This photo was taken during our first night at Palm Beach Resort in Batangas, Philippines. I need to give a shout-out to my cousin Gerard, who dug his feet into the sand, squared up, and let me use his shoulder as a makeshift tripod. Continue reading Remembering night walks on the beach
I have problem. A very, very serious problem. See this little guy here?
His name is Brian. He’s six years old. His dad and I are first cousins, and his mom is like a long-lost sister to me.
So here’s my problem: Brian is just too far away from me. More than 8,500 miles, to be exact. There’s just no way to make that distance even appear shorter. Not even if I expressed that in flight hours. Unless you love flying and don’t mind spending anywhere from 20 to 24 hours on a plane. Anyone? Anyone?
Didn’t think so.
Just last week, his mom sent an email saying that Brian told her he missed me.
Then he told her that he really liked me because:
1. he thought I was pretty (uh … he’s obviously biased because I built Lego robots with him – more than once, I should add)
2. I played the piano
3. I played video games with him (which, once again, supports the bias in #1)
Brian obviously already knows at the young age of six that the way to a woman’s heart is to tell her that you think she’s pretty. And that she can pop those Winnie the Pooh video game balloons like no one’s business.
Goodness gracious. Those cheeks. My hands are already pinching the air. It’s a reflex action. I can’t help it.
And those eyes. Those mischievous little twinkling eyes that always look like they’re up to something naughty. Look at me. I’m already smiling back.
Speaking of smiles:
You something else? He cleans up pretty nicely, too.
I swear. This kid will be the death of me. A death I will have to die fourteen more times, because each niece and nephew is absolutely so adorable that it has to be illegal to have that many in a single family. It’s got to be either a crime, or a record of some sorts.
And no, I will not be entertaining offers to do “Ivoryhut + 15” on cable anytime soon. Because let’s face it. Who’d want to watch a grown woman build Lego robots, play Winnie the Pooh video games, and rock out children’s tunes on the piano all day? Anyone? Anyone?
Didn’t think so.
I took probably over a thousand photos during my recent trip to the Philippines, and you bet many of them were shots of the sunset, the beach, my family, and tons of food. But there are a handful of photos taken while riding with my cousin to their office deep in the city that make me stop in my tracks and get serious for a moment.
I think they’re beautiful shots. They’re not pretty like sunsets and flowers, but their beauty lies in their stark honesty and the fact that they remind me of the reality of things here. They remind me that not everything lovely is pristine, and that life here is not all private resorts, daily massages, and endless restaurant meals.
This post wraps up my New Bombay recap. Mostly because I just can’t take any more reminders of this lunch when I’m practically halfway around the world away. The home delivery charges alone would exceed our mortgage.
So here are the final dishes from that memorable meal. These were the most unconventional ones (at least, to me). I would not have guessed my carnivorous cousins would be inclined to order these, but I’m glad they did.
This is called, quite simply and rather generically, okra with gravy. The okra was partly crispy, which gave it a wonderful texture and eliminated its characteristic slimy feel. The ‘gravy’ was yet another curry-based sauce, creamy and full-bodied. They were perfect together.
The last of the entrees was the Bombay egg masala. Hard-boiled egg quarters with sauce flavored with red chili powder, ginger, turmeric, garlic, onions, and tomatoes (I think). I couldn’t tell if the softness in the sauce was from some added milk/cream, or from a bit of the egg yolk mixing in with the sauce. Either way, it was simply wonderful.
Finally, dessert came. We didn’t have a chance to order more because the owner came by with a tray of complimentary sweets for the table. They were like milk candy with a nutty flavor. Great way to end a heavily-spiced meal. Plus, I had never seen the chocolate flavored kind before, so that was a nice treat.
My cousin sneaked in an order of gulab jamun too, which is basically a fried dough ball in a sugary rosewater syrup.
It was good, but I have to admit that the best gulab jamun I’ve tasted still belongs to my aunt. Yes, she of the homemade lassi fame. (No, I’m not biased. Why do you ask?)
Now, you may have noticed that most of the angles of these food shots are identical. I can explain that. Imagine a gang of serious eaters at a table, all starving (except that one loser *cough*me*cough* that we won’t mention). I didn’t have the heart to ask them to please hold off on digging in while I painstakingly tried to find good angles with which to document our gluttony feast. All I could do was sit still, hold my camera, while my cousin hurriedly put one dish after the other in front of me for its glamour shot. Then, after just one photo – just ONE – away it was whisked, on its way to an unceremonious demise.
