Posted in A Whole Lotta Spice!, Drinkables, Liquid Refreshment, Midge on the Road, The Flavors of Asia, The Pinoy Food Route, Uncategorized

In Which a Drink at the Airport was Refreshingly Gingery…

Exif_JPEG_420
Ooh, that looks interesting…

The weather continues blisteringly hot and the heat index has been hitting record highs of late – devastatingly record highs, if I may add, alas.

It’s times like these when I wish that Cebu would send over one of their best refreshment chains up north to us in Manila.  Seriously, I’d do anything to have a Tubo Cane Juice kiosk somewhere within walking distance right now!

As its name suggests, TCJ’s stock in trade is sugarcane juice (Tag.: katas ng tubo).  Sugarcane stalks are run through a mechanized press that crushes the sweet juice out of the hard, fibrous sticks.  This liquid is a pale amber in color, surprisingly mild with regard to its sweetness considering what is produced when it gets reduced by heat into the familiar crystalline granules we use for cooking, baking, and sweetening our morning cup of caffeine.  Each cup is pressed to order, thus ensuring the pristine quality of the end product.  Poured over crushed ice as is, sugarcane juice is a delicious, revivifying drink with which to cool down.

Exif_JPEG_420
Ginger-Mansi

But TCJ isn’t content with slaking the southern crowd’s thirst with plain sugarcane juice; oh, no, sir!  To add value in terms of both taste and nutritional value, TCJ blends freshly-pressed cane juice with equally-fresh, equally just-squeezed juices to create a delicious line of refreshments.  While I could have opted for a right-in-season mango infusion or sipped a superfood mix featuring milky-white and tangy guyabano (soursop), I needed something to soothe a throat that was threatening to ache along with a serious dose of Vitamin C.  For that, I had to order the Ginger-Mansi.

Here, fresh root ginger is run through the same crush-and-extract procedure as the sugarcane.  The resulting ginger presse is sharply aromatic, hinting at just how potent and pungent it will be if sampled straight.  This is mixed with fresh cane juice and a good squeeze of fresh kalamansi lime, poured over ice (a large will set you back P 90.00 – not a bad deal as Manila juice bars tend to be a bit more expensive), and handed to you with a typically cheerful Cebuano smile by the staff at the counter.

To describe it is to say that it is, pretty much, a still [non-carbonated] version of  ginger ale: bright and spicy, just fiery enough to wake up your tastebuds, just sweet enough to stave off the burn.  The citrus tang of the lime cuts through and each sip is a soothing, harmonious blend.

Now, there are sugarcane juice kiosks here in Manila.  However, these are few, tend to be far between, and rarely feature other flavors.  Which begs this question from me: when does Manila get a TCJ franchise…or do I have to take another trip to the Queen City of the South for a sugarcane and ginger fix?

Tubo Cane Juice – Departures Lounge, Mactan Cebu International Airport, Pusok, Cebu

Posted in PotPourri, Uncategorized

In Which We Celebrate Eleven Years of Midge in the Kitchen

Exif_JPEG_420
Tea for one; don’t mind if I do

How time flies.  When I first began writing this blog in 2005, I’d recently joined the IT sector as a technical writer in a knowledge management group.  Eleven years hence, I’ve thrown in the towel with regard to both IT and advertising and currently work as a communications specialist for a corporate governance advocacy – something of a very far cry from shilling herbal supplements or updating techie training manuals.

Writing about food – preparing and cooking it, trying new things, eating with friends and family – is something that has come to have a curative sort of quality for me.  Considering all the stress I go through every working day, cooking and baking calm me better than more conventional ways of meditating or unwinding.  Kneading dough or pressing shortbread mixture into a baking tin serves to relax my nerves and strengthen my arms and hands better than most yoga routines.  Chopping vegetables for one dish or another is a great way to burn off any excess anger.  (Least of all because I fancy one enemy or another falling to my knife; oh dear…)  Waiting for a slow-cooked stew to cook or bread to rise continues to teach me patience.  Sampling new flavors and textures is, in and of itself, a bit of a vacation from the ordinary for me as it helps me get a sense of different nations and cultures through the food they eat.

Exif_JPEG_420
Chocolate Cherry, anyone?

Over the eleven years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve met new people, made new friends, had my heart broken more than once.

