Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Missing a dear dog friend

I was waiting for the Clairvoyant's arrival at the airport when I saw a couple of black Labrador Retrievers playing at the the arrival area. These were members of the airport's K-9 unit and the dogs played with their handlers during what seemed to be a few minutes of free time that they had. The airport was not as crowded as the other times I was there so there was some space for the dogs to play catch. A little girl even came up close, obviously curious at what she saw as dogs playing with a ball.

Black Labrador Retrievers and their handlers

Seeing the dogs play and interact with their handlers, I couldn't help but think about Troy, our dark chocolate Labrador Retriever who passed away in 2014. He was such a gentle creature; always playful and seemed to have not outgrown his being a puppy. He could have made a great playmate with our daughter Ally as well as our Golden Retriever Mockey. I've always told the Clairvoyant that I would like to have another Lab later. We agreed to get one once Ally's big enough to have the responsibility, too, of caring for a dog though I suspect she will pick another dog of her choice. At present, she's just too happy to play with our three dogs including our 'ancient' mix Barby who's the dog equivalent of an 80-year old.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Go-en Ramen, Maginhawa Street

We had wanted to try out this ramen restaurant we spotted along Maginhawa Street at UP Village. Go-en Ramen seemed to us like a 'hole-in-a-wall' type of restaurant as its frontage indicated limited space and it was in a section of Maginhawa where you couldn't easily get a parking slot along the street. One time we had our chance as we decided to have an early lunch and got to park near Go-en Ramen.

The ground floor was full of customers when we entered and we were led to the 2nd floor, which was actually more like a mezzanine.
The area was bright with the natural light from the windows. The staff had to turn on the air-conditioning as it was hot upstairs. Apparently, we were the first to go up that day.
The menu is quite limited with few food choices. We did go there for the ramen so we made sure to order their specialty.
We noticed a lot of posters on the walls. I won't be describing each of them as they sort of speak for themselves.
Posters on the wall near the staircase.
Shoyu ramen for me.
 Kogashi ramen for my buddy
A view of the ground floor as we descended
Traditional Japanese toys on display and for sale at the restaurant
Here's what I thought was a nice photo of the ground floor dining area.
We thought their ramen was okay. It's not as spectacular or as authentic as the more pricey ramen restaurants that have sprouted around Metro Manila so don't have high expectations. It's more like a student-on-a-budget type of ramen house. I guess the place is good for a quick meal or perhaps a short tambay but its not a place you would probably be a regular at. Perhaps they can improve on their menu and add a few more items there?


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Some realizations from the recent election campaigns

Writing, they say, can be cathartic. And so I write about some realizations from the run-up and aftermath of the recent elections:
  1. Many close relatives and friends do not share your politics. You will be surprised about their choices despite their being supposedly educated, experienced and, on any other day, could be logical, wise. 
  2. One should learn to move on and accept that these same relatives and friends are basically good people whom you can rely on despite your differences in political leanings.
  3. People you know can actually become quite different when online and behind what seem to them a cloak of anonymity.
  4. People who claim to be religious and who proclaim their praises to God online (and especially those can be quite inconsistent and contradictory to their so-called faiths.
  5. Scientific people can become the opposite and disregard even the most basic mathematical, statistical and scientific principles and thoughts if only to make explanations conform to their positions.
The list can go on but then I probably already covered much of the negative stuff that I just wanted to have out there. I rarely post about religion and politics on my social media accounts. And if I do, I am usually very serious about it so I would respond to those who offer the opposite or even sarcasm. Truly, respect is earned but one cannot claim it if one cannot be humble enough to accept truths especially the inconvenient and painful ones.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Chocolate review: Godiva 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate Almond

The first chocolates I ever gave to my wife were from Godiva. I got a box from their shop at the Landmark Tower in Yokohama and a friend hand-carried it home for delivery. That box was the first I ever bought and consisted of select pralines that I thought would impress someone across the seas. We shared a lot of chocolates since then.

I found this bar also at the airport duty free shop at NAIA Terminal 3. This was basically similar or same to the bars I had purchased at convenience store in Los Angeles last year that I was not able to post about.

Godiva 72% cacao dark chocolate almond is not surprisingly a good chocolate. The almonds are crushed and generously sprinkled with the chocolate; giving you a good crunchy bite.
Details on the chocolate at the back
Nutrition information and ingredients indicate a minimum of 72% cacao. The chocolate was not as bitter as the % implies but I should say is more of the 'semi-sweet' type. We thought it went very well with the crushed almonds.
The chocolate is a bit pricey at 10.80 USD (about 504.75 PHP) for 100g. Still, we thought it was well worth it considering it was not as exotic as the previous chocolates I have written about that had with them some fruit or special cacao.

