Sunday, September 30, 2012

After-workshop dinner at Cafe Juanita

It has been a long time since the last time I was in Bo. Kapitolyo in Pasig. That last time was more than a decade ago when we were in the area to look for furniture at the stores and warehouses in the area that sold wood furniture, including one well-known shop specializing in teak furniture. So it came as a surprise of sorts that our group ended up having dinner at Cafe Juanita, which is located along West Capitol Drive in Pasig City. Bo. Kapitolyo is named such because the area was across from what used to be the Rizal Provincial Capitol. Pasig used to be the capital of Rizal before it was included in formation of Metro Manila in the 1970s.

Cafe Juanita is set-up in what was a house along West Capitol Drive in Bo. Kapitolyo.
My first impression of the interior was that it was overdone with too many ornaments from all over Asia.
There were ornaments everywhere like the chandeliers and the figuring and statues on top of the grand piano at the foyer.
Many of the decors were apparently from Thailand and Indonesia (Bali).
Second level dining area that can be reserved for large groups. One should call ahead to reserve a table as the restaurant is usually full.
Display cabinet featuring trinkets from all over Asia.
Our table at Cafe Juanita - we had quite an international mix with 3 Japanese, a Brit, an Indonesian, a Malaysian and a Thai working with us Filipinos on software tools for transport.
Our group enjoyed our dinner though there were some reservations as to the Tom Yum as we had someone from Thailand among us. Perhaps the soup was prepared for the Filipino taste?
Nook at the side entrance of the restaurant
The restaurant has been the recipient of many awards including a recent one recognizing it as one of the Philippines' best in 2012.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dog-friendly hotel

I was surprised when a Labrador Retriever suddenly appeared beside by table as I was eating breakfast at the hotel we were staying at in Bangkok. One of the hotel staff approached the Lab and his/her owner to guide the man, who was blind, to his seat at the restaurant. I wanted to get a photo of the man and his guide but opted to honor the man's privacy.

A Labrador Retriever walks beside his/her owner as hotel staff guide the blind man to his seat.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hotel breakfasts

One thing I like about the good hotels is their buffet breakfasts. I like to distinguish the excellent and good hotels from the regular and so-so ones by their breakfasts. Even business hotels can offer good morning meals though budget hotels would usually have little or none to offer. In addition to variety, one of my indicators for good breakfasts is the availability of bircher muesli among the selections for cereals. It's something that's not easy to prepare as it should have just the right amount of milk, muesli and fruits for the mix to work well.

Following are a couple of photos showing what I'm usually having this week during my stay at the Imperial Queen's Park Hotel in Bangkok. It's been some time since my last trip to Thailand and I got reacquainted with the sweet pineapple and papaya I have always enjoyed in my previous stays in Bangkok.

First breakfast at the Imperial Queen's Park Hotel - that's chicken sausage, smoked bacon, dried  fish, egg and rice as my main meal. My favorite bircher muesli is on the upper right and slices of papaya on top beside my glass of orange juice.

Some variation to the first breakfast on my second one with chicken yakitori, hash brown and pineapple slices.
There were other food available for breakfast but I opted not to go Japanese for my first meal of the day. While some soup, noodles or porridge would work well for me, I would probably do so only if I didn't have a choice.

Back in Bangkok

The last time I was in Bangkok was in 2005 or 2006 and so it has been a while since that last trip that I was curious about how the city would look like after 6 years. Was there anything new? Did it change much since the last time? At the very least, I was expecting to have new experiences and it didn't take long before I had one, trying out the express rail link between Suvarnabhumi Airport and the city. The rail link was still under construction the last time I was in Bangkok and one had no choice at the time but to take a taxi or a shuttle between the airport and the hotel. Taxis can cost a lot and might take more time due to traffic congestion even though part of the trip between the airport and the city is via the expressway.

The walk from the arrival area to the Airport Rail Link
Ticket vending machine with English instructions upon the press of a button. We purchased tickers for the Phaya Thai Express to connect with the BTS Skytrain.
Token for the Express Rail Link trip from the airport to Phaya Thai Station - the link is operated by the State Railway of Thailand, their counterpart of our Philippine National Railways. The trip cost 90 Baht (about 130 Pesos), very cheap compared to taking a taxi.

