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Posts Tagged ‘Foodie

A satisfying lunch in Manhattan’s Koreatown

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Based on the last couple experiences with Korean food establishments operating in Bacolod City, can only say the situation is disappointing. Have tried stopping by different places to give them all a try; I’m not even trying to measure it up against Seoul or Busan, but to at least attain that same satisfaction of enjoying authentic Korea cuisine – the kind served all over the world. While there have been highlights in the past from some of the local restaurants, it would appear everybody has begun cutting corners and it’s leaving customers with subpar offerings.

One place that promotes an all-you-can-eat samgyeopsal (pork belly) special has been good in previous times; however, on the last visit, was told by the waiter they may not have enough inventory to supply an all-you-can-eat order – he, then, proceeded to offer higher-priced options. Having a hard time seeing how that is anything but deception and walked right out of the place. What kind of management offers a promotion they cannot support? Not sure how many others fell for their bait-and-switch scheme, but it didn’t work for me.

Another place offered banchan comprised of vienna sausages in a mystery sauce, along with kimbap that was made with canned corned beef and mini squares of cheese. Thinking between whether the kitchen was working with scraps that day or those were their choice ingredients, either way, the circumstances were unacceptable. Both street vendors and even convenience stores in Seoul have much better kimbap. During the last visit to Seoul, a samgak kimbap, the triangle kimbap offered at every convenience store, became a daily habit.

With two places checked off the list, went to a third, which was once believed to be a reliable spot. To my surprise, that same corned beef-cheese kimbap found its way to the table. Oddly enough, the menu options were beef or tuna, considering the “beef” was canned corned beef, can only assume the tuna is canned tuna.

That questionable kimbap is most definitely a deal-breaker.

Officially, there are no places in the city where one can really enjoy delicious Korean food, which leaves me longing for places that do serve quality dishes, like in New York City’s Koreatown.

When hitting the strip of Korean establishments, located a few blocks from New York City’s Penn Station, usually eat at Miss Korea BBQ or Kunjip – the former was one of the first restaurants visited in the area, while the latter was introduced by a good friend.

One of the primary differences was made apparent immediately, the banchan. This wasn’t just two of three plates offering kimchi, wilted bean sprouts, and (like the second mentioned restaurant in Bacolod City) a plate of chopped up vienna sausages. It was a full array of side dishes, maybe around 10 small plates, along with a whole fried fish – a pleasant surprise.

Have found bibimbap is a regular go-to and having ordered other dishes like tteokbokki in previous visits, needed something different on this particular visit, and spotted the nakji bokkeum. Spicy, stir-fried octopus served with udon noodles on a sizzling plate – amazing stuff. The meal was so satisfying, threw back two bottle of soju with lunch; left both full and happy.

Doubt I could ever have that same feeling walking out of any of the restaurants in Bacolod City purporting to serve Korea food.


A barnyard wedding at Yankee Stadium

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A visit to New York City is typically not complete without a visit to Yankee Stadium. However, this time around, it wasn’t for baseball, but for soccer. In New York City, am still a New York Red Bulls supporter, but was more than willing to catch a couple New York City Football Club (NYCFC) matches and even went home with a David Villa height chart (which still has not been put up, but will at some point).

One of the highlights with every visit to the stadium is the food. During the days of catching baseball games with a good friend who had season tickets, a part of the experience was also seeing what food to enjoy – trying to pick something new (after a while, though, one ends up coming back to a favorite).

At one point, picked up one of the signature sandwiched from Lobel’s, at the time, they only had one item on their menu. They have since expanded and will probably peruse the latest selections on the next visit.

Approaching one of the concession stands and checking out what they had to offer, was juggling choices with every column scanned. Was intrigued by the “barnyard wedding” at first glance, but kept my options open. In the end, went with the instincts.

Hard to argue against a sandwich that includes a beef patty, a fried chicken cutlet, and a hash brown.

