Thursday, June 28, 2012

Out for Brunch (@ Manila Polo Club)

Growing up, the term “Sunday brunch” was rarely uttered, our bourgeois household bearing the practice of separately enjoyed meals sans the wine toasting and thematic white garb. Plus, I am normally one hungry beast when I wake up, so brunch comes to near non existence in my voracious vocabulary.

The closest I have come to this posh Sunday Brunch matter, well aside from Chuck Bass and the rest of the Upper East Side, was during our Sunday feast at the Manila Polo Club. Veering away from the sensational seafood-fest that was the Mongolian Grill, we opted for the all-encompassing, multi-course selections from the International Buffet.

Spotting the Sushi, sashimi and Baked Salmon with the Caper-Dill sauce from afar, we had to abandon the call of the Mongolian buffet and opt for proper silverware, plates, soup bowls and hordes of protein.

The salad station wasn’t all that elaborate, should the likes of arugula, feta cheese or even caviar be expescted to make an entrance on the glass throne. However with Italian dressing, Romaine lettuce, the usual vegetable sidings, egg (pardon me, I’ve been fancying boiled egg these past few days) and cheese (just cheddar but that’ll do), it was quite enough to fill my plate to shameful heights that I wanted to hide from the prim old lady by my side. But she didn’t seem to care, since all she wanted was the seafood salad.

As for that seafood salad, do not get me started. Again it was no Poseidon serving, but somehow the light lemon-herb oil that graced the squid-shrimp-fish-olive salad was refreshingly satiating, it called for seconds! And seconds I shamelessly had.

While the dishes were not overwhelmingly abundant in quantity, they were luxuriously presented and named, looking them brought enough stars in my eyes. The Baked Salmon occupied the main spotlight area, which was such a welcome sight compared to the cliché roast beef. Pasta was available in Marinara (with shrimps) and carbonara sauces, and proved to be the “carby” competition for that Seafood Paella. Lavish names like Fish Fillet Veronique and Pork Schnitzel introduced funky new food terms that I can put to good use, if any, to spice up the dreariness of everyday dishes.

Seafood was also made available for grilling, but we never got to that point. Stuck on the salad and seafood already served and aptly named, we found no need to indulge in those smoky treats.

Being the mammoth dessert eater, I nearly gave up on the sweet treats, but alas, I could not yield at the sight of the cakes and fruits. And they had bread pudding with chocolate sauce!

The shot glass serving cakes were all right, a bit exposed to the poolside heat so the fruit selection provided the chilling finale to my meal. With orange and mango slices atop that fabulous headdress inspired display, it was a delightful meal, capped off by a tropical fruit fest.

Very Sunday Brunch, if I may say so.

So this brunch thing isn’t too bad, not all that fancy and no dress code necessary.  This is probably one of those rare moments when I can’t help but end with:

XOXO, Lazy Black Cat

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Konnichiwa, Green Tea and Blueberry Cheesecake

Last time I took a walk in broad daylight, I was met with eerie-strangers-holding-fraps in every corner, which led me to think that this Starbucks Hojicha has come to haunt me.

“Ho-ji-cha!” Ho-ji-chaaaa!” Yamero! (Stoooopp!!)

All right then! Alas, before the fear could drive me to get that hoji-cup, I heard strange stories about the Hojicha + Earl Grey Jelly (too sweet, tastes like the forest) that made me ditch the drink and go for something more solid, green and table-worthy.

[caption id="attachment_1979" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Itadakimasu![/caption]

Konnichiwa, Green Tea and Blueberry Cheesecake! For a cheesecake and green tea lover, this was something I could not run away from. Best of all, it doesn’t have those annoying adzuki beans that really leave bad teeth stains.

Top layer consists of that white chocolate (?) that more jelly-like than creamy. It had that very strange flavor I could not detect, but it would seem strange if I suddenly asked Starbucks for the ingredient listing of a slice of cheesecake. And so let’s just call it that white viscous layer that needs a knife to cut through.

The “mantle” is the best part, green tea-infused cheesecake, to be followed by blueberry cheesecake. The green tea cheesecake was remarkable, but rather sweet in the Hojicha fashion—a valid “sweet” reference, I believe. Little bits of blueberry floated on the other layer, which would be a welcome for those looking for fruit, jelly or just the color purple.

