Just one new year's resolution for you and me

Just one to end the year. Just one to begin the new. I will not preach or be pretentious enough to write out my new year's resolution. 99.9% don't really care about what other people's resolutions are, no matter how sane it is. New year's resolutions are lists that add burden to our already overloaded lives. We move into the new year every year, with basically the same list. Well, at least for most of us. 
I will tell you instead to do something different when the clock strikes twelve. To the second. I will tell you one thing, just one thing. It's not a self-help thing. No. I am not going into that angle. There are too many books on the subject. I will tell you this one thing. Because It was what steered me into a different direction, or brought me back on track depending on how you look at it.
Be inspired.
Because it is what drives us. 
Not what other people say.
Not what other people think.
Not the social standards, not the social networks.
You owe it to yourself to do what you are good at. And it is here where the ridiculously overused term 'passion' comes in.
Be inspired with the world.
Bust the myths. Think like House MD
Have you ever noticed how the fountain at the park works?
Did you ever wonder why we go from point A to point B only to come back?
Inspiration can be found in many things in many actions in many people. Perhaps a guide on where to find inspiration will help. And it is triggered mostly by what killed the cat: curiosity.
Listen how Santana plays the guitar chords in the song with Rob Thomas 'Smooth'. Listen to the twang. Listen to the scales. It is a deliberate play on melody. Not random. 
Being inspired leads you to do things you would have otherwise considered not worth the trouble. 
Next time you take the bus, be inspired with what the  bus driver goes through everyday. The traffic. The cops. The abusive passengers. The income. The hours on the road. Be inspired with the reason why goes through that everyday. For his family.
Be inspired with the rising of the perfect souffle. The technique that was discovered and maintained for a hundred years. Eat. Dine.
Paint a picture. Capture the moment. Create a conversation amongst perfect strangers. You might learn something. Engage in foodporn.
Read a good book. Not because everybody says it's good. But because you discovered it to be good.
Ask why. Be introspective if you have to, but remain curious. 
Lose the inhibitions. Just do it.
Kicking a habit? Getting over a bad relationship? Holding a grudge? Negative thoughts. Look for the positive. Dwelling in misery is like worrying: It gives you something to do while waiting to go nowhere.
I read somewhere about an idea that there is a space between stimulus and reaction. And it is in this space that allows us to choose how to react. Along the same line, it is with our choices that define who we are. And, in one way or another we are already perfect.
Be inspired. By beauty. By the high heels on perfect feet that walks by. By the hunk that did not turn out to be gay. Applaud instead of dog-whistle as they pass by while you people-watch.Go for the Kodak moment. Act upon the smell of a bakery. Lose yourself in lavender scented bubblebath.
Be inspired by the simple pleasures. Such as the perfect cappuccino. The rich prawn bisque. the juicy rib-eye steak. Chilled wine. A walk in the park without the ipod. Playing with the kids. Listen to their giggles. Why they giggle.
Be inspired.
Be curious.
Choose to be.
Have a blessed new year!


Top 10 Holiday Cookie Recipes

It is time. The tree is up. The lights are blinking. Almost all the gifts are wrapped. Santa is finishing up his list. Plans are made to bring the family together. One of the most enjoyable moments of Christmas is spending it with the little ones who still hold the magic in their eyes. What better way to spend quality time than making cookies for the yuletide season, to leave something for Santa by the tree with a glass of warm milk.The following are the top 10 Christmas cookie recipes that would have your little precious giggling with joy...
Raspberry Ribbons - Yummy cookies with raspberry jam. Have fun shaping them into ribbons
White chocolate holiday cookies - a variation of the ginger bread, made rich with luscious white chocolate
Vanille Hoernchen - German Christmas cookies made with almonds
Peppermint patties - Now who would not love to this during the holidays? Very easy recipe, with pictures to illustrate the process
Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies - flavorful and chewy, licking the bowl after would be hard to do
Eggnog Snowflake Cookies - A traditional recipe from Austria, it will be fun to cut the snowflake patterns out!
Zimsterne - Cinnamon stars based on a traditional German recipe
Caramel Turtle Brownies - An easy recipe that yields 'moist and fantastic' cookies. Did you know that a brownie is classified as a cookie?
Cranberry Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies - The best recipes for these two holiday ingredient staples. What can go wrong?
Gingerbread Cookies - It would be great of Gingy can help us out with this. A real treat in cutting out the shapes. Let your imagination go wild!
What would be your own favorite recipe? What can you share with the world beside joy?. Leave a comment, or post up your recipe. 


Meat between the buns

Burger joints are cropping all over the Metro, with their own versions of patties, dressings and signature bread. Some are banking on the American diner theme, or going for broke with the artery clogging Double bacon cheeseburger. Whichever the case may be, it's the packaging that counts. As one dear one told me 'The medium is the message'. So to wrap that juicy delicious ground sirloin patty in a mediocre bun that taste like card board would be a travesty among burger aficionados, pretentious included.
So with the clattering of bowls and cranking up the oven, a formula must be made on what would make the perfect bun. I am not a baker, nor do I aspire to be one, but the bun is a versatile component that a creation would have to apply to a broad spectrum, yet make it one's own.

Oregano Burger buns
225 ml Fresh milk
120 ml water
60 g butter, softened
700 g All purpose flour
7 g dry active yeast
30 g white granulated sugar
10 g salt
1 egg
3 g dried oregano

In a small sauce pan, combine milk, water and butter. Heat mixture up to 50C, and then set aside
In another bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt oregano and yeast
Mix one third of the flour mixture into the milk mixture, then stir to distribute
Gradually add the rest of the flour by thirds
Add the egg, then mix to form a ball
Transfer ball from bowl to a clean surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic
Divide equally into 12 balls, about 100g each
Roll into smooth balls and transfer to a greased baking pan
Let rise 45-60 minutes, until doubled
Preheat oven to 400F/200C
Bake buns 12-15 minutes until golden brown
Let cool over a cooling rack

Now, what meat can we put in between those buns?

