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(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports)

SOL JOSE VANZI's  TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE PAGE THIS WEEK

FEATURING HER 'TIMPLA'T TIKIM' (Manila Bulletin)
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

LIFE LESSONS FROM A COOK-OFF
[It does not matter whether you win or not. Just have fun]


APRIL 28 -Tired but happy team Artists have always dominated and influenced high society’s lifestyles. In the late 1970s, the essence of fame was dancing with Andy Warhol at Studio 54. Then came the era of movie stars, media personalities, technological gurus, and instant millionaires. These days, celebrity chefs are giving rock stars and top models a run for their money. They are recognized and admired by more and more people of all ages. When Anthony Bourdain was in Manila for two weeks to shoot a segment of his award-winning show Parts Unknown, he was stalked by fans who reported his every move on Facebook. Many consider cooking as the art of the decade, an observation that is not lost on publicists and media practitioners, many of whom stage cooking contests for writers and photographers invited to cover the launching of new products. Some of the cook-offs are simple and uncomplicated. Many do not involve using a stove, such as the race to make the best dip or tossed salad. The cook-off we joined during the launch of DIVA Channel’s My Kitchen Rules, however, was very close to the real thing. And that’s the problem. READ MORE...

ALSO: Las Piñas and Palanyag —A tale of two towns


LIVING WATER Salt beds used to dominate the landscape in Las Piñas. (Photo by Jojo Riñoza) Inset: Oyster farms continue to line the shallow Manila Bay shoreline (Photo by Mark Balmores) 
The outskirts of Metro Manila were a patchwork of bucolic postcard scenes while I was growing up from the mid-1940s to 1960, when I had to leave for college in Diliman. There were, then, only six barrios in Las Piñas. Ours, Pulanglupa, was beautiful. We played everywhere. The clear blue waters of Manila Bay beckoned from the west while fishponds, salt beds, and rice fields sparkled in the east. Between them, the emerald Zapote River meandered through clusters of nipa-and-bamboo huts.
Free for the Taking Floating gently in the middle of the river were several salambaw, giant fishnets attached to crossed bamboo poles that were set atop giant bamboo rafts. Depending on the season and the time of day, the catch included blue swimming crabs (alimasag), milkfish (bangus), grey mullet (banak), saltwater catfish (kanduli), tiger prawns (sugpo), and tarpon (buwan-buwan). The raft itself was thick with oysters that fell into the river bottom when hit hard by a solid object. We spent many afternoons eating raw oysters shaken loose from the salambaw floor. Along the shores, clinging to snake-like mangrove (bakawan) roots, were mussels (tahong), oysters, and sea snails (suso), all free for the taking. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Life lessons from a cook-off It does not matter whether you win or not. Just have fun


Tired but happy team

 Images by Noel Pabalate

MANILA, may 2, 2016 (MANILA BULLETIN)  by Sol Vanzi April 28, 2016 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 -


Excellent plating shows off chicken and shiitake mushrooms

Artists have always dominated and influenced high society’s lifestyles. In the late 1970s, the essence of fame was dancing with Andy Warhol at Studio 54. Then came the era of movie stars, media personalities, technological gurus, and instant millionaires.

These days, celebrity chefs are giving rock stars and top models a run for their money. They are recognized and admired by more and more people of all ages. When Anthony Bourdain was in Manila for two weeks to shoot a segment of his award-winning show Parts Unknown, he was stalked by fans who reported his every move on Facebook.

Many consider cooking as the art of the decade, an observation that is not lost on publicists and media practitioners, many of whom stage cooking contests for writers and photographers invited to cover the launching of new products.

Some of the cook-offs are simple and uncomplicated. Many do not involve using a stove, such as the race to make the best dip or tossed salad. The cook-off we joined during the launch of DIVA Channel’s My Kitchen Rules, however, was very close to the real thing. And that’s the problem.

READ MORE...

Contest Guidelines


Fruity summer slush

There were three tables of guests, and each table formed a team. I was joined by Christina Alpad of the Manila Times, Tatum Ancheta of The Standard, and Nina Daza Puyat of Appetite magazine. Nina is the daughter of the legendary chef, cookbook author, TV cooking show host, and restaurateur Nora Daza.

