Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pilipino ka ba?

"Pilipino ka ba (Are you Filipino)?"
"Oo (yes)."

I don't have any trouble telling people my ethnicity. I have trouble convincing them to believe that I am what I say I am.

I have a lack of knowledge about my Filipino culture's history and customs. Like many American born Filipinos, I was raised American thus making me not Filipino enough for the motherland and not American enough for the Americans. Yes, I was surrounded by a Filipino family but I chose not to participate in the Filipinoness of it all. It was just too foreign for me.

Now that I live in the city, I've been exploring a lot of cultures including my own. I went out to eat Filipino food for dinner and, surprisingly, it was the first time I have actually tried some of these native dishes. I've got so much to learn and, luckily, food is not a bad place to start.

Ihawan 2 in Long Island City is the sister restaurant to Ihawan in Woodside. Ihawan is famous for their grilled meat. Ihawan 2 also has a sushi bar menu but I recommend sticking to the Filipino cuisine. After all, why go to Ihawan if you are not going to eat Filipino food?

The best way to eat Filipino food is to share all the dishes. That's what we would do at home. Plus you get to try everything.

Most Filipino meals consist of soup, meat, and vegetables. Party food will always have lumpia and some type of noodles. What we ordered was a pretty good representation of some typical Filipino dishes ranging from snack food to side dishes, grilled meats from seafood to pork, and soups and stews that have the signature sour and sweet flavors characteristic of Filipino cuisine. Filipino food is quite trendy these days. Stay tuned for Filipino food blog post #2. In the meantime, let's have a taste of what a Filipino dinner looks like. Masarap (delicious)!

Lechon Kawali, Calamares, Lumpiang Shanghai
(pan roasted pork, squid, tiny eggrolls
commonly served with liver sauce for the pork and sweet chili sauce for the lumpia)
Chicken BBQ and Pork BBQ sticks
Grilled Shrimp and Mussels
Fresh Lumpia
(vegetables and shrimp wrapped in a thin pancake with peanut sauce)
Garlic Rice
(Most Filipinos eat white rice. Garlic rice is more of a brunch option
but a nice tasty alternative offered for dinner at Ihawan2.)
(Grilled pork ears and snout with chili pepper, onions, and lemon)
Pancit Palabok
You have to mix the palabok in order to enjoy it!
(rice stick noodles topped with shrimps, egg, and shrimp sauce) 
Sinigang na Baboy
(Pork and Vegetables in Tamarind Soup)
(Cow Tongue in Mushroom Sauce)
(Oxtail with mixed vegetables in peanut butter sauce)
Fried Tilapia

1007 50th Ave.
Long Island City, NY 11101

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why Pink Bunnies Go To Their Graves Crying Gravy Tears

It was the eve of her 40th birthday. Christine sat at her vanity ready to brush her long wavy hair. She gripped her brush, a hand painted ceramic antique, given to her by her grandmother when she was seven.

"You have beautiful hair nieta. Your mother had hair like yours," her grandmother told her.

Christine stared into the mirror. She looked at herself, eyes blank, and quickly averted her eyes to the vanity. Her wedding ring and pearl earrings sat waiting to be picked up and put on.
The sound of the door knob turning and her husband's footsteps knocked Christine out of her daze. She put on the last touches and turned around to face John.

John graced Christine's cheeks with his palms and gave her a soft kiss.

"You look beautiful," he told her.

Christine smiled but it was not the type of smile that lit up the room. She smiled more to please him and show that she was appreciative of his comment but the truth was that she always had a horrible time accepting them. Compliments made Christine feel uncomfortable.

"Say thank you nieta!" her grandmother scolded. Christine felt her hair whip against her face. The very same hand that gently brushed her hair had just struck her. She felt a tear drop down her cheek as she gasped for breath. "When someone calls you beautiful, you say thank you!" 

Christine never knew why her grandmother struck her. Perhaps she was too young at the time. All she understood was that from an early age on, people would always stare at her.

Beauty was something Christine never accepted. She never felt that she had style, grace, or a face to look at. When she was 12, Christine used to flip the pages of the family photo album that was hidden in the bottom dresser drawer of the guest room of her grandmother's house. She studied the pictures of her mother, a stranger to her in many ways. Christine had never met her mother. She learned about her through family and the neighbors. Her grandmother made references to her from time to time but never fully divulged. Christine always wondered what happened to her mother. Some said she moved to Mexico to work as a secretary for an ambassador. Others told her she ran away nursing a broken heart. After what seemed like a lifetime of chasing secrets, Christine gave up. The whereabouts and absence of her roots left her feeling empty.

