When you just don't know what to do with that stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Wanderlust

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

Spicy eel in Busan

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After wandering around Busan, South Korea for the first time, it was lunchtime and had to find a place to eat. Knowing it was the one chance on the trip to take in the beachside culture (was only in town for the day), needed some kind of seafood. After a quick look around, stopped in for some eel and fresh sashimi at a small restaurant a few steps from Haeundae Beach.

When ordering the eel, had a variety of images in mind, but was only sure that it was going to be spicy. Prior to Busan, had eel in sushi at a variety of places, sliced into strips and stir-fried in sauce in Hong Kong; and grilled from a food cart in Seoul’s Myeongdong district.

The banchan arrived, which was exceptional (more plates than expected), then the sashimi arrived – a gorgeous sight.

The server then approached with a deep black bowl and placed it on the burner that was set up at the table. Took a peek and spotted a heaping pile of meat slathered in a bright red sauce, then noticed everything was moving! The eel was sliced literally just before heading to the table. The pieces of eel wiggled back and forth as the fire flicked on. Watching the movement, along with an occasional stir, the wriggling slowly faded – guess it was a signal to show the food was done.

Every bite was amazing, wrapped in lettuce, perilla leaf, or with a spoonful of rice.

Thank you for the sacrifice, delicious eel.

Written by Paulo Loreto

January 26, 2018 at 9:59 PM

Piping hot lasagna in Genoa

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Docking in Genova, or Genoa, did not have the biggest of expectation for the city. Before leaving New York City, a bartender said she had just visited Genoa and said there was not very much to see outside of some interesting architecture – what one would expect from a centuries-old port city in Europe.

A friend had previously taken a cruise that also docked in Genoa but, during that occasion, she opted to stay on the ship.

Taking the first few steps into town, it was clearly different from prior stops in Rome and Florence. It was much more modest.

In a way, it was a nice change from the sightseeing aspect of wandering some of the more popular locales in Italy and getting to see something a bit relaxed.

After first getting confused on location, eventually found the way into town, which offered a good glimpse of the area. Eventually found one of the main thoroughfares in town, the Via San Lorenzo; walking down the street, caught sights like the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo and the Palazzo Ducale (along with a bubble tea shop).

After browsing a farmer’s market, sat down to lunch in the Piazza Giacomo Matteotti at a place called Douce Pâtisserie Café. Went with a fairly basic eggplant and mushroom lasagna, which arrived to the table hot and steaming. The first bit was a very welcoming one, despite being really hot, the taste of the ingredients were all very pronounced and the lunch became the highlight of the entire visit to Genoa.

However, it was upon leaving that the expansive patisserie inside was noticed – it looked incredible.

Filling up on Guangzhou street food

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During an 11-hour layover in Guangzhou, China, was provided a 72-hour visa to roam the city while waiting for the connection to New York City. After making an obligatory stop at the Canton Tower, it was getting close to sundown and meandered to the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street (with assistance from the accommodating staff at the tourist center at the base of the tower).

Exiting the subway station, found a street lined with small shops and restaurants, everything looked great but was skeptical if it was even the correct place. After a bit of wandering and turning down random alleyways that led to small residential enclaves, found the street. It was wide with tons of people walking around (while dodging cars that are permitted on parts of the “pedestrian street”), with stores both local and international, along with restaurants – also, both local and international.

As time went by and the ticks continued to pile up on the phone pedometer, it proved difficult finding a place to eat; not that there wasn’t anywhere to eat, but there was too much to choose from. Started snacking by stopping at roadside stands and enjoyed things like bubble tea and scallion pancakes. Happened upon a food court that was packed with people and noticed one stand putting out, what looked to be, cups of sesame chicken. It looked good and tasted even better; big, meaty hunks of chicken in a delicious sauce, all for about 25 RMB (just a bit over $3.50).

After a while, noticed the hunger was gone and realized snacking down the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street provided enough to make a meal – and there was still so much more to enjoy.