Sunday, April 29, 2012

Legazpi City's Espada

I was about to translate espada into dried eel and wax nostalgic about growing up eating fried fresh eel, when a little online research yielded the fact that what i'm featuring today is actually dried cutlassfishes. Cutlassfishes are found in seas worldwide, are silver and scaleless, with large angry teeth, and since they are long and slender, with no pelvic or caudal fins, they resemble eel. But enough of this.

This is what I had for breakfast. It wasn't too salty, tasted like danggit (dried rabbitfish), and perfect with tomatoes. Because it was crunchy, I ate everything, including the head, which looks harder than it really is.
I first saw espada (from the Spanish "sword") at the breakfast buffet when I was assigned for work in Legazpi City. I thought they would make an alternative takeaway to the usual.
After a few inquiries from the waiters and other locals, we set out the next day for the dried goods section of the public market. Bingo! At the second floor were stalls of dried fish, including espada. Between the ordinary and boneless espada, we opted for the latter, setting us back at P60 for a fourth of a kilo.
Here's another look at fried espada.
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

TGIF Restaurant Top Picks

I'm taking a break from the usual format today and I'll write about my favorite items at the American casual dining restaurant chain TGIF.

Whenever I eat at TGIF, I always order the Ceasar's Salad. What I love about it is that besides getting my fiber from all the greens, the mix reminds me of salted green mango. Crazy, right? But it always does it for me.
I also get some mojito love. I've tried their classic and big apple mojito (pictured below). One sip and I'm transported to the beach. Their version is potent, and I love mine with a lot of mint.
During my last visit we ordered a sampler with grilled salmon (my favorite!), chicken, and pork. They were all good--moist and flavorful, and perfect for sharing.
What's your favorite from TGIF?

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Legazpi City's La Piazza Hotel for Bicol Express

Consistency is a good thing, especially when you had it good the last time. When I learned that we were booked at La Piazza Hotel in Legazpi City, the capital city of the region of Bicol, located at the southeastern corner of the main island of Luzon, I have one thing in mind: order Bicol Express.

As I mentioned here, Bicol is known for its spicy cuisine, with Bicol Express among the more popular of its dishes. Bicol Express is pork stewed in coconut milk and flavored with shrimp paste and siling mahaba (long chili, finger chili).

When I was in the hotel last year (see top photo), I fell in love with its Bicol Expres. It was salty, not the usual sweetish ones of Manila (they say it might be because of the sweetened shrimp paste used, which to me, is an abomination) and spicy, tempered by the coconut milk and pork fat. Tonight was no different--it was straight forward, simple, and well-balanced (see bottom photo).

Highly recommended.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Boracay's La Carmela Hotel for Lechon Kawali

I love pork. Unlike most, I'm not queasy eating pork fat. Fat makes meat flavorful--remove it and the meat tastes, ah, less interesting. What I particularly favor is the portion where the meat and fat meets--that to me is heaven.

Next to adobo (pork stewed in vinegar. This is arguably the country's national dish), I love lechon kawali, crispy pan-fried roasted pork belly. Many dip this either in a spicy soy sauce mix or a sweetish liver-based condiment, but I prefer fermented fish paste, unsauteed.

Last year the best lechon kawali I ever tasted was from La Carmela Hotel, Boracay. The skin was crunchy, the meat oh-so-soft. My mouth water as I write. There was no need for dip, as the dish was so good on its own. The relish was quite interesting, as well. Instead of the usual achara--pickled green papaya, they used what appears to be banana pith.

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cagayan de Oro's Mallberry Hotel for Kinilaw (Fish Ceviche)

I work in the field of judicial education, and this entails going all over the country to train judges and court personnel. We usually house participants in hotels, and as some of you know, hotel food is hit-or-miss. Many are bland, too rich, or unfamiliar, and after the novelty comes off, one hankers for home-cooked meals.

In the past 2 months, I was billeted at the Mallberry Suites Business Hotel located at Lim Ket Kai Center in the heart of Cagayan de Oro City, the provincial city of Misamis Oriental. The province is located in the northern coast of Mindanao, the southernmost of the country's three major islands. Fortunately for us the food was better than most. I wrote about its ensaymada-pastel hybrid here.

Another standout is the kinilaw, or fish ceviche, where raw fish is marinated in vinegar and spices. I just love the color. The vinegar was not overpowering, the ginger and the shallots added just the right amount of zing, and the fish tasted buttery and clean. I liked it so much I got another serving (bottom photo).
Standouts as well were the pansit (top photo), which were on the sweet side; and the grilled chicken and steamed fish (middle photo).

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Metro Manila's Frozen Treats to Beat the Heat

The weather has been erratic—it’s summer, but with rain thrown in the mix. The past few days have been sweltering hot, triggering sales of frozen delights. No, I’m not blogging about that ice cream bar. For a quick relief from the summer heat, I’ve been partial to all things lemony.

First on the list is Ministop’s Cheesecake Sundae. Minsitop is the local version of 7-11 convenience stores. The first time I tried the soft serve ice cream flavour, I thought it was the perfect blend of salty, sweet, and tangy. I particularly like the lemony aftertaste—perfect for summer, like the citrus-based fragrances that lingers lightly. You can have it on a cup or a sweet cone. I love the latter, as it adds texture to the experience.

I’m also a fan of frozen yogurt. I like my fro-yo sweet and tart, and so I’ve been partial to White Hat and Red Mango. In my last visit to the latter, I tried the yuzu lemon flavour. Yuzu is an aromatic citrus used in Korean and Japanese cuisines. I tried it with dried lemon bits and almonds. The tartness of the lemon played nicely with the buttery almonds.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Makati’s Bizu for French Bistro Fare

I won’t hesitate to pay for quality. Some establishments deserve the price tags they foist on their clients, and I’m just too happy to fork over the cash (I won’t do it often, though—my budget remains, on the whole, proletarian).

I’ve heard about Bizu Patisserie, before, and I thought it served mainly macarons, a sweet meringue-based French confection that comes in a variety of fillings. While waiting for a dinner date I agreed to meet up with a friend at the Greenbelt 2 Makati branch of Bizu, and discovered they serve full-on bistro meals. Wiki defines bistro as a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting. When planning another get-together, I suggested that we have lunch at Bizu.

Among the items we ordered—most of them quite good—were the chorizo aglio olio (subtle and flavorful), the Waldorf salad (refreshing) made from organic ingredients, and the poached salmon with pommery (balanced, clean). I regret not taking a photo of the ten hour roast beef (flavorful, with meat oh-so-soft), which was likewise a winner. Most dishes come in family sizes, good for sharing for 2-4 diners.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

General Santos City’s Blugre Café for Durian Gatchpuccino

There’s no middle way for durian—the thorny fruit with usually yellow flesh and distinctive divisive aroma widely distributed in Southeast Asia—it’s either you love it or loathe it. Me? I’m addicted. I need my fix constantly. Every time I fly to Mindanao, the southernmost of the three major island groups of the Philippines, I pray I get to eat durian.

Last year I was assigned to General Santos City, the southernmost port city of the country. I arranged to meet with a friend at Blugre Cafe, originally from Davao City, the country’s durian capital. While waiting for her I was stoked when I saw that it serves durian gatchpuccino—an interesting mix of coffee and durian. That night I was in food heaven. Do drink up, though, to savor the generous durian meat at the bottom.

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