Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Days

The past 2 days were eventful: dinner with old college friends with the best home-made bbq as the star of the show, Carlos Celdran's Intramuros tour which left me alternately in stitches and in tears (though I tried to hide it since no one else seemed to be as emotional as yours truly), lunch at The Little Store (Chinese lumpia yahoo!), creamy adobo pasta for lunch at Fleur De Lys.

Pictures and details to follow.

Monday, December 17, 2007

So Far in Manila I Have

*eaten at Heaven and Eggs, Chelsea Market Cafe and Green Tomato.
*bought stuff from the Salcedo Market and The Blue Kitchen.
*been given 3 books to cross off my Amazon wishlist: Trattoria by Patricia Wells, Chocolate by Mort Rosenblum and Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl.
*been to The Urban Spa for a facial and massage.

Happy with most of the above, disappointed with some. Pictures and details to follow.

Monday, December 03, 2007

FoodtripPinas.doc

Based on Marketmanila's and Dessertcomesfirst's recent blogs I have compiled the top 50 places I will visit/order from when I go to Manila. Check it out:

1. The French Corner: 
Commerce Avenue corner Filinvest Avenue 
Westgate Center, Filinvest Corporate City
 Alabang, Muntinlupa City
771-2345
(ube cheesecake)
2. Karen’s Kitchen: (KEY Specialty Foods)
 428 Adalla St. Palm Village, Makati
632.8982280 (trio of frozen brazos)
3. Paisley Pastry: by Gina J. Lopez
850-9917
0920-9280528 (chocolate fudge)
4. Chelsea Market & Café: 
Bonifacio High Street, Serendra,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
909-7011 / 909-7012 (cookie dough cheesecake)
5. Jill Sandique of Dèlize: 
33 Sunrise Drive, Cubao, Quezon City
721-7022 (ask for Lea, Mimi, or Vangie)
Allow a minimum of 2-3 days for your order(s). (cheesecake)
6. Sweet Bella
: 844-0680 / 844-9905 / 0928-5025027
1730 Banyan St.
Dasmariñas Village, Makati
sweetbellacakes@yahoo.com (chocolate and Strawberry charlotte)
7. Apartment 1B: Gourmet Comfort Food
One Lafayette Square
132 L.P. Leviste Corner Sedeno St
Salcedo Village, Makati
Tel: 843-4075 (white chocolate cake)
8. Chocolate Cake of Celine
Caltex at the corner of Buendia and Pasong Tamo, Makati.
9. Cibo, Pepatos, Café Bola
10. Café Ten Titas
11. Mamou, Abe
12. People’s Palace Green belt
13. Sala at Locsin Bldg Ayaa cor. Makati Ave.
14. Antonios
15. Lolo Dad’s
16. Galileo Enoteca Mandaluyong and another Italian place in front of San Antonio in Forbes
17. Cantinetta Pasong Tamo Ext.
18. Recipe’s Greenbelt
19. Casa Armas
20. Café Juanita Pasig
21. Amici
22. Trellis
23. Heaven and Eggs
24. Gaster Deli Ayala25. Bistro Filipino (Net One Bldg., the Fort; 856-0634/856-0541)
26. Xocolat
27. La Grotta
28. Chateau Verde
29. Krung Thai near Marikina Public Market
30. Mom and Tina’s
31. Three Sisters BBQ at Tiendesitas
32. Manos Greek Taverna Tagaytay
33. M Café Makati
34. JT’s Manukan
35. Guernicas Malate
36. Kopi Roti T. Morato. Blue Ridge, Mall of Asia, Naia
37. Everybody’s in Pampanga
38. Bellini’s Cunao and Trattoria Uno ali Mall
39. Katre T. Morato
40. Gourdo’s Fort
41. Brazil Brazil Metrowalk
42. Old Swiss Inn
43. Sebastian Ice Cream Podium
44. Kalye ni Juan Mall of Asia
45. Uno off T. Morato
46. Cely Kalaw’s foodstuff at Market Market
47. In-yo E. Abada QC near Katipunan
48. Roti Mum SM Megamall
49. La Resurreccion Tsokolate Binondo
50. KKK West avenue

Monday, November 26, 2007

Currently Reading

EVERYBODY EATS THERE by William Stadiem and Mara Gibbs. Thank you so much Tehlin!

What Am I Bringing Home From Manila?

Yep, I consider HK my home now, after 4 long years. Manila is the place where I grew up, studied, met my lifelong friends, did crazy things, met hubby, had little boy, got married; it's where my loved ones live, and where some of the most spectacular beaches and sunset views are to be found; it's a place of fantastic food, wonderful company, cherished memories.

But I am home, and at home in HK. I am familiar with its sights and sounds, with its idiosyncrasies. I breathe its polluted air every day, I walk through its colorful streets. I know this may be temporary, no one stays long in HK, after all, and while hubby's heart beats for HK now, it will yearn for Manila when we are much, much older.

And while HK is my home for the time being, my heart beats for both this cosmopolitan city and the city I left behind, corrupt government, silly bus and jeepney drivers, bureaucratic red tape, traffic, heat and all. My family and dearest friends live there, and they are the ties that bind me to Manila, Manila.

However, whenever I go on vacation, I consider it a vacation, and think of flying back to HK as going home.

So what am I bringing home from Manila?

- A new hairstyle, hopefully :)
- Fat and Thin brand longganisa, pork and chicken (the garlic, sugar and salt all balance out, plus there's not much fat! It's made by a fellow ICAn who supplies to the company Fat and Thin)
- Vigan longganisa
- Longganisa from a semi-blind old woman vendor in Kamuning Market (this is her only source of livelihood, and I've loved her fat, sweetish longganisa with the caramelized skin since childhood!)
- Foodstuff from The Blue Kitchen and La Cucina de Tita Moning
- LZM boneless bangus from Cavite
- Table napkins, placemats, candles, coasters from Tiendesitas and Kultura
- Yummy, Preview, Mega and Food magazines
- Tons of cookbooks from Fully Booked
- Tablea from Nana Meng's Tsokolate
- Lemon Squares from this stall in the Glorietta foodcourt selling Sylvanas (one of the yummiest I've had)
- Calamansi (for all my marinating needs) and the dalandan concentrate from The Blue Kitchen is great for juice!
- Connie's Kitchen tawilis and gourmet tuyo
- Salad dressings and a packet of multicolored peppercorns from Chelsea Market Cafe in Serendra
- Montano brand spicy sardines (litte boy's fave)
- Aligue, aligue, aligue! (I'll try several brands)
- Anything by Claude Tayag
- Machang (sticky rice cooked with chicken, pork, black mushroom and sometimes beans, wrapped like an imperfect pyramid in lotus leaves and steamed) from Wei Wang Chinese store in Wilson street, Greenhills
- Memories from my trip to Baguio, and hopefully walking trips with either Ivan Man Dy or Carlos Celdran.
- Memories of Avenue Q the Manila production
- Memories of all my foodtrips

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Drool-worthy blogs!

Check these out:


http://cafefernando.com/
http://www.wanderlustsha.com/
http://cupcakeblog.com/

the pictures amaze me. make me hungry. awaken the dormant sweet-tooth in me.

How Very New York!

And how very interesting! Elevating street food to gourmet dessert bar level...Check out this NY Times article:

Wait Till Ice Cream Trucks Get Wind of This

If there are times when you would prefer a crème brûlée from a truck to a Popsicle, your appetite is ready for what Chris Chen and Jerome Chang have to offer.

Mr. Chen, a graduate student in business at Columbia (at right in photo), and Mr. Chang, a former pastry sous-chef at Le Cirque, are on a mission to elevate street food. "There's no high-end restaurant-style street food in New York," Mr. Chen said, explaining why they started the Dessert Truck in Greenwich Village.

From the truck they serve chocolate bread pudding, a warm apple dessert on puff pastry, molten chocolate cake, a caramelized pear on almond cake, milk chocolate and peanut butter mousse, and, indeed, crème brûlée. For those in need of a quick dessert for tomorrow, there is a pumpkin custard with gingerbread crumble and meringue.

The desserts are all $5. The truck is parked on University Place near Eighth Street on Tuesdays through Fridays from 6 p.m. until it sells out, Saturdays and Sundays from noon; www.desserttruck.com.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Soho Fridays

Been having lunch with the ladies in Soho lately. Set lunches are priced well and portions are just right.

Cecconis (Italian fare) served up a choice of Caesar Salad or Wild Rocket with Poached Pear and Provolone as starters. M had the Asparagus Risotto for the main dish, P chose Grilled Salmon with Sweet Pea and French Beans Salad, I chose the Basil and Tomato Pizza. Their balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip was lovely. P tried the pannacotta with berries for dessert.

I had lunch at Zest with my boss recently. I've always loved their food, and that day was no exception.
Starters were a choice of: Tuna Carpaccio with Shaved Parmesan and Greens or Cream of Cauliflower
My boss had Confit of Chicken Leg while I tried the Pan-Fried Snapper. For dessert we were served Lemon Cheesecake with Yogurt and a choice of coffee or tea.