Lastly, the graham crust remains a staple (green tea-graham would be asking for too much but would be something I would love to taste), but I did spy nuts in some bites. Nuts and graham may not be the best combination for me, but I waived this slight transgression since the green tea cheesecake is something I’ve been waiting for a long time. Finally!

On the side, Starbucks also has that Purple Yam Cake (ube) with layers of Macapuno and Adzuki Beans. It’s 100% purple (check) but with ube (no way), macapuno (what is this, halo halo?) and adzuki (stains, stains, stains) that make up the cake (what it’s not cheesecake?) I’ll pass.

Kekkou desu! (No thanks!)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jerry’d Away: Going Global with Jerry Barbaso

First time football viewers will probably remember him for his hip ponytail, while old-time fans may refer to him as Global FC’s prized defender. Well, enough with the labels and vague name-calling. Our latest footballer feature goes by the name of Jerry Barbaso, Global FC defender #63, and if you’ve got qualms about that, talk to the hair.


Run, Jerry, Run

Born in the Orchid City (that’s Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte for those who slept through Sibika class), twenty-four-year-old Jerry Barbaso grew up shooting hoops, belting Step Up-worthy dance moves and speaking perfect Cebuano. It was only at 13 years old that he first met the acquaintance of the soccer ball and decided, “Football it is!” Yes, he is that kind of guy, cheerily decisive.  Kicking became the new dribbling, and he started out as a right winger.

Of course, that didn’t stop him from his other activities, like track and field, basketball, and dancing. If you watch him closely on the pitch, or ask him real nice, he might give a spin or two. Oh, did we mention that he did gymnastics too as a kid? Makes us wonder what kind of fish diet they serve in Dipolog.

Going back to business; football only appeared in Jerry’s sporting radar at age 13, when this was introduced to him by Coach Reginald Jukes, father of former Laos FC teammate Reginald Jukes Jr. This was the moment in Jerry’s life when he was asked what position he plays, and with the Coach’s accent, Jerry immediately blurted out “Defender!” And so Jerry began his official role on the defense. Weekends meant practicing with the team and foregoing that basketball he’s gotten to love.

Earning a scholarship from his football skills, Jerry was able to take up Management Accounting at Dipolog Medical Center College Foundation.  Juggling balance sheets and balls couldn’t be that bad, especially when his school’s team received victories, giving Jerry the necessary field exposure and experience.

Jerry cites that despite starting late in the game, all it takes is practice and more practice to get into the zone. And running. If babies were born crying—Jerry must’ve been the exception—as he might have been born treading.

Win or Laos

For those who are not quite familiar with Jerry’s football history, he made his debut as an official football figure at Laos FC in 2009.

However, landing a spot in the said team was a combination of an accident, sheer luck and good ol’ friends. Jerry was only staying at his Aunt’s place in Cavite after a university-related game (he was still a senior), found friends playing for Laos FC, joined some training sessions and finally found himself defending for the team in one game. After this whirlwind pitch-crashing turned success story, Jerry finally joined the team, officially, in June.

Now back track a little; let’s not forget about school. Before you start conjuring ideas of Jerry, the Hippie Dropout, don’t let the hair deceive you. This is a success story, and to continue, Jerry Boy also graduated from college that year, and if luck wasn’t with him, brought him to the employ of APT as an accounting assistant in August 2009.

A job and a football career both on track, what more can this young man hope for? Well, a lot more, it seems.

Proud to be Global

Still in 2009 Laos FC wanted to join the UFL, and to cut the long story short, Global FC was born with Jerry as one of the pioneer players in Division 2. Playing as a defender and aiding the team with his strengths in speed and tackling, Jerry was instrumental in Global FC’s growth and newfound prominence. In the 2009–2010 UFL Season, Global FC was crowned the champions and he was hailed as the MVP for Division 2, while his counterpart for Division 1 was Ian Araneta.

Proving itself competent, capable and Above All, Global FC was eventually promoted to Division 1, and the rest is history.

