Ano’ng Ulam Mo? Week 1

Week 1 of the revived “Andar ng mga Balita” segment “Ano’ng Ulam Mo?”, now written by yours truly, is a tribute to Chinese New Year. We featured several food items served during Chinese New Year to usher in good luck, and explained (in a nutshell) what each dish means.

Monday: Tikoy (nian gao) – The phrase “nian gao” means “higher year,” or an improvement in status in the coming year. Tikoy symbolizes unity and closeness in the family. It is also served as an offering to the Chinese Kitchen God so that he would say good things about your family to the other gods.
Featured dish: Fried tikoy

Tuesday: Fish – Fish is served in relation to the phrase that roughly means “may you have surpluses”. The Chinese word for fish, in fact, means “surpluses” or additional wealth.
Featured dish: Escabecheng maya-maya

Wednesday: Spring rolls – Spring rolls look like gold or silver bars, which symbolize wealth. They are originaly filled with vegetables to symbolize the coming of spring.
Featured dish: Spring rolls

Thursday: Chicken – The scratching of a chicken (“kwei”) is a sign of incoming good luck. It also symbolizes loyalty and the unity of family. It is paired with so-called “dragon” dishes such as lobster, as it symbolizes the phoenix, a lucky animal for couples. A chicken dish is expected to be served with the head and feet intact.
Featured dish: Chicken galantina (served with the head and feet intact)

Friday: Noodles – Noodles, a staple in Chinese cuisine, symbolizes longevity. It is said that one should not cut noodles while eating.
Featured dish: Pancit miki-bihon

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Tune in to “Andar ng mga Balita” every Monday to Friday, 6:30 to 7:30pm on Aksyon TV Channel 41 for news, information, and facts about FOOD!

Aikyatchi: Ano’ng Ulam Mo?

Just last week, I started writing for a new segment for “Andar ng mga Balita,” our flagship newscast on Aksyon TV Ch. 41. It’s a light segment called “Ano’ng Ulam Mo?” (roughly translated as “What Are You Eating?”), which is all about food, or the stuff we eat for dinner.

We started “Ano’ng Ulam Mo” several months ago, though it was just a one-shot segment (which featured barbecue). It took me a while to think about reviving it, and when I suggested it to our executive producer, he was open to the idea. I submitted a sample script for it the next week, and voila! I now have to write for this segment.

Working on “Ano’ng Ulam Mo” is quite an adventure for me. I have to think about what I will write about weeks in advance. We’re also required to have a sample dish to present on air (our anchor Martin Andanar doesn’t do taste tests though, but someone else does), and since we have limited resources here, the dishes we’ll show must be easy to cook or buy somewhere.

Still, the segment is a good way to reach out to audiences – by finding out what they’re having for dinner, and sharing tips and facts about what they can cook and serve at dinnertime.

I’m still having a hard time working on the topics for the next few weeks, but that’s all right. I find the thrill of finding out what to eat next very exciting.

From this time onward, I’ll be posting the food I write about for “Ano’ng Ulam Mo” for the whole week, so readers can find out what the segment is all about and what we’ve featured so far.

Better yet, tune in to “Andar ng mga Balita” every Monday to Friday, from 6:30 to 7:30pm on Aksyon TV Ch. 41.

Episode 33: Starting the year right at Casa Vallejo Hill Station!

I’m starting the year right with a quick dinner with my brother MC at Hill Station, the restaurant of Casa Vallejo in Baguio City. After spending the holidays with my family in the highlands, I figured it would be nice to check out at some place we haven’t been in the city. This place felt just the right spot.

Casa Vallejo was a wooden inn opened in 1909, while Baguio is being established as a hill station for the Americans. The place was used as a detention center and refugee camp. It withstood the Americans’ carpet bombing of the city at the end of World War II. In 1945, it functioned as an annex of the Baguio City High School, and once again as an inn and convention hall.

Casa Vallejo closed down in 1999. After several years of subsequent restoration, it was brought back to life; and now Casa Vallejo is recognized as one of the ten oldest institutions in Baguio. One of the results of the restoration of Casa Vallejo is Hill Station, the restaurant owned by restaurateur Mitos Benitez–Yniguez.