The sandwich was pretty stacked, not impossible like those items shown on TV, where the host is unlatching their jaw like a snake, but it was a sizeable bite. Oddly enough, the most exciting part of the experience might have been the hash brown. I am a big fan of hash browns and wish they were served all day long, and not cut off after 10:30 a.m., and this sandwich offered that fix. However, as random as the sandwich appeared, it made for a delicious day.

Written by Paulo Loreto

March 10, 2018 at 1:03 AM

Fulfilling a need for sushi near the Barclays Center

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One of the things severely missed while living in Bacolod City is good sushi. Without a doubt, sushi ranks as one of my personal favorite foods and, before moving, there was rarely a week that went by when sushi was not enjoyed at least once for lunch.

Now, after checking out the various establishments around town that sell sushi, have yet to find an authentic spot. The local sushi is usually carelessly constructed, the fish tastes frozen, the knife work is sloppy, and there just seems to be too much missing from the experience.

Back in New York City, whether it’s cheap supermarket sushi or top-of-the-line stuff, like the omakase menu at Jewel Bako, all of it beats the offerings available across Bacolod City.

On one of the days during the last visit to the US, had to run errands and was in desperate need for sushi. With plans to peruse the Atlantic Center, which is adjacent to the Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, scoped around for a nearby sushi place to get my fix.

Stopped into Taro Sushi, which offers a variety of both standard selections and special rolls, after jumping to place an order for their toro special, also picked out a spider roll (soft-shell crab) and something they called the Karen (shrimp tempura, topped with spicy tuna and avocado).

That was a good day; still let out a sigh whenever gazing at the photo.

Written by Paulo Loreto

March 2, 2018 at 8:44 PM

Sticky buns at a farmer’s market

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While vacationing in New York City and staying with good friends in Brooklyn, ventured out one weekend with plans to stop by a local farmer’s market set up in the parking lot of a nearby pharmacy/convenience store. That morning there was a vendor selling strawberries – a lot of strawberries. Picked some up, which were eventually enjoyed as part of a parfait.

Slowly wandered the small area and spotted a vendor with heaps of baked goods. When it comes to bread and baked goods, it is always difficult to choose. On every visit to a personal favorite bakery, Paris Baguette, it always takes a few rounds looking through the self-serve display case before deciding on the one or two (or three) items to purchase.

Amid the array of bread and rolls, there was also a display of sticky buns – there was no way I could leave without picking one up. They looked so beautiful. At just the sight of it, could already taste its sweetness; plus, it was topped with nuts, so there was also an anticipation for contrasting textures whenever that first bite would take place.

After the market, continued with the rest of the day and was left to enjoy the pastry at a later time. I have a feeling it would have been amazing on the spot, without a day’s wear on it, but it was still delicious. The bread was a bit dense, but that was likely intensified from sitting in a bag for most of the day – it was still good.

In Bacolod City, it’s hard to find good bread and pastries. Most of it is pre-packaged and those marketed as “fresh” are, often times, missing key ingredients, leaving their products excessively crumby, to the point where it virtually disintegrates after the first bite; or they’re really dry, dense, and bland.

Written by Paulo Loreto

February 23, 2018 at 8:18 PM

Picking up takeout on a lazy Brooklyn afternoon

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Since moving to the Philippines five years ago, on those indecisive days trying to figure out what to eat, the old reliable Chinese takeout place becomes a very-much missed commodity. Something as basic as the standard Chinese takeaway joint is all-too-often taken for granted and one of those things I’ve grown to miss once it’s not there anymore.

Not sure why the concept hasn’t taken off in Bacolod City. There are Chinese establishments, but they are all expansive restaurants (with attached banquet halls). However, the only thing I’m craving is a hole-in-the-wall spot that has a $4.75 lunch special.

Stopping for Chinese takeout was a regular occurrence back when living in the US; on every visit back, there has always been a visit to the random spot down the street or around the corner.

The classic entrée that comes with rice and the choice of soup or soda, is all too typical when living and working in New York City, but when visiting, after at least a year of being away, those kind of things become treasured. It would seem like something so simple would be adaptable to most cultures – given the practice has expanded to other parts of the world outside the US – but for the local culture in Bacolod City it, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to be something attractive.

