Celebrating the soul of the gourmand! A year of Unlimited Grub Grabs!

I am the soul of the gourmand.
Good food fuels my body, and good wine burns my blood.
I have tasted hundreds of dishes
Regardless of cuisine yet mindful of the price.
I seek great-tasting food and drinks.
My heart will only be satisfied by the best.
And so I invite you to my UNLIMITED GRUB GRABS.


I am 食いしん坊 著述家 (kuishinbou chojutsuka), the gluttonous writer… But everyone just calls me “Mark.”

It’s a little hard to believe, but a year has passed for this blog. That equals to a whole year of writing about food, discovering new places, learning about new stuff, trying out other cuisine, and of course, pigging out.

“Unlimited Grub Grabs” is the result of my dream to be a food writer. It’s a late-blooming dream, a bit far-fetched even; but ever since I developed a strong passion for good food (I think they call this “gourmandism”), I figured this was, eventually, the way to go.

I’m fascinated with the works of food experts and enthusiasts like Doreen Fernandez, Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, and others I’ve seen on various media. Reading about their culinary adventures or watching them on TV makes me want to go out and have my own food trips, which is partly why I came up with this blog.

I’ve always wanted to try various cuisines, find good restaurants and food shops, and probably eat something exotic along the way. It helps that when I go out by myself, with my family or other people, I discover something good to eat or an interesting food place. It also helps that I eat a lot. Writing about what I eat was, I believed, the last and the most logical thing to do.

Unfortunately I don’t get to travel and dine like other food writers, bloggers, or gourmands. Eating out, even if it’s for lunch or dinner, is too hard for me! I wonder how these people manage to post about something new every week or so. It’s as if they have unlimited budgets for this! Also, where do they get tips about food events and dining spots and such? Sure there’s the internet and the lifestyle pages, but sorting out the good leads is a chore, and a time-consuming one at that!

(Actually that’s because I’m living on a very tight budget, and eating out is not in it most of the time. Part of it is that I don’t get to roam around so much too. Turns out being a foodie can get expensive!)

I guess that’s why I go after places that serve good portions while being budget friendly (which is, by part, the point of this blog). I also suppose devoting your time and energy to looking for restaurants and such is something I have to endure and be good at to become a food writer. It’s hard work, but it’s part of the job, so to speak.
At times I get lazy in writing an article or two, but there are moments when I feel like giving up on being a food writer or a gourmand. Sometimes I end up sour-graping over my inability to come up with a blog post like the others (as you would have noticed in previous paragraphs).

It was when I looked back at my old posts and past adventures that I realized I was set to accomplish more beyond pigging out and writing about food.

When I cleaned my blog a few weeks ago, I thought I should edit some of my past articles and add a bit of this and that to make them look more readable or scholarly, to say the least. I thought people don’t pass by my blog anyway, so nobody would notice, right? I changed my mind after going through everything though.
That’s because I realized that the more I wrote about my food adventures, the more I discover something about myself and my interest.

I learned this past year that gourmandism, dining, and food writing has become something beyond a personal quest. Through my little adventures I’m starting to understand the art of dining beyond eating and enjoying a restaurant I’ve visited.

I remember that when I wrote about Matsuri Bayashi, I was just going fanboy over a good Japanese restaurant I discovered. (I was a fan of Japanese cuisine then as I am now.) Then a favorite watering hole of mine closed down. Then I started going out with my family and some people who matter to me. Then I met Freddie Aguilar. And then so many other adventures happened. Before I knew it, I realized I wasn’t into it for the food after all.

Soon I started to discover new restaurants and look at old and popular ones in a different light. I learned to drink into the surroundings and savor the sights and scents of everything I ingest.

But it was not just the food and drink that I learned to appreciate: it was the experience itself that mattered.

I noticed that through the months my writing style somehow changed, from simply writing about the places and food I’ve encountered, to expressing my thoughts about my experiences there. I may not look like it, but in a nutshell I felt that I learned so much from my adventures this past year.

Just recently, I read this interesting article about the difference of eating and dining:

“Eating is the simple, the physical. Eating is practical and necessary. It is feeding the body. Dining, on the other hand, is something more. Dining is spiritual. Dining is sharing. Dining is more than food. It is family, friends. Dining is not feeding the body, it’s growing the soul. It is a relaxed communion of the sensual and the sensuous.”

Somehow, this sums up what I’ve learned this past year: Eating is an action, dining is an experience. Eating fills your belly, dining fills your soul. Eating is savoured by the senses, dining is enjoyed with your heart and soul. Eating and dining are meant to be enjoyed by yourself or with others. Most importantly, eating and dining are two (of perhaps, so many) sides of loving food.

Fifteen episodes, less than 700 blog hits, hundreds of megabytes of pictures and text, thousands of calories (burned and gained), and a year of pigging out later, I have yet to truly understand the dynamics of food writing and gourmandism.

Still, I look forward to another year of discoveries, sampling more cuisines, great pig-out spots, new flavors, and better experiences in the world of good food. I’m still wondering what’s next for me, but yeah.

Once again, I am 食いしん坊 著述家 (kuishinbou chojutsuka), the gluttonous writer… But everyone just calls me “Mark.” And I look forward to having you all join me again for another year of “Unlimited Grub Grabs”.

“Itadakimasu!”



“CAKE!”

Episode 15: Banchetto, a feast for the belly and senses!

