Sunday, October 31, 2010

real love

Someone gave me "Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim" by David Sedaris a few years ago. I read it, but I didn't get it.

Now I get it.

Sometimes you just have to wait for a bit, and then it all makes sense.

In his essay "The End Of The Affair", David Sedaris wrote: "Real love amounts to withholding the truth, even when you're offered the perfect opportunity to hurt someone's feelings."

Shangri-la's Boracay Resort & Spa, 25 Oct 2010.
Ain't that the truth.

the perfect vacation

What makes a perfect vacation?

Simple pleasures.
Corn on the cob for sale outside our hotel.
Grand gestures.
BenG's welcome wagon in our hotel room.
Time to ponder.
Cappuccino at Pendy's.
Time to party.
Roof deck of the L'Fisher Chalet.
The comfort of the familiar.
El Ideal under the escalator at Robinson's Mall.
The thrill of the unexpected.
Pinocchio at La Grotta Restaurant in San Carlos City.
A nice hotel! (With queen-sized beds. Woohoo!)
Just outside our room at The Suites at Calle Nueva.

And above all, excellent company.
Having breakfast at Calea before taking the ferry.
Image by Bunny Rabbit.
Maybe someday when we go to Bacolod for Masskara (again), we'll actually get to SEE Masskara.
Mask exhibit at Robinson's Mall Bacolod.
Oh, well. I guess we'll just have to keep going back until we do.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

comforting yet complex

Now that I have to watch my weight, my cholesterol, my uric acid-- in general, my health-- I easily become enraged at food that disappoints in terms of taste and presentation. Yez, ENRAGED. There are only so many calories I can should consume in a day and there is only so much pain that I'm willing to endure after my meal. So please, don't waste my time.

Which is why I am ECSTATIC when I encounter good eats. My loot from Casa Carmela Kitchen:

Pitaw, chicken inasal paté and Bacolod chorizo paté.
Carmelinas pastilles, piayitos in mascovado and mango flavor.
First, let's take a look at the packaging. I said it before here and here, it's just so intelligent! It make sense, it's attractive and it really shows off the product. Case in point: I bought the bañadas solely because of their looks. I didn't know what they were and I didn't bother to ask. I just couldn't resist the candy colors.

The outside is not enough, though. Once the package is opened, the product itself must look good.

The pastille is perfect with a cup of strong coffee after dinner.
The bañadas look all cute and cuddly inside the basket.
Of course, none of that means anything if it doesn't taste good. And that's why Casa Carmela Kitchen is a successful enterprise. Ultimately, it's all yummy.

But is yumminess subjective? What tastes good to me might not taste good to you, and who can say who's the "better" eater? I believe that there is a standard, though-- a measuring stick that everyone can relate to and understand.

Food must be comforting yet complex. It must be familiar but not necessarily obvious. It can be the traditional version or an update or reinvention. It's never really anything completely new and alien. Good food always carries with it a whiff of our childhood.

At the same time, it must challenge the palate and elevate the senses of the ones who eat it. Otherwise, it's not FUN.

Take it from Cookie Monster: Enjoy your food.

Happy Halloween!
Verdict: The mascovado piayitos are still the best. The mango ones need a little work. Some were sweet while others were still too tart. The bañadas are crisp and light, but substantial enough for a proper merienda. Eat them upside down so that the sugar glaze hits your tongue first with every bite. The paté series is ridiculously delicious and indulgent. I've already consumed a jar all by myself. The pitaw is still untasted as of this writing. The valedictorian of this batch is the pastilles. I'm not sure what they are or what they're supposed to be (Old, new? French, Spanish?) but I really ENJOYED them. I am sad that I bought only one pack.

Casa Carmela Kitchen does a much better job of describing their stuff. Check out their website.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1925 calories

Looking back at our food trip in Negros Occidental, I'd say that it was our visit to Café 1925 in Silay City that really pushed us over the edge. The night before we went, BenG mentioned to everyone that we were going to "Denise's place". Immediately, each person shouted out a dish that we had to try: Osso Bucco! Churros! Tiramisu!

But in my opinion, the absolute best thing we had that day was the Mascovado Bar. It was simple and comforting, like a warm blanket. But the flavors were very complex-- alternating between light and dark. It's hard to describe. All I know is that the Mascovado Bar is thoroughly addicting, and I regret not taking some home with me.