Today lunch with M and P was at Tivo along Wyndham Street. The service was great, owing to the friendly Pinay who gladly chatted us up. P had Cream of Tomato with Basil Oil, M and I the Roasted Eggplant Layerd with Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozarella with Balsamic Glaze, P tried the Grilled Salmon, M and I the Lamb Shank with Sweet Potato Puree. Three sinful desserts of Valrhona Cake and Frangelico Ice cream, Coconut Creme Brulee with Macadamia Nut Ice Cream and an on- the- house Lemon Tart with Raspberry Coulis were enjoyed by all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Food is Central to all Gatherings

A dinner plan:

Prawn Gambas Tossed in Chilli
Garlic Chips Studded Beef Salpicao
Grilled Chorizo Macao
Roasted Zucchini, Eggplant, Mushroom and Capsicum Skewers with Balsamic Glaze or Pesto Dip
Cheese Platter: Roquefort, Sundried Tomato Spread, Baby Brie, Gouda
PoppySeed Crispbread and Gooseliver Pate
Salami Milano
Smoked Salmon Wrapped Breadsticks
Mini Quiches or Tarts
Iberian Chicken with Chorizo Rice
Lemongrass Iced Tea
Green tea biscuits with Roasted Rice Green Tea from Japan
Dark Chocolate Fondue with Fruit, Marshmallow and Brownie Dippers

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lunch with the Ladies: Hairy Crab

It's hairy crab season once again! Pam bought some from Wing Lok Street in Sheung Wan (they cost about HKD 80 each, which is a bargain compared to resto prices). She steamed it and served it with garlic sauteed pea shoots, a ginger-red-vinegar-brown sugar dipping sauce and some soothing ginger tea.
Hairy Crabs, also called mitten crabs, are delicacies for the Chinese. The tasty roe is highly-prized and I loved the sticky, gooey fluid oozing out from its various orifices. Paired with steamed rice, this crab is a winner! It's not very meaty though, so for my sweet crab meat craving I always make it a point to go to Dampa in Manila or my favorite hole-in-the-wall in Banawe which serves the best oyster omelet, pata tim and chili crab!



Salad Number 1

Mesclun plus Seared Canadian scallop plus Lemon-Wine Shrimp plus Mango Vinagrette = My dinner.

My Le Creuset Loot

Le Creuset HK had a sale, and off I went. I lined up patiently for 1 hour 15 minutes, and came out with these lovely cherry red mini casseroles and saucepans and 3 oven-to-table dishes. I wanted the larger casseroles as well but would have to rent astorage space for them. My kitchen is TINY.





Then Pam gave me the best present of all: a mini vegetable dish. I chose cherry red, of course!



Happy me. :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Disneyland Hong Kong

We slept over for a night at the Disney Hollywood Hotel, which resembles a convention center in the morning, with all the tour groups and noisy Mainlanders milling about the smallish lobby. We enjoyed our stay- we were upgraded to a parkview room, little boy played in the chilly waters of the swimming pool and could not get enough of the slide, and the burgers at the Sunset Terrace were huge and reasonably priced.

The Disney hotel, which is Victorian in design, is much more elegant, although pricier as well. There's a cool maze at the back, and for breakfast we ate at the much-hyped Enchanted Garden, where Pluto, Goofy, Minnie and Mickey wend their way around the tables and pose with mostly kids and some adults (including us!)who acted as if they didn't know it was just scrawny locals stuffed inside cute costumes who they were going ga-ga for.

Little boy was major-ly SCARED of the mascots. Good thing mom-in-law and I liked the food or else hubby would have called it a day. It's the usual hotel buffet breakfast, complete with Japanese and Chinese goodies like miso soup, cod teriyaki, congee, wonton, turnip cake and pile upon pile of fattening Western stuff like an omelette station, eggs all ways, sausages, Virginia ham, bacon and beans. Healthy stuff were in a small table in the middle, and only a small percentage tried the muesli, cereal and oats. I mean hey, if it's a toss up between bacon and muesli, I'm sure most of us would hug the hog.

What I enjoyed the most, and ended up getting platefuls of, were the Babylon cheese (cut to resemble a garlic clove), air-dried meats like salami, rockmelon and its sweet and juicy cousin the honeydew, the grapefruit juice, and the Mickey Mouse waffle! Yes, the waffle is a sure winner- crisp edges, airy and soft centers, each bite went perfectly with the maple syrup and strawberry jam I smeared. Forget the mini pancakes, they were as hard as frisbees and as tasteless as cardboard. But get the waffle. Lots and lots of waffle.






There was a lady there whose job was to snip off the uneven edges of each Mickey waffle that came out of the waffle maker. Hmmm, tough job that one, having all that sweet crunchiness in front of you, but having to resist popping them in your mouth. Hubby loved the roasted Nuremberg sausage all coiled up like a reposing snake, unaware that a sharp knife was about to cut a piece off of it to serve to my hungry hubby.




Food aside, if you ever go to Disney, look at the trees and mountains and spend time in the gardens of the hotel, views you will never find in the city center. Watch the 2 Broadway style shows: The Golden Mickeys and The Lion King. The performers, especially the Pinoys, are AWESOME! Never mind the rides. The shows alone are worth the entrance ticket price.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Comfort Sweet

When I was in grade school my meager allowance provided me with a once-a week ration of chocolate KnickKnacks (those fish-shaped chocolate-covered crackers). I had to depend on my best friend Anita for the remaining 4 days. As my allowance increased a bit more, I was able to include Nissin wafers in my recess repertoire. The rectangular, cream-filled wafers, with the ice cream cone hue in transparent packaging was my favorite sweet. A thin red tape wound around the plastic was pulled off at its tip to tear the top quarter of packaging and reveal a bite-sized sugary specimen. I loved it with milk, with juice, with Iced tea, with Milo, with water.

Then my paternal grandmother presented me with a round tin can in a dull dark green shade with the imposing words GAUFRE on top. I had no idea what was inside. After several tentative minutes I opened the can to reveal a stack of perfectly thin, round wafers filled with either chocolate, vanilla or strawberry cream. It was the crispiest, thinnest dessert sandwich I had ever tasted and I fell in love. I forgot about KnickKnacks and Nissin wafers (that sad impostor!), and set my heart upon eating Gaufre (at that time I didn't even know what it meant) forever.



My grandma continued to give me a tin for a couple of years, and then she stopped; and like so many things that interest an adolescent my craving was shoved to the dustbin of my memories.

I developed a liking for new sweets, new tastes.

Until the day my sister-in-law moved to Tokyo in 2006 and suddenly my memory of thin wafers resurfaced, bringing along with it a longing for that childhood taste I once could not get enough of. For some strange reason I could remember exactly the tin, the word Gaufre, and the Japanese characters printed on the cover. I knew my sweet could be found in Japan, but I could not describe it enough to my sister-in-law, and silly me didn't even think of using google.On my trip to Japan last March I searched the basement food shops in vain. I went back to HK with the promise to look for my comfort sweet.

Luck was on my side when one drizzly afternoon my siblings and I ducked into Sogo Department Store in Tsim Sha Tsui and the first stall I see upon entering their grocery is the GAUFRE (which is French for waffle, by the way) FUGETSUDO one with tin upon tin and box upon box of my favorite wafer in the world!!!!!! I found out it is from Kobe in Japan. I was hugging the box on my way home and I had it for dessert after dinner. It was sweeter than I remembered, and probably not something I would gorge on these days, but it was crispy and light and yummy. I gave some to hubby and little boy and they loved it.



Here's to my favorite childhood sweet snack, the very best wafer as declared by my selective memory. When I visit Belgium I'm sure this might pale in comparison to what they have, but to my (much) younger self, Belgium was a world away and the tin can was within reach.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Having Friends Over

My friends and acquaintances know I love hosting dinner parties, even if our flat is tiny and our dining seats only 6. Tonight I invited 4 friends and we are eating:

Feta and Basil Cheese Triangles with 2 kinds of salsa: chipotle tomato and honey mango
Pinoy Puttanesca using bottled gourmet tuyo from Manila
Grilled Marinated Pork Belly
Prawns in Calamansi-Crabfat Sauce
Steamed White Rice
Fried Sticky Rice Logs with Caramelized Bananas and Muscovado Creme
Lemongrass Iced Tea

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Door Knock Dinners

Remember that show with uber-popular chef Gordon Ramsey (how embarrasing, I've been rightly corrected by a fellow blogger, thanks Dr. Jeff, that it is Gordon Elliot who hosted that show, and he is Australian, not Brit. My apologies.) speaking in an accent so strong I couldn't understand half of what came out of his irreverent mouth? It was shown on Food Network in Manila, when Food Network was new and everyone went crazy over shows featuring Ming Tsai, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali etc...?

He would go to a chosen home with a chef in tow, knock on the door and to the utter surprise of the inhabitants he and his crew would then rummage through the cupboards, cellar, refrigerator and freezer and whip up a fantastic dinner with whatever they could find. Some families were lucky they had just gone food shopping before the "knock", others were embarassed with the skeletons they had hiding in their kitchen- imagine year-old turkeys with the worst freezer burn imaginable, rock-hard and unrecognizable minced meat, expired canned goods and dairy products, stale bread, moldy cheese; these were the stuff nightmares were made of, certainly nothing you would serve at a fantastic sit-down dinner.

