Sunday, January 16, 2011

Last Breath

Thank you to the readers of this blog. Even though I have not been the most diligent blogger, I have always enjoyed writing to share my thoughts with other people.

Blogging, for me, to a great extent, is self-indulgent. I love to write, especially when it's not required or paid writing. I love the idea of documenting a slice of my life, so that at some point in the future, I can look back and smile at the recollection, relive the details I have captured in print. The audience becomes totally irrelevant, because I write to write. I write to an audience of one -- me.

On the other hand, I also enjoy the idea that somehow I can help find others find a good restaurant and a great book, thus sharing with them the joy, extending the experience. I love the comments. I love the feedback. I love the idea that I have made somebody laugh, or try out a new dish, or run to the nearest bookstore.

Anyway, I will continue to blog, because erratic blogger as I am, I will die a little bit if I stop blogging. I just won't be blogging in this URL any more.

Those who are following me here for the foodie and travel bits, please head on over to Don't forget to "follow" me. I have several restaurant reviews in the pipeline, plus some highlights of last year's stay at Plantation Bay.

Those who are interested in books and those who want to follow the adventures of our book club, join me at

It will be great if you would continue to read both blogs.

This particular blog will disappear after all the clean-up work is done.

See you!

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sabroso's at Libreria: A Most Unusual Meal at a Bookstore

I've had my share of lechon. And now that my husband is frequently in Cebu, lechon has become common dining table fare.

So, maybe, I'm a little bit jaded now.

But I was in for a surprise treat with my first try of Sabroso Lechon.

One day before 2010 ended, we got invited to a lunch at the best bookstore in the planet, Libreria.

Libreria is a quaint, little bookstore tucked into a corner of the metro's most happening art spot, Cubao X. Outside, it looks a little bit like Hugh Grant's bookstore in Notting Hill. Inside is a scrumptious melange of white brick and teal walls, floor planks salvaged from a bowling alley, shelves and shelves of books, kitsch (the good kind), and the heady scent of brewed coffee. It's small in area but big on personality. It's a place one goes to not just to buy and browse affordable books in great condition; it's also a place for friends to chill, to discuss books, to party.

And this little party last December was called by Libreria's lovely owner, Triccie Cantero. I didn't know if she was thanking us for our patronage or bribing us to come over when she whispered that lechon (roasted pig) would be on the menu. She neither had to bribe nor thank us because we go to her bookstore just because we love it there. But still, lechon! Who says no to a lechon invitation? So, even if my husband and I were off to an anniversary vacation, we had to stop over.

My husband, artisan, surgeon, demi-god of lechon carving, showed off his skills and left not one splatter on the books. He didn't even break into a sweat. And he finished carving in pretty good time too. He was in his element. And I was in mine, surrounded by books, good food, and my bookish friends.

Sabroso Lechon, as the packaging says, is incredibly flavorful. I have yet to find food that is better than sex, but this comes dangerously close. This is lechon that comes from the Cebu tradition of pig roasting, but deviates a little to make it unique. For one, it comes with a thick garlic sarsa, which might raise the eyebrows of Cebu-lechon-purists. And to my palate, there's a distinct flavor, something that resembles sinigang and something I cannot guess. I wanted to take a sampling of the stuffing to have our resident science geek Mike analyze. Maybe I have to try it again to find better words to describe its interesting flavor. For now, all I can manage is that it's lovely, lovely lechon.

Lechon and books -- a most unusual combination, a fusion of heaven for the senses and hell for the cholesterol conscious. At least now, I can argue that my vice (books) is so much healthier than my husband's (booze and baboy).

Lechon without rice is like, well, lechon without rice. Good enough, but a little sad. So, Triccie made sure the experience was complete by supplying seafood paella lovingly prepared by her mom. Cholesterol + carbohydrates; now, what else is missing?

Ah yes! Sugar. Fellow book club friends Blooey and Czar took care of that with a box of Krispy Kreme and the famous ADB chocolate crinkles, respectively.

Then, finally, the appetizer arrived. Like we need it. Our friend Mike (yes, the science geek slash sports watch endorser) contributed the ridiculously delicious hummus made by his mom. All of us now want to be adopted by an Iranian family.

And finally, a cupful of Libreria's house blend. The bookstore gives out free brewed coffee. Didn't I tell you this is the best bookstore in the planet?

Unfortunately, my husband and I could not stay longer for the reincarnation of the lechon in paksiw (cooked in vinegar and garlic) form. Pampanga beckoned.

We can always have some more of the lechon by visiting their shop at 1237 E. Rodriguez Ave., Corner Tomas Morato, Quezon City. And according to my Manila by Day book (Thanks, Peter and Rhett.), they serve meals there too. According to the same book, a full lechon costs PhP3k.