The verdict for this chocolate is obviously on the positive side. That is, it is a bar that I will definitely get the next time I see one. The price though is suspect for me as I remember I bought a similar bar in the US for significantly less than 10 USD. I do hope the Clairvoyant finds this and gets a few bars for us to enjoy when she's back from her US trip.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Nadai Fujisoba at The Block

We enjoyed the food at Nadai Fujisoba's Bonifacio High Street branch. Our daughter liked eating there and the staff were attentive to their customers. They have another branch at The Block at SM City North EDSA. My colleagues and I were there as we accompanied one who was buying something there. Since it was lunch time, we decided to eat first and ended up choosing among the Japanese restaurants at the lower floor of The Block.

Restaurant front at The Block with replicas of the food in the menu on display.
Interior of the restaurant - it's clean all around and well lit. That goes well with good food and company. The kitchen is laid out longitudinally from the front to the back of the restaurant and is at the right in the photo.
Another look at the interior in the direction of the door.
I loved cold soba during summers and other seasons in Japan. I still love cold soba and will order or make a serving myself if I felt like I wanted to eat cold soba. I ordered a bowl with a piece of prawn on the side. Some may think its weird but coconut water goes really well with the soba.
My colleagues went for the lunch sets - one with the gyudon and soba set and another with the tempura and hot soba set.
Nadai Fujisoba serves really good, authentic Japanese food. I thought our lunch was one of those where we all got something that we could call comfort food. The only downside to this is that we need to travel all the way to North EDSA to eat at the restaurant. We were lucky that its still summer and traffic was not as bad as the typical weekday traffic. Of course, we haven't checked out UP Town Center for quite some time and there might be some new Japanese restaurants there to satisfy our occasional craving for Japanese food.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pocky chocolate covered pretzels

I already featured one of my favorite snacks when I was in Japan. That is the Pocky pretzel sticks made by Glico. A box can be quite expensive at the typical supermarket, retailing around 120 to 180 pesos depending on the variant and the manufacturer. The more expensive ones are those from Japan instead of those made in Thailand. The 'basic' Pocky is the one in the red box and there are many other variants now like strawberry, green tea and cookies & cream that are available in local supermarkets. I found the following variant for what appears (if I understood it right) to be the bitter milk chocolate version of Pocky in a Daiso store. I got it for 88 pesos per box, which I thought was a reasonable price considering I saw the same priced at 160 pesos in a supermarket. I will surely buy me a few more boxes for my cache for when I have a craving for Pocky.

A box of Pocky contains 2 packs of chocolate covered pretzel sticks.
This box is a premium variant and there is even a message box for giving it as a gift.
The chocolate covered sticks are enjoyable to eat in part because the sticks are on the crunchy side. You can also play with it like I do, imagining a stick to be like a cigarette and consuming one bit at a time.  I don't smoke but I had played this pretend thing since I was introduced to similar pretzel snacks when I was a child.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Chocolate review: Ghirardelli Intense Dark Mango Sunset

Last month, I wrote about dark chocolate covered mangoes and basically praised the maker for using Philippine mangoes. These mangoes, I forgot to mention, were probably from the island of Guimaras in the west central Philippines. The island is well known for producing really good mangoes due in part to a variety that grows in that island and the neighboring towns across from the strait in the province of Iloilo. I think Guimaras mangoes are of the highest quality in that for a time (I am not sure if its still the case today.) mangoes from this island were the only ones allowed for export to the United States.

I picked up a bar of Ghirardelli's Intense Dark Mango Sunset as I was curious about the taste. I had tasted good dark chocolate with ripe and green mangoes before and the combination was good.
Details at the back show the chocolate making process, nutrition facts and the price tag.
Close-up showing a description of the chocolate. The ingredients don't mention any mangoes so I assume it is flavoring instead of real mangoes (e.g., dried mangoes).
Close-up showing the price tag and nutrition information for the chocolate
This bar costs 7.40 USD so it is a bit pricey. I actually don't mind the price if the chocolate was really good and therefore worth every dollar (peso) that I paid for. Unfortunately, I would have to say that this chocolate is not worth it and this is probably my first negative review for a chocolate that I took care in selecting and buying. The wife and I agreed upon first tasting the chocolate that the mango flavoring tasted like medicine - the type your parents probably gave you when you were sick as a child. They just didn't blend well and there was a not so delicate aftertaste. The bar was that unsatisfying that we did not finish it. The remaining chocolate is still in the refrigerator awaiting to be consumed. We will probably do that but we are not in a hurry and we have other chocolates in our stash to delay eating this one.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Chocolate review: Neuhaus Dark Orange

I had started writing this as I first saw the initial result of the Philippine elections. Instead of writing about the results of national and local elections in the Philippines, I found it more interesting to write about chocolate. I thought of featuring a new one - Neuhaus Dark Orange, which I found in the NAIA Terminal 3 Duty Free Shop.