Hill Station is Casa Vallejo’s old ballroom/meeting area, now decorated with elegant and nostalgia-evoking designs. The restaurant is connected by two staircases to the inn’s lobby above, and also leads to the café bar below. The open space is surrounded by French windows and the wooden beams and floors, remnants of Casa Vallejo’s antique structure. Old photographs also adorn the walls. One can enjoy the view of the trees and the city lights at night. The ambiance is totally Baguio.

Hill Station was voted as one of Asia’s finest restaurants, and is included in the Miele Guide 2011/2012 Edition. The menu is a mix of Asian, American, and European dishes, mostly slow food, stews, steaks, pastas, and other home-cooked specialties. Hill Station’s website describes its cuisine thus:

 

“Mitos offers you robust dishes that blend the flavors of Asia’s hill stations with the tastes of Old World Europe and New World America. Here in her creations, these three worlds fuse harmoniously as never before, and a spoonful of history was never as good!”

Our dinner started with some mushroom soup, just enough to warm the first night of the year.

We then had Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes and Pecorino, a sweet-sour, rich mix of Roma tomatoes, white wine, and artisanal hard goat cheese.

MC ordered Shepherd’s Pie, a bowl of sliced lamb and beef baked with mushrooms, gravy, mashed potatoes and cheese. The bowl looked small but every spoonful of it was very flavorful.

 

My dinner was Ribeye Picado, beef ribeye cubes cooked medium well, and served with vegetables and mashed potatoes. The beef was soft and succulent, and the vegetables were cooked just right. The whole dish was filling, to say the least.

 

For dessert we were supposed to have a Death By Chocolate Cake, which was one of their best-sellers, but since the bar ran out of the stuff, we ended up with a sweet, creamy cup of their crème brulee.

 

The whole meal was quite expensive, which is not surprising given the setting and cuisine served here. The service was quite fast, and the staff was very accommodating. In any case, our stay at Hill Station was quick, but all in all we enjoyed a really sumptuous dinner.

Hill Station serves Filipino and American breakfast meals from 7:00 – 10:30am. Desserts are always freshly made but subject to availability. Cocktail drinks and other liquor are also available to cap your lunch or dinner, preferably enjoyed at the adjacent bar.

Guests can buy Hill Station’s red and white wines, homemade sauces and condiments that they can buy for their homes.Various handicrafts are also available.

Back in college I remember walking past Casa Vallejo, right when it was in a state of disrepair. How would I have known that this old, neglected building would hold such a rich history. Its nice to see how Casa Vallejo was revived. This is one place in Baguio where you can enjoy a warm meal, a nice view, and a relaxing ambiance that can engulf you in a wave of nostalgia.

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Hill Station
Casa Vallejo
Upper Session Road,  Baguio City 

Tel. No. 424-2734
423-9100
423-9558 

Random thoughts on Christmas and New Year

Happy new year!

Here I am in my room in Baguio with my first post of the year. As always, I spent my Christmas and New Year’s Eve here with my family. We didn’t do anything fancy, we just went to church and had a full feast. That’s how we’ve spent our holidays these past few years, and it’s fun.

This year’s Christmas and New Year feel different. As the priest said at Mass las night, we ought to think of the people who will welcome the new year in more dire circumstances.

First, we have our brothers and sisters in Cagayan De Oro, Iligan, and all the other provinces devastated by typhoon Sendong. Instead of thinking of the holidays, they’re more worried about their survival.

We also ought to remember the families who suffered fires and lost their homes and loved ones these past few days. Perhaps the same could be said of those who lost those dear to them.The same goes to the poor, the homeless and bedridden, and those who had to spend the holidays alone and away from their families and loved ones.

Christmas (and by extension, New Year) not only celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, but also symbolizes the world’s hopes for love, peace, and a prosperous year ahead. This holiday season is also a time of giving and sharing, caring for others. That’s why we go to Christmas Masses together with our families, share Noche Buena and Media Noche meals, spend as much time as we can with them, and give as much as we can to the less fortunate while we’re at it.

I hope 2012 will be a great year for all of us, never mind what the Mayans are saying. This is a great time to start anew and strive for success, whether in our careers, relationships, or other endeavors.

And by “start anew and strive for success,” I mean more places to visit, more restaurants and bars to raid, and more delicious and interesting dishes to dine on. I’ve been so busy I haven’t gone out so much, but I’ll do better this year. And yeah, I’m still hoping to be chosen as the Sooo Pinoy Ultimate Food Blogger this year.

Again, happy new year! Here’s to a great 2012!