Moist and chewy heaven.
The Churros were OK, but the chocolate dip bothered me a bit. I was expecting Spanish-style batirol tsokolate. Instead, it was more like a fondue. But I did like the texture of the fried dough-- light and crisp on the outside, and almost-creamy on the inside. BenG said that they should have been cooked longer, but I liked them the way they were.

Brings out the kid in everyone.
Denise explained that she wanted to serve food that she personally liked to eat, and that you couldn't find in any restaurant in the area. Hence the Osso Bucco and Hainan Chicken. No, they don't have Batchoy. Check out her menu here.

She introduced us to her Ricotta Doughnuts with three sauces. I couldn't really taste the ricotta, but the caramel dipping sauce was TO DIE FOR. I wanted to lick it off the plate.

Caramel on the left. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it.
And finally, before we had to leave to catch the Masskara parade (which we missed anyway), Denise brought out the piéce de résistance-- the Sunny Wafer!

Must have at least 1925 calories.

As soon as I put some in my mouth, my taste buds went, "Woah, what is that?! Gimme more!" It started off tasting like a mango float (you know, that dessert concoction made with fresh mangoes, graham crackers and cream), even though there were no mangoes in it. The meringue literally melted away on my tongue-- no need to chew. At the finish, it tasted like sans rival. So, so, so good.

Denise said that it's even better if you store it in the ref for a couple of days because it becomes chewy. Why would anyone do that?! It's wonderful straight out the kitchen.

It was mid-afternoon when we went and the place was quickly filled up by families who had traveled from neighboring cities just to eat and hang out at Café 1925.

Cozy, homey and packed.
Thank you, Denise and BenG for a memorable afternoon.

Bad Influence and Badder Influence.
Verdict: Notwithstanding the fact that the owner kept plying us with free food, Café 1925 is truly worth the trip. The menu changes weekly, and you never know what gems you'll find on their shelves and chillers. Some of the dishes are winners, others need a bit of tweaking, but the whole experience-- the sala-like ambience, the sense of history and the integrity of the cook's taste in food-- makes you want to live there and just wait for the next mealtime. As a bonus, the café is in Silay where Bacolod's airport was relocated, so you can drop in before or after your flight. And IMHO, Silay is the prettiest city I have ever seen.

Image by Bunny Rabbit.
Café 1925 by Denise Gaston, located at 14 J. Ledesma Street, Silay City, Negros Occidental. Phone +63.34.7147414. Website

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

sugarland, wonderland

Let me just say that Negros Occidental is so spectacularly BEAUTIFUL that again and again, I find myself thinking, "Am I still in the Philippines?" Politically-incorrect and kind of unpatriotic, yez, but it's just so danged clean and vast and green. And the architecture is... well, see for yourself.

The loveliest little chapel in the world: The Chapel of the Cartwheels in Manapla. Monsignor Gigi Gaston used old molave cartwheels, broken glass bottles of different colors and chopped-up cement blocks to create the house of worship of his dreams.

The interiors are just as fantastic. Before anyone had even HEARD of recycling.

I shot mostly black and white because of the contrast, but in color, everything is even more breathtaking.

The chapel is inside the Gaston family hacienda. To get there, we drove through sugarcane fields that stretch out into the horizon, as far as the eye can see, and met some ancient giant trees.

BenG: "Hey, I noticed that you don't take my picture anymore. Did I become ugly since the last time we saw each other?"

Oh, almost forgot. The holy water container. It's so cool.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

shock and awe

I wanted my first time to be special, so I made sure to pee first.

BenG said that our first sight of it should be full frontal, and so we walked around to the main entrance of the really cool Art Deco building.

And there it was: the Angry Christ!

Actually, he just looked faintly annoyed to me.

There's the red hands of God the Father, Jesus (Angry) Christ, and above them, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

I wonder what all the other symbols mean. (So Dan Brown.)

Every square centimeter of the ceiling is covered with aggressively colorful avant-garde art.

The pastel tones of the Station of the Cross are stunning. I wish I could see all 14 of them arranged next to one another.

I was wondering who this guy was, with the carpenter's saw. And then I remembered that the real name of this church is St. Joseph the Worker.

The angels looked kick-ass, especially Michael.

Notice that all the characters look like Filipinos? Learn more about the Church of the Angry Christ from iloilocityboy.

Here's the requisite black and white shot of the holy water receptacle thingy.