Archive of ‘manila’ category

army-navy burrito+burger

A penfriend posted as his Facebook status the other day a paean to Army-Navy Burrito + Burger. He said the food was great.

Being always on the lookout for interesting nommeries, the Offspring and I visited the branch at Harbour Square, a group of eateries inside the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex beside Manila Bay.

Army-Navy Burger turned out to be on the second floor above Yellow Cab Pizza. It is built of corrugated metal and has a military theme going on.

The food is American meets Tex-mex – burgers, fries, and milkshakes with burritos, quesadillas, and soft tacos.

Ik got the classic burger, a single quarter-pound beef patty with guacamole for tortilla chips. Army-Navy also has two-patty and three-patty (Bully Boy Burger) variations.

The onion rings were crisp and crunchy as they should be.

Alex got the cheese quesadillas, which are very good indeed.

All sorts of people go to Army-Navy, like this well-dressed and fully-made up woman in a gown. She must have come from or was going to a formal occasion, and decided to stop by for some eats. Seeing her and her companions, men in barong Tagalog and women also in gowns, seated on wooden benches beside tin-topped tables was such an interesting contrast.

Come for the food and the interesting setting. It’ll be a novel – and filling -experience.

taste more:

mad about booksale

Booksale. One of the greatest inventions of man (or woman). The place sells used and unsold books from the US, making literature and textbooks affordable. One could build a decent library from books purchased here.

They also carry a wide selection of magazines. How wide? They have my sister’s favorite title.

It can’t get any better than seeing these two magazines on the same rack. Parody in action! Awesome.

Literature – and fun – is where you find it!

taste more:

sexist ad for wayfinder sucks

This half-page ad for the Wayfinder GPS system appeared in the 7 January 2011 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Whatever ad agency wrote this sexist copy should be slapped upside the head, and the client too, for having approved it. There are all kinds of wrong here.

This copy is sexist. It reinforces negative male-female stereotypes and the double standard. It sets back women’s rights in the Philippines. It is galactically stupid.

This copy makes women sound so dumb that they can’t read a map or follow instructions.  Let me tell you, my eldest daughter was born with a GPS system in her head. She never gets lost. She can take one look at a map and have it memorized. Bring her to any place just once, like a mall, and she can find her way around it the next time and direct you to any store there. She is so good, men ask her for directions.

A resounding boo to the ad agency that wrote this and the client that approved it.

I am a woman and I will not buy this brand of GPS. There’s always Garmin, which has dealers in the Philippines.

As consumers we need to be more discerning. Any company that maintains discriminatory and prejudiced attitudes like this should be avoided by people who believe that human skills, like navigation, are shared in general and are not a monopoly of one sex.

taste more:

mang inasal can save the world from hunger…

…with its “unlimited rice”.

Yes, the Mang Inasal quick service restaurant that offers as its specialty grilled chicken Negrense inasal style serves unlimited rice to its patrons.  Much like what you’d get in the average home – you know, this much ulam that you have to share with everyone else in the family, but there’s more sinaing in the rice cooker or caldero on the stove if you’re still hungry.

It’s this relaxed, home-style eating theme that this restaurant’s savvy owner and managers have parlayed into commercial success – fortune, fame, and a buy-out by food megagiant Jollibee Corporation.

Inasal is made by marinating chicken in vinegar with minced garlic and tanglad, and grilling. Anatto oil, brushed on during cooking, gives the chicken its distinct orange color. A simple recipe, but flavorful. Don’t forget that at Mang Inasal, it comes with unlimited rice.

How to eat at Mang Inasal:

Step 1. Queue at the counter. Choose items from the lighted menu on the wall. Menu items are no-brainers like chicken (60% of the menu), pork barbeque, bangus, and sisig. These protein-based entrees come free with a cup of sinigang broth and, don’t forget, unlimited rice.

Step 2. Pay the cashier.

Step 3.  The food will be served, so take your number-on-a-stick to your table, insert one end into the carved wooden number stick-holder expressly designed for holding number sticks, and wait.

Step 4. When your food arrives, eat! Galit-galit muna.

Step 5. Drizzle “chicken” (anatto) oil (the sauce bottle on your table not filled with toyo or suka) on your rice for more fat and calories, er, flavor.

Step 6. Ask one of the waitstaff roaming around with what looks like an ice bucket for more rice; he or she will gladly scoop a cup of the hot fluffy steamed onto your plate, as much of it as you want.

Step 7 (optional). Have dessert – save room for halo-halo or sorbetes.

Step 8. Repeat Steps 1 to 7 as often as desired.

I personally know a 20-year old man (I’m talking to you, JM) who ate seven cups of rice at one meal with his order of chicken. And he could have had more, because at Mang Inasal, you get unlimited rice.

