Monday, February 23, 2009

Sovi Caryn Ang Chan

The first baby in our barkada...

Sovi Caryn Ang Chan
February 23, 2009 4:56am
Weight: 6.4lbs
Height: 48cm

Congratulations to the proud parents Chinang and Arlyn! We all wish you good health Sovi! You're officially the achi of the new generation of our barkada and I'm officially a proud uncle! :)

My Birthday 2009 Thank You's

Thank you for all the people who greeted me on my birthday. Especially to Aileen for making my day extra special with lots of gifts and spending the entire day with me. Had a very fulfilling birthday this year because I decided to allot some of my birthday budget to buy some groceries for the orphans at White Cross. I think that that was what made my birthday extra special. I've had so many blessings come during the 31 years of my existence and being given the chance to share it with the less fortunate was one of the best birthday gifts ever. During the evening, we had a very intimate dinner with my family and barkada. Some had prior engagements so they couldn't make it which was sad but the night ended quite alright and we had loads of fun and good food.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Makimi Craving

February 21, 2009
Mañosa Panciteria
Dona Juana Rodriguez Street
Quezon City

My grandmother has been cooking Maki for us ever since we were little kids. I used to love this soup as a child. I loved the way the flour covered pork tenderloin strip were cooked in a soy sauce flavored broth and then topped with green onions as garnish. I loved how it tasted. It was my favorite soup when I was a kid. Until it was cooked almost 3-4 times a week at home. You can just imagine my system rejecting every spoonful of formerly Maki heaven. I got so fed up with it I would vow not to eat it anymore.

That was at home.

In Chinese restaurants or panciterias, Maki or Makimi (with noodles) was cooked differently. It came with a really thick soup much different from what we have at home. It was only later that I found out that the soup was supposed to be thick. My grandmother was doing it wrong all along. Don't get me wrong, I love her cooking. Well, except for her version of this soup.

The best I've ever tasted was at Ha Yuan in West Avenue. I think they already closed down or was renamed to another same-sounding Chinese name. But I fondly remember them serving the BEST! This was where I tried my very first REAL Makimi. Since I haven't really been to West Avenue for quite some time and was not sure if we could find the original Ha Yuan anymore, we decided to go to the next best thing instead. Mañosa Panciteria offers almost the same dishes that Ha Yuan offers. The origins of Mañosa is from the streets of Chinatown where the best noodles and dimsums are found. I had to experience for myself:

The Makimi was great. It surprisingly came really close to Ha Yuan's version. It's either that or all the while I was thinking I could not eat it anywhere else so I had to enjoy it.

I also tried their Kiampong or Chinese friend rice which was supposedly one of their specialties but my grandmother can make a mean Kiampong and this does not come anywhere close.

The Chinese Fresh Lumpia was also just ok. DEC (the convenience store) has better lumpia than this. They have it packed with more ingredients especially back in the days of abundant servings.

I think what Mañosa can be proud of is their Makimi. Very close to the best. Now, let's see if The Little Store's version can compete. Watch out for my blog when I do get to try it next.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thank You Augusto

Just watched Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations - Philippines last night and would just like to offer my utmost gratitude to Augusto.

Snapshot from the No Reservations episode

You will forever be a hero in the eyes of Filipinos all over the world for bringing Anthony Bourdain to the Philippines and letting him experience his best roast pig in the whole world. This is according to Chef Tony's official blog entitled Hierarchy of Pork at the Travel Channel website:

Hierarchy of Pork

By Anthony Bourdain on February 16, 2009 6:55 PM

I'm very nervous about tonight's Philippines show.

I'm all too aware of the fact that the country is made up of over seven THOUSAND islands and that I visited exactly two of them. The food is intensely regional ... I mean, even the difference between the food in Manila and Pampanga -- only a couple of hours away --is striking. So I missed ... a lot.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Italian Valentine

February 14, 2009
C' Italian Dining
Angeles, Pampanga

Hearing raves left and right, C' Italian was the place-to-be when it comes to fine dining in Pampanga. A perfect place for couples to have their dates in and maybe even some marriage proposals. Date places in my opinion have been quite overrated. An extreme exploitation of couples in their time of weakness. Why adding a couple of restaurant designs for Valentine's Day can be a go signal for jacking up prices, I completely don't understand.

As much as I don't celebrate the dreaded Vday in any restaurant, let alone a high-end institution like C' Italian, I had no choice because this was an integral part of our mini Pampanga food tour. Imagine, right smack in the middle of a "date place" on Valentine's Day? Must've been an episode of the Twilight Zone perhaps? Nope. Everything was as real as life itself.

