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Archive for April, 2012

Have you ever experienced planning something for so long, only to have it postponed again and again?

We had been planning since last year to visit this Ethiopian restaurant with some friends, but for one reason or another, never managed to get around to it.

Incidentally, we ran into each other at the international beer festival last Friday and decided to JUST DO IT. No more planning, no more schedules. The next night we trooped to Petach Tikva to find this elusive Ethiopian restaurant.

First off, the restaurant is on a side street off the main road, very unassuming with no signs, just lots of posters of what I presumed were Ethiopian celebrities. I am not from the place, so I had no idea where we were.

Going inside, the restaurant was small but clean. We had the novel experience of being the only non-Ethiopians there.

Friends P & T did the ordering, while R started off with some Ethiopian beer.

Meta Beer

He said it tasted just like San Miguel Pale Pilsen.

Ethiopian Food

Then the food arrived in traditional Ethiopian baskets. Clockwise from the top: Lamb with onions and peppers, something like curry potatoes, spicy lentils, Ethiopian hummus, and spicy cabbage. At the center is a spicy beef stew (Oops, too much spice!). The food came with Ethiopian crepes (I forgot the name) that tasted a lot like puto.

Ethiopian restaurant vegetarian dish

P, who is vegetarian, was given his own special dish.

Ethiopians definitely know that the best way to eat good food is with your hands. You tear a piece of the crepe, dip it in the food of your choice, and eat away!

Ethiopian Spice Tea

We finished the meal off with some Ethiopian spice tea. It had cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and all sorts of other stuff. Yum.

It was great to be able to try something new and different. T was worried at first that we would find the food too spicy, but as P said, hello, we are Filipinos! (It wasn’t that spicy— R even ate all the green peppers.)

The bill? NIS 282 for five people. That would be about US $76. Of course, we left a tip for the great service. The only down side was that the owner only spoke Hebrew, so we would need a translator every time we go there.

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Sharyns Cansi

When we were kids, our dad used to take us to these hole-in-the-wall restaurants in the Chinese quarter of Bacolod. We discovered a lot of gems that way, and Sharyn’s Cansi House was one of them.

R and I actually had one of our earlier dates here when we were just starting out. Aaaah, memories…..

We were finally able to go back last January. I must say that although the price has gone up considerably in the past few years, the flavor hasn’t changed. It was heaven.

What is cansi exactly? It is a sour soup of beef bone marrow, with slices of unripened jackfruit and a little meat on the bones. The sourness of the soup comes from a fruit called batuan (pronounced bat-wan), a fruit that I have never seen off our island of Negros.

The day we went there, R and I finished two bowls of cansi, four servings of rice and an extra bowl of the stock. All washed down with some ice cold Coca-Cola. Talk about recipe for a heart attack.

Sharyn’s Cansi House is located in Shopping, Bacolod (I have no idea why they call it that, but that has been the way it’s always been). The place is clean and up to sanitation standards, but don’t expect fine dining digs. This is a place where one gets down and dirty with their food, if you know what I mean.

Sharyns Cansihan

When they say it’s the best in town, they aren’t kidding.

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Goocha!

Holy guacamole, does it seem like I’m posting an inordinate amount of food-related escapades, or is it just me? If it is midnight at your side of the world and this induces you to pay a visit to the refrigerator, I am truly sorry.

When R, the Babii and I went book shopping the other week, we ended up hungry and exhausted at Goocha, a well-known restaurant in the center of the city. The irony of it all was that we used to live next door to the restaurant, and although we always wondered what the huge crowds outside the restaurant were all about, we never actually got around to going there ourselves.

Cue: three years later. We arrived a little bit before the dinner rush, so we were seated immediately. Upon scanning the menu (which was in English), we were pleasantly surprised to see that the prices were very, very reasonable given the restaurant’s location. Things were looking promising.

The Babii ordered a burger (she wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous that day):

Goocha Burger

I wanted to order so many things that my doctor wouldn’t let me eat— the beef carpaccio, seared tuna, ceviche, etc. (Long story) To be on the safe side, I ordered the fish and chips:

Goocha Fish and Chips

R couldn’t decide, and asked our server to decide for him (such a flirt, this guy). She recommended the seared tuna that I wanted for my self (Aaaaaaahhh!!!!): Goocha Seared Tuna

Then we had a Caesar’s salad:

Goocha Ceasar Salad

And by that, I mean I ordered it and demanded that we all share it. Less guilt that way =D

Goocha drinks

R was especially enamored with their Leffe beer. I had to stop him from draining the whole goblet because he started turning really red and tipsy towards the end.

Would we go back to this restaurant? Most definitely. The food was great, the service impeccable, and to top it all off, the prices were very, very reasonable. (I know I’m repeating myself, but really!)

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Chicken House Inasal

I admit, I have a lot of blog backlog on our (not-so-recent-anymore) holiday. I’m trying to ease them in a little at a time, and today is dedicated to inasal (barbecued chicken).

