Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Neveria Roxy

Tutti Frutti, Coconut and Strawberry ice creams.

What's missing in Baltimore is an old school soda fountain kind of joint. Not so in Mexico City where Neveria Roxy still maintains the flavors of the past. Inside you'll find a nice selection of ice creams and sorbets, along with milkshakes, malts, sodas and more. All of this in the kind of retro-1950s soda fountain looking place.

The thing is, it's doesn't seem like it was made to look 1950s. It looks like it was actually built in the 1950s.

Ana Claudia sells mas agua.

A Roxy Favorite: Coca-Cola with a scoop of lime sorbet.

A bit more refreshing than a root beer float.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Black Is All Black

Oh, yes...

It's odd to me when I think upon how the New Zealand All Blacks have not won the Rugby World Cup in 24 years. I always think of them as the greatest rugby team ever. The ones we idolize and strive to emulate. They were the baddest, toughest and most fierce team in the world.

Or maybe that's just because I was always envious of their Haka.

As a young captain on Hawaii Loa College's RFC team, I was new to the sport and relied upon my teammates experience playing throughout their youth in the leagues of the Pacific Rim or at boarding school in England.

But nothing was ever as terrifying as playing in the Hawaii leagues. Big, tough, burly Polynesian men racing to cream this chubby Filipino boy. I admit, I was scared shitless half the time. I came from genteel living. This was maniacal, crazed and utter mayhem - like Lord Of The Flies, without the literal killing.

I knew I was in new element when, during one match, a referee made a call that did not quite agree with a rather solid-looking Fijian. He approached the ref and promptly clocked him on the top of his head with a downward swing of his burly arm. The ref crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

I could hear the smack on the head crisply and clearly, half a pitch away.

Needless to say (or maybe I should underscore it), the player was immediately red carded and banned outright from the sport for life. But that ref looked worse for wear and I certainly was a bit more intimidated by these solidly built men from the South Pacific more than ever.

Today, the All Blacks (my All Blacks) take to the field against France in the World Cup Finals. And as much as I like the cuisine, countryside and cities of France, I like my All Blacks better.

You can guess whose jersey I will be wearing today.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Another Box Gone...

2006 Arturo Fuente Rothschild Maduro.

The problem with enjoying lovely cigars is that they tend to fly out of my humidor.

I'm lucky in the fact that I was prudent enough to build a humidor quite a number of years ago. Through wreckless thinking and judicious use of my American Express, I was able to not only build the humidor but stock it as well. This happened in the mid-1990s, during the midst of the cigar boom when scarcity was the norm and low-quality cigars abounded.

But I was still able to lay my hands on a nice collection of La Gloria Cubanas, Partagas 110, a selection of ISOM (Island South Of Miami) cigars, Partagas 150 Anniversary and a beautiful depth from Arturo Fuente, including the first run of the then-new 1995 Arturo Fuente Opus X (which I found not to be to my tastes).

It was literal madness until about 1998 when the boom really put a crush on the quality of available cigars and I stopped adding to the collection altogether.

The beauty of this is that I now had a collection of lovely aging cigars. A wonderful selection. After about five years, the problem changed to one of replenishment. I now had a stellar collection of aged cigars, but I was five years behind the curve. If I smoked the box, I didn't have successive years to replace it. I was in trouble.

By this point, I had started buying nice and decent cigars as a regular smoke, in an attempt to stave off the certain financial ruin that was to come by only smoking my favorite Belicoso Maduro by Paul Garmirian. They're insanely delicious but oh so very dearly priced. Open a box one day and it's sucked dry within a month. Good for Visa's bottom line. Not good for mine.

In 2006, Bryan called me to let me know that Iwan Ries in Chicago was running a sale on Arturo Fuente Rothschild Maduro cigars. Super cheap special prices, he assured me. Sure enough, the prices were cheap, the Visa numbers were blazing and a package of Rothschild Maduros were on their way to me.

When they arrived in 2006, they were nice cigars. The Rothschilds were nice, decent smokes. Enjoyable. Satisfying. And relatively inexpensive (especially when compared to the PGs). I smoked them regularly and enjoyed them.

Two boxes found their way into the recesses of the humidor where they layed fallow for several years, until I found them last winter. Hmmm, I wondered, how will these be now with some age on them? Shockingly good and demonstrably superior to when they were fresh. Aging deepened the flavors, brought out a little spice and just made them into tasty treats.

The problem when cigars are this good is that I can't hold on to them. Just one more, I tell myself - until the entire box is gone. I'll share some with friends. Before I knew it, I was on the last cigar of the two boxes.

And now I'm back to Square One...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Daddy's Mistake

Uh oh, Danger...

