order of the night. The glaze used for the Grilled Tuna Belly was perfectly sweet and had strong flavors but it didn't drown the taste of the actual tuna meat. The fish was also grilled perfectly and was maintained moist and tender all throughout. There was also no fishy taste to it which was awesome. I tried looking for faults but the dish was simply perfect in my book. A little serving of bagoong was presented together with the tuna belly and you can opt to top it on the tuna belly as you eat it which works better for me. The others liked it without the bagoong topping though.

Bagoong Club has its ups and downs with the dishes that they have but that doesn't mean you should step away from trying it out. In fact, I really like the restaurant. It has a wholesome ambiance to it that I love. A breath of fresh air from the normal Grilla, Gerry's, or Dencio's. I definitely had a great experience at Bagoong Club and eating there with "family" was like icing on top of the cake. I just hope that they maintain the quality of their food and service, and eventually introduce new dishes once in a while to keep everything fresh.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What Caught My Eye Today

‘Slowdown may be good for planet’ from the inquirer.net website

Basically, a Nobel Prize winning scientist said that the recent financial crisis and economic slowdown may be really environmentally good for the planet. Come to think of it, this is a really good statement. It may be a bit insensitive towards businessmen and manufacturers but it makes sense. In my case, I'm happy with the thought and I'm not surprised. Everything is based on the concept of Yin and Yang. Cause and Effect. There has always been balance and everything moves towards that pivotal point of equilibrium. All the economic growth has literally killed the environment and created weather anomalies throughout the world. A chain reaction occurs as storms and hurricanes kills many people and drive others away from their homes (like we drive away animals from their forest homes perhaps). Cruel as it may seem but I guess this is a wake-up call to us. A time of stasis. The world is trying to harmonize everything out. As we kill the environment, the environment kills us. We don't need to be Nobel Prize winning scientists to figure this out but think about it... Think about what we have done, about the power man has over the planet and how we can turn it around if we ONLY wanted to.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Burgasm

September 30, 2008
Ben's Burjer
A. Mabini Street, San Juan

Been watching the second episode of How I Met Your Mother (Season 4) and it was about Marshall's search for that elusive "ultimate" burger he tasted when he first came to New York. Which made me think about the blog I wrote before regarding the same subject matter. This blog entry has been stuck for two years or so now and I haven't really gotten the time to push through with it. Anyway, I was thinking "burger" and what better way to satisfy my craving but to go to a new burger joint in our area and finally do a little research for my own burger-hunting.

Ben's Burjer is not actually something new. It is famous in the Wack Wack area where it actually originated. Story goes that the daughter of the former mayor of Mandaluyong City had a great burger recipe which she sold at the Wack Wack Country Club's cafeteria. Her father would always brag that the best burger was found in Mandaluyong, which was, Ben's Burjer. Being famous and all, they decided to build a branch outside the confines of the Country Club, which was after all, not accessible for non-members. They decided to share the "best" burger to the rest of the people. They opened recently in San Juan (very close to Mandaluyong City) and is doing very well.

I ordered the Double Cheeseburjer. At first, I thought that the burger wasn't very big. I had the size of Brother's Burger or Hot Shots in mind but its size actually matched the burgers of Burger Machine. As they cooked the burger, I was scared with the fact that they were using so much oil but at the same time, happy that they melted the cheese first before laying it on the cooked burger patties. I was honestly pessimistic about the burger and didn't have high hopes for the burger. Until I took a bite. The burger was very tasty and flavorful. The melted cheese complemented the burger very well. It's been a long time since I tasted Burger Machine but it was indeed far better than Burger Machine's. It was a bit too oily for me but I guess it was a part of the added flavor. We all hate to admit it but a good burger is never actually a healthy one.

Ben's Burjer was very good and it did satisfy my burger craving BUT it isn't actually the best I've tasted. I think that the search for the ultimate burger continues...
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