Now that’s the way to solve world hunger.

Photos taken with a Nokia C3 2-mp mobile phone cam.

taste more:

fine dining at chef’s quarter

My first post for this year concerns something important to everyone – food!

“I’m hungry,” my sister said. “I haven’t had lunch.” It was  four o’clock in the afternoon on New Year’s Day. My two offspring and I had just met her at Megamall.

She had flown in from Dubai a week ago for Christmas, and I wanted her to enjoy her vacation in Manila. “What do you feel like having?” I asked. We went to the Megamall Atrium to find a decent place to eat. There were a lot of restaurants, but she fixed on a place called Chef’s Quarter, on the third floor.

The facade was modest, yet it was surprisingly roomy inside. We sat a table at the very back, by wide plate-glass windows facing the street. The place was awash in sunlight.

The place has an unassuming facade, tucked away into a little corner. Image here.

We had a helpful and knowledgeable waiter who tossed around terms like “remoulade” and “confit” with abandon but without being a show-off. He also memorized all our orders pat, pen and paper nowhere in sight, when I myself couldn’t keep track of what we’d ordered! Being easily impressed, I was impressed.

For starters we had the Caesar’s salad and the soup du jour, cream of lettuce.  The salad was the best I’ve had so far, with the dressing reminiscent of how my mother makes it from scratch. The greens were lightly tossed in dressing and not drowned in them like everywhere else I’ve had that salad. I have finally found a place where I do not have to request the dressing served on the side.

The soup was thick but not too, with the seasonings blended just right. The button-shaped rolls were sweet and soft, and served with butter rosettes piped into little tiny cups.

For sides we had mixed vegetables and – an interesting concept of this restaurant – a “potato of the day”, which for 1/1/11 was baked potato wedges with pearl onions and garlic. Again, the seasonings were perfect, no need to adjust. The vegetables were done just right, with the right amount of crunch, and the potatoes were tender and flavorful.

For our entrees, we chose paella, replete with seafood and egg; baby back ribs that were falling-off-the-bone tender; penne carbonara with bacon; and lasagna that was creamy and tomatoey-rich.

The paella was superb – the rice a nice saffron-golden color, the shrimp and fish cooked without being overdone.

The baby back ribs were a bit too sweetish for my taste, but the pork was fork-tender, the beans were great, and the greens lightly tossed with a mild vinaigrette that complemented the meat well and was unobtrusive enough not to interfere with the rest of the rich flavors.

The pasta was great, not too toothy, and only tossed in sauce, not deluged in it; the bacon was still crisp when the dish was served.

The lasagna came baked in a dish, rather than served as a slice from a bigger pan. Served with garlic bread, it was creamy and savory.

“So, what did you think?” I asked my sister after the meal. She replied with a satisfied burp.

Chef’s Quarter is one of the best places I have been to, with the food perfect at every turn and the waitstaff accommodating and gracious. We had a wonderful experience and look forward to returning soon and tasting the rest of the dishes on the menu. It was a delicious start to the new year, and I hope this is a harbinger of more good things to come.

Except for the first photo, all photos were taken with a Nikon Coolpix L21 using available light.

taste more:

a collection of j. herbin inks

“La Perle des Encres” – “The Jewel of Inks”. Thus now are known the inks first created in 1700 by sailor-entrepreneur M. Herbin in his atelier in the Rue des Fosses Saint Germain in Paris. The company, known as J. Herbin, has been in existence since 1670; they began as a purveyor of fine sealing waxes.

Using inks in fountain pens and sealing wax in correspondence is an enjoyable visit to a splendid age, when the educated people of that time wrote long letters on thick paper in an elegant hand, carefully sealing them afterward with colored wax, an impression from a seal or a ring, and perhaps a kiss.

It is a marvel that we today can enjoy these same things. J. Herbin still makes fountain pen inks from natural dyes; their neutral pH is fountain-pen friendly. Here’s my latest haul of J. Herbin, from Scribe Writing Essentials in Eastwood Mall.

The packages are very chic, a designer’s dream.

The ink bottles are also beautiful, as are the labels. And the names of the inks, in French, will make you fall in love. Je t’aime.

The bottles are of glass and come with plastic caps.

There is something so very satisfying about a well-made and well-designed product.

The bottles are a special shape – the caps are set slightly back to give space for a groove that functions as a pen rest.

The bottles are works of art in themselves.

Even the bottom of the ink bottles are lovely.

These simple writing samples show how spectacular these water-based, lightfast inks are. Can you imagine using one of these colors in a pen to write a letter to someone special? Or using several colors to create a watercolor artwork?

This new year, make it a resolution to tap in your own creativity. What is it you enjoy doing – writing, drawing, singing? Express yourself through that channel, do whatever it is that makes you happy, and renew your spirit in words, color, or sound.