I’ve fed people, fought with people, mourned the loss of friends and relatives who went on ahead to the great Feast in the sky.  Most recently, I lost a very dear friend and her son to a fire that burned down their home; I am still coping but it’s very hard.  When I think of the smile on that little boy’s face when I gave him a large, just-baked peanut butter cookie from a batch baked for my brother and other priests of our acquaintance, it breaks my heart all over again and I wonder where is the fairness in this world, where is the justice.  It doesn’t seem right that a mother and her child who had such a great appetite for life were taken so early in their days.  But that is life and those of us left behind have to muddle right along.

I’ll be honest: along with another recent heartbreak, it’s going to take a lot more than food, fun, and anything in between to get back into sync – but I’m trying.

12592604_10153759767674177_3969885409065538428_n
So, I propose a toast…and a bite of something tasty…

It’s been an amazingly delicious journey and I know it can only get better from here on out.

To everyone who’s followed this blog for the food and the adventures: thank you very much and I hope you’ll stick around for even more culinary shenanigans both in and out of the kitchen.

Salut!

 

Posted in A Girl at Lunch, Midge on the Road, The Pinoy Food Route, Uncategorized

In Which We Ate Quite Well in Cebu…

Exif_JPEG_420
Now, here’s brunch!

Here’s the assignment: fly in, fly out on the same day for an Institute event in the Visayas.  You won’t have time to tour ’round as this is all work (and you will be shlepping equipment – laptop, DSLR camera, recorder, tarps in a carrying sling – for much of the day; you will be interviewing senior members of the Cebu business community; and you are the [sort-of] official photographer so you’ll be on your feet much of the time).  You shan’t have that much time to sample local delicacies, but – at the very least – you will be fed well.

Thus was the scenario from last week when the Institute of Corporate Directors for whom I work as a marketing/communications specialist flew over to Cebu for an event honoring two new fellows for the Institute.  Fly out of Manila at the crack of dawn; fly back to Manila in the early evening (air traffic permitting).  And don’t worry about going hungry as the City Sports Club in Cebu caters quite well.

Exif_JPEG_420
Club Sub Sandwich with potato wedges

The City Sports Club is a gem of a facility: excellent sporting facilities, a refreshing-looking pool that made us want to jump in, ample conference and banqueting facilities for the locals and for those from outside Cebu.  The downstairs resto-bar, Bistro 88, does good eats with more than substantial portions.

A good brunch option if you’re feeling peckish from the drive from the airport is the amply-portioned Club Sub Sandwich.  Here, a  crisp-crusted mini-baguette is grilled and filled to the gills with ham, bacon, salami, and crisp mesclun leaves.  The sarnie is simply dressed with mayonnaise and ballpark-style mustard and a dish of fat, chunky potato edges is served on the side.

While the flavors are typical of many sandwiches, the heft is what sets this wee beastie apart.  One sarnie easily feeds two ravenous people (seriously) and keeps them stoked for a morning’s worth of setting up, running around with cameras or clipboards, and interviewing local brass.

Exif_JPEG_420
Chicken Cacciatore with Parsley Rice

The City Sports Club’s function food is also pretty good.  In this case, the meal began with a mild spin on traditional pork sinigang – not bland, so you could mistake it for nilaga; but just tart enough to let you know that tamarind leaves and not pulp were used as the souring agent.  It’s the sort of thing that helped whet the appetite for a neat spin on chicken cacciatore.

This Italian classic featured chicken breast and thigh fillets rather than bone-in pieces, but these were tender and coated with a savory tomato sauce.  The chicken was a good match for the parsley flecked rice that came with it.  The vegetables, I must say, were standard-issue banquet food.

Exif_JPEG_420
Watermelon Shake

While sodas and iced tea were offered to slake intense summer thirsts, one would do well to grab a watermelon shake (or, for that matter, any other smoothie made with fresh in-season fruit) to cool down on a hot day.

City Sports Club: Cardinal Rosales Ave., Cebu City 6000, Cebu

 

Posted in A Girl at Lunch, Midge on the Road, Restaurant Hopping, The Pinoy Food Route

In Which Lunch was a Taste of Western Visayan Comfort…

Exif_JPEG_420
Inasal na Liempo at Batchoy

The cuisine of Iloilo in the Visayas Region is known to be robust, full-flavored, and deeply satisfying.  The last time I was there a few years ago, the locals fed us with rich molo and batchoy soups made with stocks rich with schmaltz (chicken fat) and pork bones, deliciously porky little sausages served with fried eggs for a suitably magnificent breakfast, Spanish-inspired stews that stick to one’s ribs in the best manner possible, fine grilled fowl marinated in kalamansi lime and annato (achuete) oil [inasal], and fabulously rich desserts straight out of a Spanish-run convent.

