Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Off On My Next Trip!

Pardon my absence for the next two weeks as I'm setting out on my next food and travel adventures! This time, I'm hosting my best friend around the Philippines! We'll be eating around Manila and flying out for some R&R to Boracay, Cebu and Bohol!

But don't worry! I won't be completely out of your lives! I'll be posting pictures on Foodicles' Facebook and Twitter pages of foods that I'll encounter during my trip. So check those out each day!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Claude Tayag's Bale Dutung

Compared to other cities like Hong Kong, Madrid, Tokyo, and even Manhattan and San Francisco, Manila's food scene hasn't really blown me away. These cities are my top five food cities because of the quality of the food through the freshness of the ingredients and the consistency of the creations. The food here is great, but it isn't as stimulating and trendsetting. There is great potential, though! I knew it existed somewhere. And, boy, did we find it! I fell in love with eating in the Philippines at Claude Tayag's Bale Dutung (Kapampangan for "Wood House"). Claude and Bale Dutung was featured in Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. He took Bourdain around Pampanga and also treated him to see and taste his masterpieces. He's an artist and a chef, and he excels in both crafts. This place and this afternoon food feast are definitely a destination if you love food!

Claude only serves his food for lunch about once a week or so (so call ahead to find out the schedule and to reserve!). Also, the meal itself is paced so you can eat more and more - so prepare for a four hour food marathon. We chose to go on a day when he was serving his "Lechon Five Ways" Menu. Amazing. I cannot wait to go back for more afternoons like this one.

The Introduction to Bale Dutung
These are pictures taken of his property and of his art. Adding to the pleasure of eating his cuisine, the atmosphere which is filled with his art adds a classic native Filipino feel. It's like a getaway food retreat. His wife, Mary Ann, was the perfect hostess, too! She was so friendly to every guest. Claude and Mary Ann make a great team!
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The Table Setting and Condiments
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The Amuse Bouches
We were served pre-Lechon Five Ways courses. In other words, to get our stomachs ready to eat, we ate. Check out the "Notes" for more descriptions and comments on each of the pictures.
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The Lechon Preparations
When we first arrived, we walked around and found the kitchen and prep area. They were already getting the lechon ready! And, after our Amuse Bouches/Appetizers, Claude wheeled out the lechon. We were all totally ready for the main event!
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Lechon: The First Way
Balat ng Lechon at Liver Sauce. The classic lechon skin with lechon sauce. What a great way to start! Thin and crispy with a great tasting sauce. We asked for seconds and thirds.
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Lechon: The Second Way
Fried Lechon Flakes Binalot sa Tortilla. Lechon flakes with a variety of toppings (tomatoes, onions, kimchii, cilantro, and pesto sauce) wrapped in a tortilla. This reminded me of being back in California with the love of Asian inspired tacos. So much fun! Lechon flakes and kimchii - yum!
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Lechon: The Third Way
Sinigang na Lechon. Filipino soup with lechon, the hind, leg, and skin cuts. I've had some great homemade sinigangs, and some mediocre sinigangs outside of the house. This dish was soo good! Definitely the best I've had outside of the house, and even rivals the ones made at home. The rich broth tasted so delicious from the cuts of the lechon and the sour kamias, which cut the fat of the pork. And because he used the roasted pig for the sinigang, there was no pork smell when we were eating our bowls. I could've had a couple more bowls of this!
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Lechon: The Fourth Way
Inihaw na Tadyang na Lechon at Ensalandang Talong. Grilled Lechon Ribs with Eggplant. The eggplant was dressed with a salted egg and some salsa. Such a great smoky, grilled taste! The ribs are so thin that you can eat a few of them. Nice simple plating, too.
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Lechon: The Fifth Way
Inasadong Pata ng Lechon. Braised Leg of Lechon. Tasty, but for the last course it didn't "wow" me. It was a bit too Westernized especially with the garnishes of green beans, carrots, and potatoes, so I was kind of disappointed. It's the kind of dish that you'd find during an American holiday. But the tenderness was definitely nice. I guess I was hoping for that consistency of Filipino and Asian dishes.
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The Dessert
Kapeng Sinaunang Panahon. First Pressed Coffee. I actually found my cup of coffee to be pretty weak and watery for my palate. I like my coffee strong, and I mean, Peet's Major Dickason's strong.
Pastillas de Leche. Candied Carabao's Milk. Topped with Yema, Ube, and Macapuno...Just when I thought I couldn't have any more food in my stomach...I was even thinking, "I'll just have a couple bits." I had a couple servings. Wow, what a way to finish the afternoon! The taste of the sweetened carabao's milk is amazing, and the smooth creamy texture melts your insides. I scraped each serving clean.
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Modernized Filipino Cuisine

