March 30, 2014

Oooh, a Sunday Market at Centris!

For the last couple of years every Sunday they’ve been holding a farmer’s market at Eton Centris near Quezon Avenue, at the back of McDonald’s. You’ll know you’re there when you see clusters of green-striped tents, flanked by cars all over.

As with any market day, try to go early so you’ll only get the freshest. The Sunday market is open from 6 AM up to 2 PM, although I got there at the ungodly hour of 12 noon. Even so, the place was still bustling, and actually that’s the perfect time to haggle since the tinderos are more vulnerable and yielding, eager to get home already.  Stall rent, I learned from one of the vendors, ranges from P600 to P1500, depending on the space.  Not bad.
I was supposed to go with a friend but ended up going alone since I woke up late, and in my alone state, was naturally in no mood to shop. With no one to bicker with, and bewildered anyway by the wide array of choices, I simply got myself a cup of taro and chocolate ice cream. In the intense summer heat, I couldn’t have chosen better. 

Next week, I’ll be there first thing in the morning, with a friend in tow hopefully, and have some of that ginataang kuhol I saw earlier.


Not sure just how organic these vegetables are, but they look non-pumped enough.

Lots of eats should you ever find yourself hungry from all that walking, haggling, and buying.

Soon to open outsourcing office—the backdrop of the Centris Sunday market. 

Plants! It’s nice to know the displaced plant vendors from the Ayala-swallowed Manila Seedling Bank still have a place to sell their stuff.

Ukay and RTW shops for all your clothing needs.

Dogs for sale. These toy pups are all pampered with blasts of air from an electric fan.

Bewildered from all those choices, I simply went for a taro and chocolate ice cream (P35) and a bunch of asparagus (P75) which Mami loves.

March 11, 2014

Make Your Own Yoghurt!

I am now making my own yoghurt because, well, my tummy needs it.  And because... yogurt.  For years, I've gotten my yogurt fix from the grocery, but as is always the case with store-bought goods, it's bound to have added flavors, sugars, thickeners, even gelatin extenders, the works. 

Just like you should never buy branded honey from the supermarket (you're better off buying honey from a beekeeper in your area--it's more sustainable and you're supporting livelihood of the locals, plus it's better you personally know who's selling you your honey)--you should also never buy yoghurt from the grocery.

Instead make your own.

Used-to-be mayo jar now my default yoghurt pot. 

You'll need:

1 Carton of milk
1 Plain unflavored yoghurt

2 Glass jars, scrubbed, washed clean, and dried
Sauce pot
Chiller (to be used as an incubator)
Plastic Bottle

1. Prepare your incubating chamber by filling a plastic bottle with hot water and placing inside the chiller.

2. Pour milk into the sauce pot, simmer on gentle heat.

3. Stir continuously to prevent milk from boiling over and curdling.

4. Simmer for 10 - 20 minutes.  Essentially, what we're doing here is to kill the bacteria in the milk so as to start with a clean slate, a sort of tabula rasa for the live culture in the yogurt to flourish.

5. When heated sufficiently, let milk cool down until it is just slightly warm.  (If you dip a finger, you shouldn't get burned.)

6. Stir in your plain yogurt.  One carton of milk makes two big mayo jars.

7. Pour them in your mayo glass jars, cap tightly and place in the "chiller" along with your prepared hot bottle.  You can wrap them in blankets if you want.

8. Eight hours later, your yogurt is done! 

9.  Chill in the fridge and eat whenever you feel like it.

Home-made yogurt is way tastier and creamier, without all the added fuss of commercial yogurt, you'll never find yourself buying yogurt anymore, seriously.  Remember to set aside a few spoonfuls of yogurt (your starter) so you can always make a new batch when your yogurt runs out, and they do run out pretty quick as I tend to snack on them from time to time.