P.S. Hot dog buns can be made with same recipe, just form 8 cylinders


Turn around part II

Breakfast in bed

Tick, tock, tick, tock. The blue shade of the darkest before dawn has creeped in, rendering the room unrecognizeable to anybody, but John just lay there in bed, watching, waiting for the shade to turn golden. It was still cold out, and a light frost has formed on the balcony doors.
Easing off the bed, he checked his watch on the bedside table. Nearly 5. Time to get a move on. Giddy is not something he would describe his feeling right now. His mind raced to the night before, the moment they kissed. He remembered her scent. That first sensation. She smelled like lavender cookies, he smiled to himself as he prepared for his task that lays ahead.
The streets were serene this time of day, or night, whichever you look at it. John walked out onto the sidewalk, hearing the trams in the distance. Right, he thought to himself. Enough time to make the 5:32 to Kreis 1. As he waited by the bench, wrapped up in his woolen pullover, the pigeons cooing soothingly at his feet. It was his habit to feed them bread, but not at this hour. It has been awhile since he stood at this bench at this hour. But sleep has not deprived him of what he felt now, what he could sense. The pigeons were part of the faint symphony he could hear. The rustling of the leaves. The street cleaners humming at the corner, their machine ridding the gutters of the previous day's activities. The buildings stood out, and as the sun broke its shell into daylight, the colors on the facade came sharp into view. This is a beautiful place, he thought.
The rumbling of the tram has not taken him out of his reverie, for this morning he had a purpose. He sat by the window, wanting to take in all that will pass and stage a show for his own amusement. The old lady taking her dog our for a walk. A lonely man wrapped up in his own troubles, or what seems to be the cold. A discarded cup rolling on the sidewalk as the light breeze from the tram disturbed its peace. Everything now is illuminated by the shafts of sunrise, and life begins.
After getting off the warm tram, he walked briskly across the street. He could smell it now. The sweet smell that pervades at this corner every morning, but never able to indulge in what produces it. As he turned the corner, the door was already open, with a few people milling about. Patiently he stood in line, enjoying the aroma. The bread was what got sane people out of their warm beds. It's the bread that gave you reason to stay out all night. It was the baguette that affirmed that everything is right. The baker stuffed two in John's bag, and the warmth radiated into his being. After picking up a couple of bottles of preserves, he entered the cold morning anew and walked a few blocks to his right, into the cobble stoned pedestrian area. Approaching the steps, he pressed the button briefly. It was too soon while wondering if anybody else is awake that the intercom came to life.
"Morgen," it cracked with a sleepy female voice. "kann ich hilfe?"
"John" he replied. He felt a minute pang of guilt, but disappeared when the buzzer unlocked the door.
He walked silently up two flights, then came upon her door. He was able to glance at Jessika as she walked towards the kitchen. Dressed in a light robe, her curly hair still having the remnants of sleep, she started the coffee maker. John eased into the apartment, and lay down the bread on the kitchen table.
"That smells divine," she said. "How are you?"
"Good, thanks." John replied, as he busied himself with a tray. "You?"
"Shift starts at 7. Sheisse. Bea is too sick to go to work today, so I have to cover for her." Jessika takes a deep long sip of her coffee. "But all is well with you, I see."
John gives a small sheepish smile. The glorious crunch of the baguette gives as he slices them and arranges on a plate, along with the preserves. Mushroom omelet, fresh pressed orangensaft and a white rose completed the tray. With a copy of the Zurcher Zeitung, he gives Jessika a smile and walks toward the far door of the apartment. She sleeps with the door slightly ajar, he noticed. Nudging the door slowly, he walks into her room. He stood there for one purposeful moment, understanding the reason why he is here. She lay there curled beneath the duvet her wavy tresses just laying on the edge of the bed like golden waterfalls. The trickling sunrise made it look more...surreal, he thought.
Alexandra felt the sleep slowly fading way, giving way to a presence that felt familiar. She stirred, adjusting her duvet. Then daintily lifting a sliver of her hair, she slowly opened her eyes. And she knew who it was, but did not expect John. But was a pleasant unexpectedness, and of course, she was not ready for it. She adjusted again the duvet.
"So sorry," John said as he turned around, "Didn't know you slept in the nude"
"Don't be silly," she whispered in her husky voice that John could not get over "It's more comfortable" And then with a slight twitch of her lips, "Want to join me?"
John turned slowly back, and while carefully balancing the tray, knelt and kissed her on the forehead.
"Ooooh, frustuck!" she said."Fur mich?"
John propped her up on the pillows, Alexandra keeping the duvet covers up to were it mattered, at least for the meantime, she thought.
He lay the tray across her, and sat on her bedside.
As the sun rose slowly, John and Alexandra spent the next two hours over breakfast in bed, talking. Laughing. They told stories like they were old friends. They debated like political opponents. It was there that it has begun for both of them, on that cold spring morning.

Baguette in the morning

4 C flour
1 tbsp dry active yeast
2 tsp salt
2 C warm water

Sift together flour and salt into a bowl
In a another bowl, mix water and yeast annd let stand until creamy, about 7 minutes
Mix half of the flour mixture into the yeast. Distribute until all flour has moistened.
Slowly add the rest of the flour
Knead 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes
Place in bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled, about one hour
Preheat oven to 450F
Punch dough down, and knead for 2 more minutes.
Divide dough into three
Roll into baguettes and place on a tray
Brush with egg white, and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes
Place a small bowl of water in the oven.
Bake baguette for 25 minutes until golden. Remove bowl of water 15 minutes into the baking time.
Serve warm and sinfully crusty with butter and preserves.

What led to this? What happens after breakfast?

Would you like your steak delicious? Or well done?

it always happens. Tickets coming in  like crazy, dupes fluttering on the pass. The kitchen slaving away in a small space barely enough for four, let a lone a chef's table. The oven is buzzing, the idiot by the fryer is staring at the already golden crusted fish turn into shoe polish brown. Then a loner walks into the restaurant wanting, of all that is holy in the carnivorous world, a well done Prime Rib eye steak. I stare at the ticket. Prime Rib eye with grilled vegetables and mash. Ribe Eye. Well done.
'Oi' I call to the fryer idiot. 'Prime Rib eye! To be nuked!' Like time delay lock at the local bank, he springs into action.
From the refrigerated drawer, pulls out a perfectly marbled piece of meat, chilled. No blood drippings. Slice open the vacuum packaging. Then with the grace of a well lubricated Russian ballerina doing the pirouette, tosses the meat, marbling and all, into the 360F fryer. Then finishes it off on the grill. I turn around and do the fixins. I can hear you. You go WHAAAAT???
Let me tell you why I did not go into a rage. Why I did not dunk him and the guest into the fryer and be done with it. Why I hummed to the tune of 'Complicated' and just went my merry way clearing out the dupes.Why I did not ask the more able cooks to nuke the steak.
Have you ever had a steak well done? Referred to by Buddy Holly as 'Burnt to a crisp' in Pulp Fiction, it's pink on the inside, charred on the outside, and people with dentures will make their dentist richer by daring to take a bite. Like every well done steak I have ever had.
It's animal cruelty to order steak this way, an attack on the leisurely life the host cow had. It takes a long time to cook steak until its juices run clear, if any juice runs at all. And 90% of the time, the idiot guest would claim that it's rubbery, tough, bitter, 'Where did you get the steak? Where did you learn to cook?' tirade spewing from his maw.
It does not take great skill to make a well done steak. Hell, it does not take any skill at all. Pan fry, bake roast, and deep fry until it's cooked through. All the way through. Don't need to be Heston Blumenthal to figure that out.
Why do people order for a well done steak? I can think of many reasons:

Blood is disgusting
If they wanted raw food, they would go to a sushi bar
He wants to be man about it
Does not want to get sick
Recently got off vegetarianism
Got kicked by a cow as a child
Hated the Matrix
McNuggets was not on the menu
Didn't know any better

Let me tell you what a well done steak is good for:

As an effective door stop
A charcoal brick
A deadly weapon
Table leveller
Torture device
Time waster for the swab who does not know his way around the kitchen
Goes great with really cheap watery wine
For the ugly girlfriend or boyfriend
For the cruel wife or husband
Can go with the much passed around fruit cake during Christmas
Hockey puck
Premeditated indigestion

That is why I gave the order to the fry boy. Because the dishwasher is busy with the soiled plates. Because it occupies valuable burner space on a six top. Because guest dissatisfaction is not done deliberately on my watch. Because the guest does not know any better.


Oktoberfest! Beers! Pretzels!

Photo0832What can you pair with beer? Pretzels. salted, cinnamon, choco-dipped, whatever.

The following recipe is the base of many recipes that it can be built from. Have fun. Enjoy. please let me know how it goes.

15g active yeast
4g white sugar
240ml warm water

In a small bowl, combine and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes

625g all purpose flour
100g white sugar
9g salt
15ml vegetable oil

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar and salt
Add oil and yeast mixture
Mix until you form a rough ball. Add a little water if too dry
Place dough on a smooth surface and knead until smooth, ‘ a baby’s behind’. Takes about 7-10 minutes
Place dough back into bowl, cover with cling film and let rise until double in size. Takes about an hour
Punch down dough, knead for a further minute or two
Divide dough into equal parts of 120g each
Roll into ropes about 2 feet in length
Form into pretzels
Transfer to baking tray

110g baking soda
950ml water
55g rock salt

Mix in a small bowl baking soda and water
Brush pretzels lightly with mixture
Sprinkle tops with rock salt
Bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes until golden brown all over
Let cool

Variations: for cinnamon pretzels, brush with melted butter instead of baking soda mixture. Then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture (100g sugar to 7g cinnamon). For chocolate pretzels, melt chocolate over double boiler. Do not brush pretzels with anything before baking. After baking, dip pretzels one side down into chocolate, then  let cool.

Now, what is your favorite beer?


A little under the weather

I wake up this morning feeling groggy, body heating up and generally not at the top of the world at the moment. And there are still loads of things to do. I recently purchased a few items for the test kitchen. Much of which I hope I will get my money’s worth.