For delivery, you can dial +632-725-0711, or +632-515-8253, or +632-515-8259.

Thanks, Triccie! Thanks, Libreria, for this splendid lunch like no other.

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Anniversary Weekend at Abe's Farm

My husband and I recently reached the 15th year mark as Mr. and Mrs. Yeay, us! So we celebrated by having an out-of-town weekend in the middle of the week. I love it when we do that, because that means we get to have two weekends in one week! Always fun.

We headed for Abe's Farm in Pampanga, a restaurant cum bed and breakfast place we've heard so much about.

As is the norm, the Mrs. slept through most of trip as the Mr. channeled Kimi Raikkonen and tried to beat some imaginary world record. Our Trooper zipped through NLEX, creating a psychedelic, impressionistic, moving painting of the rice fields, swamps, and trees surrounding the highway. I knew this even as I slept with my mouth wide open. I know it's true love because my husband still loves me even after watching me, the world's ugliest sleeper, sleep. Ooops. A.D.D. alert. I won't apologize anymore for digressing because I always digress anyway. What I'm trying to say is, don't ask me how to get there. When I travel, it's like entering a time machine. I just close my eyes and then I'm there.

Just check out their homepage for directions.

I woke up as we neared Magalang, Pampanga. I always love the approach to a town. It's a predictable, comforting pattern. You first go through the suburbs, where progress is constantly changing the landscape, old homes and rice fields giving way to the sprouting of gated subdivisions. Then you pass through the busy bayan (town center) with it Jollibees, and post-war market buildings, and all sorts of enterprise and merchandise. Then as you go deeper into the more parochial parts of town, things quiet down and the roads get a little rougher, the sights greener, the structures fewer and farther in between. And you can even roll down your car windows to breathe in that unusual smell -- they call it fresh air.

I never fail to appreciate it when we pass a tunnel of trees that almost completely shade the road, branches interlocking overhead as if embracing me in a warm welcome.

We followed the signs. Then, finally we saw the farm's gate, where a man ushered us into a large, shaded parking lot loosely paved with river stones.

Abe's Farm is owned and operated by the LJC Group. Whenever I think LJC, I think: squid tactics. binukadkad na pla-pla. Claude's Dream. Abe's chocolate eh. These menu items have been in the Metro's culinary scene for ages that they've become comfort food for me, and I dare guess for others too. These are also the dishes that told me that going to Abe's Farm in Magalang, Pampanga would be worth the trip. Because if all else suck, at least, the food won't disappoint.

But we discovered that's at Abe's Farm, it's more than just the food, there are many other reasons to visit.

The calm. Within the walls, you feel you're far, far away from civilization. You're surrounded by dense foliage, muffling the sounds of the outside world, covering you, making you feel like you're one with nature, even though, I admit, I'm not the one with nature kind of girl. There's no rush. Paths meander; it's never about getting from point A to point B in no time. People seem to walk around and talk in whispers, as if reverential of the country quiet.

The charm. The brochure described the place with the phrase tropical art deco. It's that. Plus architecture and decor that fuse our rich Filipino heritage and Asian aesthetics. The architecture of the main house and the varied cottages do not disrupt nature one bit as they are low rise, unassuming, and finished in indigenous materials. Divans, solihiya lounge chairs, and four poster day beds decked in cotton canvas slip covers and batik pillows are scattered in various places inviting you to sit and read, or slumber, or just sigh and soak in the sounds and scents of provincial life. The air is of unpretentious luxury.

The romance. We arrived just before sunset, settled into our rustic cottage, and by the time we left it to go the spa, the dim of dusk and the sprinkling of outdoor lights have turned the place into a romantic garden of brick lanes and cozy tryst spots.

In the rooms, there are no hi-fi, no wi-fi, no TV. Just a bed. And a tub for two. This absence of high tech pleasantly forces you to go high touch instead. To converse. Or to read in bed together, something I find strangely romantic. And to just share silent space, as old married couples find comfort in doing.

The luxury. Okay, I admit it. Even though I love my creature comforts and backpacking does not make me a happy camper, I'm quite easy to please. Just put a muslin netting over my bed, and I'm easily impressed. I know it's just for effect, because the air-conditioning and glass walls and doors keep the mosquitoes away. But it just adds a touch of opulence, comfort, sexiness to an otherwise rustic ambiance.
The spa is housed in a cottage similar to ours. My full body massage was glorious. And painful. Just the way I like it. When the therapist asked if the pressure was fine, I requested for her to make it harder. She obliged. She kneaded my holiday-weary body so hard, I almost wanted to shout, Uncle. The next day I was black and blue. And if I weren't already married, I might have proposed marriage to my therapist, so I can have a lifetime of spa bliss.

