Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Chocolate review: Vietnamcacao Valentine Chocolate

We close October with another chocolate I got from the trip to Ho Chi Minh City. This is a dark chocolate from Vietnamcacao curiously called Valentine chocolate. I guess, this is being marketed as something you give for Valentine's Day?

Vietnamcacao's Valentine dark chocolate
Details at the back of the package
The chocolate claimed to contain 75% cocoa powder but only 24% cocoa butter
Information on the maker

At 2.50 USD (about 128 PHP), this chocolate is better than the company's Origin, which I featured in a previous post. It doesn't taste as raw as it is more refined even for a 75% cacao content. However, it is not as smooth as the Henk chocolate we ate before this one. And so among the three Vietnamese chocolates I have written about so far, this will be #2.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Swatch diver's watch 2 - Cuttlefish

We have three Swatch divers' watches. Two are with me and one with the Clairvoyant. This is the latest one that she gave to me as a gift for our wedding anniversary 3 years ago. It is a newer model that she got while traveling to London and is called the Cuttlefish.

The watch has a plastic cover, a rotating bezel and silicone strap with plastic buckle.
The transparent face shows the watch movement.
Like the other watch, you can easily replace the battery from the back using a coin or screw driver to open the encasement. Be careful not to lose the rubber seal that's under the battery encasement cover.
This is a 20bar watch that you can use for swimming, snorkeling or diving. We have used it while swimming in Palawan and Cebu in our more recent trips. There's some sign of corrosion when I last changed batteries and shown in the photo above.
I am not sure if this will be my last Swatch but it will be for a while as I juggle the watches I already have. There's just too many designs for Swatch watches and I prefer the ones I can use when I do fieldwork or swimming so it has to be waterproof like these divers watches.

Friday, October 20, 2017

My first divers' watch - Swatch Radar

I got my first divers' watch along with my first automatic watch back in 2004. I got this also from the same shop at Akihabara (Laox) where I got my other Swatches from 2004. I had wanted a watch that I could swim with. I don't dive but we enjoy going to the beaches or the swimming pools of the better hotels we stay at.

This watch is called the Radar.
Instead of a plastic, metal or silicone strap, this one had a textile strap with velcro
Water resistance is at 200m and I have used this watch for swimming in Bohol, Palawan, Cebu, Iligan, Sarangani, Bali and other places where I could take a dip. You can easily change the battery from the back.
A close-up of the watch face doesn't allow you to see when it was madebut an even closer inspection of the bottom with a magnifier shows it was made in 1997.
This 20-year old watch is another favorite of mine and which I often take along with me to trips where I could expect to have an opportunity to swim. It is also among the watches I prefer to take on field work as it is a reliable watch and looks regular enough not to catch unwanted attention.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Another old Swatch automatic - Aniak

I wrote about my first Swatch not too long ago. This time around, I am featuring another Swatch automatic watch that is my wife's. I did get this initially for myself but it ended up with her. Maybe it was the design? I was intrigued by the design when I saw it in a pile in a Japanese shop. I did not hesitate to include it with my purchases that day.

The design was apparently inspired by ancient cave paintings
The watch face is transparent and shows the movement. This model is called Aniak.
A closer look reveals the model that was released in 1995. This makes it a couple of years 'newer' than my 1993 Swatch automatic. It's still an old one at 22 years.
A close look at the bracelet shows more creatures.
Here's a photo of the movement from the transparent back. The ETA 2840 automatic movement uses 23 jewels and runs at 21,600 beats/hour with a power reserve of 48 hours.
These watches had a default 3bar water resistance meaning you could use it for washing hands or some exposure to rain.
While this is only occasionally used, we consider it one of our favorites in our collection and one that our daughter will probably like to wear when she's of age.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Chocolate review: Venchi Dark Chocolight 75%

The Clairvoyant returned from her trip to Europe with several bars of chocolate from Venchi. We first tasted Venchi chocolates I purchased from local wine shop Bacchus and were delighted by the quality of the chocolates. And so when she happened upon the Venchi gelato shop in Rome, she remembered to get a few bars to bring back home.

