Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Night at Lola Cafe + Bar

I had been to Lōla Cafe + Bar once before and I had been wanting to try this place again since. My friend Raych is in town and so we scheduled dinner with her while she was here. Since the request was to meet in QC, I suggested Lola Cafe. Thankfully, most of us - Jette, Ric, Bett and Lany - were able to make it.

Lōla Cafe + Bar

We decided to dine family-style so that we could try many different dishes. We got three appetizers. The Pesto Fries (P220) are crispy fries served with pesto, tomato sauce and topped with a sunny side egg. There's a bit of tableside presentation as our waiter actually cut up the egg and mixed it into the dish after she brought it to our table.

Pesto Fries (P220)

We also ordered the Two Sausages (P200). One sausage is chicken and the other is a spicy Hungarian Sausage. This appetizer was a big hit and I really enjoyed it.

Two Sausages (P200)

Lola's Garlic Rolls (P280) proved to be quite a revelation as well. These ciabatta rolls are served with olive oil, oregano, parmesan, and chopped garlic and they were so good! We actually enjoyed them as a side dish as they perfectly complemented a lot of the main dishes we ordered.

Lōla's Garlic Rolls (P280)

I recommended the Adobo Balsamic Chicken (P330) because I had tried it before and loved it. As its name implies, it is cooked with balsamic vinegar instead of the normal vinegar used in regular adobo. It's a delicious twist to a Filipino classic.

Adobo Balsamic Chicken (P330)

We also ordered the Kare-Kare (P350). While I do wish there were more vegetables in this dish, it was very tasty.

Kare-Kare (P350)

Jette had also eaten here before and she recommended the Spicy Tinapa Pasta (P215). It packs a lot of heat and a lot of good flavor too.

Spicy Tinapa Pasta (P215)

The Tenderloin Skewers (P300) were grilled beef tenderloin medallions served with tomatoes and pita bread.

Tenderloin Skewers (P300)

All the dishes we ordered were really good and while we were eating, Raych actually said that our dinner venue was a good choice. Bett also said that she really loved the tomatoes that came with most of our dishes and we all agreed. We rounded out our evening with a few desserts. The one I enjoyed the most was the Banoffee Pie (P150).

Banoffee Pie (P150)

I loved the presentation of the Pistachio Pavlova (P99) as we had three meringues presented on a thin stone slab. However, while the flavor was good, the meringue was impossible to slice with a knife; they kept crumbling. Might be a better idea to just pick them up and bite them.

Pistachio Pavlova (P99)

The Tiramisu (P160) is different from the usual preparation of this classic Italian dessert. Instead of the traditional mascarpone cheese filling, this one seems to have been filled with ice cream.

Tiramisu (P160)

Of course, our evening wasn't all about the food. As most of us hadn't seen each other in a really long time - it was probably 4-5 years since we last saw Raych - there was a whole lot of catching up to do. Many stories were shared and we got to look back at our many years of friendship. We also talked about possibly meeting up one more time while Raych is still in town since other friend Chari will be to returning to Manila soon. It was a truly enjoyable evening.

Lola Cafe + Bar is a perfect place to enjoy a good meal with family and friends. The food is great and affordable (the most expensive dish we ordered was P350), the ambience is cozy, there's ample parking space, the restaurant is quite easy to find, and the service is good. I will definitely be visiting this place again.

Lola Cafe + Bar
99 Scout Lozano, Quezon City
(02) 501-2620
Lola Cafe + Bar is at the corner of Scout Lozano and Scout Tuason in QC. Scout Tuason is parallel to Tomas Morato and just one street away.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Big Hero 6 wins an Oscar!

Congratulations to Big Hero 6 for winning the Best Animated Film award at the Oscars!

This was a big pleasant surprise for me because The Lego Movie was winning most of the awards leading up to the Oscars and any award it didn't win went to How to Train Your Dragon 2. However, the Lego Movie was shockingly not nominated at the Oscars. While this major snub made How to Train your Dragon 2 a frontrunner in the animated film race, it did open the door for Big Hero 6 to possibly snag the award. And it did!

