FEELING  OLYMPIAN  WITH  A  CITI  RUSTAN'S  CARD

MANILA,
AUGUST 12, 2008
(STAR) KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson - On Thursday evenings, this creature of habit just has to assume ritual mode. Wheeling out of Ateneoís Loyola Heights campus at a little past 7 after handling a weekly three-hour class in Fiction, we note the rush-hour traffic building up both ways on Katipunan Avenue. Intermittent rain has exacerbated the muddle.

Past the gate, weíre forced to exit right, so that the driver has to battle our way against trailer trucks to get to the U-turn egress, thanks but no thanks to the not-so-bright boys of the MMDA. We can then head homewards south, past a couple of other tangles caused by more U-turn slots.

But first we have to drop in on a familiar haunt, rain or shine, for a half-hour blitz exercise allowed by intimacy of knowledge. Thank the god of small groceries for Rustanís Supermarket on Katips!

For Thursday dinner that we donít have to whip up, as well as weekend provisions, we quickly cart off comestibles, victuals, and RTW stuff. Thatís Ready-To-Warm, such as the excellent roasted whole chicken that doesnít have to come with any gravy or sauce, since it can give other spit-roasted fowl all over town a run for their money. Or plastic card.

Complementing this on the table as the penultimate meal for a grueling day would be California maki on a styrofoam packet, with soy in a tiny plastic fish, plus a dollop of wasabi (hey, one canít always be a purist!). And our favorite sea-taste-and-smell next to Lagavulin single malt whisky or a Dyesebel that fits the lyric bill of an English poet: ďall fish below the thighs...Ē Thatís uni! Yes, sea urchin roe, in orange-y squiggles, picked up from the Japanese deli stall that blesses all Rustanís and Shopwise agoras.

For the slower-grind weekend, thereís a bounty of other special stuff to stock up the ref and pantry shelves: fresh pla-pla or large tilapia, frozen asohos from that Japanese corner, herb-marinated pork chops, Monterey rib-eye slabs, Magnolia chicken breast fillet (which weíll slather with Claude Tayagís pesto before stir-frying), Claudeís taba ng talangka or crabfat (which we integrate with the pesto for spirelli pasta sauce), longganizang Lucban (yummy with kesong puti as a homemade pizza topping), and chorizo de Bilbao (for stir-frying with lots of ripe red tomatoes, garlic and onions, before smothering the mix with stewed, soupy monggo or lentils (a MadrileŮa recipe from a Kastilaloy buddy).

For the post-midnight repast that caps the previous day, why, thereís a Belle France shelf brimming with goodies. We pick up Cassoulet and Duck Confit, in cans, but good for heating up and turning into pica-pica washed down by the malt. And on a recent sortie, we were pleasantly surprised to find Ginger Snaps, the local edition of which has been missing in grocery shelves the past few years.

Priding oneself as a primitif, one can dunk these hard snaps into freshly brewed coffee to turn them instantly chewy. And for that purpose, Belle France offers ground and packed Cafť Moulu labeled Brťsil, touted as 100 percent Arabica.

In a jiffy, weíre out of there and into the wet Katipunan night, while already savoring the prospects of an easy meal 20 minutes into the future.

Oh, what will we do without Rustanís Supermarket right across another hallowed institute of learning, and right beside our music-and-carousing haunt that is Mag:net Gallery cum Bookstore cum Cafť cum Bar? In fact, whatíll we do with Rustanís Supermarket in all its choice locations?

Why, if we forget to pick up something at the Katip branch, thereís a last recourse on Temple Drive past White Plains, in that strip mall edging Corinthian Gardens, where moonrise over Marikina Valley often gives us pause. Thereís a Santiís Deli in that small, tidy branch, fresh meat, too, and cookies and biscuits from Italy and Spain for quickie tokens on hospital visits or upon alarm that a young nieceís birthday is about to pass you by.

Recently, we had occasion to rediscover Rustanís Super at Rockwell, whereís itís a full-fledged emporium cum everything else. We had to palaver with a business associate, and we settled on excellent cheesecake and cappuccino at Le Gourmet right beside the supermarketís Bon Appetit section with its marvelous array of chacuterie. Talk of a clean, well-lighted place for initiating visions of a tapas bar right at home.

Thatís also where we found out about the full benefits of sporting a Citi Rustanís Card for ultimate shopping on credit, with rebates earned on every purchase. A Gold cardholder receives a two percent rebate while a Platinum cardholder gets back three percent at all Rustanís and affiliate stores. Cardholders are welcomed like royalty, with a glass of wine and a token gift upon presentation of the coveted plastic. World-class service ensues: lifestyle consultants are even on hand to provide assistance on fashion, beauty, and homemaking needs.

Since we didnít really require those, at least not that day, we contented ourselves with the knowledge that we could enjoy discounts on wines and spirits, as well as birthday treats, VIP access to exclusive events, invites to end-of-season sale previews and three-day sale events featuring over 50 brands per venue. The privileged Platinum cardholder is also awarded free valet parking, entry to the Platinum Lounge, and free delivery of purchases within Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.

Top-spending cardholders over a 12-month period receive an all-expense-paid travel package for two to any local destination for the Gold card or to any Asian destination for the Platinum. Wow!

But if youíre too laidback to have to compete with lucky chaps and or a plucky missus who wonít blink before having a card swiped for a special leg of ham, say, the premier Pata Negra, all of five kilos for over P35K, then the fundamental benefits are reward enough.

For one, good champagne at the wine section goes for a thousand pesos less per bottle than at any other MM venue. Wines are competitively priced, with good Bordeaux at P270, and diverse editions of Montes from Chile, Mondavi from California, and Two Oceans from South Africa selling at not much more, depending on the choice, of course. And of course French, Italian and Australian wines also find themselves on the racks in a special, temperature-controlled section.

Nearbyís the good hard stuff. We were happy to note the presence of at least a couple of fine single malts ó Aberlour 10 Years and Macallan 12 Years, at prices hovering around 2 thou per, or not much more than your usual blends.

For now we have to skip the whole leg of pata negra from Mother Spain. But we canít grieve while settling for jamon Serrano and an assortment of cold cuts for the next wine-or-beer-and whisky session with the boys from Brazil to Diliman to Mendiola.

And since our peripheral vision stays as healthy as when we turned down an offer to do point-guard chores for the struggling Maroons once upon a time, quickly espied are other goodies one canít find anywhere else: cans of Saucissons Aux Lentiles and jars of the excellent Mayonnaise au Tournesol from Belle France ó the latter much cheaper than the trendified Japanese generic mayo. And thereís couscous, two brands, in fact!

Ah, another weekend of playing instant chef we look forward to, while recalling how over a decade ago we welcomed Rustanís Supermarket in the neighborhood, at Shangri-La Edsa Plaza. Back then we wheeled our cart with the tots in tow, or riding it. And marveled at the selection of produce from near and far.

Now weíre ready to pass on the toque to the grown kids, while we give last-minute instructions on how to slice up chorizo de Bilbao for that MadrileŮa dish.

Rustanís has been part of our lives. With the Citi Rustanís Card, itís citius altus fortus for all our next sorties, expeditions, and marathon shopping sprees at our supermarket of choice. Perhaps the next Olympics ought to hand out Platinum medals, too. Or Citi Rustanís Cards that make you feel like a pampered winner.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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