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One downside of being a solo traveler, which I realized during my San Francisco CA solo expedition, is that I am to eat alone.  Good thing I am living by myself in Manila, thus, the impact of eating solo in a foreign country is not disturbing if compared to those who are so used to sharing a thought and their food with someone else during a meal.

Because of this glitch, I avoided fancy restaurants and during meal periods I can be found in a communal table of a food court, an indie coffee shop or in a park munching a dish I bought from a food stall or food truck.

nice interiors…

crispy baby romaine, grana & croutons

main event!

main course! hahaha!

will be back!

But when my college best friend Marie (now based in Los Angeles) recommended that I should try and dine at Stinking Rose, I never had a second thought. One late lunch period, I navigated the streets of SF and proceeded to Columbus Avenue where the Italian restaurant is located.

The receptionist upon knowing that I am dining “just myself”, she was smart and gentle enough to assign me to a good and strategic table (a corner by the window) which seem intended really for solo diners.

I ordered a 3-course Prix Fixe Dinner bundle.  For the main course I settled with the one recommended by the waiter, the Forty Clove Garlic Chicken.  And when the food was served, I totally forgot about the glitches and hurdles of dining solo in a fancy or busy restaurant.

On a bright side of this experience, since my mind would not be diverted or side-tracked from this gustatory encounter, I actually was able to indeed levy the quality and taste of the food that was served at Stinking Rose.  I was more focus and conscious about the palatal attributes of the food I was devouring.  And my verdict about Stinking Rose?  Let me just say that my super friend Marie cares for my palatal satisfaction.  She indeed gave me an excellent recommendation!

havin’ a blast!

I may forget that I dined solo at Stinking Rose but the gustatory experience I had with this Italian restaurant shall be remembered for a very long time.

Salamat Marie…

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I did not miss the Philippines when I was in San Francisco CA.  Aside from the copious presence of Filipinos everywhere in SF, there are bounteous existence of Filipino dishes around.  The mere fact that at the back of my mind there is a Filipino whom I can easily approach while in SF and there are Pinoy dishes around, I never have to suffer the looney craving for my home country.

During my early stay in San Francisco I had an unfaltering decision of not eating any Filipino dish during the whole length of my stay in the City by the Bay.  And at the same time will munch on a big and heavy burrito, a seem-to-be-staple for the locals.  This decision however was easily modified when I saw a food truck named Señor Sisig parked along the corner streets of Powell and Ellis at downtown San Francisco.

it must be the filipino in me that i just have to fall in line

pabili!

popular choices…

sisig burrito

gone in a couple of minutes

Since there is a queue of people on the said food truck, out of curiosity, I quietly fall in line and looked unto the menu board that the food truck offers.  To my surprise, Señor Sisig offers a variety of Filipino fusion dishes.  This therefore made me decide to violate what I have earlier promised yet will achieve what I intend to eat at the same time.

I ordered the surprisingly large and heavy “Señor Sisig Burrito” – a Filipino-cum-San Franciscan dish because it is a fusion of Sisig (a Kapampangan dish) presented in a San Francisco burrito way.  And what’s my verdict as to how this dish faired? Let me just say I gasped on my first bite and the large burrito was gone in a matter of minutes!

My experience of chomping on Senor Sisig Burrito can therefore be summarized as a promise that was broken yet a fantasy that came true wrapped into one.

Sarap!

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It is starting to become a habit that every time I and my colleagues got to spend an overnight weekend adventure out-of-town, we would first have to dine in a well-liked or budding restaurant or coffee shop. Part of the adventure is to scout and google the nicest food joint that our destination can brag about.  And when we have chosen one, we would agree that before proceeding to our final destination to check-in we would have a detour by having either a breakfast, a brunch or a lunch in our chosen eatery.

On our way to Las Casas De Filipinas De Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan for an overnight weekend, I and my colleagues stopped over the agricultural city of Balanga in Bataan.  We had lunch at Stregato Geleteria, a cute and charming Italian-inspired diner right in the middle of the city (right beside The Plaza Hotel and at the ground floor of Galeria Victoria Mall).

cute!

