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Archive for February, 2012

I was first introduced to Amici by Rose, who used to live nearby. At that time we were young, stupid (still are), and Amici was still called Amici di Don Bosco.

Today it looks very sophisticated and professionally managed, but when we were there (roughly eight years ago) it was very rustic. At the time, the place was run by the students and staff of Don Bosco Makati. It was common to see the students behind the counter, going in and out of the kitchen, and serving the diners.

The food was already good even then. During peak dinner hours, crowds would form around the counter (it was still semi-self service then) and it was bedlam.

What made a huge impression on me then was the food: honest and full of flavor, and the huge tree that grew at the center of our table. Inside the restaurant. The tree is still there, although we were not able to get that corner. I’m a sucker for such things.

These days, Amici has undergone major changes, in a good way. The place underwent a huge face lift, the kitchen and cashier stations were reorganized, and the menu expanded. They hired full time wait staff and added a gelato section.

Amici Gelato CakesGelatoooo greets you upon entry.

Amici Gelato

The last time we were there, we all ordered gelato for starters.

I know, the waiters were confused too.

But what I truly fell in love with was the Crema de Zucca (squash soup).  I had it each time we were there last month.

 Crema de ZuccaI love all things starchy.

R ordered the three mushroom soup.

Amici Three Mushroom Soup

We also ordered the lasagna, seafood pasta, and a few pizzas (hey, we were a large group!).

Amici Lasagna

Amici Seafood Pasta

Amici Pizza

Amici Pizza

The verdict?

We demolished everything except for the lasagna which, unfortunately, had a strong gingery taste. Now, I love my ginger and Asian food, but it’s just a little off with lasagna. But other than this, the food was great.

It’s quite heartwarming to know that I introduced Amici to R, who in turn introduced it to his family. They have been going back there for the past few years, and I am sure we will be going back in the years to come.

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It’s easy to take Iloilo for granted. It’s so near and so easy to go to; just hop on the ferry and in an hour you would be there.

Throughout my life, I’ve criss-crossed that narrow channel between our islands: for exams, field trips, shopping, swimming competitions (not mine, my sister’s).

This time, however, it was special. We went there to visit old friends and to teach the Babii about our history.

Iloilo used to be the Queen City of the South. It was the original Sugarlandia, established as a center of industry long before Negros or Cebu. Then fortunes changed, as they usually do, and the bulk of sugar production moved to Negros in the 20th century.

We left Bacolod early on a Thursday morning via the Supercat ferry. At this point, I must say that the sea and I have never been really good friends, especially after that Corregidor incident where one stormy morning, I gave up my breakfast to a barf bag.

So, a tip from an islander: the sea is calmer in the morning and makes for easier traveling. By afternoon it gets choppy, especially in December. Then God help us all.

We arrived in Iloilo safe and sound. Our friends were still at work, so we first checked in at a hotel in Smallville, an area full restaurants and other places to hang out at night.

Then we visited some churches:

Jaro Cathedral

The Jaro Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria (Our Lady of the Candles)

It took a few shots before I realized that the ground was naturally sloping, and by then the noonday sun was beating down so hard we had to rush to the shade.

Jaro Cathedral InteriorThe interior

The last time I was here was twenty years ago (wow, I just realized that). I was happy to see that the interior had been renovated. The blue and yellow worked well, but did they really have to add green on the pillars?

Nuestra Senora de la CandelariaNuestra Senora de la Candelaria

Legend has it that the Lady grew a little bit each year. To tell the truth, she does look bigger than when I saw her last.

Then we went to the Molo Cathedral:

Molo Cathedral

Again, either the ground is sloping or my eyes are.

 Molo Cathedral

The Babii was intrigued by the headstones embedded on the floor. It was a colonial practice for the rich and powerful to be buried in the church itself, on the very ground people walked on. Having been to other churches like this, I figured there must be a catacomb somewhere, but was not in the mood for such a macabre excursion.

Molo Cathedral Baptismal FontThe baptismal font reminded me too much of the Spanish Inquisition (hint: it’s the chandelier!).

We also went to the Museo Iloilo, but the collection seemed much, much smaller than when I was there last. (Well, that WAS twenty years ago.)

Museo Iloilo

We contented ourselves with snapping photos outside, as taking photos was not allowed inside. I also did a little drive by shooting of some old houses, which I just love, but I’m still trying to sort out that group of photos.

Later in the evening we met our friends and went on another food trip (more on that later). Then we went back to Bacolod the next day.

We left quite late in the day, however, 3 p.m. to be exact. It was just after December, it started raining, and it was the ferry ride from HELL.

My scrumptious seafood lunch threatened to make an untimely reappearance, and while I tried to keep it down, I simultaneously ran emergency scenarios in my head on how we would chuck our luggage and slip on our life vests (the Babii first!) all at warp speed. (Living in this part of the world does that to you.)

All the while, I was thinking, OMG OMG OMG I don’t want to drown/be shipwrecked/eaten by sharks or giant squid/drift out to sea to die a horrible, salty, dehydrated death.

And yes, I can swim.

I was never so happy to step on dry land.

There go my dreams of a Mediterranean cruise.

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Tatoys Talaba

Fresh, plump and juicy.

I love oysters. I like eating them steamed, with garlic fried rice, some salt and vinegar, and a bottle of ice cold Coca Cola. With my bare hands. By the beach. With my bare feet digging into the sand and the wind blowing through my hair.

It is winter here and I understand that this could be asking too much. But it’s nice to dream.

