Saturday, 19 August 2017

Island Eating: Bacolod City's Italia Restaurant & Anne Co Cakes

If you live in Bacolod City in the Negros Island in the Philippines, I'm sure you're familiar with all the restaurants and cafés not just those inside the two popular malls of the city, but also those along the very long Lacson Street.

Although I'd rather go to El Ideal in Silay City if I want to try the yummiest local delicacies in the island, there are many restaurants in Bacolod City that offer you their versions of the local delicacies as well.

But sometimes, we all crave for something else, don't we? Like Italian, perhaps?  Luckily, and thanks to Tito James and Tita Helen, I was able to try the top three Italian restaurants on three separate occasions during my vacation days in the island. Although they all were very good, one really impressed me!

That day, I craved for pesto pasta. So, Tita Helen brought me to Italia Restaurant at Paseo Verde Building, and although I didn't see pesto pasta on their menu, the waiter told me they'd gladly prepare one for me!
     (Loving the pesto pasta swimming in olive oil!)

And between forkfuls of al dente pasta covered with pesto and dripping in olive oil, I reminisced the days when I worked in Makati City, where I discovered a small café close to our office along Paseo de Roxas serving a very enjoyable plate of pesto pasta. During those years, whenever I got stressed from work, I just walked for ten minutes and immersed myself and my palate with this stress remedy.
             (My pesto with half-and-half pizza!)

And that day, over lunch, I especially enjoyed our chat over Italia Restaurant's pesto pasta and pizza. My tummy appreciated that the pesto was swimming in olive oil, which just meant the restaurant doesn't scrimp on its ingredients. A few times at some Italian restaurants, I'd find myself facing a very dry plate of pesto pasta, which would bore any pesto lover. Here, at Italia Restaurant, my faith on pesto pastas has been restored, so to speak!

Aside from the pasta and pizza, we were amused with the sculptures on display inside the restaurant. Those figures with the colored balloons looked playful and charming.
 (Michael Cacnio sculptures decorate the restaurant)

And as if the experience couldn't be topped by the yummy pesto, Tita Helen brought me to the neighboring Anne Co Cakes for dessert and coffee, where I discovered a new favorite: almond caramela! Although the sweet, chocolatey richness of the dessert was heavy, it didn't stop me from nibbling all of this delightful treat between sips of my iced café mocha.
       (My almond caramela with iced café mocha)

As I always say, writing a food blog is difficult, not because of the narration, but because my palate always has to relive the yummy experience, which always leave me salivating again! Ha-ha-ha!

But thanks to Tita Helen, I got to enjoy a special pesto and pizza, and discovered a new favorite dessert! I guess this is not just island living, but yummy island eating as well! I should visit these places again.


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Iloilo City Hates Smoking!

Yes, this is what I love. A city that has balls!

I hate it when someone's cigarette smoke wafts into my territory. I had asthma, and if you saw me having an asthma attack when I was a kid, you would have thought I'd never survive. Chasing your breath EVERY SECOND with everything you had was like breathing your last. 

Although my asthma attacks were mostly caused by pollens and some strenuous activities at school, some asthma patients react violently when they inhale some second-hand cigarette smoke usually from an inconsiderate smoker nearby. When this happens, you could give him a stare; sometimes you can fan yourself while looking towards his direction. Most of the time, these would work.

But these tricks aren't needed anymore if one is in Iloilo City, a charming historic city in the middle part of the Philippines. Why? Because Iloilo City bans smoking in public! 

When I arrived at Iloilo City's pier last month, I took a cab and the driver joked that the only place one could probably smoke was at home. You can no longer smoke in the streets or any public place.

For asthma patients and people with respiratory problems, this smoking ban is good as they no longer fear walking around and not being ambushed by second-hand smoke. But for tourists and restaurant goers who smoke, this could probably be a deterrent for them to go out and have fun while smoking.

What do you think?  

Smoking is hazardous to your health, remember?

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

One Of The Philippines' Yummiest: El Ideal's Fresh Lumpia!

Do you know it's always a torture for me to write about food, especially when it's midnight and I'm too lazy to take a few steps to the refrigerator? Ha-ha-ha!

I am salivating as I try to finish this blog about one of the best fresh lumpia in the Philippines! El Ideal's fresh lumpia!

El Ideal is an old family restaurant in Silay City in the Negros Island in the Philippines, and both locals and tourists travel to visit and enjoy the local delicacies of the restaurant. 

And if you ask my mom, their most popular delicacy is their fresh lumpia, and I wholeheartedly agree!

El Ideal's fresh lumpia is always the first one to get sold out! 

Made with coconut pulp, or the core of a young coconut (or ubod in Ilonggo), that is mixed with boiled egg and other local ingredients, and then rolled together in the thinnest homemade wrap, the lumpia gives off a onion-ish scented filling with a crunch.

When I was a kid, I didn't appreciate this kind of wrapped delight. Back then, I only knew how to enjoy the fried lumpia variations. But I guess people and their taste change!