We were required to produce main courses and a non-alcoholic beverage using only the ingredients and utensils on our table. The finished products should be plated and ready for presentation to the board of judges in exactly one hour.

Each team was assigned a working table, an induction stove, a blender, two knives, Teo frying pans, one chopping board, basins of water, and ice cubes. Condiments, herbs, and spices (fresh and dried) were provided. A chicken breast and one piece of salmon wrapped up the ingredients.

System and Order


Salmon with capers and asparagus tips

The first order of business was deciding what dishes to prepare and assign functions to each team member. Nina was to prep the ingredients while I would mind the stove. Tatum volunteered to make the drinks and handle the plating.

Nina decided to make a bed of crisp Ratatouille on which we would lay the slices of chicken breast, blackened with reduced balsamic vinegar and rubbed with fresh rosemary. Thick slices of fresh shiitake mushrooms in buttered brown sauce formed the top layer of the finished dish.

The skin-on slab of pink salmon was rubbed with salt and pepper, olive oil, and honey. Then, it was seared in a very hot pan and poached in Sauterne. Sliced, the fish was served on a mound of flat noodles, lightly sautéed in garlic, anchovies, and capers. Nina deep-fried a handful of vermicelli (sotanghon) for a picturesque crunchy accent. Tatum’s mocktail was a refreshing ruby concoction of ripe mango and watermelon slush scented with lime peel.

No Stove, No Pan, No Time

Problems hounded us from the start. The electric cooking unit had no power for 40 minutes, and the pans were not compatible with the stove. To reduce cooking time, we blanched the vegetables in the boiling pasta water and stir-fried the mushrooms alongside the frying chicken breast. Ready-made brown sauce and fresh Italian sauce also saved us precious minutes.

We did not win, but realized that, indeed, getting there was half the fun.


BY SOL VANZI

Las Piñas and Palanyag —A tale of two towns by Sol Vanzi April 25, 2016 (updated) Share76 Tweet3 Share0 Email4 Share90


LIVING WATER Salt beds used to dominate the landscape in Las Piñas. (Photo by Jojo Riñoza) Inset: Oyster farms continue to line the shallow Manila Bay shoreline (Photo by Mark Balmores)

The outskirts of Metro Manila were a patchwork of bucolic postcard scenes while I was growing up from the mid-1940s to 1960, when I had to leave for college in Diliman.

There were, then, only six barrios in Las Piñas. Ours, Pulanglupa, was beautiful. We played everywhere. The clear blue waters of Manila Bay beckoned from the west while fishponds, salt beds, and rice fields sparkled in the east. Between them, the emerald Zapote River meandered through clusters of nipa-and-bamboo huts.

Free for the Taking

Floating gently in the middle of the river were several salambaw, giant fishnets attached to crossed bamboo poles that were set atop giant bamboo rafts. Depending on the season and the time of day, the catch included blue swimming crabs (alimasag), milkfish (bangus), grey mullet (banak), saltwater catfish (kanduli), tiger prawns (sugpo), and tarpon (buwan-buwan).

The raft itself was thick with oysters that fell into the river bottom when hit hard by a solid object. We spent many afternoons eating raw oysters shaken loose from the salambaw floor.

Along the shores, clinging to snake-like mangrove (bakawan) roots, were mussels (tahong), oysters, and sea snails (suso), all free for the taking.

READ MORE...


Mussels (tahong) still grow profusely in Parañaque (Photo by Jojo Riñoza)

Rainy Bounty

Even when it rained, we had fun-filled productive days. The rice fields became shallow ponds teeming with snails (kuhol), mudfish (dalag), and catfish (hito) while vegetables like malunggay, camote, kang kong, and alugbati mushroomed along the paths. We gathered snails, caught fish with bamboo traps (bubo), and picked vegetable shoots for simple meals that nobody ever got tired of.