Then dinner. Ah, back to food.

Rice with dilis and tausi. Squid tactics. Inihaw na tadyang. Pako (fern) salad. Chicharon bulaklak. I thought we ordered too much. Yet, at the end of the meal, all that was left was the rice, which we asked them to serve with our breakfast the next day. The tadyang was a bit too crispy for me. I want it crispy on the outside, but tender, juicy, beefy inside. This one was crispy all throughout. Other than that, everything was perfect.

We washed all that with merlot, and we brought an order of leche flan to our room.

Because this is in the province, where the townsfolk turn the lights off early, service ends at 8PM.

So off to our cottage.

Insert 60s style hazy fade outs and sound effects to indicate a long time lapse because the censors cut the good parts in the bedroom.

We woke up excited to cap our weekend. LJC style breakfast awaited. We pre-ordered the night before.

We first built up an appetite walking around the grounds; checking out the Ifugao huts and the swimming pool; and admiring the orchid collection.

Moving around the main house, I wished we could stay longer to laze, to just lie on daybed and read.

We broke our fast with tapsilog for me and tocilog for him. Darn! I forgot to order chocolate eh. But the coffee was a delicious picker upper anyway. We wolfed down our breakfast because we were excited to visit the museum.

The museum is a relocated, reconstructed house, and is a great example of adaptive reuse as a means of preserving traditional architecture and decor. It also makes Abe's Farm more than just a bed and breakfast place as it gives it a story, history, charm, and romance.

In size, it's not much, which means it's not overwhelming and you can tour the place in minutes.

But because I am fond of minutiae, the museum was a wonderland of details that clue you in on Abe, his family, his art, his lifestyle. This museum is certainly another good reason to make the trip to Magalang.

We eventually tore ourselves away from Abe's farm to meet a friend who manages a business at the Clark Economic Zone.

Aside: I was amazed to discover that U.S.-based companies that restore old cars actually find it cheaper to ship the vehicle and parts to the Philippines, where local workers have been trained to do restoration work, and then ship back the finished goods to the U.S. Whew! Long sentence.

Lunch. I've been hearing about Zapata's (now Iguana's), the Mexican restaurant known for its margaritas. And I was glad to learn that the buzz was not all hype. That was mighty good Mexican food and an awesome margarita.

We managed to coerce our friend, one bottle of beer at a time, to extend her one-hour lunch break, but we eventually had to bring her back to work with her promising to grill some steaks for us pretty soon.

Because our car was coded that day, we had to stall -- first by passing for some Paning's butong pakwan (watermelon seeds), and then having an early dinner at Marquee Mall, an Ayala Mall in Angeles.

Aling Lucing's sisig, Susie's pansit luglug, Susie's tibok tibok (similar to maja blanca, but uses carabao's milk) -- our mini Pampanga food tour, all consumed at the food court beside the supermarket.

I almost don't know how to end this post, in the same way, that it was hard to end that weekend in the middle of the weekend. So, because the 15th year is merely a milestone in a what I hope to be a long, long marriage, I will not just say The End. Instead, I end with To be continued...

Abe's Farm, Pampanga Office
Phone: + (045) 865-1930
Mobile: +(0915) 595-5501

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Cards and Such

I hate it when I get nice gift tags because it takes so much effort and forced detachment to write on them and give them away. So it took me a while to give this gift tag away.

My BFF Mariced created this, and it's special to me because she knows I love dragonflies. Loving dragonflies is one of many things we have in common.

We're also both papyvores! We squeal in delight and freak out when we get inside paper stores.

I finally decided to use the dragonfly card yesterday, and I made sure I used it as the tag for a gift for another BFF, Cindy. But not without taking a pic and immortalizing it here.

If you're a papyvore like I am, you will love MPress Letterpress products. They're just not pretty to look at. They're also very tactile, because the old fashioned printing method gives it texture.

When I was a in LA, a few years back, I got the chance to try out the letterpress machine. Letterpress printing is such a sensual process -- heavy metal touching bare skin; the scent of old type ink; visual stimulation in choosing the types; repetitive, rhythmic motions. I could see how that could be addictive. And why my friend, (Grammy Award Nominee) Mariced, better known as Maria, is in love with the process.

Learn more about letterpress printing by visiting MPress's new blog. Fascinating for paper geeks. I love the first post -- the story of her gorgeous 2009 calendar. I'm never going to throw mine away.

