Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vegetarian Smorgasboard…yes, we have it in Cebu!

Partly to be blamed for my bloated body shape right now aside from admittedly having an appetite for almost anything edible, are the thriving eat-all-you can restaurants in the city that offers extensive variety of mouthwatering dishes. Not even a fairly-priced buffet in the city would hinder me from trying and getting a “fullfilling” experience. I would never forget the over-indulgence I did in Café Marco (Marco Polo) – I started when the restaurant opened at 6:00pm and ended when the restaurant closed at 10:00pm. Don’t try to imagine how big my stomach expanded for it was a sad sight to behold. Fast forward today, I carefully choose what I eat as I was alarmed on the result of my recent annual medical examination. I instantly decided on that day that I will no longer eat anything that is high in cholesterol. No more red meats. No more eat-all-you can.

One day, I was invited by a friend Cinmayii (a sanskrit name) who happen to be a Margi (members of Ananda Marga) to try their vegetarian buffet. They have been doing this once a month for several months already but it was my first time to know such. Food is exclusively prepared and cooked by a vegetarian chef. They (Margis) are vegetarians who avoid some food ingredients in cooking like garlic, onions, mushrooms and eggs to mention a few. With this, I assume their food would taste much different from any restaurants in Cebu that offer vegetarian options. I was imagining how a dish would taste like without garlic and onions or what could instead be used as an alternative. I am more than interested on what it is like to indulge on everything vegetarian!

We arrived in their gathering place just in time the Margists finished their meditation. We were greeted by Dada, a respected high priest dressed in orange robe. I felt a little strange when we were accomodated inside the room – the way they dressed, the way they greeted us, the arrangement of the room, as if we were transported in a Hindu setting – pillows are everywhere, and all of us sat “yoga style” on the floor. It was my first time to mingle on that kind of crowd, but later I felt comfortable knowing that we went there just for the food. And then there was a table with calderos and big serving platters full of different dishes! That sight reminded me of a town fiesta, where food is being served right on its own caldero, very Pinoy yet in a Hindu-like atmosphere! Another one-of-a-kind experience.

Before I lined up to help myself, I asked some members who were helping in the table about what were those dishes and how it was prepared. It seemed however that nobody knew exactly what were those dishes. They pointed me to Hitendra (a Sanskrit name), the vegetarian chef but he was too busy assisting other guests. Without nobody to answer me, I sat down on the floor and just enjoyed every dish. Yes I tried all that were served! Among all the dishes that lined up in the table, I found the vegemeat barbecues awesome... it tasted like real meat!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Visayas Blogging Summit 2011: Cooking up OPPORTUNITY for starters

This five-month old blog is a newbie in blogosphere. Conceived with lofty ideals, added with a little know-how on the techie side plus a ton of passion, this blog came into existence. Just like anybody else, I share the same difficulties of painfully starting from a scratch. Most of the time I’m lost and don’t know where to run for tech advise and support. Good thing I came across the Visayas Blogging Summit 2011 while I searched for something that can be of help.

I am glad there is such thing as a convergence of all like-minded individuals in the world of blogging. Indeed this is more than a good news for me. With just a week more to go, I am as eager as I can get to be with the crowd, and excited to learn as many as I can on that day from the world-class speakers and experienced bloggers. I have lots of things running on my mind and need to get answers from this summit. I am enthusiastic on engaging with fellow bloggers: the best advice woould be coming from their time-tested learning experiences. I am hoping this would be an open venue for sharing great tips and ideas.

This huge event is all an OPORTUNITY. To those who have been ahead of me, it’s a time to expand networks and build new relationships. It is also an opportunity to look and consider innovation and change. And for us new comers (not late bloomers), this is an occasion for learning and growth. The topic on social media etiquette is apt and timely for us starters; we need to be guided with the basic standards of social responsibility and ethics. And I know there will be a lot installed for us…there’s more to learn in blogging!

In this summit, there is room for everyone. Let's fire up this blogging revolution and help change the Visayas landscape. Newcomers and starters, it’s never too late to make your presence heard and felt in the blogosphere!

Don’t forget to hit this link to register. Tug along a friend, a neighbor, an officemate or classmate and let’s make this summit an occasion for learning and advancement. See you on the 26th of November at SM City Cebu Trade Hall 1. Be early to avail of freebies! Registration starts at 7:00am.

This event, the biggest gathering for social media in our country is made possible by our very own Cebu Bloggers Society (hmmmm….seems interesting to be one of them!). My salute to them, they just don’t know how they made me smile with hope in this technically mind-boggling blogging world. Get full details of the Visayas Blogging Summit 2011 in this link.

Its never too late to start blogging. This summit will always remind us that we just need to get started!

See you!

Links to organizers and all sponsors:

Main Organizer: Cebu Bloggers Society

Silver Sponsors: Coffee Dream, Bo's Coffee, Crimson Resort and Spa, Harolds Hotel, Hero Sausages and Honeycomb Finance Consultancy

Bronze Sponsors: Globe, Nokia and Pinoy Great Deals

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pinoy Masterchef: The story of penne, aligue, and the live crabs

I know most of you would love to ask me what’s that dish that coveted the spot in the audition and why that dish?