It was a massacre, I’m telling you. It was difficult to watch. Almost as difficult as trying to keep track of where the dishes were.
I loved every minute of it.
Been dreaming of this the past few days.
Garlic and cheese naan from New Bombay in Galleria, Makati. Light, flaky, and the combination of sweetness in the dough plus the salty creaminess of the cheese and the bite of the garlic? Simply mouth-watering. Literally. Don’t you see the drool stain on your monitor?
Hmm. Would it be too much to ask them to please deliver to New Jersey?
There are two reasons behind the slight delay of this last post of the dinner party series. One, I realized that I didn’t really take a lot of photos of dessert. Could be because of that last photo in the previous post. Two, I wanted to wait until I got clearance from Boy to post his photo, as well as his contact information. Three, I’m a procrastinator. Four, I’m wrapping up my vacation here, which means I’ve been spending more time trying to cram everything in and less time at the laptop.
Okay, so there were more than two reasons.
In any case, here is my one and only decent photo of dessert.
Notice how I’ve already taken two (or maybe four) bites of it. (This whole two = four thing is starting to become a habit here.) It was orange cake, with chunks of candied orange peel as a garnish. It was moist, with a wonderful texture and a light, delicate crust all around.
To accompany the cake, we all voted to forego the usual coffee drink in favor of tea. Of course, in Boy’s house, it’s not just plain old tea. He served us teh tarik.
Teh tarik is pulled tea that tastes so wonderfully smooth and creamy that I can still taste it in my mouth as I type this. It’s popular in Malaysia and Singapore. Had I known that its preparation was entertainment in itself, I would have taken a break from my intent preoccupation with the orange cake long enough to witness the making of teh tarik.
Alas, gluttony has its price, and so all I have to show you is what was put in front of me.
Trust me. You absolutely must try this. The creaminess. The light froth on top. The perfect drinking temperature. I almost cried.
Well, not exactly. Alright, just a little. But I think that was mostly because my stomach started complaining about the sheer volume of food I ingested, and was beginning to threaten mutiny.
And for that, I have this guy to thank.
Meet Boy. Chef, candlemaker, landscape artist, dive stuntman, and horticulturist. Did I mention he also caters? Yes, folks (well, folks in Manila, that is). You, too, can get Boy to cook for you. I’ll post his contact information in the comments section if you’re interested.
And you remember his house? His beautifully decorated, charmingly appointed house? (What did I just say? Charmingly appointed? What in the world does that mean? Who says things like that?)
You also remember these quaint little homemade touches, don’t you?
Well, he just told me his house is for sale. Yes, I asked him if he was serious. He seemed to be. Then again, at that exact moment, he was hanging out with my cousin and their third stooge Marx brother wheel friend. That would be this guy here, captured in his favorite activity. (And if your eyes are sharp, you’ll spot the whole, as-yet-unmolested orange cake there in the corner.)
I call him Loves To Refill Glasses. Needless to say, I can’t really vouch for any statements made with this guy around.
As we polished off our appetizers (and I say ‘we’ because I refuse to stand alone in the glutton’s corner), the unmistakable scent of something on the grill was hard to ignore.
Shortly thereafter, another feast-on-a-plate was brought to the table.
Sorry again about the out-of-focus mashed potatoes there in front. (Oh, and by the way, that foil-wrapped ball behind it was an entire roasted garlic that was begging to be spread on just about everything on the plate.)
What? You wanted a closer look at all those delicious friends of the perfectly-seasoned-with-the-slightest-hint-of-smokiness steak?
Ah. That pasta. The delicate taste of butter and herbs and cheese and … and … hmmm. What are those black things sitting on top of it?
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Friends, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say that, before that night, the only place I remember ever having shaved black truffles was Danube in New York City. And they were a lot stingier than Boy was.
I think it was after my first bite of the steak, followed by some pasta, that I decided that, when I grow up, I want to be a Boy.
I kid, I kid. I know I can’t get away with that ‘when I grow up’ line anymore. Especially since I’m obviously old enough to have these.
Next up, dessert! And the mandatory photo of the chef. So you can pester him for a home-cooked meal if you see him on the street. Or underwater.
Did I mention that I once saw him take a nap while diving? It’s true. There he was, floating close to the bottom, standing very still with his arms crossed and his head bowed. At first I thought he was watching something, until my cousin motioned that he was asleep.
I wonder if that means I can add ‘stuntman’ to Boy’s list of qualifications.