As I was perusing the aisles of a local Asian market, I spotted something familiar, yet strange.

SPAM Singles.

Truth be told, I didn't grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth. My parents immigrated here and we lived rather plainly throughout my youth. None of this farm-to-table nonsense. Cheap cuts of meat, lots of canned corned beef, canned vegetables and whatever else twenty bucks could by at the grocery store - and according to Mom, twenty bucks in the early 1970s could buy you a weeks worth of groceries.

As such, we ate a lot of SPAM in my house. Not as much as people in Hawaii, but quite a darn bit of it. So much so that opening a can of SPAM with that old twist tab wasn't odd, it was fun and we argued over who got to open the can. From there, it was salty, hammy goodness mixed with rice. Until...

One day my Dad did something wrong, creating the dish that would be memorialized in our house as "Daddy's Mistake."

Now that's weird - even for SPAM.

I don't quite know how it really happened (I'll have to ask Dad one day), but it was SPAM served with hot, steamed white rice, fried egg and ketchup. Mash the eggs and rice together and season to taste with the ketchup, serve with fried SPAM and you're in business!

I know some of my gentle readers are recoiling in horror as they read this, but rest assured, it's not as bad as you think.

Now that I'm older, the problem with SPAM (besides the obvious industrial aspects) is that the cans are quite large. For SPAM Musubi, I can make eight musubi from one can. That's simply too much SPAM for one person. God knows I'm not going to eat it more than once, what would I do with the rest of the can? Julienne it and make it into Island Style Noodles???

Okay, I like SPAM, but not THAT much! The ubiquitous use of SPAM in Hawaii freaked even me out.

Three thin slices.

Personally speaking, I'm a contrasting texture freak. Meaning with all these soft ingredients, like the rice and eggs, I want a textural contrast. I want some crunch. This translates into a desire to fry SPAM thin and crispy (or as crispy as the industrial nature of SPAM will allow).

The brilliance of SPAM Singles is that I can eat it and not waste any. It's enough. Actually, it might be more than enough, but we're going for it anyway. After slicing the one into three thin sheets, into the frying pan they went - probably at too hight a temp. Perhaps the best way is to start with them in a warm pan and heat it up gradually until it crisps (more testing to come).

Once done, add some butter to the pan, crack a couple of eggs and go to town. Layer the eggs over the rice, break the yolks and mix until the rice is evenly coated in yolk then add ketchup to taste. Eat with SPAM.

The memories are almost as vivid as Adobo Sandwiches on Road Trips To Florida.

But those are stories for another day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dancing On The Valentine

Nick Rhodes waves goodbye to my childhood.

In 1984, I was an unhappy child.

I was fifteen years old, Duran Duran was on their worldwide Sing Blue Silver Tour, and my mom would not allow me to attend the concert at the Capital Center. Like many of my peers, I was a Duran Duran freak. They were my favorite band. I fancied myself as the American Nick Rhodes. I desired the Roland Jupiter 8 synthesizer simply because it was Nick's keyboard of choice - so therefore, it had to be awesome. I had to go to the concert.

My mom would have none of it.

So, I did what any teenager does when he doesn't get his way: I moped around the house and lamented my lot in life. The biggest concert tour in the world and I was going to miss it.

This wasn't the first time I was denied a concert. An attempt to see AC/DC in 1981 with a close friend was promptly shot down by my parents. A proper boy going to see such bedlam? Not having it. Even the argument that I had already purchased the tickets (and had them in-hand) did nothing to help my cause. I moped for the very first time.

Duran Duran was the centerpoint of my teenage years. Not seeing them in concert in 1984 would haunt me for years. How could I embody the essence of Nick Rhodes if I never saw them live? My stage persona would be lacking because of it.

Finally, on the day before the concert, my mom relented. "Okay, you can go and see Duran Duran," she told me. Which upset me even more. One does not simply go to the biggest concert tour in the world the day before the show when it is completely sold out. It was just a no-win situation.

Years would pass and I would finally go to concerts on my own. The Go-Go's, INXS, SWANS, Depeche Mode, Frank Zappa, Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, 10,000 Maniacs and more. But I wouldn't have the opportunity to see Duran Duran until much later, in the mid-1990s, at Merriwether Post Pavilion. By then, their fame had softened to smaller venues, which would turn out to be more conducive to enjoying the experience. I would see them again in 1999 at the Nissan Pavilion.

Through the years, the band lineup changed. In the early 2000s, the original members got back together, but I could never find the right time to see them. Then on Thursday, I receive a Facebook message from a friend in San Diego playing in a Duran Duran tribute band.