Yet serve these Gordon and his crew did. With a telented chef as his magic wand he would turn these freakish ingredients into an appealing meal, and the famished, delighted family all sat down to a wonderful dinner.

I'm writing about it now because I usually have a late lunch at home and have to rummage about my tiny kitchen, throwing things together and getting hungrier by the minute. I'm not the cornflakes and milk sort of person, and I can't imagine eating a slice of toast with some cheese when I'm ravenous. I always manage to make something that is more presentable than leftovers and sometimes, they taste pretty darn good. I scarf this down with ice-cold tea or Coke light and marvel at the laboratory that is my kitchen. I have some cookbooks with me, most are in Manila. I peruse them and use them whenever I let someone else do the cooking. I don't really enjoy following recipes to the letter, nor do I enjoy stocking up on the ingredients necessary to make 1 meal from a cookbook. I'd rather experiment. Kitchen wizardry, for me, is cooking without loads of technical knowledge or theoretical back-up. The best chefs are not those on the Food Network or those who have tons of cookbooks with their names emblazoned in the front. Jeffrey Steingarten, my favorite food author, is a former lawyer and current food critic. Patricia Wells was hopeless in the kitchen before she married. Food bloggers like Marketman, Lori of Dessercomesfirst, Joey of 80 Breakfasts... these are the kitchen wizards of today, experienting endlessly with unique results, always eating, always cooking, never afraid to fail.

I've had my failures in the kitchen. Too salty, too soggy, weird-tasting combinations have all made their humiliating trek from pan to plate to stomach. I'm proud of all my failures though. Cooking up a storm is not possible without some lightning strikes and forceful gales that leave the kitchen a mess and the tastebuds wailing for mercy.

So far, my lunches have been delicious. All manner of stuff thrown in from my well-stocked cupboard and ill-stocked refrigerator have found their happy way to my numerous pots and pans. I call them my door-knock lunches.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

And Little Boy Does It Again! (Commercial Break No. 2)

Mama: What do you want to be when you grow up?
LB: An animal doctor.
Mama: Great! What kind of animal?
LB: I want to be a dinosaur doctor and dinosaur hunter.
Dada: Then you won't find a job because there are no dinosaurs mwahahahha
LB: Ok, then I just want to be a dinosaur.


Mama: What do you want to be when you grow up?
LB: A crocodile

LB: How about you Mama what do you want to be?
Mama: I am something already. What's my job?
LB (mulling it over): Um, you teach.
Mama: Good answer! How about Dada, what does he do?
LB (with no hesitation): He does basketball work.

Ouch Dada! Better hide the xbox and basketball shoes.

Looking forward

to next week.

making Marcella Hazan's bolognese recipe

a low-carb shepherd's pie using the bolognese and mashed cauliflower

lasagna and roast chicken for a friend wer'e having to dinner

lotsa seafood stuff my from fave seafood cookbook!

maybe I'll take pics.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cravings...

Like a preggy lady, I am craving for the following, in no particular order:

Inihaw na baboy (grilled pork belly) with atsara (pickled raw papaya) and ensaladang talong (eggplant salad) or ensaladang dahon ng camote (sweet potato tops/leaves salad) to be eaten on a banana leaf by the seashore

Authentic curry laksa and Singaporean chili crab with hot steamed buns

Lobster noodles at Federal Chinese Restaurant in Olympic

Rellenong alimasag (Stuffed Crab)

A really chunky, "stuffed with chewy bits of brownies or chocolate cake" ice cream

Seafood paella

Garlic prawns from Fernandos in Macau

Peking duck

Fried pigeon

Machang (Triangle-shaped wrapped pieces of sticky rice, Chinese-style)

My auntie's siomai

My mom's kidney-misua soup and Chinese lumpia (fresh vegetable spring roll is puting it mildly, you have to wrap it and stuff it in your gaping maw to believe it)


WAAAH, so hungry!

New Food Books!

Come August, my 2 new books and I will be united forever! Thank you, Amazon.

Chocolate and Zucchini, a cookbook-cum-journal based on a Parisian's famous blog.
The Art of Eating, by the incomparable MFK Fisher.

Woohoo!!!!!!!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Dinner Parhh-tees and other ramblings

I'm a dinner party sort- I like setting the table, entertaining, cooking and conversing over glasses of wine or my drink of choice, the sedate and boring Minted Iced Tea.

Sometimes I'm in the mood for formality, and wish for a huge dining set seating 12-20!, with crystalware, sterling silver, fancy shmancy napkin folds, maybe personal butlers even? Nah, that's too fancy for me (the butlers, I mean. I still want the rest. :))

Most of the time I gather close friends and neighbors for dinner on Fridays, and if I'm too lazy to set up, then I use my "everyday" dinnerware and go casual. It's the food, company and conversation that count anyway. Plus I may have beautiful napkin holders, but I don't have starched napkins to go with them!

So far I've served the following during these get-togethers:

* Grilled Pork Neck, Beef Tadyang, Butternut Squash, Okra and Eggplant in Coconut Milk, Fried Boneless Bangus, Garlic Rice

* Baked Potato Skins with Chive and Truffle Salami Studded Sour Cream, Mushroom or Seafood Risotto, Cream of Pumpkin-Carrot or Broccoli with Cheese Crisps

* Minced Roast Goose/Duck with Pine Nuts and Puffed Vermicelli on Lettuce Cups, Asian-Style Chicken with Tortilla Wraps, Spicy Pork Ribs

* Calamari with Dill Dip, Mediterranean Style Farfalle with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spaghetti Scampi Tossed with Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

* Nachos with Spicy Minced Beef, Sour Cream, Salsa and Jalapeno, Chilli Con Carne

* Patola Shrimp Soup, Baked Beef Ribs, Prawns in Garlic or Prawns with Aligue

* Tomato and Barley Salad, Truffle Salami and Brie on Melba Toast, Scampi in White Wine Cream Sauce or Spaghetti Marinara/Arrabiata, Roast Herbed Chicken with Gravy and a side of Mashed or Baked Baby Potatoes

* Beef Sukiyaki, Japanese Fried Rice or Tonkatsudon, Cold Udon Crabstick Salad

* Caramelized Onion Beef Burgers with Home-Made Potato Chips

* Lokal stuff like Pinaputok na Kesong Puti, Crispy Tadyang, Aligue Pasta, Mango Taho, Kangkong Atsara, Chicken Sisig, Fried Fish with Mango Curry Glaze, Green Rice

I really miss: baking my own pizza. Yes I used to do that, let the dough rise, knead it, shape it and lovingly bake it on a pizza stone. I even had a paddle back home!

I also miss: a barbeque grill with outdoor cooking area facing a pool!

And Kesong Puti! And Laing!

Last night we tried this Laksa Boxed Set (HKD 27 for 2-3 servings). For an instant meal it wasn't bad at all. It even came with laksa leaves and sambal chili paste. I just added shrimps, chicken and tofu fish blocks. Hubby enjoyed!

Friday, June 15, 2007

My Week in Food

Am quite pleased with our meals at home, and with the way my classes at the Y are going. Might teach Baking for Beginners but need to brush up first and study cake decorating.

We had, over the past week:

Shrimp Monggo and Fried Pampano
Tempura Shrimp and Beef Sukiyaki
Hainanese Chicken Rice with Chinese Spinach and Beancurd Soup
Arroz A La Cubana with Fried Potato Wedges
Home-Made Pesto Pasta

Tonight we're having Pork and Chicken BBQ with Java Rice and Ginataang Veggies and my comfort food: radish and carrot atsara like my mom makes. We've found a yummy "timpla" for the BBQ. Not quite like my fave back home but good enough.

Saturday is hubby's day so for lunch we're doing the Shake 'Em Buns experience with Chili Dogs and Nachos with the works, then for dinner it's Roast Garlic Chicken with Haricot Verts and a Salad.

All home-made!

Sunday is eating out day!

Next week I might grill some Lemon Prawns and make Chicken and Mushroom Pasta.

Beth is really good at cooking already and I like buying her cookbooks. She likes poring over them too.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

SO NOT TASTY

Its name is a misnomer, that's for sure.

Heck, we ate lunch there this afternoon and after an interminable wait, we were ushered to a booth and given the menu to scan. Prices range from 24-45 for the noodle soups and stir-fried noodles, and from 36-lower hundreds for congee. While I wasn't surprised at the numbers, given that the place is in high-rent and high-end IFC Mall, the tiny portions were disappointing, to say the least. Chee Kei in Russel St., Causeway Bay, which I wrote about a long time ago, charges much less but with double the quantity and definitely better quality.

Little boy was famished so we hurriedly ordered the wonton noodle soup, and chose the large bowl (HKD36). When the waiter arrived with the tray there were 3 similar-sized bowls with the same amount of noodle and soup in them. He asked us if we ordered the large and upon hubby affirming he took one of the bowls and placed it on the table. We asked what the other bowls were and he said they were small orders but I SWEAR they all looked the same. I cook so I'm pretty much attuned to weights and quantities and the large and small were one and the same! Unfair!

Obviously Little boy finished the whole thing but was still hungry, so we ordered the noodle in soup (HKD24) which arrived in a small bowl, again, with noodles so pathetic it would take less than 3 times for a chopstick to lift it all up. Little boy made short work of this order, which I feel is highway robbery.

