Friday, October 23, 2009

Sisig on My Mind

I can never give up sisig.

I do not eat the Kapampangan dish as often as I used to. Back in college, lunch was often sisig at the original Dencio's Grill in Katipunan where the sizzling bits of pork face was nice and crunchy, doused in Knorr seasoning, Mama Sita hot sauce and calamansi. Sometimes, after going to the gym in Ultra with my boyfriend at the time, we would ignore the cramped space and questionable hygene to have the famous, artery-clogging sisig at Aycee's.

Recently, Cookie Goddess had a craving of her own and invited me and a few friends to try out the sisig at Kebur which her friend highly recommends. Said friend is actually vegetarian, but he told her that when he feels like "cheating", he gets his fix by feasting on the pork dish. If its good enough to turn a vegetarian momentarily carnivorous, it must be pretty special. T-Boy, Sexcretary and I meet up at Cookie Goddess' house in Greenhills which is a few minutes away from Kebur. We decided to carpool since it was raining and some of us were not familiar with the area. When we found the street, we drove really slow, trying to find the signage of the restaurant. With our combined effort, we were able to spot it without passing it.

Kebur turned out to be a small carinderia, complete with Monoblock chairs and folding formica-topped tables. Lighting was quite dim with the soft glow of a TV visible from the outside. The crowd was mostly people from the neighborhood and a few working stiffs (both blue and white collared) who come to unwind for a meal and a few beers. When we arrived, the place was full, and we stood around for a minute looking around uncomfortably until we spotted a small table outside. Two gentlemen in their office attires graciously offered the chairs they did not need, and curiously chatted us up. They gave us valuable information on what to order and additional trivia regarding the place (apparently, a professional basketball team are regulars there).

As we sipped our beers, the sisig finally arrived. It was heaped generously on a sizzling plate, topped by a runny egg. No seasonings or hot sauce was given, so we just mixed the egg into the hot, hissing pork. We soon discovered that no additional seasonings were needed. The crispy little cubes were bursting with flavor, and if you must, only a dash of hot sauce should be added. It was perfect with the steamed rice and then washed down with the ice-cold beer. If you like your sisig crispy, this would be the ultimate.

Another dish that we were told to try was the Pita Pie- a pita bread topped with ground meat, onions, tomatoes, garlic sauce and cheese. Although not as crispy as I would have wanted it, it was still a pretty good dish. I mean, for a small carienderia in Quezon City, its quite an innovative effort.

Being a fan of keema (a middle-eastern dish of sauteed and seasoned ground beef), I thought we should also try Kebur's version. Their's came with a serving of pita slices and a side dish of the creamy garlic sauce. We thought it was just alright, something that would also work as a taco filling. Compared to the ones I have tried in other persian joints, this one just does not cut it.

After we were done with our meal and our beers, we quickly got up when we noticed a group of men looking for a spot for their drinking session. We wanted to have a few more drinks, but we were thinking of moving to more, shall we say, "comfortable" surroundings.

I would definitely go back to Kebur for the sisig and would recommend it to those who love the dish and would not mind a less elegant setting. Next time I would go earlier so I could get a nicer table inside.

20th Ave.
Project 4, Quezon City

(If going north-bound on EDSA, make a right on B. Serrano Ave. Go past the stoplight in front of the Fort Aguinaldo gate until you reach 20th Ave. Turn left and go all the way down around 50 meters. Kebur is on the right side, beside a karaoke bar called Tsikas.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bistro Food and "Green Wine"

I love attending wine pairing events. For people who love food as much as I do, its really the best way to have delicious food with really good wine at a reasonable cost. Others may balk at the price tag, but when you think about it, you get to taste wine that usually cost thousands of pesos per bottle perfectly paired with excellently-prepared dishes. So, in my opinion, its actually a steal.

Wine lovers always look forward to Sommelier Selection's France Wine and Food Festival 2009, which usually comes around near the end of the year. Its a chance for Sommelier big boss Jerome Philippon to showcase his wines and at the same time do pairings with dishes prepared by the restaurants he supplies to. Its always fun for me to check out the menus on their web site and see which event I would like to attend. This year, there was double the number of restaurants that participated, giving more variety to the followers of these events.

For those who regularly drop by my blog, you know that I love eating at Marc Aubry's Je Suis Gourmand. The bistro fare is delicious and authentic, the servings big enough to satisfy even the biggest of appetites. After every dinner there, I leave completely stuffed and happy.

