The Last of my Muhlach Ensaymada

It’s the last of our Muhlach ensaymada from Mom’s pasalubong.  It will be a while until I get a box or two from back home again.  I know they have a franchise here in the US on the West Coast, but I’ve learned my lesson and I know that things taste different here.  We still have our local Christine’s or Philippine Bread House Ensaymada from New Jersey.  That’ll have to do for now.

Blog Conversations

Personally speaking, I blog for my personal benefit.  It’s a means of chronicling my thoughts and keeping track of the hundred and one things that I go through in my everyday life.  I used to do it longhand in a journal which was limiting in a sense because if I didn’t have the journal with me, I couldn’t stop and write a thought that flashed in my head.   The good thing was that I could always just go and take the journal from the shelf, flip a page and read what I had written some time ago.  I haven’t done that in a while.  I sit down with my laptop in front of me and I type away, literally putting the words that race through my mind as if I were talking to myself.

I have derived immense pleasure from meeting blogfriends who have introduced me into their own world on the blogsphere. Most of them dropped by, wrote a comment, I wrote a response, and there started an ongoing blog conversation.  There was a time when I could respond to each comment with a post, but these days it’s either there are too many comments or there’s not enough time to respond to what comments I get so I have opted to e-mail back a reply instead.  (That is the main reason I am requesting for a REAL e-mail so that I can at least thank you for taking the time to hit those keys and sending me your thoughts.  Leaving a bogus e-mail is, to me, a form of deceit and taints your comment with malice.  Anything left in the spirit of goodwill, even if critical of what I posted, should not be a cause for cowardice. )

Given the limited time I have to post my thoughts on my blog, I have purposely limited the list of blogs I visit, unless someone who leaves a comment cares to leave his or her blog address for me to have a look-see and maybe return the courtesy.  It’s like reading magazines — you go to a rack and pick up your usual reading list, although there is that once-in-a-blue-moon on-a-whim magazine you buy because of someone on the cover or an article that caught your attention..  there are times I just land in someone else’s blog rather randomly, either from one of my blogfriend’s blogrolls, or because google brought it up on a blog-unrelated search.  I know there are those who have the time and luxury to keep blog hopping— how I wish I had the extra time to do just that.  There are so many things you can learn and much entertainment is to be had reading other people’s take on everything from the “cab of the day” (and you get the cab name, plate number and route!) to all those fun recipes and scrapbook layouts.. 

I’d like to think that reading blogs, like writing one, is supposed to be fun.  So when I visit blogs, I don’t judge them according to my standards — I try to see them from the perspective of the writer, just as you would marvel at a catchy photograph which has more depth and meaning in someone else’s eye.  (I say to myself, I could’ve taken that and it wouldn’t have been composed that way!)  I try to write a comment when something catches my roving eye, but I do not write comments just for the heck of it.  Despite the free zone that the web is, I’d like to believe that bloggers have an unwritten code of ethics.   If I disagree with what you wrote, I will let you know but I will not attack you for it.

Not all the comments I receive to my various posts are music to my ears.  There have been those who disagreed, but kudos to those who disagreed without being disrespectful or condescending.  It’s like having an actual conversation face-to-face.  My favorite “It’s not all that you think” comment came from one of the first few who ever walked into my blog, Darryl.  He was very passionate about what he wrote, but we found a common ground in this discussion, and in our common love for Paris.

Whether it is an academic discourse, a business meeting or a discussion between friends, there has to be respect between those speaking so that you can keep the communication lines open.  Everyone gets more out of the conversation when people keep an open mind instead of expecting people to to adhere to their own personal standards of what life is all about.  Have you ever heard that line — let us agree to disagree?

Like in real life, I appreciate it when I get corrected for as long as it’s meant to be constructive and not condescending.  I am not perfect.  I have my own spelling dilemmas (those words you keep mispelling no matter how elementary they may be), and my grammar is far from perfect.  (I just have a way of making it sound good even if it may not be grammatically sound.. LOL)  What I appreciate most is people giving me their take on what I said, rather than being critical of me or of what I said.  My Mom succeeded in imbibing in me that thought that we cannot always agree all the time.  No matter how noble or pure your intentions may be, there will always be someone who will not agree with what you’re saying.  (Just as I’m sure there’s someone out there shaking his or her head in disagreement with what I am writing or part of what I have written here.)  I believe that’s part of the beauty of humankind.  The fact that we come in different colors, shapes and sizes is such a big wonder!  I have come to realize, too, that there are those who are trapped in a warped and narrow sense of appreciation of the things around them that all they see are the negative things about what they come across.  Remembe ther glass filled halfway with water? — to some it’s half empty, to some it’s half full.