So, when you're in the Negros Island, or if you're landing at Silay-Bacolod International Airport, do swing by Silay City, so you'll also enjoy the yummiest fresh lumpia there is!

Now, time to enjoy fresh my dreams!


Sunday, 16 July 2017

A Philippine Delicacy: Kalamay-Hati

It's gummy and yummy!

Kalamay-hati is a Philippine delicacy made of ground glutinous rice, brown sugar, coconut milk, and a lot of stirring! Yes, it is cooked over low fire and stirred to sweet, sticky perfection!

Most people enjoy this as a snack, but I enjoy kalamay-hati as a dessert and midnight snack! Although one should be careful as it's heavy to the tummy, and you would need to drink a lot of water with this.
             (My kalamay-hati clinging on a fork)

My kalamay-hati today is, well, given (again!). And thanks to a kind tita, I'll be enjoying it while everyone in the neighborhood is soundly sleeping tonight! :-)

Saturday, 15 July 2017

A Philippine Delicacy: Alupe!

Unwrapping an 'alupe' is like unwrapping memories of childhood. And biting a slice of an 'alupe' is like reliving it!
            (My childhood memories and alupe!)

Alupe is a popular delicacy in the Negros Island in the Philippines. Cassava is grated and pressed to extract the water in it. The grated cassava is then mixed with coconut milk, condensed milk, and sugar. Chunks of cheese and strips of coconut meat are added to make the flavor more interesting. The mixture is then wrapped in banana leaf in a rectangular shape, tied with threads, and then steamed until cooked!

On ordinary days if you crave for alupe, you can just roam the town's market and get your alupe from the delicacy corner. But the flavor and quality may just taste ordinary and very commercial.

But on special occasions, alupe is prepared without worrying about the cost of the ingredients. Since all of these are readily available and abundant in the islands, they won't be as expensive as they are in Manila.

But my stash of alupe was especially made for me! Thanks to the helpful neighbors who know how to make these!
           (I am about to relive my childhood!)

Although that day, cassava was sold out at the local market, a friend, who had a neighbor with cassava plants in her backyard, asked to buy all of it! For only two hundred pesos, or about US$4! And it's the main ingredient!

That's why we had a few kilos of raw cassava to turn into yummy alupe! My own stash of alupe made especially for me!

So, if you know how to make your own alupe, you can enjoy your own stash as well! But if you don't, I hope you're as lucky as I am to have neighbors willing to make you some so you can enjoy alupe and relive the memories of your bite at a time!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Philippine Snacks: Negros Island's But-ong

In the Negros Island in the middle part of the Philippines, we call it but-ong, , a delicacy made of sticky rice that is wrapped in banana leaf in conical shapes then cooked in coconut milk.

Its taste has a ginger flavor because small pieces of ginger are cooked with it, giving it that distinct local signature.
                  (Sticky rice being cooked in 
               coconut milk with other ingredients)
                      (Packed in a conical shape)

Cooking 'but-ong' is in itself an artform. Funneling the semi-cooked sticky rice into the banana leaf, which is then shaped into a cone and tied at the top with a thread.

This is what I love about local delicacies: they are environment-friendly! I guess, even before the Westerners set foot in the Philippine archipelago, we were already conscious about the environment. We used biodegradables and only consumed what we needed.

Then the Westerners came and introduced, well, the end of the world. Ha-ha-ha!

(Freshly cooked but-ong; 
still warm and smelling good)

I am not sure if the 'suman' delicacy from Luzon (northern part of the Philippines) is the same as 'but-ong'. The common ingredient among the two is the sticky rice and coconut milk. But I guess the difference lies in the presentation and the ginger flavor.  

The common 'suman' is usually wrapped flat for an easy packing. But-ong, on the otherhand, is given a artful form. 

                         (All mine to enjoy!)

(But-ong alongside the best puto in the Philippines)

But whether you call it suman or I call it but-ong, I am thankful to the neighbors who made these breakfast delights from scratch. Yes, it's best eaten for breakfast with hot table tsokolate or fresh mangoes. It's heavy to the tummy and best enjoyed while still warm.

Now, who wants to join me?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Philippine Snacks: Pilit Nga Turon!

The Philippine delicacy 'turon' is a popular snack among pinoys. Thinly sliced bananas sprinkled with brown sugar are placed inside the spring roll wrapper à la The Mummy, and then deep fried with more brown sugar. During the jackfruit season, slices of jackfruit, or langka, are wrapped with the bananas to add flavor.

But one morning, as I craved for some turon for merienda, I was surprised that the vendor had another turon variety, other than the usual banana turon

She offered me pilit nga turon

'Pilit' means sticky rice in Hiligaynon, and instead of the sweet banana inside the turon, she put in sticky rice! How creative!

On each bite, the bland taste and sticky texture of the filling complimented the sweet, crunchy wrap of the fried turon!

                   (Bananacue on one tray and 
                       pilit turon on the other)

So, does your neighborhood turon vendor have the turon nga pilit, too?