Episode 99: A Clean Slate for 2017

To everyone who has followed Unlimited Grub Grabs through the years, thank you.

Three weeks have passed since we welcomed the New Year, but while everyone’s done with their resolutions, checklists, and diet plans, I’m still waving around a clean, blank slate. That’s how I intend to start 2017: with a clean slate.

Currently I’m on exile, unemployed and striving to work freelance. At the same time, I‘m catching up on a lot of reading, watching drama series, errands, and self-studying, followed by cooking and sleeping.

I stopped going out on food trips and sightseeing walks. My budget only covers bills and groceries, and if I do so much as have a sip of beer, I’ll suffer gout flare-ups again. Meanwhile, my career as a crime author slowed down. I lost the time and energy to write and I never got to promote my books properly (I thought it no longer mattered since nobody’s reading them anyway).

On top of all that, my motivation and self-respect were in the dumps. I’ve been insomniac and frequently hungry and thirsty. When I fall asleep, I sleep for long hours. Most of the time, I’m lethargic. There are moments when I imagine jumping from my window at the fifth floor. And yeah, I wallow in moments of self-depreciation. I won’t be surprised if I get diagnosed as undergoing depression.

But I promised myself that’s about to change this 2017. This year is meant for new beginnings, going back to zero, starting over from scratch.

I still have my knowledge base. I still have my health. I still maintain a blog. I still have my social media accounts. I still have writing opportunities to explore. I still have ideas and stories. I still have restaurants to visit. Most of all, I have people who support me from afar, who have faith in me and my resolution to rise from my travails. I don’t see them, but I know they’re there.

I know Unlimited Grub Grabs isn’t popular, and my writing isn’t influential. I’m probably not the best role model for writers. But despite my flaws and insecurities, I know you’ve patiently watched over me, and cheered me in my endeavors. I know I’ve imparted as many lessons, thoughts, and experiences as I can through my stories. I know you’re watching me grow.

I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed with so much, and as gratitude, I will make use of my abilities to begin anew. For staying with me through my journeys all this time, I thank you.

With this post, I now leave behind the doubts and failures brought by 2016, along with the victories and successes I gained. At the same time, I look forward to the changes that will be brought by 2017.

As for this blog, who knows? There’s so much to do rather than dwell in the past. Like, for example, a new book or anthology that needs filling up, or maybe a food park somewhere. Maybe a new blog…

Episode 84: Starting Anew in 2016

2016 is coming in a short while. I hope this year has been good to you, my dear readers.

Have you been working or studying well? What have you started or accomplished? Do you get to eat on time? How are your families and loved ones? Are you hurting somewhere, or are you nursing heartbreak? How are you spending the last few hours of 2015?
Celebrating the New Year is like ending a chapter and starting a new one. Sometimes, we have leftover ideas that only needed revising. Other times, we have stuff that has to be discarded. Usually, we have new stuff to add. But what’s definite is that we’re starting over with a clean slate, a new leaf, or a new page, be it clean or smudged or whatnot.
We keep saying that we’re leaving behind a lot of things from 2015 as we celebrate the New Year, but how much of it are we letting go?
Greeting 2016 means looking back and leaving behind everything we had for the past 12 months. These include successes, failures, doubts, aspirations, fears, possessions of value, and dreams. We shall let go of all these and more for the sake of starting over.
By letting go, I’m also referring to renewing and improving the memories, promises, and positive goals we set for ourselves, as well as leaving behind the bad ones while salvaging the lessons meant to be learned from them.
Just don’t be afraid to take the first step, make a leap, dash through the first lap, or whatever propels you to move forward. You have things to accomplish, promises to keep, worlds to discover, and a life to live to the fullest.
Whatever the circumstances we’re facing up to the last second of 2015, never forget that there’s always room to start anew, which is what the New Year is all about.
Let go, go forward, and start anew this 2016.
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I’m talking/typing like this because I’m looking back at how the past year has treated me, especially as a writer. To say it has been a fulfilling one is an understatement, because there’s so much more to be done.
To start with, I’m ending 2015 with three novels (two published ones and one that will be launched this January) in my author’s portfolio.
My first crime novel, “The Seven-Day Detective”, is now available as a standalone story on Buqo. You may get the e-book through the Buqo app from App Store and Google Play, or click the link below to purchase it online.
Then there’s my first crime short story on Wattpad, which got upgraded into a light novel (novelette) and published just before Christmas. The story is called “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, which is about a child who wanted to catch Santa Claus on video. This story is also available on Buqo.
Unlimited Grub Grabs slowed down a bit, partly because I’ve been busy with my day job and my novels, and partly because of health issues and certain circumstances. But that doesn’t mean I’m not slowing down on doing food adventures. Anything that’s not on the blog can be found in my Facebook page and Instagram accounts. Also, expect more news from me on my other exploits. I won’t give details, but we have a lot to look forward to.
For now, enjoy the last few hours of 2015. See you all next year! And be careful with the fireworks and food!

