Thursday, 31 August 2017

Summer in Seoul: Yachting On The Han!

                             (My boat ride!)

About a kilometer west of the Sebitsome, or the three man-made islands in Banpo Park in Seoul, is a small harbor. I had never been to this spot before.

Yachting isn't exactly popular along the Han River because there isn't much to see anyway, and putting up a marina doesn't sound like a smart or profitable thing to do.

            (The marine was on the Gangnam side 
                         of the Han River)

But one summer day, I was lucky to have been able to enjoy a yacht ride along the Han. I already did the Han River cruise on a ferry boat from Yeouido before. This time, I was on a smaller boat with fewer passengers!

I know the Han River so well. My neighborhood, Hannam-dong in the Yongsan District, is next to the river. When I needed to stretch my legs, I'd usually stroll along the river bank up to the Banpo Park. Sometimes, even during the cold months, I still managed to brave the freezing temperatures just so I could burn some calories.

             (The Banpo Bridge from our yacht!)

But on this summer day, I didn't have to worry about freezing or tiring my legs. I just had to be careful I didn't fall overboard. Ha-ha-ha! We all had to wear life vests by the way. No worry about drowning there; only getting wet in the murky river.

        (How I wanted to help out pulling those ropes. 
           But I worried I might fall overboard!)

              (Sail away! Sail away! Sail away!)

The free yacht ride was actually courtesy of an event partially sponsored by the Korea Tourism Organization. And since it was free, you can just imagine the long lines of people who wanted to get into that boat for a short cruise along the waters of the Han River. 

Our boat didn't really cruise the stretch of the Han. We merely circled around the waters near Banpo area for about 20 minutes. Although I wanted the ride to have been longer and reached up to the Yeouido area, I was just thankful for the free ride and for the time under the summer sun that day.

           (The Dongjak Bridge and the silhouette 
              of the Ichon-dong neighborhood)

In the Philippines, I have done a lot of boating around the clear blue waters of the archipelago where you can see lots of fish and other aquatic creatures of different shapes and colors. We probably take our boating for granted there. But here in Seoul, some people might not have even able to experience boating, much less being on a yacht! 

So, the next time you see a yacht cruising along the Han River, you'd probably want to try it yourself.

Have fun!

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Island Eating: Mango Pizza In Guimaras!

Guimaras Island in the Philippines is famous for its sweetest mangoes, and it's just 12 minutes by boat from Iloilo City. So, when we were in Iloilo City for the Dinagyang Festival, my sister and I decided to do a side trip to the Island.  

We deliberately left Iloilo City mid-morning with the plan to visit only two places in Guimaras: the Trappist Monastery for pasalubong shopping and Pitstop Restaurant for lunch. 

Upon arriving at the Jordan wharf in Guimaras, we simply hired a tricycle for P300 that would bring us around during our short visit.

The Trappist Monastery, which was just about 15 minutes by wheeled transport from the wharf, was already full of tourists when we got there. From mango-flavored biscochos, barquillos, and otap to rosaries and other religious items, the products of the Trappist Monastery were prepared by the monks and their workers. Since we got to finish our pasalubong shopping early, we were able to visit Brother Orly at the monastery. He is a Trappist monk whom I know since my childhood days. 

   (We passed this 'smallest plaza' along the way)
(Mango products galore!)

After a long chat with Brother Orly, we then headed to the popular The Pitstop Restaurant in Jordan, the provincial capital. This place gets full by noon, especially during the Dinagyang Festival when tourists (like us!) cross the Iloilo Strait for a side trip!

(The chapel of the Trappist Monastery. The land was donated by the family of Don Oscar Ledesma)

And their mango pizza didn't disappoint! The cheese, nuts, and mango slices on a crunchy crust were a unique combination of flavors we never tasted before. We have all enjoyed those pepperoni pizzas before. It's time we savored the sweet mango on a pizza!

                  (The unique mango pizza!)
                     (Our Guimaras transport)

We were full when we left the restaurant, and we had to hurry back to Iloilo City before the seas got rough. But before hopping into a motorized boat, we made sure we bought Guimaras mangoes. After all, they are the sweetest mangoes in the Philippines, and we didn't want to miss the chance to have been able to buy them right from the island where they only grow!

                       (Guimaras mangoes!)

By the time we got back to the Jordan wharf, it was mid-afternoon, the perfect time to cross. We were told that the boat trips are immediately canceled when the seas get rough due to strong winds, and this usually happens in the late afternoon.

And on our boat ride back, we carried Trappist goodies, fresh mangoes, and memories of chatting with Brother Orly and the enjoyable experience of having tasted the unique mango pizza!

Until the next Guimaras visit!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Of Fruits And The Arts: Mangoes And Fernando Amorsolo

I was making my way around the priceless paintings of the National Museum of the Philippines when I stumbled upon a scene of the Philippine countryside. 

Fruit Pickers Harvesting Under The Mango Tree by Fernando Amorsolo looks just like a photographed scene during the mango season. Around the tree are young Filipinas wearing camisas and tapis, and probably sharing the day's harvest and gossip.

(Amorsolo could probably paint these, too, but he might not be able to replicate its sweetness!)

I love mangoes and this painting looks very realistic and delicious. Ha-ha-ha! It just reminds me of home and my sweet mangoes. But I know just where to get the best ones - Guimaras! 

Yes, over the years of eating mangoes, I learned how to tell which mangoes actually came from the famous Guimaras Island in the Visayan area of the Philippines. Its pulp is really sweet, succulent and has that flavor that you won't taste from mangoes grown from the other islands. That's why when your mangoes are from Guimaras Island, they're special, sweeter, and of course, more expensive!

            (Fruit Pickers Under The Mango Tree 
                      by Fernando Amorsolo)

I wonder if these ladies' mangoes are as sweet as those from Guimaras, but sweeter or not, this painting is as priceless as each bite of a perfectly ripened, sweet, pulpy Guimaras mango!

Well, we can't afford this painting, which probably costs millions. But do you know the cheapest way to enjoy the best mangoes in the Philippines?  Go to Guimaras Island during the Mango Festival in May. For Php80, you get a pass to eat all the mangoes you can within 30 minutes!

So, if you want to see the priceless paintings of the Philippine national artist, Fernando Amorsolo, you head to the National Museum of the Philippines. But if you want to enjoy the best mangoes, go to the Guimaras Island! :-)

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.