Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Carlie's Way: Break Time with Carlie de Murga

Proud of my high school Spanish, I brushed up on what I thought was muy excelente conversational Espanol in preparation for the interview with Fil-Spanish Azkals and Global FC player Carlie de Murga.

Unfortunately, my linguistic proficiency was reduced to turista level as rapid Spanish paragraphs from Angel Guirado caught me off-guard and Carlie greeted not with an “Hola!” but the strangely familiar “Kamusta ka?” With that, the Spanish came flying out of the window, as I settled with the universal language of consolation, English.

Funny and mind boggling at times, the Carlie interview was peppered with “invented” words and Espanol names I could never spell. I don’t recall any serious moments or glum expressions, since Carlie was beaming, a perfect “Magandang umaga!” fresh from siesta.

Find out more about Carlie, another sibling collaboration at Carlie’s Way: Break Time with Carlie Martínez de Murga. First seen at the Azkals official website, and here to stay.


J. Anne

Carlie de Murga Jenina Gonzales Lazy Black CAt

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pasta Tripping: Cibo

Whenever I suggest eating at Cibo to some folks, they just have a cunning way of changing the topic or pretending that I was speaking on mute mode.

Whatever the reason is, I've figured out that they would rather dunk their Chicken McNuggets in BBQ sauce than dunk their bread in EVOO + balsamic vinegar, but I cannot give in to the triumph of fast food. Fast food and cheap restaurants have created that niche we call pasta abomination, and for that, I cannot forgive you that easily. For an industry that has given rise to soggy pasta, fake parmesan cheese, vegetable oil pesto, carbonara made of cream, sweet spaghetti and worst of all, sweet spaghetti with hotdog, you should surrender to the Italian police.

End these food crimes, and stop feeding us MSG and week-old noodles. If I wanted something soft, I'd have gone for mashed potatoes. And if I wanted hotdogs, I would've gone to a ball game!

Unfortunately I live in Quezon City, not Sicily, so I have to make do with what's around. Landing in Trinoma one Saturday, hungry and deprived of nutrients, we decided to visit the least visited place where we knew no lines existed: CIBO. I thought of just ordering a salad, but when I realized my need for sustenance, the carbs suddenly popped out of the menu. Actually it was more of pleading, and I was more than happy to oblige.

Pasta violations are certainly banned from the confines of Cibo, as we are assured of al dente pasta and real parmesan cheese. There is also an abundant supply of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and chili. In here, we are shielded from the dangers of vegetable cooking oil and Eden cheese, and if espresso were as cheap as tea, I believe they'd serve house espresso as well.

Spaghettini Estivi

The Spaghetti Estivi falls under the vegetarian portion with its minimalist content: arugula and fresh tomatoes. Majority of the people I know would probably hate it and go for a McSpaghetti, but I would prefer this light dish. It veers from the sour-canned-tomato taste and relies on the fresh flavor of the tomatoes and garlic. Actually it was a bit too light for my abysmal appetite, but I feared that ordering a family serving might warrant stares from the waiters. Again. For fear of another public debacle, I've decided to go with this bambino serving and hope the pizza could fill the hunger void.

Linguine il Giallo

I will never understand why my hermano went for the Linguine il Giallo as this is one of those dishes that my eyes skip in the menu and pretend never existed. If people would ignore my Spaghetti Estivi, they would question this squash flower - anchovy cream pasta. When his order came, I didn't even have the sibling temptation to fork out a noodle. I just stared as he ate his meal sans the parmesan, claiming that the anchovy made it salty enough. While he seemingly enjoyed another light dish, it was not that extraordinary. I suppose with squash flowers as the highlight of the dish, we shouldn't really expect an ooh-la-la frenzy, just "I had my vegetable serving from this meal. Great, on to the pizza."

Zuchinne Pizza

It doesn't take a bambino to figure out that this pizza's main man is the zucchini (plus, it's got goat cheese). Now if you don't know what zucchini is, then you're better off having that McSpaghetti with Hamburglar. Off with you! For those who do not only know zucchini, but like it as well, then join the club. This pizza's the perfect partner for the pasta, plus the crust is unbelievably crisp, you'd want to dunk it on EVOO and balsamic vinegar and finish it off until the crust. There is no overbearing flavor or that doughy attitude we hate from commercial pizzas, this one's straight from the Italian oven and deserves one grande burp! 

When another pasta fest will be, only my wallet could tell. Where it would be, there's a chance it'll be at Cibo.

I'll squash anyone who orders the squash flowers though.

In the Red: Cajun Red Rock

[caption id="attachment_1287" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Cajun Red Rock"][/caption]

The word "Cajun" brings only one image to mind, and that is Gambit, my favorite X-men character, mon ami.

As far as any other Cajun is concerned, there is not much to be said or comes as a top-of-mind concept, character or restaurant. After all, I've pushed Cajun Red Rock (SM Megamall, Atrium) at the far bottom of my where-to-eat list. Feel free to try it still, since you might enjoy the meaty dishes that are repelled by our choosy table.