I’ve not had time to return to Iloilo, though I was recently on the neighboring island of Cebu (more about that in another post), but Ilonggo and Bacolonon (from the nearby city of Bacolod) food can be found in various places here in Manila for a reasonable price.  Fortunately for this hungry urban warrior, the nearest place is just a short walk away at Inasal Joe.

Hee

Exif_JPEG_420
“Hey, I’m about to eat pork and rice!” (from Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen)

Here, P 99.00 gets you the Liempo Inasal (pork belly marinated and grilled inasal-style) with rice sprinkled over with toasted garlic and a small portion of achara (pickled green papaya).

While it may look like a rather meager portion to most eaters, the amount of meat here is actually sizable.  Plus, it was tender enough to slice through with the edge of a spoon.  It was nicely seasoned: tangy and salty and smoky all at once, playing up the natural sweet savor of the pork.  I also liked the fact that the fatty edges were good, crisp, and charred just right.  Eaten with the garlicky rice and the sweet-sour pickles, it definitely made for a good meal.

But, wait: there’s more!

Exif_JPEG_420
Batchoy: I know you want it…

If you add P 25.00 to your meal, you get a small bowl of batchoy: that rich noodle soup cooked in an incredibly soulful pork broth and made sinful with pork cracklings, fatback bits, and diced pork heart and liver.

Inasal Joe’s small bowl of batchoy is actually deceptive: don’t let the size of the bowl fool you as it’s filled to the brim with noodles and good stuff and that rich broth.  Definitely good value for an extra twenty-five bucks and it makes a hearty meal so much more satisfying.

Inasal Joe: 3rd Floor – RCBC Plaza, Ayala Avenue cor. Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati

Posted in Midge on the Road, Restaurant Hopping, The Pinoy Food Route

In Which a Good Breakfast Gets a Trip Off to a Good Start…

He's a teapot.
He’s a teapot.

I rarely travel.  This, in and of itself, is somewhat ironic because I traveled extensively as a child.  Fortunately, the situation somewhat rectified itself when I headed to the Queen City of the South, Cebu, for a fly-in/fly-out business trip.

Now, if there is anything I’ve learned from traveling in the past, is that it is never a good idea to travel on an empty stomach regardless of whether it’s a short- or long-haul flight.  Fortunately, travelers these days are spoilt for choice when it comes to light and substantial eats at the NAIA Terminal III.  And so: breakfast…

Breakfast Delight with Hungarian Sausage
Breakfast Delight with Hungarian Sausage

Chaikofi offers some fairly substantial breakfast options under its Breakfast Delights menu.  Each tray is perfect for one hearty eater or two light appetites as it comes with a fried egg, one’s choice of additional protein, a substantial glob of ready-to-spread butter, and four slices of whole-grain toast.

I chose the Breakfast Delight with Hungarian Sausage (P 185.00) and it was a rather satisfying choice.  The sausage was properly smoky and fried just right: crisp skin and succulent innards that were more meat than filler.  The toast could have used another few minutes in the panini press, but these were warm and nutty tasting; there was enough butter to generously slather on every slice.

Caffeine is, of course, a must when traveling for work.  (Otherwise, you’d be cranky and sleepy from being roused out of bed at 3 AM!)  Chaikofi’s caffe mocha is just strong, sweet, and creamy enough to suit and has nice cocoa notes in the taste.

Feed before you fly
Feed before you fly

Chaikofi Xpresso: Level 3 – NAIA Terminal III, Pasay City

Posted in A Girl at Lunch, Restaurant Hopping, The Flavors of Asia, The Well-read Foodie

In Which there are “Crab” Cakes…

Kani Cake
Kani Cake

Crab cakes are something straight out of Ruth Reichl’s autobiography Comfort Me with Apples.  In chapter two (The Success Machine), she takes lump crabmeat, mixes it up with breadcrumbs and a host of other good things, forms the mixture into patties, and fries the lot up in a lot of butter.  Reichl cooks these cakes in a fit of pique; worried sick that she doesn’t know what’s up with her then-husband (artist Douglas Hollis) who’s always away doing projects and who, alas, doesn’t seem to want to properly settle down and have children.  It’s a situation that seriously warrants luxurious, decadent, fattening, but so-comforting dishes such as proper Baltimore-style crab cakes.