Jerry carries the number 63 in his jersey—not for mathematical or residential reasons—but somehow, being an accountant has something to do with it. Everyone who works ought to know that the accountant is the most important human being during payroll time. Well back then, the go-to money guy was interestingly named Sixto, and next to him was Jerry. Anyone old enough to count should know what comes after Sixto, that’s 63! Get it?

If you didn’t get that, well too bad. Maybe Misagh can explain it to you better.

He may not look as tough as his favorite player Carles Puyol—except for the hair, I guess—but he can surely take care of his opponents skillfully and carefully before they can even get to the goal area. Preventing strikers or any player for that matter to find a chance to shoot or attempt to score is his default area of expertise. While he can outrun anyone back and forth as well, it is worth revealing that stamina, alertness, resiliency, and marking all play crucial roles in making him an excellent defender. He isn't a pushover!

It would not come as a surprise that “speed” is Jerry’s strength on the pitch. When he was in college, he decided to join the Milo Marathon (10k) and next thing he knew, he was awarded 2nd place. His early inclination for track and field turned him into a super runner—and capitalizing on this attribute was largely instrumental to his success.

What he did with all that Milo though, he didn’t say.

Defending the Dog Pound

If you think going Global was Jerry’s biggest football stint, well, here’s more—getting to join the Philippine National Team or the Azkals. This was the time of the emergence of the team, the recruitment of players and the reign of Coach Des.

In 2010 was Jerry’s first International game, the Long Teng Cup in Taiwan. It wasn’t the fact that he was playing in a different country or feasting on authentic dimsum that excited him and inspired him to move forward.

“I was there on the pitch, singing the National Anthem and representing the country!” exclaims Jerry with Pinoy pride.

To wear the Philippine logo loud and proud, that should be every young Filipino’s dream, and Jerry Barbaso has done that. That’s one item off his bucket list.

Of course, after Taiwan came other opportunities. Becoming quite the Asian tourist, he’s been in the historical 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, in the second leg of their 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying match against Mongolia, and in the 2011 SEA games. Jerry was also in Japan with the Azkals to conduct their high-altitude training to acclimatize to the Mongolian temperature when it was hit by the earthquake and tsunami, so we forgive him for not bringing home some green tea mochi. Daijyoubu! (It’s okay!)

For the Junior Azkals fans, Jerry must seem like a familiar face as well, having participated in the 2012 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei, where he was one of the 2 seniors allowed to accompany the U-21 players. Bonding with the juniors was easy, since Jerry isn’t that much older than them.

While the team’s experience in Brunei wasn’t the most exciting time of their football lives, the learnings were tremendous. Even as a “senior,” Jerry found exposure in a foreign-based game and also found potential among the young ones.

One, Two, Jerry

Jerry was raised mainly by his Mom, since his father passed away when he was 4 years old. Curiously enough, his father was named Jerry Sr., while he has another older brother who goes by Jerry Jr., leaving him as Jerry 1st. There are still 2 other older brothers unaccounted for, but we are under the impression that Jerry isn’t their main name or this would certainly create confusion for their mom and mailman. Jerry (the Global FC player) is also lucky that Jerry Jr. doesn’t play football, or any coach is sure to get a mouthful of bewilderment with the Barbaso Bros. As if the Angeles Twins weren’t confounding enough!

Jerry was greatly inspired by his late father, a former military man, that he nearly took up Criminology in college. A crime fighting defender? Surely this would give him the authority to reprimand bad refereeing! And a red card in return!

Speaking of cards, Jerry proudly claims that hasn’t been given a yellow card for this UFL season. While prompted by others to get one, as if the elitist Yellow Card Gang recruits only the card carriers, Jerry insists that he could do his job just fine even without the slightest violation of human rights. A good reader of the game knows that you can actually play football in a safe and responsible manner (sometimes). You can anticipate your opponent's next move and position yourself well. And that’s Jerry the Crime Fighting Defender for you.

Jerry Up

Having been with the Laos and Global FC team for nearly 3 years now, Jerry has certainly found a second home. He has been through the transition and establishment of Global FC—only he remains from the original Laos FC—that if anyone would have the wealth of knowledge to write this piece of history, he’d be the best player resource.