Surprisingly, the experience was not at all what I had dreaded. Completely the opposite. The place had amazing ambiance and the food was indeed as magical as they say. Here is the breakdown of what we had:

Panizza Rolls Royce- The Pannizza alone was superb but that was nothing when you try it together with the arugula and alfalfa. Trust me, it is as good as it sounds.

Pumpkin Soup - Amazing! The soup was flavored very well. The soup's texture was also consistent. The best thing about it was that you can really taste the actual product used rather than just tasting MSG/spiced broth.

Ribollita - I didn't like this soup that much. Don't get me wrong, the soup was good and very flavorful. It was just that we had lunch at Zapata's before and we had so much beans in our system that I was not up for anything else that resembled or made from beans anytime soon. I will try this again but hopefully with a less bean-filled stomach next time.

Seafood Pasta - I'm not particularly fond of red sauces on pasta but I liked this dish. The seafood were fresh and not at all fishy. The mussels are the usual source of the fishy aroma/taste but this pasta dish had no sign of it whatsoever. The various seafood were also cooked perfectly.

Ostrich - The ostrich meat was very tender. Perfectly flavored. The accompanying side dishes were equally amazing.

Tuscan Roasted Chicken - The best dish of the dinner. A roast chicken like none I've ever tasted before. A complete meal for a whole family in itself. Superb.

Chicken Gorgonzola Pasta - I liked this dish. The subtle tasting chicken meat was infused with the very strong Gorgonzola cheese. The dish was very creamy in texture and in taste. The sharp flavors of this dish may be an acquired taste but I definitely enjoyed it - even at the full state my stomach was in, I might add.

C' Italian not only surpassed my standards for good Italian fine dining but changed my whole perspective on romance and dating. Valentine's Day or celebrating any other important event is truly a worthwhile experience just as long as you do it the right way.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Everybody's Repeat

February 15, 2009
Everybody's Cafe
Angeles, Pampanga

This was my second time eating at Everybody's. A different branch but second time nonetheless. Hungry and armed with a better camera, the circumstances were perfect. Everything finally came into place. I just had to blog it in detail this time. Eloquence and drama aside, allow me to share my experience:

Morcon - A must try at Everybody's. This is one of their famous dishes. It should be, it's very very good.

Fried Chicharon Bulaklak - How can you go wrong with Fried Chicharon Bulaklak?!?

Camaro - Their number 1 dish in the restaurant. Apart from its exotic nature, it's one heck of a good dish. Adobo anything right? Yes, even crickets.

Stuffed Frog - I like this very much but if you're a little bit queesy about how it looks, you can just ask a friend to pick the legs for you and have a go at that. The stuffing is very nice but I myself prefer ONLY frog legs cooked Chinese-style.

Longanisa - Ordering longanisa in Pampanga is really a must. Typically, it's bought for pasalubong but we just had to taste it right there. Not surprisingly, the best longanisa I've tasted in quite a while.

Fried Lumpia -Call it sentimental value or whatever, I've loved fried lumpia ever since I had my first one at school when I was a little boy. I mean a jam-packed meal of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that can fit into my hand at only 5 pesos back then?!? First love, apparently, never dies...

Coming back to Everybody's hungry and ready made me realize why it's one of Pampanga treasures. A must-try on ANY Pampanga foodtrip.

The Original Sizzling Sisig

February 15, 2009
Aling Lucing's Sisig
Angeles, Pampanga

The original sizzling sisig and probably the best I've ever tasted.

Since we ordered for take out, the sisig was placed on a styrofoam container instead.

It was amazing but my sister believes that it could have been better than perfect if we ate it as it was supposed to be eaten: on a sizzling plate and with a couple of beers. Nonetheless, we now know why Anthony Bourdain was raving about this cause we actually experienced it for ourselves. Next time we promise to try it out again but in the authentic way.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bean Overload

February 14, 2009
Angeles, Pampanga

One of the must-go-to places in Pampanga is Zapata's. A very famous Mexican restaurant and one of the premier parts of our mini food tour. When we were there, the place was PACKED! There were no reservations and the line we made was based on honesty and not system. The servers were really few in ratio with the customers and orders were a bit slow to come out. This was when we thought that coming here might be one big failure.

We got to get a seat that we literally forced ourselves into. Note to self: Sometimes people go to the comfort room and that doesn't mean you can get their table. Sorry about that. Anyway, he was nice enough to give us the table inspite of it all which was cool of him.

