So I left Manila for Siargao last June 17 to escape the rains, and the traffic that comes with the start of the school year and the rains. While I managed to escape the traffic, the rains seem to have followed me to Siargao. It's been gloomy and wet almost every day since I got here!
Which is fine, since I've used it as an excuse to hibernate.
I was almost successful at hibernating in Manila, and the intended attendant starvation. I was only eating once a day, and I was kickboxing and doing this class called "Definitions" (- an impoverished distant relative of Les Mills' Body Pump, which is still may favorite workout of all time).
And then Manly Eats happened. Manly Eats is this showcase of, um, "manly" food organized by JJ Yulo of Pinoy Eats World every year. It's a small three-day affair at The Podium, which I've only managed to catch, out of the random times that I am in Manila, three out of three years that Manly Eats has been in existence.
As usual, I had to try everything that was on offer, and I mean EVERYTHING.
And I was there for two days. Ugh.
At one point, I was ordering something and the guy behind the counter said, "But, ma'am, that includes rice."
"And so?" I asked, puzzled.
"Are you sure you can still manage it?" he asked, concerned.
"Of course, I can! ... Wait, why are you asking? Did you see what I've been eating?"
"Um, yes, ma'am," the guy replied sheepishly.
Was I really being judged by a guy at Manly Eats??? Sigh… That's me: Gai Olivares, explorer and discoverer of new depths to sink to...
So, Manly Eats… Following are the highlights:
1. The Crazy Cook's balbacua. (Carmina Mapa-Del Rosario, mobile: 0928-505-3605, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
For me, this was the star of this year's Manly Eats. I swear I swooned with every bite. If I could marry it, I would have.
What is balbacua, you might ask? I had no idea either but, here, I took a picture:
It's the reason why I went back that same afternoon - to buy the frozen balbacua packs. And it's the reason why I returned the next day, except that they had run out of balbacua. They had also run out of the "belly curry", which was also highly recommended. So I reluctantly had the humba instead. "Reluctantly" because I don't like sweet food that isn't dessert. But The Crazy Cook's humba wasn't as sweet as regular humba, and was actually quite sublime. I ended up buying one of their frozen packs too.
2. Kitayama's fries with crab fat aioli.
Whenever I go to Manly Eats, I make a beeline for Kitayama. Not only because I know Vicky Lauchengco, who manages Kitayama, but because Kitayama's main product is locally raised wagyu, and I love anything and everything wagyu.
Last year, Vicky served me the best wagyu tapsilog I've had IN MY LIFE. I still dream about it… Sigh… So, this year, I went to ManlyEats with the intention of ordering the same. Except that, this year, it wasn't on the menu...
What they had were bone marrow burgers which, as a concept, I know sounds amazing. But, in truth, if the bone marrow is incorporated into the patty, as it was in this case, then, fine, you'll have an amazingly juicy burger, but a total waste of bone marrow, if you ask me. A truly manly eat would be to empty a massive chunk of roasted marrow on top of a freshly grilled burger patty. It would cost a pretty penny but I'm sure that there are more than a few freaks out there like me who'd be willing to pay for it.
Anyway, here's a photo of the lovely Miss Lauchengco with my bone marrow burger:
It was good, but the fries were astounding. Especially with that crab fat aioli. Ooohhh… I would have had another serving if there weren't so many other goodies to try.
3. The Reggiano Sticky Buns by Pastry Armoire. I tried about four different kinds of their sticky buns and this was, hands down, the best. It was like a cinnamon roll, but not, and an ensaymada, but not. I'm shit at describing things ten billion years after I've eaten them so you'll have to trust me on this. They're damned good. Not as sweet as the other sticky buns, which is a good thing.
4. The calamansi pie of Earnest Bakes. I was skeptical and it was the last thing I tried at Manly Eats but, if I hadn't run out of cash, I would have bought an entire pie for my mom. I loved it, and the texture of the filling was just gorgeous. Silky, I think, is the word that I am looking for.