Didn't know making yoghurt was this easy. 

yoghurt + raisins +  almonds +  mango = bliss


February 6, 2014

Superfood or Not Superfood | Bursting the Myth Through an Interactive Infographic

If you're like me, I'm suspicious of various health claims of superfoods.  You don't just get to throw the word super around.  You have to back it up with studies and evidence, else everyone will be munching/guzzling too much of the wrong/useless thing in hopes of good health. 

Fortunately, the folks at Information is Beautiful has created a wonderful interactive infographic that lets you know how various superfoods stack up against each other.  The whole thing looks like a series of suspended bubbles, arranged according to the strength of scientific evidence.  You can even filter the foods according to health benefits (ageing, anti-cancer, sex, digestion, diabetes etc.), and there's even additional notes you can read regarding each superfood.   Next time you're out shopping, you already know if that goji berry juice is really worth getting (answer: No).

As for coffee, that glorious cup of coffee, don't worry it gets a good rap here.

February 5, 2014

How to Lose Weight Climbing Mother's Garden in Baguio and Gain It Back

Cozy, organic restaurant Mother's Garden is tucked in a quiet residential community called Upper Fairview in Baguio, very out of the way of tourists.  We only got to know about it after watching Ang Pinaka last December--they were doing a top ten list of Baguio's best new restos, and Mother's Garden was there.   

We got there by commute which was easy enough; we just asked the jeepney driver to drop us off near the gas station, which he did, and then we simply asked around.  Big mistake.  We had to climb for a good ten minutes from the base of the road, a grueling hike that shaved about 2,000 calories from my system.  The Upper Fairview should have been a clue--in Baguio, when they append "Upper" to place's name, they're not kidding.  We used to live in Upper Cogcoga in La Trinidad, which was a 500+ step (we counted) and 45 degree incline from the base of the highway. 

Climbing with weights: on the way to Mother's Garden in Upper Fairview

Later we realized we should have gotten off the jeep a few more meters further on, which would have saved us the steep climb.  But anyway, we didn't mind too much, me and Edge are such mountain goats. 

Frutti di Mare (PhP 239).  Not a big fan of the cheese, whatever it's called--it stank a bit which is proof that it's real good cheese.  On the other hand, it's got lots and lots of pepper, which is just the way I want my pasta.  Boobay the comedian-host in Ang Pinaka who interviewed the restaurant's owner Therese Jison, took a bite of this and remarked "Mmmm, Al dente!", which was of course not even a polite way of complimenting a pasta dish, especially in front of the resto's owner.  Their banter was hilarious though, and it was one of the reasons I picked Mother's Garden out of those ten in the list.

Mother's Garden Salad (PhP 209).  I learned two things about this salad.  One is: so this is how nasturtiums look like (Back in my high school days, I got hold of some nasturtium seeds, but never got to make them thrive.)  And two: drizzling the dressing over the salad will just ruin everything--a soaked gooey flower isn't very nice to look at.  The technique, you spoon the dressing on the plate first, then arrange everything on top of that.  The result: a hearty salad that not only looks wonderful but is actually very delicious.  Plus, we saw one of the staff in the garden picking the lettuce leaves and flowers for the salad just minutes before it materialized into this colorful potpourri on our plate, so that's freshness for you.

Sicilian Chicken.  I suspect this could have been another hearty dish had we just eaten it right away--the steam had fully vanished by the time we sank our teeth in.  Also, the fact that our small party of two was already full compromised our ability to appreciate it.  Even so, it was surprisingly good.  The chicken's tender, peppery, and smells good, and anything with olives, we're in.  We were told the bell pepper was just an afterthought.  The staff wanted to skip the bell pepper as they were out of the stuff, but the owner insisted on no shortcuts.  Raw juicy bellpeppers, we're in as well.

Liempo.  I can never be fully vegetarian with Edge around, so Liempo it is.  While we wandered the spacious grounds of Mother's Garden (I had a feeling almost everything in their menu is sourced right there--from the strawberries to the dill to the red radishes, etc.  Ms. Jison even pointed out her curry tree which came all the way from India--so wow, that's where we get our curry, from the seeds in the tree's flower--so anyway, as we were wandering around, that glorious smell of liempo on the stove drifted everywhere, like a big tease that just won't tell you how much longer till lunch is served.  Despite the aroma, Edge says it was pretty standard fare.  Anyway, liempo is liempo, you can't say much about it.  One nice thing about the liempo at Mother's Garden though was the vinegar sauce--I forgot if it was Sukang Iloko or Sukang Paombong, but Ms. Jison said they have a secret mix for that.