Working in a professional kitchen is really tough. They do not teach you this at culinary school. Long hours. Doing a million things all at the same time, every dish identical all the time.

Down periods are meant for mise en place and hoping that you do not get in the weeds later on. You cover your bases. Cover the other cooks’ bases and asses. Maybe grab a bite. Standing up in a corner of the kitchen, grabbing any morsel, any scrap that may be lying around, just to feed the beast. Not garbage, mind you. Food. Real food. When did I eat last?

Lots of water. I think 8 glasses a day is not enough in a hot kitchen. Not enough. I drink maybe twice as that, and I still pee dark yellow, a sign of dehydration. Iced tea and coffee? Forget it. It’s a diuretic. Makes you want to grab the water pitcher after.

Burns, cuts. Circles under the eyes. Forgot to shave. I wish I did not have to shave. A goatee would look cool. But my face does not have that ability unfortunately.

Thankfully, I can still keep my whites impeccable during a shift. It would smell like food, but no stains, spills, oil or blood.

I need to encode some of my recipes. So in case I do lose my Scribe, I won’t cry. Costed out. Secret recipes and techniques. Anecdotes. The little black book is with me all the time, just in case.

Need to test out discovered recipes during my wonderings. Maybe the dead of night would allow some time to crank out a dish or two to see how it comes out, if it was even worth it.

Got boxes and crates of pasta, sauces and dressings last night. Something I can play with for the next two days. So much to play with. I can feed A whole village with this stuff for a whole week. Maybe that’s what I will do.

Need to catch up on my DVDs. Have gotten so many over the past few months, but never had time to view them. The ‘Back to the Future’ Trilogy is calling to me. Escape. Escape from the real world.

Personal problems. Physical problems. Financial dilemmas.

I love and hate Facebook. Too many opportunities. Let’s leave it at that.

Mango on Martini, Rhum in Martini, Rhum in Mango

MangoSorbet Had some mangoes that were minutes away from expiration. their skin shriveled up like a geriatric bachelor in his mother’s basement, though the meat is sweeter. Something had to be done.

So here is a recipe for a simple Mango sorbet, perfect since it was a hot and humid afternoon. Came out sweet, smooth, palate refreshing.

Mango Sorbet

4 mangoes
1 cup simple syrup
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp rhum

  1. Cut mango along the bone, and remove meat with the help of a glass rim
  2. Transfer meat to blender
  3. Add syrup and lime juice
  4. Spike with some rhum
  5. Puree until smooth
  6. Transfer to plastic container
  7. Place in freezer
  8. After one hour, mix with spoon to break the ice crystals
  9. Do this every hour until you have a smooth, uniform frozen texture
  10. Keep covered
  11. Serve on a chilled martini glass

You can do this too with the help of an ice cream machine, but where is the heart in that?

If you have made this, please take a picture, and post it up. I would like to hear how you built up from this simple sorbet recipe.


The restaurant life


To would be culinary students who thinks being a chef is easy and glamorous, spoiler alert!

I am wide awake, and I do not feel bad about it.

The service rush still flows through me, despite my legs aching and my arms throbbing.

No more light headedness, no more hours asleep during the day

Waking up to prep lists, recipes and costings

Moving up to storage reorganization, science projects and waste

Finding out who is stealing what, what is compromising who

Finding out the weakest link, and who to suck up to

Pet peeves on guests’ requests off-the-menu

Satisfaction in knowing that I can pull a roasted rabbit out of my hat

Broken ovens, powerful flames

The clink and chink of china and glassware going through all-thumbs dishwashers

Eating dinner standing up

Doing more than the normal 8 glasses of water each day because of the heat

Burns and cuts, scars and battle wounds

Gleaming steel and stained aprons

Hot handles and sharp knives

Being away from negativity

Working for real, and not just part time

Working because you love it

Being in the now, and not worrying what could be

Get things done because you loved to, not because you have to

Creating something instead of searching in vain

Taking a piss on culinary students who bite the professional dust after only two months

Speaking with you face-to-face

Herbs and spices, caramelized food and burnt bones

The yelling, cajoling, threats and vendettas

The occasional beer

New order, fire, pick-up

The only thing missing is the one who unconditionally loves me is not with me

Ahh…the restaurant life


Under the Mediterranean sun with this in my hand

This vegetable-cum- fruit was reviled to be poisonous. Peruvians called it ‘Peruvian Apple’, the French referred to it as the ‘love apple’ of ‘golden apple’. That is, until the 18th century, when having travelled the waters from Peru to the shores of Naples, then a part of Spain, reaching northwards to the rest of Europe, the tomato has invaded most of European cuisine, and of course the world. It is said Cortes, the Spanish conquistador, brought the fruit after conquering ancient Mexico. Others say the Genoese Christopher Columbus was the first to introduce it to the Spanish Court.

According to Wikipedia ‘…it is botanically a fruit, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes.’ And for culinary purposes it has indeed proved to be a versatile vegetable, err, fruit, um …fruitable. Ah never mind.

Summer is almost at an end in some parts of the world, and to enjoy tomatoes is to have it raw, stewed, bottled, pickled, dried, fried, chopped, pureed, processed or baked. And used extensively in Mediterranean cooking, I have kept a recipe through the years, it’s page now yellowed at the corners, with the occasional tomato sauce stains and oil patches. It turned out at the time to be an easy enough recipe. But as with most recipes, it is subject to interpretation, and the original has long since been devoured by time.

And so the sun beats down, and to have a bowl of this with some ouzo… sigh


chicken couscous

1 Chicken, cut into portions

4 oz chickpeas (garbanzos), boiled and drained

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 white onion, sliced

2 carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise

1 10 oz can whole peeled tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped

12 oz couscous

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter, unsalted

salt and pepper

1 lemon, quartered

  1. In a bowl, mix couscous with the same amount of water and some olive oil
  2. Stir and let it absorb the liquid for 15 minutes
  3. In a stock pot, fry chicken pieces in olive oil until lightly brown on all sides
  4. Add sliced onion and chopped garlic, toss around for a minute, then add the tomato puree. Stir to coat all the chicken pieces
  5. Add clean water until it just covers the chicken
  6. Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer for 10 minutes
  7. Add the chickpeas (garbanzos), carrot. Add the crushed peeled tomatoes, and let simmer
  8. Transfer couscous to a small holed colander and place atop the simmering chicken stew. Steam for 20-25 minutes until cooked through
  9. Remove colander and add some butter. With wooden spoons, or your hands, fluff the couscous. Season with salt
  10. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add parsley, stir, then remove stock pot from heat
  11. Ladle couscous on plate. Top with chicken, vegetable and some of the sauce. Garnish with a lemon quarter for juicing