I make a reservation for me, Matt, my parents and our Ninong Mac. Since Ninong Mac's wife cannot make it, home-alone Cookie Goddess was happy to join us. We were lucky to have gotten the last table available for the evening, as the resto was already fully-booked two weeks before the event. As we settled in, we were approached by Socky, a fellow blogger and food lover, who was dining at a table near us with a friend. It was so nice to finally meet her, since we are both regular attendees of Jerome's events and have never had the chance to bump into each other. Until this one.

The theme for the wines at this years festival was organic, showcasing Jerome's personal picks of wines that were farmed and produced in this manner. Organic farming, as defined in wikipedia, is "the form of agriculture that relies on crop rotation, green manure, compost, biological pest control... to maintain soil productivity and control pests, excluding or strictly limiting the use of synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides. As we later discovered through Jerome's guy, Victor, there are three levels of "organic" wines- natural, organic and bio-dynamic.

A wine is called "natural" when it is produced "organically" but has not been certified. "Organic", obviously, are those wines that have been produced through organic methods. Taking organic a bit further, "bio-dynamic" wines not only follow organic methods of farming, but also delve into the "spiritual" aspect of the vines as living organisms and integrate the lunar cycle into planting and harvesting. Its a bit more complicated than that, but that's basically it in a nutshell.

To start the evening, we were poured two kinds of easy-drinking wines: 2006 Bourgogne Aligote Domaine dela Saraziniere Clos des Bruyeres and a 2007 Cotes Marmandais Domaine Elian Da Ros (merlot, cabernet franc, abouriou).

Our first course was a Chilled Poached Salmon Couquille with Fine Macedione Salad and Raifort Mayonnaise , paired with a light a spritely rose from Provence, a 2007 Chateau de Roquefort Corail, which is a grenache and syrah blend. Less acidic than the Spanish roses that I'm used to, this wine had a bit more complexity and fruit but still is still a "fun" wine. I'd bring tons of this to the beach if only it was a bit cheaper.

My favorite dish of the night came next, which was the Veal and Chanterelles Ravioli with Watercress Sabayon. The filling of the ravioli was wonderfully meaty and aromatic, almost like a finer garlic sausage. It was delicious and tasty and left me wanting more. This dish was matched with a 2007 Crozes Hermitage from Domaine du Colombier, made from the marsanne grape. I was expecting a bit more weight with this wine, a bit more earthiness, but it fell a bit short, in my opinion. It was still an ok wine, but I would not pair it with the ravioli.

Matt and my dad were happy to see the next dish- Seared Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Chateaubriand Sauce and Turned Vegetables. The beef, although a bit overcooked for my taste, was just perfectly-done to my parents' preference, which is "not bloody". The sauce, in true JSG fashion, was lick-the-plate delicious. With this, they paired a 2007 Chateau Lagarette Tour Lagarette from Bordeaux, another red which was a bit too acidic for me.

The cheese course came in the form of the Honey Glazed Roquefort and Walnut Crepes. Being a slightly-sweetened dish, I was not surprised that they paired it with an off-dry wine- a 2006 Bott-Geyl "Les Elements" Pinot Gris from Alsace. I love this winemaker's whites and would buy cases of their Gewurztraminer if it was more affordable. Their Pinot Gris is equally beguiling, with rich honey notes complementing a fruity and herbal nose. This was a pretty good paring, but NFF Socky sent over a plate of Foie Gras which she said we should try with the Pinot Gris. She was right, it was a very good match, even bringing out more elements in the wine.

Before dessert, Matt and I had a blast chatting with Socky and her friend Cielo (Is that her name? I was beyond tipsy at this point.) about her recent trip to Germany and her new-found fondness for a certain Frankfurter beer. Socky, do not think we have forgotten your invitation to a beer tasting at your place!

Dessert was Mini Pears Poached in Wine Syrup with Pear William Ice Cream, paired with the same Pinot Gris. I just realized I forgot to take a picture of this dish. I love poached pears, and this one was quite the confection. Cookie Goddess loved the liqeur-spiked ice cream so much that she asked for more (and actually wanted to marry it). Chef Marc was kind enough to send her out two more scoops and promised to give her the recipe.

This was a lovely night spent with my parents, Ninong Mac, old friends and new ones. The white wines and the rose lorded it over the reds, in my opinion, and I promised Victor that I would order a few bottles from him (which reminds me, I should give him a call). Congratulations again to Jerome and to Chef Marc for a successful event (check out the other dinners at Sala, Cav, Lolo Dad's, etc. as well)! Aside from being a wonderful wine dinner, it was also quite educational on my part. I always thought that organic food products could not possibly be better than the traditonal ones, but I learned that- when it comes to wines, at least- it is fortunately not the case.

