Sunday, April 25, 2010

Photo Essay: Eating with the locals in Manila

During my 2 week stay in Manila I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to chow down on some amazing authentic Filipino cuisine, snacks and drinks. Here is a photo essay highlighting a few of my favorites through out the journey:

Mister Donut, a nice cheap snack found in the neighborhood Quezon City supermarket.

Delicious home made pork & chicken fried Shanghai (Lumpia). I always smiled when I saw this tasty treat coming out onto the table.

Mini keg of refreshing San Miguel Light, the beer of choice through out Manila.

A little Buko Pandan from Max's to cleanse the palate after a large meal.

This dish was awaiting us as a welcoming to our new living quarters, awesome home made stuffed crabs.

Some more San Mig light, in a different form. Manila loves to drink beer and party!!

Nothing like coming home to some fresh squid after wandering around Quezon City.

When roaming around Manila on an empty stomach a stop at a local Dampa is necessary . A Dampa is a fresh seafood market with an attached restaurant. Customers select their desired seafood and tell the staff how they would like it prepared. Here are a few shots of our lunch at a Dampa located in the Baclaran section of Metro Manila.

Fresh fish waiting their turn to be chosen and served to hungry patrons.

Starting off with some cool green mangoes. A perfect first course during this hot November afternoon.

Buttered prawns. These peel and eat delights were worth the mess.

My favorite dish of the afternoon, clam soup.

The entire family enjoying lunch. Sweet and sour fried Lapu Lapu fish in the center of the table.

Full stomachs after this hearty meal.

Hopefully you won't be starving after reading this post. Have you ever tried Filipino food? If so, what are some of your favorites???

Monday, April 5, 2010

Discovering Local Boston Eats

A mere 3.5 hour drive from NYC, Boston is a charming little city with a lot of activities to offer tourists. The question I wanted to answer with a hands on approach was, where can I find some good freaking food???

My travel mate who joined me during this trip, Josh, is a native "Cambridgian" (my unofficial nickname for Cambridge residents), whose family was nice enough to house us for our weekend visit - woohoo!! More $$ to spend on the eating situation!!! It's always a pleasure to explore town with a local, as getting lost on the "T" subway system was no longer a concern.

This trip was a quick one due to time constraints thanks to my 40 hour work week lifestyle. Arriving Friday night at Midnight and staying until Sunday evening, time was somewhat limited. Luckily wandering around new surroundings makes me hungry, and allowed me to indulge in some local Boston eateries.

Saturday started off deliciously, as Josh's parents whipped up an amazing hearty breakfast consisting of large buttermilk waffles, scrumptious crispy home fry style potatoes and yummy bacon. Talk about the good life! I personally enjoy breaking up the bacon into pieces on top of the waffle. There's something amazing about those crispy, porky and syrupy bites that wows my taste buds. With a full and happy stomach, I was off to explore Beantown.

After a surprisingly fast and simple 3 transfer train ride from Cambridge via the T, we arrived in downtown Boston. The first stop was spending a few hours at the popular New England Aquarium, which lived up to its high expectations, but looking at all of the seafood - um I mean sea creatures was making me hungry! It was time for a lobster roll.

Quincy Market was a short walk from the aquarium, and a nice way to avoid the bitter weather to enjoy some indoor eating. The specific part of the market we entered had tons of choices as we passed pizza, Chinese food and steak sandwiches among others, but my growling stomach passed the memo to the brain that Lobster roll was the way to go. I decided to try New England Chowda Co. as they had a great special offering their large lobster roll along with a small soup & soda for $15. Within a minute I was presented with the entire plate of seafood. It certainly looked large at first glance, but I quickly noticed that the "roll" took up a lot more space than the chunks of lobster inside of it.

The meat had decent flavor, but was heavily coated with excessive mayo through out. There was also a couple lettuce leaves on the sandwich which I instantly removed. Each bite had too much bread to lobster ratio for my liking. Oh well, not every place in Boston is going to make an amazing roll. The Lobster Bisque on the other hand was tasty. I should have been a little weary with the emphasis placed on "Chowder" in the name. When it was all said and done I finished the entire roll without problem. I mean come on its lobster on a bun, how bad can it get???