Turn Around Part I

The beginning…Opportunity Cost

The moment the martini glass bottom discretely tapped the fridge, he knew he was nervous.  “Of no particular reason, really” he thought to himself. Into the empty kitchen he lamented, “I mean, we have known each other quite a while.” The silence responded in agreement, as if the outside world has stopped. Even the revelry of spring has quieted, as most have left the city for a weekend at the beach. Through the open window of the third level kitchen, he sat at the sill and gazed on the street below. Cobble stones barely damp from the early evening spring showers, now casting a bluish glow. It is late. But her train does not come in till 23:45h. She said over the phone that she had something for him, and that she would be coming over and spend the weekend.
“Do you have a place to stay?” He held his breath for a moment, expecting an answer that would justify his skipping heartbeat right now.
“I do. I will see you in six hours, d’accord?” Alexandra was coming in from Luxembourg, and the train trip is the most scenic that John can remember, after having spent the holidays there with friends.
That phone call was hours ago. It now read 23:04h on the luminous red clock. Service ended an hour ago, and the porters are just doing the final tasks of cleaning up. John’s chef de partie, Madchan, a likeable fellow from Sri Lanka, left ten minutes ago in the arms of his wife, looking forward to a party his fellow countrymen were having at the local dive. That left the kitchen floor all to himself. And that reminded him of his present situation.
Should he, or shouldn’t he? John has been thinking about Alexandra a lot, especially lately. Something just seemed right the first time they were on the slopes together. Though she was with someone at the time, it felt different whenever she was with John. As far as he could tell, she was relaxed, a little more laid back. And he was falling for her. Maybe because she was always there. Maybe it was the sultry sound of her voice, the pitch between wakefulness and boredom. Probably because John can finish her sentences, despite struggling with the French language. That she could finish his.
But it was significantly more because of that one night. Not long ago. It was after dinner, and Alexandra took John’s hand and decided to go for a walk around Zurich. They took a right from the Mexican restaurant into Niederdorfstrasse, the night was cold. She wrapped her arm around his. He chuckled. Can this be real? This woman I am crazy about, is cuddling up to me right here. But this could be anything. John instinctively tightened his arm, and tried to keep her warm. She looked up at him and just smiled. Alexandra wanted him close, feel him close, just being there. They walked around the Old District, perusing quaint shops, talking about anything. A small marionette posed at a window corner, staring forlornly at the street and passersby. A couple having a tipple on the sidewalk, the beaujolais nouveau bottle just opened and being offered. John Alexandra took tow plastic cups of the young wine, then moved on. After two hours, Alexandra turned her head and looked at John. She felt she knew what she was thinking. So then, she led him to a small cafe. “Tired?”, asked John. “No,” she replied dreamily, “I heard that they make their Chocolate Mousse the classic way here. Heard it was good.”
As they sat down, their orders already taken, Alexandra took John’s hand and said “I like it here.” John looked around slowly, “I like it, too.”
romantic_lunch_large[1] “I mean,” she continued '”here, with you.” John looked back wondered what he can make of this. He knew she was still with somebody else, yet he could barely control his desired for this woman. He smiled back in agreement,though he  felt it was not enough. He should tell this woman. Now. But the moment passed. And just enjoyed each others’ company. They sat there saying everything, and saying nothing, and it did not matter. Because it was enough that they were sharing one night, over a couple of the finest chocolate mousse this side of the French Alps.
Walking back to her apartment, they moved through the night in silence. It was not uncomfortable, but something was hanging over their heads, like something needs to be said between them. She stood there, two steps above him. John held her hands, and looked into those beautiful blue eyes. “I want you to be mine.” he whispered. The look Alexandra must have exhibited may have been of acknowledgement, as if she knew he was going to say that, for John was caught off guard despite the forwardness of his request, but more that she did not seem offended, or at least, surprised.
“I don’t want to hurt you” she said, but still held his hands purposely.
23:30h. Better make it to the banhof, he thought. After the locker room he went out in a light coat as it was still chilly spring evening. At the train station he saw her alight from the train. God, it was good to see her. They hugged just a moment longer, then slowly made their way back to the restaurant, now dark because everybody have left. She sat at the table by the window, the dim lights from the street illuminating chocolate mousse he prepared for her.
“You remember what Opportunity Cost meant during Economics class?” she said. How can he not. It was part of the finals exam. It meant the expense that would be realized in the pursuit of something beneficial. The cost of passing up the next best choice when making a decision. “Yes,” he replied apprehensively “I do. What about it?”
“Well,” she continued. “I want to be with you.” She looked into his eyes, with an earnest sincerity that he has not seen before. “I want you to be mine.”
He paused, not sure of where to go from here. But he knew the nervousness he experienced earlier, and let instinct take over. He reached over, and kissed her.

French Chocolate Moussechocolate mousse

4 egg yolks
1/4C confectioners sugar
2tbsp cognac
6oz semi sweet chocolate, cut into small chunks
3tbsp espresso coffee
8tbsp softened unsalted butter
4 egg whites
1/2C whipped heavy cream

  1. In a bowl beat egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. It should be thick enough to form a ribbon when whisk is lifted from bowl
  2. Beat in the cognac
  3. Set bowl over double boiler and continue beating until foamy and hot
  4. Then transfer bowl to ice bath and beat until cooled, attaining the thickness and consistency of mayonnaise
  5. In another bowl over double boiler, melt chocolate into coffee, stirring constantly
  6. Beat in butter when all chocolate has melted, until it makes a smooth cream
  7. Fold the chocolate into the sugar and egg yolk mixture
  8. In another bowl, beat egg whites to a point forming soft peaks
  9. Stir in half the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in gently the other half
  10. Spoon the mousse into martini glasses, and refrigerate for 4 hours, until firm
  11. Garnish with whipped cream with a star tipped pastry bag
  12. Grate some chocolate over
Best served to someone special

... and so the story continues...


Share with the world, make it a better place

Sharing Sharing is good. Because competition can only bring us so far. Giving and compassion, faith in the human condition, helping others and selflessness. It is by this spirit that the world is becoming a better place. I ask you, what have you done for the people on your chat list recently? For the guy driving next to you waiting for the light to turn green? For your wife? For you child’s classmates?

Volunteer you services to a local church or charity
Bake some cupcakes and share it with a neighbor this afternoon
Somebody may need your books. Freecycle it
Offer a ride. Get carpooled
Have a weekly potluck with friends
Perform random acts of kindness
If someone owes you, ask to pay it forward
Get creative and make things. then give them away
Make real chicken soup for someone who is ill
Say ‘thank you’, and mean it
Teach a lonely friend how to cook. Teach your little brother how to cook
Tell 2 friends where to shop for the best tomatoes
Make a video on how to cut an onion without crying and post it on YouTube
Get your DVD player and TV outdoors and watch a movie under the stars with friends and family
Give your last cookie to the first person you see after lunch
Lend your baking pans to neighbor for the weekend
Help clean up the local playground
Teach a stranger how to spot fresh fish the next time you are at the seafood market
Read to the blind
Volunteer clean up duty at your local park
Start a community garden in your neighborhood, or join an existing one
Help reclaim the sidewalk for everybody
Be a mentor
Have a mentor
Compare notes on ex-boyfriends
Help make a poster for a struggling band
Read up and share information on important national matters
Share your favorite recipes on the internet
Go pro bono for anyone the first time you meet
Offer to train out-of-school youths
Work in a hospital for a whole month free
Share a laugh, share a joke
Donate to the guy who created the freeware that made your life at least twice as good
Participate in discussion forums on-line. Surely you have at least one thing you’re good at that can help others
Form a support group. Join a support group. Help a support group

This is only the beginning. So many things can be attributed to sharing, to one community. It may be utopian, or it may be a little preachy. Think about it. You really have nothing to lose. And so much to gain. Add to the list above. I am sure other readers will be able to use your input as much as I will.


Turn around, part XIII

glasgow winterSnow was falling on that cold November morning. It probably has been snowing since the night before, as a soft blanket of white has rendered additional color to an otherwise depressing gray facade that is Cathedral Street in Glasgow. The cab stood by, it’s exhaust plumes the only movement discernable if one were to chance upon this scene. They stood there in silence, not knowing what to do next, in spite of what will be from then on. The bags were already in the trunk, and he stood still in the falling snow, figuring out what to say. He wore a black heavy coat over the one purchase he made during the weekend in the Scottish city, a woven wool pullover. It kept him warm, but it did not make him feel whole. Facing him, she was also in a warm overcoat, keeping her hands in the pockets. An observer would have described this moment as surreal, the two a strong contrast to the winter shade, his black hair muddled with snowflakes, and her golden tresses flailing wistfully in the light cold wind.
sj They stared at each other for what seemed like eternity, finding the reason for being there. As one from experience could tell, the good things usually never last long enough. His eyes looked into hers, the only true color that made the monochromatic landscape more interesting, at least on her. Blue. I will never forget that color, he thought. And then, at thirty one past six on that cold Monday morning, he knew. Her eyes misted, then a single tear drop formed, and travelled slowly down her left cheek. He reached out with his right hand, ungloved despite the cold, and gently wiped the tear off with his thumb. And yet his hand remained, feeling her soft cheek, and the familiar twinkle in her eye whenever he touches her. She liked the firm affection, because nobody has held her that way before.
“Alexandra, I just want to know.” He said. “I just want to know…”
“Oh, John,” she replied. “You know I did. You know I do
He reached over, and kissed her forehead. She felt his warm lips, and wondered fleetingly if she should let this happen. Then her nose, then her lips were locked with his, feeling every moment. Their arms wrapped tightly around each other. She smelled wonderful, he thought, even at this ungodly hour. She felt safe, secure, away from the all that is harsh that moment. Alexandra did not want to let go. She just wanted to be wrapped in him.
And the moment has passed. They looked into each others’ eyes once more, and knew it was time. The world was slowly turning again, and they needed to get on. John held her hands, and it was as it always has been. But not no more. Her eyes are still misty. But she could not take back what has already been said. She knew if that were she to turn around and regret the decision, it would be different, and unfair for both of them.  
With a slight motion, John made it clear to the driver just a few moments more were needed.
“I will always love you, hon” John said with that same low voice she knew to be his true self. Staring into her eyes, he ran his hand slowly through her hair.
She stared at him, this man that made her life a little more colorful the past few months. As he was turning away, she held his hand for just a moment longer. Then she let go. After shutting the door, he looked back as the cab drove away, away from her. .
And she whispered into the winter “I love you, too”
And they both thought, at that same exact moment, where did it all go wrong?
Turn back the clock six months