Truth be told, I think tribute bands are kinda odd. I mean, I'm a fan. I love the music, but a tribute band? That's serious fandom. His post reminded me to check around and see if Duran Duran (the real band) was playing anywhere and turns out they were playing in Washington, D.C. at the D.A.R. Constitution Hall on Sunday night. Tickets were available. Mom was not around to deny me, and I was going.

The interesting and odd thing about going to a concert of your favorite teenage band when you're 42 is that everyone else at the concert is around your age - much different than Lady Gaga last winter. To be honest, I'm not usually surrounded by people my own age and it reminded me of my 20th year high school reunion: everyone looked damn old.

Sure, there were a few people in the 20s, but the majority of attendees were 30s and up. The same people who went to see them during the Sing Blue Silver Tour were now denying their teenage children their opportunity to see The Black Eyed Peas in concert while leaving them at home to watch Simon LeBon.

As always, Duran Duran attracts a wide swath of people. From normal, suburban yuppie types to avante garde types, old school goths, immigrants, tourists, fetishists and everyone in between. Everyone is welcome. Everyone gets along. As it should always be.

Of course, by morning some of them will be facing off in the typical democrats v. republicans kind of division we know as America today, but tonight everyone is waiting with cell phones in hand, anticipating waving them over their heads during "Save A Prayer."

The concert itself was a good one. Constitution Hall has got to be one of the best venues in the region. It's relatively small, has good acoustics and there doesn't seem to be a bad seat in the house. Of course, I somehow found myself on the orchestra floor at the front row, stage right when my tickets were for Section C, Row K, high on the sides.

I had simply walked onto the floor, found myself a row of seats, waited for someone to challenge me but when no one did (maybe a little), I just kept quiet and waited for Simon to take the stage.

It turns out that the row of seats I had found were kept for handicapped attendees and other misfits. A lady in a wheelchair and her companions, two other ladies and a very drunk blonde in a tight, black mini-dress that looked quite a lot like 1980s Kim Basinger sat next to me.

And when I say "drunk", I mean DRUNK. Wasted. Like have a hard time standing and balancing kind of drunk. She had a VIP Access badge, making me wonder if she might be a girlfriend or wife of one of the band members. Nothing quite like having your teen idols know you because they hate you because their woman was all over you.

Once upon a time, this would have been a welcome event. Everyone partying and boozing. Drunk girl comes up, wants to dance and then who knows what? A year ago, no problem. Today? Slow your roll there, girl. I'm happy just enjoying the show and the last thing I need is some sort of Facebook photo of me with some slutty, drunk girl.

I should've stayed in my seat in Section C, Row K.

Happily, she soon tired of my indifference and latched onto the big, burly floor bouncer. Whew! That's just the way I like it!

The concert itself was good. Lots of oldies but goodies, along with a number of tunes for their new CD that I'm not familiar. I guess I should be a better fan. Simon and the gang are getting old - they've gotta be over 50 by now, but the women still scream the loudest for John Taylor.

As the show continues, I silently wonder what it really must have been like to be in the audience during Sing Blue Silver. Duran Duran was at its zenith. They were touring the world and playing to stadiums. The world was ablaze with craze for the Fab Five. It would be the tour that would end the band as we knew it.

After that tour, succumbing to the pressures of success and fame, the band split. John and Andy went to form Power Station while Simon and Nick (with John too) started up Arcadia. Roger left music altogether to live on his farm in the English countryside. It would never be the same again.

And I'm still left with the feeling that while the show was good, it wasn't Sing Blue Silver. I'll never be able to capture that experience. It is gone like sand in the hourglass. Gone like Save A Prayer is from their setlist.

Da na na na...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lobstah Roll

The small lobster roll at Lobster Express.

A certain sign that you're in New England is not just the lobster house but the vast selection of lobsters available at the lobster house. At home in Baltimore, there's simply a tank and a price - say $10/lb for whatever lobsters they have in stock. Head out west to Portland and lobsters are pushing $50 each.

Here lobsters start at $5.99/lb for the soft shell lobsters and move upward. Interestingly enough, the larger the lobster, the lower the per pound price. Though you'd think that buying a 6 plus pound lobster that's thirty years old would mean higher prices.

A selection of lobsters for your choosing.

Today it's a lobster roll, some clam chowder and a couple of lobsters (1.5lb) for dinner. Will report back later. Maybe...

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Call Of The Siren Song

Grande Mocha Frappuccino.

It's another weekend in Pawtucket, Rhode Island for the annual Mid-Atlantic NorthEast Coffee Conference (aka MANE) where we've talked coffee, discussed coffee, argued about coffee, theorized about coffee and even drank some coffee. So much going on but the essence is that the MANE is simply the best barista coffee event in the United States today.