The Lego Movie is edgy and witty and different from most other animated films, making it stand out. The buzz about, or attraction to, How to Train Your Dragon 2 may also be coming from the fact that its brilliant first installment was massively overshadowed by Toy Story 3 (strangely enough, I actually prefer the first How to Train your dragon over Toy Story 3 even if the Pixar film was a hands-down favorite among many and it won Best Animated film that year). That said, I really enjoyed Big Hero 6 a lot more than The Lego Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2. I have written in the past that it is my favorite 2014 movie, live or animated, so I am really happy that it took home the Oscar.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Golden Girls on Hits TV

Thanks to Skycable channel 137 Hits TV, I've been able to enjoy once again one of my favorite comedies from the 80's to early 90's, The Golden Girls. It is currently being aired on Hits TV from Mondays to Fridays but there is also a mini-marathon of five episodes on Sundays, from 7 to 9:30 PM. Apart from this being a great show, it also has one of my all-time favorite TV show themes, Thank you for being a friend. Check it out here:

video uploaded in youtube by Travis Huffman

Despite The Golden Girls being a few decades old (it was on from 1985 to 1992), I still find it very entertaining and funny. Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty have such amazing chemistry on screen, and the characters they portray are all very interesting in their own unique ways. You'd think that a show about four retired women would cater only to senior citizens and yet somehow, while the show was on, it regularly topped its time slot, was ranked in the top 10 highest-rated programs in six of its seven seasons, and always achieved more than 10 million viewers on average. I guess you can attribute that to a supremely talented cast and great writing. I'm just grateful that Hits TV has brought this show back for its Filipino fans to enjoy.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Volleyball night

Our volleyball club at work organizes games quite regularly nowadays. Since I was available earlier tonight, I decided to play. It was the first time I hit the court in four months and I wasn't sure what my form would be given that I couldn't effectively jump and attack the ball the last time I played. Not sure if my recent 5-pound weight loss had anything to do but I actually did much better earlier tonight, at least in terms of my attacks and serves. (My reception was a bit on-off LOL.) It was the first time I could spike consistently in a long time. Cool!

I got to play a few (several?) sets and it's too bad that we had to end that final set prematurely because the court had to be closed. It was a very tight and fiercely contested set. We were down 21-24 before making a comeback and even taking the lead. We asked the court manager for a bit of an extension which he gave us but we were playing some long rallies and we had to call it quits at 26-all. Wow!

The flipside to all that enjoyment is that now my body hurts all over LOL. However, I also did say recently that I have to start exercising more regularly. Hopefully I get to play a bit more frequently in the future.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Dinner at Todd English

I met up with a couple of friends for afternoon coffee in SM Aura yesterday. We all went our separate ways at around 7pm. My plan was to buy a few items then head home but I figured that since I was already there, I might as well have dinner somewhere I had never eaten before. As such, I decided to go to Todd English Food Hall.

When I got there, there was a really long queue of people outside waiting to get a seat. I didn't really want to wait in line so I left but I then realized that there was a bar inside. I headed back and I asked if they had space at the bar for one person. Luckily, they did and I managed to get a seat immediately.

I ordered the T.E. Pork Chop (P440). My first thought as it was served: the portion size is huge!!

T.E. Pork Chop (P440)

I initially thought I couldn't eat all of it due to its size but it turned out I was quite hungry and I managed to eat all of it haha. This pork chop was really thick but despite its size, it was moist and succulent and well-cooked all the way through. I will definitely be visiting Todd English again in the future. If the rest of their food in terms of quality and portion size are anything like this pork chop, I will be a happy man. :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Adarna closes its doors

Sad news for fans of this wonderful restaurant. Adarna Food and Culture served its last order a few weeks ago. I found out about this today when I was putting together restaurant suggestions since my friends and I are planning to meet up for dinner. I was looking for the Adarna website so I could recommend it to my friends when I saw on their facebook page that they closed last January 23. Here's a link to a touching post about their final service.

Such a shame I wasn't able to have one last meal there before it closed. My friends and I planned to have dinner there in December last year but conflicting schedules didn't permit us to meet up then. At least I did get to enjoy their food many times in the past. Here's a link to my blog post about Adarna Food and Culture. While it is sad that I won't be able to enjoy a meal here anymore, I am happy that I got to experience Adarna and enjoy the food there with my family and friends on many occasions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Into the Woods

I finally got to see Into the Woods at the cinema. This is officially the first film I've seen in a movie theater this year. I knew it was based on the Broadway musical created by Stephen Sondheim but I didn't really know what happens in it. All I knew was that it combined several different fairy tales together, including Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood. As I didn't want to be spoiled, I avoided reading the plot of the original musical and of the film itself.