The personal chef and the blog

Yesterday was spent trawling the web looking to how to get my recipes indexed on a specific page. Because, to tell you honestly, I am not that adept at HTML encoding, and it seems to me that every other blogger has run ahead of the pack. Formatting the blog that I have painstakingly nurtured for the past couple of years has borne several incarnations, from the a news feed magazine style, to a one column blah, to what is presently a decent attempt at minimalism and straightforwardness.

Alas, I still feel there is something missing, or something too much. The recipes are from complete, I know, and I am working on that. The content is compelling by average standards. The Layout is as intuitive as I can make it so. But what is missing? What is too much? The recipes need to be indexed somehow, for the benefit of my readers. By category, by cooking technique, by ingredient. I do not know where to begin.

The layout needs improvement. Not saying that it’s bad, (even though I do say so myself) but it could be better.What color? What Font? What about the ads placement?

So I ask the dear readers for help. I need your input. I need your suggestions on how I can make this better for you. So please, for everything that is as  sacred as a complete set of gleaming copper cookware, What is it you want to see, (and things you’d rather not) that would help the Personal Chef make the blog more personal.


Gelato. A base recipe that is a scoop!

Gelato-Rome The Italian dessert that has less fat than normal ice cream. Yes, less fat. Less butterfat to be specific. How is it creamier than normal ice cream? Less air is whipped into it during the freezing process. According to The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto, the extra fat in ice cream can mask the flavor of the ice cream, giving less fatty gelato the advantage when it comes to flavor clarity and intensity. The following recipe serves as a base. What you can do with it is up to your imagination. Bananas. Mint. Rhum. Raisin. Ube? Durian?
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn't form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F
Meanwhile, in a heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually mix in the sugar until it is incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper the eggs by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185°F. Do not bring to a boil.
Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature, stirring every 5 minutes or so. To cool the custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir the custard until cooled. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
This recipe was posted by Caroline Russock on Serious Eats. Have a go. Let me know how it turns out.

See more recipes...


To be told what’s hot and what’s not, that is the question…

YPE_038 What really is the difference between food fad and food trend? Are they interchangeable? Or are they applied according to one's perspective of what is hot and what is not? Some pretentious foodies use the term 'fad' more than 'trend', food service professionals watch out for the latter. Some are confused.  Others couldn't care less. But here is my take: A trend is something that is coming up to be exciting today, will be hot tomorrow, and will be the springboard for innovation and development in the future. A fad is merely a flash in pan. What is hot now could be 'oh-so-yesterday' the next millisecond. Paris Hilton shallowness aside, some of us do make a monumental effort of being ahead of the pack, not in terms of going with the flow, but being up-to-date on what is happening in the world of culinary wonders and delights. Chefs generally want to know what the other chefs are doing, and see if the direction is in sync or diverging, good way or bad. Foodies, gourmands want something new, something different, comforting or familiar. Other individuals follow what people on television tell them is exciting now. The food zombies and the pretentious foodies kiss the ground Oprah walks on, gets into a frenzy when they could not find the artisanal Olive oil mix that Ms. Winfrey has recommended because they 'just have to have it' for the sole reason that they want to feel that they are in the know. It is really difficult to put into words to describe how one should be part of  a food trend or fad, or merely to be a spectator on the sidelines. I read once on a shirt that seem close to what I mean, but not exactly. It does apply though to what I think of people who are so concerned with keeping with appearances and the Joneses.
'You laugh because I am different. I laugh because you are all the same'
food cart  Now trends and fads can be viewed through different perspectives. And it is the general vox populi that puts whichever on the forefront, depending on what the ‘in’ thing is as of that moment. Like may perspectives, opinions are rife, and based on an individual’s personal experience, would put a chalk mark against what deems to be popular, and what deems to be trendy. In either case, do we follow trends and fads because of what somebody else discovered to be and tells us? Or are we pathfinders who discover it ourselves?  Try the following. Then decide which side of that fence you are on.
Cupcakes were a fad. The delightfully decorated treats seemed more functional than cool. No mess. No cutting. Portable. But do you really want to line up shell out that much money for a piece of cake that is less than the size of a tennis ball? Besides, what satisfaction can you get other than sugary jittery highs?
Street Food. Yeah. It's all the rage now. Because we now look for simple comfort food that screams casual, no stiff collars and no pretentions. Fast Food, but without the synthetic non biodegradable packaging. But street food as we know it has been around for ages. We are noticing it now because we look for the real thing.
Chocolate Fountain. And in their many forms. Usually found lately at many dessert buffet tables, surrounded by diners who can get enough of the addictive goo. The novelty of this that we are free to dip whatever into the falls, and just hang around for the next fix. It’s a messy affair, and magic disappears once you are walk away for more than three feet.
Greenhorn Culinary Schools. Specifically the culinary and hotel management schools that have no tradition and just recently opened shop to join the now popular ‘celebrity chef’ bandwagon. Like the profession, it takes years and years of professional experience and credibility to be able to teach others on the finer points of cooking. If you want to become a chef, go to a reputable culinary school that has an established record. Not one who started as an IT educational institute.
Burgers. Because there are so many burger joints nowadays to cater to every individual taste, you would be hard pressed to find one that does not appeal to your taste buds. But as it nears the numbers of the local McD’s, are we reaching a plateau of over saturation?
Healthy living with Omega 3. Take the pill instead. With the mercury found in so many omega-3 rich fishes and the overfishing problem, it can literally make you sick.
Molecular Gastronomy. The marriage off food and science is not new, this fad has created fancy kitchen gadgetry that rivals even the most adventurous mad scientist. Unfortunately, the movement reduced the enjoyment to mere gimmickry. And not a lot of cooks and chefs have the time to really do in depth science experiments, so do not expect and El Bulli clone to open shop around the corner any time soon.
Frozen yoghurt. That dessert popularized in that Sex in the City series, it has created a following because of it’s healthier benefits over ice cream. It can be tailored to every specific taste and palate, creating more varieties and permutations. Restaurants have started offering up in their menus, and is driving guests to veer away from the usual.
Home Grown Produce. Because fresh produce is healthier option over mass produced veggies inundated with chemicals and GMO. Because fresh produce are nutritionally superior and more advantageous.Because local produce uses less foosil fuel for transportation, storage and preparation. Buy local. It also helps the farmer get most of the profits and by cause and effect improve his quality of life and yours.
Slow food. Real cooking made with tradition. With the sprouting like weeds of every fast food joint imaginable, it is welcoming that real cooking instead of cookie cutter manufactured food stuffs are still around and lately being rediscovered. In essence, to dine at your own pace, to savor every morsel. As more people are looking for value for money, they want to be able to enjoy the food they purchase, with friends and family. Comfort food that heal during difficult times.
Pickled anything. Ginger, Asparagus. Garlic. You name it. Thanks to the Asian community, this new movement in cooking can really add to the repertoire. By itself pickled foods are great, and making it a part of the bigger picture will prove that it will stay for years to come.
The popularity of the butcher. Yes, that guy behind the meat counter that can carve out your cuts the way you want it. Many are now discovering that the butcher is a deep well of knowledge when it comes to specific cuts and they way they need to be cooked. Next to the chef, he is the guy that would most likely know how much marbling you need, or if this part of the cow is good for stewing.
Asian and Ethnic foods. With the dawn of globalization, the rest of the world is discovering the magic of Asian Cooking. The fascination with exotic flavors and ingredients have been fueled by the introduction of such recipes in local communities.
Foodies. Because more and more of these individuals are pushing the culinary envelope. They are knowledgeable now in the ways of cooking and entertainment. Instead of subsisting on TV dinners and instant noodles, foodies emerge as a force that indicates the state of everything culinary.
Healthy Household. Americans are looking to create a healthy household. Approximately 57% of shoppers are making a lot of effort to eat healthier. With half (53%) of adults controlling their diet—61% for weight, 36% cholesterol, 22% blood sugar, 18% high blood pressure, and 14% diabetes. Babies and young children also drive healthier household eating. Popular trends include DHA for brain and eye development and probiotics for digestive health. In recent years, sales of healthful kids’ foods have outsold regular kids’ products 3:14. With 28% of parents admitting that they have an overweight child and one in eight kids having two or more risk factors for heart disease later in life, the number three concern of moms, after immunity and growth/development, is now healthy kids foods.
Food vetting. Yes, sustainable is going mainstream. Food sourcing might be old news to foodies, but a growing number will opt for organics and sustainable practices. That includes eating fresh, local and seasonal foods as much as possible and buying products with sustainable or biodegradable packaging. Farmers markets are hotter this year than last, as people search for food they can trust and vendors they know. And the foodies? They might go for less precious items and make more down-to-earth choices.
Olive oil alternatives. Particularly grapeseed oil. Due to additional health benefits, grapeseed oil is also more wallet friendly, has a higher smoke point, and does not decay as fast.
If a tend turns out to be a fad, or a fad turns out to be a trend, it really is all a matter of perspective. This list is not definitive. Not at all. It just the tip of the whipped cream iceberg. Do you know of a fad or trend that I missed? Would love to hear about it! Post it up here for everybody else to take a gander at.