I still can remember up to now the details of how I was in control of the interview. I greeted the five panelists, stated my name, my age, where I came from, where I am staying and what I am doing right now. I emphasized my being a civil engineer and worked in Cebu's top real estate company to give them a hint I don't have any culinary background. And then I introduced my piece:

“I prepared today a tomato-based pasta named ‘penne in rich aligue sauce with grilled tomatoes and bell peppers.’ What’s so unique with this dish is, I used only the freshest tomatoes and I do away from using the commercial pastes and sauces, plus I used the ‘real’ parmigiano reggiano cheese since I would like to create a real italian dish with a pinoy twist. The pinoy twist in the dish is the aligue. I had a hard time looking for this ingredient here in Cebu knowing that this is not a staple in this region. The crabs I used were alive and I cooked them just this morning for this dish. Youtube played an important role in how I properly executed the preparation of the live crabs. I also added grilled tomatoes because I am a tomato lover, it added texture to the dish. The grilled green peppers also added a new dimension in the aroma of the dish."

“Why this dish? It reminded me of two things: my childhood and my home in Gensan. Back in Gensan, we have lots of supply of fresh cheap crabs. Whenever we have crabs in the table, it is always a family feast. We all love crabs. The aligue paste reminded me of my childhood. Since my father is Kapampangan, the ‘taba ng talangka’ has always been a staple condiment in our table. It spruces up anything that is bland and dry. I missed my family in Gensan and it has been a while since the last time I went home. Preparing this dish makes me feel at home”

“Where did I learn how to cook? Well, I must say I am blessed that I came from a family with two different cultures. My father is Kapampangan, and all of us are required to cook. My mother hails from Iloilo, and they have different way in preparing dishes. We were taught young on how to cook”

I guess it was me who did not give an opportunity for the interviewers to ask questions. After having said those lines, they just tasted my dish, bade them goodbye and went outside. 

My winning recipe was first featured in the blog of my friend, Tiny Kusina.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pinoy Masterchef #1457: My audition story

Officially I'm breaking-in the news: that I got a spot in the Cebu leg of Pinoy Masterchef auditions. Yes, I am one of the hopefuls who tried my luck, queued and waited for my turn to be in the audition spotlight, braved all the cameras and without fear faced the audition judges! I can't just imagine myself doing this, yes I know what's running on your mind right now, you have so many questions to ask me, but to be honest with all of you, I don’t even know why I was there. I know all of you are ecstatic to know this news, but there’s nothing yet to celebrate about since this is just the Cebu leg of the audition (that was also the last of all scheduled auditions). I passed the two levels of audition and for now, I am waiting for that magical moment when ABS CBN will surprise me with the news that I will be included in the top 60 who will qualify to the reality show. I'm just crossing my fingers. Your prayers will help a lot!

So how it all begun? I really have no idea why I got into that picture. I love to cook and I have the heart for cooking but why would I go to that extent of joining reality TV shows. Until now I don’t have a clear answer. All I know is I want to cook. Long before ABS CBN bought the Masterchef franchise, I am already a big fan of cooking shows and of Masterchef to be specific. When the kiddie edition started, I just told myself I hope I can join the competition. Honestly speaking, I did a search for the audition schedule online however during the early days of the show, the Cebu leg has no date yet. But the intention was not serious, so the interest died down. I could not even think of a better dish to prepare.

I woke up one early Friday morning and turned my TV on. While doing some weight exercise in front of the TV, a one liner news flashed at the bottom of the TV screen: Masterchef Cebu audition on September 27, 2011, Tuesday 8:00 in the morning at Pacific Mall Mandaue. I couldn’t understand the excitement I felt that moment; I just told myself, why not give it a try, nothing will be lost on me. Including that day, I only have four days to prepare.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

BTC’s Streetfood Gourmet: Elevating ‘streetfoods’ to a higher level

Gourmet - /goor-mey/: epicurean, gastronmist, foodie, lover of foods (noun) or loving food or finer things (adjective).

I happen to pass by Banilad Town Center (BTC) one Saturday afternoon while on my way home and a one streamer grabbed my attention; it says “Gourmet Street Food. Saturdays 10:00pm to 2:00am”. I patiently waited for that late night to come and know what it was all about.
Gourmet Street Food is at the outside lobby of Banilad Town Center

I presupposed it was just a late night market of our all-time favorites cooked openly along the streets: charcoal-grilled pork or chicken barbeques, as well as other edible pork or chicken parts skewered on bamboo sticks. I was also thinking of tempura, the deep-fried orange-flour coated eggs, squidballs, and all the balls you can imagine. Or was it just another version of BGC’s Midnight Mercato that offers the same streetfoods but in a much cleaner and presentable way?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mercato Centrale and Midnight Mercato in Bonifacio Global City, what is Cebu’s version?

Community market or farmer’s market (or correctly termed community supported agriculture) are gaining popularity nowadays. Consumers now are well-informed than before, and if given an option, they would rather choose or buy foods directly from farmers - all that are local, seasonal and organically grown. Consumers now are more “responsible” on what they eat and how their decision or choices would affect the food chain. If you are keen observing what’s happening in our society, we are in a phase of time that is “going back to basics.”

Locally, we have the likes of Mercato Centrale in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig or Salcedo Community Market  or Legaspi Sunday Market both in Makati that are closest to the definition of a community market. Zooming-in here in Cebu, I wonder if we have  those versions.

 The blogger posing at the welcome streamer.

Last August this year, I had a chance to visit Mercato Centrale, in both its Sunday Organic Market and the late night food market (Midnight Mercato). This community market that opens
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