5. Chili honey, so cleverly named Mata Hari, from Traydor Hot Sauce. I bought a bottle and got to chatting with the ladies behind the booth. While we were talking, they poured me a cup of their iced tea. I didn't know that it was flavored with a dollop of Mata Hari and, true to the infamous traitors the sauces are named after, it went down sweetly at first then burned hot at the end. I rather liked that.
6. Caramilk Creamery's avocado ice cream. They make ice cream made from carabao's milk, how absolutely wonderful is that??? I love carabao's milk, and I don't mean the stuff sold at supermarkets. My grandmother used to serve it, fresh and steaming, at her breakfast table in Tarlac. Mmmmm… The avocado ice cream was heavenly. It tasted as if it were churned right there and then.
7. The bacon cracklets and chorizo crips from 3 Hungry Tummies.
Finally, a bacon snack in a resealable pouch! Why no one has thought to do this before, I do not know. Yeah, so you can also sprinkle it on a salad, but why bother with the salad???
This wasn't supposed to be a post about Manly Eats, but I couldn't help myself...
By the time I was done testing and trying everything, I couldn't move.
I gained so much weight that I couldn't lose it by the time I left for Siargao three days later.
And JJ Yulo posted this on Instagram:
That's me and fellow foodie, Melissa Young, at Manly Eats. We were supposed to go together but we couldn't get our schedules to match. When I was leaving, she was just getting there. When I returned later on, she was still there. We tried sharing a balbacua but it was so good that we couldn't share. The next day, we caught each other at Manly Eats again.
I took it easy the first few days that I was back. Nicolas was here and we were entertaining a guest. But when they both left on the 22nd, I went into lockdown.
Well, no, I went out a day later to a sushi and sake tasting (- How could I say no to that? And, yes, the first sushi bar in Siargao will be opening very soon!), got royally smashed, went a bit nuts online, so I deactivated Facebook the next day, and then my hibernation was complete.
So I lived on coconut water and green smoothies for the first few days and, amazingly enough, I wasn't hungry. I think I read something somewhere about this high that comes from not eating, and that's exactly how I felt. High.
I'd wake up in the morning, unrested (as is normal) but euphoric. I was excited about little projects that I had set for myself because, now that I was off Facebook (- at least, for the week), I was the most productive I had ever been! I organized the kitchen, reorganized my closet, sorted out boxes, and had the stockroom cleaned out.
I started a book...
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Historical fiction.
… and watched old movies and, finally, discovered the young Richard Gere, whom I now must build a shrine to.
I've never been more jealous of any woman as Debra Winger.
I even managed to go online shopping - twice from Lazada (my new best friend), once from Taste Central, and once from Amazon - without WiFi, and despite the intermittent 3G access. I've never considered myself a virtuous person, but that clearly demonstrates patience, dedication, and tenacity.
All shipments are, as we speak, making their way to me. It's like the Amazing Race of shopping. It's going to be like Christmas here very soon!
What??? I needed stuff for the kitchen, like popsicle molds to make these:
Gin and tonic popsicles. (Internet file photo.) Here's the recipe. You're welcome.
Because, even if I wasn't eating, I still wanted to cook. I made a pot of adobo in coconut juice, stewed some goat, baked banana bread and Nutella brownies, and put together my favorite recipes.
Then, of course, I had to start eating. I had gotten down to a respectable weight and wasn't really going for the gaunt, starved look.
So I've resumed having one meal a day. My kind of meals, that is.
When I broke my fast, I had a burger. Not just any burger. The patty was 50% beef, 50% bacon, which I fried in the fat that I got off the goat stew. I smothered it in melted cheese, topped it with crispy bacon, before sandwiching it in a bun that I had also toasted in the goat stew fat. Now that is a manly eat.
The other day, I had a delivery of fresh crabs, so I invited Sue for lunch and we had the crabs boiled in coconut milk and lots of ginger, served with malunggay leaves.
I am also slowly coming out of hibernation. Last night, Sue and I tried a new restaurant and I spent the night at Sagana, which is how I am able to write to you today. (I am also here to download the most recent episode of "Penny Dreadful".)
Tonight is the soft opening of Siargao Bleu's bar. I am hoping to exercise restraint (- Huh? What's that???) and try to make it home without the Evil Twin. I'm not very hopeful but I will try...