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Anthony Bourdain Filipino musings TV

Bourdain Rocks the “Land of Lechon”

I called my mom about 5 minutes before No Reservations: Philippines was going to air in California, and instead of greeting me, she said, “Are you watching No Reservations?” It wasn’t airing in Hawaii, where I was on vacation, for two more hours, but I did call her to make sure she was watching.


You know Bourdain was in the real Philippines because it said BAWAL UMIHI DITO
(translation: don’t pee here) on every wall. :)

If the Pacquiao/De la Hoya fight was the Filipino equivalent of the Super Bowl, I think this block of television devoted to the cuisine of the Philippines might have been our NBA All-Star Game. Granted, 44 minutes isn’t nearly enough time to do justice to the diverse cuisine of the Philippines, but I thought the show did a good job highlighting some of the great things about the Mother Islands. Bourdain is also a self-described history nut, and he had a lot of great questions about the cultural and historical influences on the Philippines.

I’m not going to recap the whole episode, but it was nice to see Bourdain fall in love with sisig and lechon, and then later declare that the Philippines is No. 1 on his “Hierarchy of Pork” on his Travel Channel blog.

Categories
Anthony Bourdain Filipino TV

Philippines Tops Bourdain’s “Hierarchy of Pork”

As the No Reservations – Philippines episode gets set to air, Bourdain’s latest blog post boldly declares that the Philippines is No. 1 in his so-called “Hierarchy of Pork,” ahead of Bali and Puerto Rico.

In his post, Bourdain had high praise for both sisig and the lechon he had in Cebu.

What we did get right, I’m quite sure, was making sure that the amazing, porky delights of “sisig” got plenty of camera time. If you’ve never had this divine mosaic of pig parts, chopped and served sizzling and crisp on one side on a screaming hot platter, then you’ve yet to have one of the world’s best beer drinking dishes. And speaking of pig? It can now be said that of all the whole roasted pigs I’ve had all over the world, the slow-roasted lechon I had on Cebu was the best.

First Manny Pacquiao and now No. 1 on Bourdain’s Hierarchy of Pork? All we need now is for Charice to become bigger than Celine Dion, and we can start our official cultural takeover of the world.

Categories
Anthony Bourdain Filipino musings TV

Watch Bourdain Eat the Philippines on No Reservations

I know I’m probably the last Filipino food blogger to mention this, but the much-anticipated Philippines episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations is airing on the Travel Channel tonight at 10pm EST. For a preview, check out his travel itinerary.

Don’t pee here, Tony!

On his Travel Channel blog last October (on my birthday, no less!), Bourdain said this upon his arrival to the Philippines:

Of all the people who watch NO RESERVATIONS, it’s been Filipinos who have been consistently among our biggest fans and most vocal about our having yet to film in their country.

“You’ve been all over Asia,” I hear again and again, “…so WHY haven’t you come to the Philippines?!”

Well…I’m here. And the pressure is on…

All I can say is “Don’t worry. We’re NOT doing balut. Been there. Done that.” And privately think to myself, “Don’t screw this up … don’t screw this up … don’t screw this up.”

It’ll be nice to see a show that highlights Philippine cuisine without featuring balut because it’s such a cliche for “adventurous” eaters. Also, It looks like the silog segment got cut, but you can watch it here.

Even though I’m in Hawaii right now, it’s family dinner night so we’re staying in, and I’ll be in front of the TV watching. Will you?

Categories
reviews seafood Southern California steak TV

Providence – Los Angeles, CA

My parents’ wedding anniversary is two days after Christmas, and in the last few years, we’ve started taking them to restaurants that normally aren’t on their radar. Last year, we took them to Osteria Mozza, and this year, after reading my French Laundry post, my mom said she wanted to experience something like that. Granted, it’s impossible to find something comparable to The French Laundry in Southern California, but L.A. is no slouch when it comes to great restaurants. I ended up choosing Providence because of its seafood-centric menu and more affordable five-course tasting option, but two Michelin stars didn’t hurt either.

ProvidenceTwo Michelin Stars in Los Angeles.

My first exposure to Providence and Chef Michael Cimarusti was on the second season of After Hours with Daniel Boulud, the MOJO HD show where Boulud throws after hours dinners at prominent restaurants. Season two was set in LA, and admittedly, it was hard to keep track of which one-word restaurant was which. As I rewatched the episode on Hulu.com, I instantly remembered Providence while watching the episode where a lobster attacks a piece of Kobe beef. You can watch the episode in its entirety at Hulu.com.

One of the first things we noticed about the tasting menu was that the dessert course featured a kalamansi gelée. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that kalamansi is the citrus of choice in the Philippines, especially in one of my favorite dishes, bistek tagalog. My parents were especially excited to see this versatile Filipino citrus featured in a fine-dining setting. For us, it was the second time in a month we’ve seen Filipino ingredients on a high-end tasting menu. (The first was the Ilocano salt and Pili nuts at The French Laundry.) So while the rest of the tasting menu looked fabulous on paper, we already had our eyes on dessert.