"Here. Have a slice of tres leches cake," her grandmother said lovingly. She set the plate down in front of Christine. "Talk to me. Tell me about your day." 

Christine always looked forward to coming home from school. Her grandmother stood waiting in the kitchen so that she was the first person she saw when she walked in through the back door. It was a comforting routine and something that gave Christine peace. It was ironic that the same memory that gave her so much joy also gave her grief.

"Here. Eat your carrots," her grandmother said sternly. Christine put a carrot in her mouth. She tasted the sweet juices. It was cold and snapped when she took a bite. 

Christine felt as if she was being punished. She had come home crying. The stares at school made her want to run and hide. She felt paranoid that people were talking about her and the unwarranted attention made her cringe. Christine did not know how to deal with the whispers or the rumors. Not knowing the truth made it impossible for her to fight back nor was she brave, articulate, or extroverted enough to look her classmates in the eyes and say something. The afternoon slices of cake became outlets for Christine and it began to show on her body.

"What have you done to yourself nieta?" her grandmother said accusingly.

Christine felt shamed and for many years could not shake off the cake she used to absorb her tears. She thought about her friend Lucy at work. They had started running together in the evenings for fitness. Christine remembered her first mile. It was the first time, in a long time, she felt free and at peace.

Christine picked up her sterling silver locket and then put it down. The locket was a gift from John for finishing her first marathon. Again, Christine smiled gently but not fully. She wanted to smile bright and with teeth and feeling so much that it gave her crow's feet. No matter how hard she tried, she could not because she would not allow herself to.

Christine pounded her fist on the vanity in anger and knocked over her glass of water. It fell to the ground and shattered. She felt the pieces of charred glass cut her foot. Christine looked down and saw droplets of blood grow into a thin stream of wet warm liquid. Tears began to fall simultaneously as she felt the blood drip to the floor.

"Honey, are you okay?" John asked.

He frantically grabbed Christine and wrapped his arms around her. She was shaking and, like many times before, all John could do was hold her. He had tried to console her with words but never got anywhere. Christine was lifeless and unresponsive. He did not understand why his beautiful wife faded in and out.

Only Christine knew why pink bunnies go to their graves crying gravy tears.

Image Credit: cold shoulder by ozan balta

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nothing Like a Fall to Put the Pen into Gear

"In life, there are moments when a girl is bound to fall flat on her face.  That's when I take a moment, and say to myself - it's okay - get back up sexy." -- Restaurant Baby

My writing partner has been a source of inspiration. She is smart, classy, fun, and a great listener. Our writing workshops segue into discussions about life and are used as a tool for a greater understanding of where we are in our writing. I've always had the phrase in the back of my mind, "Write about what you know."

My blog is about city life, food, events I attend, and more of the like. I try to stay away from diary tell all posts. It's not something I am entirely comfortable with anymore. I wanted a blog with structure and strong bones, not one that told the tales of a woe me whiner. As I go deeper into the blogosphere, I'm beginning to realize that it is necessary for me to open up about my experiences in order for me to become a stronger writer and to connect better with my audience. I will be bold. I will be fearless
I will be a little bit braver with each word I write.

Restaurant Baby

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Le Fooding- Let's do it again.

I attended New York's first Le Fooding d'Amour event in 2009. The party was held in front of MoMA PS1 in Long Island City. Set in the middle of MOS' afterparty, Le Fooding was not only an visual success, but first and foremost tasteful. Graphic images were projected on to the walls and the long lines for the chef's plates were worth the wait. 100% of the $30 admission fee was donated to Action Against Hunger.

Fast forward to Le Fooding's third event in NYC, Campfire Session #01. The number of tasting tables, donation to Action Against Hunger, and tickets available were decreased. The price of the event went up and a concert element was added. I was in. The musical value was enough for me and $15 would be donated to charity. I believe it was a fair price to pay. If anything, it was definitely a bargain. The ticket granted 3 plates (we may or may not have got extra ribs), 3 drinks (we may or may not have got extra drinks), 2 musical acts, ice cream (we may or may not have got extra scoops), and a dj party by DFA all set in the mysterious and romantic Elizabeth Street Garden. I've walked by Elizabeth Street Garden many times at night. Once, I watched through the gates as a wedding reception took place. It felt nice and exclusive to finally be on the other side of the fence.

Overall, I found Le Fooding Campfire Session #01 to be a smashing success. It was a small and intimate event where we were able to mingle with the chefs and have a clear audio of the music. Wylie Dufresne of WD~50 was really friendly and may I just declare that I am smitten with Norwegian crooner Sondre Lerche? He was amazing acoustic and incredibly down to Earth.