On the last trip, while staying in Brooklyn, after a long morning of work, followed by some time at the gym, venturing into Manhattan was the last thing on my mind. Stopped at a nearby grocery store and noticed a Chinese place a block over. Placed an order for a sesame chicken lunch special, along with an order of dumplings, and went back to the grocery store as they prepared the lunch set.

Getting back to the apartment, put the groceries away and plopped on the couch for some basic takeout and daytime television. Thinking back while sitting behind a desk in the Philippines, yes, those things, as mundane as they may seem, are definitely taken for granted.

Written by Paulo Loreto

February 18, 2018 at 5:20 AM

Spotting doughnuts in Koreatown

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On the most recent visit to New York City, was working remotely for the newspaper, which meant the work day started at 3:00 a.m. and ran until around 12 noon. Throwing in some time at the local gym, getting to take in as much as possible in the afternoon was a priority in order to truly appreciate the time back on the old stomping grounds.

More often than not, on any given day in Manhattan, it will likely be spent wandering up and down the strip of 32nd street referred to as Koreatown. Especially with a Koryo Books location to pick up the latest K-pop album, along with a Nature Republic store, it has become more than an eating destination.

Was walking eastward when a big sign that read “ginseng” caught my eye; incidentally, was in the market for ginseng products and had to check it out.

The place was called Besfren, with a cute logo with rabbits on it, which apparently is based on a fairy tale about a pair of rabbits that lived on the moon and made rice cakes. Stepping inside, noticed one side had a wall lined with ginseng products and the other side was a full-fledged café.

Before browsing the ginseng, and eventually picking up a small pack of sachets, was in awe of the pastry display. So many options, each with a very unique look to them. However, there was nothing more eye-catching than the green tea doughnut. After going for the brightly-colored pastry, also ordered a ginseng ginger latte, which offered a punch of ginger flavor with every sip, hopped on the subway with excitement, anticipating the joy of indulging in the doughnut.

Seeing it both in the display case and on the table ready to consume, this “doughnut” was more like a mini-cake – huge for a doughnut. Took the first bite and the green tea flavor was potent and, given how dense the doughnut was, it was not dry. Plus, the crème in the middle offered a nice complement to the pastry itself.

The next time in Koreatown, will definitely need to stop in again (wonder if the stamp card I picked up will still be valid).

Written by Paulo Loreto

February 10, 2018 at 1:37 AM

Picking up ginseng at Namdaemun Market

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On the last visit to New York City, happened upon a shop in Koreatown that was a half-café and half-ginseng store. Had been curious about those ginseng sachets, particularly after watching “Descendants of the Sun” and the excitement the crew in Urk had after receiving boxes of the stuff. Picked up a small box to try it out and thought it was good stuff – really potent.

Visiting Seoul later that year, a couple boxes of the ginseng packets were immediately added to the shopping list.

One night, went to pick up some mandu (dumplings) from a street vendor encountered the day before and got lost, ended up way off course in a completely unfamiliar neighborhood. After a lot of meandering, ended up at Namdaemun Market, which was nearby the hotel (accommodations in Seoul are always made in Myeongdong).

Was walking the pathways lined with the mostly closed shops when I was reminded about the ginseng and saw one shop was still open. Taking a look at the merchandise displayed outside, the old lady running the store popped out and offered assistance. While such transactions are usually done in English (equipped with a calculator to display numbers), she was insistent on speaking in Mandarin. After offering the very few words of Mandarin I know – in an effort to say I’m not fluent – it was apparently enough to convince her I was.

Luckily, managed to get what I needed, she knocked a few bucks off the final cost, and even threw in a free bag of ginseng candies (which proved to be great for the trip to Busan the following morning).

Today, am down to the last few packets, which is only indicative of another trip being due. The packets, once used as a pick-me-up at the gym, have proven to be more effective at work. On those drowsy days, particularly when it’s hard to focus, after one shot of ginseng, everything is back in order and efficient. They are lifesavers.

Written by Paulo Loreto

February 2, 2018 at 9:51 PM