And here is where you order.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

I Ate Lechon Five Times and Lived to Tell the Story of Bale Dutung

n.b.: I wrote this piece several months ago. Then, somebody asked me to submit it a travel magazine, requesting me not to post it on my blog before publication. Now, I'm finally allowed to post it on my blog.

My Bale Dutung story started a few years ago when I first heard about it from a friend. Like rumors of a magic island, the stories told of a rustic, art-filled, awesome place in Angeles, Pampanga, a place where one dines on culinary wonders whipped up by food columnist, artist,and chef Claude Tayag, a place where only a few can enter. One can’t just go alone; a party of at least ten is required. You also need to reserve way in advance. Because the owners do this only once or twice a month. If at all. If they’re not busy traipsing around the country or the world, sampling gourmet delicacies and exotic street grub. And you need to break the bank and bring enough cash, about P1,800 per person. More if you’re buying pasalubongs and copies of their books.

I knew I had to try this place. But organizing a trip seemed like a complicated, expensive production number.

Through the years, I’ve read articles and blog posts about Bale Dutung, seen pictures, heard more stories; and my desire to visit grew. Then I read Claude Tayag’s book, Food Tour, a delectable compilation of stories of food, culture, travel, and art. And I knew I wanted to meet Claude Tayag, who has made a career of doing the things I love to do. And I really had to visit this place. Watching Claude serve Tony Bourdain an extremely telegenic rendition of kare-kare, I resolved to make this pipedream happen.

And as proof that dreams still happen, we finally had our Bale Dutung experience. After a flurry of email and text exchanges with our hostess, Mary Anne Tayag, a group of 14 friends and family members trooped to Angeles on a drizzly Sunday morning.

We entered a gated subdivision that did nothing to prepare us for the surprise of entering a place that seemed more likely to be found by the foot of a mountain, by the edge of a rainforest, or somewhere remote and slightly magical. A big pond surrounded by outdoor art pieces greeted us. We walked around taking it all in, and then a lovely lady appeared, serving us a welcome drink spiked with muscovado ice.
The lovely lady was Mary Anne Tayag, who has elevated party hosting to an art form. She tried to memorize all our names and almost succeeded. What she did succeed in doing is making our Bale Dutung experience one of the best dining stories of our lives.

Before the pigfest ensued, the chef came out of the kitchen dressed in a crisp white shirt and batik pants. He explained that Bale Dutung means House of Wood. Claude regaled us with the story of the house – the story of how he built it from scratch and from scrap.

He explained the long, painstaking process of gathering recycled materials from old churches and structures damaged by the Pinatubo eruption and subsequent lahar catastrophe.

He talked about his collections of antique kitchen implements and how they opened their home cum gallery cum dining wonderland to people who appreciate good food and good art.

He then left us to do his magic in the kitchen, and Mary Anne took the helm in the dining room. Also dressed in casual ethnic chic, she was the epitome of the stylish, gracious host that I want to be when I grow up.

The appetizers were not even on the menu we agreed on. Just some of the many pleasant surprises in store for us that day; my favorite surprise was the refreshing face towels dipped in baby cologne and frozen overnight; such a thoughtful detail for guests who've traveled far to get there.

The meal began with crackers served with a trio of dips: Taba ng Talangka, Balo Balo, and Pesto. We attacked this first dish so voraciously the servers had to wrestle the dip bowls away from us to ensure we didn’t stuff ourselves prematurely.

Because as we were soon to discover, the degustation that was about to follow was going to stretch our stomachs to the limits.The next course was another off-the-menu surprise. A sotanghon dish that belied the accusation that carbs are heavy. Barely there vinaigrette dressing made this a light, refreshing starter. More starters were served. The Ensaladang Pako was the first dish that was part of the official menu. Mary Anne told us that the now-fashionable pako(fiddlehead fern) was actually ordinary fare, growing profusely in every home garden, usually served to the household help.

The Inasal na Manok was served with a tiny scoop of Claude 9 Talangka Rice. This was followed by the Piniritong Lumpiang Ubod, its flavor made interesting by the mustasa leaf wrappers and the Claude 9 Oriental Sauce. Another surprise dish, the talangka topped sushi ended the round of starters. We felt pretty satisfied by then. Our appetites were whet for the feast. But we had no idea that so much more food was in store.