Hubby ordered the stir-fried noodles with pork in soybean paste which looked, in the picture, quite generous and similar to Chee Kei's Spicy Pork noodles. This one cost a whopping HKD45. What arrived was a "platitoful", in a small plate whose size was better fit for leftovers.

We also had the rice rolls stuffed with barbeque pork. The sweet soy sauce that came with it was familiar and satisfying, the rice rolls were not. I ordered the shredded pork and century egg congee (HKD 36) but the pork was stringy and dry, like unmanageable hair full of tangles. I've tasted better congee, in larger bowls and at cheaper prices, in Causeway Bay. Beef brisket is a favorite of mine, so I had to try the beef brisket noodle, which, while tender enough, tasted so ordinary.

Hubby was still hungry so we tried the deep-fried wontons with sweet and sour sauce. A few tiny, shriveled up balls arrived, tasting too salty for their own good, with a washed-out sauce that tasted neither sweet nor sour. When the bill arrived I was shocked and wounded to find out these shriveled excuses cost HKD40! No way will I recommend this resto to anyone. I am so happy we ate at Union Bar last night with friends instead of Tasty. Not that Union Bar was spectacular, but at least it wasn't as distasteful. I totally wasted my time waiting for a seat at this place. Maybe expansion isn't good for them. Sometimes staying small and out of the way is the secret (They have branches in Happy Valley and Hung Hom which I'm sure is nowhere as flashy as the IFC one). If there's one redeeming factor to this rant, though, it's the HKD22 cha siu bao with runny sauce that I saw one table devour in seconds. I'll try that next time, but only that, and probbaly a long time from now.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Wish I Could...

Check this out!

I need tons of money to rent a flat with a large air-conditioned kitchen, a built-in oven and storage space for my ingredients.

The business registration will only take half a day, there are weekend bazaars to join and birthday parties to cater to, but I need my KITCHEN AND OVEN! ARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!

I used to have a food delivery business, called Peppermill Catering, which was reborn as The Food Factor (I know, ugly names). My specialties included beef lasagna, rellenong manok (stuffed chicken) for Christmas, several cheese-based dips with breadsticks, 2 salads whose recipes were handed down by my grandmother, my mom's famous old-fashioned apple pie, beef pie and paella, and rum truffles for dessert. Later on I added Pinaputok na Kesong Puti and Mango Pannacotta. At one time I dabbled in baking and selling my mom's secret butter cake by the slice. When I stopped catering my best friends and I started Pastry Haven, specializing in bite-sized desserts for low-budget weddings and Christmas giveaways. We offered our services to several big caterers. Our bestsellers were a fudgy chocolate almond bar, peanut paisley brownies, lemon squares, food for the gods, my friend's amazing chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, and my mango cream cake. We were poised to study cake decorating and enter the lucrative world of wedding cakes and high-end pastries when one of my partners left for the States, the other had to back out and I eventually got married.

So I really, really miss that time of my life when I was in the kitchen, surrounded by the smell of freshly-baked sweets or roasts, rushing about fulfilling orders, waking up at 3 am to start cooking for my weekend retreat clients, going off to various markets and haggling with my "sukis" (choice vendors), buying catering stuff in Quiapo (a quaint, eclectc, noisy place in old Manila), delivering goodies and seeing the smiles on client's faces, planning menus and inventing new stuff, testing recipes on my family and friends, researching, reading, buying cookbooks....

It had its downs, of course. I worked weekends, holidays, nights. I received complaints at times, I made enough to survive but I could see my corporate peers getting more. I applied to various malls for spots only to be turned down or offered pathetic locations because I wasn't McDonalds or Jollibee or Red Ribbon. I was dead tired. But I was happy. Like the former corporate slaves in the NY Times article above who are struggling with their cupcake businesses.

I like what I'm doing now, teaching, cooking and experimenting a bit, developing recipes. But it lacks the chaos of the kitchen. Even in Canada I lived a crazy life cooking breakfast for 100 people on my own.

Call it a third-life crisis (I am past quarter-life and far from mid-life). I'm suddenly wishing for a home-based food business (I don't want the expense, headache and overhead of an outlet) where I can flex my cooking muscles, and get my son involved in two of my very first loves - FOOD and CHOCOLATE. I get to see him often, shut down the biz anytime I want, and live the best of both worlds. Too much to ask? Maybe, maybe not. One day I know the stars will align, and I can take up my dream 7-month intensive course at the CIA (with hubby and kids by my side, of course; and if possible, a year apprenticing in France haha I wish) and start cooking up a storm.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

More foodtrips

Not happy.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about Harlan's and H One. When Harlan's first opened, hubby and I ate a fantastic Good Friday dinner there. On our next visit, I swore never to return (if I had any choice at all in the matter). Then H One opened amid hype and fanfare so we decided to give it a try, seeing as it was still new and we might get a repeat performance of that first Harlan's dinner. The menu was disappointing- very similar to Harlan's with a few Asian dishes thrown in for good measure- imagine a mishmash of steaks, curries, Thai and Italian. I am very suspicious of restos that try to serve a little bit of everything, never mind if they have a wood-fired oven or a seriously authentic Indian chef. I can get my Indian fix anytime in HK, at any number of wonderful, authentic establishments.

I started my meal with a truffled tea broth that was a bit too bland. I was served a similar starter at Caprice and that was divine. Smooth, silky and decadent, but light on the tummy all at the same time. We tried their pizza, two of them in fact, and both were soggy. Did I love my FAMOUS HG Burger with truffles and gouda? Not really. 'Like' is more the word. The toasty bread was buttery, the burger medium well, as I'd requested, but it didn't taste extraordinarily good, just average. I'm not going to wax poetic over it anytime soon. Nor did I experience the shivers-- which happens whenever I ingest a sublime treat. So the "best burger in town" myth is exactly that, a myth. A friend ordered the Thai roast chicken, and proclaimed it good but a bit too dry. Their lobster pasta was the highlight of my evening. Imagine a richly-flavored lobster bisque tossed with al dente pasta and served with soft and fleshy lobster meat.

We didn't even bother to try their desserts. Good thing they don't charge astronomical prices and their waitstaff are very professional and friendly- Pinoys, in fact. Still, I'm not going to be back in the near future.

*************************************************************************************

I've been in HK for almost 4 years, and while I am aware that there are many professional Pinoys based here, I've only met a few, and hang out with the Thursday Group and some neighbors and that's it. So last week we decided to have a foodtrip Saturday and asked friends to invite other friends until the group grew in number, and 12 of us tried to squeeze into Lin Heung's cramped, chaotic, noisy dining room for a late dimsum lunch. We ate half a roast goose, a huge platter of shredded pork fried noodles, 22 kinds of dimsum, more than half a dozen cups of rice, and paid a mere HKD 55 per person! Talk about cheap! The food was ok, not spectacular, but tasty enough, and with a price tag like that who wants to complain, right? The setting is not for the faint-hearted though. Hygiene-wise I wouldn't recommend it to those with squeamish stomachs or a taste for glamour and luxury.In other words,the place is "pang cowboy". We had fun, though, and transferred to Pacific Coffee afterwards where the atmosphere was more relaxed and conducive to conversation amongst new friends. While it poured outside, our rowdy group chatted, laughed, warmed ourselves with coffee and stories and generally enjoyed being with fellow Pinoys.

*************************************************************************************

Last night was another Pinoy (plus a Chinese-Thai and Swiss) gathering at I Caramba, with some people from the Saturday foodtrip present, and some I'd never met before. Hubby and I were just going to stay for dinner but ended up enjoying ourselves so much we got home way past our curfew :)- midnight, a bit tipsy from the endless glasses of sangria. HK is feeling more and more like Manila now, when I used to go out a couple of times a week and have coffee or drinks with friends. Now there are junk trips, barbeque parties, karaoke parties, beach trips and foodtrips to look forward to. When the Thursday Group ladies and their hubbies start joining these gatherings, it will be even bigger and better. Connecting in HK has never been so much fun. And you find real friends too, those you keep in touch with after settling down elsewhere.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cococabana

A rare sunny Sunday saw us and 2 more families heading off to Deepwater Bay Beach for an afternoon of food and fun.

It was Mother's Day and we were supposed to have brunch at The Verandah in Repulse Bay, but it was full. I read about a casual, al fresco Mediterranean place with killer views and supposedly fresh, satisfying food so lunch was at Cococabana.

The deck was breezy and bright, with white furniture and tablecloths glinting in the sunlight. I was happy with my choice until the harrased waitress showed us our table, which had 7 chairs instead of the 9 I had requested. So much for making reservations if they don't get it right. I had to get the menu myself twice, and almost had to get glasses, utensils and clean plates for the extra 2 covers THEY MISSED OUT ON. The kitchen was behind us so I could see the action. I thought the French chef-owner would be cooking, but it was his second doing all the work- and he was a grumpy one, this chef, who told the waitress, albeit jokingly, that he wanted EASY orders for the day. Hey, jokes are always half-meant, and he shouldn't have said that with me within earshot. I could tell he wasn't passionate about his cooking. 2 points against the place, and we hadn't started ordering!