Among the Global FC players, best buds from the team include Yu Hoshide, David Basa and former player William Gueridonn. Jerry looks up to Captain Hoshide not only as a friend but also as an advisor and confidante. Maybe Yu sees an oniichan in Jerry which is why he is fondly called “Jerry Boy.” On second thought most of the guys in the team call him that, so there’s no way of tracing who started that very original sounding moniker. However if you insist that it was Coach Graeme, I don’t think so.

Chieffy and Ian are some of Jerry’s Azkals mates, since they all stem back from the days of Coach Des.  None of these folks could’ve coined Jerry-Boy as well.

Jerry Bravo

Of course, a feature on Jerry Barbaso could not be put to a proper close without any mention of his hair (by the way, this is J.Anne, Miji’s brother, doing all the hair talk!). While describing it further may sound like a shampoo ad (long and curly, bouncy in a pony) Jerry considers this his prized feature but not to the point of calling it his Achilles Hair. He’s maintained such a ‘do since he joined the team, and only cut it short for his first job interview.

If we happen to cut it accidentally, he will not burn or wilt but might even thank us for saving him on shampoo costs. Because that’s the kind of guy Jerry Barbaso is, easygoing, cheerful, lighthearted and certainly light-footed.

Despite the seeming trials and challenges he’s been through in life, all he did was give a smile and look ahead. There were no problems that couldn’t be solved, no obstacles he couldn’t skip past. In fact the word problem doesn’t seem to exist in Jerry’s vocabulary, except to say, “No problem.”

Atta (Jerry) Boy!

Ready for a meet and greet with Jerry Bravo? Impress him with your Cebuano or ask him about tax recon. If both might seem difficult, do as Jerry would and never say never. Here’s a guide to get you to know Jerry Boy, no hair tips though.

Follow Jerry Barbaso on Twitter: @1yrrej

Follow J.Anne Gonzales on Twitter: @LazyBlack_Cat

Follow Miji Gonzales on Twitter: @mijigonzales

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Go with the Fold (@Yellow Cab)

Eating Pizza requires a collective effort, which can be rather sad if you’re the selfish kind, the lonely traveler or just one who fancies eating alone. This Folded Pizza that Yellow Cab came up with is really gratifying, finally recognizing that solo pizza eaters do exist and that yes, eating pizza sans the sharing aspect is the best!

With arugula and tomatoes topping the pizza and sour cream on the side, the Folded Pizza provides such a delightful yet cheap treat for the lone eater. Imagine a box all to yourself, smothered with vegetables and vastly packaged to feed a king; there is certainly nothing Third World about this serving.

[caption id="attachment_1925" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Shrimp Folded PIzza[/caption]

Choosing Shrimp as my designated topping, this made the pizza-wich the splendid seafood prize for any gourmand. Half the pizza’s got the toppings (which is Shrimp and Onion) while the other half’s studded with cheese.

Fill in the veggies, sour cream and chili (if you’re dining in), fold and voila, a perfect pizza-wich all for yourself! I made the mistake of eating with a fork and knife—okay, that “king” reference did get to me.

However, with a crust that’s near crisp and thick, eating via hands becomes the only option, and rather enjoyable, if I may say so. You would want to keep the napkins within reach though.

[caption id="attachment_1923" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Going Solo? I like it Shrimp.[/caption]

My next adventure will be that Lime Chicken flavor which sounds tangy, though I leave that Pepperoni to the carnivorous soloists.

And of course, a trip to Yellow Cab cannot end without an order of Charlie Chan Chicken Pasta.

Whoever has not heard of Charlie, it’s time you hailed a Cab, man!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

There's Something About Mary Grace Cafe

When I was 8, we used to live along Mary Grace Street. Boy, was it difficult to direct people to my abode, with questions about my full name or who the heck this Mary Grace figure is in Philippine history. You see, before Mary Grace, we lived along Nicanor Ramirez Street, very tough and in-the-hood, so you can probably how people reacted to this shift to this grandma’s cookie world.

However I digress. The point I am trying to make is that through the decades, the name Mary Grace has become quite acceptable and mainstream, it even became the restaurant name of the eponymous owner Mary Grace.

I have never met the Mary Grace of Mary Grace Café, and I don't suppose I will in the near future. However I am glad that while strolling along Serendra, getting near-death slave hungry and finding only 1k in my wallet (boo-hoo), I came across her joint.