We chose the menu that included Lechon served in 5 different ways. The first way was the more traditional serving of the lechon skin. It was a little embarrassing how our carnivorous family assaulted the golden red skin. Crispy perfection as it should be. It was served with an unbelievably good liver sauce that would have been a tad too sweet if not for the generous amount of garlic slices.
When the pig has been stripped of its epidermis, the rest of the gorgeous carcass was carted off for the next porky installments.
Second way: Fried Lechon Flakes na Binalot sa Tortilla. Basil leaves and kimchi make this a more sophisticated, zestier variation of the pritchon. By this time, we were feeling the tightening of our jeans, and we were surprised that we were just about to have soup. The sinigang featured the lechon’s third incarnation.
It was a tough decision to make, but I eventually decided that way 4 was my favorite. Inihaw na Tadyang na Lechon served with Ensaladang Talong – it sounds as good as it tasted. It’s very hard to find words to describe the dishes and the experience because at about this time, our brains could no longer focus on the verbal as every vital organ was focused on properly digesting this amazing, and not yet finished, meal. The wine, which they allowed us to bring in with no corkage fee, had nothing to do with the dazed out, intoxicated feeling. We were drunk on food. And the beauty of our surroundings. And the entertaining stories.

And that little pig still had one more number for us. I swear to you – I am one with an almost finite appetite, teased by my friends for having an esophagus that reached up to my knees. But I met the feast that could forever ruin my reputation as a gourmand. I was so full I just let the fifth way, the Inasadong Pata ng Lechon, glide through my tongue just so I can taste the flavor.

We were so stuffed we were relieved when they called a break from the eating. This time, we would feast our eyes and our souls as we toured Bale Dutung. This place provides more than just eye candy. Art, antiques, a dash of kitsch, and even more stories made us forget about food for a moment. I am amazed at Claude and Mary Anne’s graciousness for opening their homes to us, entertaining us, and giving us so much more than what was promised and expected.

The tour burnt enough calories to clear some space for dessert, old-fashioned coffee, and pandan tea. A medley of macapuno, ube, yema, and carabao’s milk, Paradiso was truly paradise for the taste buds. And Mary Anne capped the meal with another surprise dish, the Tibok Tibok, a pudding made of carabao’s milk.

Yes, I ate lechon in 5 ways. And I survived to tell you this story and to tell you that Bale Dutung should be in every foodie’s bucket list.
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

She Wakes Up from Her Slumber

I've been away. Suffered severe bout of blog sickness. (sick of blogging)

Been book blogging though. Check this out.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Islandhopper Dines at Bob's

Tritan Plaza
Paseo de Magallanes, Makati City

The Bait:
Namets-inspired sampling of Bacolod food
The Line:
"Since 1965. Serving the Negrenses with Good Food For Over 40 years. "
Hook: Comfort Food
The Sinker:
Birthing blues with service not up to the first flux of wannabe-the-first-to-try diners.
The Catch:
P350 per person; exclusive of dessert

In our marriage's restaurant choosing power play, he usually says, "same old, same all-time favorite." And she says, "anything we've never tried before."

This weekend's date night brought about a happy compromise.

Bacolod's Pride, Bob's, has been in Manila for just a few weeks. But it's been satisfying the Negrense diners since 1965. It satisfies my husband's craving for the familiar; the dishes vaguely reminds us of Dayrit's comfort food. Spanking new and already attracting a wait-in-line clientele, it sates my hunger for the novel.

If you're looking for newfangled cuisine, Bob's is not the place for you. The food is no-frills, no-surprises, just-eat-it-and-enjoy, yummy in my tummy, comfy for my soul food.

This old married couple ordered the prosaic and predictable. Buffalo Wings (5 pcs for P250) with blue cheese dip. Good, but not outstanding given the metro's choices of hot wings. Bob's Chorizo Sandwich (P105) was a bit of a disappointment -- delicious chorizo filling, but too much bread for not a whole lot of meat. They need to double up the chorizo serving and give it some visual interest. It is arguably the most boring looking sandwich on the face of the earth. The Big Boy Cheeseburger (P170) compensates. It doesn't blow your taste buds away, but it pleasantly satisfies with it simple, beefy goodness.

The major disappointment was the absence of desserts. The mention of Bacolod food conjures visions of napoleones and other sweet treats. The cafe counter fridge offers only a blah display of chocolate cakes and brazos de mercedes.

The main pic above is their place mat, which shows a copy of their menu circa 1965. Nostalgic. But shows the stark contrast of today's prices, thousands of percentage over. A bit depressing.

The service was a bit sucky; repeated follow-ups necessary before food and drinks are served. But that's also because the place was packed. We're going to give it another chance though. The steak and eggs breakfast insists on being tried. Read more!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Islandhopper Dines at Purple Feet

Wine Depot, 217 Nicanor Garcia St. (formerly Reposo St.), Bel-Air,
Makati City, 8973220, 897816

The Bait:
Dining in the middle of wine heaven
The Line: "Our Wine List is Our Wine Shop"
The Hook: Green tea pannacotta
The Sinker: I'm nitpicking here, but if you pick a copy of their biz card, you see their unimaginative logo, a literal translation of "purple feet," which at best reminds you of your neighborhood spa and at worse, reminds you of er, purple feet.
The Catch: P1k-2k per person; exclusive of wine

How can this semi-alcoholic, 100%-gluttonic [my word] couple refuse an invitation to dine in a wine shop on the week that Wine Depot was having a restaurant promo around the metro?