As this is based on a Broadway show, you can clearly see that it is split in two acts, each with a very different vibe and tone. The first half is almost fun, playful, and hopeful, and fascinating, keeping viewers interested and wondering how things will unfold. The second half is a lot darker, not only in terms of the storyline but also visually, with the earlier kaleidoscopic panoramas replaces by gray, mist-filled scenes. Amidst all the singing, the plot provides a provocative glimpse into the human condition. It shows how easily we as people can become selfish, deceitful and even conniving when we are desperate, how we often pointedly blame others in times of crisis and misery, how we sometimes end up becoming what we despise, how fleeting our life is, and how we have an instinctive need to connect with others when faced with the prospect of desolation and isolation.

The acting was great and the singing was superb. It was cool seeing Meryl Streep (the Witch) share the screen again with her The Devil Wears Prada co-star Emily Blunt who did an excellent job as the baker's wife. Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) showcased her vocal ability and range more than she did in Pitch Perfect, Chris Pine (Prince Charming) positively surprised everyone, and the kids Daniel Huttlestone (Jack) and Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood) both sounded as if they've had decades of vocal training and experience.

As expected, Meryl Streep was fantastic. I mentioned this before but while I had already been impressed by her singing in the past, she took things to the another level and outperformed herself vocally in this film. Stephen Sondheim's songs are incredibly difficult to sing and she performs them brilliantly. I wrote about her rendition of "Stay with me" (not to be confused with the Sam Smith hit) a month ago. This time, check out "The Last Midnight":

video uploaded in youtube by DisneyMusicVEVO

I wouldn't say that Into the Woods is for everyone as it is filled with a whole lot of singing and the score doesn't really feature catchy songs. As I have not seen the musical, I have no basis for comparison. Taking it as it is, I thought it was great and definitely worth watching.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Five pounds off

About a month ago, I suffered from pretty bad stomach problems. As a result, I lost about five pounds. Surprisingly enough, four weeks later, I fortunately haven't gained those five pounds back. I guess this is because I have somehow managed to keep eating relatively smaller portions compared what I was eating before I got sick. I remember having some pasta recently and after eating about two-thirds of the dish, I already started to feel pretty full.

I am now almost certain that because I wrote about it, I will start gaining all that lost weight back pretty quickly LOL. I really need to channel my previous ability and discipline to exercise semi-regularly. I am not getting any younger and I certainly need to have a healthier lifestyle.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A reunion over board games

Last weekend, I met up with some of the alumni of the lead organizers of our CSR organization at work. I say alumni because some of us have stepped down from our previous leadership roles and some of us have left. While not everyone was available, a lot of us were so we proceeded with the reunion since it's often impossible to get many of us together at the same time and place.

We had discussed having a game day/night in the past because a lot of us in the group were board game fans so this was a perfect time for us to enjoy the games I purchased a while back. Denise arrived before everyone else - I actually hadn't seen her in maybe more than a year since she missed our karaoke night late last year - so since everyone else wasn't there yet, we got to catch up quite a lot. Kristel soon joined us about an hour and a half after Denise arrived so I ordered some pizza and mojos from Shakey's and I then took out my first game, Ticket to Ride. I thought it would be a good game for us to start with given there were only three of us at that time. Of the three games I have, this is probably the easiest one to understand. :) Also, I've now had this game for 2 1/2 years but I hadn't been able to play it yet. By the time the three of us finished our game, the rest of the folks started arriving in quick succession - Melody, Katco, Lou, Zaza, Diane, and Jef. At that point, the food arrived as well so we had a dinner break before resuming play.

Since our Ticket to Ride board was already set up, we decided to play one more game. Katco also brought games with her and she also had Ticket to Ride (albeit the Europe version) so we decided to have two boards set up so all of us could play (this game can only allow up to 5 players). Once we were done, we moved to the more complicated 7 Wonders. The entire first game was spent explaining it to people LOL but after dealing with the difficulty of understanding how you can score points, people started to get the hang of it. We played one more round after - a much easier round for everyone this time - before calling it a night. We all seem to agree to stage another game day/night but we also thought that people should start arriving earlier to maximize the number of games we can play. I figure that, with all the enjoyment we had, I should organize these game day/nights more regularly.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