It was Chef Tony's free popcorn that got us sniffing to the place, and the curiosity that comes when you're in the presence of a hungry cat, too lazy to walk any farther. With all those eager groups and voracious families that filled up the place, I've always wondered when the day would come that I too would partake in this hearty dining experience, and that time came when the whiff of their complimentary popcorn filled the void of my hunger radar and ushered us to a half-clean table.


The free popcorn may bring such a hoity-toity appeal, but it sure worked for us. As far as the voracious-happy-eating experience goes, it never really happened. With the absence of Gambit or any of that New Orleans dazing appeal, nothing chère can be said about our meal.

Chopped Seafood Salad

The Chopped Seafood Salad came with a myriad of toppings, fried noodles and ranch dressing. However leviathan the size was, the all-iceberg lettuce fare was a bit short on the taste aspect. While I expected a burst of seafood splendor, what I got was so-so greens and unheroically tough calamari rings. By the time I finished the salad, everyone else was picking their nails and dreaming about ice cream.

Buffalo Burger

Chicken Marsala

The Chicken Marsala and Buffalo Burger were likewise on the so-so level. Filling-wise, they did their part. If you're not expecting any gourmet goodness or exotically spiced up viand, then perhaps you will enjoy these "normal" dishes, which many would be happy to learn are carbo-loading even - have you seen the size of the bun? 

However, there was no imaginary lightbulb that seemed to say, "Fantastic food, I'll be back tomorrow!" No misty-eyed, I can cry moments. It was just, "A reasonable place, with free popcorn." Ding-ding-ding, at least it meets the budget.

Of course it was silly of me to expect Gambit to pop out of the kitchen, serving us gumbo. Since he didn't and neither did my awesome expectations, I leave this place to the noisemaking families.

I hear the ribs are great.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

All that Misagh-ness: Catching up with Misagh Bahadoran

First seen on the official Azkals websiteCatching up with Misagh Bahadoran is our first sibling collaboration.

While I do deal with a myriad of personalities on a daily basis, it's not everyday that I get to write about these interesting folks and blokes. Normally it's all about food and kitchen mishaps, but this time, it's football. Juicy news over moist cake wasn't that bad a trade-off, plus I did get that much-needed exercise.

The interview was just as hilarious as the Misagh's cover photo, and even if there was no actual curry involved, I am glad the Butterfinger survived all of Misagh's twirling and Miji's banter.

Till the next feature. Salam!

J. Anne / Jenina Gonzales

Misagh Bahadoran by Jenina Gonzales

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Starbucks Cold Chicken Soba Salad

Our household thrives mainly on noodles and salad (and the occasional roast chicken), but putting them together in one dish has never materialized because I found the combination rather cold, squirmy and altogether bland. And add weird as well, since the thought of cold macaroni salad continues to bring shivers in our tropical home.

The thing is, I've never had decent soba. Ever. It's a pity really, since whenever we pass by the Asian aisle in the grocery, I hold the raw product in my hands, perpetually clueless and broke to even shoot it in my basket.

Having no proper benchmark for soba is such a shame, especially when I take pride in being a noodle-lover. Of all places to take pity on this plight, it had to be Starbucks, which was rather strange - slurping on noodles while everyone else was being normal and sipping on their frap (which I happen to be allergic to).

The Cold Chicken Soba Salad is a combination of greens (not just iceberg lettuce, fantastic), chicken strips, shiitake mushrooms,  soba noodles and that awesome soy-sesame dressing. Normally, I try to be a refined diner and digest my meals slowly, but the dressing prompted me to disregard my morals and dump the whole cup on the noodles. Never mind the black sesame seeds creeping on everything it touched; it was don't-talk-to-me-while-I-eat and don't you forget to respect the soba. The entire serving was light, satisfactorily soy-savory and something I would love to have for lunch everyday. 

Unfortunately I've spotted this salad in hordes, but only in Starbucks Magallanes, which can really be annoying to the northern dwellers.

Of course I've considered a solution, but it involves huge backpack, so I don't suppose anyone would go along with this plan. Anyway, it was good while it lasted.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Take a Chill Pill: Chili's Bar and Grill

If you have not heard of Chili's and its notoriously in-demand Bottomless Tostada Chips, then you have no business living, breathing and eating in Manila. The only way to battle the local buffets is to dine at Chili's, gorge on an unlimited refill of chips and order a last batch, untainted and ready to-go. Such gluttonous yet hearty thoughtfulness can only be the basis of the common parental practice, the Pinoy pasalubong.

Now, if the chips remain crisp or if they survive long car rides home are questions only those gifted with the Filipino spirit of giving can answer and sad to say, will remain a mystery for this selfish cat.

[caption id="attachment_1216" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Bottomless Tostada Chips"][/caption]

The bottomless chips isn't the only draw to this restaurant sensational servings, as its Manila locations (Tomas Morato, Greenhills and Greenbelt) are conveniently scattered in neighborhoods with perfectly decent malls.

Best memories go to the Fajitas (Citrus Fire Chicken and Shrimp)  that are  worth every sizzle and pico de gallo, and only Ristras can come close to matching up with this Mexican feast. The Cajun Chicken Pasta is worth another mention, as it can attack post work hunger while complementing every salsa-laden bite of tostada chips.

