Archive for the ‘Shameless Navel-Gazing’ Category

I am so ready for the new year.

As one can easily glean from my lack of blog posts, the second half of 2012 occupied me in ways other than blogging.

It started out in January, when our yaya MJ decided to move on and pursue her own plans. I am all for pursuing dreams, so I gave her my blessing and I buckled down to take on the household tasks that she used to handle. Having grown up in a household without maids, I knew what had to be done.

It wasn’t that difficult since the Babii is now ten years old and there were only the three of us (and three piggies), but when our little Boo Boo Bear started growing larger and developing her own personality in utero, physical exertions became harder and harder. Add to that gestational diabetes, work-related stress and rampaging hormones, and you basically have a recipe for disaster.

But there is a silver lining in any cloud. The Babii coincidentally started moving across that great divide between childhood and adolescence. It meant a lot of angst, mood swings and pimples, but it also came with an eagerness to be more involved in our day to day life (read: chores) and a certain level of maturity which has always been beyond her years.

The eventual arrival of our Boo Boo Bear and the transformation of our little team of three into a little gang of four is an epic story in itself which deserves its own series of posts.

For now, I look back at 2012 with relief that it is over, amazement that I actually pulled through it in one piece, and gratefulness that we continue to be blessed despite my whining and blubbering (I blame the hormones).

We have a lot of plans for this year. We look forward to seeing family again. We are excited to experience firsts again: first words, first steps, first trip to the beach. And I am eagerly awaiting good news (no, not another pregnancy!) which I will reveal in due time.

Yes, it’s definitely time to move on.


Read Full Post »

Ok, maybe street cuisine is a little extreme, as I am not exactly a fan of standing on the sidewalk poking at fish balls while vehicles powder my food with exhaust fumes. But after more than thirty years on Earth, I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced different kinds of food, in different settings, from real holes-in-the-wall joints to hoity toity affairs where I don’t quite know what to do with all the forks and knives and glasses (and people stealing my bread plate!).

I admit, I love good food. If good service and good ambiance comes with it, I am willing to splurge on such a restaurant once in a while. (Like, maybe, once a year– on my birthday) But it is really frustrating to go to a “famous” place with all the expectations from word of mouth and press releases only to come crashing down to earth and realize that the food at Aling Nene’s Carinderia tasted much, much better.

Case in point, this restaurant which was supposed to be one of the best in the country. I was fortunate enough NOT to be the one paying for the meal. Someone had invited a group of us for a celebratory dinner at this restaurant. It was a weekday and I certainly preferred to spend my evening elsewhere, but could not refuse the invitation. (Go figure.)

So we went, and true to its reputation, the restaurant ambiance screamed EXPENSIVE. So expensive that the prices are not printed on the menu. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it, eh?

Everything was well rehearsed/well-trained. We were greeted warmly, escorted to a private room, and were seated with a view of the restaurant’s vintage wine collection. Ooookay. Pressure.

We took turns ordering, engaged in a little chit chat, drank a little celebratory champagne. And then the food arrived.

I had ordered an appetizer of baby winter vegetables, and a fish main course. The vegetables were nice, but aside from the expert plating, it was nothing that I could not make at home. But never mind. Eat, eat, eat.

Then the fish arrived. It was sea bass, if I remember correctly, in what was supposed to be red wine sauce. At the first bite, the vegetables and the red wine sauce tasted like plastic and the creamy foam was just weird. And the fish needed salt and pepper.

Sigh. I knew it was going to be one of those nights.

Having been expertly trained by my parents since childhood to eat what was on the plate, however, I soldiered on and just pushed the vegetables around.

Then it was time for dessert which, in my opinion, was the best part of the meal. But only relatively so. We were served an assortment of cakes, biscuits and candies. They tasted good (how can anyone go wrong with chocolate?), but for the restaurant’s reputation, I was expecting something that I wouldn’t find in Calea or Bob’s Pastry shop.

Unfortunately, these days there seems to be an unhealthy emphasis in the culinary world on technique and presentation. Sure, the sugar globes and foams and tempered chocolates are all nice to see, but what is the point when you just end up with sugary bubbles and regular chocolate?

In comparison, there is this seedy looking joint a few blocks from our house. The place is old and the furniture is old and at the doorway is a HUGE man who doubles as the waiter and the doorman. (I also suspect he is a part-owner of the place.) At first glance, the place does not look impressive, but it never runs out of customers.

When we went there about a few days before the hoity toity restaurant affair, it was a cold night and we were so hungry we just didn’t care where we would eat.

We plopped down on the chairs, just grateful for the warmth, and the big guy gave us the menu which, incidentally, was printed on the place mats (Menu, check! Set the table, check!).

We ordered a vegetable soup, the “cow” soup, some meatballs and lamb chops. It was also that kind of restaurant that served an assortment of hummus and salads while the orders were being cooked, so we were quite happy to start dipping our pita breads.

Then we noticed one wall filled with framed news articles on the restaurant. Not bad, we thought. Then the food arrived.

vegetable soup

cow soup

Off the bat, the food was fantastic. Everything was just exploding with flavor. From the appetizers and the soups alone, we were stuffed. I did try the lamb chop and, despite not being a fan of lamb, I must say that it was pretty good. lamb chops

But by this time, we had to take home the rest of the food because there was just no way we could finish it.The bill was less than NIS 200, somewhere around US $50 for three people.

Given these two restaurants, it is quite obvious which one I prefer.

These days with all these cooking shows and competitions, people seem to be overly focused on the haute (pronounced “ot,” which means “high” in French) and not enough on the cuisine. I sure as hell would not be going back to that fancy restaurant but I would not be ashamed to bring my friends to the neighborhood carinderia.

Sometimes I think this concept of fine dining, gourmet reviews and press releases is becoming a little bit like the culinary version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. No one wants to look like a barbarian, so they ooh and aah over all the culinary exhibitions and adhere strictly to what the culinary gods decree.

But for me, fine dining isn’t always so fine. Just give me some pork barbeque from that side street in Villamonte, steaming hot rice, and let’s call it a day.

Read Full Post »