We started of with (according to some bloggers) a must-order in Zapata's: Irish Fries. The fries were consistently fried and of ample size. They had a crispy exterior but it was not dry because of the chili topping over it. The oily fries blended well with the tangy/meaty sauce. There was also a cheese sauce that added moisture and a salty/creamy flavor to the dish. This surely beats the fries/fries toppings they serve in places like Chilis or Burgoo. This had a more authentic feel to it.

Since it was almost 1pm when we got to the restaurant, we decided in sharing on a combo meal that they had of Chili, Tacos, Beef and Bean Burrito, and Mexican Rice instead of ordering a dish for each one of us. The combo was also served with a complimentary bowl of Mayan Bean Soup:

The Mayan Bean Soup was an acquired taste. It tasted completely like beans. Frankly, I didn't like it as a soup since it was too thick and grainy to the tongue. The flavor though was excellent. I mean if it were a sort of bean dip or something, we would've seen it in a more positive light. It reminded me somewhat of guacamole and how at first you'd think it was weird putting avocados together with your nachos only to realize how magical that combination is. The bean soup was like this, weird if you think about it and have it on its own. But I think it would be amazing over nachos. We will try that next time.

The combo meal was really filling. It was a very good decision to get it to share instead of ordering one for each of us. The tacos was my favorite of the dish. The flavor was very authentic and my favorite part was the cheddar cheese gratings in it. I just love good cheddar cheese! The taco was really good but I should have ordered the Fish Tacos instead since it was something that I hadn't tried yet. The Beef and Bean Burrito was more bean than beef which was not really that good for me. I was expecting a more flavorful and meaty meal but it was completely the opposite. I've had better Burritos (like in Mexicali) than this. I'm hoping to try the à la carte version next time to see if it's any better than the one included in the combo. The Mexican Rice was nice. It was cooked with cumin which made it taste Mexican. If only they had chopped some cilantro and topped/mixed it with the rice, I think that it would have been better. Nonetheless, the rice was really great topped with some of the chili to counteract the carbohydrate's bland taste. The combo meal in general was just ok for me. Very filling but very bland.

Lastly, the Chili! Whenever I go to a Mexican restaurant, I would always order this. This and a few drops of Tabasco sauce over it is definitely my kind of comfort food. I've tried pretty good ones like the one that Chili's serves but I've never tasted one this accurate. I think their secret was with the ingredients and holding period. Very fresh ingredients/herbs were used and the holding time from boiler to bowl was obviously very short. Good thing also that we arrived for lunch so the chili batch was much newer compared to the dinner batch.

Zapata's wasn't that extraordinary as we had hoped but far more authentic than any Mexican restaurant wannabe. Ambiance was real, food average, but I will definitely go back to try more of their other dishes that I didn't get the chance to sample. I hope that they truly blow my mind then. Until then, I just have to settle with tacos in Shoppesville/Theatermall (best!) and an overpriced Chili's restaurant for my Mexican fixation.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Not Just Another Frozen Yogurt

February 14, 2009
Cold Spoon
Angeles, Pampanga

So many yogurt places have been sprouting like wild mushrooms all over the metro. Wasn't until now that I realized how I much time, money, and effort I've wasted in trying out each and every brand. In the province of Pampanga nonetheless! Cold Spoon in my opinion is the best frozen yogurt I've tasted. Enough said. For the foodies/bloggers out there: Bring down the frozen yogurt rankings in your sites because this is definitely number one. If you don't wanna take my word for it, just try one crappy yogurt like Yogurbud and then head to Pampanga to try Cold Spoon. You will actually taste the difference between heaven and hell. It's creamy, consistent, and very flavorful. The tangy aftertaste is so much a bonus from the sweetness of the yogurt mixture. One spoon after another, you constantly hope that the dessert in your hand wouldn't be over. It was so good I had 2 small cups and 1 large one for the road over the course of two days.

Cold Spoon has set an awfully high standard and I hope that it continues to maintain the quality of its yogurt. People need to try it while its still "hot". You know how quality degrades in time.

Love In The Time Of Balloons

February 14-15, 2009
14th Hot Air Balloon Festival
Clark, Pampanga

Just came back from Clark, Pampanga to view the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival. On its 14th year now, we decided to actually go and see what all the hype was about. It didn't fail us. Did a couple of food trips also during the weekend so stay tuned for reviews on those. Our 2009 Valentine's Weekend was definitely an unforgettable one.

Awesome Photo c/o Aileen Tong

You can view the other photos during the festival and some of our food trips in my Multiply site.
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