Passengers inside the Airport Link train
Happy traveler

Walk from the Airport Rail Link's Phaya Thai Station to the BTS Skytrain's

Looking back at the Phaya Thai Station of the Airport Rail Link
Phaya Thai Station of the BTS Skytrain
It would be very nice to have a similar rail link between the MRT 3 or LRT 1 Lines and NAIA in Manila. In fact, how difficult would it be for the LRT1 Line to have an extension to the airport terminals of NAIA when it's depot is just across the road from the old domestic terminal? This would probably be easier than constructing a new monorail or whatever system it is that is being planned between Bonifacio Global City and NAIA. It is definitely much easier and perhaps cheaper compared to the still-born Northrail between Caloocan and Clark. One thing for sure is that we are really behind our ASEAN neighbors when it comes to providing the infrastructure for public transport, in this case airport access.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homemade yoghurt from the Greek store

We continued to explore our find in our neighborhood, the store selling Greek food and wine. We decided to try out their home-made yoghurt and fruit preserves. We sampled their different fruits-in-syrup offerings and decided to get a jar each of rose petals and grapes. Unfortunately, it turned out that they no longer had a small jar of rose petals in stock and we ended up getting a larger jar but of the original packaging that they transported from Greece to the Philippines. We were told that these were their products in Greece that they brought to Manila as samples for their clients, which includes restaurants and hotels. For retail and "bulk" orders, they bring in the preserves in larger containers and re-pack them here in smaller jars or containers. This was less expensive compared to importing their products in jars.

Rose petals in syrup in their original packaging - a must try
Grapes in syrup in the re-packaged jar
Home-made yoghurt
Ready to eat
One scoop at a time
Delectable grape in syrup made of pure honey
Mix well before eating
I'm already looking forward to the weekend when we can get yoghurt and perhaps sample other goodies from our neighborhood Greek store. I just hope the weather holds this coming weekend.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dinner at Pho Hoa

For a second straight night, the Clairvoyant and I decided to have dinner at Capitol Greenstreet. Again, we decided to go to Jack's Loft/Pho Hoa where we knew their menus would provide us with many options for our dinner. The Clairvoyant went for Pho Hoa's noodles (Pho in Vietnamese) while I opted for Tenderloin Beef with rice. For dessert, we tried out Jack's Loft's "Death by Chocolate," moist chocolate cake that I say is a must try when having dessert or cake with your coffee.

Pho for the Clairvoyant
Tenderloin beef with rice for me
Death by chocolate, a must try at Jack's Loft

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dinner at Capitol Greenstreet: Jack's Loft

The Clairvoyant and I decided to check out the restaurants at the Capital Golf area last week as we both arrived home early in the evening. It turns out that the place is now called Capitol Greenstreet. I haven't been in the area since our office had dinner at Gerry's a few years ago. Gerry's is a popular restaurant, which has a branch there that is located at the top level of the building and which afforded a nice view of the Capitol Golf Course during the day. There are several restaurants there including a branch of Pancake House and what looked like a new resto in what seems to be the old location of a branch of Carlo's Pizza (based on the photos in Greenstreet's Facebook page). As there were few people in the area at the time, we decided to go to the first place we saw that had some diners. And so we went to Jack's Loft, which appeared to be owned and operated by the people behind Pho Hoa. In fact, the two restaurants share the same space at Greenstreet.

Adobo flakes pasta - just the right serving of crispy adobo flakes over linguini
Fried chicken and french fries
Jack's Loft, the Clairvoyant remembered and reminded me, is where I first ordered iced tea served in a fish bowl at their branch in Eastwood. A definite twist to the "bottomless" iced tea concept, it's something one should probably try once at the restaurant. Their menu is basically American-style fast food offering burgers, sandwiches, desserts and a variety of drinks including the alcoholic types and coffee concoctions. There are many choices for diners so I think the restaurant is a safe choice for people who haven't quite decided what to eat or drink. Their desserts though are quite good and definitely something to try whether after a meal or over coffee.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A taste of Greek food

We were curious about a store we spotted along our route from our village's gate to our home. The store just beside one of the houses along the street leading to our's had a Greek flag and proudly announced the availability of Greek food products for sale. After a couple of passes, we decided to finally investigate one morning and ask about what products they were selling at the shop. The Clairvoyant was met by an English-speaking girl who had an accent who was joined later on by her sister who was more comfy with her Filipino. After inquiring about their products, we decided to go home and check out their website.

El Greco Filipino is a quaint little shop along Kaimito Street in Town & Country Executive Village along Marcos Highway. They offer quite a variety of products including the more familiar olives, cheese and wines. We decided to order a tray of Baklava, a dessert both of us tried once before but couldn't quite remember how it tasted like. We were advised to place our order a day before pick-up or delivery so we called in our order one Friday and prior to the weekend. When we passed by the store to pick-up our order, we were a bit surprised by the tray of Baklava waiting for us (definitely value for our money!). We even had a taste test of their yogurt and sarantis. Eventually, the patriarch of the family, who probably made the Baklava himself, came out and explained how they made the yogurt and other products using both imported and local products.

The following photos feature our Baklava and a shot of the store front.