Episode 62: A Tale of Two Dinners (Part 2)

January 12, 6:00pm, Sunday. Some of my college blockmates agreed to meet up over dinner, partly to bond, and partly to welcome Jelou, a fellow classmate who arrived from Canada for a vacation. Well, they always spend time together, but I digress; tonight, we’re having a reunion.

The place agreed upon was Green Pastures, located at the fourth floor of the EDSA Shangri-La East Wing. Green Pastures is the restaurant of Cyma’s Chef Robby Goco. It opened just around August last year, and is now one of the most successful restaurants in Metro Manila.

Green Pastures was filled with customers when I arrived. Of course I was prudent enough to secure a reservation. It felt painful to see how many patrons are in the restaurant, but they have a perfectly good reason to enjoy the place.

The restaurant takes pride of its organic, locally sourced, all-natural, farm-to-table cuisine. To drive home that point, it features an open kitchen setup where you can see how the food is prepared. There’s also a farmhouse-themed vertical garden.  The menu also seems to change every season. This means everything is guaranteed to be farm-fresh.

After picking up Jelou at the ground floor, we met up with Nina, a former reporter, and her husband at Green Pastures. Amer, now a teacher in Baguio, caught up with us a bit later. In the end, there were only five of us having dinner; we were expecting more of our blockmates to come.

We had to wait for a while to get seated, and a bit longer before our food arrived. That’s because, as I see it, almost everything’s made fresh and from scratch. The prevailing joke was that maybe they had to harvest the vegetables and butcher a few animals on the spot. Nevertheless, the servers, busy as they are, were accommodating and patient with us, which made the long wait more bearable.

First on the table was the January Salad, a salad with fermented tea leaves, a variety of seeds and herbs, tomatoes, and river shrimps. It’s supposedly a cleansing dish that will help detoxify our stomachs.

Next was the All’Amatriciana, pasta made with house-made passato, pancetta, red onions, pecorino, and buccatini.

Then came Roast Organic Chicken, plain and simple roast chicken on a bed of asparagus.

We also had a side order of lightly fried potato fries with cheese and a creamy garlicky dip.

For drinks, Jelou ordered a glass of Iced Tea with Organic Honey. Mine was a variation – GP Style Iced Tea, blended with ginger, apples, pears, and honey. The waiter said the GP Style Iced Tea also has cleansing properties, so I’m supposed to feel uneasy in the stomach anytime soon (I got home just in time, if you know what I mean).

For dessert, we tried out the Milkeggshoney, organic white honeycomb topped with citrusy-sweet curd and Greek yogurt. It’s sweet, creamy, and crunchy, but then you have to have a bit of everything in a spoonful to get its full flavor.

Green Pastures has a lot of other healthy yet interesting dishes in the menu; such as the artisanal cheese, organic pork and beef and vegetarian burgers, other variations of their pasta, and duck-based dishes like the “Duck You!” (a set meal of duck fat fries, duck skin chicharon, and duck confit). Duck fat is kinda healthy and all, but for someone like me whose cholesterol level is on catastrophic levels, well… I’ll have to reconsider.

They also have organic coffee (some of which are from the Cordilleras, smoothies, and elixirs made from fresh fruits and vegetables.

It’s not surprising that Green Pastures is a popular restaurant. It provides a great breather from the usual heavy, filling restaurant fare. In a time when “healthy living” also means dining healthy and sensibly, organic foods are at the forefront most of the time. Fresh meat, seafood, and produce have been the best choice for those who would like to fill themselves up with taking in too much oil and preservatives.

Come to think of it though, healthy dining becomes a norm every January, or at least a few weeks after Christmas and New Year, when we’ve had enough of alcohol, meat, and other heavy holiday fare. This must be why organic food, like gym memberships, becomes a hot item around this time. Here’s hoping it’s not the case.

As for me, who fattened myself with the world-wide raid at Spiral, I’ll have to be on the lookout for places like Green Pastures. I gotta remind myself often to eat less and sensibly, and get something healthy to keep my body in fit shape.

After everyone took their leave and went home, I sent a quick message to Jelou, asking her how she’s doing. I was really glad to see her, after all.

Jelou said she’ll stay with her folks for a while, and then stay again in Manila for a few days before leaving for Canada again. I replied (non-verbatim), “We should call for out other blockmates and go out again. Even if it ends up with just the two of us going out, it will surely be fine.”