Sommelier Selection's France Food and Wine Festival 2009 is ongoing all throughout the month of October. Kindly check their web site ( for details.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Older and Hungrier: My Birthday

All my life, I have always looked forward to birthdays. Despite being born during the relatively overcast month of October, I would always request for a pool party as a child. I love the water, and nothing could be more fun than an entire day of splashing around in the pool with my sisters and cousins while the sticks of pork barbecue sizzled on the grill. Famished, my little hands pruney from being soaked in water for hours, us kids would feast on the grilled sticks of pork, Pinoy-style spaghetti, fried chicken and chocolate cake from Goldilocks topped with my favorite cartoon character of the moment.

When I outgrew the games and the chlorine, I would always throw parties for my friends. In high school, some friends and I would have joint celebrations of our birthdays. We would rent out some condo's penthouse, pitch in to buy booze and invite friends from our all-girl's school and our guy friends from other schools. Food at that time was not the priority- we would much rather spend our saved allowances (and birthday cash from our parents) on buying beer (remember Blue Ice?) and the dreaded/revered bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila. My old friends and I would chuckle when we recall our classic party fare of chicken lollipops, cornicks and- the centerpiece- cocktail hotdogs and marshmallows on toothpicks speared around a head of cabbage. Now that's some classic stuff!

When we moved to Makati, the larger space made it possible to have bigger parties. Food would be catered by my favorite restaurants, and then later on, by my sister Foxychef. Beer bongs and jello shots were later on replaced by martini bars and wine. Whatever it was that we were in the mood for, we made sure that we had it in abundance which would last us until the wee hours of the morning. Luckily, we had pretty cool neighbors who shared our penchant for revelry (or at least had a very high tolerance for it), so we never had problems of village security banging on our door.

Now, finally living on my own for the first time in my life, I suddenly long for the quiet mellow weekends with my family. I started my day with breakfast in bed prepared by Matt, a simple plate of my favorite breakfast fare: scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. The fact that my husband does not cook and loves to sleep in late made the meal taste even better.

Since my birthday fell on a Sunday, I decided to have our regular Sunday dinner at my pad instead. My parents brought some Angus rib-eyes for me to cook, and two kinds of paella from La Tienda (note: Thank you, Miguel, for ordering them for me!). Foxychef prepared some Iberian Chicken and our other sister, Queenbee, brought some Baked Salmon from Conti's. Since it was my birthday and did not want to spend it in the kitchen, I just prepared a simple cheese and coldcuts platter with Manchego and Saint Paulin cheeses, smoked tangigue, anchovy-stuffed olives and chistora.

Now I relish these quiet evenings with the family, just eating good food, sipping on drinks and enjoying the conversation around the table. My niece, Rianna, is the consummate entertainer, helping me set-up the meal before dinner and then, afterwards, keeping us in stitches as she sings and dances to her favorite songs by The Pussycat Dolls and Black Eyed Peas. She also took most of the pictures that night, and some were actually quite good.

I really enjoyed the evening and look forward to having another potluck dinner with the family. Good food, after all, is nothing without good company to share it with. I cannot thank God enough for giving me a wonderful family to have many more amazing meals to come.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Older and Hungrier: The Eve of My Birthday

Every year in the past I told myself that I will not celebrate my birthday, but somehow, for one reason or another, it pushes through. This year though, after the craziness that was my wedding, I decided it would mindlessly excessive to throw a big birthday party. Also, at the wake of the tragedy that tropical storm “Ondoy” bestowed upon the islands, it would also be in bad taste.

But, being the food addict that I am, I had to sneak in a few good meals somehow. At the eve of my birthday, my parents invited me, my sisters and the rest of our growing family to lunch at Senju. Out of all of the restaurants at Edsa Shangri-la, the Japanese restaurant is the only one we have not tried.

Despite not having a reservation, we were immediately seated at a teppanyaki table for 10. Being big fans of Japanese food, everyone had their favorites. Matt went bonkers over their sushi and rolls, so I decided to order something else. But what? Since I could not decide, I ended up ordering the “Sakura” set- a set menu which consisted of miso soup, sashimi, tempura, appetizer, beef roll, your choice of grilled fish, tuna and California roll, and dessert. Phew!

The miso soup arrived first, of course, piping-hot and very tasty. It contained generous cubes of tofu and seaweed.