The heat in my loins, and then some

A recipe for pork loin stared at me in the face after having lost and found a classic tomato chutney recipe in my scribe notebook scribbled ages ago. Rich red tomato chutney, a sensory war torn between sour and sweet, tartness and richness, tempered with balsamic vinegar and dark brown sugar. Not a jam, but having the same sinfulness. To match it with an equally decadent cut of pork, well, just seems right. Slices of moist loin with a crispy crust, tender almost-there fat, the fork making the knife feel neglected and out of place. Sage and basil and thyme dancing in wisps close to the nose, just teasing, casting a glimpse of what is to tease the palate.
pork loin

Honeyed Pork loin with Tomato Chutney
Serves 4
1 kg Pork Loin
250 gr white onion, quartered
100 gr carrots, diced
100 gr celery, diced
3 pcs bay leaf
60 ml Honey
60 ml Orange Juice, fresh pressed
40 ml olive oil
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
120 ml Chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F
Season pork loin with salt and pepper
Place carrots, onions, celery, bay leaf in roasting pan
Place seasoned pork loin on top
In a bowl, combine honey, oil, orange juice and herbs
Pour over pork loin
Add stock
Place in oven and bake 45 minutes to an hour or until internal temperature reaches 150F
Ladle liquid over pork loin to prevent drying out and infuse the flavor
While that goes on, prepare the chutney

30 ml olive oil
100 gr white onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
60 gr brown sugar
60 ml  Modena Balsamic Vinegar
10 gr minced fresh ginger (easier to mince with a grater)
1/4 tsp crushed pepper flakes
300 gr peeled tomatoes
30 gr fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil on pan
Sauté onions and garlic until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes
Lower heat
Stir in vinegar, ginger, sugar and pepper flakes
Let simmer until slightly thick, about 3 minutes
Add in crushed peeled tomatoes
Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer
Stir occasionally, reducing to half the quantity and thick enough to be not a sauce
Stir in basil
Season with salt and pepper
Take out pork loin and let rest for 10 minutes
Strain liquid from roasting pan into a sauce pan and reduce to half until slightly thick
Slice pork loin and place on serving platter
Drizzle reduced sauce over the slices
Spoon a good quantity of chutney on the side
So tell me. After the dinner. After the slices. After the obligatory espresso. How do you feel?


Life explained

250px-Rashguard I just found this really funny. Life simplified. With all the milestones. Summarized into one silly joke. Can anyone really react to this? Can we relate?

On the first day God created the dog. God said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. I will give you a life span of twenty years." The dog said, "That's too long to be barking. Give me ten years and I'll give you back the other ten."
So God agreed.
On the second day God created the monkey. God said, "Entertain people, do monkey tricks and make them laugh. I'll give you a twenty-year life span." The monkey said, "Monkey tricks for twenty years? I don't think so. Dog gave you back ten, so that's what I'll do too, okay?"
And God agreed.
On the third day God created the cow. "You must go to the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves, and give milk to support the farmer. I will give you a life span of sixty years."
The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. Let me have twenty and I'll give back the other forty."
And God agreed again.
On the fourth day God created man. God said, "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. I'll give you twenty years."
Man said, "What? Only twenty years? Tell you what, I'll take my twenty, and the forty the cow gave back, and the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back, that makes eighty, okay?"
Okay," said God, "You've got a deal."
So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play, and enjoy ourselves; the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family; the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren; and the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.
Life has now been explained to you.


Open your mouth

Chef-drawing More culinary quotes that I found. As food undoubtedly inspires, the spirit that is borne is captured in inane, provoking, ponderous, insane or straight thoughts and words that has seasoned our lives through thousands of years.

"…the key dietary messages are stunningly simple: Eat less, move more, eat more fruits and vegetables, and don't eat too much junk food. It's no more complicated than that."
Marion Nestle

"...what is your host's purpose in having a party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose they'd have simply sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi."
P. J. O'Rourke

"A Bearnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar, and butter, but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect."
Fernand Point

"A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world."
Louis Pasteur

"A complete lack of caution is perhaps one of the true signs of a real gourmet: he has no need for it, being filled as he is with a God-given and intelligently self-cultivated sense of gastronomical freedom."
M.F.K. Fisher

"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety."

"A cup of coffee - real coffee - home-browned, home ground, home made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the Java: such a cup of coffee is a match for twenty blue devils and will exorcise them all."
Henry Ward Beecher

"A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish."
W. H. Auden

"A good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
Virginia Woolf

"A gourmet is just a glutton with brains."
Philip W. Haberman, Jr.

"A man in the wilderness asked me, How many strawberries grow in the sea? I answered him, as I thought good, As many as red herrings grow in the wood."
Mother Goose

"A messy kitchen is a happy kitchen and this kitchen is delirious."

"It takes a lot of dough to make the upper crust"
Alfred E. Newman

"Laughter is brightest, in the place where the food is." or "Laughter is brightest where food is best."
Irish proverb

"Mincing your words makes it easier if you have to eat them later."
Franklin P. Jones

"Nouvelle Cuisine, roughly translated, means: I can't believe I paid ninety-six dollars and I'm still hungry."
Mike Kalin

"Salt is the policeman of taste: It keeps the various flavors of a dish in order and restrains the stronger from tyrannizing over the weaker."
Malcolm De Chezal

Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music out of doors, played by somebody I do not know.
John Keat

The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you’re hungry again.
George Miller

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.
James Beard

In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.
Carl Sagan, Cosmos

I find a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.
Madame Benoit

Do you have a thought to add?


The coming of a CSN Stores Review

csn Guess what! It is interesting. I have been asked to do a review for CSN Stores! That’s right! CSN stores has over a million items from hundreds of stores, making it one of the top retailers in the U.S. Items include dining room tables, cookware, and great kitchen gift ideas. And I get to review an item. I am chuffed!

