Wednesday, January 23, 2008


It has often been said - "When in Rome , do as the Romans do"

But when in Singapore - eat chicken rice ...
Chicken rice is considered a "national dish"
It is prevalent in almost all food stalls, hawker sites and food courts
It has found a revered place in the menu of the prestigious Singapore Airlines
And is identified as part of the nations ethnic foods in international expositions and trade shows.
Singapore is chicken-rice crazy

Also known as "Hainanese Chicken Rice" because of its origins in Hainan, China - this Singaporean staple is served unassumingly with various dips that include chili, ginger, soy sauce or oyster sauce.
Eaten very informally , it is the centerpiece of a typical Singaporean meal.

So in keeping with doing as the Singaporeans do -
We (a wild bunch of rowdy, hungry friends and family), headed towards what the locals themselves consider to be one of the best.
Boon Tong Kee is a chicken rice chain with origins in Singapore's Chinatown during the late 1970's.
It has since grown into one of the most respected and more popular chicken rice destinations with outlets scattered in strategic locations in the city

The chicken dish itself is not much to look at
But it is really deliciously tasty
Smooth, juicy chicken with a sweetish tinge
Soft, springy, tender
Served with slightly sticky,broth flavored rice
With hot hot hot chili sauce or a tamer soy sauce/ginger dip.

Eat with a passion over the noise level of constantly conversing Singaporeans,
This place is usually packed to the point of sidewalk overflow.
Discovering a city at its best,
I love it

When in the city of the merlion
Forget the upscale touristy restos for a day
Be one of the locals
Make a beeline for Boon Tong Kee
Immerse yourself in the joys of chicken rice
It is chicken "for the soul" ....

Boon Tong Kee
425 River Valley Road
Tel. - 6736 3213

Monday, January 21, 2008

Powerful It Was

It was not the best time to fly on a Philippine airline.
The newspapers were screaming about how the US FAA had downgraded the Philippine aviation industry to "Category 2" - in the company of Bangladesh, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

For someone like me, who has always been inherently afraid of flying - it was to be a leap of great faith to take this "optional" trip - at this time.
It would take something powerful to get me to go ...

And powerful it was .
The son of my sister-in-law was marrying the girl with whom he had had an "on and off " relationship of many years.
He was the ringbearer in my own wedding once upon a long time ago.
His wedding was to be held in Singapore.
I was to be one among the "godparents"

Gosh - where has all the time gone?
There was so much I wanted to say ...
But time, fleeting rapidly as it does - had overtaken me

I watched this "little boy" grow from a playful impish waif cavorting in the buff as ocean waves lapped under his feet
Watched as his toddler eyes popped at the sight of Christmas goodies
Ran to his side when his growing but frail little body burned with fever
Smiled in amusement as he scaled the ladder of education despite a lazy academic demeanor
Laughed knowingly as his adolescent episodes of hormonal rush revealed themselves
Stood back - amazed as he intuitively learned how to dismantle and assemble automobiles
Admired the development of a quiet but effective business manner
Appreciated his uncanny ability to command the loyalty of people around him
Suffered quietly as his heart broke
Flushed with excitement as it mended

Silently supporting his initiatives for independence
While insinuating a sidebar of wisdom
Allowing him the benefit of my years of experience
Without encumbering him with the weight of intervention or supervision

Loving him from a distance
As I do all my nephews and nieces
As I do all who I have had the honor to be "godfather" to
As I do all of my "family" ...

I have become perhaps Sicilian in that sense
For I have painfully learned in my own life
That when the chips are down
And walls are crumbling around you
True refuge is to be found ... only in family
In those who have loved you simply because you are

I watched as the couple gazed into each others eyes
With knowing smiles on their faces
Hands in each others hand
Hearts in each others heart
A tear welled in my eye ..

I watched the "little boy" slowly waltz away
Slowly float away
Slowly fade away
Into a life of his own ...

They turned to each other
The strains of a wonderful choir in the air
The glint of sunshine reflected in their loving gazes
His parents looked on quietly- wanting to hold on, but knowing it was time to let go
A lump formed in my throat
The tear in my eye slowly trickled down my cheek ...

I thank them for allowing me the privilege of standing as "ninong".
It is a trust I take seriously.
As they leave behind the struggle of getting what they want - to face the challenge of wanting what they got
I resolve to be there for them ...
To be their refuge
To be their confidante
To be their adviser
To be their friend
To be family ...