I saved half a bowl to sip with the small platter of sashimi, which quickly followed. It was a pretty predictable combination of kani (crabstick), tuna and salmon, all of which I like. I always judge how good a Japanese restaurant is based on the freshness of its raw seafood (don’t we all?), and happily, theirs was quite fresh. The salmon almost melted like butter in my mouth, and the tuna was firm and perfectly cool.

Next to arrive was the prawn and vegetable tempura, along with the appetizer. The appetizer, which I suppose varies depending on the chef’s mood, was some sort of stewed fish, probably tuna or blue marlin. The tempura was done very well, with the batter light and airy, fried to a pretty golden yellow. The prawns were quite big, as expected from a hotel restaurant that is not scrimping on ingredients.

As the teppanyaki chef begins preparing some dishes before us, the platter containing my main course is set down before me. From the selection of grilled fish, I chose the Chilean sea bass to accompany the beef roll. For my side dish, I had two pieces each of tuna and California maki, as well as some cold soba topped with shredded nori. The sea bass was cooked to buttery perfection, nicely accented by the accompanying sweet sauce. The beef roll was pretty cold, so I just had a bite and ignored it for the rest of the meal.

While having my dessert of chocolate ice cream, the staff surprised me with a small cake and a birthday song. I believe it is worth noting that nobody told them directly that I was celebrating my birthday the next day. The server just picked up on our conversation and decided to give me a cake- one of the few instances that eves-dropping is ok.

After chilling out the rest of the afternoon, Matt and I headed to Sala for his birthday treat for me. It has been a while since we returned to the popular fine-dining resto, mainly because Matt was not impressed with the food the few times I dragged him there. I have read in other blogs that it has been taken over by chef Carlos Miguel and thought I should give it a try. Luckily, it was my birthday, and Matt did not have a say in it.

The small dining room is gorgeous, as usual. I like its modern French interiors and how the acoustics are perfect. Even the lighting is just right- not too bright that all your pores are visible, but bright enough for food pervs like myself to take good pictures.

To start, we were served a delicious and fragrant mushroom and truffle capuccino with a cheese stick.

I remember ordering the Prawn and Dill Souffle the last time I dined there a long time ago, and I just had to have it again. Now I remember why I loved it so much. The soufflé is light and fluffy, with little bits of prawn imbedded into its cushiony inside. The flavor of dill is unmistakable but not overbearing. The toasted cheese sauce around the soufflé is the perfect compliment-creamy but not too cheesy. Overall, a winner in most people’s books, since it is one of only a couple of dishes that is never removed from the constantly-changing menu.

For my main dish, I chose the Sous-vide Squab with Foie Gras and Potato Puree. The first time I had squab was in Pinot at The Venetian in Las Vegas and I remember enjoying it. It had the same texture of quail, but bigger. I like the gaminess of the meat and how exotic it tastes compared to poultry. The dish in Sala was also delicious, but I have to admit I was surprised to see two tiny bird’s legs on my plate. It looked more like a Maya bird (the Philippines’ national bird, around three inches from beak to tail) than a squab, or at least compared to the one I had at the Venetian. Although disappointed by the size, the flavors were still quite enjoyable. The combination of the “squab” (I still think it could be a Maya bird) and foie gras was pure decadence, and the potato puree was milky and rich. You cannot blame me for wishing the bird was bigger.

With our meal, I brought a bottle of German Riesling that I ordered from Zachy’s on-line. It had a very nice, approachable character- off-dry, citrusy, which later on became a bit more complex. It went very well with soufflé and, later on, even with the dessert.

We chose to have our dessert outside- a yummy rhubarb crème brulee- which our server quietly brought out with a candle. Matt, expecting a song from the servers, looked back at the counter with a puzzled look. Before he storms up to the manager demanding a birthday song, I told him, “I don’t think they’re allowed to sing because it might bother the other customers”. Totally understandable, being the super-cool and chic resto that Sala truly is. They’re not TGI Friday’s, that’s for sure.

After dinner, a few old friends of mine with their significant others (and now good friends of mine, too) came over to the pad to have a few drinks with us. It was a nice change from the usual boozefest where everything goes by in a blur and some parts are even forgotten. The evening ended at a decent hour, just a couple of hours past midnight, our age quite obvious at this point. It was just about right for me, since I did not want to be tired and hungover for my actually birthday. I knew there was more to come, and I had to be ready for it.

Edsa Shangri-la Hotel,
Ortigas Center , Mandaluyong City
Tel no. (632) 6338888

Sala Restaurant
Poduim level Locsin Building
Ayala cor. Makati Ave., Makati City
Tel. no. (632) 7501555