Photos taken with a Nikon Coolpix L21 at PICC Complex, Pasay City.

taste more:

pop goes the world: holiday serenity

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 23 December 2010, Thursday

Holiday Serenity

Only in the Philippines, I think, is Christmas celebrated for practically an entire month. Work slows down by the first week of December. Malls, offices, and other public establishments evoke the holiday spirit by decorating, some lavishly, others simply, each according to their inclinations and capabilities.

Ayala Avenue this year is more brightly lit than ever before, with thousands of blazing white lights festooned like strings of  glowing pearls from the trees that line the center of the road, and damn the power bill because it all looks so splendid.

Ayala Avenue this Christmas 2010. Image here.

Shopping is always a favorite pastime of Filipinos, and especially so during this season, when cultural norms of gift-giving are observed. A person would sort the groups of people he knows into several categories – work (bosses, officemates, clients); friends (schoolmates, friends made elsewhere); family (immediate and others); and so on.

The nearest and dearest receive the most expensive presents, while officemates one isn’t close to get the gaily-packaged brownies or cookies bought in bulk from friends who “make negosyo” during the season. And so on. Hierarchy is a cultural meme, maybe even a survival imperative in our DNA, some thinkers suggest, and exerts influence even as we perform this pleasant chore.

It is a festive time, with food playing a major role in providing a sense of comfort and security and adding that extra fillip of extravagance that sets occasions like these apart from the ordinary.

When I was a child, Western fruit like apples, grapes, and oranges were to be had only at Christmas-time, along with chestnuts and walnuts which we cracked against door jambs. My mother made certain dishes only during the holidays – deep-dish one-crust apple pie sprinkled with parmesan cheese on top and fruit salad made with canned US Del Monte fruit cocktail that was mostly peaches, never the local kind that was mostly pineapples and made the salad too sour, and she would add a squeeze of calamansi to cut the sweetness. For an appetizer she would lay out plates of Edam cheese, some slices plain, others fried in butter.

Through the years, she’d mix up the menu, sometimes whipping up Caesar salad dressing from scratch with egg yolks, extra-virgin olive oil, and crushed peppercorns, while her entrees would include falling-off-the-bone roast crown of pork, fondue, beef stew, shrimp tempura, and one of my favorites, chicken marinated in Pepsi, ketchup, and secret spices then grilled over charcoal.

We lived in a series of small apartments that were easy to decorate, and my mother made sure that wherever we were, we always had a Christmas tree with ornaments and silver tinsel and colorfully-wrapped presents underneath, and garlands of evergreen with pine cones and red-and-gold ribbons on the walls.

I’ve kept up our family tradition of a tree. Mine is soft and warm and fuzzy with handmade quilted and cross-stitched ornaments from snail-mail swaps or bought at bazaars. No glitzy tinsel and metallic balls for us, just homespun decorations made with love.

Presents back then were simple – an Enid Blyton book, a kitchen playset, t-shirts. There were no electronic gadgets with their beep-boops and flashing lights distracting people from interacting with each other.

Today, with all the bustle and swirl of activity, the rampant commercialization by merchants, and the over-the-top keeping-up-with-the-neighbors, some might feel the need to slow down and find a quiet place.

Where is yours? It can be an actual location or inside your head. It is wherever one may retreat into calm and peace.

University of the Philippines professor emeritus Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo recently shared with us, her graduate students in creative writing, an essay she wrote titled “In Search of Stillness and Serenity.” In the piece she revisits all her quiet places in the different countries she’s  been to.

Here’s an excerpt, where she tells of an oasis of stillness in the mountains of war-ravaged Lebanon:

“I remember our being invited by Frieda, a member of Tony’s staff, to her family’s old villa in the small Druze town of Abey, up in the mountains. Her great-grandfather had been the village blacksmith and had built the house in the late 19th century. It had walls of thick stone, deep windows, a high, vaulted ceiling, beautiful rosewood furniture, hand-carved and inlaid with nakkar and mother-of-pearl, and lovely old rugs, lamps, pipes, copper coffee pots…

“Frieda walked us through a small forest of oak trees, to the olive orchards, where her father was cutting off large branches and putting them into baskets—the white (green) olives to be made into araq; the red, into vinegar; and the black (the sweetest of all), to eat as part of the traditional Lebanese mezze. And then we came to the olive press, and were offered some freshly baked Arabic bread to dip into the freshly pressed oil, which was delicious.

“And there was a serenity about the olive grove, and the day, and the village itself, which seemed far removed from the ceaseless strife that plagued Lebanon.”

In Philippine culture, the holidays are full of rituals to be observed and traditions to keep up, and we do these joyfully, because it is when the past connects and extends into the present that we feel the tug of the bonds of family, society, history, and culture that define and shape who we are.