Self-Sufficient Clusters

Houses in our barrio were built in clusters of eight to 10, each with an orchard of fruit trees, herbs, vegetables, and medicinal plants. When grandma cooked tinola, we knew which neighbors grew papaya and malunggay. Sinigang called for sampalok or kamias, which grew everywhere.

The mini orchards were very productive. One patola (silk gourd) vine supplied enough fruit for 30 homes. A row of siling labuyo bushes gave us all bottles of hot peppers for months. There was never any need to buy condiments. This was before powdered mixes were invented.

Natural Perfume

Once a year, we gathered roots of moras planted on the beach property of my paternal grandfather Pedro Jose in Palanyag, now called Parañaque. Known in the international cosmetics world as “vetiver,” the grass-like plant was grown for its long aromatic roots, which were bought by two French perfumeries in Palanyag’s Barrio Tambo. The French plants extracted oils from moras, ylang ylang, jasmine, and sampaguita, which were shipped to Paris for incorporation into very expensive perfumes bearing famous brands.

Moras, for years, provided a very profitable, low maintenance, low-capital industry for the coastal community. There were good years when moras crept almost to the Manila Bay water level at high tide, resulting in roots that were several feet long. The sweet-smelling grass was a more profitable crop than rice.

Enterprising Palanyag housewives soon fashioned moras roots into fans from which wafted delicate vetiver scent for months. Other products they developed for extra income were moras sachets to keep clothes cabinets fresh and small moras-filled pillows to scatter around the house.


Almost two centuries old, the bamboo organ at St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas stars in the annual International Bamboo Organ Festival in the city. (Photo by Ali Vicoy)

Cosmopolitan Neighbor

Although it has been more than 200 years since Las Piñas was created from a barrio of Palanyag, the older town continues to carry on with a patronizing big brother attitude, with good reason.

In my youth, my town only had elementary public schools and one parochial elementary school. For high school, we had to be sent to St. Paul’s in Palanyag or to inexpensive private high schools in Pasay.

Las Piñas had only one doctor until 1954, when my Auntie Amor graduated from University of Santo Tomas. We bought all our medicine from a very old pharmacist who sometimes ground up herbs, minerals, and stuff using a mortar and pestle and mixed them all himself like a mysterious Merlin from the dark ages.

While our public market consisted of six vendors in an empty building, Parañaque boasted of the best seafood market in the metropolis. Cavite, Laguna, and Batangas fishermen took their best catch to the public market beside St. Andrews Church to sell to buyers from other towns and cities.

Palanyag had generations of professionals. Las Piñas had salt makers and farmers. To Palanyag’s stone houses, we could only counter with bahay kubo and a concrete kumbento.


The best jeepneys are made by Sarao in Las Piñas.

Gain Some, Lose Some

My town finally redeemed itself around the 1960s, when the Sarao jeepney factory, the Bamboo Organ, and traditional salt beds became regular stops of Manila-Tagaytay tours. My town was finally famous, more famous than its neighbor.

Today, the two towns are both cities and were absorbed by Metropolitan Manila. Gone are the salt beds, replaced by high-rise condos. The government keeps threatening to phase out jeepneys. Tourists on the way to Tagaytay use new routes that bypass both Palanyag and Las Piñas.

The rivers are all murky, with hardly any trace of life. Housing subdivisions have sprouted where rice fields used to be. Very few even remember what a salambaw looks like. For fresh seafood, residents now flock to the Baclaran Seaside Market.

Both towns have gained hundreds of thousands of taxpayers and voters, but lost their souls.


SOL JOSE VANZI's PHNO PAGE


Photo from Kyle Victor Jose's iPAD
Lifestyle/Food and Arts & Culture columnist of the Manila Daily Bulletin.
Signature title "Timpla't Tikim"
http://www.mb.com.ph/lifestyle/


Sol in 1997 Photo: PHNO Editor/Travel & Leisure page
http://www.newsflash.org/staff/solvanzi.htm


Photo of Sol and young Kyle Victor Jose in March 2005 at PHNO/QCNet
office in Levitown, Paranaque. Photoshot by Leo Q. Carolino.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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