I didn't mind that the menu was limited and full of seafood and salad choices, because I love Mediterranean food. The men were none too happy though. No grilled meat, burgers and just ONE steak choice (TOUGH AND OVERCOOKED) is not their idea of a great restaurant. And the service sucked. One waitress seemed so confused with my order -- they only have at most 6-7 entrees so it's not understandable. At least the head waitress seemed to be in control, although our entrees arrived more than 20 minutes after we finished the starters.

Anyway, there were some delicious items that I enjoyed, and I ate more goat's cheese in an hour than I have my entire life. So if you can forgive the complaining chef and poor service, and if you don't particularly like steak but enjoy fresh seafood in a beach setting, then Cococaana is worth trying. ONCE. It's not a place I would visit again.


mezze platter with hummus, spicy flatbread crisps, stuffed vine leaves, hard-boiled egg topped with an extremely salty tapenade, marinated cheese and couscous


Greek salad with a refreshing, sweetish balsamic dressing



a generous serving of piri-piri prawns, perfectly done, sweet and juicy with Jamaican spice undertones


warm goat's cheese and bacon salad with honey which everyone loved



grilled sea beam, doused with liquor and fired up at the table. the dancing flames excited the kids. it's stuffed with garlic slivers, fresh herbs and onions, and served with a lemon wedge. it was the best dish that day.


We were also served grilled chicken, which was undercoked and bloody, but the kitchen was professional enough to replace it with new cuts when I asked them to cook it some more. The mashed potatoes they came with was a hit! Buttery and rich, it was gone in a jiffy.

Next:
another disappointing Harlan G experience
newfound friends and a foodtrip

Friday, May 11, 2007

Another Solitary Lunch Hits the Spot

My lunch: Thinly-sliced, boiled and braised beef shin resting on a hot broth where long, thin scallions, crunchy beansprouts, pickled mustard greens, and ground meat were scattered here and there. You could see the chili oil in places. The white noodles were firm to the bite.

Where: Nam Kee Noode House along Jaffe Road, where at 12 noon they've already served 120 customers, both for dine-in (the place accomodates maybe 50 at most, and that's a tight fit) and take-away (HK equivalent of take-out).

Nam Kee is right in front of Mang Ambo, a famous Pinoy "carinderia" in Wanchai known for their pork bbq. I was turned off by the woman manning the fort though. She was rude to a prospective customer (me) when all I wanted to know was whether they had the bbq or not. It's good but I've tasted better. And that attitude just makes it so much worse, in my opinion.

Happy with my HKD 23 lunch though. Next time I'll get the beef brisket soup.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Another Solitary Lunch

Yesterday smartly-dressed office workers and ladies who lunch gave me the once-over when I entered Cafe Des Artistes in Lan Kwai Fong. Not that they have a dress code or anything, but I was in my summer best- spaghetti-strap top, capris and slippers! Plus I was all alone. Anyway I didn't care and set my butt on a corner table. I wanted to try their braised Wagyu beef cheek, simmered for hours in a red wine-rich sauce with potatoes, carrots and cubes of chewy bacon. It was served on hot plate with turned green and yellow zucchini, baby turnip, broccoli and snow peas set on a splash of jus.

For starters I had their fish soup served with grated parmesan and rouille (olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic). I placed some cheese and rouille in the soup, and used the rest of the garlicky mustard yellow rouille on the crisp tiny baguette slices that came with the soup. I thought the soup would be chunky and thick, but it was slightly watery and came with no chunks of anything- more broth than soup, really. I was disappointed and thought about ordering the endive salad with citrus fruits and honey dressing but I was starting to get full. A bread basket came while I was halfway through my soup. There were 3 kinds of bread, 2 slightly too sweet and all 3 not as warm or fresh as I would have wanted.

I was starting to regret my decision to spend lunch here when the beef dish arrived, set in a white soup bowl and concealed by a golden brown, crumbly, thin pastry sheet dotted with poppy seeds. Intrepid me was poised to shatter this delicate sheet with my fork and as soon as I broke the surface the hot, fragrant steam billowed out. I inhaled deeply then dug in. The beef is meltingly tender, and slides like silk on the tongue. Rarely can you swallow a chunk of beef without chewing but it is a possibility here. I broke off pieces of bread -the one that wasn't sweet, and dipped it in the sauce. Was this proper or not? Again I didn't care. The sauce was there, the bread was there, a spoon wasn't. So what's a girl to do? Enjoy her meal any way she can.

Washed down with a glass of plain water, my entire bill came out to HKD 379.50. Expensive for lunch, yes. And I could've done without the soup. I highy recommend the beef cheek though. But share it. And order their other regional specials like the cassoulet and snails.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Merveilleux!

Makes me want to do these right away:

catch the next flight out to France!
buy the books!
cook the dishes!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

FOOD FRENZY

From a Word Mac file of mine: a list of HK eateries, some venerable, distinguished and multi-awarded; some in unknown alleys with no pedigree to speak of. I've already checked many items off this list, and yet it grows. So much food, so little time.
Here are the ones I haven't tried.

HK RESTOS TO TRY OUT

HOTELS:
Grissini – Grand Hyatt
One Harbour Road – Grand Hyatt
Niccholinis- Conrad
Gaddis- Peninsula
Felix- Peninsula
Mo Bar- Mandarin Landmark (Burgers)
Pierre Gagnaire- Mandarin Landmark
Chinnery- Mandarin Landmark
Felix- Peninsula
The Pizzeria- Kowloon Hotel
JW’S California- Marriott
Sabatini
Nobu – Intercon
Spoon – Intercon
Amber – Mandarin Landmark
The Steak House - Intercon
Angelini – Kowloon Shangri-La
Inagiku- 4 Seasons

MIDDLE EASTERN:
Habibi/Habibi Café
Marouche- Cochrane Street 25418282

CHINESE:
Shui Hu Ju
American Peking
Taste of Beijing
Hutong
Kung Tak Lam – CWB
Lei Garden Resto
Xiao Nan Guo – Times Square
Peking Duck
Ning Po – LKF 25230648
Dong Lai Shun – Regal Hotel
Spring Deer – Mody Road
Fook Lam Moon
Hei Kee – Crabs, Wan Chai
Fishball – 80-82 Old Main Street Aberdeen
HK Old Resto – Miramar 27221812
Kau Kee 21 Gough St. – beef brisket
Yu Sin – 98 Ivy St. Tai Kok Tsui 36202660 (Three Knife Fish, Soups)
Mala – 35 Peel St. 28181236 (Rendang beef curry, Hainan Rice)
Sang Kee Congee – 7-9 Burd St. Sheung Wan 25411099 (Chick congee)
Peking Resto – 227 Nathan Road Yau Ma Tei 27351316
Wang Fu Beijing Dumpling – 98 Wellington St. (Veg dumplings in hot and sour soup)
Boat Dweller Fish Balls – 135 Belcher St. Kennedy Town
Wing Cheung Resto – 2 King Kwong St. Happy Valley (roast meats)
Yun Fu – Basement 43-55 Wyndham 21168855
Under Bridge Spicy Crab- 414 Jaffe Road and 401-402 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai 28346818 28931289
Wu Kong Shanghainese – Food Forum Times Square (shredded chix with bean curd sheets, lion’s head meatball)
DIM SUM:
Dim Sum – 63 Sing Woo Road Happy Valley 28348893
Lin Heung Tea House – 160 Wellington 25444556
Yung Yuen – 53 Belcher St. Kennedy Town 28557738

SEAFOOD:
Fai Kee – Po O Toi Pier Sai Kung 27199129 (fried octopus, sashimi)
Chuen Kee – 53 Hoi pong st. Sai Kung 32861779

HAIRY CRAB:
Imperial Kitchen – CWB 25772018
Avenue Joffre- CWB 28826001
YunYan Szhechuan – Miramar 23750800
Green Willow – CWB 28816669]
Peach Resto – Wan CHai 21100363
Lung King Heen – 4 Seasons Hotel
Dong Lai Shun – Regal Hotel

ITALIAN:
Gaia – Sheung Wan 21678200
Aqua Roma
Tuscany By H 25218116
Aspasia- 1/F Luxe Manor, 39 Kimberley Road TST 37638800
Peccato – Elgin St.
Cecconi’s Cantina- Elgin St.