I do it with all sincerity

In the spirit of the song that was the center of their vows ...
I do it ...
"never with sadness,
always with gladness
I do... "

Good luck mga anak
Dito lang ako kung kailangan nyo ako
God Bless you both always

Ninong Dagul

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Will Never Know

I was in the Greenbelt area of Makati
Killing time
Doing some "scientific" research

People watching

Well ...

Ok, ok - it was more of female watching

But it was science ....


Studying anatomy

Appreciating gaits and sways

Analysing hip to waist ratios

Calculating mathematical relationships between chest size and smile frequency

Memorizing leg contours

Focusing on geometric pelvic angles
Assigning margins of error to the refractory effect of soft textile hugging undulating curves

Just basic scientific work
Not the kind of work that excites me ...

But it did make me hungry
Suddenly - I was thinking about luscious, mouthwatering oysters
I have no idea at all why

But I just was ...

Luckily- Greenbelt is home to
Mr. Rockefeller
Another showcase of Chef Melissa Sison (whose successes include Salumeria and MYLK),

Mr. Rockefeller is an upgraded version of the more mainstream Oyster Boy chain (with whom Chef Melissa is apparently "partnered")

This quaint but somehow sophisticated resto is an oyster-lovers destination.
Surrounded by bleached and distressed wood, paired with oyster shell decor - one is immediately calmed into the mood of easy, casual, relaxed dining

I started with their star appetizer, Five Layer Nachos - corn kernel nachos with a wonderful multi-ingredient salsa based dip
"A glass of wine please ..."

Their oyster menu is formidable
Fresh, grilled, steamed ...
Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters Tempura, Oysters Pesto
French Onion Oyster, Oysters Pizza Ole, Oysters Quatrro Formaggio
Oyster Ceviche, Oyster di Parma, Oysters Aioli
Oyster Bleu, Swiss Miss (Gruyere) Oysters and more

"Another glass of wine pleaaaaaase"

I chose Oysters topped with a mango salsa and caviar
And paired this with a yummy Mrs. Rockefeller's Pasta a la Oglio ("sauted in garlic, capers and black olives")
"Can you just leave the bottle of wine here pleaaaaaaaaaase ..."

I took it all in
Slow and easy
Savoring every flavor
Remembering every joyous bite
As the juices moistened my hungry lips ...

Afterwards, as I was leaving the resto - the very amiable co-owner "Yong" reminded me that both the oysters and the caviar I had just had were considered aphrodisiacs.
Hahaha - why did he feel that he had to remind me of that?

Could it be because my eyes popped out and my jaw dropped everytime the curvaceous lady
server poured my wine?
Or was it the way my head bobbed as a top-heavy female floated by my table?
I guess I will never know ............

All I know is that I clearly enjoyed the meal

Light, tasty and interesting
Portions - just right
In a cozy, romantically lit place

Try it
Bring a date
Don't waste the oysters

Mr. Rockefeller
2/F Greenbelt 3
Ayala Center, Makati
Tel - (63-2) 757-4802

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Little Boys

Remember the Vendo machine?
Drop a coin, press a button and out comes your choice of a soda, chocolate bar, sandwich or whatever
... (and if it didn't, just kick the damn machine in the hope that it might)

Well - that wonderful self-serve for the masses concept has come to the high end world of wine, in a very high tech and much more reliable way ...
Yes my dear - wine vending machines !!!
The pioneer of the concept in Manila, is a high end resto/bistro that has been put up at the Fort's Bonifacio High Street

Aptly named CAV to reflect its focus on wines - this new place is currently in "training mode" ... really a soft opening of sorts
At the helm is Chef Marcus Gfeller - fondly remembered for starting the fine-dining scramble in Metro Manila a decade ago by his involvement in Grassis and then in Soleil - both highly successful fine dining ventures

This time , he has partnered to put up a wine bar-restaurant with the characteristically sophisticated and contemporary food offering in a wonderfully designed dining destination, that is expected of him.

The food is gourmet delicious and I will post about it at some other time.
Presently, I bring attention to CAV's added value, novelty, or niche, which is in its offering the ability to wine-taste through automated vending.