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While we were in Manila, we met up with R’s brother A. We had been hearing about Pepper Lunch for the last couple of years, and A wanted to eat there, so we had an excellent opportunity to try out what others are so excited about.

I never really had much of an idea about the place and its food, except that its core ingredient was meat and it had something to do with a sizzling plate. (Just a backgrounder: R and I have never been fans of eating yakiniku-style. We belong to the “we go to restaurants to get served food, not cook our own food” school of thought.)

So imagine R’s horror when our food arrived looking like this:

Pepper Lunch Angus Steak

R: “What the…. You mean I have to cook my own food?!?!”

But because he loved his brother, he quickly bit his tongue and started frying his steak. And because I loved him, I shut my mouth and cooked my beef teriyaki =D

 Pepper Lunch Beef Teriyaki

The hazy pictures are because of all the smoke.

For the Babii, however, it was all new and she had the time of her life swishing her pepper steak around and eating her choco nut ice cream.

The verdict: Having to cook my food aside, it was a little disconcerting to have the queue outside the restaurant, where people had to wait for a table to be vacated before being allowed to order. In a regular restaurant this would be understandable, but I could not wrap my head around it since it was a semi-fast food/self service kind of set up.

Fortunately, we did not have to wait long, but I also do not relish seeing people lining up and waiting for me to finish my meal so they could have theirs.

I prefer to lounge around and enjoy my food. If a restaurant was full, I would go somewhere else, or perhaps make sure ahead of time that a space was reserved for my party. (Yay for reservations!) I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me.

On a more positive note, the food tasted good, and the meat was EXCELLENT. Definitely top quality, and something you would have to pay top money for where we are now.

Is it something I would go back to?

I am not much of a meat eater, but since R loves his meat and I am the devoted wife, I would for him. 😀

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caramel piggie

R was asking the Babii to clean her piggies’ cage, but she couldn’t find the little shovel for scooping their poop.

R: “Honey, where’s the poop scoop?”

Me: “Honey, it’s in the shed.”

R: “Honey, can you go get it?”

Me: “Honey, you know me. If I start juggling things in the shed, I will start juggling things in the garden. Then I will say: ‘Honey, can you help me?'”

R: “Never mind, I’ll get it.”

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So it’s week two with no yaya…. And because I am a worry wart, I obsess about it. But we are actually doing just fine.

We’ve just had to rearrange our schedules to fit in cooking times during the day, while cleaning and laundry have their own schedules during the week.

To tell the truth, my parents raised five children with no household help. We did have a very sturdy Sharp washing machine that lasted about twelve years, long enough for all of us to reach some semblance of adulthood, and a laundry lady that came twice a week to iron our mountains of clothes. My dad, who cooks to relax, did all the cooking while my mom, who was (still is) a neat freak, took charge of the cleaning. They had five little assistants, of course.

That experience served me well when I went off to university, and later on when I started working. I knew how to take care of myself. But I must admit that ever since we had the Babii, we’ve always had someone to help us out: parents, in-laws, siblings, aunts, etc.– Filipino social support system at its best. This is our first time, in a foreign country, to have none of that kind of support.

Well, so far, so good. We actually quite enjoy our little team of three– everyone stepped up to the plate, even the Babii who often had to be reminded of everything (“Comb your hair!” “Brush your teeth!” “Feed your piggies!”). I guess we are also soooo lucky that we have a good natured child who doesn’t complain about chores. Or anything much.

But perhaps I speak too soon. Let’s see what the teenage years bring.

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I’m a terrible creature of habit. I prefer to go to tried and tested restaurants rather than strike out to experience something new.

Now that I’ve gotten older, I make a conscious effort to try new things. Still, I always come back to restaurants that have proven themselves over time. And one of those is Italianni’s.

 Italianni's

I first experienced Italianni’s when I was an impressionable student. I don’t remember what I ate then, but I remember the excellent service. In the past decade I have brought countless family and friends there, and from being just a good restaurant it has also become a very memorable one because of all the people that I’ve shared it with.

When we went home for the holidays last year, I thought we wouldn’t have enough time for a meal at Italianni’s. But surprise, surprise…. One of our last days in Manila found us at lunch time at the Mall of Asia, hungry and with a few hours to spare. No brainer.

We were welcomed with the usual hospitality, and we immediately got down to business. I was in a soup mood, so I ordered the soup of the day. It was broccoli something. I forgot. I was hungry.

Italiannis Broccoli Soup

They of course had the complimentary bread, olive oil with herbs and balsamic vinegar. I had big plans for lunch so I went easy on the bread.

Then I ordered my usual: Sicilian Salad.

Italiannis Sicilian Salad

(Disclaimer: I know that the pictures would have looked waaaaay better if I had used my Nikon D40, but it is such a drag to carry a huge camera everywhere– especially in Manila— And people look and think: “Oh! A blogger!” It’s stressful for everyone. I think.)

Italiannis Green Mango Shake

My overarching goal during this holiday was to eat the things I couldn’t get abroad. And it was hot. Enter the green mango shake.

Italiannis Lasagna and Strawberry Shake

The Babii ordered a lasagna and strawberry shake while R ordered steak and pasta.

Italiannis Beef with Pasta

Unfortunately, my big plans for lunch went down with the soup. I was stuffed by the time I started on the salad. So much for that. There was a time when I would have a salad, pasta AND dessert. Those were the days.

On the bright side, the food was great, as usual. The service was excellent, as usual. Too excellent, perhaps, because they offered us their membership card twice.

Under normal circumstances, we would have jumped at the chance, but we had to explain nicely that we wouldn’t be able to use it anyway. In three years, I hope they still have it.

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