Venchi's Chocolight 75% is good dark chocolate
Details on the chocolate at the back
Nutrition information on the chocolate

The chocolate did not disappoint. It was a smooth one considering 75% cacao. I didn't ask how much this bar cost but since it was bought at the Venchi shop itself, it would be less expensive than the previous Venchi chocolate I featured here. That was priced 125 pesos (about 2.5 USD at current exchange rates).

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Chocolate review: Twenty squares 55% cocoa dark chocolate blood orange

The haul of chocolates from Australia in July included a bar of Twenty Squares chocolate. As we have already found that dark chocolates and oranges go quite well together, this was a no-brainer purchase for me. It did not disappoint. I bought this one from the convenience store at the ground floor of my hotel in Melbourne and as I wasn't able to open it while there, I decided to get another bar in case it was good and we wanted to have another.

Twenty Squares 55% dark chocolate with blood orange
Details on the chocolate at the back
I like a good story about the chocolate I am eating and there is one for this chocolate, which claims to be gluten free with no artificial ingredients.
Nutrition information

Needless to say, we enjoyed this chocolate, which was smooth at 55%. It was as expected for dark chocolate with orange. Its a good thing we have another bar in our cache. This series on chocolates I bought from my trip to Australia will be overtaken by posts of chocolates I brought from my more recent trip to Vietnam. Then there is also the haul of Italian chocolates from the earlier European trip the Clairvoyant had in May. I will try to post about each of these chocolates as we eat them from time to time.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chocolate review: Henk Dark Chocolate 65%

Another chocolate I got from the recent trip to Ho Chi Minh is this one with real nice packaging. Henk chocolate produced this dark chocolate with a box that gave you a nostalgic feel of a postcard. The image is that of Bin Thanh market

Henk dark chocolate

So co la den translates to dark chocolate

Nutrition and other information at the back
The first question I got from the wife when she tasted the chocolate (I let her sample it first.) is if this was milk chocolate. I just had to check as I remembered making sure to pick up only dark chocolates from the shelf at the duty free shop in Saigon's international airport. It is a dark chocolate and a smooth one. Its creamy even for a 65% dark chocolate, which I thought indicated its very good quality. This was definitely better than the previous Viet chocolate I featured in this blog. This is a steal at 4.00 USD (about 200 PHP) for a 100g bar. I will definitely get these the next time I am in Vietnam and spot them in a shop.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Chocolate review: Vietnamcacao Origin 75% cocoa

The trip to Vietnam last month yielded not a few bars of chocolates. It got very interesting when I was a store at the airport that sold local items. Apparently lost among the shelves of coffee was a shelf of Vietnamese chocolates. I couldn't find these earlier so it was a delight to see many brands and variants. Among those I bought

Vietnamcacao's Origin 75% dark chocolate's box states "Technology of Belgium"
Ingredients and nutrition information at the back of the box

This chocolate was the first one we sampled after I arrived home from the airport. The chocolate was okay but I thought it was a bit raw-tasting compared to the more refined chocolates I've tasted. The comparison would be with the Freefood Co.'s Coco Dolce dark chocolates that I featured before in this blog. This was not as refined as the label would have you believe (Technology of Belgium). The chocolate retailed for 2.50 USD or about 125 PHP.  That is quite expensive for 35g bar of chocolate that's not as smooth as other chocolates I have featured before. However, you could probably stretch it as an artisan chocolate. I wouldn't.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Frankenstein's watch? Seiko KS or GS?

A sentimental favorite among my watches is one that I got from a bazaar in Tokyo almost a decade ago for 5,000 yen. It was more expensive than the Swatch watches I got brand new from stores in Akihabara and Okachimachi. I was in Japan then as a visiting scientist and I think I was reliving my student days during the 1990s when we frequented bazaars to get some nice items without shelling out a fortune. The design was simple enough for me and it was a Seiko automatic watch so you really couldn't go wrong here. I had a reliable Seiko quartz that looked like this one back when I was in high school and I got my self a couple of Seiko Kinetic watches including the titanium watch I usually prefer over all my watches (including my Baume and Omega).