How does it work?
Well - you would be issued a VIP "card" with an embedded chip
The chip would be programmed to reflect your prepaid or predetermined credit limit
Then you would go to the machine
Insert your card
Press the corresponding tasting portion, half serving or full serving buttons for a choice of bottled-displayed wine
And voila, out comes your wine portion straight into a wine glass that you would be holding in the proper place
Your card would then be debited the proper amount
All automatically
Simple and really "kewl" ...

Wine lovers will love this "toy" which allows one to sample several varieties in different portions without necessarily being tied down to having to buy one bottle. The machine keeps the wines at perfect temperature, and sucks out the oxygen (to avoid oxidation which spoils the wine in open bottles ), and replaces it with an inert gas for preservative purposes.

It also encourages wine education - as one would have to learn a little about wines to make better choices. It does not of course replace the wine list for those who may want to order wine traditionally or to explore CAVs on-site walk-in wine room.

But boys will be boys ... and this wine-vending gizmo is one of the best toys to get that little boy hiding in a big boys body, out to the bar ... to taste wine, to educate themselves and of course to impress the ladies

This is as sophisticatedly cultured, a jungleman like me can get.
Tarzan have VIP card - me pick wine
Jane impressed ??

I'll drink to that

@Bonifacio High Street
Taguig,Metro Manila

Thursday, January 10, 2008


My insomnia continues ...
I had hoped that the New Year would find me having solved this sleepless dilemma
But noooooooo - 2 a.m - still awake
And hungry

I was reading a book that said that the nocturnal hunt for food by the insomniac is a search for satisfaction that would signal the end of the day
Huh ?
I thought that was ... sex
But then again, I look over to my side ... see my wife ... asleep like a zombie in a B movie
(she goes to sleep in one position and wakes up in the same spot, same position - an immovable, petrified statue) ...
And I realize that I would really rather have the food

So where did tonights search bring me?
To the corner of Makati Avenue and Jupiter St.
There lies a new 24 hour spot ...
MANG INASAL - "home of real pinoy style barbeque"
One in a chain of franchise locations , this is where I have lately gotten that late night, fast, affordable gastronomic kick that I look for

According to the foodvine, Mang Inasal (the resto) started in Iloilo and is now up to "42 branches nationwide and growing".
"Inasal" is generally thought of as an Ilonggo food specialty.
It is visually marked by a mouthwatering reddish tint (apparently due to the use of achuete or anatto seeds somewhere in the recipe) ...
And the characteristic charcoal "blackening"
Plus a smell that attracts like a Pied Piper and presages a pulutan type of jumping into the fray

This is a fun dish.
Choose your chicken part -pecho (chicken breast), paa (drumstick), atay (liver), iwi (chicken bottom), and baticulun (gizzard)
It is served with chicken-oil flavored rice wrapped in banana leaf
Challenge your taste buds with patis, suka or toyo (with or without kalamansi)
Very unpretentious
Just purely pinoy food that is eaten with the informality and camaraderie that is the stuff of pinoy barkada eating

Just right - for those late night enders
In a location that makes for interesting people-watching (being that it is a stones throw away from Makati's redlight strip)
Juicy chicken ...
And juicy "chicks" ....

Mang Inasal
cor. Makati Avenue and Jupiter St.
City of Makati

Monday, January 07, 2008

Happeeeee New Year

Checking in folks ....

I took a Christmas break ...
Actually I ate, I partied and then I slept
Yup -slept for most of the Christmas break
I slept so much that I got sick as soon as the New Year hit
Flu season -I guess
Fever, cough, colds and the body aches of an old man
What a way to start the year

It was a fun New Years eve despite ...
Ate dinner at one of my fave places
Had an arroz caldo "media noche" ...
Playfully dodged firework debris as the skies lit up
Then drove to my sister-in-laws house for a party that lasted till the morning

My 1st profound thought of the year came from the manufacturers of the party poppers that we used as part of the evenings celebrations
"Party poppers" are cylindrical hand held devices that spray multi-colored confetti into the air when you turn the knob at the bottom of the cylinder
It is a wonderfully playful party effect
Imagine confetti - popping or spraying from a cylinder ....

Popping or spraying from a cylinder ...
Uhmmmmm - if I had a Freudian mind - I would say that that is almost pornographic
But we are better than that - right?
More educated
Not so intellectually lewd

Well -the manufacturers of the party popper played safe
They put a warning as part of the instructions - just in case your mind and thoughts might meander down the green green path of pleasure
Ladies - pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase - be careful

Hahahahaha - happeeeeeee new year