JAPANESE:
Fuji
Sae Culinary
Kun – Cheerful Court 1-5 Shing Ping St. Happy Valley 28933917
Koi Sushi – 25378332
Kiyotaki – 13 Gough St. 28771772
Asian Ghetto- Jap Ramen 30 Tai Wong St. Wan Chai 23383498
Nishimura – Marco Polo HK 27356899
Chura – Unit A B1 The Toy House, 100 Canton Road TST
31058950 (okinawan cuisine)

PRIVATE KITCHEN:
Xi Yan – 25756966 3/F Hang Wai Comm’l Bldg 231-233 Q. Road East, Wan Chai
Yellow Door- 28586555
Chez Les Copains – 117 Pak Sha Wan, Sai Kung 22431918
Wo Tai Ju – B5 9?F Kingston Bldg. 2-4 Kingston St. CWB (Thai and Jap)
Alcove- 55 Peel St. 29759788

KOREAN:
Chang Won
Sorabol
Jin Luo Buo- CWB 28953986
Secret Garden

HOTPOT:
Little Sheep – 463 Lockhart Road, CWB 28938318
Tao Heung Seafood Hotpot – 338 Hennessy Road 28383097

FRENCH/CONTINENTAL/FUSION/DELI:
Robuchon – Landmark 21669000
Café Des Artistse
Gough 40
Goccia – 21678181 (devil pizza)
Ingredients- 25445133 23 Wing Fung St. Wan Chai
The Verandah
Orange Tree
Peak Café Bar
Bizou
Mezze
Harmony Café –CWB
Lawry’s – 29072218
Pearl at The Peak
Percy’s- 68 Catchick St. Kennedy Town 28551882
Green T. House- Cyberport
Agnes B. – Leighton Road, CWB 25772718
Lux
Agura- 13/F Henry House, 42 Yun Ping Road, CWB 25042929 (Jap-Italian)
Bricolage- 62 Hollywood Road 25421991 (duck confit)
The Press Room
Cococabana – Deep Water Bay 28122226
Armani Restaurant- Chater House

VIETNAMESE/THAI:
Song
TRU- 25256700
O Sip Hah – 36223222 Old Bailey St.
Wong Chun Chun Thai – 442 Prince Edward Road, Kowloon 27160099 (tom yum)
Chili Club
Noble House- 73 Wellington St. (Tom Yum)

ASIAN/INDIAN:
Nepal
Viceroy
VEDA
Tandoor
Kohinoor
Masala- Sheung Wan 25819777
Katong Laksa – Sheung Wan 25434008
Nepal
Woodlands – 61 Mody Road TST 23693718
Gaylord – 1/F Ashley Center 23-25 Ashley Road TST 23761001 (North Indian)
Sangeet – 17-23 Minden avenue TST 23675619
Indonesian 1868 – 28 Leighton Road, CWB 25779981 (ox tongue stew and rendang beef)

OTHERS:
1. Sai Kung
- Under The Pier
- Anthony’s Catch 27928474
- 131 27912684
- Scarecrow 27910888
2. Au Belge – Belgian 11 Old Bailey St. 25481818
3. Electric Road, Tin Hau
- Poppy’s 1 A Tsing Fung St. CWB
- The Fresh Soya Shop 74-48 Electric Road
- Te Se Kitchen 69 Electric Road (sweet dumplings)
- Tin Hau Laksa 81 Electric Road
- Shun Fung Noodle House 87 electric Road (Pork Chops)
4. Kin’s Kitchen – 9 Tsing Fung St. Tin Hau 25710913 (fried wonton skins with shredded duck meat)
5. Discovery Bay
- Hemingway’s 29878855 (Carribean, BBQ)
- Manta Ray 29872298 (seafood)
- Fagara 29876222 (Sichuan)
6. Ooh La La – Pui O Beach, Lantau

Commercial Break No. 1

Let's take a break from food-centered ramblings to take an irate look at HK weather.


gloomy, doomsday view from our window, April 24, 10:30 am


are the dark, Mordor clouds here to stay?


argh! big fat droplets of rain pouring down from angry skies

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bon Appetit!

I am currently reading Bon Appetit! Travels Through France with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle, author of A Year in Provence.

In one part of the book, he says that what distinguishes the French from other nationalities is their utter love of food; from the way it is grown, harvested, and prepared, to the way it is served and eventually partaken of. The French take a rapturous, sensual delight in food, and this is best witnessed during Sunday lunch, when everyone is leisurely perusing the menu, taking their sweet time and "...mentally tasting the dishes on offer. You can almost hear the flutter of taste buds."

I must have been French in my past life. When I read that passage I silently said, bingo! I always take my time in restaurants, visually imagining each and every dish, composing a picture in my mind, my taste buds emboldened, my senses on full alert, my heart racing as my salivary glands go on overdrive, seeking and longing that first bite, bursting with life and flavor.

Hutong

Had a lovely dinner at Hutong (28th Floor, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui), a glamorous Chinese restaurant rife in atmosphere and artistic food presentation, with stunning harbor views.

Hubby and I admired the decor, especially that of the restrooms, but we would be scared silly to look at ourselves in the mirror and "do our thing" if we had as dark and eerie a room in our own home.

Eye candy for me were the wooden trays, hand-painted bowls and lacquer servingware where the inventive dishes reposed.

To start with we had:
- poached cold drunken pigeon and crispy roast pigeon which little boy finished most of so we had to order again
followed by:
- crabmeat rolled in thinly-sliced radish, in one perfect row, with a black sesame dipping sauce. bland but refreshing
- mixed vegetable spring rolls, crisp and very tasty
- deep-fried battered eggplant with a minced prawn and lotus root filling, served with fresh minced garlic
- bamboo clams steeped in rose wine and chili sauce
then came the main courses:
- a boneless lamb rib, Hutong-style, fried to perfection and served with warm, thin pancakes, slices of leek and a garlic dipping sauce
- soft-shell crabs hiding like cowards under a fierce mountain of fried fiery hot Szechuan red peppers - beautiful to look at, served in a red wooden receptacle with handle
- roast pork ribs topped with fennel seeds
- squid sauteed with lofty sea urchin (uni)
- braised sea cucumbers wading in a rich brown sauce redolent with golden scallions and prawn roe
- Mandarin fish fillet smartly dressed in a heap of crunchy garlic
- chunky green asparagus stir-fried with salted yellow croaker
- steamed taro balls with prawn roe sauce
- eggwhite fried rice with spring onion

Some of us with adventurous tastebuds and possibly alcoholic tendencies tried the Jia Qing Tung Pao- one small lychee placed in a clay pot (like those for dipping sauces) where a heady, sweetish concoction of lychee liquor, gin and soda water is poured. An extraordinary way to sip one's alcohol.

The kids, little boy and his pretty friend, each ordered noodle soup with diced shrimp, but shared in the adult's fare as well. My son took one sip of my strawberry-lime shake and never let go of the glass. He seemed to be suffering from endless thirst so I ordered a peach shake for him but he turned his nose up at it. I should've known, he's a darn good actor for a 4 year old.

After dinner we all walked to Knutsford Terrace and ended the night canoodling with a vanilla souffle, molten chocolate cake, nougat parfait, apple crumble and pistachio creme brulee.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

AMAZING RACE JAPAN - DAY 8

PACKING for our trip home was a sad affair. There were so many places I wanted to go to, like Nara, Himeiji, Osaka, Nagoya, Hokkaido and Okinawa; so many restaurants I wanted to try; so many experiences, like an onsen (40-degree hot spring public bath where you are fully naked while soaking with strangers) I wanted to relish. 8 days is not enough especially if you're a food and adventure junkie like myself.

LITTLE boy was going to miss his tita, who acted as babysitter, playmate and friend the entire trip. Good thing she was due in HK the next day for a much-needed respite from the Japanese language. We will always be grateful to SIL, for being patient enough to take us to the same old places she'd been to countless times, for planning each day so we could take in as many sights and sounds as possible, for tirelessly researching bus routes to Gotemba, for waking up so early every day and walking from her dorm to our hotel in the biting cold just to pick us up, for putting up with our moods and demands. I was the adventure-food-walking-museum type, hubby the coffee shop-shopping mall-food-very little walking please type, and Little boy was, well, wonderful. He only spent a half day at Thomasland but went around with us to all the temples (of both culture and retail) quietly and without complaint. We normally don't buy toys for him unless it's his birthday or Christmas, but we made an exception for this trip and he happily lugged home 5 new toys back to HK. It was his reward for being so well-behaved during the mostly boring (for him) trip. It's good to know we can take him around the world easily.

AFTER checking out we decided to spend our last day walking leisurely around Shinjuku. Lunch -yes, delicious and memorable, was at a mall restaurant serving tempura.



4 kinds of salt for sprinkling on the tempura: pinkish salt, light yellow lemon salt, ordinary salt, herbs with salt


steamed tofu


Japanese ceramic pot for soy sauce


the tempura was brought to our table in small batches as they were being fried. how fresh is that? no soggy, cold ones in this resto.

READERS of this blog, I know this took way long to finish. Arigato gozaimasu for your patience!

AMAZING RACE JAPAN - DAY 7

FRIDAY in Japan was darn depressing- I hadn't eaten at any resto on my list (although I did eat at some fine restos and was happy with the food) because of logistics, and I only had 1 1/2 days to go. SIL and I had planned to wake up at the ungodly hour of 4 am to catch the action at the Tsukiji Fish Market and eat some freshy-caught seafood for breakfast, then jog around the grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The plan sounded good on paper, but we were bone-tired and didn't meet up until 9am. Too late for the fish market, which is why I am going back to Japan in 2 years time when SIL graduates from fashion school for good. Too late for the Imperial Palace too, because apart from buying last minute "pasalubongs" at the Y100 shop (yes, I am a cheapskate),I had to buy books at the bookstore I visited on my first day, then meet up with my sleepyhead hubby and son for lunch. I know there are bookstores in HK too, probably carrying the same titles at a cheaper price, but irrational me had to have some books to bring home. I already had one in my luggage from our visit to Kyoto- Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights". How ironic is that- buying an English classic at an obscure Kyoto bookshop! What can I say? It was on sale.