Now this joint isn't that crochet-filled niche that is preserved to grandma standards, it's a quaint little place filled with homely trinkets and decor, a comfy vibe yet not scarily vintage. Best of all, it’s properly dimmed to accommodate chatty moms, mistresses and vampires (that’s where we fall).

[caption id="attachment_1897" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Grandma's Wall[/caption]

The ladies in waiting (well that's how they appeared to me) are accommodating, and the display of cakes is rather remarkably highlighted. The table set-up showcases letters written by previous customers, kids mainly who seemed to enjoy Mary Grace's cooking over their mom's Ragu creations. I wouldn't blame them.

[caption id="attachment_1899" align="aligncenter" width="461"] Table set-up I thought only existed in HE class[/caption]

While I spied pizza in one corner, I opted for pasta, having seen every table with a bowl of something. I wanted one too! Plus with their magnanimous selection of pasta, from cream to tomato to oil based, the choice was already difficult on its own. There was the cream dory pasta that I was dying to have, but the something fishy happened and I ended up with the Spanish Sardines Pasta with Olives.

[caption id="attachment_1896" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Cat Food: Green and Fishy[/caption]

The pasta was a bit overcooked, but the serving made up for this minor peeve. The bread was chewy and properly toasted, Mary Grace should really start calling herself the Bread Queen. The sardines were generously spread, and the pesto just right and fresh. Every bite maintains that sardine-pesto edge that we don’t normally get for other restaurants that scrimp out on the seafood toppings.

Asking for chili and parmesan, I may have overdone the sprinkling part as my dish evolved into a hot and salty fish bowl, but it was delightful nevertheless. Truth be told, I do not really eat sardines, and so this first-time-fish-fiesta did well to educate my taste buds and finally have a tertiary fish option to tuna and salmon pasta.

[caption id="attachment_1895" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Who doesn't love Carbonara?[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1894" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Glad this kid had his carbonara fill. Wouldn't want him camping out under my table.[/caption]

The Classic Carbonara was creamy and flavorful, it seems that it warrants a second serving as well.

[caption id="attachment_1893" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Seems like Mary Grace gets more letters than Santa![/caption]

While Taguig denizens we are not, at least Mary Grace Café has her own joint at Trinoma. Not as homey and rather exposed to the shopping public, should I get that nagging craving for vongole, at least all it takes is a hop, not a flight.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Off with her red!

Time to face the real velvet in the world of cakes and cupcakes, and apologies for those guessing from the ROYGBIV roster. Did you say red? Oh bloody hell, you need help. It’s Black Velvet. Do remember that.

The thing about Red Velvet is that, it’s become the cliché cake that everyone just loves. This bloody color has gotten girls to swoon over reddish-tinged pastries and to hoard cupcakes for anyone’s birthday, anniversary or just plain PMS. It’s maddening what red velvet has done to society, and I shudder at the thought at what might happen if it runs out—on V-Day, of all days. Ah yes, oh no indeed.

Red velvet. If I tell you that it is just food coloring, I’d suppose you’d call me a pesky little liar. Seriously though, if you’re old enough to read this, it should come to your knowledge that it’s just red food coloring. That red velvet is really just chocolate cake that’s been tinted with red dye.

So let’s try to be more realistic. Brown Velvet? Not if you want the cowboys filing in the hordes, or folks who have a taste for leather. Either way, we don’t want horses to be the new motorcycles.

[caption id="attachment_1886" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Black Beauty, guaranteed not to leave fake lipstick stains[/caption]

Black Velvet. Now that’s more like it. Who’d have thought that prim and proper Mary Grace Café would come up with this decadent little bugger of a cake? No reds or pinks, just plain black and white. Classic, simple yet sinfully alluring. With the delightful cream cheese frosting and little swirls of chocolate, Black Velvet brings that artificially red alien into its real gracious form. Chocolate, dark yet fluffy, mildly sweet yet creamy. This contrasting collaboration radiates in its simplicity, and anyone who gets a sample of the Black Velvet by Mary Grace Café would certainly yell, “Off with her red!”

Meet Joe Black. Black Heart Inertia. Black Hawk Down. Now, Black Velvet.

This is why I love black.