I love it when restaurants properly sophisticate Filipino cuisine. When it is done well, Filipino food has great potential to be as mainstream as Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. In a second visit to Chef Laudico Bistro Filipino, the restaurant proved to be consistent. We even had the fortune of meeting the husband and wife chef team.

Prito Trio
Crispy Fish, Shrimps and Squid served with 3 Dipping sauces (Garlic Aoili, Pinakurat Soy Glaze and Crab Roe Cream. Definitely an appetizer to share. Tasty and full of bold seafood and acidic flavors!

Ubod Spring Roll
Crispy Lumpia Cone Filled with Chorizo, Prawns and Ubod topped with Spicy Vinegar Sorbet. Yum! Crispy on the outside and great full tastes inside. The vinegar sorbet provided great contrasts of acid and chill.

Milk Fish Souffle
Smoked Milk Fish and Keso de Bola Souffle in Whole Tomato served with Salad Greens in Paksiw Vinaigrette topped with Fried Bangus Belly. Delicate flavors of milk fish.

Trio of Soups
Prawn Sinigang Martini - Cold Prawn Sinigang Gelee poured with Hot Lemongrass Coconut Cream garnished with Seared Prawns
Paella Arroz Caldo - Saffron Rice Porridge garnished with Grilled Chicken, Squid and Chorizo
Shiitake Mushroom Cappuccino - Adobo Shiitake Mushroom Puree topped with Creamy Garlic foam drizzled with White Truffle Oil

US Angus Beef Kare-Kare
Slow Roasted US Beef Short Plate in Kare-Kare Sauce with Stuffed Banana Heart, Grilled Eggplant Chutney and Steamed Petchay. Tender beef and a tasty peanut sauce! I love the plating, too!

Binagoongan Crispy Pata
Boneless Crispy Pork with Creamy Bagoong Sauce served with Grilled Onions, Tomatoes and Asparagus with Garlic Turmeric Rice. My brother was still in town, so this was our continuation of ordering crispy pata. A solid plate of pig knuckles, but still not as good as Azuthai.

Halo Halo Napolean
Layers of Ube Tuille and Poached Native Fruits and Beans in Fresh Carabao Cream Sorbet. I love this twist on classic halo halo! The tuille layers and the carabao cream sorbet are delicious. I only wish that there were more native fruits and beans.

Deconstructed Sans Rival
Layers of Dayap Meringue and Pastry Crème on Chilled Mango Soup Splashed with Grand Marnier Orange Liqueur. The meringue was like a large, chewy French macaron. That was tasty, but the rest of the dessert was too sweet for my palate.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Finding a Plan B

A spontaneous day trip to Pampanga! We planned to have lunch at Abe's Farm (pronounced, "Ah-beh" and not like the former U.S. president) then drive around the province. The latter plan worked out well, the former didn't work out too well. We drove up on a Tuesday, and Abe's Farm is closed every Tuesday. Whoops, next time, I guess.

At this point we were all pretty darn hungry, so we drove back to where we knew there was food, at the Marquee Mall. Unfortunately, it was mostly fast food and chain restaurants. We settled on Ikabud, where the atmosphere looked decent enough to produce tasty enough food. It was ook and enough to satisfy our hunger but not our palates.