Let us relive Le Fooding in pictures.

Elizabeth Street Garden
Root Beer Ribs (AndrewAndrew, Wylie Dufresne WD~50)
Sasha Petraske (Milk & Honey) making Irish Bucks
Irish Buck and Westside (Richard Boccato Dutch Kills)
Square ice cubes and candied ginger for the win!
Beef and Chive Salad (James Murphy DFA + Inaki Aizpitarte Le Chateaubriand)
Sock-It-To-Fried Chicken 
(Muhsinah The Golden Girl + Dante Gonzales Dante Fried Chicken)
Hanni El Khatib
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and Jameson Whiskey break
Sondre Lerche
In memory of DJ Mehdi

-The root beer ribs were fall off the bone good. Marinated in root beer, they reminded me of Filipino family recipes where we put 7-Up on our meat for flavor and tenderization. The cherry kombu relish was a nice addition.

-I am not a big alcoholic drinker but I did enjoy two Irish Bucks. I loved the sharpness of the ginger and the Jameson went down smooth. The Westside was also nice and for the classic cocktail of Jameson and ginger ale or plain on the rocks it was a tad bit too strong for me. Definitely one for the drinkers. They were quite generous on the Jameson.

-The beef and chive salad was my favorite dish of the night. The beef was cooked perfectly, still bloody, just how I like it. The chive salad was a burst of flavor and texture. I really enjoyed the crunchy bits of coriander.

-The fried chicken plate was my southern beauty. The chicken was actually a piece of boneless chicken breast. It was juicy and had a crispy coating. They squeezed spicy apricot sauce over it and served it with cheddar grits and a coconut honey biscuit. The plate also had an endive with black-eyed pea hummus. This dish was the substantial side filler of the night. That was a good thing. After all of this, I would say one would have been full.

-I've always been a fan of Van Leeuwen ice cream. We got to try all four flavors: Roasted Banana, Salted Caramel with Makers Mark, Michel Cluizel Chocolate, and Red Currant.

-DJ Mehdi from Paris was supposed to dj Le Fooding but passed away in a tragic accident a few days prior. At the end of the night, everyone signed a banner in honor of him.

Le Fooding

Action Against Hunger

Elizabeth Street Garden/Gallery
226 Mott Street
New York, NY 10012

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Behind the Scenes- A Recap of FirstLive

Did you know that New York City has more than 100 live music venues? Form big to small independent houses, there is a place to suit everyone's musical taste, environment, style, and economic status.

I was invited by FirstLive to help develop a live music guidebook for NYC. It was an honor and experience I always dreamed about. I've always had an appreciation for live music. I started taking piano lessons at the age of 6 but quickly realized I did not have the musical talent from my mother's side of the family. I could play on beat and with feeling but I was not able to play by ear. My mother and grandfather never once had to look at a piece of sheet music to guide them. They would listen once to a tune and be able to replicate it on any instrument whether it be the piano, guitar, or harmonica. I was amazed.

I took music in as a way to connect to my distant and cold mother. I remember her singing and playing the guitar for me as a child. It was one of the few times I saw her happy and felt that she was reaching out to me. I have always equated good feelings with listening to music.

In school, I excelled as a writer and worked on numerous publications. I had aspirations of becoming a rock and roll journalist interviewing musicians and writing album and concert reviews.

FirstLive gave me that opportunity. They gave me the freedom to go to a venue and write about what I observed. I was able to let the night unfold and tell its own story. For weeks, I went to venues and interviewed musicians, managers, and bartenders. I spent the nights drinking and soaking in the sounds. I would write until four in the morning wide awake and excited about the night's festivities.

I focused on a lot of jazz venues in Greenwich Village. I ventured into Harlem and experienced resistance. I explored Williamsburg and witnessed a changed neighborhood. I met many people who shared with me their musical journey, their passions, and who also painted a picture for me of the neighborhood that once was. NYC is a fascinating place and like the founder of FirstLive Danny Garcia, I, too, feel that my work on FirstLive is a contribution to and a commemoration of NYC's music scene.

FirstLive Guide, published by FirstLive, is now available through Amazon and selected music venues throughout the city: Arlene's Grocery, Pine Box Rock Shop, Caffe Vivaldi, Miles Cafe. It boasts 192 pages of color, maps, technical specs, and in depth write ups on NYC's live music hosts. The guide is divided by neighborhoods and spans Manhattan to Brooklyn. In addition, First Live donates a portion of the proceeds of every guide purchased to one of the following charities: Art By The Ferry, The Jazz Foundation, Music Unites, Road Recovery, Sickday House Calls. Interactive multimedia website and mobile app to follow. 