WE VISITED the Takashimaya basement food shop, after waiting patiently for the doors to open and the perpetually bowing attendants to usher us in, and I bought some pickled ginger and cooked gyoza. THe Japanese waste too much paper in wrapping their food products, and I hated the layers of paper and plastic I had to grapple with before reaching my food. I was hungry, darn it, and not in the mood to open presents like it was Christmas. Their landfills must be choking. I don't mind the wrappers when they're for presents, though, because it's a nice, elegant touch, but when I'm buying food to assuage hunger pangs...

AT THE bookstore with the tiny English books section on the top floor I bought:

Mark Kurlansky's CHOICE CUTS (A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History) with essays by MFK Fisher, Waverly Root, Alexandre Dumas, Pablo Neruda, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and other literary and foodie heavyweights.

Taras Grescoe's THE DEVIL"S PICNIC (Travels Through the Underworld of Food and Drink) which is "an investigation of what thrills us, what terrifies us, and what inspires us to travel ten thousand miles and evade local authorities..." Very intriguing.

Rudolph Chelminski's THE PERFECTIONIST (Life and Death in Haute Cuisine) which takes a look at the world of French haute cuisine, and how one of France's most celebrated chefs took his own life when his restaurant ratings dropped and rumor spread that he was about to lose a Michelin star. It is my dream to eat at (at least 5) Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris.

AT THE Y100 store I bought these popular, lightweight, clear plastic umbrellas to bring back to HK. I gave one away, and the other one was so lightweight I forgot it in China on a trip to Shenzen.

FOR LUNCH we went to Shibuya, took some pictures of the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world (which reminded me of the SOGO Causeway Bay crossing on weekends and holidays) and took a snapshot of me standing by the Faithful Dog - the one who waited faithfully for its owner at the same spot for years after he died- who has a bronze memorial erected in his honor. Note: The bronze statue was stolen a few weeks after we left Japan in a daring heist, to be sold in the black market, probably.

I WANTED to search for a tonkatsu resto featured on my list, but we couldn't find it so we settled for this:


3 kinds of tonkatsu sauce: a tangy one, a sweetish one, and a spicy one


can't wait for the tonkatsu!


the food was ok


tonkatsudon

THE REST of the afternoon was spent shopping for hubby's office shirts. He likes the Japanese brands because they are so trendy and metrosexual-looking. Perfect for my queer-eyed better (dressed) half.

DINNER was a treat from one of SIL's Pinoy friends who has lived in Japan many years. He wanted us to try authentic Kyushu cuisine called Motsunabe and brought us to a well-known restaurant in the Asakasa area. SIL and I were delighted with everything we tried that night, especially the mango sake and lychee sake we sipped while munching, although hubby and little boy were wary of the dishes.

HERE IS Motsunabe's description, from Wikipedia: Motsunabe (Japanese: もつ鍋) is a type of nabemono in Japanese cuisine, which is made from beef or pork offal. A hot pot (nabe) is filled with soup, prepared beef or pork offal and boiled for a while; cabbage and garlic chives are added. The base soup is usually soy sauce with garlic and chili pepper, or miso. Champon noodles are often put into the pot and boiled to complete the dish.The offal used in motsunabe is mostly beef intestines, but various kinds of offal can be used.


this is liver steak, breaded, fried and served with a tangy sauce. you can only order one per person each time you go there. each liver is counted. this resto does not accept walk-ins. ever. the liver was so good, crunchy but not greasy, with no aftertaste.


the specialty of the house- motsunabe. here the pot is covered with cabbage, bamboo shoot and garlic chives with chilies on top. we set the pot over a high flame, and as the vegetables wilted into the soup, we scooped the fillings, composed of various innards, into our bowls. the broth was very garlicky and flavorful.


a stir-fried mixed vegetable and innard dish


crunchy "mustasa" salad with a piquant mustard dressing, tomatoes, steamed lotus root and crisp sugar snap


pickles on the side


this tamago had an extra special pinkish ingredient inside. i thought it was "bihod" (fish roe), because of the tiny dots that popped (very slightly) but saucily in my mouth. hubby ate it first before trying to find out what is was. lo and behold, it was a Fear Factor ingredient- bull's testicles. not bad tasting at all. i would eat it again.


we fnished it all off


sweet potato and purple yam ice cream to refresh our tongues and glide smoothly down our throats after that very interesting and full-bodied dinner

KNOWING it was our last night in Japan SIL and her friend brought us to Roponggi Hills for coffee. Little boy and I had wandered off to check out the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Tokyo and grab a copy their spring food brochure. Hubby was so happy the girl behind the Starbucks counter could speak English, with an accent at that. We were finally able to order a latte with skimmed milk (not the best choice but we are not coffee lovers to begin with) after 6 days of full-fat milk. While sipping our coffee we saw several Caucasians in either business suits or trendy clubing attire walk by. One was a bald, handsome man in a pink button-down shirt and white jeans. He was HOT. SIL thought he was smiling at her so she smiled back, until we realized, after much debate, that he might have been smiling at hubby. HAHA. In any case, hubby was giving him the once-over too because he liked the guy's clothes. Hubby was in a pink sweater, by the way. It was a laughter-filled evening until little boy got tired of running around, coughed endlessly, and proceeded to vomit all over Starbuck's Roponggi Hills' shiny, clean floor. Good thing the Japanese are so polite. The staff did the polite thing and helped us clean the mess. We took that as a sign to take little boy home to rest.

HAPPY ME went to bed that night with thoughts of more exotic meals to come when I visit Japan again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

AMAZING RACE JAPAN - DAY 6

THURSDAY brought grey skies and freezing temperatures to Tokyo. It was Little Boy's turn to enjoy himself in Thomasland after the past two days of temple and garden hopping. He was quiet throughout the early bus trip to Hakone, by the slopes of Mt. Fuji, where Fuji-Q Highland Park was located.

ON THE WAY there we passed through industrial towns and valleys surrounded by pine-covered mountains. Although the trees were in a dull shade of brownish grey, one can imagine how verdant the countryside really is in the spring and summer. It seems that illegal logging is rare in these parts.

AS SOON AS we were finished admiring the many hills and grassy fields surrounding us we suddenly caught sight of that oft-depicted mountain with its perfect, gentle slopes capped by white- MT. FUJI. We were more in awe this time compared to that short sighting from the bullet train because the mountain (or should I say volcano, because it is, technically, that) was right in front of us, looming vast and large, its presence commanding.

UPON alighting from the bus we proceeded to cross the highway through an overpass, mistakenly thinking Thomasland was on the other side of the road. We realized too late that we were on the right side the entire time, but it was a lucky mistake since we were able to take pictures from the top of the overpass, where Mt. Fuji could be seen in all its glory behind us, the view unimpeded by trees and structures.

WE BOUGHT entrance tickets to FUJI-Q, instead of the more popular day pass which would have allowed us to ride everything on offer (including 4 kinds of roller coasters, a longish rolller-coaster ride clocking in at 3 minutes, a bicycle ride for the lazybones and scaredycats on wires high above the ground, a huge, horrific haunted house) because we needed to catch the bus to Gotemba after lunch, so all we had time for was Little boy's wonderland.

MANY locals, Pinoys in Japan and forums on the web cautioned us that Thomasland was a very tiny part of Fuji-Q and not really worth going to unless your kid is obsessed with the series, which Little boy was. We walked through the amusement part with low expectations but were plesantly surprised.

A BRICK archway with the words THOMASLAND greeted us and we knew we made the right choice in bringing Little boy here instead of Disneyland or Disney Sea. We took pictures by Knapford Station, and Little boy frolicked in the souvenir shop, where Thomas themed toilet paper, seaweed, furry slippers and toilet seats, among other things, were being sold at high prices to fans of the railway series. Being suckers, we bought 2 toys for Little boy, one of which he promptly lost the next night while I was eating my most memorable Japanese meal.

LITTLE BOY rode on a Duncan roller coaster, Harold the Helicopter, Lady the steam engine, the Sodor boats, Percy and Thomas bump cars which he controlled (steered, started and stopped) all by himself, Cranky simulating a ferris wheel on drugs (it was a jerky, fast ride), Mavis with the tambourine and singing attendant, and a Toby tunnel ride in a cave with life-size Gordon, Spencer, Harvey, snow-covered Percy, a real turntable, and a chocolate factory at the end of the ride! Even the adults had fun!

AFTER an exhausting morning, and I say exhausting not because the park was huge but because it was so darn cold (2-3 degrees C) and it took all our energy to keep our hands warm, we had a very average pasta lunch at the theme park then proceeded to the nearby bus stop where we were the only foreigners around. There was an old, tiny shelter where we took refuge until the bus to Gotemba came. A friend of SIL told us about the outlet shops in this place, 1 1/2 hours from Hakone, and since hubby is a shopaholic, off we went! The road to Gotemba was lined with pine trees, a view of Mt. Fuji's cone, a touristy fishing village (literally, a place where tourists went to fish by the banks of a river), a small beach, and rolling hills covered with something mustard-yellow- a bizzare sight. Gotemba itself is a quiet, sleepy town that offers hiking tours to Mt. Fuji, a smattering of Onsen (public baths using water from mineral springs heated to 40 degrees C), and other nature-oriented trails for the adventurous city-phobes. The outlet shops are located in a sprawling, modern complex put up by a US company. It seems small from the entrance, but in fact you have to cross a bridge spanning a deep ravine to get the to other side. There are 170 shops in all, with big names like Escada, Gucci, Miu Miu, Prada, Hugo Boss, Furla, Tod's, Kate Spade, Cole Haan, Celine, and A. Testoni, to name a few. Hubby was in shopping paradise! Little boy was asleep the entire time. We boarded the bus for Tokyo after 4 hours of window-shopping, hubby with a wide grin on his face after purchasing new shoes. It was so cold there was no point in trying on clothes; SIL and I just felt so lazy we gave up after one round of the place.

