Thursday, March 30, 2006

Oh Torta!

Tortaaaah! (Photo courtesy of Heidi)

As part of our Wow Philippines heritage tour of Cebu (see other blog), we stopped over in Argao at Alex Kafe, a "300-year-old cafe and house." Here, we were served a native delicacy called torta, which one is supposed to eat (or wash down with) a cuppa hot tsokolate.

And so there it was, in the middle of the table, looking innocent and, dare I say, even enticing. As the Queen of PR said, it did look like ensaymada--spongy, buttery bread sprinkled with cheese and sugar. There were even a few raisins. Gino, hungry from a whole morning in the skies and on the road, immediately picked up his fork and dug in. An entire side of the torta crumbled before our very eyes, as soon as the fork made contact. That should've served as a warning. Gino took the first bite, and his look said it all--twas a mixture of pain and nausea. We were half-expecting the Wow Mali crew to reveal themselves at that moment.

Torta is supposedly made of lard that was used to cook...something else. (In Gino's words, "It tastes like it was cooked with lard made in 1859!") What that something was is debatable. While the Queen of PR warned us that it tasted like adobo, Gwyn said it tasted more like the lard was used to cook bagnet. Close. But that doesn't explain the aged factor. Perhaps it was used to cook bagnet 10 times over. During the town fiesta. Three years ago.

We all knew we had to take one for the team, so with quivering forks, we each took dainty little slices. The others were fortunate enough to be able to drown their little snacks in tsokolate. I, on the other hand, had to make do with spooning heaps of sugar onto it. Gino tried to erase the offensive taste with the jackfruit biscuits on hand (which, ordinarily, wouldn't be so enticing. But given the scenario...).

And so the torta found its way into every punchline, anecdote, and nightmare throughout the entire trip. Over lunch (fresh from our close encounter of the torta kind), the manager Em asked us, "So you went to Alex Kafe? Did you try the torta?" Kaye and I nodded meekly. "Ang sarap no?" she said enthusiastically--it was the kind of tone I normally reserve for chocolate. And she wasn't kidding! I blinked and asked Kaye about her prawns. To be polite, I asked Em, in as normal a voice as possible, "Er, do you also serve torta here?" To which she apologetically replied, "Yes...but it's not as good as the one you ate."


Apparently, it's a source of Cebuano pride. During one of our discussions, we concurred that it was probably an acquired taste. As the Manilenos' loud complaints about torta sailed through the pavilion air, I feared that the Sumilon people would have their revenge by serving us torta on the last day. Come Monday lunch time, we held our breath as the waiters made their way to our table, placing our dessert plates in front of us: banana fritters. And there was a collective "Phew!" (On a side note, those fritters were delicious! Bananas dipped in some sort of batter, fried, coated with sugar, and served with a side of some creamy sauce. Mmmm. Too bad we had to wolf it down as we were in danger of missing our flight.)

Wanting to share the torta experience with our co-workers back home (because, really, words can only convey so much), we checked the stores at the Mactan International Airport. Alas, none of them carried torta, and probably for good reason. If we're any indication, hindi siya mabenta! Still, I thank the torta for somehow bringing the group closer together--the episode was probably akin to a near-death experience, where people who come out alive automatically form some sort of bond.

I exaggerate. If you do find yourself in Cebu, you might still want to try it, just for the experience. But you've been warned.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sweet Friday...Having Cake and Eating Two!

Friday was an evil evil day because, apart from the fact that I ate meat (and lots of it!), I ended up eating two different kinds of rich, sinful cake.

Had a home shoot in Salcedo Village and the homeowner had a major sweet tooth (and yet, was still so skinny. Life is not fair). She introduced us to Aritstocrat's best-kept secret--the Mucha Leche. It's P300 for the whole cake, and it isn't sold by the slice; I discovered why after our hostess sliced into it. It's a deliciously milky cake (covered in white chocolate shavings) that's so incredibly moist that it practically melts once it's sliced into. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Next, she served what she called "the best homemade chocolate chip cookie." It's a P65 cookie from the Westin Philippine Plaza. Couldn't have a bite but once Miguel snapped off a bit, the cookie released a potent smell of chocolate. I looked at it and saw that the inside was 5% cookie dough and 95% chocolate chip goo. Aaah.