Just a side story. One of the soup items on the menu was Soup #5. My mom asked the waiter was for the description (in Filipino). My mom was grossing out to his response, but my brother, cousins, and I didn't understand the Filipino word he said. Apparently Soup #5 is pretty common and even found on Wikipedia - Soup #5 on Wiki.

The Inside
Clean and bright because of the big windows.

San Miguel Premium

Fresh Buko
Fresh whole coconut juice.

Family Garlic Rice
Family size, indeed. It was good enough for our table of six.

Grilled Talong
Grilled Eggplant.

Crispy Tentacles
The best order of our meal. Crispy and well-seasoned.

Dinakdakan na Baboy
My brother went outside to look at the pictures in front of the restaurant, and then came back inside to order this. He didn't know what it was exactly, but he said the picture looked good. Fried Pig Ears with Onions. Very very chewy.

Seafood Chopsuey
A bit on the starchy side with overcooked seafood.

Gising Gising
"Gising" means to wake up. This is a spicy beef dish that really wasn't too spicy and made with the same sauce as the chopsuey.

Fried Catfish. Pretty decent, but I prefer the smaller size of catfish which is more tender and tastier.

Adobong Pugo
Quail cooked in the classic Filipin "adobo" method, with vinegar and soy sauce.

Crispy Pata
My brother was in town so we had to continue our crispy pata tasting. This was all right, but definitely nothing as good as what we found in Makati.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


One of the best foods in the Philippines is the crispy pork dishes - Lechon, Lechon Kawali, Crispy Pata, Cochinillo, etc. While my brother visited Manila, we had Crispy Pata as often as possible (and after he left, we had fish as often as possible). We called ahead (at least 24 hours, but their menu says 48 hours) to have cochinillo (a baby pig) for lunch at Cirkulo. It was excellent! My only critique is that it took so long from the time they presented our half cochinillo to the time they brought it out all cut and plated. The skin was thin and crispy, and the meat was tender and delicious. I'll definitely go back for more!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Two Restaurants for One Meal

The last meal before we leave Hong Kong. We've stayed at the W Hotel in our last few trips to HK. It is located in the Elements center in Kowloon, where there are the MRT station and the Airport Express stop (where you can check in your bags instead of waiting to get to the airport). The center also houses boutique shopping and some fantastic restaurants. So for our last hour in town, we decided to stay in Elements for lunch. For one meal, we went to two restaurants - Xia Mian Guan for noodles and Sen-ryo for sushi. Appetizer then the main course or the main course then dessert. I'll choose the latter because sushi is always as good as dessert for me.

Xia Mian Guan
In past trips, we passed by this place every time and even watched how they made fresh noodles. But, this was our first time trying it out. What a great noodle place! Soup noodles, dry noodles, and even dim sum. All that we tried was delicious!

Hot Soy Milk
Slightly sweetened. A great pairing with dim sum. And healthy, too!

Steamed Pork Dumpling
With Crab Meat and Roe. Nice thin wrapper and a tasty inside. We found another good restaurant with some great dumplings.

Shanghainese Sticky Rice Dumpling
Another delicious dim sum order. Thin wrapper and perfectly cooked sticky rice.

Stir Fried Shanghai Noodle
With Dried Shrimp and Spring Onion. Super fresh hand made noodles! We also got an order of Noodle Soup in Chili Peanut Sauce, but I was too eager to devour it before realizing I forgot to take a picture. I also recommend that dish.

Fried Pork Liver in Brown Sauce

A generous order. Tasty, but I could only have a couple pieces because I wanted to focus my appetite on the noodles and for our next round.

I HAVE to visit this place at least once every time I go to HK. This trip I went twice, and my parents and brother went three times. They consistently serve fresh fish and a wide selection. I can't wait for my next visit to HK to go here again!