The Website is pretty intuitive, and searching for an item I found easy as A-B-C. Scouring through the Kitchen accessories I found a great Wrought Iron Pot Rack, Alessi Kitchen Tool Rack and KitchenAid Cookware. Makes me break out in a sweat and just shop like crazy.

So I get to review something from the catalog. Something different. Something great. Something I am sure will pique your interest.Watch out for it!


The secret of life

There really is no secret. It is anything that makes up your existence, creates memories, and keeps the demons at bay.
Crunchy outside, fluffy inside pancakes
Good cup of coffee (preferably a cup of Illy)
The absence of cellphones among friends at the breakfast table
A crisp white shirt on blue jeans
Purring cat on the lap
A liter of ice cold coke on a hot day
A well seasoned iron skillet
Eight straight hours of sleep
The weekend market
Snail Mail from a long lost friend
Silence at sunset
Fresh batteries in the remote control
Top Chef DVD marathon with a doobie
Waking up late
Sleeping in early
A bottle of Mavro Daphne in the afternoon
Having mindless sex on a rainy afternoon
Skinny dipping at the beach
Disconnected from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. for one whole day
I pause, and think and ponder. What else makes life what it is. What can I remember to be a unique experience. Then I lay down, stare into the ceiling. And then dream.
Meeting old friends, making new ones
Blowing out birthday candles
Crying because you couldn't help it
Crying because you could
Falling in love
Falling out
A fluffy pillow
Real coke, real sugar, real butter
Being wide awake before sunrise
Laughing till it hurts
People watching, and making stories as they pass by
Recipes in metric measurements rather than empirical values
Flying in an airplane
Jump out of a plane or off a cliff
Playing hopscotch and hide n' seek with the kids
Driving a sailboat
Soft wet kisses
A good book and hot chocolate
Indifference to jealousies and negative feelings
Going to school
Getting out of school
A wallet full of money
Having something to write about
Having nothing to write about
Warm chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
A delicious home cooked meal
Parmiggiano reggiano
Enjoying what you eat. Eating what you enjoy
Chocolate balsamic vinegar
POPSwatch on your kitchen sleeve
Seared Foie Gras
Grandma's cooking
I am sure I missed something. What's the secret of your life?


A pleasant petit dejeuner of a surprise

Anything that seems to be out of the ordinary these days just adds to noise that we consider normal. SSDD as one well known author puts it. To any destination a journey must be taken, and the first step is what gets us going. Waking up to the day will either strike fear into your heart or jumpstart your egotistical ‘can-do’ attitude into overdrive. A good cup of joe, cradled in between your hands, warming up to the idea that maybe something remarkable will happen today. And so it did on this ironically rainy day. Through torrential rains and massive traffic the restaurant beckoned, that welcome respite for indulgence which promised to be what the culinary doctor ordered. As you will see, the day did not start for me on time. Come to think of it, it never did. Not in my profession. As they say in the industry, holidays and weekends do not belong to us cooks. It was on this rainy June afternoon that I find myselfP5270055   just off the beaten C5 highway just before Eastwood. A right here, then a left, then through an obscure gate, the car settled in front of a quaint little place that, were it not for the signage, the trail of bitter chocolate aroma would weave its wispy fingers around me and slowly entice me through the threshold.

P5270058 Quite a discovery this was for the personal chef, and it is with intrepid curiosity that I believed today would definitely be encoded into my journal as a day that my journey takes a detour from the humdrum and sundry. For that is what Xocolat appeared to the weary traveler that braved the ludicrous traffic the rainy days normally generate. Curb-appeal aside, the place had a certain draw. The kind you dream about on a rainy day. Quiet. Warm. Inviting. Rustic. Though it was only a few million hours since the sun rose on the east, breakfast was the order of the day. Could this place be a welcome choice? I braved the rain and the puddles to find out. P5270010

I was not alone. A place like this deserved that I bring someone along. Although from the looks of it, under other circumstances, it is a great place to be alone. I digress. And so I did bring someone along. My little Maxine, who has the same penchant for trying something new at least once. As my date, she had equal opportunity to appreciate what I was  about to have that day. We sat at the comfortable sofa by the window, not watching the outside world go by, not remotely concerned what would be our next destination. Perusing the menu, we were pleasantly surprised. Of course were indecisive over what chocolate indulgence we would be laying our grubby hands on. After all, what can you expect from a place named Xocolat. Apparently, a lot more.

P5270035Arroz a la Cubana
The classic Spanish dish was, for all intents and purposes, true to what it says on the menu. The chorizo sausage added to the sweetness, helping to counter the tartness of the sauce. The raisins were so tender, it actually competed with the supremacy of the beef that normally would dominate most cubana recipes. This is the kind of plate where it is not a sin to mix everything up into one inviting heap. Cut up the egg, let the yolk flow just a little bit, and with a big spoon scoop up the meat and indulge. Although we would have welcomed the roasted bananas that usually comes with this menu selection, it was not missed. The mashed potato we thought was a good sub.


Spicy Beef Flakes P5270021
Pulled beef never looked so good and inviting. Fork tender, very little effort is needed to make that solitary table knife feel unwanted. This is good when you are nursing a hangover. The last thing you want is to wrestle with is a tough cut of beef. The flavors were close to smoky, but not quite. By itself it would have made a good tapas offering, downing chocolate laced tequila shots. Surprisingly, the flakes seared pleasantly down to the back of my throat, adding a final kick to all those flavors that lingered in my mouth. What was that yellow dab of sauce? Curiously it looked like cheese. But having beef and cheese would scream bloody murder on rabid fans of the famous hoagie from Philadelphia. But this was goat cheese. Local goat cheese mind you. From the farms of Laguna. The only drawback was that I wanted more. Caramelized tomatoes add that sourness to balance out the richness, making the egg and rice just a necessary accessory.

P5270030 Spicy Tuyo
What is breakfast in Manila without tuyo, that veritable salted and dried sardine that graced many tables over a millennia. The local vinegar really cuts into the flavors of the fish, though mingled with the capers and olive oil. Garlic rice notwithstanding, I would have loved some hot pan de sal to sop up the remains. This dish is a classic. The craving for pucker-inducing saltiness has easily been tamped down. I would be hard pressed for anyone to go wrong with this plate.

We were at a crossroads an hour and a half later. By all accounts, this was lunch to a casual observer. To us this was breakfast. A conflict of interest, if you will. To Dessert or Not to Dessert. It was going late into the day. It was a satisfying petit dejouner sojourn. Something sweet to end the meal with. Something that would allow the remembrance of dishes past, at least the last three that I can remember. Besides, it was still pouring out. Menu please…

Chocolate PancakesP5270046
This the White King package did not make. Three uberfluffy pancakes stacked one on top of the other. It was not enough that they were obviously brown to denote what was incorporated. It was not enough that fresh slices of banana were tucked into every nook and cranny. It was not enough that whipped cocoa butter slowly melted into an inviting heap around the plate. It was the chocolate sauce and the choconut. Dark Belgian chocolate sauce at the top dripping out to the sides. Choconut from Davao just coming along for the ride. Despite the pancake being a little too cakey for my taste, it gave me the opportunity to soak up as much of the sauce in each bite as I can defy the laws of physics with. Don’t get me wrong. I do not intend to use superlatives here, as it would be inaccurate. The sauce was just that good. Bitter from start to finish, with the just right amount of sweetness. And to freshen the palate between each bite, chunks of peaches and fresh pineapple were at the ready.