Where other events are surrounded by the politics and dogma of the coffee industry, MANE is solidly independent and free-thinking. It's a place for open exchange of ideas and the closes thing that the barista craft has to a chefs congress and it's only going to get better in the future.

At some point in time, everyone goes to Starbucks.

But all that's over for this year and after two solid days of non-stop barista craft, we headed out for a Sunday brunch, a walk around Providence and some refreshments at that one coffee place we all know: Starbucks. While everyone enjoyed a tea lemonade drink, I couldn't but help myself to that granddaddy of Starbucks creations: The Mocha Frappuccino.

Nothing like hanging with the world's top barista, machine tech and green importers at the place that started it all.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Adobo The World

General ingredients for Sunday Meal.

Yes, I can cook.

It's times like these when I get myself into trouble.

Perhaps it's time that I start to think like a normal guy: I don't know how to cook. I just want to sit on the couch watching The Game and talk player stats while guzzling six-packs of beer.

Instead, I find myself on a Sunday late morning at the local supermarket looking for ingredients to make "something Filipino."

Making "medium grain" rice with a 50/50 mixture of long grain and short grain rices. It worked!

Earlier this year, I had the notion of going out to eat Filipino food in Mexico City. A google search for "Filipino restaurants Mexico City" returned nothing, so I contacted the Philippine Embassy in Mexico City, asking them for guidance on where to eat traditional Filipino food in the city.

Surely, in a city of 20 million people, some Filipinos would have found their way to these shores (consider the old Manila-Mexico-Spain trade route) and opened up a carinderia.

A couple of days later, a reply from the Consul General was telling: no Filipino restaurants in Mexico City. No Filipino restaurants in all of Mexico, for that matter. Huh???

Pork Adobo Battle Ingredients: pork ribs, butter, white onion, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, red wine & jalapeno.

I couldn't believe it. There's Filipinos and their restaurants everywhere. Wherever there's work and the chance to send remittances back home, Filipinos have landed. How is it this mighty city has none. Am I the only Filipino in the city (along with the embassy staff)?

No Filipino restaurants. No Filipino food. If I move here, I could be in trouble. That's right when the girls had the idea that I should cook Sunday meal. But not just any meal. They wanted to try real Filipino food. Whatever that was.

Seared, stewed and ready to serve.

As to be expected, when it comes to fresh Mexican ingredients, Mexico is all aces. When it comes to assembling the ingredients needed to make authentic, traditional Filipino (or general Asian) food, that's where Mexico starts to stumble.

Of course, it could be just that I don't know the lay of the land. Maybe there's some secret mercado filled with Asian foodstuffs longing for my discovery - like that little Chinese market on Puente Alvarado in Tabacalera.

At one point, I thought seriously about making Kare Kare but a quick search at the supermarket left some key ingredients out. Ixnay the Kare Kare. Enter Pork Adobo.

Monday morning breakfast: pan fried pork adobo, Sinaag fried rice and some eggs.

In the world of Filipino cookery, Adobo is the ubiquitous traditional dish. Everyone knows it. Everyone can make it. Sorta. Everyone has their own twist. Take a drive across just Luzon and you'll find thousands of different variations of Adobo. Talk to your friends and each of them has their own preferred way. Some like it dry. Others fried. Some like it with sabaw (or sauce). Others hate it that way.

Then the ingredients can get kinda crazy and esoteric - some of which fly completely in the face of what you know as "adobo". Like that dude who talked about putting coconut milk in his adobo: Heretic. Or peppers. Or fish. Strange and odd stuff, but all under that known as adobo.

And it's completely different than Mexican Adobo. Actually, I don't even know what Mexican Adobo is, but to this Filipino boy: it ain't Adobo to me.

For Sunday Meal, I just took the simple route, with a little twist. Pork ribs with some butter, onion and red wine to add to the traditional ingredients of garlic, black pepper, bay leaves, soy sauce and vinegar. After some careful searing and some long stewing, it was ready to eat and enjoyed by all.

Like many dishes around the world, Adobo enjoys a little age. So, the next day, all by myself, I indulged myself in a little treat. Pan fried pork adobo with some eggs and garlic fried rice.

Not a bad way to remember the flavors of home while off in a distant land.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Shines Like The Top Of The Chrysler Building

I've returned again to New York City where I've secured a (relatively) cheap room at the Gran Hyatt Grand Central for a couple of nights and where I'm reminded that scale is a bit different in NYC. Thirty-three stories above 42nd Street and I can barely see out the winder and only the very top of the Chrysler Building...