With no signs outside, Purple Feet gives you the experience of entering a speakeasy, sans the burly bouncer and the secret password. It feels like you're in on a secret, but it's the food that is the contraband, not the alcohol. Walking in, one might take several minutes to get to the dining area with all the eye candy -- glistening, glowing bottles of wine calling out your name, tempting you to shop. But we had friends waiting for us, so we had to resist all impulse to walk the aisles.

We were pretty hungry too; this made our decision to go for the set menu easy and obvious. Check out that picture of the blackboard. Four courses, each one accompanied by a glass of wine. At P888. It's a really good deal; unfortunately tonight (October 11) is the last night for it.

The Blue Cheese Seafood Chowder is hearty, creamy, flavorful -- three adjectives tops on my gustatory vocabulary. Dig deep into the tiny soup cup to find spoonfuls of shrimp and calamari. I would have wanted more, But more dishes were to follow. The Villawolf Gewutz...gewirtz...gewurtz...uhm white wine that comes with it is sweet; tastes like champagne without the fizz. A good start.

The Atlantic Smoked Trout in Macadamia Dressing doesn't look impressive, but actually tastes good. To my untrained wine palate, the Tulloch Verdelho was just okay, but that's because I'm not really big on white wine.

For entrees, my hubbalicious chose the chicken, and I had the fish -- one of the few occasions when he was right, and I was wrong. The saving grace of my Lemon Poached Garfish with Saffrom and Olives were the fresh, raw herbs topping it, and that dollop of Indonesian catsup on the side. Other than those, the fish was the opposite of spectacular. More white wine, please.

Our host, who opted for the ala-carte menu had Duck Breast, which she made me try. It's very good -- oriental-flavored, slightly sweet, crispy skin. For that price (900+) though, you might be better off getting your duck fix in chinese tea houses, says my host. Of course, aesthetically, the warehouse, secret restaurant ambience of Purple Feet is hard to beat.

The dessert totally made up for the entree. The Green Tea Pannacotta was sublime. And the Dr. Loosen Reisling was almost ignored, if not for the fact that I'm cheap and I don't want wine to go to waste. The Vittoria Coffee is very good; dense, bitter, and strong. Great ending to a good, well-paced meal.

I would love to come back on a non-promo night. The dishes on the other blackboard look like must-tries -- that Portabello Mushroom with Foie Gras and Stilton Cheese is now officially part of my bucket list.

But what's more interesting is the option to pick out "raw ingredients" like beef, scallops, duck from the board, and then collaborate with the chef to whip up dishes to your liking. That and the green tea pannacotta are worth a return trip. I'll have red wine with my dinner next time though.

(Forgive me for the lousy pictures taken by my lousy phone cam.) Read more!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wear Joaquin

You like fashion? You also like literature? Here's something that brings those two elements together.

Freeway honors Philippine National Artists by designing clothing collections that showcase the artists' works. The first set features Nick Joaquin. It's a scrumptious, artistic collection of t-shirts, blouses, jackets, and dresses.

I love the way the text takes as much space as the imagery. And if you're ever stuck in an elevator/waiting room/queue without a book, you can read your shirt.

Freeway does not seem to have a website, but google led me to this site that shows off the collection:

Gorgeous, huh? I know you want a piece of that.

It's a bummer though that I wasn't able to buy anything. I'm way off the size chart of Philippine apparel, so I was ready to go for a bag. But there's no bag; just a tiny kikay pouch. And really, my closet will vomit the kikay pouch if I attempt to add another to the 2 million I already have. I need something I can use, sling on my shoulder, and show off so people will say, "Wow, that's Nick Joaquin." And I will beam and carry a silly grin while thinking of myself as some kind of cool, nationalistic, literate dudette with socially-relevant fashion tastes.

Oh well, maybe I will come back to their stores one of these days to try on a men's shirt.

But for you, my lithe friends, I encourage you to check this out and get yourself a limited edition. Wear Joaquin. If you have 2 navels, now is the time to show them off. Let's support Freeway as they support our artists.

Up next for the holidays is a collection paying homage to Ang Kiukok. I can't even begin to articulate how excited I am about that collection as well, and it will break my materialistic, pa-cultured heart to leave empty handed, because here finally is my chance of having a bit of Ang Kiukok without having to pawn my husband.