Categories
Chicago Mexican reviews TV

Cemitas Puebla

Since I’m from California, I didn’t seriously consider having Mexican food in Chicago, but Cemitas Puebla was No. 1 on Chicago Yelp’s “Hot on Yelp” list and a popular topic on LTH Forum, a Chicago-based food forum. A little more research revealed that Cemitas Puebla was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, which probably attributed to its Yelp popularity. Although I’m not a fan of Guy Fieri as a chef or restauranteur, his DDD gig might be the best job in the country.

Cemitas are a sandwich that’s native to the Mexican state of Puebla and at Cemitas Puebla, they’re comprised of your choice of meat on toasted sesame seed bread, avocado, Oaxacan cheese, papalo (a seasonal cilantro-like herb), their own homemade adobo chipotles. Cemitas Puebla is so committed to the authenticity of their food that they make regular trips to Mexico to get the right ingredients.

We ordered the Cemita Milanesa, a breaded butterflied pork chop that, like all their food, was made fresh to order. The milanesa was a little dry, but combined with the toasted bread, cheese, and chipotles, it was really tasty. In fact, the adobo chipotles with its mild lingering heat might be the real star of Cemitas Puebla since it has a prominent role in every cemita, as well as the Tacos Arabe (see below), and is also available on every table.

Their other specialty is the Tacos Arabe (Arabian Tacos), which owner Tony Anteliz likes to call the “cousin of the shawarma” and comes from the heavy Middle Eastern influence on Puebla. Marinated pork and onions are stacked on a spit roasted like a traditional al pastor. On order, it’s sliced and grilled for a few minutes and then served rolled in a really thin pita with a chipotle sauce that’s made by puréeing their adobo chipotles.

We got their late, so I got the last pieces of meat off the spit, which were really good, but I’m sure their better much earlier in the day. I also got a selection of other tacos including, an excellent carne asada, and very good al pastor and chorizo. One of our friends ordered the chalupas chorizo that looked amazing as well.

The best part about Cemitas Puebla is that it’s cheap, hearty food. Plus the service is fast, friendly and attentive. Even though you order at the counter, they bring your food to you when it’s ready and are always around to make sure you’re being taken care of.

The only negative about the place is that they really love Oscar de la Hoya and his pictures are everywhere. I’m all about Manny Pacquiao and expect Pac-Man to kick Oscar’s ass on December 6. :-)

INFORMATION
Cemitas Puebla
3619 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647 map
773.772.8435
Web site
Cemitas Puebla on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Categories
Chicago entertainment musings reviews Top Chef TV

White Castle and Top Chef — A Match Made in Hell

Our first meal in Chicago wasn’t on my list, but it wasn’t entirely unwelcome either. I’ve always been intrigued by the White Castle hype, especially since the burgers don’t really look all that appetizing. My friend Maria mentioned that there were several White Castles near her South Loop condo, so we stopped by for a little snack on the way back from the airport.

The impromptu White Castle visit also coincided with the season premiere of Bravo’s Top Chef, and we made it back to Maria’s condo just in time to watch it from the beginning. Can there be a greater juxtaposition to White Castle than Top Chef?

White Castle - Chicago, IL

I really don’t understand the appeal of these burgers. The buns are soggy, the meat is mushy, and for something so small, they kinda just sit in your stomach like a big grease bomb. I think they’re easily outshined by something as mundane as McDonald’s regular hamburgers. Why do people like them so much? Is it the nostalgia? Or do you really have to be high to enjoy them?

As far as Top Chef is concerned, the chefs seem pretty boring compared to previous seasons, although there are a couple Filipinos in the mix this year. Gene is looking like the anti-Dale (temperamentally speaking) and Leah definitely has potential. The two cocky Euros (Stefan and Fabio) should be make the show interesting though.

Categories
entertainment Filipino Top Chef TV

Top Chef’s Dale Defends His Vision in BuddyTV Interview


A friend sent me a link to another interview with Top Chef contestant Dale Talde, this time on BuddyTV.com. It covers some of the same ground as the Chow.com interview I discussed in my previous post, but he spent a good chunk of the interview defending himself amidst criticism that he only cooks Asian food.

Are you going to (ask) an Italian chef, “Why do you only do Italian food?” Are you going to (ask) Alain Ducasse, “Why do you only do French food?” My food is inspired by Asia…ALL of Asia…the Philippines, Japan, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. You want to talk about Asia? Asia is enormous.

In Season 2, Ilan Hall won the title of Top Chef by relying on his background cooking Spanish food. At least Dale was drawing from an entire continent for influence, not just a single country.

If Dale was bothered by anything, it was the criticism of his vision.