Later that night it was off to Somerville, a 10 minute drive from Cambridge for a barbecue adventure at Red Bones, one of Josh's favorite local spots. This place was popping! We arrived around 8:30 and were placed on the waiting list where our party of 7 found ourselves with 90 minutes to kill. Luckily Davis Square, which was the area of Somerville we were in had plenty of bars and cafes on its strip. We chose the laid back Diesel Cafe to sip on some coffee and shoot some pool for the fair price of $8 an hour.

The time passed by fast and before we knew it our table was ready to go. We sat downstairs where a pretty big and loud crowd was drinking, double fisted style at the bar and an equally large amount of people were chomping on ribs at their picnic style tables.

The menu was huge and had so many tasty sounding items for all meat lovers to choose from. I decided to go with a special 1/2 order of Memphis style ribs and 1/2 order of St.Louis style ribs with sides of coleslaw and onion strings. Memphis and St. Louis were two towns that I couldn't argue with when discussing ribs, thus making my choice simple.

We started out with some cornbread, to warm up our jaws for the excessive amounts chewing that was about to come. A sweet offering and well deserved after an hour and half wait.

In a few short minutes the waitress came out of the kitchen with piled high plates of meat, and was heading in our direction. My smile grew bigger and bigger with each step closer she walked. $19 bought me a HUGE plate of ribs along with generous sides. I was very glad I ordered 1/2 of each kind which allowed for variation. 4 types of bbq sauce accompanied the meal - bold, hot, sweet and a strange looking fourth that I stayed away from. The Memphis style were bigger and meatier and went great with the bold and hot sauces. The St. Louis were a bit smaller with a dark and delicious coat of smoked goodness on top. Alternating between the two allowed me to have the best of both worlds. The big pile of napkins to my right became my best friend, as my face was smothered with barbecue after each rib.

The coleslaw was a great refresher in between meat and fried onion bites. The onion strings themselves were an amazing complement, sliced ultra thin and battered just right. I made the mistake (which I felt later on) of over stuffing myself with Red Bones' goodness. As the pictures tell, this was an enormous plate of food. I finished all but 3 ribs and left a little coleslaw underneath. I happily finished my leftovers for dinner the next day. Red Bones is a must stop for any rib lover wandering through Boston. I know I will always go back if in the area.

Sunday morning ... err afternoon we decided to stay local in Cambridge and walked down to bustling Harvard Square. Vietnamese was on the agenda for lunch, and Le's restaurant in the center of the square came highly recommended. Le's was a spacious place with plenty of room left for the straggling early Sunday afternoon crowd. For some reason I do not often eat Vietnamese, which is something that should change!!! For appetizers the table shared spring rolls, both crispy fried along with the healthier alternative, summer.

I only sampled the fried rolls, which had a perfect crisp to them with the standard pork and vegetable interior. As far as the entree, my brain appeared to think much larger than my stomach, as I boldly ordered the large Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup, as the menu read). A no frills choice, I know ... but it's good for the soul, right??

Le's does not mess around when they say large! This bowl was enormous, and filled so high with broth that it hid the noodles deep below. I was very satisfied with my super-sized portion of Pho Ga. I mixed a couple of the bright red hot sauces from the center of the table to add a little flare and spice to the dish - which after a couple of coughing chokes was successful. I tried really hard, but could not finish the entire bowl. Next time I will order the medium. We took a couple of addicting Vietnamese Ice Coffee's to go which served as a sweet little dessert to take around town. Beware though, you will crave these suckers after a few harmless first sips.

Even though I hate the Red Sox, Bruins and Bill Belichek's Patriots I have to admit I really like the city of Boston. Smaller, cleaner and less crowded then my beloved NYC, Boston packs a lot of personality to go along with its good food. As always the case, traveling around with locals is the best way to find good eats and hangouts and this experience was no different.