An old Seiko automatic watch is not as simple as it seemed.
I didn't mind the KS mark on the watch face. The thing that got my attention was the kanji day indicator. The kanji in the photo is for suiyobi or Wednesday.
The shape of the watch was also a classic and reminded one of the Rolex oyster
Only about recently have I discovered something about the watch as an acquaintance casually mentioned that this was a collectible watch. KS stood for King Seiko, which was a predecessor of sorts of the Grand Seiko watches I thought were quite expensive considering (sorry Seiko) they weren't a Swiss brand. It turns out the Grand Seikos and the King Seikos were masterpieces in their own right and were advanced and quite accurate for automatic watches compared to their Swiss counterparts.
The back was also different from my other Seikos in that there is a brass plate. The watch model is stated as a 5646 7010.

Some internet research told me that the watch model was stated at the back and front (fine print at 6 o'clock). The back of the watch states that this was a 5646 7010. However, as it turns out, this model did not correspond to a King Seiko (KS) but to a Grand Seiko, and should have GS in the plate. Inspection of the front revealed another model 5626 7040, which corresponded to a King Seiko model.

The watch model stated in the face was different from the one stated at the back. It showed that this was supposed to be a 5626 7040.
And so I suspected that this was a fake watch given the conflicting labels. Further research though got me intrigued since the face of the watch was that of a 5646 7010 with GS instead of KS prominent above 6 o'clock. A KS 5626 7040's face stated chronometer and the indices were significantly different from this one's.

Etched inside the back cover is the model number
I realized that instead of being a fake watch, this could be one that was modified or tinkered with. That made more sense given Seiko watches are popularly modified for them to look like other watches but using components that the modifier liked in order to come up with a customized watch with his/her preferred features. The clincher had to be the movement, which was the heart and soul of the watch. And so I opened the watch to see what was inside.

Opening the watch revealed a genuine movement by Seiko.
This was a 5626 B movement
The 25 jewels and 5626 B was an upgrade to the 5626 A movement that the King Seiko of that model series first used. I also learned that this was practically the same as the 5646 movement used by the Grand Seiko.
I learned that the 5626 B was "chronometer-grade" 28,800 beats per hour. My curiosity led me to compare this watch's time with those of my other watches (the Kinetic, which has a quartz movement and my automatic Baume that was at 28,800 bph) and I concluded that it kept really good time. 

And so this is quite a complicated watch in the sense that it has the movement of a KS (5626 B that's practically a GS 5646 movement), the back of a GS 5646 7010, the face of a 5646 7010 (which is also very similar to a KS 5626 7113), and the body of the GS 5646 7010 (that also similar to that of a KS 5626 7113). No matter, I'll be using this mutant of sorts and cherishing it as a souvenir from my years of staying in Japan. 

[Note: I tried the online Seiko Production Date Calculator and it estimates the KS 5626 7040 with serial number 090502 to have been manufactured in September 1970. 7/19/2018]

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Marugane Udon & Tempura

There's a new Japanese restaurant at the Bonifacio High Street. We finally got eat there last weekend as we were early enough to get through without having to fall into the long queue of diners we've usually seen outside the restaurant. They currently have a steady stream of customers so I think its better to be early to try eating there during the off-hours between lunch and dinner.

Marugamae Udon is right across from Fully Booked
Customers see the food being prepared/cooked right in front of them as they queue to get their hearts' (and stomach's) desire.
I tried their cold udon so as to see how good their handmade udon really is. It is good!
Their curry was just the right in terms of spicy and texture
Their beef udon is a bestseller
The system for ordering food at the restaurant is quite efficient. The long line seems to be only for before the restaurant opens its doors and lets people in. It is a self service restaurant but staff assist people with their trays to prevent spills and food waste. Price-wise, they offer very good value for money as we were surprised we didn't shell out much for the really good food (quality and quantity) that we ate there. One more thing that I'd like to add is that I observed a lot of Japanese eating there so perhaps that's a good sign and an argument for authenticity.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Japanese woodblock prints

Having lived in Japan for a good part of my life, I have developed an appreciation of their culture. Among those that I find very interesting are woodblock prints. I prefer the ones depicting landscapes and seascapes but also like the ones showing typical life in old Japan. I have purchased and sent greeting cards featuring these prints. And so, when I found about a site featuring a collection of these prints, I curiously browsed the contents. Following is a nice website with a splendid open database of prints now available in electronic form:

Japanese woodblock prints

I thought this was a nice opening to the month of October and for autumn, which is just around the corner.