Friday, October 30, 2009

Wine and STD

I just discovered five minutes ago that doing research on sexually transmitted diseases  (STDs) is best done while imbibing something with alcohol in it.

The research is for work and the white wine, a Freixenet Cava, is for the sanity.

According to the website there are an estimated 1.25 million Filipinos affected by Chalmydia, one of the more common sexually transmitted diseases in populations where men are circumcised. In the Philippines, this disease was popularized by Kris Aquino, when she decided to do  her bacterium-infested laundry in public during her controversial split with  ex-basketball player slash actor slash politician Joey Marquez in 2003. Though many of us do not appreciate her predisposition for the dramatics, she may  just have  single-handedly caused the  decline  of the disease's  incidence by half over a period of 5 years. Finally, something we may have to thank her for. Maybe.

Enough of the icky stuff.

I am no sommelier but I can appreciate the chilled white Spanish wine I have been drinking straight out of the bottle. The Australian Trade Commission's export market study for Australian wine-makers  gives an indication of my taste for wine- it is as common  as Chlamydia. I am like any average Filipino wine drinker: I like my Jesus juice white, chilled and fruity. 

The Cava, or the Spanish equivalent of champagne is made in the "méthode champenoise" or “Champagne method,” which is the same method that is used to make Champagne, France. In 1872, Josep Raventós Fatjó of the Codorníu estate had supposedly produced the first Cava in Cataluña, Spain. He liked what he made so much that he had a cava  or cellar dug up to store the wine. Thus, the name.

It is also cheaper  (or more accessible, if you want to be polite about it) than the real French Champagne. What I am having now is the semi-seco grade which has about 33-50 grams of sugar per liter. It is sweet, fruity and pedestrian. In the wonderful world  of wine lovers,  it is not sosyal at all. But this bottle I have just topped off does not need to be sosyal  to be special. I had won it in a singalong contest at Taumbayan, a QC resto owned by friends. This bottle is a testament to both the  declining entertainment standards of my friends and the strength of our friendship, since they haven't denounced me after the unabashed display of my (non-existent) singing skills.

And before sobriety catches up with me,  on this night of alcohol and STDs, to my friends at Taumbayan, I raise my bottle of  Cava. Salud!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Our kitchen is very small. A writer had once described it as "only a few paces wide". I want to buy a better stove with a built in oven slash rotisserie. But before I do that I have to:

1. Save up for baking lessons
2. Take up baking lessons
3. Reconfigure the kitchen space
4. Earn enough money for the purchase of a dccent oven
5. Decide on which stove/oven to buy

When I do get the chance to get that piece of kitchen equipment, I will cuddle it and love it and use it and give it a pretty name. In the meantime, I will dream of ovens tonight.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The rainy season always brings back memories of my years growing up in my grandparents' house in Bignay St., Project 2, Quezon City.

Having been born in Davao and raised as a toddler in Iloilo,  I never had a taste of typhoons until the time I moved in with my Lola Pacing and Lolo Greg when I was in grade one.

Lolo Greg and Lola Pacing
(photo courtesy of my cousin, Lora Capule)

Lolo Greg is a WWII veteran, who for a time was countryless and now lives in the very same country that once denied him citizenship. He has always been quiet, dignified and  gentle.  My first memory  of him was when I was six, watching him cut the backyard grass with shears and a bolo.  My Cousin Jenny and I would play and stop only to listen to him tell stories about the Bataan Death March. Afterwards, he would share with us a packet of Growers peanuts and Pop Cola. If we pestered him for more stories, he would get rid of us by bribing us with a shiny Twenty-Five centavo coin to buy Chocnut or chocolate eggs wrapped in foil. My cousin and I would refuse his bribe and demand for a Ten Centavo coin for each of us, which he would oblige us with. We thought were outsmarting him because two coins were always worth more than one. 

Almost every weekend, he would take me and my cousins to Balara to swim.  Lolo Greg could do ten laps in the pool without much effort and almost always ended his swim with two laps of his signature butterfly stroke. After his swim, he would then herd around 8 of us to ride the JD bus home.  He is never one for corporal punishment. He never even needed  to raise his voice. He could scare us out of misbehaving with simple stories. Whenever one of us grandkids would spill rice from our plates or have leftovers, he would calmly reminisce  how he used to receive one belt whipping for every grain of rice that fell off his plate or did not finish. His veiled threat  never got put into action as we would always finish up everything on the plate. Lolo Greg, my only surviving grandparent, was the cool persona that was opposite to Lola Pacing's fiery one.

Lola Pacing passed away several years ago. Her wake was a big to-do, after all she was the matriarch of a family with 13 children and more than 50 grandchildren. She was also popular in the community having served as a Baranggay Quirino 2-C councilor for many years. Each night at her wake was a fiesta. Mayors sat beside tricycle drivers. Artists mingled with bankers.  People she had helped out once shared stories with relatives from Iloilo. The number of people who showed up at her wake was a testament to how truly beloved she was by those whose lives she touched.