Toro (Tuna Belly)
One order of toro is about $7 USD. CHEAP (compared to U.S. prices). The grade of the toro is even otoro - the fattier and more expensive part of the tuna. (I only took this picture to show how much we love toro. We ate so much more than this - as always.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

BLT Burger in Hong Kong

A night out with my best friend! After walking around Central, we took the MRT to Kowloon to fulfill our Western food craving. At this point, I had the breakfast buffet, rice pizza for lunch, katsu in the afternoon, and now dinner at BLT Burger. I don't know how I managed that much food in one day. I have seen the BLT Burger in Las Vegas. It's Vegas-showy. This location has an upscale modern diner atmosphere. Overall it's a fun experience.

Campfire Marshmallows Milkshake
We split one order, and so they gave us two glasses. It was on the sweet side, but still delicious because I love the flavor of toasted marshmallows.

Salmon Burger
Atlantic Salmon Burger, Avocado, Red Onion, Arugula, Zesty-Cayenne Tartar Sauce. With a side of Sweet Potato Fries. I liked the acidity of the tartar sauce. The salmon patty was ground, as opposed to a whole fresh fillet.

Buffalo Chicken
Fried Chicken, Red Hot Sauce, Avocado, Chopped Lettuce, Maytag Blue Buttermilk Dressing. I love the crispiness of the chicken. This was a tasty choice. My main critique for these burgers is that the bread was a bit too soft and couldn't hold up the fillings.

Waffle Fries
We were debating between this side order and the appetizer order of Waffle Bites. After finding out the Waffle Bites were only six pieces, we opted for this order for a better value. Delicious!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Breakfast Buffet

I'm not much of a buffet fan. It's just too much food. And in many cases, too much mediocre food. However, I have visited my fair share of hotel buffets around the world. The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok is the place to beat so far. They have such an amazing spread of Thai food. All authentic, fresh, and delicious. The Wynn brunch buffet also has some great mini Belgian waffles.

Breakfast at the Kitchen in the W Hotel in Kowloon. Since I had flown straight from San Francisco in Hong Kong, I would wake up by 6am because of jetlag. Our first meal was usually an early lunch just before noon. So by the second day, I knew that I should have a decent breakfast. Wow, it was more than decent - it was a feast! I think I was full for two days because of this buffet. The food was pretty good, but the display and variety made it taste even better. I think if I went back, I would drink more of the juices.

(Note: It was 7am, and I'm not a morning person. So I left my camera up in the hotel room, but at least I had my iPhone on me.)

The View of the Harbor

Fresh Juice Station
This was the best part of the buffet! Freshly squeeze juices and bottled for this beautiful display. I think I had about three bottles - kiwi, guava, and orange juices.

Cold Cuts and Yogurt Stations

Smoothie, Fruit, and Cereal Station

Chinese Station
With Dim Sum, Noodles, Fried Rice, and Congee (Rice Porridge) with its toppings.

Western Station
Sausage, Bacon, Waffles, Pancakes.

Egg Station
Freshly made eggs any way you'd like it to be cooked.

Bread & Pastry Station

A Closer Look at the Petite Pastries

The Cute Salt & Pepper Shakers
At our table.

Little Bite
A spoon of tofu, tomato, and chive in soy sauce. A nice little spoonful which they were passing around.

Plate #1
Chinese Breakfast. Congee, Rice Noodles, Dim Sum Dumplings.

Plate #2
Western Breakfast. Waffle, Pancake, Sausage, Bacon, Jamon, Smoked Salmon, Eel, and a Fishcake Slider.

Plate #3
Pastries. Corn Bread (bread with savory cream corn in the middle), Almond Cookie, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Raspberry Madeleine, Blueberry Puff, Sugar Donut, Chocolate-Cream Filled Donut, and a French Toast. Fun little pastries, but a bit on the dry side because they've been sitting out all morning.

Plate #4
Fruit Plate...well, and meat and cookies plate, too...Papaya, Jamon, Almond Cookie, and a Banana Mint Yogurt Smoothie.
I can't believe I got past Plate #2, but I had this urge to keep going.