Fresh from the package right after we picked it up
El Greco Philippines Ent. Corp. offers authentic Greek Desserts that they labeled as Mediterranean Healthy Delicacy
One can see the generous sprinkling of crushed pistachios on top of this delight
The layers of goodness reminded us of a similar dessert, sansrival. Baklava is probably the crunchy, syrupy version.
Ringing the bell at the neighborhood store

We enjoyed our Baklava and even brought some to my in-laws in Novaliches for them to also have a taste of this Greek treat. We will surely be back to sample other items as well. Perhaps we should go for the feta cheese and some yogurt next time...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Timeline: with or without, no problem

I regard myself as one who is very comfortable with technology and particularly the internet. I still have reservations and hesitations pertaining to certain applications, particularly those involving social networking like Twitter and before it, Friendster. Prior to these current social media tools, I was using internet relay chat or IRC where I thought the environment was relatively simpler though eventually, the presence of bots made it no longer fun as an online hangout. These newer social media are definitely more sophisticated and has allowed many people to reconnect with relatives and friends over long distances even serving as a platform for events such as homecomings and fundraisers.

While I understand people's reactions to their being included in Facebook's timeline, I couldn't help but think that their protestations online are also unfounded considering they should first accept that they are using a platform whereupon they agreed to the conditions set by the developer/operator. While the latter conditions may be in fine print, there is no excuse for claiming one did not agree to certain conditions stipulated. If a person is quite the sensitive individual for such rules and conditions then by all means he or she should exercise due diligence with respect to poring over the fine print.

Ranting will get you nowhere. Just enjoy Facebook, else leave and spare other people of your railings.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Singapore Redux - Raffles

The Raffles Hotel is among the many landmarks in Singapore. The facade and arcade of the hotel is reminiscent of the times when the city-state was under British rule and a part of what was Malaya. Like many other buildings in Singapore, The Raffles is well-preserved and represents the country's heritage. It is accessible via a short walk from the SMRT Circle (Orange) Line's Bras Basah or Esplanade Stations (walk along the Bras Basah Road) or the North-South (Red) or East-West (Green) Lines' City Hall Station (walk along the North Bridge Road).

Facade of the famous Raffles Hotel
The Raffles Hotel is located along Bras Basah Road across from the newer Fairmont Mall and Swissotel The Stamford
People waiting to cross at the intersection at the Raffles Hotel - I like this photo because it shows both old and new architectures of the Carlton Hotel (left) and the Raffles (right), something you'd find a lot of around Singapore.
I think there should be similar efforts (and strong or aggressive ones) to preserve similar buildings in the Philippines, particularly in the older cities like Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod and Vigan. Such will ensure that generations to come, if not tourists, will benefit from the history and heritage that comes with such preservation.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pizza dinner at Yellow Cab

The Clairvoyant picked me up at the office one evening prior to going to the supermarket to pick up some food and drinks. Both hungry after coming from work, we decided to also have dinner near the supermarket. Our choices were quite limited - Chinese food, inasal, or pizza. We decided we'd like some pizza for a change so we ended up at a branch of Yellow Cab, just a few minutes walk from the supermarket. As we were already familiar with their menu, we proceeded by ordering our favorite Tribeca Mushroom pizza and had some baked potato wedges on the side.

Tribeca mushroom pizza
Baked potato wedges
We were full by the time we had half the pizza that was supposed to be good for 3 people. Perhaps it was because we sort of feasted with the wedges that suited our taste buds as they weren't salty or tasted of fried chicken like the potatoes offered by another pizza restaurant. And so we took home our leftovers and I ended up having pizza for lunch the following day.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

All boxed up

Heading home at last after a year and 7 months in Singapore, the Clairvoyant had to gather our things and place them in boxes to be transported back to the Philippines. Friends recommended a shipping company to us and we found their office at Lucky Plaza where there seemed to be quite a lot of companies offering logistics services for overseas foreign workers. We arranged for boxes delivered to our home and they arrived during one of my trips to Singapore. I was quite experienced in this work as I similarly had my stuff moved from Japan twice - the first time when I was returning home after my studies in Yokohama and the second when I was going back after a fellowship stint in Saitama. We ended up having 2 huge boxes picked up at our home and another we filled up with things we brought to Lucky Plaza.

The boxes could fit people inside them
Name recall is definitely there as Jolly-B is quite the same as the most popular fast food chain in the Philippines. Note the various bags in the background? It turns out, as I observed, that many OFWs in Singapore, particularly those sharing homes (or even rooms), probably have no storage for to keep items they wanted to send home to their families. They just drop off items in bags at Lucky Plaza until they are able to fill a box and decide to send their stuff to the Philippines.
Ready to go - after carefully sealing both ends of the box in packaging tape, we wrote our delivery address on the box itself.
Jolly-B staff marking our box after wrapping the entire box in packaging tape. That seemed to be a great idea to somehow have the package waterproofed for the journey via maritime transport.