Neuhaus Dark Orange was another pleasant surprise among the chocolates I got from the Duty Free Shop. It was smooth and not at all bitter. The dark chocolate blended well with the orange.
Detailed information about the chocolate at the back
This chocolate claimed 56% cacao so I didn't expect it to taste bitter.
Nutrition information and the price tag
The price on this one is quite on the expensive side as the 100g bar costs 7 USD or about 329 PHP. Is it worth it? It is not as good as the other really good choco-orange bars I've tasted so the cost might not be justified. But then again I leave it to those curious to try out a bar and perhaps determine if its that good. I will certainly do so and I regret buying only 1 bar so we could not 'validate' our assessment of this chocolate.

Back to the elections, I post this now as morning came with news of a lady now leading a former dictator's son in the Vice Presidential race. This impending President-Vice Presidential tandem seems like dark chocolate and orange. Dark chocolate can be bitter to many but it is actually good chocolate and good for you. The orange makes the dark chocolate with high cacao content taste better and they do blend well.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Some thoughts on the eve of election day

I write this on the eve of national elections in the Philippines. This would be my fourth time to vote in Presidential elections. My first time was in 1992 when I was among the many young people who voted for the first time since the snap elections of 1986 that eventually led to the EDSA revolution that same year. I voted for Miriam Santiago and Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. then and I still believe Miriam would have been and should have been President because she lacked the machinery that could have protected her votes from manipulation. I was not able to vote in 1998 when I was abroad and there was no over overseas voting yet. 

To my memory, this is probably the most divisive elections and that is not in small part due to social media. It is so easy for (mis)information to spread at least for people who are online or who have access to apps like Facebook and Twitter. I have learned to screen much of the information I see and I am usually very patient. But apparently for many people including those I consider friends and those who were former students, social media is like the saying about TV goes..."If it's on Facebook it must be true!" 

Tomorrow we again elect people whom we think are the most qualified to lead us at the national and local levels. I have made up my mind about who I will vote for at the local level but I must admit it is very difficult to decide who to vote for as President. We all have our criteria but and some people will have personal connections with particular candidates. As such, it is inevitable to have personal biases because we know this and that person directly or indirectly (through relatives, friends, etc.). That can be dangerous because it has been established fact that if you or your kin know someone personally, then there is the high likelihood that you will be spared from the abuses or bad things that the person did or will be doing. Let's face it, if you are related to a bad person, that person would still appear good to you because bad people may still be good to family. Not to others though and that is what a lot of people forget because they don't pay attention to history or can be generally blind to inconvenient truths.

I think we should be critical about our candidates and we should be careful about the information we get including and perhaps especially about where such information comes from. It is easy to poison our minds with all the misinformation out there including those by people who should know better and are regarded as experienced and experts. Do not be misled by people who have been astray themselves despite their past. I think the saying about one being as good only as his last performance applies to many politicians, analysts and other people involved in these elections. But we should not disregard past faults that have not been atoned for and for these elections at least, I believe that such is a big factor.

Good luck to us all and may we all be guided in our decisions tomorrow. Whoever wins this one will be responsible for a lot and regardless of who wins there will be change. Whether that change will be for the better of most people, we will likely know real time and well into the first year of the next administration. Think about your children or grand children. Think about their futures and the environment they will be living in. Perhaps that thinking alone can help you get closer to a decision on election day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Chocolate review: Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Caramel

We start May with yet another chocolate review. I remember I had already featured this chocolate before but as a mini bar that was part of a package containing three kinds of chocolate by Ghirardelli. Their dark chocolate caramel was something we definitely and thoroughly enjoyed. And so when I saw the bar version of the chocolate, I did not hesitate getting a couple to take home.

 A bar of Ghirardelli's dark chocolate caramel is dark chocolate with caramel filling.
Details on the chocolate at the back of the box
A description of the chocolate and how it was made. It doesn't say how much (%) cacao is in the chocolate but from the taste of the chocolate alone (without the sweet caramel) and referring to other dark chocolates I have tasted, I would say it is about 40% cacao.
Nutrition facts and price tag

This chocolate is one of those that chocolate lover with a sweet tooth shouldn't pass up. The dark chocolate is not so bitter and blends very well with the fine caramel filling. The 100g chocolate retails for 7.40 USD (about 345 PHP) at the airport Duty Free shop. It might be a bit expensive but this another one that's worth it. In fact, I would wager that once you bite into a bar, you will be tempted to finish the entire bar in one sitting!