Freeway people, make sure you include a tote or messenger bag for the Ang Kiukok set, okay? Read more!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Often, I find myself submerged in a thick plot, lost in the pages of a good book, deeply ensconced in an armchair and swept up in other worlds, embroiled in other people's stories. But this post is not about that. This post is about submerging the book.

Yes, dipping a book in water. Uhm, yes, liquid water.

I hear gasps and the gnashing of teeth.

Warning: The pictures that follow might cause shortness of breath, activation of tear ducts, and the rapid increase/decrease of blood pressure among my obsessive-compulsive, plastic-wrapping, book-loving friends.

Be assured, however, that no books were harmed in the filming of this blog.This is my totally waterproof book. Melcher Media's The Soothing Soak is a collection of poems, essays, and short stories by Pablo Neruda, AS Byatt, Diane Ackerman among others. It is meant to be read in the bathtub. But since we don't have a tub, this book is my spa book.

I've been wanting to have a book like this. Ever since I discovered the existence of waterproof books, I've been entering steam bath and sauna rooms with a profound sense of emptiness and longing, knowing that if I had such a book, I would read in joyous peace instead of boring myself in contrived zen.

One time back in the days when I didn't have this book, I tried going to the sauna with a regular book, the type with porous paper pages. I panicked when I saw the pages crinkling into little waves. In this mega-humid country of ours, water damaged books have the potential to attract molds and destroy your whole book collection. (There's that gasping and gnashing sound again.)

Gimongous thanks to my Chicago based sister-in-law, Ate Pat, I finally have this.

One weekend, I baptized (uhm, literally?) the book at The Spa in Jupiter. I tucked the book into my little pink spa bag and brought it with me to the wet floor.

I read poetry at the steam room.I felt a bit self conscious because there were 2 other girls in the room. And maybe they were thinking I was silly bringing a book in there. Or maybe they were envious. Because they had nothing to read. While I was unabashedly reading in the steam room, instead of watching my navel or doing nothing but grappling with my body issues and trying to cover up my cellulite. I was happy.

Then I moved into the Turkish pools. I love Turkish pools with the contrast hot and cold baths, except this time the hot part was not that hot, and the cold was not that cold. Normally, I would be a wee bit upset about such technical flaws, but this time I had my waterproof book, and I was a happy camper. I read a couple of short stories. I can hardly remember the content as I was just so thrilled at the experience of being able to do two favorite things at once -- reading and spa-ing. I enjoyed myself so much, I had to force myself to stop reading, pull myself out of the pool, and get on with my spa-ing.

Two drawbacks -- one is that you need to allocate more time before your massage. The other one is that even if it is waterproof, the pages do get wet and stay wet. So I had to wipe every page before I stored the book back into my spa bag. Spritzed it with Lysol. It's waterproof. I don't know if it's mold proof.

Aaah. I can't wait until my next spa visit and my next soothing soak. Read more!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's On Your Desk Wednesday

A few Wednesdays ago, Blooey tagged me to participate in a blog meme that would shame me, my neat freak husband, and the mother who tried to teach me urbanity.

We're supposed to take pictures of our desk, and we're not supposed to tidy them up first to make them photo-pretty. Gasp!

This is for Sassy Brit's blog meme, What's On Your Desk Wednesday. The details and the instructions are all here.

I tried to ignore Blooey's tag. But what do you know -- it's Wednesday, and I'm too lazy to draft a book review or write a blog entry that makes sense. And I'm taking the easy but more embarrassing way out. So here, in all it's glorious chaos, is a picture of my desk. Click on the image for a closer, more embarrassing look. Hopefully, the dust bunnies don't show.
The rules say I shouldn't tidy up. I have to confess I tried to make it look a little presentable, but to no avail. It's a hopeless mess. It's the end of the term and there are tons of papers to be checked. It's also book sale season and well, you know how it is with book addicts who live in tiny laces -- a book shelving nightmare, the floor disappearing. Geez, what am I talking about? My desk looks like this the whole year round, so I'll shut up with the excuses.

But like they say, if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what does it mean if you have an empty desk?

Ooo, I almost forgot. I should tag 5 bloggers. So here are my victims:

  1. ArtSeblis
  2. Blurbologist
  3. Jo
  4. Fantaghiro
  5. Cubicle Dweller
Happy Wednesday, everyone! May the rest of the week be even better than the start. Read more!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing

My interest in fiction has always been that of a reader. I've never dared to analyze the art and science of fiction. In my brief, limited, and safe writing career, I've focused on the known -- on the formulaic and not-too-demanding field of business writing.