There was a Peach Melba too, (which Wikipedia says has been around since 1892)--Edge mentioned to my shock that it was my birthday three days ago--I'm not fond of birthday celebrations, but the owner still wanted me to have my dessert, so thank you, Ma'am.  I promptly scooped a bite before I can remember to snap a pic.  Mission accomplished: we've regained our calories, and we're pumped up for whatever Upper that lies ahead.

* * *
From time to time, Ms. Jison would come to our table and make small talk.  This is a beautiful woman with a lovely glint in her eyes, won't hesitate to tell you she's already sixty, and has loads of stories to tell you.  I've never liked the word groovy (it sounds like a carpentry term, but Ms. Jison is perhaps one of those groovy lolas you wish you were bestfriends with.  I can tell she's friends with her daughter--she mentions they squabble over wearing each other's shoes.  In this respect, it was a good thing we were the only guests that afternoon.  Sunday apparently was their lean day since everyone else was leaving Baguio on Sundays and heading back to Manila. 

We ask her if her favorite color happens to be black, judging from her army of three black dogs and a lone pot of defiantly black petunia (very nice).  No, she wasn't wearing black, and those were lousy criteria for guessing a person's favorite color, so no, black isn't her color at all.  It just so happened that her other batch of dogs, the light-colored ones, were here yesterday.  They're color-coded that way.  As for the petunia, the seeds came from Germany, and it's supposed to be blacker than that.  She had to smuggle them seeds inside her bra because you know the bureau of customs, they take away seeds, and gadgets, and stuff.

At this point we wish we had bras too, for smuggling various plant seeds into the country.  Then again, we've never flown out of the country, so I guess passports first before bras.  Ms. Jison tells us she travels to "get to know people".  This is a very good advice: some people travel to shop, she travels to get to know people--and spirit some seeds away as well.  Of course, it's very likely she shops too, then gets to know people, but whatever.

While she's been talking I realize why we should have never left Baguio back in 2010.  She has one piece of advice for us, enjoy life as much as we can, which is as clich├ęd as it can get, but then she reinforces that with another advice "Don't save," which is a new one of course.  Her point is, don't work your ass off too much trying to save for retirement.  Enjoy life while you still have your knees.  She's seen people in other countries with no concept of life, just work, work, work.

I wish we had left Mother's Garden on a good note, considering the very lovely meal and hearty conversation with our host, but that afternoon John who served our table discovered her dog Brutus was dead some two hours ago since we came in.  Brutus's a big black furry dog, eleven years old (approximately 77 in human years), and sleeps on the bed with the owner, so now Ms. Jison had just lost a friend and a bedmate.  I've witnessed my share of dead/dying dogs and it's never easy seeing someone lose theirs.  Me and Edge comfort her as best as we could, and then politely exit while the Baguio cold was still bearable.


January 25, 2014

Recreating the Perfect Carbonara

What the dish looked like minutes before I gobbled everything on the plate.

I don't know what hocus pocus my sister did, but this has got to be the best carbonara I've ever tasted.  This was last New Year's Eve.  We had no bacon, so she used ham instead, which I think was just as good.  Everything else is just the way the Italians would have it I suppose.

The thing with carbonara is it's always a hit or miss affair.  It's supposed to be a simple, no-frills pasta dish, but its very simplicity is what makes it devilishly hard to perfect. 

So what makes the perfect carbonara?  I have two simple requirements: creamy sauce with no eggs curdling to ruin the consistency, and lots and lots of freshly ground black pepper and chili flakes.  My sister is not a big fan of pepper, those red and black flecks aren't her doing but mine. 

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