Inasal is the quintessential Negrense food. Many have tried to imitate it, but very few have succeeded. The chicken is marinated (usually overnight) in a special sauce. I have an inkling what the ingredients are, but at the risk of being hunted down by Negrense inasal makers, please forgive me if i do not divulge it here.

Since I’ve watched the movie Namets, a romantic comedy centered on Negrense food, every time I see inasal I can’t help but remember the “Paa o Pecho?” (Thigh or Breast?) scene. According to one of the protagonists, high maintenance people prefer the chicken breast, while low maintenance, adventurous people prefer the thighs.

True or false?

Anyway, that photo above was taken from Chicken House along Mandalagan St., my all-time favorite inasal restaurant.

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Nope, it’s not as controversial as it sounds, although that is literally what happened– with a camera.

As we drove around Iloilo last January, I couldn’t help but notice that there were tons of beautiful old houses amidst the urban sprawl. I drew my camera a bit late, so I was only able to take a few shots.

Disclaimer: I don’t know the owners of these houses. If one of them happens to be you and having a picture of your house here offends you in some way, please contact me and I will gladly take down the photo.

To begin, let’s start with this very interesting house which has been turned into a boarding house (presumably for young people studying in nearby schools).

Eros Boarding House

The house itself is probably only a few decades old, although its design imitates a much older era. Painted white and red, the sign at the gate identifies it as the “Eros boarding house.” Yes. I’m not kidding.

Iloilo House

This second house typifies the old bahay na bato (stone house) of Spanish colonial origins. The bottom floor, which would have normally been used to house the family business and its storage rooms, is now being used by a local bank.

Iloilo House

This house appears abandoned, which is really a shame. I can picture it in all its glory, freshly painted, lit up and bustling with the sound of laughter and music during its heyday. (Cue ladies in 1950’s hair and vintage cars)

Iloilo House

One of the things I absolutely love about old Philippine houses are their windows— wide to let in the abundance of sunshine and allow the winds to circulate throughout the house to stave off the humid heat of the tropical islands.

 Iloilo House

There is really something about houses from this bygone era that make them so stately and elegant. There was a whole range of logistical, environmental, social and supernatural considerations that went into the building of each of these houses, which I hope to discuss at length one of these days. But for now, these houses are a reminder of an era of old world glamor, when Iloilo was the Queen City of the South, the hub of international trade after Manila and the capital of the sugar industry.

I find current architectural designs absurd, if not a little pretentious, when the instigators (really, instigators!) attempt to mimic houses in the Western hemisphere where there are winters, springs and autumns, leading their “modern” houses to require massive amounts of air conditioning and lighting.

I hope that people who own such ancestral houses know the cultural treasure in their hands and cherish it. I’ve seen a few such cultural/historical treasures demolished to make way for ugly commercial buildings, simply because the owners could no longer maintain it.

If I was filthy rich, I would definitely use the money to preserve such local historical treasures. Unfortunately I am not, so I have to be contented with drooling over these houses and engaging in armchair analysis.

One thing I can do, however, is to apply the lessons of the past to my own future. When the time comes to build my own house (and that time will definitely come), it will hew closely to the principles of the bahay na bato.

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Have you ever seen the movie? You should, it’s hilarious.

Chinese Gangster wanna-bes

One day at the beach, my friend Rose decided to teach the Babii how to channel a Chinese gangster movie using barquillos (wafer rolls).

Sometimes, this kid learns too fast for her own good.

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Friday is a weekend here, but since the Babii’s school follows a different schedule, we still have to wake up early in the morning to get her ready and bring her to school (she’s not allowed to walk on her own yet).

One particular Friday, she went to school early to help set up for the annual Spring Fair which she demanded—er, suggested we attend.

It was really too early and we didn’t want to look like stage parents supervising her every move, so we dropped her off and went searching for a nearby cafe.

 Nelly's Kitchen Menu

Our feet took us to Nelly’s Kitchen. One look at the menu and we decided we wanted more than coffee. We ordered the standard breakfast and played with our cameras while waiting.

Nelly's Kitchen Cookie Jars

R’s coffee arrived first.

Nelly's Kitchen Cappuccino

I forgot to mention that Nelly’s Kitchen serves only organic food. It costs a few shekels higher than in a regular cafe, but the price difference is not that significant.

Nelly's Kitchen Breakfast Cheese and Olives

The first part of our breakfast arrived, and it was a platter of cheese, pickled vegetables, and buns. I just love cheese in all forms. It is a seriously guilty pleasure.

Nelly's Kitchen Breakfast Frittata

The second part of breakfast was a cheese and vegetable frittata. R had his coffee and I had a combination carrot and orange juice. It was delicious. Nelly's Kitchen Breakfast Cheese and Olives

The sun rose higher and I knew we had to get going….

The breakfast, including the juice and coffee, was actually good for one person. We just ordered extra rolls as it was a shame not to eat all that cheese. Total bill was NIS 60++ (about $17– pricey for an IHOP, I suppose, but regular by local standards). To top it all off, the service was friendly and attentive.

Do we intend to go back? Definitely.

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