When I started writing for “Unlimited Grub Grabs,” one of my goals was to try out and learn about “hundreds of dishes, regardless of cuisine yet mindful of the price”. I have made it a point to find the best food spots in the metropolis and elsewhere, where my belly can be satisfied and my money’s worth it.

Lately though, eating out has become a luxury, and every time I go out to a new place, even for a simple meal, I end up scrimping for my next one. Being a foodie is like having a war in the pocket!

It was RPN9 reporters Phoebe Javier and Emman Paz who suggested what food place I should visit next. And what good timing their tip was, since I’ve been looking for a place where the food’s worth my time and money.

What I found was not just one food stop, but a street full of them.

Banchetto (Italian for “feast”) is a weekly street food market in Ortigas. Every Friday midnight to 11pm on Saturday, a large portion of Emerald Avenue is closed down, and hundreds of people flock to Banchetto’s numerous food stalls. Each stall offers different kinds of food, from rice meals to pastas, burgers to salads, barbecues, sweets, cakes and other desserts, among others.

The market started in 2007 to cater to the food needs of call center agents and others burning the midnight oil in the area. Soon enough, though, even residents visit and dine in the area, and Banchetto soon became every Metro Manila foodie’s paradise.
The moment I stepped into Emerald Avenue, I realized the street is more crowded than I imagined. Calling the place “crowded” is an understatement!

Banchetto makes you feel like a whole rainbow of scents and delicious-looking treats have been laid before you. Everything you see makes you forget about swimming through the sea of foodies, if only to enjoy a bite of that dish you fancy.

And what dish you’d start with is a different struggle altogether! Each stall features a different type of cuisine. There’s so much to choose from: pizza, pasta, tempura, Hong Kong dumplings, tacos, shawarma, takoyaki, sushi platters…

Some stalls offer home-cooked restaurant fare such as your usual caldereta, chicken cordon bleu, tempura, veggies, and lechon paksiw… And then there’s one stall that sells lechon! Vein blockers galore! I also found a stall that sells pre-cooked dishes like chili crab, longganisa, and shrimps. (I regret not taking home lechon and one of those crabs.)

There are stalls, however, that sell street food like kikiam, toknene and chicken skin too… And then if you feel you can’t take the sight of all the cholesterol, you can also have sandwiches and salad.

Grilled burgers are all over Banchetto too. Sure, these stalls are jampacked, and you have to fall in line and get numbers, but the wait is worth it! Just watching your burger patty roasting over the smoky grill is enough to whet your appetite. Not to mention that some of these patties are huge – quarter pounder, 1/3 pounder, and half pounder, to be exact. How’s that to finish off your burger appetite? Unfortunately, they sell out fast.

Not to be outdone are the stalls selling barbecued fish, sausages, and other grilled meats. The kebabs look delicious! Too bad the lines there are so freaking long. Oh well.

Then there are stalls that sell desserts like miniature cakes and pastries. Some stalls have assorted candies, cookies, and other kinds of sweets, even kakanin (native desserts) like puto bumbong and bibingka. And it’s not even Christmas. Yum!

The best thing about Banchetto is that even with just P100 you can get a full, satisfying meal. There’s always something good for you that’s just within your budget, and with so many choices, you can never go wrong.

Banchetto takes pride of being the largest food fair in the city. It’s also a great place to try out new flavors and enjoys the sight of all the food you can savor. Dining out in a lively street with a nice, affordable dish on hand is a marvelous experience. Maybe this Friday, I’ll make it a point to visit it again and celebrate the end of the week with a nice, fat burger or something.

Great, I’m hungry…

Aikyatchi: Preparing for October 23

“October 23. Remember the date.” This has been my mantra these past few days. That’s because it’s almost a year since I opened this blog! Yay, my anniversary is near!

Here I am, rambling again, this time over the realization that almost a year has passed since I started becoming a food writer. Sure my blog doesn’t have a lot of followers or hits until now, and I don’t even have a lot of food adventures to boot, but at least I can record then as I go… All I can say for sure is that a lot has changed since that day. And looking back and celebrating this anniversary will definitely need a lot of dressing up of sorts.

I’ve started fixing my blog again in preparation for this date. For starters, I transferred my pictures to Picasa Web Albums since it can accommodate more pictures. Now you can see all of my pictures from my past food adventures (including the ones that aren’t in the blog articles) here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/unlimitedgrubgrabs

I reviewed all of the articles I’ve written since last year, but except for a few spelling and grammar mistakes I’m not going to edit anything else. Admittedly, there are actually deep, personal reasons behind the decision not to self-edit, but that will be discussed in a future article.

Speaking of articles, I’m also thinking of something new to write about for my anniversary. For once, I have a lot of things to say about my obsession with food writing, but I’ll have to reorganize my thoughts first. More importantly, I’m eyeing a major (was tempted to write “major major” XD) project, perhaps another special episode… but I haven’t figured out what I should write about.

In the meantime, I’ve been fishing for tips here and there about good food and great places to dine in. I’m not sure which one to go after first, if ever. Or maybe since I have a wealth of information in stock here, I could do a revisiting/review. Aw, I really don’t even know what to write in the first place. Writer’s block much?

In any case, I look forward to commemorating my first year as a food writer with a bang. Or maybe a whimper. I look forward to another year of great dining after this. Maybe I’ll go on an all-nighter or raid a major food joint. Or maybe I’ll celebrate quietly with a pinacolada on hand while looking at the sea. I wonder…