That evening, at Joseph's surprise party, I couldn't get enough of this cake from Cuerva's. Or perhaps it was a mango cream pie. It was about 12 or 14 inches in diameter and only about an inch-and-a-half high. It had a fairly thin crust--which meant oodles of cream--and had loads of little round pieces of ripe mango on top. I was stationed right beside it, and it took quite a bit of willpower to keep myself from constantly opening the box and helping myself. (And just to illustrate how yummy it was, I ended up eating about three slices--and I was holding myself back already! They were small slices, I swear!)

To ease my conscience, let's just say that this was all in the name of research... for this blog, and for the sake of future potluck parties, when I have absolutely no time to make that triple chocolate bundt cake. Excuses, excuses.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cooking classes - help please

Friends, if anyone knows of good basic cooking classes--aside from CCA, which is quite pricey even for short courses--that Hamil and I could attend, please leave a message. I'm looking for something hands-on. Thanks a lot!:)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Dining with Tita Ming

Had a shoot at Ming's Garden Center & Coffee Shop in Silang today and I got to meet Tita Ming Ramos. (For the record, I couldn't call her "Tita"! Haha. I called her "Ma'am" when she was around...) Had lunch at the coffee shop and, since it's a Friday of Lent, I had me some of the fish fillet with tartare sauce. Sauce was pretty good, would've preferred it if the fish were a tad saltier. Issa had the pan-fried daing na bangus, and it looked pretty good. Miguel had the Korean beef, Mang Paeng had tapsilog, and Marlon had lechon kawali. Come to think of it, all of their orders looked tasty...or maybe twas 'coz I couldn't have meat today. Human nature to want what you can't have I suppose.

Afterwards, Miguel, Issa, and Tita Ming had halo-halo. They each had a half serving, which comes in a bowl instead of a tall glass. Pretty huge, and it made me wonder how big a full serving was. I had the mango float, and it was yummy, with loads of mangoes, unlike many a mango float I've tried which are normally 80% cream. Issa's hot chocolate smelled heavenly. Would've loved to have a cup.

Nice place to visit. And Tita Ming is a lovely woman; she seemed simple and down-to-earth. Mang Paeng will be going back for some plants. I'll tell my mom to check it out one time when she plays golf in the area.

Food: 3 out of 5
Price: 3 out of 5 (probably around P200/person)
Ambience: 4 out of 5
Service: 4 out of 5

Monday, March 06, 2006

Canteen Food, the Italian Way

Finally got to check out Amici di Don Bosco near Walmart (a.k.a. Walter Mart. hehe) yesterday. Had a shoot by the riles along Pasong Tamo so we had the perfect excuse to have lunch at Amici. Went with Issa, Miguel, Joel (Miguel's assistant), and our driver Mang Jayson.

Amici di Don Bosco (I'm guessing it means "Friends of Don Bosco") is a canteen-type place run by Italian priests. I half-expected old men in full monk attire to be bustling about, but what we got were men and women in Amici di Don Bosco t-shirts behind five different counters (much like in typical canteens): one each for pizza, pasta, normal canteen food, gelato, and coffee.

Miguel treated us to a pizza, since, as he said, sinisilawan namin siya ng salapi. I forgot what it was called, but it had pepperoni and olives on it. It was on what they called a thin crust, but not as thin as in the ordinary pizza chains. I would've liked more pepperoni (carnivore in da house), but still, it was pretty good.

We also had two pastas: spinach canneloni and montanara (I think). I loved the canneloni because of two things: it had my favorite veggie and it was just swimming in cream. Mmmm. I normally don't eat the edge of my pizza crust, but this time I used it to wipe the canneloni plate clean. Miguel was raving about the other pasta, which had red sauce and Italian sausage on what looked like rotini.

Afterwards, Miguel and Issa bought five scoops of gelato. *sigh* I shall return!

Food: 3.5 out of 5
Price: 4 out of 5. Sulit 'coz there were five of us, and our bill was all of about P600! But if there were just two people sharing a pizza and one pasta dish (but this would be super filling though), it would probably cost about P200 each.
Ambience: 3 out of 5. It's nice that it isn't pretentious or anything. It's funny how there are reminders stuck to the tables saying how Lent is a time for fasting, abstinence, and "acts of mercy."
Service: 3.5 out of 5. They were efficient enough. But Miguel said something like, "For a place run by priests, they're not very cheerful."