To this day, she never texted back. (Cue canned laughter, extend by five, cue clapping, cross-fade to Sting’s “Everybody Laughed But You”)

Episode 62: A Tale of Two Dinners (Part 1)

January 6, 4:30 pm, Monday. The waitress had brought my pitcher of draft beer and nachos as I set up my laptop. I was right to hang out at Snaps, the sports bar of Sofitel Manila to pass the time. Only a few patrons were present, quietly sipping their drinks and watching the sports shows on the screens around the place. It was cool, quiet, surprisingly a good place to work in.

In about two hours, I would be meeting my brother MC and some of my relatives over dinner at Spiral, Sofitel’s famed buffet restaurant.  This is my first major food raid for this year.

My relatives – Kuya Joel, Ate Jenette and her husband Rex, and Tita Alice (our aunt from Canada) arrived at Snaps at about 6:30pm. It was a rather sober meeting – my aunt had died just this New Year’s Day – but a good night-out seemed to be a nice way to close the ordeal in a light and positive note.  It’s been, after all, a long time since we got together.

It’s been a long while since I last tried out hotel cuisine (the last one was at Century Park Hotel), so seeing Spiral was a nice sight. Much has been said about Spiral after it reopened months ago (it was closed down for repairs), and everyone is singing praises about its wide selection of dishes, world-class cuisine and ambience and such. So many bloggers have dined here. I was, as always, late for the party, so to speak. But dine at Spiral I have waited to do, and dine there I will.

Each main cuisine has its own area at Spiral. That means if you’re a fan of Japanese, Indian, or French cuisine, there’s a table full of the stuff you want waiting for you. It feels like you’re about to take on the whole world.

The first area in Spiral to fall in our world-wide raid was the Japanese cuisine table. There’s so much sushi and sashimi to choose from, among others. I went after those first.

Next were the Chinese dishes – a bowl of spicy noodles here, a few dimsum there.

While trying out the French cuisine area, a strange dish made its way to our table, courtesy of MC – foie gras, fatty duck liver. It was juicy, well-cooked, partly buttery and gelatinous and bursting with fat. Every bite felt heavenly, never mind that pure duck fat was swimming in my palate and into my veins. No wonder foie gras is a gastronomical treasure for the French.

By the way, MC and I knew of the (rather) cruel history behind this dish, and why animal rights groups hate it. Specially fattened geese or ducks are used to prepare foie gras, but it’s said that these birds are force-fed with a gavage until their livers grow fat. There are allegedly more humane ways to fatten the bird, such as natural feeding or the use of less cruel-looking implements. This is frowned upon by the French, who, to their defense, claim gavage-fed fat birds produce better foie gras. But I digress.

Next on the line-up are the Indian and Asian dishes. I couldn’t get as much as I want, and by this time I‘m already getting dirty looks, so I settled with chicken curry, grilled meats, baked mussel, basmati rice, and kimchi.

Breads and cheeses were aplenty. As far as I know, cheeses always go well with wine and bread, but this time, there won’t be any wine. But no matter. I feel sorry that I was not able to take not of what the cheeses being served are. It would have made for good material in case I attend a wine pairing event.

Then came the grilled dishes.  I forgot to take pictures, but well, salmon is luv.

Now if there’s one thing in Spiral that impressed me, it’s their wide selection of seafood. Lobsters, oysters, prawns, fishes… they’re all there. Had I planned this dinner earlier, I would have gone from a “see food” diet to a seafood diet.

Finally, there were the desserts. Seriously, I lost count of all the sweets I ate. I tried out the rum-infused cake, the crème brulee, the various chocolate bits, the fondues, the cakes… Let’s just say my doctor is going to kill me outright if he found out about this adventure. Too late.

There’s a bar inside Spiral for those who want to cap this dining experience. Patrons can also buy and take home specially prepared food baskets.

After filling ourselves up, we took a walk around Sofitel’s seawall along Manila Bay. The horizon was nearly dark, if not for the lights of the theme park and the ports on the horizon. MC says the place commands a spectacular view of the sunset, and that visitors would gather to hang out, sip champagne, listen to music, or spend a romantic afternoon.

The dinner at Spiral was meaningful as it was also a reunion of sorts for us. Having a sumptuous meal in such a classy establishment, and savoring the taste of every major cuisine in the world definitely made for a great family experience.

As for me, it was something like my way to compensate for a very dull Christmas and New Year. I spent the holidays writing, marathoning anime, and working on my usual news programs, so I say an all-you-can-eat raid is a fitting reward.

On the other hand, I think I ended up overposting through Instagram that night. C’mon, challenging every station at Spiral felt like a campaign to conquer the world, and I think I did a pretty good job.

In any case, dining at Spiral felt like a great way to start the year. Now what’s left to do is join the bandwagon of people cleansing their systems after the holidays.

Thus Came 2014

Happy new year!

Yeah, I know it’s too late to make a New Year greeting by now, but I’m greeting you just the same. I trust that 2014 started for you all very smoothly, and you’re looking forward to so many good things in the coming days.