But Doris Lessing has opened a dangerous, little porthole to wander in and wonder about that thing called fiction writing. Don't be alarmed. I linger far from the possibility of birthing a novel from the depths of my bowels; no, please, no. It's just that Lessing has made me wonder how one can write so tautly with no tinge of superfluity. How one can conjure images and flesh out ideas with language so well thought of. So intelligent. But raw with base human emotions. Who writes like that?

Lessing does. And I can only bite my lip in envy.

The Grandmothers is the carrier story in a collection of 4 short novels. That's probably the thing going against the book; the novels are too short. Each of them can be developed into full blown books that can eventually be developed into full blown major motion pictures. But that is the beauty of this book -- it gives you just enough to chew on, without overexplaining. The short story quality of it that leaves you a little bit unsatisfied reassures you that this book will not become all that popular and you're one of those lucky enough to be in on the secret.

The Grandmothers is an almost incestuous, but certainly scandalous, story of two women. Two golden, beautiful women who fall in love with their golden, beautiful selves. When their lives turn out to be less than the perfection they worked so hard to make it to be, they shut out the world, look within the pocket-sized, controllable world covered by their golden halo, and love only those who belong to that perfect circle -- each other's son. Golden, beautiful boys who fall in love with their older female mirrors too.

Lessing writes in a way that casts no judgment. The reader is left to make her own. To be mesmerized by such a fantastic premise, or to say ewww and be morally offended -- your choice. I felt a little bit of both. The story does not end well for the grandmothers and their sons. Which is probably well and good.

The second story, Victoria and the Staveneys, struck me as somewhat ordinary. But I suspect it is a limitation of my ability to understand the nuances more than a limitation of Lessing's storytelling. Somewhere in there are messages on race, tolerance, hypocrisy, poverty, privilege, socialism, communism, and all sorts if isms. They escape me at the moment. Okay, maybe a very long moment.

I am torn between the first and the third as my favorite of the collection. The Reason for It, classified by reviews as science fiction, is an all too real account of civilization. It is a story about the conflicts between new and old, between progress and tradition. The story is told from the perspective of the old and traditional who whines about a dying culture. And so if one were to take the side of the storyteller, one would ache at how the world has regressed instead of progressed. How art suffers and knowledge is mocked as the newfangled becomes the new standard of what is good, beautiful, and right. And culture disintegrates and society is transformed into a sad, shallow shadow (alliteration unintended) of its former glory.

This is probably the most preachy of the stories. It talks about the emptiness of beauty when it is unmatched, unsubstantiated by a fine nature and a good mind.

It is also the most thought provoking. I have visions of throwing this to my book club friends who would act like frenzied alligators at feeding time as they apply every nosebleed inducing framework to analyze this. Shhh, I won't tell them about it.

The collection ends with A Love Child. A bit predictable. On the side of sappy. And the most likely to be made into a movie starred by Ben Affleck. Which is not to say it is shallow because it is loaded with meaning and still beautifully written.

It's been months since I finished the book. And I'm now over the fiction-writing itch. But I'm not over Doris Lessing yet.

Read more!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I am Gege. And okay, I admit it now, I am addicted to books. And book buying. And my husband does not like it. But confessions are necessary. And therapeutic. So, I'm showing here the view from under my desk where the recent loot is in temporary confinement until my husband goes out to play golf. When I, away from his prying eyes and judging heart, can put them into their rightful alphabetical places.

Shhh, don't tell my husband. Read more!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Somebody Loves Me

Somebody from the US loves me and knows the stuff I love. Thank you. I'm going to enjoy all these goodies. Read more!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bale Dutung -- House of good food, gracious entertaining, and art

July 26, 2009 -- We used Eric's arrival from Sydney as the perfect excuse to troop to Angeles, Pampanga for this 5-way lechon feast we've been hearing, reading, dreaming, salivating about.

We knew about Claude Tayag -- artist, columnist, and chef. Whipping up an amazing lunch, a degustacion that had food gluttons raising their little white towels in surrender, Chef Tayag certainly didn't disappoint.

But the surprise was Mary Ann, Claude's wife. Stylish, gracious, and entertaining, she elevates party hosting to an art.

Of course, the most pleasant surprise is Bale Dutung itself. You enter an unassuming suburban village to get there. Then once you cross the Tayag's gate you step into a rustic restaurant slash house slash gallery slash nature wonderland. A house filled with art, antiques, and creative ideas that salute Philippine food and culture.

And the food -- I honestly have never been that stuffed in my whole life. Slooooow food at its finest -- almost 5 hours. And well worth the time and the trip. (Of course, I'm not with the party that got caught in the flash flood and the 5-hour traffic jam on the way back, so I can say that.)

Resto review to follow. In the meantime, enjoy the photos at: Read more!