P5270053 The rain has stopped. We did not notice when the last drop hit the pavement, but the sun started shining. Maxine had her sugar fix with a mudslide, so I was destined to handle a hyperactive six year old for the rest of the paseo home. Like I said, this was going to be a different day. It was the few hours spent at Xocolat that made it DSDD. A few other guests huddled over their warm mugs of hot chocolate and coffee while we gorged ourselves. Loners perused the magazines, leaning back and just zoning out. Though the restaurant was a wifi hotspot, not one guest pulled out a laptop to update their statuses. Perhaps it was a place with an unwritten rule that when you ease into that chair, you either disconnect from the outside world and enjoy the solitude; or focus on that person that is seated across you, having a meaningful conversation, engaging in playful banter. Over a cup, over a slice of chocolate cake. Sigh. Don’t leave. Not yet. Lunch will have to be enjoyed another time. Their pasta dishes and Panini's guarantees a trip back. Check please…

Xocolat Libis
Topy’s Place
Economia corner Calle Industriya
Quezon City


Philosophy of cooking

As a cook, as in all other professions, when you do something long enough, you achieve a kind of zen, a level of contentment that surpasses even the performance of even your best bedmate. And it is not an exclusive feeling that only professional cooks enjoy. On a daily basis anyone who can handle a knife and have good tastebuds and olfactory senses achieves moments of enlightenment at one moment or another.
It is evidenced by the way you move, the magnification of the senses, the mere presence of life, time and space.
How to attain this kind of tranquility? The following you may consider to be unsolcited advice. Others you have read about before. But mostly this is what works for most of the chefs I have worked with.
When in doubt, throw it out
Always have a sharp knife. Razor sharp. Safer that way, ironically.
Guard your mise en place like a rabid dog
Keep everything within reach, as in no more than a step away
Multi-task, but focus on what you are doing
Be choosy on your cookbook selection
Have a copy of Larousse Gastronomique and Repertoire de la Cuisine in your arsenal
Wear comfortable shoes
Listen to Vivaldi or Mozart when doing prep work. Led Zeppelin also works.
Fresh ground your pepper and salt when you need it
Clean sleeves, messy apron
Clean as you go
Keep a clock in view
Keep stock of stackable food containters
Keep a thermometer for fridge temp reading. Do not rely on the Fridge thermostat
A stash of weed works wonders on the creativity
A small notebook comes in handy for your recipes and adjustments
No man is an island. Be a mentor, or have a mentor
Know how to use Excel
Learn something new everyday
Explore your local supermarket every week
Get a tabletop pasta machine and play with it
The dish is the destination, the cooking an adventurous journey
That chicken leg that dropped on the floor means the chicken just died for nothing
Taste is to eating as porn is to sex
Chew 16 times for eahc mouthful, 32 if you are obsessive compulsive
Waste not, want not
Ask not what your ingredients can do for you, but what you can do with those ingredients
Have I missed anything. Let's assume the downdog position and meditate. Woosah!


Heavy mood, light chicken recipe

In between recipes. I between jobs that really matter. In between bookings. In transition.

It is not every day that one feels this way. Morose. In limbo. Horny. Unmotivated. Motivated. Not sure where to put a step, as long as it is not on some doo doo some pretentious dog lover left at Serendra. I woke up this morning feeling heavy in the head, my hair all over my face (Yes, I am growing my hair out, since the silvers are slowly making their presence). Mid-life crisis? Nope. Not even close. My Fino wallet keeps me liquid. I have bookings when it matters. I can cook. Not a great chef, but I can hold my own. I got a great woman. I do not have a convertible. Although I am eyeing that old Merc our neighbor has neglected.

This are just musings. Because a lot in the world leaves much for pondering. Like, Kris Aquino’s backing out of her promise. The over the edge reality shows that are too much already. Tiger Woods and his philandering. Sandra Bullock and his philandering. The death of Gary Coleman and the ensuing childish skirmish over his body. Anthony Bourdain and his take on the lechon from Cebu. The elusive Silver Spoon cook book that has yet to pass my hands and the kitchen table.

Dusk means another end, and the anticipation of a new beginning. Whoever said it is darkest before dawn should be cooking. Or eating. Or having some schnapps. I want some schnapps now. Some grappa. Some Mavro Daphne from Patras. A big gulp, and a plate of rich Tiramisu. With Guns N’ Roses playing in the background. While preparing ….

chicken_roulade Chicken Breast with Prawn and Lemon Mousse

4 Chicken breasts, fillet attached
2 large prawns, shelled and deveined
1 egg white
50 g fresh coriander, chopped
50 ml whipping cream
20 ml lemon juice
salt and pepper


Make a slice on chicken breast to form a pocket. Detach fillet
Season with salt and pepper
Pulse prawns in a processor roughly
Add egg white and pulse until smooth. Careful not to pulse too long or it will cook
Transfer to bowl. Fold in lemon zest, coriander, cream and lemon juice. Season to taste
Spoon Prawn mousse into each breast pocket
Cover pocket with fillet, then wrap tightly into a roll with cling film
Wrap in foil, then steam for 15 minutes
Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
Serve with steamed rice and lemon sauce

Why this light citrusy recipe? Because it contrasts with my mood at the moment. Because I felt like it. Because I can.


Baby's Got The Blues

Loneliness is the tight-lipped bitch waiting for me when I get home. She saunters to and fro on the second floor of my house in her stilettos walking to a hypnotic beat making her presence undoubtedly known. She sits at the end of the dinner table tapping her long painted nails on her wrist, signaling and impatiently waiting for me to finish the "insipid" talk. She lies long, languid and lithe on my bed moving as slowly and as lazy as honey as if saying I have nowhere else to go. Even as children fill my home with laughter and noise, she tiptoes in the shadows of happiness to constantly and quite relentlessly remind me that devoid of an equal, I am in fact alone. Often times, I wish and convince myself that she is nothing but a figment of my imagination, a product of my vivid and aging mind. But I know she isn't. And the older I get, the more real she becomes.

She has a twin sister this bitch, Loneliness. Her name is Longing. She comes in unannounced in the strangest places like in the middle of a crowded room, where a band is attempting to drown everyone with decibels not fit for human consumption, or while driving and listening to the radio as the rain goes vertically mad on the pavement. You know that feeling when you are in a room full of people and everyone is laughing and then something crumples your ticker it feels "sour"? When your chest cavity is flooded with the feeling that something so rightfully yours has been taken away from you? That is Longing--the most unwelcome guest of my heart.

When I get the feeling that my unwanted guests (Loneliness and Longing in case you haven't been paying attention) are home, I find myself making Carbonara. I think that maybe, all of the world's problems can be solved with bacon. There's just something about the way simple, earthy ingredients are transformed into something rich, ethereal and soothing to heart, soul and tummy. It's what I'd like to call a gustatory blanket, something equivalent to a human hug. For me it's not just the eating part that is comforting but the whole ritual of making it.

First of all, I boil a big pot of water. In my interpretation of this dish, I use slab bacon. None of those thinly, machine sliced excuses for bacon. Traditionally, one uses pancetta or guanciale (from the jowls of the pig) but I like the smokiness of bacon which both pancetta and guanciale lack as they are not smoked. I then proceed to cut the slab into thick rectangular slices and render the fat over low heat. While waiting for the water to boil and the bacon to give off its ambrosial and deliriously sinful fat, I separate 3 egg yolks, which I mix with a cup of cream and half a cup of freshly grated parmiggiano-reggiano. Once the pasta is al dente, I throw it in the pan of the now lightly-browned bacon, turn off the heat and pour in the trinity of egg-cream-cheese and toss it all around until everything is locked in heavenly embrace. I put it in a bowl and begin to eat while reading a pocket book mostly of the mystery, horror, sci-fi kind. Think Stephen King, Robert Ludlum. Pointless to search for the comfort of food if you end up in masochist hell reading The Bridge Across Forever or Love in The Time of Cholera, right? So it's either a pocket book or a film such as Zombieland to blur the images of loneliness. Better to sleep with the memories of Zombies than stuff that only exists in fairy tales.

In the beginning, I said to myself that this path that will eventually lead to a solitary life is good. After all, everyone leaves whether it be a geographical, physical departure or a spiritual dissipation into the cosmos or vast unknown. Everyone leaves. Eventually, everyone becomes alone. However, is there really a point in preempting a definite ending? Loneliness and Longing, one day we three will have tea. I will have to live with them as the most ironic housemates in all of the earth. But right here, right now I really can do without them. I have a choice. And I choose to not be lonely anymore.