TOKYO was drizzling at 8pm, and we were famished and tired so it had to be fastfood for us, because we were ready to hit the sack. SIL brought us to a cheap place frequented by salarymen, where you choose from window displays of fake food, place some money in a vendo machine and press your choice. Afterwards you present a receipt to the counter and pick up your food. The noodles were not spectacular-tasting, but hot, filling and fast, just what we needed that rainy night.



sil choosing our dinner. fast food at its fastest. hubby even timed one customer, 5 minutes to finish his meal then in 2 minutes another one took his place.


the display


hubby's dinner: plain soba with broth and seaweed and a bowl of tonkatsudon


my dinner: thin soba noodles in a salty broth with various toppings - no meat or seafood

AMAZING RACE JAPAN - DAY 4 AND 5

WAKE-UP CALL on Day 4 was at 5:30 am. We had to walk to the Shinjuku train station; a mere 15 minutes from the inn that felt more like 2 hours because we were frozen. From there it was a 30-minute train ride to Shinagawa station, where we would catch the Shinkansen or bullet train, Japan's high-speed train that zooms past its countryside and takes Tokyo-dwellers to places like Osaka, Kyoto, Nagano etc...

LITTLE BOY loved the ride, and so did we. It was smooth, comfortable and scenic. We gasped in awe when majestic Mt. Fuji, its upper slopes blindingly white with snow, suddenly appeared by the window opposite us. After a brief nap, we opened our eyes to a scene right out of a postcard: that of a small mountainside village whose rooftops, treetops and cars were bathed in snow. This was Nagano, and although we ignorantly thought it was snowing in Kyoto, after 30 minutes of this charming view it was back to flat and grassy fields awash with sunlight.

ARRIVING too early to check in we walked to Nishiki Market, a famous food market in Kyoto. The long street is lined with shops sellling pickled ginger in a myriad of colors and tastes. There was a knife shop I was interested in, but their extra sharp goods were too expensive for my budget, although I gazed longingly at the chef's knives on display. There was no lack of cooked savory and sweet food to be had: grilled fish, breaded pork and seafood, bento boxes, soy milk donuts (we ordered these hot and fresh, and the distinctive taste of soy milk was evident in every sugary bite), and more mochi than I've ever seen in my life! Kyoto in Spring in mochi territory!


entrance to Nishiki


tuna on sticks, waiting to be grilled


dashitamago-large omelets with various fillings using dashi (dried bonito fish and kelp or seaweed) as a flavor base.


making tamago using special rectangular tamago pans. i've tried making some with a regular round non-stick pan and it worked out fine, even if it differed in appearance from restaurant tamago.


i ate 2 of these beauties in one sitting. imagine the onslaugt on your senses: sticky, bland mochi balls encasing smooth and sweet red bean paste, then a squirt of sweetness and tang from a soft, ripe, juicy strawberry. i tried some from a convenience store in Tokyo but the berry was guilty of being too small, too bland and too squished. this handmade one from Nishiki was worth every cent.


triangular, paper-thin mochi with sweet fillings, a specialty in Kyoto only during spring. i also tasted plain white mochi balls that you dip in a black sesame paste. wonderful!

OUR STAY in Kyoto was devoted to visiting it's lush gardens, the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and temples steeped in history. SIL and I were lucky enough to have our pictures taken with both maikos (apprentices) and geishas. The cab drivers who brought us around chatted with SIL about geisha history, showed us a geisha's mansion, and took us down memory lane by driving by a street depicting the Kyoto of old - more than 100 years old; the small houses once home to ancestors of Kyoto residents now used as quaint restaurants, izakayas and souvenir shops.


Kyoto Imperial Palace


Kyoto Imperial Palace


Kyoto Imperial Palace


Kyoto Imperial Palace


Kyoto Imperial Palace


Kyoto Imeprial Palace


WHILE walking around the Maruyama Park SIL and I spotted an English-style manor serving Western food, and at first I thought how silly it was, this pretentious restaurant, until I was silenced by the plaque in front: it had been serving the general public at the exact spot since 1909.

STUNNED, I laughed my silliness off by walking farther away from the source of my shame, and came upon an English-style (again!) tearoom, complete with rose-painted china and other relics of genteel Victorian life scattered about the diding room. Here I ordered herring soup with buckwheat noodles (um, yes, they serve authentic Japanese food). The steaming hot broth cleared my nose and warmed my chilly insides. The herring was grilled and brushed with a sweet, teriyaki-like sauce. Its bones were so soft they melted in the mouth. SIL and I stayed for a bit and sipped their aromatic green tea before gathering enough energy to walk around again. We toured the Eastern part of Kyoto (Kodaiji Temple, Yasaka Shrine, Chionin Temple, GIon) for a good 3 1/2 hours, and was rewarded for our efforts by the sight of Kiyomizudera Temple at night, its cherry blossoms lit by garden lights.


Kodaiji Temple


Kiyomizudera at night

FOR DINNER we all trooped to the restaurant two doors down from our hotel - oh, did I mention our room here was 6 times bigger than our Tokyo one? It had a proper closet, dressing room, living room, a long cabinet housing fluffy robes and silky kimonos, and two TV'S! And it cost far less than our Tokyo box! Dinner was at a bright, happy place where the specialty was shabu-shabu, which we didn't order (don't ask why, it frustrates me to this day). I wasn't disappointed with my bento box and SIL's sushi platter though. Hubby's bento box contained tuna sashimi, which I happily ate, chicken teriyaki, a flavorful, quivering mass of chawan mushi (egg pudding) with generous bits of prawn hidden inside, pickles, salad and assorted tempura. Mine had assorted sushi and tempura, a mini beef hotpot cooked in a coffee filter- like paper bowl over a slow flame, chicken teriyaki, chawan mushi and a delightful vegetable and seafood ball broth. All this for HKD 120/bento box. My camera's battery had died down at this point, and the memory card was full, which explains the lack pf pictures for these 2 days and why I bought a camera upon arriving at Tokyo on the afternoon of DAY 5.

AFTER A leisurely breakfast at the hotel the next day - composed of convenience store bento boxes, we set out for Kinkakuji, an extremely beautiful and serene temple made out of gold leaf. It sits in a lagoon and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The surrounding hills, streams, mountains and gardens are forever embedded in my mind, and hopefully hubby will endeavor to surprise me with a Japanese garden replica in our future home, albeit a fraction of the size, and without the gold leaf pavillion, of course. It was a perfect morning marred only by the tourist shops, too many of them, noisily selling their wares a few meters before exiting temple grounds.


Kinkakuji

RYOANJI temple was next, a "masterpiece of Japanese culture", according to the guide books. The complex houses the Kyoyochi Pond, made in the late twelfth century, and a famous rock garden, composed of only 15 rocks and white gravel, and measuring 25 meters east to west and 10 meters south to north. Philisophers would sit by this garden and contemplate life and the meaning of the rocks. Whoever designed the simple garden at the end of the 15th century meant to inspire in the viewer zen-like meditation.






ON THE WAY back to Tokyo I overdosed on onigiri at a convenince store. What looked interesting was simple a circle of rice dipped in soy sauce with NO FILLING INSIDE! ARGGGGGH! I was sick of bland rice! Another ongiri using red rice and beans was average, and the salmon one had a strand of hair sticking out from it so I lost my appetite altgether and didn't buy a single onigiri for the rest of my stay.

GOOD THING we had dinner at the Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Lumine EST Department Store, Shinjuku. Wolfgang has 3 eateries in this city, an express at Harajuku, tha cafe and a fine dining option. By this time I had my new camera, a Canon Powershot A640 (hey, it got good reviews on the net, with a professional photographer saying it's more than a beginner's camera, though not a professional one, and will work well for the camera enthusiast, like me!). I hadn't tinkered around with it or read the manual so in the box it stayed while we enjoyed our baby spinach salad with crisp bacon, goat's cheese and caramelized pecans tossed in sherry vinaigrette; Italian sausage pizza; tomato. basil and garlic spaghetti; fresh chittara with cream, bacon and basil paste; the house special burger with onion rings; and a truly indulgent appetizer of truffle potato chips with bleu cheese dip.

BEFORE we had dinner SIL took us to Harajuku, shopping havens for either the rich fashionistas or weird teenagers of Tokyo. I feasted my eyes on the shops selling gothic wear, lacy undergarments in the most "baduy" designs, and even sighted some Harajuku girls that looked like Gwen Stefani's back-up dancers.

ALL IN ALL, an eventful 2 days.