Breakout Day

Land, ho!  Floodwater has receded and for the first time in weeks, I see dry land.  The end is in sight, I tell my mom.  I can put up the Christmas tree in a month.  Then someone from PAG-ASA (weather bureau) talks about La Nina starting in, prolonging rain and,  you guessed it, flooding, way up to February.  La Nina is when, as I understood it, the world turns turtle due to extreme weather conditions vis a vis climate change.  Think of Mother Nature suffering a hormonal imbalance – changing this way and that with hot flashes, breakouts, cold front (hahahaha), all topsy-turvy. 

A stormy Christmas and Valentine!  Where oh, where went my long summers of yore?  Which country will have our summers and will we have winter instead? That's a future to ponder. Oh, wow!  Snow!  Pardon me for rambling.

Anyway, my point is, I am stressing out over the prospect of La Nina.  Here I was, cooped up for days at a time and then, the prospect of more days like that looming is enough to make me reach for chocolate.  Although I must say, I don’t need an excuse to eat chocolate!  Or anything else for that matter.  Grin, grin, grin.

My breakout days in between typhoons may invariably be wet and dry but I am warmed and touched by friends and lots of food choices!  

My friend Joy had a birthday and we celebrated, belatedly but happily, at Salcedo’s Saturday Market.  I’ve been there countless times, but not in a long while. That’s good, too: everything is new again.  I got there ahead of Joy, since I was already on the other side of  the Makati area.  I had a breakfast meeting at Mercato at the Fort, Taguig.  I’ve been to the midnight Mercato, as posted before but they have Satur-days as well! 

I knew I would be in for a long, leisurely lunch so I got a skewer of Mongolian munchies -  perfectly grilled and seasoned tender beef, small globe of sweet red onion, tomato, and slices of corn on the cob, served hot on a paper plate with sweetish yogurt sauce.  Sorry I don’t have a picture, it was a drizzly morning, quite overcast so I didn’t bother.  Take my word for it, it was really good.  My second choice to try would have been The Angus Beef Tapa Lady’s tapa and rice (JAM Foods' popular tapa).  I can’t have rice because I was planning on a heavy lunch.  Next weekend I’ll get to that Angus Beef tapa! To the uninitiated, tapa is like beef jerky.  Then I walked from Ayala to Salcedo Market – the rain has stopped and cooler air made for a comfortable walk.  Besides, I went the scenic route - the Ayala Triangle Gardens, vibrant green and glistening with rain.

I toured Salcedo Market, scouting for eats, twice!  I wanted a head start on Joy. Decisions, decisions.  When she arrived,  I haven’t made any.   I asked her instead what interests her.  At first, it was the Roasted Calf meal but I noticed the batok  – the tenderest, juiciest thus  prized part, was almost gone.  Poor calf!  I've always wondered how it was done so I trolled the net and came up with this helpful and rather overwhelming to do list and tips on this blog.  Most likely why roasted calf is expensive!

Batok is the Tagalog word for nape or back of the neck,  so if someone thumps you on the head, nabatukan (past tense) or binatukan ka (the verb you use when you want to tell on whoever did it).  No distinction between head and neck – same locus hehehe.  Anyways, batok is that part the British calls neck and clod while the Americans call it chuck (so it says on my copy of Larousse Gastronomique - only the chef's bible.  I'm not a chef though : ).

What we ended up having are food from China and France.  Street and Gourmet.  Hmmm.  We had appetizers of hakaw and Japanese siomai.  These are steamed dumplings filled with shrimp (the crescent shaped hakaw) and Nori (seaweed wrap) rolled sticky rice and crabmeat (the Japanese siomai.  I maintain it is  Chinese cuisine with a Japanese twist – guess why hahaha).   You dip the lot in soy sauce, calamansi (Philippine lemon) and chili garlic paste or oil.  Our favorites! I'll be making some soon.

And just because we need to eat something less...uh...regular, we got pasta and Shepherd’s Pie from the French guy. .Actually, the come on was the very nice presentation – organic, chunky, rich, whole! As in whole orders!   Mainly why I don’t buy if I am eating alone.  It’s a bit expensive for one.  Worth it, but too rich to eat in one sitting.  I thought we were sharing but I can’t have shrimps (allergies) and Joy wanted the shrimp and mushroom pasta.  I am allergic to crustaceans: my throat closes up, seems like.  I found this interesting piece the Mayo Clinic had on secondary exposure - boyfriends take note! 
Joy encouraged me to order what I want, her treat! Whoot, whoot! 

 Everything else looked intimidating to me– whole slab of ribs, whole chicken roast... so I got the Shepherd’s Pie.  So picture this slab on my next day breakfast plate.  Blow up that picture to fill a microwaveable container.  Now, focus on the nice, warm, pale yellow top and bottom sandwiching the nicely browned bits of ground beef in bechamel sauce.  Try to remember that that’s not fresh pasta or piecrust.  It’s potato! Lots of mashed potato with cheese on top.  Carbs and starch to last you a week!

I don’t have a picture of Joy’s pasta.  Suffice it to say, the shrimps were big, the white mushrooms more like small campaign buttons and the sauce very rich.  And, like my Shepherd’s Pie, flavorful but bland.  Oh yes, it can be both.  By flavorful I mean you taste true flavors and quality ingredients – beef tastes like beef, cream tastes like undiluted cream, potatoes taste like potatoes.  But every other seasoning – salt, pepper, whatever was in there was far too subtle for most Pinoys who prefer a strong kick of patis (fish sauce) or toyo (soy sauce) or spice.  Especially after eating siomai drenched in toyo.

We didn’t make much of a dent in our food.  It was heavy on the belly and Joy wanted more salt in hers while I want more bechamel or hot sauce in mine .  We wrapped everything (for next day's breakfast plate) and took a walk.  A block’s worth.  Because I wanted to go and smell the cocoa! 

Chocolate Fire is a real nice, quiet (mid afternoon Saturday in Makati that’s why) place to linger over hot chocolate or coffee topped with chocolate shavings.  Lots and lots!  They have paninis, pasta and salad if you are hungry but its mostly trays and trays of chocolate – artisanal, blocks, bark (looks like tree barks see), enrobing all manner of nuts, cloaking fruits - a slice of fig and orange, strawberry and cherry bottoms with your choice of milk chocolate, white, dark.  Even chocolate dipped pretzels and Pringles! There were all kinds of truffles, alcoholic or none. There was fondue. I couldn’t choose.  We were still sated.  We only needed to clean up our palates and get rid of some heaviness in the belly.
We had coffees instead of the pot of hot chocolate they’re known for (choice of flavor enhancers, too, like chili).  We didn’t think we’d be able to finish a pot.  Besides, we needed to wake up hehehe.  Next time!
Joy got the white chocolate bark with sultanas and almonds.  I got the teensy stick of three blueberries enrobed in dark chocolate.  I like blueberries. 
 I like the cozy couch, the bathroom with Bisazza tiles, the clever floral centerpieces and the art on the walls.  Mostly, I love chocolate.

I’ve taken these pictures before the counter girl told me I shouldn’t.  Drats! I didn’t tell her I’m a blogger.  They might prefer someone more la-di-dah.  I’m hardly famous! : ) My pictures aren't all that crisp anyway - mood lighting again.  So here's one from their Facebook page.  




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