She lived up to her name, Pacencia. Although she would call us out for misbehaving or getting the house dirty, she would rarely lose her temper. The only time she lost her patience with me was when I played in the rain even if I had a cold coming.  After hours of racing paper boats in the street canals, I went to the backyard fishpond and caught fish which I "cooked" using the clothes iron.  Lola Pacing was not very happy with my experimental cooking method. Drenched, shivering and high with fever, she gave me  the  only  corporal punishment in my entire life-- an ass whacking with walis tingting (a broom made with the spine of coconut leaves).

Lola Pacing did make it up to me at dinnertime, making Laswa, a hearty  Ilonggo  soup made of vegetables. Since then, the soup has been one of my favorite rainy day comfort food. I recently served it to friends when we had a post-Ondoy powwow. It is also one of the few vegetable dishes that I can get A.  to eat without any violent reactions.  

 Ang Laswa ni Lola Pacing using saluyot (jute) leaves

Laswa  is similar to the Ilocano Dinengdeng but is more soupy and less salty. The simplicity of the flavor never fails to bring me back to the time when life was so uncomplicated.
Ang Laswa ni Lolo Greg using alugbati (Malabar spinach) leaves

Her ingredients are what one can usually find in the wet market. Because of the onion, this version has a homier taste to it.

4 cups water
1 piece small onion, quartered
3 pieces medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup fresh shrimps, shelled and deveined (keep the head for the stock)
200 grams kilo squash (calabasa), cut into 2" squares
200 grams string beans (sitaw), cut into 2 1/2" lengths
200 grams okra, cut into 1" lengths
1 big piece eggplant (talong), cut into 1/2' inch thickness 
2 cups saluyot (jute) leaves
salt to taste

Boil  shrimp heads in water. When the shrimp heads turn pink, take them out of the water . using a strainer, squeeze excess juice from the heads with a spoon.  Add tomatoes and onion in the boiling water. Once the water boils again, add in the vegetables, starting with the squash. Once the squash turns slightly tender, add in the string beans, okra and eggplant. When the vegetables are cooked, add in the jute leaves and salt to taste. Mix and remove from fire when the saluyot turns a shade darker.

Serve hot with crispy danggit (dried Rabbit fish) on the side.

He grew alugbati in the vegetable garden behind the house. The use of alugbati and winged beans make the dish more hard-core Ilonggo for me. I don't know why. it just does. I find his process simpler, too.

4 cups water
3 pieces medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
500 grams dried shrimp (hibi)
200 grams kilo squash (calabasa), cut into 2" squares
200 grams winged beans (sigarilyas), cut into 1 1/2" lengths
200 grams okra, cut into 1" lengths
1 big piece eggplant (talong), cut into 1/2' inch thickness 
2 cups alugbati  (Malabar spinach) leaves
salt to taste

Boil  tomatoes and dried shrimp in the water. Once the dried shrimp becomes tender, add in the vegetables, starting with the squash. Once the squash turns slightly tender, add in the winged beans, okra and eggplant. When the vegetables are cooked, add in the Malabar spinach leaves and salt to taste. Mix and remove from fire when the saluyot turns a shade darker.

Serve hot with crispy baby galunggong (Mackarel scad) or tawilis (fresh water sardinella) on top.

This blog is dedicated to Lolo Greg and the love of his life,
Lola Pacing.
Thank you for taking care of me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kiss the Cook Cafe

It has almost been a month since my last post. The series of typhoons and all the incoming work had kept me too depressed to write about food and too tired to make anything in the kitchen.

Yes, A. and myself have been living mostly on fast food deliveries, canned goods and left overs these past few weeks. I thought I would never get out of this processed food rut.

And today, I got a lip-smacking experience that made me sit-up and write... Kiss the Cook Cafe.

This cozy cafe is situated at 59 Maginhawa St., UP Village, Diliman, QC, across Holy Family School. Friends have been raving about the place since its soft opening last 19 October. A. and I finally got the chance to dine there tonight.

For starters, A. picked the Crabstick Mango Spring Roll with Nouc Mam dip. Once dipped,  the mix of  the slice of sweet mango, fishy crabstick and the neutral rice paper wrapper is coated in the salty sour  goodness of the dip. The dip is the rock star in this wrap and roll experience.

I had the  Curried Shrimp salad with grilled pineapple and curried cabbage. I am not a big fan of curry but this unusual mix of familiar tastes was a new experience for my palate as far as salads go.

We asked for the best pork dishes. A. got the  Asian Braised Pork Belly and I had the Five-Spice Spareribs (a.k.a. ang pinakamasarap na piniritong baboy sa balat ng lupa). As I am a guiltless pork-lover, nothing makes me happier than soft fried fat melting on my tongue.  So, this dish is a declared winner in my book. Augie's braised pork sauce was, thankfully, not overwhelming as some Chinese restaurants tend to make.
We capped our dinner with a dark chocolate gelato and Bailey's dessert, Truffette.  If you get off on chocolate, dig deep into this dark dessert and you'll pop a cherry by the time you get your last spoonful.  This dessert got me all worked up and I forgot to take a photo. All I have for you is the spent, empty cup of the highlight of my first time at Kiss The Cook Cafe.