Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why Do I Love Cooking and Eating?

It makes me remember. Sensations, pleasures, fleeting memories. Happy, exciting times. Special, personal moments. It makes me adventurous. Throwing caution to the wind as I embrace new textures, new tastes. It unleashes the creative in me, in anyone who attempts to please both eye and palate. Most of all, it makes me believe in something better.

Food is transformative. I see something bright green and sprightly wilt ever so slowly under the influence of heat and steam, turning a raw vegetable into one of slightly crunchy goodness. I visualize pink turning white, red turning pink, grill marks seared on flesh as if branded and possessed. I struggle to contain my excitement at the intoxicating sight of seafood curling up or ever so slightly shrinking, as if afraid of the heat but tamed by it.

I am witness to ordinary, almost unwanted cuts of meat absorbing the colors of the sauce they're cooked in -- deep tomato red, dark earthy brown, creamy blushing pink, bright sunny yellow, virginal blinding white, milky chocolate brown; absorbing the flavors of wine, onion, butter, or cream, stock, garlic, or tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar or any one of a myriad ingredients that have the power to convert plain into magnificent.

Only the delicate art of frying can turn flimsy and yielding into crackling and bold, full of confidence and swagger, curling up as it swims in bubbling oil, each second making it crispier, crunchier, more appetizing to shatter in one's mouth.

To observe a soft, pliable, homely piece of dough rising, and becoming a hunk of chewy, oven-baked receptacle for any number of spreads, jams, butters, pates and thick chowders is a solemn experience. To inhale the wondrous scent of pastries, cakes and breads baking is a moment unmatched.

How folding ribbons of batter, composed of earth's simplest treasures, become a cake, that, after some window dressing, metamorphose into something dreamy, elegant, pretty, decadent and delightful is a mystery, a result of science and magic and yes, a fair sprinkling of fairy dust.

From spartan to ornate, from unsightly to mouthwatering, cooking and baking wield the power of alchemy, and is the driving force behind the optimism and hope I harbor within me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stufffing Myself Silly

"I'm a better (wo)man than this. I will not succumb to gluttony."

This is my mantra the entire 3 weeks that I find myself in Manila, Subic and Batangas, ostensibly to spend time with my family (which I did!), but let's face it, I was hoping to stuff myself silly in less than a month, since long vacations like these are too few and far between.

In Subic, a gigantic pizza takes center stage (literally). For something so showy, its substance surprises; a chewy crust cradles gooey four cheese goodness.

Another Subic find, mushroom burger. While it didn't knock anyone's socks off, the meat was cooked medium rare and the chargrilled flavor was evident in every bite.

The temptation to "taste" just a bit of this soft, pillowy ensaymada and its Westernized cousin the cinnammon roll was just too strong.

Ar Angel's Kitchen in Greenhills, their famous pinakbet rice topped with bagnet and served with chocolate bagoong satisfied a curiosity I've harbored since reading about the dish. While the individual components were not the best renditions, the overall presentation and blending of tastes worked pretty darn well. A creative dish!

A party at home was catered by Mongolian Grill! The scent of sizzling meat and seafood, the sight of fluffy white rice, the anticipation of how your "experimental sauce" will taste was a build up of excitement for a Mongolian fan such as myself. Then you see the rice tossed with the vegetables, the meat joyfully dancing in the air, that blur of movement as your rice is placed in a bowl, hot, can one be enough?

**Other no-holds barred pig out moments include: brunch at Bistro Filipino (always a clever, ingenious little gem of a restaurant), cheese steak from Charlie's Grind and Grill, a dripping mess of tender, thinly sliced beef and molten cheese that sticks to the roof of one's mouth; Taiwanese beef noodle, oyster omelet, black gulaman and other street snacks from Mien San in Gilmore Avenue (a childhood favorite); lunch at Cafe Romulo (the only disappointment during my 3 week dining spree), dinner and wine at Masseto, where I chose to try two attractive sounding appetizers instead of a main, and coffee at Bag of Beans in Tagaytay.