Image Credits: FirstLive


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sourdough San Francisco

Sourdough bread is a staple of San Francisco and when I think about sourdough, I think of Boudin.

It would be a crime to visit Boudin and not get the sourdough bread bowl. The sourdough bread roll is carved out into a bowl and clam chowder soup is poured into it. The bread does not get soggy or wilt. It holds up strong and after finishing your soup, you can eat it! It is good! I've had many a lunch breaks in San Francisco when I worked in the Financial District where I took a moment to really enjoy my city and it's uniqueness.

On a recent visit, I bragged about Boudin to my friend. Okay, let's just say I was a tad bit obsessed about seeing and showing off it off. We stopped by the Fisherman's Wharf location where they have the bread bakery and took a gander at all the bread shapes. I have never seen anything cuter. Plus they're all edible. Get in my belly! The Fisherman's Wharf location also has a Boudin Museum and a weekly event on Thursdays called Breakfast with the Bakers. It's seasonal but for $6 you can enjoy some light breakfast treats and learn something about sourdough bread from the head bakers of Boudin.

The Flagship Location
All the different kinds of breads.
Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl
The Boudin Bread Bakery
Fish and Lobster
My favorite- the Teddy Bear
Photography Credits: Frencel Tingga, Roxwriting

160 Jefferson St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Philly Naked Bike Ride 2011

The Philly Naked Bike Ride took place on Sept. 4, 2011. I was lucky enough to get a front view of some full frontal nudity. It was quite a scene and definitely something that made my weekend trip memorable.

How often do I get to see hundreds of naked bikers, joggers, and rollerbladers out on the streets of Philly? It was certainly a first and the event only happens once a year.

The Philly Naked Bike Ride is meant to promote positive messages of body image, awareness of fuel consumption, and advocacy for cycling. I heard many men yell out, "Stop the drilling!" People wore costumes and the bikes pretty much stopped all car traffic for a good 10 minutes or so.

I didn't see any cops, any arrests, or any misconduct. All in all it was a pretty tame event. My friends and I chuckled, "Did we really just see what we just saw?" Ladies and gents, here are the pictures to prove it.

The beginning of the ride.
Red Light
Body Paint
Bjork in the Background
Live Free or Die
Till next year! Happy Naked Bike Ride!
Photography Credits: Philly Naked Bike Ride (logo), Roxwriting

Philly Naked Bike Ride

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ice Cream Transporter

A few months ago, dotmenu hosted a New York Blogger Meet & Greet at the dotmenu headquarters. There was plenty of food to be had (all food from restaurants listed on allmenus and Campusfood) and plenty of bloggers to meet. I noshed on Insomnia Cookies, Monster Pizza, sandwiches, and other typical college fare. dotmenu runs allmenus and Campusfood. The two sites are an online ordering system for restaurants in the area. The difference is that Campusfood is geared towards colleges and incorporates a gaming aspect. Earn badges, dukedoms, and credits for food fame and freebies. Eating is fun! Competitive! Rewarding!

One of the giveaways from the event was an allmenus picnic bag. I was really impressed with it. The bag came complete with drinking glasses, napkins, plates, and silverware.

Just add wine, cheese, meats, and more. Ready for a picnic!
Of course, like all freebies, the bag sat in my apartment unmoved and unused. One hot Summer day, I realized that my ice cream voucher for Emack & Bolios was about to expire. My friends were busy and there was no way I could eat through $20 worth of ice cream on cones. I decided to buy pints and bring them home but needed a way for the ice cream to not melt. I sold my car when I moved to NYC and Emack & Bolio was at least a 45 minute commute home.

@Stellaaa had the brilliant idea of using the allmenus bag as an insulator. I decided to give it a try and brought it to work. At the end of the day, I took anything frozen from the freezer to use as ice packs to keep my ice cream frozen.

A lined and waterproof picnic bag.
An m&m ice pack and frozen Coke to keep the ice cream frozen.
I was able to buy three pints of Emack & Bolio. I walked about 9 avenues and 8 blocks in 92 degree heat and sat on the train for 25 minutes. When I got home, the ice cream was still frozen!

Purple Cow, Cake Batter Oreo, Chocolate Mint
I'm a big fan of ice cream. I assure you. I will be using the allmenus ice cream transporter tactic again soon.



Thank you Jeffrey Tastes - Queens Qustodian for passing along the invitation to this event.

@Stellaaa's write up about allmenus