Friday, January 04, 2008

Too Loud To Read

Ever had a day when something occupies your mind to the point that it overshadows everything else? Today has been one of those days. And it's still not over yet.

After last nights' discussion, I thought I wouldn't be able to sleep. I thought I would be overwhelmed. Maybe it's just general fatigue, mental exhaustion or the feeling that I couldn't do any more than I already have, but I slept pretty well considering I don't sleep well at all.

That sleep has led to a full day of a churning mind with thoughts that bang so loudly in my head that I find it difficult to do much anything else. Of course, I did my morning round to see what's missing at The Spro and went to IKEA and Costco on a supply run, but those thoughts were there. How many cases of Vitamin Water? And yes, I did make the right decision. Right....?

The thoughts kept ringing so loudly in my head that I was unable to read The Omnivore's Dilemma or focus on my Enchiladas de Mole at Fiesta Mexicana. There I was, awash in my thoughts and the flavor of the rich Mole in the distant background, undiscernable in the cacophony filling my mind.

In my continuing reflection, I ask myself: Did I do something wrong? Was I untrue to myself? Should I have "played the part"? The answer is: No. I did the right thing. I remained true to myself and what I believed. I kept my intentions and goals clear throughout. I refused to lie and "play the part." That's not what would have been real.

In the end, I'm unhappy, dissatisfied and saddened by the outcome. I hate to lose and while it's not about "winning," I can't help but feel that I'm the one who lost. Perhaps I'm comforted by the fact that I stood my ground and didn't waver from my goals and convictions. That I didn't lie just to "play the part." Comforted? No, it's a shitty deal all the way around.

As much as I would like it to be different, I've been given no other choice than to move on...


The plate that brings me back to a girl on each arm.

A little magic has sprouted in Lutherville once again.

This morning, Gerard called me to let me know that he had taken over the kitchen at Tako Seafood in Lutherville and is now serving a limited Filipino menu. Just some simple dishes like inihaw manok from his native Bacolod to fried pork to the elusive-in-the-United-States-but-ubiquitious-in-the-Philippines sisig. I would be there right after lunch!

Long-time readers of this blog might recall Tako Seafood from Lechon In The Suburbs From Hell. It seems that then Filipino Food Purveyor JoJo left the space six months ago and Gerard took over just back in November.

For the uninitiated, Sisig is a traditional Filipino pulutan, or food meant to be consumed with lots and lots of beer. It's Filipino pub food at its' best. Basically you take pigs' head remnants: snout, ears, whatever, add some pork liver, chop it all up with salt, black pepper, hot peppers and some mayonnaise, toss it into a pan to sear and cook, then toss it onto a sizzling hot plate and top with a raw egg just before you take it out to the table of rowdy party people in Manila.

The end result is chewy, crisp, caramelized, smooth, rich and oh so delicious - especially with San Miguel Beer (or my favorite: Cerveza Negra). The hot plate crisps the ear and snout pieces so there's a bit of crunch and the egg cooks while coating everything in its' whites and imparting that rich yolk like a sauce. The Scottish wax poetic about their Haggis, the Filipino can't get enough of Sisig.

It's something I've always loved from my times living in Manila and it's the realization of a dream to have it sitting in front of me here - so close to home. The only thing missing was the beer.

The nice thing about Gerard is that he subscribes to the belief that thin people do not make good cooks. He's a big guy who loves food, loves to eat and loves entertaining friends. Ever since I've known him (back when I was chasing Thea), he's always been surrounded by an aura of happiness, friendship and food. Just an amazing person and now he's fulfilling a new mission to bring authentic Filipino cuisine to our little locality.

But how was it? Was it everything I remembered and hoped for? Did it bring back those old times being in Manila's clubs, drinking beers and partying with friends with a girl on each arm (and I do mean that literally)? Was there magic dancing on that plate?

It's a yes and no kind of answer.

I don't know how to make sisig. It's something foreign to me. But Gerard's recipe brings back those old memories but with a couple shortcomings - all of which are due to his yet-to-be-developed techniques. First off, he's new to the professional kitchen. He's still working on their systems and methodologies. Making a dish at home is fairly simple. Making a dish in a professional environment is something completely different.

First off, the saute pan wasn't hot enough when he started (I know this because I hung out in the kitchen while he prepared my meal), so it didn't sear the meats right at the start. Then the cast-iron sizzling plate was neither seasoned well enough or pre-heated enough so when he dropped the sisig onto the plate, it didn't sizzle and crisp the bits and pieces - and that's the key moment for perfect sisig.

The sisig was good. It just wasn't perfect. They're working out the kinks, and once they do, I think they're going to do a killer job and I will be back in Lutherville, lining up for more sisig with a bottle of Cerveza Negra in hand.