Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sta. Fe Train Station, San Diego, CA

A highlight of my 'do-it-yourself' tour of San Diego, CA was the Sta. Fe Train Depot or Railway Station. The depot was celebrating is centennial and for me represented part of America's railway heritage being part of a railway line stretching along the US' Pacific coastline. Following are photos in and about the Sta. Fe depot.

The historic Sta. Fe Train Depot building as seen from the San Diego MTS trolley station.
Front of the train deport showing a fountain and the main doors to the station building.
Entrance to the building, which contains the ticket office and waiting room for passengers and well-wishers.
One is greeted by this splendid view of the building's interior evoking a time when trains ruled in land transportation. An information booth is seen at the right while the food kiosk is at the left. The ticket windows are further at the center.
A closer (brighter) look at the interior of Sta. Fe Rail Station showing the wooden seats and antique chandeliers. The ticket office is clearly seen in the photo.
The kiosk inside the station building provides sustenance to passengers, well-wishers and passers-by. Note, too, the mosaic designs on the columns of the building.
A closer look at the station's ceiling and chandeliers shown arches emanating from the columns to support the roof. Such features are of earthquake resistant structures in this earthquake-prone region and particularly in the State of California.
Non-motorized pedicab, the San Diego trolley and the Sta. Fe Station
I took some refreshments at the kiosk in the station. The hotdog sandwich was good and the coffee was strong. I took the trolley from the station to explore San Diego along its commuter train lines. More on San Diego's trains and stations in future posts.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Chocolate review: Godiva Chocolatier Dark Chocolate Sea Salt

I have been featuring some dark chocolate with sea salt lately and often compared recent chocolates we've tasted with Lindt's dark chocolate with sea salt. Quite recently, we decided to open a bar of Godiva dark chocolate with sea salt that we bought from LAX. Godiva chocolates are really good and I remember I gave a box of pralines to the Clairvoyant when we had just met many years ago. We had hesitated buying Godiva chocolates due to its prices (quite expensive per bar or box) even when we were residing in Singapore and could get these from the shops at Changi airport.

Godiva's dark chocolate sea salt contains 50% cacao
Information on the chocolate including the nutritional breakdown is shown at the back of the packaging
The information at the back of the packaging describes the sea salt as an artisanal salt hand harvested in a small area in the west of France. It is supposed to be one of the purest sea salts in the world and regarded as the "caviar of salt."
Nutrition facts and the information on expiration
Godiva's dark chocolate with sea salt is smooth and the 50% cacao ensures just a hint of bitter blending very nicely with the salt and sweetness of the chocolate. I would prefer this bar over the Lindt bar that I made as a benchmark before. I was actually surprised to find this chocolate being sold at a relatively inexpensive price equivalent to less than 150 PHP at a shop at LAX. My only regret is that I didn't buy more of these bars.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

On basketball statistics

The NBA Finals is coming to a conclusion this week with the Golden State Warriors having two chances of winning their first title in 40 years. That is, of course, if they are able to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers one more time. I was watching the NBA Premium Channel, which featured a show with analysts (including former NBA players) discussing the performances of the two teams and their major players. One statistic that was often mentioned was the number of triple double performances of the Cavs superstar player Lebron James.

I have nothing againts Lebron James and not to take away anything from his really splendid performance in the Finals but his 6 triple doubles are really a matter of necessity considering he doesn't have a good supporting cast in the Cavs. To be compared to Magic Johnson (8 triple doubles) and Larry Bird (2 triple doubles) is misleading. This is because those two had superb players in their teams. Magic didn't need to score and rebound a lot because he had players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Jamaal Wilkes, AC Green, Kurt Rambis and others in his team. The same goes with Bird since he shared the scoring, rebounding and assisting with the likes of Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge. And we aren't even talking about Michael Jordan and his teammates with the Chicago Bulls (e.g., Dennis Rodman was averaging above 15 rebounds per game. Did James have to do what he's doing if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were playing and 100% healthy?