UP win UAAP Street Dance Competition

A belated congratulations to UP for winning the 2015 UAAP Street Dance competition! It was held last Sunday and I got to watch it for the first time. In fact, I didn't even know until I saw it on TV last week that there was such a competition in the UAAP. :)

The UP Streetdance Club defended the crown that they won in 2013 (the competition wasn't held last year) by garnering a score of 178.0. The theme of their highly energetic routine was "larong Pinoy" as they included stylized interpretations of native games into their dance number, such as piko, sipa, and luksong tinik. Check out their title-winning performance:

video uploaded in youtube by ABS-CBN Sports And Action

The Ateneo Company of Dancers won second place with a score of 167.3. They barely beat out the La Salle Dance Company-Street who placed third with a score of 167, only 0.3 points behind Ateneo.

Congratulations, UP Streetdance Club!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Ghost by the Indigo Girls

If I were forced to choose what my favorite song is, I would probably say it is "Ghost" by the Indigo Girls. I discovered this song in the late 90s when my friend lent me his Rites of Passage CD. I ended up playing this song over and over again throughout the entire day, paying little to no attention to every other song on the CD (not because the other tracks weren't any good - they absolutely were! - but because I had become blindly obsessed with this one song). I have loved Ghost ever since and it is the most played song in my iPod.

video uploaded in youtube by zeki1208

Why exactly do I love this song? For me, Ghost is perfect on so many levels. The melody is irresistible and captivating in its melancholy. The Indigo Girls sing it so beautifully and expressively and their voices and harmonies are haunting and exquisite. The writing is artistically brilliant, like poetry set to music. The lyrical imagery is vivid and their metaphors about pain and heartbreak are ones that leave you saying "that's exactly how I feel!" There's a repeating theme of water throughout the song - the Mississipi river, the allusions to the Pied Piper of Hamelin and the thousand ships launched by the face of Helen of Troy, being baptized by someone's touch, and drowning and being unable to swim free - and this makes the overall storytelling even more compelling.

Even the way the music builds takes you on an emotional journey. It starts out subdued and reflective then it slowly escalates to more anguish in the "chorus" (I use that term loosely as this song actually has a chorus only in the melodic sense; it doesn't have a true chorus given that the only line in the entire song that is repeated is "I'm in love with your ghost.") By the time we get to the bridge, the despair is almost frantic, as is reflected in the way part of it is sung, almost like a wail. Interestingly enough, the lyrics speak about how even the most overwhelming pain starts out small and meek but grows massive, like the Mississippi River which "starts in Minnesota at a place where you could walk across with five steps down."

What makes Ghost special is the fact that the lyrics, the melody, the instrumentation, the voices and the harmonies, and the way the music builds all convey the same message and express the same thing. As such, listening to it is like a spiritual experience for me. Despite the years, though, I still can't be quite sure exactly what this song is about. Does it speak of the desperation of hanging on to something you've lost and the inability to let go? Does it articulate the difficulty of getting out of a dysfunctional or (unintentionally?) abusive relationship, or maybe even one's refusal to do so despite knowing that they should? Maybe it's about all of that. Whatever the case may be, Ghost is a truly beautiful song and I'm so glad I discovered it.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Aussie Open 2015

The Australian Open concluded earlier today with Novak Djokovic winning his 5th trophy in Melbourne, edging out Andy Murray. It was a very tight and closely contested match in the first two sets, both of which ended in tiebreaks. Andy seemed to have the momentum as he was up an early break 2-0 in the third and he may have thought he had a strong chance to win after Novak seemed to start cramping or having some physical problems. However, Novak broke back to put him on even footing with Andy at 2-2 in the third set. It was then that Andy's wheels fell off. He won only one more game after that as Djokovic won nine games in a row to close out the match and along with it, the Australian Open title.

Djokovic now has 8 Grand Slam titles, putting him in even footing with other tennis legends, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Ken Rosewell, and Fred Perry. Only 7 men have more Grand Slam singles titles than him now.

As amazing as that stat is, it somehow gets overshadowed by his counterpart on the women's tournament. The astonishing Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova in the final to win her 19th Grand Slam singles title. This moves her past Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in a tie for 3rd all-time with Helen Wills Moody. Only Margaret Court with 24 and Steffi Graf with 22 have more. And considering how good Serena is still playing now, I wouldn't be surprised if she ends her career having more Grand Slam singles titles than anyone else.