When we read other people’s blogs, we tread on their world.  I welcome everyone who takes the time to read my blog and I am heartened by the fact that there are those who keep coming back.  I have no illusions that I am being read by half of Manila or the Filipinos here in New York or in the US — again, I blog for my personal benefit, selfish as that may sound.  If I contribute to your day, if I make you smile, if my words make you think, if you find something useful — then that’s a big bonus.  But as Captain Obvious said in his blog, he makes his own grammar rules.. I make my own blog rules, too.  If you can’t hack it, go read someone else’s blog..  If you can’t leave a real e-mail address, go hide behind your anonymity by leaving a comment elsewhere.  You will not get any comments published here.

I don’t want to think some people resort to it just to ruin my day.  Pang-asar ba.  After I noticed a pattern, I stopped letting it get to me and I just let it go.  I discovered it wasn’t anything personal — some people just have a habit of seeing the dark instead of the light.  Perhaps that is where they find their fulfillment.  Just not my cup of tea.

If there’s one thing I have learned in my 40 years of existence in this world, it is that an open mind allows you to continue to grow.  Something I dislike or hate might actually have a redeeming value I have yet to see because I’ve been blinded by my bias.  So if I eat balut and I love the almost formed chick inside, don’t pelt me with derision because you have no idea how good a treat it is.  Something someone else might love, I might actually dislike.  It doesn’t make that other person wrong — it just means we’re not the same.

I’d just like to keep the blog conversations going.. you don’t have to pat my back, just don’t slap me by the wrist…

Restaurant Week in New York

New York Restaurant Week
Gourmet Prix-Fixe Menus
July 10-14 and 17-21, 2006

Enjoy special three-course, prix-fixe menus at some of the city’s best restaurants.

Duration: July 10-14 and 17-21, 2006 (Monday through Friday only)
Pricing: $24.07 lunches, $35 dinners; prices are per person and do not include beverage, tax or gratuity
Participating Restaurants: See list below.

Please ask for the official Restaurant Week menu when you are seated.

Alan and I have been going to Restaurant Week the past couple of years and always recommend it to friends in New York as one gourmet event you shouldn’t pass up.  Participating restaurants make a special restaurant menu available for a set price (see above) alongside their usual offerings.  Reservations are still required (more so at this time of the year) because the event usually means more patrons than usual.  For most of the participating restaurants, this is a deep discount into their otherwise usually pricey regular menus, and although the Restaurant Week tag price is not exactly a meal for a song (it does not include beverages, tax and gratuity), it will afford you a chance to explore the cuisine offered by some of the best restaurants of New York on a budget. 

The complete list is available at several websites but I would suggest you check out Open Table (an online reservations system I also recommend).  I have listed below the restaurants I’ve had the opportunity to visit out of Restaurant Week, during Restaurant Week, and both.  Bon Appetit!

BEACON (25 West 56th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues)
“A Chef-driven steakhouse” according to Open Table

When Alan and I ate here more than a year ago, we walked in on a whim (and we were so lucky to get a table), watched a party happening in their private room across from where we sat on the upper level.  Interesting menu primarily featuring American Cuisine, pricey (from $30-$50), good service, but after drinks and dessert, you will end up spending more than $50 per person.  Not particularly impactful except that I found the way they did their steak satisfying.  (Read: we didn’t leave the restaurant grumbling despite the almost $200 tab at the end of the meal.)

CHINA GRILL- NEW YORK  (60 W.est 53rd Street, between 5th and 6th, closer to 6th)
Casual Elegant Dining

This is one of our favorite restaurants, but I sampled it first during a previous Restaurant Week.  One of my benchmarks for authenticity of regional cuisine is if I see natives of that region dining there.  (ie, Chinese in a Chinese restaurant, Mexicans in a Mexican restaurant, etc.)  And although there are twists to the flavor and the ambience and menu are hardly traditional, yes, China Grill is Chinese cuisine with an elegant twist (and price).  The unique thing about their prix fixe menu is that it is tailored to feed your table as a group.  Meaning if you are 4 in your party, you will get an appetizer sampler good for 4.  As we Asians dine family style, their dishes are meant to be shared — even their restaurant week offerings.  The best thing was that their dessert plate was a fantastic sampling of their great desserts (which are truly sinful and worth the calories you will take in) again sized for the number of people in your party.  We’ve been back several times when the craving hits us, but if this is your first time doing Restaurant Week, this is a good choice if you’re in the Midtown area.  Meals on a regular day/night are upwards of $50, so grab the chance to sample some of their food at restaurant week prices.

DB Bistro Moderne (55 West 44th Street, between 5th and 6th, closer to 5th)
French Continental American Cuisine

Alan and I had our Valentine date here this year.  Read about my previous post here.

Le COLONIAL (149 E. 57th Street by Lexington Avenue)
French Vietnamese Cuisine

This is another restaurant where we had one of our 6 valentine’s day dates and one thing I can say is it is memorable not just because of the food but more so for the casual elegance you find yourself stepping into the minute you walk in.  Not just good for twosomes but for family dining as well, but save it for a special occasion because of the price.