Stats really have to be placed in the proper context especially when people compare players. One player can appear to be dominating but that maybe because of the circumstances rather than because he really is a dominating player. It's been shown before that players with such stats would not necessarily translate into titles. Lebron learned that the hard way with the Cavs when they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs and their team ball many years ago.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Ramen Nagi at UP Town Center

It had been some time since our last lunch at the UP Town Center so we decided to have lunch there and check out the newly opened restaurants and shops at the main building. We ended up eating at Ramen Nagi, which obviously specializes in ramen. It is one of many that opened with the surging popularity of Japanese food and especially ramen among Filipinos.

Their menu was quite simple showing the four main dishes (ramen, of course) that they offer to customers. You can actually come up with different combinations or variants of ramen based on these four and by adding extra toppings.
The interior of the restaurant include this description of different ramen variants.
Condiments on each table included pepper and sesame seeds (goma).

Interior of the restaurant at UP Town Center
I ordered their Original King (Butao) ramen.
The broth was not overpowering and the noodles were cooked just right and not soggy.
Their chicken karaage had the most authentic taste among the karaage we had previously tried in other restaurants.
Ramen Nagi has a policy stating you cannot take out or take home your food or leftovers. For some reason, their staff kept reminding us and others of the policy. This is probably because of some trade secrets that are keys to the good taste of their ramen. And they do have good ramen at this restaurant that's worth coming back to whenever we crave for good ramen. With the wet season coming up (if its not yet here), I'm sure that Ramen Nagi will be attracting a lot of customers who will be enjoying hot ramen on rainy days.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Brewing Point Cafe, Congressional Ave. Extension

We were looking for a place to have lunch at last Friday. We originally decided to eat at Oliva along Visayas Avenue. However, we remembered that we wanted to check out the cafe we saw along Congressional Avenue Extension and near the Tierra Pura gate heading to Luzon Avenue. Brew Point Cafe is a can't miss place along a road section that has few interesting spots considering the mainly middle class subdivisions in the area and the many informal settlements along it especially as you approach Luzon Avenue. The cafe, we discovered, is also a bakery with various breads, cakes and pastries of their own make on display and for sale.

The interior was clean and well lighted
Their choco lava cake a la mode was good and highly reommended. They also had other cakes and pastries available at Brewing Point.
Brewing Point's lunch menu is a bit limited though the choices are good including their all-day breakfast items. It is definitely a good meeting place or perhaps a nice tambayan for those who want to just have a cup of coffee, tea or other beverage to go with something light to eat. Their staff are attentive and appear to be knowledgeable of their menu (some items need clarification like the vegetarian pasta I ordered). It is definitely a place we will come back to later and to be considered the next time we visit the area.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Chocolate review: Milka

Here's a break from the posts about our recent travel to the US. I remember the last time I featured white chocolate was around or after Christmas. We don't usually get white chocolate as it seems to be sweeter than your regular or typical chocolate (even the milk chocolate bars). The Milka chocolate bar was a pasalubong by a colleague and I felt the urge to try it out perhaps missing the taste of white chocolate.

Add caption
Detailed information on the chocolate at the back of the package
Nutritional information in what appears as German and French
I found the white chocolate bar satisfying and smooth but still much sweeter compared to our preferred dark chocolates. Perhaps people with "sweet tooth" would enjoy this more and it seems to give one a sugar 'high'. I probably won't have white chocolate for a while after this bar. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

DeSano Pizza Bakery

Our niece Kate recently tagged us in photos showing them eating again at their favorite Italian place in Los Angeles. DeSano Pizza Bakery is located just across the street and a few minutes walk from our niece's and her husband's home in LA. Our cousins (Kate's parents) live nearby and so it was a short drive from our "home" in LA to the restaurant. The restaurant more than lived up for the hype our cousins built towards our dining there. I would personally say that it's so far the best pizza I've eaten. Of course, I haven't been to Italy so my readers should excuse my assessment.