I promised that you won’t be seeing less of me this year, despite me getting busy with a lot of things and being unable to write for the blog in the past few months.

How should I put this… I am still busy working on my future and all, but on the flip side, I have a lot to look forward to as well, and a lot of interesting things have happened since I last posted here.

Let’s start with that nice little picture we have here. Let me explain.

My first news is that I lost a writing job on the first day of 2014, but let’s not dwell on that. You see, for several months, I work a full day shift on weekdays, but now I have the rest of the afternoon off. That picture above? It was taken at Snaps, the sports bar of Sofitel Manila. That should be enough to tease what I did in the first few days of the new year. (And yes, that’s Haruki and Kazusa from “White Album 2” sucking face on my screen, for you anime fans there. Watch that series. I marathoned it last Christmas. It’s GOOD.)

Since I have the afternoon off, I have made some progress with my book. Actually I’m still at Chapter 4 (out of 13 or 14 chapters that I’m planning), but I assure you that I’m working on this faster than before. Then again, I’m currently on a slump, so writing for this blog takes top priority. Still, I’m kinda confident I’ll be able to finish my book. (Don’t mind the cheap cover; it’s just a sample. I’ll make a better one soon.)

Second, I opened an Instagram account for Unlimited Grub Grabs. I mentioned before that I get to eat out a lot and find things to write about for the blog once in a while, but I couldn’t make time for it. Well, having an Instagram account where my food pictures could be posted looks really helpful. And yes, that’s Buddha in my profile pic. I like that picture so much.

My only problem is that my account is linked only to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’m still figuring out a way to be able to post my Instagram pictures on the UGG Facebook page. #lazy

You can follow my Instagram account here: http://instagram.com/unlimitedgrubgrabs

Third, Unlimited Grub Grabs now has its own Youtube channel! So far it only has some music videos that I made partly for my enjoyment, and partly to train myself in video editing. I’ve been practicing with Windows Movie Maker and VideoPad Video Editor, but at the moment I don’t have the proper file converters, nor good editing programs that could help me see the videos I envision come to life.

If I’m able to get all the stuff I need, I just might be able to make my own show instead of just music videos. Who knows, next time, you’ll see my food adventures on screen (actually, that’s the plan)!

My Youtube account is: http://www.youtube.com/user/UnlimitedGrubGrabs. For now, here’s a sample of my work:

That music video was something I was working on while I was at Snaps. I’m making use of the extra time I gained to learn new things, and it has been very exciting.

Now then, here’s to a new year filled with good food, greater knowledge, breath-taking places, and new adventures. See you all soon!

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!

Welcome, 2011!

Happy new year! Hurrah for 2011, the Year of the Metal Rabbit!

In a few minutes we are saying goodbye to 2010. This past year has been exciting, for lack of a better word. This year surely has given meaning to each of us, be it related to our family, career-wise, relationships, or anything that enriched us personally.

2010 was a fruitful year for me as a food writer. Unlimited Grub Grabs still doesn’t have much of a following, but the drive to write something about food and places to dine in still remains. At first I couldn’t imagine I could regularly go around and search for good food, much more write about them, but as I read through my posts I figured saying that my blog activity was “regular” or “active” is an understatement.

Back in 2009 all I could do was introduce myself to the blogging comunity. Never mind that I didn’t get much attention, back then writing about food was a personal endeavor. It was when UGG reached its first anniversary that I realized how satisfying my adventures were.

This past year I have discovered a lot of restaurants and other places to dine in. I was able to join various tours, try out food tasting, learn about other cuisines, and meet other food enthusiasts like me. Having a heart problem didn’t stop me from enjoying great food; it helped me learn how to take care of my body, keep myself healthy, and eventually build up an appetite.

I realized that I’ve been to so many places but I didn’t have the time to write about each of them. Good thing I still have my pictures, but it’s clear that I already have a backlog of God knows how many articles. I’ll write about them soon; I really want to share so much to you, so stay tuned.

I’m still here in the office, spending the last minutes of 2010 alone. (Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ll spend the new year alone.) The next available bus trip to Baguio where my family is comes at 4am, so from here I’ll go straight to the terminal and get myself a ticket.

For the moment I’ll write a bit, edit some pictures, watch a drama series or two and listen to the fireworks while posting New Year greetings. (I think I’ve been blocked from other people’s walls on Facebook. The only time I’d probably get noticed is if I complain about something that is sure to blow up on my face. Yeah.)
And so, I thank you once again for visiting UGG. I hope you join me this year as I discover more restaurants, bars, kiosks and whatnots, and enjoy good food and wine as I always hope to do. It’s gonna be a challenging year this time, but hopefully you’d be there to see me through.

I hope the past year has been great for you all, and I hope the new year becomes a great one as well. Happy new year!