[caption id="attachment_1220" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad"][/caption]

The Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad has become a dieter's (or trying to diet) meal steal, as it serves up the greens alongside tasty ranch dressing and bleu cheese crumbles. The salad and tostada chips are enough to create a hearty meal, and I discourage anyone for going for more carbs as this tasteful combo is enough to last you for the day.

[caption id="attachment_1218" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Chicken Ranch Sandwich"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1219" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Old Timer Burger"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1217" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Bacon Burger"][/caption]

Not to be ignored, the sandwiches are leviathan in size and flavor: Chicken Ranch on wheat bread, Old-Timer and Bacon Burger. With fries on the side, these massive burgers can be a challenge to finish. I watched my brother swallow a mouthful of beef in disdain as he endeavored to finish every morsel, including the fries, and finish he did. Good boy. Now, to the nearest comfort room!

Even when dining out, the stress is just out there: the all-you-can-eat lines on the verge of food war, lousy servings at local restaurants and tasteless meals that try to pass off as gourmet.

What I hate the most are dressed up salad names that end up just being iceberg lettuce and mayo. The nerve! All the frenzy can just make you lose your appetite, and so I find solace in Chili's where people can just, you know, chill.

And let those hyper waiter do all the stressing. After all, it is my theory that they are injected with Red Bull before every shift. Go figure.

Lazy Black Cat: Year One

Lazy Black Cat

Nine lives aside, the Lazy Black Cat is about to reach her first year in blogging existence.  Always hungry I’ve always been, but idle moments have been spent dawdling on a hodge-podge of things that have entered my radar of interest: football, music and grammar. If there is perhaps an ambition I could cite, it would be to dilly-dally and to eat while I’m at it.

To celebrate Year One, don’t expect me to eat more, as I’ve been eating more than my share, and we cannot afford to contribute further to this country’s poor denizens. Instead, I’ve decided to unleash something uncharacteristic and less catty of me—the real me, like the person.

A paw and a name, why not?

After all, it has been decided that the Lazy Black Cat may always be hungry, but will have to well, dilly-dally. As much as it pains me, here goes.

Welcome to the Lazy Black Cat. On this planet, I am also known as J. Anne Gonzales: hungry, catty and stubborn girl, kitchen fire hazard, frugal diner, corporate beagle, pesky insomniac, part vegetarian, and future vegan.

Manila is my hometown, but I do have delusional hopes of living in Tokyo, dining in Greece and retiring in California. My ipod is my constant companion, which provides alternative-indie-rock sustenance. Whoever loves “pop” is banned from my mental list of acquaintances and reduced to a faceless forehead.

I repel red meat from my diet and hope to join PETA once I can finally get over this egg addiction, but while I am still attached to chicken nuggets and ice cream, being part vegetarian brings me closer to this vegan goal. I am willing to denounce my sanity in pursuit of blissful desserts and sweet creations. Those that serve shoddy meals ought to be thrown down the drain, and I will not be afraid to say so.

Football is a fascination that Mizu Luffy brought into existence and somehow piqued my sporting curiosity. To make this claim legit, I name Wayne Rooney of Manchester United as my player of preference and would not hear of any insults or disputes to this blunt choice. While I do not play football yet, it is another goal of mine to perfect the bicycle kick—no goal necessary.

I suppose this is enough to celebrate Year One. It may not be as grand as alleviating poverty or curing cancer, but it’s the thought that counts, and I have a lot of that.

So instead of meowciao!

J. Anne / Jenina Gonzales


If there comes the need to contact me, ask further questions, inquire about things that Google cannot seem to find an answer for or perhaps treat me to an awesome meal (how can I say no to that?) then you may reach me at jenina_g@yahoo.com.

There's also my  Twitter account, if you find the e-mail a tad too corporate: @LazyBlack_Cat


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Carrot Craving: Part 2

So goes another carrot cake craving, and after the success with Parvati's Sugar Free Carrot Cake, (http://lazyblackcat.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/the-carrot-craving/) I've been rather confident with other carrot delicacies served at Mercato Centrale.

While posing no health benefits (i.e. sugar free or low cal) other than containing carrot - which on its own should make it the "good" cake - the next slice goes to Med Chef's Carrot Cake. If you were expecting something more exotic, organic or gourmet, well I've decided to go all-out mainstream so yes, Med Chef it is.

[caption id="attachment_1208" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Med Chef Carrot Cake"][/caption]

Since it's the first morning of 2012 and I just woke up, I've decided to be verbally nice.

Med Chef's Carrot Cake will certainly be a treat to those who are anti carrot cake, since its overall flavor is cloaked in sweetness that it masks all that carrot-y taste that most people hate. There is a hint of cinnamon, but other than that, it's sweet cake goodness that will surely make it as a mainstream favorite.

Being anti-mainstream (in short: anti-sugar + vegan), I've decided to pass up this bunny creation, since I would prefer frosting that is more cream cheese than sugary cream and carrot cake that is bland and carrot-y. 

My brother seemed to enjoy it though, being a carrot and cake lover, though he did leave 1/6 of the slice in the fridge. Oh well, maybe he left it for the Easter bunny.

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! :)