The pizza-bakery was founded in 1889
The menu is displayed at the counter upon entry to the restaurant.
There are four ovens in the restaurant - one each for the type of pizza. One also notices the ingredients for their offerings stacked near the spacious kitchen for everyone to see. These are also actually for sale for anyone who would want to try replicating their pastas and pizzas.
The chef and his staff were very busy at the popular restaurant. It is an open kitchen so patrons/customers get to see how their food are made.
DeSano's Napoletana
Close-up of our terrific Napoletana pizza
They had two large TVs; one showing NBA games and another football matches. There were jerseys of popular football teams on display on the wall - Barcelona, Juventus, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Liverpool
DeSano's Lasagna pizza is a favorite of our niece
We also had Gelato for dessert but I have yet to download the photos taken by the wife and our cousins. We look forward to our next visit to DeSano and, of course, Los Angeles.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Chocolate review: Heidi Dark Black Salt

It's a lazy Saturday morning for us and as I listen to birds singing in the trees around our home, what could be lazier than posting another chocolate review. Another bar I got from a trip to a popular supermarket in the Clark Freeport is Heidi Dark Black Salt. It is good chocolate and would be satisfying to those who prefer some saltiness mixed with the bittersweet taste of dark chocolate. It is not as smooth as Lindt's dark chocolate with sea salt though and definitely not in the league of Ghirardelli's similar offering.

Heidi dark chocolate with black salt
Back of the pack
The bar claims to contain 50% min. cocoa or cacao. The black salt is actually sea salt (96%) blended with activated charcoal. You can Google what that actually means.
The 80g bar is made in Romania
Based on the 2 dark chocolate bars from Heidi that we sampled, I would say that Romanian chocolates just made us curious about other chocolates from Eastern Europe. My Romanian friends before did not mention their chocolates whenever we (international students at our lab many years ago) talked about food and sweets in our respective countries. I am sure that there are very good chocolates in these countries waiting to be discovered.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Domino's Pizza

We were not decided on what to have for lunch one lazy Saturday after watching a movie. We were walking around the mall near our home when we spotted what we thought was a newly opened branch of Domino's Pizza. I say so because it turned out that the branch opened a few months ago and it seemed to us that we had not gone around the mall for some time now, going there only for our groceries or a quick stop at the Handyman store. The decision for lunch became much easier as we reminisced the pizzas we ordered from Domino's during our college days. The Clairvoyant in particular had fond memories of ordering pizza during her bar review days.

Choco lava cake

We also got our Domino's card so we could have some credits and freebies whenever we ordered. This could be handy should we have some guests over at home and there is a clamor for pizza. We also got the direct line to the branch near our home so we could bypass their call center and more quickly get our pizza delivered.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Chocolate review: Heidi Dark Orange

Every time I see a new brand of chocolate in a supermarket shelf, I get a few bars to sample with the Clairvoyant. These will usually be dark chocolate bars rather than milk or white chocolates. I found Heidi chocolates at the Puregold store inside Clark Freeport and decided to get a few bars each of two variants of their dark chocolates. 

Heidi dark orange chocolates turned out to be a good chocolate. Both the wife and I enjoyed their dark chocolate with orange bits. It was comparable with the usual dark chocolate we have purchased (e.g., at Santi's or at airports). It is smooth enough for a dark chocolate. It is not bitter or strong tasting and the orange bits were delightful to taste. While it is definitely not at the level of the Valrhonas and Godivas, it is enjoyable.
Details on the chocolate are found at the back
The bar contains 55% cocoa
The chocolate is Made in Romania
The forget the cost of each chocolate bar but I think it is right there with the Lindt bars (which typically cost 150PHP per 100g bar) considering each Heidi was an 80g bar. It is an imported chocolate and the quality is good so the its good value for money.