Stregato Gelateria was one surprising restaurant.  First timers like us easily fell in love with the interiors and ambiance of the place.  And surprisingly, the service was pretty quick and the food were superb!

I particularly ordered the Slow-Cooked Roasted Pork Belly.  And that was indeed a winner!

slow-cooked roast pork! yum!

All of us agree that another impressive thing about the food is that the serving-size were just perfect.  The portion was not too much neither too little for its reasonable price.  Their prices were actually not reasonable because it’s unreasonably low!  With an endearing ambiance and flavorful food, Stregato Gelateria is definitely comparable and in the level of pricey diners and coffee shops here in Manila.

And since our tummy were not too full nor felt shortchanged we decided to order two slices of cakes – the mindboggling Ferrero cake and the marvelous Mango Crème Brulee cake.  One Tagalog word for their desserts… sarap!

sarap!

cakes cakes cakes!

a reason to come back

mga batang bagac!

All of us further agreed that Stregato Gelateria is a gem of a restaurant in Balanga, Bataan.  If given the chance to be back in this beautiful old province, I will definitely not miss eating at Sregator Gelateria.

Sarap sa Ingles… dilisyus (parang ako)!  

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travel buddies

travel buddies

One of the things that I look forward to when I go to Baler is their creamy, yummy and locally made peanut butter.  Aside from a private vehicle, dwellers of the city can reach Baler through a 6-hour bus ride.  And right beside the bus station is the souvenir and take-home-presents (pasalubong) store where Nanay Pacing’s peanut butter can be purchased.

Via bus ride, I was in Baler this weekend.  And upon arrival and while the bus was to park at its station, I took a peek from the window to check the store.  The store was closed and it seemed no longer there. My friends and I, who equally loved Nanay Pacing’s Peanut Butter, wonder how can a very busy store located at a very accessible and perfect spot, could cease operation?

When breakfast time came while spreading the same delicious peanut butter on my toasted bread (hotels in Baler serve this peanut butter in their buffet), I got to ask one of the restaurant staffs about what happened to Nanay Pacing’s store and where it may have transferred.

I was told that Nanay Pacing’s peanut butter is no longer owned by Nanay Pacing.  I was told that Nanay Pacing, the label, is no longer owned by Nanay Pacing.  And that indeed, the big store beside the bus station has closed.

The restaurant staff through a whisper told me that the label has been acquired by the most powerful family in Aurora and that the peanut butter is now being sold at one of the halls of the municipal building.  But with a flicker of hope on catching and tasting the original recipe, I was further told that Nanay Pacing’s new store is now smaller and has relocated and still sells a creamy peanut butter but already of a different brand.  I asked the staff where the store was, she answered she didn’t know.

To validate the story of the restaurant staff, I asked our tour guide cum driver to bring us to the Nanay Pacing’s Peanut Butter store.  And indeed, he drove us at the municipal hall!  We entered the building, climbed the second floor and indeed saw the bunch of jars of Nanay Pacing’s peanut butter on a shelf waiting to be purchased by mesmerized buyers.  I purchased a couple of bottles for pasalubong.

Upon exiting the municipal building, I then instructed our driver/tour guide to bring us to the new store of Nanay Pacing.  He humbly told us that the store at the bus station is already closed.  I then ordered him to inquire with people at the bus station on where the new store of Nanay Pacing is.  They for sure would know.

good bye nanay pacing, hello great harvest!

good bye nanay pacing, hello great harvest!

And indeed our driver through a whisper by one of the folks at the bus station was told on where the new Nanay Pacing’s store was.  He then drove us to the nearby Baler Public Market and pointed to us the new store of Nanay Pacing.  The store was smaller, offers fewer items but still clean and organized.

The bunch of peanut butter jars can easily be seen displayed on the shelves.  I asked the lady manning the store on what happened to the label.  With a smile, she ignored my question and simply answered “we have our own version of a peanut butter and free taste is available”.  I simply told her, “My God, you are so professional!”

I of course took a tasting spoon and whipped a spoonful from the jar.  And when I tasted it, I can suddenly hear my taste buds cheering and clapping for joy!  I knew then that it was the same lovely peanut butter which I was mesmerized when I first tasted it as offered to me by no less than Nanay Pacing herself during my first visit in Baler.

my new favorite peanut butter plus the usual nengkoy's favorite fried pastillas (for pasalubong)

my new favorite peanut butter plus the usual nengkoy’s favorite fried pastillas (for pasalubong)

the true deal in baler peanut butter

the true deal in baler peanut butter

I purchased a couple of jars and regretted buying at the municipal hall. I then decided that I will just give away all the peanut jars I purchased at the municipal building and I will keep the peanut butter I bought at the public market for my own personal consumption.

While writing this story, I am munching on a piece of bread with heaps of the delicious Great Harvest Peanut Butter!

Ayana, alam nyo na ang hindi dapat bilin at dapat bilin sa Baler…

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I thought my best choice of restaurant in Queenstown that me and my friends dined at would be the establishment that will fix my rice-deprived anatomy.  Yeah, unlike the Philippines, rice is not a staple in New Zealand and my few days of stay in that fresh country made me yearn for it.  I know that I get all grumpy and grouchy if I don’t have rice in my meal for a couple of days.

But surprisingly, the best and finest food establishment I encountered in my recent New Zealand adventure was that of Winnie’s Gourmet Pizza Bar.  Located at The Mall in Queenstown, Winnie’s is a relaxed and casual part-bar and part-restaurant kind of a joint. I loved the ambiance because it is not plush, ritzy and intimidating.

What particularly made me love this restaurant was the food.  Their gourmet pizza was really outstandingly delicious!  And with a quick look into their pizza selection, I can tell that their pizzas were not just the classic types but instead seem to embrace various flavors around the world.  I noticed some Thai inspirations, a Moroccan fabrication, a Hawaiian motivation and some Mexican creations.

zucha  & montanara (flavors of heaven)

With limited tummy space, my friend Denton was smart enough to order one large sized pizza in which each half is of a different flavor.  We settled for the Montanara, which I consider to be the sinful half of the pizza and the Zucha for the wholesome and healthier half.  Both are gluten-free by the way.

Zucha according to my happy taste buds got some roasted pumpkin, olives, some feta cheese, capsicum and toasted almonds.  The blending of these flavors above the crunchy pizza crust, pizza sauce, Parmesan cheese and parsley brings magic to ones palette!

Montanara according to our gracious waitress was the most popular among all their pizzas.  That is why we ordered for it.  And from the first bite of this delectable creation, I knew that the waitress knows what she was doing. This is actually the first time that I have eaten a pizza in which you would have to spread pistachio sour cream on it.  A mound of this yummy cream is actually placed at the middle of the pizza!

The Montanara toppings which consists of chicken fillets, brie cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, spring onions and sweet chili sauce, no doubt, was absolutely delicious.  It’s one pizza that gives me a reason to return and revisit Queenstown.  The taste was just marvelously unforgettable!

chicken!

chicken!

a kiwi classic

is this a kiwi classic? we loved it… especially when we dip the mussel meat into the cream sauce!

Aside from the pizza, we also ordered the succulent chicken wings which surprisingly was not oily and so tasty and crunchy.  And to add a Kiwi flavor in our meal, we of course ordered New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels.  Winnie’s freshly steamed NZ mussels in shallots, capsicum, white wine, cream and sweet chili sauce was one of the best in Queenstown.  I can say this because in almost all restaurants that we dined we always seem to order NZ mussels.  And Winnie’s version was always our basis of comparison.

happy tummy!

happy tummy!

With all these superlative thoughts, accounts and narratives about Winnie’s, I guess, I can really say that it is one of the must visits if you happen to be in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Winer ang tami ko sa Wini’s!

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Breakfast is the most important meal in my universe.  I basically would not function well if I happen to skip breakfast.  That is why every time I got to encounter a great breakfast experience I will definitely have to write about it.

If Marikina City got Rustic Mornings and Alaminos City boasts about Celia’s Café, Antipolo can definitely rave about their Eggs For Breakfast.  This tiny all-day breakfast joint at the tail-end of the Sierra Madre mountain range is definitely huge in terms of serving pleasant breakfast dishes!  Though it’s quite difficult to locate if you wish to snub the benefits of using Waze or Google Maps, this hidden gem in Antipolo is indeed worth a visit.

the breakfast gang!

groupie of the breakfast gang!

it was worth the visit...

it was worth the visit…

My friends settled for the classic Filipino breakfast items, that is, Beef Tapa and Longganisa dishes served with rice and eggs while I opted for the American classic Buttermilk Pancakes with Eggs and Bacon.  And judging from my order, I knew that this café is a good café.  It is because I exactly got what I ordered.  I just wanted fluffy pancakes with bacon and eggs and I got fluffy pancakes with bacon and eggs.

buttermilk pancakes with bacon and eggs

buttermilk pancakes with bacon and eggs

has fun with one pan breakfast

has fun with one pan breakfast

As if like testing and challenging if this café is indeed a good café, I decided to order another set of breakfast dish.  For my second round of breakfast, I ordered for the fancier, heavier and seem to be a popular dish of the joint which everyone seem to be ordering.  Eggs for Breakfast’s version of the classic full English breakfast which they call One Pan Breakfast!

One Pan Breakfast further verified our delight and enjoyment of the place.  Though everyone are already full after finishing their respective orders, we were still able to finish the One Pan Breakfast in a breeze as soon as it was served on our table!  Yum yum!

nice one...

nice one…

Eggs For Breakfast isn’t the most spacious and comfortable café to laze but the quirky interiors, the delightful ambiance, the pretty alright service and of course the tasty breakfast dishes were indeed worthy of a visit.  I am just glad to know that a cozy and delightful breakfast joint does exist in that part of beautiful Philippines.  I will definitely visit again!

Itlog para almusal…

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People living in Alaminos, Pangasinan (and those who would visit this fast developing city) has something awesome to look forward to.  Celias, a new modern Filipino coffee shop, is due to open on Saturday, July 16, 2016.

egzoited!!!

egzoited!!!

I am excited because the last time I visited Alaminos, Pangasinan, there seem to be no decent café or coffee shop where we could enjoy good coffee and some sumptuous meal.  I and my friends (after touring the Hundred Islands) settled on eating at a trivial fastfood joint inside a trivial shopping mall.

What I’m most excited about Celias Cafe would be their all-day-breakfast Pinoy food offerings as well as that of their coffee concoctions.  I am excited because I know, on a personal level, the owners of this café. And I know that these owners has lived for years in Osaka, the culinary capital of Japan.  Hence, these new proprietors knows what good food is and I believe they have acquired impressive palatal sense.  They know what delicious is!

I will definitely be heading to Celias Café and will give you my two cents on what this new exciting café has to offer!  Celias is located beside the SSS Building along Marcos Avenue, Alaminos City, Pangasinan.

Si yu der…

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Nengkoy is the nickname of my mom during her pre-school years. Her parents and relatives call her ‘Ang Neneng Ko’. With her pretty charm and appeal, she was usually called in a melodic way using this lovely phrase. Until it evolved for easier articulation of the phrase, Ang Neneng Ko was shorten to Nengkoy.

Nengkoy

Nengkoy is the nickname of my mom during her pre-school years. Her parents and relatives call her ‘Ang Neneng Ko’. With her pretty charm and appeal, she was usually called in a melodic way using this lovely phrase. Until it evolved for easier articulation of the phrase, Ang Neneng Ko was shorten to Nengkoy.