Yet in the midst of the maelstrom remember to visit your quiet place, wherever it is, to rest, recharge, and reconnect with yourself and all that you are, and all that you can be.

Happy holidays from my home to yours, and I wish for you blessings of deep peace, utter happiness, and boundless love. ***

Olive oil and bread image here.

taste more:

j. herbin anniversary ink

For Christmas I treated myself to a bottle. Not of wine, nor perfume, but of a headier and far more potent potion – fountain pen ink.

J. Herbin of France was founded in 1670 by a sailor, Monsieur Herbin, who brought back from his travels to India formulas for sealing wax that made him his fortune. Some years later the company also began manufacturing ink, and thus they are “the oldest name in ink production in the world.” They made ink for the Sun King, Louis XIV, and a black ink for the sole use of author Victor Hugo.

To commemorate the company’s 340th anniversary this year, they released a limited edition ink – the “1670″.

J. Herbin calls the color rouge hematite, described as a “dark red color and earthy tone”. The hue recalls the color of  the company’s logo, while the use of red wax to seal the cap is a reminder that the company also makes wax to seal the grand cru wines of Europe.

The bottle is a different shape from their usual, being a heavy glass cube. The cap is of aluminum, sealed with red wax; the neck is strung with gold cord sealed to the bottle with gold glue-gun wax.

The ink goes on blood red but dries in gradations and with flecks of gold here and there. The color is warm and saturated. It has depth and complex layers of shades that make it more suitable for use in pens with flex or calligraphy nibs.

Writing sample made with a Waterman 52-1/2v, circa 1915, with a superflex gold nib.

Read these excellent reviews of “1670″ at Inkophile, Rants of the Archer, Biffybeans, and Lady Dandelion.

“1670″ is available online and, in the Philippines, at Scribe Writing Essentials store, Eastwood Mall, Libis, Quezon City.

taste more:

hiromi in manila

My friend Adelle’s holiday gift to me this year was a very special night spent with her, her musician son Josh, and jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara.

Adelle got us tickets to Hiromi’s one-night only concert at Sofitel Philippine Plaza, held at a tent by the waters of Manila Bay. It was too cold inside the tent but the seats were soft and Hiromi was magic. Her fingers flew over the piano, releasing cascades of sound, light tinkling followed by deep crashing in complicated layers.

I enjoyed her “Choux a la Creme”, an original composition based on her experience of eating a cream puff; her jazzy rendition of one of my favorite classical pieces, Pachelbel’s “Canon”; and her “Viva Vegas” suite – “Showgirl, Show City”, “Daytime in Vegas”, and “The Gambler”.

An amazing performer, Hiromi is gifted, her talent indisputable. She has mastered her instrument of choice to such a level, using it in imaginative ways like reaching in to manipulate the strings inside to mute the lower octaves to sound like a bass guitar.

Her personal style is fun and playful, from her hair and dresses to the color-coordinated sneakers on her feet. Her fingers are pale and strong and dance nimbly over the keyboard. She is a joy to watch and hear.

Here’s her ‘cream puff song’, a rollicking happy gem of a tune.

taste more:

birthday cakes

My birthday was last week. My offspring asked me what I wanted to do most of all in the world on my special day. I said, “Read a book at Starbucks.”

They said: “No, really, Mama. What would you like to do that’s FUN!!! and ENJOYABLE!!!”

I replied: “Really, for me drinking coffee and reading for a couple of hours is my idea of FUN!!! and EXCITEMENT!!! and adventurous blazing ACTION!!!”

So we went to Starbucks Powerplant Mall. It being my birthday, and me being the lazy person that I am (and I really work hard at it, lemme tell ya), they got in line for coffee-and while I sank my behind into a soft and comfortable couch.

We sat around for a while sipping our Peppermint Mocha hot coffees and fraps until the kids got so bored that they upped and went to the video game arcade, promising to come back for me in, “Like, an hour or two, or when Offspring Major finally beats Offspring Minor at Tekken 6.”

Ensconced in warmth and fuzzy softness and pepperminty coffee flavor, I finished Dr Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo’s book of travel essays Looking for the Philippines. And what a lovely book it is, and what a charming and enchanting country we have, seen through Ma’am Jing’s eyes.

When the kids showed up to collect me, we had dinner at Zaifu (sushi and stuff) and dessert at Sugarhouse. Now that was another part I liked.

Behold! French apple pie, blueberry cheesecake, dulce de leche mini cake, and almond sans rival – an exciting adventure in pies and cakes that led to much chewing and swallowing action.

A good book, coffee, cake, and children –  simple things. Do we need really anything more?

taste more:

1 2 3 4 15