METRAZUR (East Balcony of Grand Central)
a Charlie Palmer restaurant

I first came across Charlie Palmer on Food TV and the first restaurant of his Alan and I tried was actually Kitchen 22 (another favorite restaurant that deserves a post devoted to it).  We have dined at Metrazur by ourselves and with friends, and find their cuisine typical American with a gourmet twist.  You have to try it to see what I mean.  Pricey at Grand Central, yes, although Open Table tags them as $30 and under..  This is Casual elegance in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the daily commute.  If you want to go beyond the burgers and the deli food at the foodcourt downstairs, and don’t exactly want to go for the steak across the hall on the West Balcony (see next recommendation), give Charlie’s “progressive American” cuisine (as touted by their own website) a try.

MICHAEL JORDAN’S STEAK HOUSE (North and West balconies of the Grand Central)

I’ve only eaten here once with one of my dear friends from Manila and his wife, and it’s been a while (2002).  Steak was alright, it IS named after Michael Jordan, something I’d try once and then chalk up as part of my “things I’ve done as a New Yorker” but not exactly some place I’d go back to over and over again like some of our favorite places.  Some avoid it because it’s a tourist trap, but if you’re such a diehard Jordan fan, why not?

NAPLES 45 (200 Park Avenue – MetLife Building right next to Grand Central)
Pizza and all Italian food

Open very early, you can actually go there for breakfast meetings or have dinner with friends and family.  Naples 45 is part of a group of restaurants present in this building and not too far in other parts of Manhattan.  Service is generally good, price here is reasonable, and their wine list is decent.  (Question: Now why isn’t my favorite French bistro Cafe Centro participating in Restaurant Week?  It’s their pricier sister-restaurant just across the lobby.)  Very casual dining.

ONE IF BY LAND, TWO IF BY SEA  (17 Barrow Street in Greenwich Village)
Romance, romance, romance

If I could put blinking lights here this would be the restaurant with all the bells and whistles to let you know THIS YOU CANNOT MISS!  (It helps to have a better half to help you enjoy the very romantic atmosphere.)  This occupies a special place in my heart because we had our first Valentine date here (you have to book waaaayyyy ahead, as in Christmas before?..)  Meals are upwards of $50 (not including that bottle of wine or champagne you might want to impress your date or wife with), waiters are very knowledgeable about the food and wine list, service makes the money spent well worth it and food quality is excellent.  We’ve gone back there to dine with friends and even during Restaurant Week, you will see a table or two within hearing and visual distance popping an engagement ring.  (It’s one of those favorite “proposal” places, so be careful if you are just dating — the lady might think you’re popping the question!)  I wouldn’t go back there, though, unless it was Restaurant Week because of the expense it entails.  Once in a while for some truly romantic occasion is good, and restaurant week, definitely!

ROCK CENTER CAFE  (Rockefeller Center, 20 West 50th Street between 5th and 6th)
Italian American

Alan brought me here during one restaurant week and we have gone back there for dinner another time.  Whether you go day or night, the view of the skating rink at Rockefeller Center and the very cozy and elegant atmosphere within makes for a good way to enjoy the fine food.  Pasta or seafood?  Worth the money. 

SALUTE (270 Madison Avenue by 39th Street)

I don’t know about you but I love Italian food.  I used to work on 39th street and Alan was just somewhere closer to Grand Central but in the same area and we dined here upon my insistence (because he’s not too crazy about Italian food).  Wine list is good, food offerings are traditional, a full course meal, though, can be a tad pricey.  If you miss Restaurant Week, they have a “to go” area on the side which will afford you a sampling of the quality of their food.  (I have half a dozen other Italian restaurants to recommend but they are not participating in Restaurant Week unfortunately..)

SUSHI SAMBA Park  (245 Park Avenue South, between 19th and 20th)
Japanese, Brazilian, Peruvian (try to meld that together!)

Alan and I have dined here and brought friends over, and although Japanese food is generally expensive compared to other cuisines, this one is a little pricier because of the fusion element.  (Japanese and tapas anyone?)  The Sushi is authentic (sushi bar included), the Brazilian and Peruvian dishes don’t look like teriyaki or Japanese concoctions, though.  The cocktails were excellent (Alan loves their mojito), and there is usually a wait so reservations on an ordinary day are a must.  I’ve never seen this place sparsely occupied so it can be difficult waiting outside in the winter.  (But hey, it’s summer, so wait if you must!)

TAO (42 East 58th Street, between Park and Madison)
Pan- Asian Cuisine

Has been a very hot place as far as bars and dining is concerned for a while now, but once you get past the crowded bar, you can’t help but wonder how they were able to put that towering Buddha inside the restaurant.  Answer: this location used to ba a theatre so you can imagine they have ample openings through the stage area that would’ve allowed them to bring that giant statue in.  Pan-Asian cuisine served in a very trendy atmosphere – dining style is Casual Elegant.  Most food is served family style, Lychee martini highly recommended!  I’ve recommended this place to friends and colleagues for business meetings and it’s always been a big hit.