While my own emotional state isn’t at all that rosy at the moment, I have not been prompted into cooking crab cakes at home.  Things aren’t that bad (well, not at the moment, knock on wood!), but a case of the blues calls for stodgy, tasty things.  Probably not the healthiest course of action, of course, but a spot of deliciousness on the tastebuds helps to lift one’s mood.

This what I was hoping for when I decided to try some nosh over at Coco Hut.

Crunchy outside, gooey within
Crunchy outside, gooey within

Coco Hut is run by the same team behind popular burger and taco joint Army/Navy.  But while A/N does Tex-Mex grub in the midst of faux military decor, Coco Hut served fried chicken and seafood with a more laid-back, island-hopper vibe.

For this particular lunch, I opted for the kani cakes and a plate of pancit palabok.  Oh, and to wash things down: a large glass of teamarind.  The teamarind is a tamarind-infused spin on iced sweet tea; this sweetly tart concoction is served ice-cold and goes down a treat on a hot summer afternoon.

The kani cakes were, alas, not quite crab cakes as these are made with surimi crabsticks, those faux crab-flavored fish cakes used for California maki.  Nevertheless, these make a (just-acceptable-enough) substitute as they work well with the mozzarella cheese and jalapeno bits.  The exterior of each “crab” cake is well-breaded with crispy panko and shatters when you sink your teeth into it; the crisp exterior gives way to the soft, gooey center.  Dip these babies in sweet chili sauce and you are good to go.

Coco Hut's pancit palabok
Coco Hut’s pancit palabok

I must confess, though, that I was a trifle disappointed with Coco Hut’s spin on pancit palabok.  While I like this sort of noodle dish good and saucy, this was too saucy and the amount of noodles felt rather short.  I think I would have been better off ordering the garlic chicken sotanghon I saw on the menu.  But, nevertheless, it was a fairly good meal.

Coco Hut:  2nd Floor – Bonifacio Stopover, 2nd Avenue cor. 31st St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

Posted in A Girl at Lunch, Restaurant Hopping, The Flavors of Asia, The Wonders of Japanese Cuisine, Uncategorized

In Which We Have a Black Garlic Ramen…

12939559_10153758278399177_2073350817_n
Kuro Chashumen

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a serious ramen craving.  Blame it on the weird weather; blame it on the weirder than weird situations I’ve been in over the past four months.  You could also blame, I think, having to deal with somewhat difficult people over the same time period.  But, regardless of whatever reason, I wanted ramen.

The good news is that there is actually a very good ramen-ya just a short walk from where I work now.  The bad news is that the place is packed to the gills with people at lunchtime.  But, in my case, fortune favors the desperate (or the seriously depressed, for that matter): and a need to have dinner before diving into the increasingly worse homeward traffic led me right up to Ramen Kuroda.

Tonkotsu ramen is the specialty in this particular shop, which is to say that noodles are tossed into a bowl of silky, savory, collagen-rich pork broth upon serving.  You know the sort: pork bones and cartilage are cooked down with seasonings to yield a milky-looking broth that is said to do wonders for your skin.  Here, you can have your broth as is (shiro – white), given a shot of fiery tomato-chili miso paste (aka – red), or with an inky-looking splash of roasted garlic tare (something of a heady, savory black garlic confit) as in the case of the kuro ramen and kuro chashumen.

Here, Php 180.00 gets you a bowl of ramen (regardless of variant) with half an ajitama (soy-cooked mollet-style [firmer than soft-boiled but not quite hard-boiled] egg) and a slice of chashu (roast pork belly).  However, PhP 230.00 gets you a chashumen – a bowl of ramen with ajitama and four slices of pork.  Believe me when I say you’re good to go shelling out extra cash for the extra chashu.

What you get is a bowl of firm, chewy noodles – thinner, perhaps, than what other noodle shops sell, but a generous amount cooked al dente, nevertheless – soaking up that rich, porky-tasting soup.  The addition of the black garlic tare in either the kuro ramen or chashumen adds a smoky richness, a somewhat vegetal tang, and a delicate sweetness that tempers and is tempered by the smoothly rich broth.  You would think that a ladleful of the stuff would make the soup far too pungent for comfort, but it doesn’t.  In fact, it’s deliciously subtle – and you needn’t worry about garlic breath if that’s what worries you.

12935199_10153758344769177_654190765_n
Kae-dama, o-negai shimasu!

By the way, the amount of broth also warrants an extra order of noodles (kae-dama); don’t fight it, go with it, and enjoy it.

Ramen Kuroda: 3rd Floor – RCBC Plaza, Salcedo Village, Ayala Avenue cor. Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati