Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Liverpool in the doldrums

It was supposed to be a very promising season. Gerrard and Torres both stayed in the team. They signed Joe Cole. And Rafa Benitez left after a miserable last season.

Seems though that they were better off with Benitez. Now Liverpool are practically at the bottom of the barrel. Several matches into the season and they have one win to show for themselves. One win! This from a team that was battling for the premier league title a couple of years back. Even Dirk Kuyt has had to apologize to the fans for their horror show. I'm not sure what it will take to turn things around, but they better do it fast.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Birthday lunch in Adarna

I celebrated my birthday with my family in Adarna Food and Culture restaurant along Kalayaan. I've eaten in Adarna a couple of times before so I knew that my family would enjoy it here. Just like La Cocina De Tita Moning and Romulo's, Adarna is a house-turned-restaurant that offers very good Filipino food so it was a perfect place to celebrate with my family.

The ambience plays a big part in the overall experience in Adarna. The interior is filled with Filipino memorabilia such as framed celebrity photos and news clippings that are decades old. The service was excellent and it didn't take long for the food to arrive. I was really pleased with our selection of dishes. My favorite dish was the Piassok, a dish from Sulu that consisted of beef chunks cooked slowly in smoked coconut cream and spices. It was beautifully flavored and the beef was very tender. Our waitress told us it was their bestseller, and I can completely understand why.

The great thing about the dishes here are the interesting combinations. We ordered the Tagalog Pochero with Roasted Eggplant Dip, and it is recommended that you eat the pochero beef with the dip. The combination of the sweet beef and the tart eggplant was perfect. The same is true for the Grilled Pork Chop with Salsa Monja. The Batanes yellow rice had a hint of ginger which wasn't overpowering. And the Camaron Rebosado had a unique olive oil-based sweet-and-sour sauce which I haven't seen elsewhere.

It just sucks that I forgot to take photos of the food! Need to make sure I sort out another trip here sometime soon and blog about it, but this time with pictures. :) The only downside to Adarna is that they don't accept credit cards, so you need to make sure you have cash ready when you visit. (I did appreciate the fact that they informed me about this when I called to make a reservation. At least there were no surprises.)

After lunch, my nephews wanted to watch 'The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole". My brothers and my aunt couldn't join us so I drove to Shangri-La Mall to watch the movie with my nephews, my mom, and my grandparents. This movie really caters to kids - I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to adults unless you were taking children to see it. However, it did provide several good lessons to my nephews. It had themes like not giving up and trying your best even after you fail. It also showed that even if you are small, you can still succeed against immense odds (and bigger opposition) if you use your brain, train hard, and have a lot of heart.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Missing out on Singapore F1

Can't believe it's been a year since I watched my first Formula One race in Singapore. I decided I would watch it on TV this year - had to save up on money and the timing of the race didn't sync up well with my deadlines. It was an interesting race with Fernando Alonso winning again and moving him up to second in the drivers championship, past Lewis Hamilton who got involved in a tussle with Mark Webber that left his car out of commission. Webber still stays at #1 in the drivers championship with his 3rd place finish, and with Vettel placing second, he leapfrogs Jenson Button into overall 4th.

There are four races left this season but anything can still happen. Only 25 points separate the top 5, and when you consider that anyone who wins a race gets at least 7 points more than everyone else, it's still anyone's championship. And while it will be tough for Ferrari to win the constructors championship, their outside chance make it an interesting three-way at the top, along with Red Bull and McLaren-Mercedes. Should be a fun rest-of-the-season!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

International Coastal Cleanup Day

Every year, the world celebrates International Coastal Cleanup Day, a global event led by Ocean Conservancy similar in concept to other global events like Earth Day and Earth Hour. International Coastal Cleanup Day normally falls on the third Saturday of September, but this year it was on September 25 (the 4th Saturday of the month).

Our Corporate Social Responsibility group at work felt that this would be a good event to support, given that the Philippines is an archipelago with more than 36,000 kilometers of coastline. So we organized a trip to Balai Anilao in Batangas and got about 50 volunteers from work to help in the cleanup efforts. If budget wasn't a constraint, we would have had a lot more participants actually - we sent out a call for volunteers at 2:45pm on a Friday afternoon and within 20 minutes, more than 80 people signed up.

On cleanup day, we arrived at 9am after a 135-km drive from Manila to Anilao that felt even longer due to the traffic. We were then split in two groups - the shoreline cleanup team (most of us were in this group) and the dive cleanup team. After the briefing, everyone went to work. Garbage bags were distributed and people started picking up as much trash as they could.

It was really interesting to see what kind of items were collected. Apart from the expected plastic bags, food wrappers, and drink bottles, we picked up an old knapsack, a syringe (God knows what that was used for...), a toothbrush, and a Magic touch liquid eraser. We also saw a whole lot of "pair-less" footwear. I don't know if it's because people lost one and tossed the other on the beach or if people got drunk and unintentionally while on the beach and lost half their footwear in the process.

The coast fronting Balai Anilao isn't very long but with a team of about 40 people sweeping through the shore, we filled seven large garbage bags in less than an hour. I didn't even realize there was that much clutter on the beach! Then came the garbage analysis - we went through the trash collected to count the different items we had. The information gathered would then be submitted to Ocean Conservancy for processing.

Once we were done, it was time to relax and enjoy the resort. The buffet lunch was really good - I had two massive servings LOL.

To officially close the event, we distributed certificates of participation and volunteer shirts to everyone there. We were lucky that we didn't get rained out considering that it had been raining a lot recently, at least in Manila. It was a successful event that the participants truly enjoyed - even if it meant getting dirty. The Philippines apparently has been the second biggest participant (next to the US) in this event every year since it first joined so it's nice to know that we were involved this year. It's definitely something to look forward to in 2011.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Surprise birthday party

My friends threw me my first-ever surprise birthday party. It was a joint surprise birthday party for me and Tim actually since his birthday is just a few days after mine. While some surprise parties tend to fail since the people involved figure things out somehow, I really didn't pick up on it, even when I ran into another friend Aldwin going into Hai Bar LOL. I guess I just really had so many things on my mind as my workload in the last few weeks has been intense. In fact, I didn't even want to go to my surprise party (which would have been a disaster haha).

It was set up as Cesar's celebration after taking the medical board exams (or at least, one of the stages - apparently there are a few). I had initially agreed to go but the day before the party, I told Walter that I might not be able to make it because I was so tired and was starting to feel sick. So when Walter started texting the final plans that day and telling me that they were on their way to meet me, I felt quite annoyed that they didn't even bother to ask me whether I would be joining them or not. Apparently, they could sense that I wasn't in the mood as we had dinner in Little Tokyo.

We arrived in Hai Bar at close to 11pm. There, we ran into Aldwin who was also about to go in. Tim even asked him what he was doing there, and he just said that he was Walter's guest. Strange that even then, I didn't suspect something was going on LOL but in my defense, neither did Tim. :) In fact, I was so spaced out that when I got in and everyone there - Jesse, Mark, Clarisse, and CY - all said "Happy Birthday" and presented me and Tim with a shot each, I still didn't get it. It was only when Walter asked me if I was surprised that it dawned on me - oh wait, this is actually for me (or well, me and Tim)! Talk about your brain not working...

So what started out as me being displeased at the fact that I was practically forced into a night out turned into a real fun surprise party. I'm definitely thankful to have friends who'd spend all that time and effort organizing something like this.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Despicable Me

I promised my nephews recently that I'd take them to watch "Despicable Me". I've heard really good reviews about the movie so I made sure we caught it while it was still showing in local theaters. It certainly lived up to the hype.

As is the case with a lot of animated films in recent years, "Despicable Me" is as entertaining to kids as it is to adults. It's not often that you have a villain as the protagonist in a film and Gru, the main character, is as despicable as villains come. At least initially. But when Gru's supervillain status comes under threat early in the story, an interesting series of events triggered by Gru's attempt to steal the moon lead him to three orphans Margo, Edith, and Agnes who become a very positive influence in his life.

The switch from villain to hero isn't instant, and it's a well-defined and careful process of character development that has the audience relating to and rooting for Gru, even when he is still trying to steal the moon. Its this growth in Gru's character and his increasing involvement in the lives of Margo, Edith, and Agnes that provide a lot of heartwarming moments in the film. This is complemented by the many fun and funny scenes that provide entertainment for the whole family and have audiences laughing out loud.

I felt only one thing missing by the end and that was the lack of resolution with respect to Miss Hattie's Home for Girls. I really wish we could've seen Miss Hattie get her comeuppance for the way she treated the children in the orphanage. But this little blip aside, "Despicable Me" is a really good movie and is worth seeing, even if you don't have any kids in tow. I'll certainly be getting the DVD when it comes out.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Little Asia Dinner in The Piazza

My friend Mike, who has been living in the US for the last 6 years, is in Manila right now. We haven't seen him in a while so we decided to meet up over dinner. I noticed that there is a Little Asia in The Piazza at Venice, McKinley and I love that resto so I suggested we meet up there when Joh asked for dinner suggestions. Joh had been wanting to try the restos in The Piazza for a while so the dinner venue was set.

Joining the dinner were myself, Joh, Raffa, Peegee, and Mile. A lot of time was spent catching up and talking about current and upcoming plans - both career-wise and personal. The food of course was really good. The group favorite: Vietnamese Crispy Spareribs with Garlic. It was a weeknight so we didn't stay out too late. We are supposed to meet up again some time soon to celebrate my birthday and I'm obviously looking forward to hanging out with them again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rafa on top of the world

Rafael Nadal finally completes the career Golden slam! Despite rain on Sunday that forced the final to be played on Monday, Nadal beat current world #2 Novak Djokovic in four sets to claim the US Open crown. This was an incredible achievement on so many levels:
  • He is only the seventh man in history to complete a career Grand Slam. That is, winning each of the four Grand Slam titles (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open) at least once in his career.
  • He is only the third man to do this in the Open Era. It's amazing to think about this because some of the greatest tennis players in history - Sampras, Borg, McEnroe, Lendl, Connors, Wilander, Edberg, and Becker - were unable to achieve this rare feat.
  • With his Olympic Gold back in 2008, Rafa also joins Andre Agassi as the only two men to have won all four slams plus the Olympic Gold medal. The only other player in history to achieve this feat is Steffi Graf (who of course won all four slams + the Olympic Gold in the same year - 1988!)
  • Rafa now has 9 Grand Slam titles. This puts him in 7th place all time. Two more slam titles will put him on equal fourth, tying him with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver.
  • This win also assured Rafa of ending the year #1.
I am hoping Rafa can win a few more slams in his career and maybe end up with at least 12-13 Grand Slams. But even if he doesn't, his strong results in the last 6 years have now placed him firmly among tennis' elite. I do hope he doesn't stop at 9 though. In fact, an Australian open title in January would be incredible. Coz that would mean he'd win a non-calendar Grand Slam. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

An early baby shower

Anna was in town this weekend so we decided to all meet up and have a very early baby shower for Joyce, who wasn't due for 3 more months. We decided to have our celebration in Mitch's place and while the initial plan was for Joyce's other close friends would join us, most folks backed out in the last minute so it ended up being just us.

Mitch asked Joyce what food she wanted and Joyce said pasta and salad. So we ended up having salad with three different dressings, really good lasagna, and chicken. Plus the mango tart I got from Conti's. Anna ended up being really late because she got pulled into a family gathering but Mitch's sister Myra and her family were there too. Myra and Iona are both very strong advocates for breast feeding and are experts on it, so a lot of the talk over dinner was on how best to accomplish breast feeding.

Anna joined us around 10pm and we decided to share gifts then. I didn't get Joyce a gift yet because I didn't know who would be there and what she might have gotten from other people. In any case I still have three months to get Joyce a gift so no rush. Maybe I will just combine her birthday gift, Christmas gift, and baby shower present and get her something really big and cool. I will just have to wait for her registry.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Dakota" by The Stereophonics

Discovered this tune a while back. Awesome song by an awesome band.

video uploaded in youtube by user candchaoz

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Food trip Friday

Thank God Friday was a holiday! I probably worked more than 50 hours in the four working days of the week, pulling an all-nighter from Wednesday to Thursday to make sure I met all my crazy deadlines (which thankfully, I did!) so it was great to unwind on Friday and enjoy a lot of great food with great friends.

Walter, Tim and I started the day off in Ongpin. Our first stop: Masuki. We shared a big bowl of mami and had one order of siomai (2 pieces) each. Their siomai is about twice the size of normal siomai and tastes really good and their mami ranks up their as one of the best I've ever had.

We initially wanted to have asado rice rolls and dimsum in Waiying but the place was full so we tried another resto a couple of blocks away. I can't recall the name of the place though. Aside from ordering asado rice rolls, we got hakaw, mushroom siomai, and sio long pao. I liked the hakaw but everything else was just okay. I'd probably try another place in the area if I want to order the same food we had there.

I was planning to get hopia from Eng Bee Tin before leaving China Town but we were a lot closer to Salazar Bakery (practically right next to it, actually) so I bought my hopia there instead. We then left Ongpin and headed to Makati.

Along the way, I decided to drop by Becky's Kitchen. I've tried the Cherry Walnut brownies from Becky's Kitchen a few times before when people would give them as gifts to my mom and I think they are great. I figured that since we had time, I would find out where along Bautista Street Becky's Kitchen was located and buy my first ever brownies from there. We were given a queue number once we got in which I found to be quite weird since there were very few people there. My number gets called shortly and as I start placing my order, the crowd in the shop tripled in size. Their numbering system all of a sudden made perfect sense. :) I got my half-box of brownies and we headed out.

For our next stop, I suggested we go to Earle's Delicatessen in Greenbelt 1. I tried this place for the first time with my mom and brother in Columns when we watched Master Class and thought it was extremely good value for money - the sandwiches which cost P120-150 were hefty and didn't scrimp on the fillings, the grilled sausages cost only P50-80 if you dine in (they cost about P20-30 per 100 grams if you buy it raw - in Rustan's supermarket, the sausages cost P35-50 per 100 grams), and the brewed coffee at P48 is quite good.

When I suggested Earle's Deli, Walter remembered that he wanted to try The Spud Diner by Potato Corner in Columns which was next to the Earle's Deli there. So we went to Columns instead. We set up base in The Spud Diner - Walter and Tim shared the Italian Job and the Crazy Spudster while I ordered Shepherd's Pie. I asked the cashier if it was okay to bring food from other restaurants in and she said it was, so I ended up ordering brewed coffee and a grilled Bavarian Cheese Smokies sausage from Earle's Deli. Apparently the Crazy Spudster was pretty good and the Italian job not so much. But my Shepherd's Pie matched perfectly with my Bavarian Cheese Smokies!

Our mid-afternoon snack was quite heavy but we still managed have dinner at around 730pm. We were planning to spend the night drinking in Distillery so we decided to eat somewhere in Burgos Circle. We ended up in Cantinetta, which is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Manila. I've eaten here a few times before and in each visit, I always order the same thing - the Tartufo, which is pasta in truffle cream sauce with prosciutto. I absolutely love this dish! While most people normally drink white wine with pasta, I had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with mine. An expensive dinner but it's not often I go on this kind of food trip so I decided to go crazy with it. :) And boy did I love my food!!

Distillery was full that night so we ended up downing a bottle of Absolut Citron in Izumi instead, this time with a couple more friends joining us. Once the bottle was gone, we moved to Hai Chinese Restaurant and Bar, where we ordered their Bar Chow Sampler along with the drinks we had.

A really long day with a lot of driving and a lot of money out, but there was a lot of really good food too. That I got to hang out with really good friends who enjoy food just as much as I do made it even better. Hopefully we get to replicate this day in the future.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Saving more paper cups

After discovering that I can save P5 by using my Starbucks tumblers when buying coffee in Starbucks, I decided to try and use reusable mugs when buying coffee in other places. The most logical place for me to try this first was the 7-11 at the ground floor of my building. I decided one day to bring a reusable mug to 7-11 and used it for my brewed coffee purchase. My mug was roughly the size of a medium cup (P45) but I got charged only P35. Pretty cool!

I brought my mug to Figaro as well. I have this fairly tall mug that matched their 16 oz coffee and I asked them to use that for my order. I didn't get a discount but at least I get to save another paper cup.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Old show a new favorite

I've recently rediscovered Criminal Minds on Fox (channel 50 on Skycable). I used to watch this show during my short stint in Sweden but it wasn't showing on any of the channels I had here in Manila. Either that or I could never catch it while it was airing.

I recall being disappointed when Skycable replaced Fox Crime - which had all three CSIs and The Practice - with Fox. At the time, there weren't a lot of shows on Fox which I enjoyed apart from The Simpsons, but now they are showing a lot of Criminal Minds (specifically season 4). I'm getting to watch a lot of it and I'm finding this show compelling once again. It's a heavy theme actually but there's a lot of triumph in it. What makes it even more interesting to watch is that different episodes don't always follow the same format - sometimes the antagonist is revealed early on and sometimes you don't find out who the perpetrator is until the show is close to the end.

There's also a new channel on Skycable - Universal on channel 33 - which shows a lot of the different Law and Order franchises. SVU (Special Victims Unit) remains to be my favorite one. With Fox and Universal added to the Skycable roster, there are now more shows to keep me entertained.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace

If you're looking for a cozy restaurant that offers good, affordable food in the Quezon City area, you might want to try Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace. I saw this resto a few months ago and thought it was quite interesting. So when I had dinner with my friends Tim and Basil and Tim wanted to try something new, I suggested this place.

A big part of Blacksoup's appeal its unique interior: quirky decorative pieces, musical instruments, and tables displaying different pictures and photographs all combine to provide an artsy yet cozy ambience. When we were there, the film Bicycle Thieves was being projected onto the far wall, making our dinner a lot more interesting.

And of course the food. Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace offers menu items that are inspired by traditional Filipino fare, such as the laing pasta and mango turon.

Laing Pasta

Mango Turon

If you want something other that local cuisine, you can try some of their other dishes like the chicken with basil and cheese stuffing. You can also check out menu of the day for more options.

Chicken with Basil and Cheese Stuffing

Meal prices range from P100 to P150 so we went crazy and ordered five dishes. Apart from the items mentioned above, we also ordered the aligui pasta, the pasta ala victoria, and the salmon from the daily menu. Their coffee is pretty good and costs only P35 if I recall correctly. You can check out their menu here. Good prices, good atmosphere, and good food. That's a solid combination in my book, and it makes this place definitely worth a visit.

Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace is located in Unit G Maginhawa Bldg, #154 Maginhawa Street, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City. You won't see it along the road if you are driving along Maginhawa, so instead, look for Crave Burger and park in that area. Go through the short walkway right next to Crave Burger into the building complex behind it. Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace has a facebook page if you'd like to read more about it.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Hitting the treadmill again

It's been 2 months since I ran my marathon-for-a-cause and mentioned in a previous post, I haven't been able to run since then. That is, until today. I finally got to hit the treadmill again using my new running shoes. Since I haven't had any exercise in two months, I decided to go low-intensity and ran only 3 kilometers. It felt incredible flexing my running muscles again and breaking a sweat. I just need to regularly hit the gym 3-4 times a week. Not only will that keep me healthy but it can help me bring down my finish time in next year's marathon. And maybe lose some weight along the way. :)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

What a bad start

The Barclays Premier League started a couple of weeks ago. With the Liverpool featuring old stars Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres and new players like Joe Cole, my hopes were high that the team would do better this season.

Unfortunately, things haven't panned out the way I hoped. With a draw against Arsenal, a bad loss to Man City, and only one win coming against West Brom, Liverpool are sitting sadly in 13th place!!! That's 13th out of 20, which is a sorry place to be in for one of the biggest clubs in the BPL. Of course it's only the start of the season and it's only a 5-point difference between 13th and 1st, but you always want to get off on the right foot and Liverpool didn't do that.

Here's hoping things change soon and Liverpool start notching more wins and moving up the league table.