Quezon City: There are two beautiful things about being on a holiday. First, you don’t have a schedule to follow and, second, you can ease up on the diet regime for several days. By diet I mean being mindful of the foodstuff that’s too high in sugar and fat. It also means tucking into dishes that shaped the culinary landscape of my childhood and eventually experiencing food coma-ish moments a la Oprah.*
Indonesia is definitely chicken country much like the Philippines. You have your ayam panggang, bakar and goreng (baked, grilled and fried chicken) plus the popular Kentucky Fried Chicken anywhere and anytime. But there’s one chicken taste that my palate looks for after several months of ayam panggang, bakar and goreng. My taste buds hanker for Max’s, the crispy and succulent Filipino fried chicken that when dipped into banana catsup makes one tasty meal – with or without rice. It’s the brainchild of Maximo Geronimo that first opened its doors at Scout Tuason. It is the favourite venue for all types of gathering- birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and graduation parties. I preferred the original Scout Tuason branch then with its al fresco spots for tables fit for two or more encircled by trees and plants. A homey ambience pervaded that outlet when one entered most welcomed and departed sated and filled with memorable moments of the night. My family and I recently dined at one of its new outlets, SM Megamall, and made new flavourful discoveries with the chicken sisig and sizzling tofu.
Like Indonesia, noodles also abound in the Philippines. In any party or restaurant, noodle choices ran the gamut of sotanghon, pancit canton, pancit bihon, pancit palabok and pancit luglug. These noodle dishes are all delectable but I favour pancit Malabon, the thick white noodles with shrimp sauce and garnishing of sliced eggs and seafood – no pork cracklings – of Pancit Na Taga Malabon. It still stands at the corner of Edsa and Tomas Morato, but the space has been reduced into half; the other half is now a hair salon.
The MO is simple for a take-away meal: pick a bilao – a small or huge woven platter-like dish – of your choice, which is labelled according to the number of diners and accompanying price, on the table in front of the counter and opposite the display rack loaded with various rice cakes. A bilao of PhilP310 is good for six people, for example. We always ordered the bilao of noodles and, this time, we paired it with an order of fried tofu cubes doused with soy sauce, vinegar and diced onion.
My culinary landscape has changed a lot; the old-timers have undergone a make-over and there are new neighbours on the block. In what used to be a gas station at the corner of Roces Avenue and Timog, for instance, now stands Thompson Square. Among its interesting tenants is Dezaato Pan, a Japanese café specialising in soft bread, pastries, cakes, gelato and cold, hot or blended drinks. My uncle frequents it for his cup of Columbian coffee and free Wi-Fi.
The drinks menu is divided into three categories – koochii (coffee), koori (ice) and blendo (blend). Pair a regular-size cold choco mint with whipped cream with Italian cheesecake (made from ricotta cheese) or Japanese cheesecake (made from Philadelphia cream cheese) for a sweet afternoon snack. Meanwhile a hot café latte goes well with Danish – chicken & mushroom or chicken in brown sauce.
Another interesting and old-new (I’ve never been inside) store is Lord Stowe’s Bakery, which is opposite Dezaato Pan. Every nook and cranny is filled with all kinds of bread and pastry that one could possibly imagine but only two things caught my attention. First was the tray of creamy Portuguese egg tarts of which I ordered a box of four, and second were the mini chocolate crinkle cookies of which I picked up a box.
I’ve only explored a fraction of the culinary landscape of Quezon City and the next exploration will have to wait until I take off again from work. When the next holiday comes, I know I’ll digging into the saccharine Hokkaido cake, chocolate cake in a cup with peanut custard filling and topped with marshmallows, from Dezaato Pan.
*Oprah and best friend Gayle were judges for the best recipe during the County Fair episode of Oprah, and Oprah narrated she and Gayle were suffering from food coma after digging into pies, chicken wings, pasta etc.