Monday, December 15, 2008

Thanksgiving in the Philippines - Part 2

(This is a continuation of my earlier post about our Thanksgiving holiday vacation in the Philippines)

When we were in the States, I kept telling my wife about the absolutely divine paella (a savory dish made of rice, meat, and seafood) that they make in the Philippines. Paella is not a dish native to the Philippines, but arose from the pervasive Spanish influence in Philippine culture (the Philippines was a colony of Spain for over 300 years).

Because of that strong Spanish influence, there are a good number of fine restaurants in the Philippines that specialize in Spanish-Filipino cuisine. One of the most memorable of these (whose delicious paella has delighted me since my boyhood) is the Alba Restaurant in Quezon City.

We went for the lunch buffet, which offered numerous scrumptious dishes like: Callos Madrilena (beef tripe in tomato sauce), Costillas de Vaca (beef spare ribs), Pescado Polaris (fish with garlic & chili sauce), and many, many more...

To discourage waste, this restaurant has a "no leftovers" policy - which means they will charge an additional 500 pesos (about 10 US dollars) per table if diners don't finish off everything they put on their plates. There is an ominous-looking sign stating this policy right next to the platter of delicious Cochinillo (roast suckling pig). Click on the picture below to enlarge:

All the above dishes are great. But for me, the real star of the show is the splendid paella, which I've been hankering for while I was in the US. The fragrant aroma and zesty tang of the seasoned rice, combined with the fresh, tasty seafood, was every bit as heavenly as I remembered it to be (and my wife agreed that I wasn't exaggerating in my praise for Alba's paella):

All these great ingredients allowed us to whip up our own lavish concoctions:

As a perfect finish to this great ensemble, we had some refreshing dessert. Pictured below - leche flan (custard), canonigo (meringue), and chocolate cake:

I left Alba feeling deeply satisfied. An experience that I had been looking forward to for a long time, had come to reality and totally lived up to my expectaions. Aahh, what a feeling ... ;-)

(To be continued)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thanksgiving in the Philippines - Part 1

My wife and I had the good fortune of visiting the Philippines during the Thanksgiving holidays. We had a jolly good time reconnecting with family and friends in Manila, shopping, sightseeing, and of course, indulging in some seriously good eating along the way.

One of the first places we visited shortly after arriving in Manila was the SM City Mall in Santa Mesa, Manila. This was one of my favorite places to hang out back when I still lived in the good ol' Philippines. Just a 5 minute drive from our house, it's a very convenient and comfortable place to shop, watch movies, eat, and just relax while escaping the hot and humid weather in Manila.

The gay (meaning happy, not homosexual ;-) Christmas lights and decorations, and throngs of people scurrying about, told me for sure that the Christmas shopping season was in full swing at the mall. (With over 80% of Filipinos following the Roman Catholic faith, Christmas is the most anticipated and beloved celebration of the year in the Philippines.)

We experienced the exceptional warmth, friendliness, and hospitality of the Filipino people while shopping at the mall (and everywhere else we went, for that matter), where we received excellent customer service. There were some good bargains to be had, too. My wife bought a very nice pair of jeans for 900 pesos (about 18 US dollars). The same thing would probably cost over $35 in the States.

After a full day of shopping, my mom suggested that we have dinner at one of her favorite Chinese restaurants - Luk Foo in Quezon City. So off we went.

We enjoyed delectable morsels like barbecued pork:

...and roasted duck (my mom's favorite!): fillet with sweet and sour sauce:

...fried prawns:

...and some xiu mai (pork dumplings) thrown in for good measure:

After our appetites were sated, we headed home for some much needed rest.

(To be continued)