Criticize my execution if you want to. If my dish wasn’t good, fine, I’ll take it back. Don’t you in your life ever criticize my vision. It’s MY vision, not your vision.

Dale also said he had no problem throwing down with anyone if they wanted to cook Italian food or French food, but he finds that food boring because the flavors don’t “pop out” to him.

My flavors are big and bold and bright and in your face, and sweet, sour, salty come all at you. I’m not going to sit there and roast a piece of rack of lamb, and cook some noodles, and deglaze with white wine and shallots and then put it on a plate. That’s not who I am. Chilis…vinegar…miso paste. That’s what I do.

Categories
entertainment Filipino Top Chef TV

Dale Eliminated on Top Chef, Opens up to Chow.com

Chef Dale TaldeMy heart sank when Padma Lakshmi told Dale Talde to “pack his knives and go” on this week’s episode of Top Chef, but I knew it was inevitable after the disastrous opening of Mai Buddha with teammates Lisa Fernandes and Spike Mendelsohn during this week’s challenge, Restaurant Wars. Dale was the executive chef for the restaurant and when things go wrong, the guy at running the show gets the blame. Dale discussed his experiences in an interview with Chow.com.

Aside from some brilliant cooking and wins in both the Quickfire and main challenges, Dale’s time on Top Chef was also marked by his ongoing friction with Lisa. When asked about the rivalry, Dale said:

Dale: Come on, rivalry? Rivalry connotates that someone is at the same level you’re at.
CHOW: So you’re saying that Lisa was nowhere near your level?
Dale: Please. Scoreboard. C’mon.

Dale’s reference to the scoreboard is telling since he had more wins than Lisa and Spike combined and was in the bottom three only once before getting the boot (with his Wedding Wars teammates Lisa, Spike and Nikki). Lisa, on the other hand, had only one challenge win and was on the bottom four times, and I honestly thought she should have been eliminated last week instead of Andrew. Spike had one Quickfire win and was on the bottom five times.

So why was Dale given the boot? He knew it was coming when Antonia picked her team. Both Dale and Antonia were praised as the best contestants during this episode’s egg station Quickfire, but Antonia was declared the overall winner and got to pick her team for Restaurant Wars. She picked Richard and Stephanie, the two strongest contenders on the show aside from Dale.

“Did you see the team? It was like a junior varsity basketball team versus a professional basketball team. I got put on the short-bus all stars.”

Categories
dessert entertainment Filipino Top Chef TV

Dale “Busts Out” Halo Halo on Top Chef

I’m a big Top Chef fan, but I’ve been watching the Chicago incarnation with great interest because of Dale Talde, the ornery and talented Filipino American sous chef at Buddakan, an upscale Chinese restaurant in New York. During the first six episodes of the season, the Chicago native’s dishes have reflected a pan-Asian influence, but last week, Dale got to express his Filipino side during a dessert Quickfire Challenge and received praise and Top 3 finish from guest judge Johnny Iuzzini, the pastry chef at Jean Georges.



Dale chose to make halo halo, a classic Filipino treat of shaved ice, milk (usually condensed or evaporated) and any number of other tropical ingredients, such as sweet beans, tropical fruits, and ice cream. Because of the variety ingredients and personal preferences, there isn’t one set recipe for halo halo, and Dale’s is no exception—a combination of shaved ice, avocado, mango, kiwi and nuts. Sure it was a non-traditional, upscale interpretation, but this is Top Chef, and it was nice to see him bring Filipino culture to the table.

This season of Top Chef hasn’t been nearly as exciting or dramatic as previous seasons, but I still love the show. Dale got off to a slow start, but as the season has progressed, I think he’s found his groove and is now one of the favorites to win. He even showed his “gangsta” side when he grabbed his crotch and went off on Lisa Fernandes after she pandered to Ming Tsai’s “Asian-ness” and then won a trip to Italy despite being negative, whiny, bitch-ass teammate. (Can you tell I really don’t like Lisa?)

Dale goes GANGSTA!What? You say something?

Are you watching Top Chef? Who do you want to win? Should there be a faux-hawk ban next season?

Categories
Anthony Bourdain entertainment Hawaii Hawaiian Oahu SPAM TV

Bourdain Latest in Long Line of SPAM Converts

This week’s episode of No Reservations brought Anthony Bourdain to Hawaii, and it was fun watching him enjoy some of the great food and drink Hawaii has to offer. I’ve been waiting for this show to air because I was curious about his impressions of local culture and cuisine, and I figured he’d be brutally honest about his experience.

Overall, the show did a pretty good job covering Hawaii in a short amount of time, but the most satisfying part of the show was when Bourdain professed his love for everyone’s favorite mystery meat…SPAM!

At the New Uptown Fountain in Kalihi, Bourdain settled into a meal with Honolulu Advertiser food columnist David Choo that can best be described as a local “tasting menu” that featured several local favorites, including different presentations of SPAM. (Choo chronicles his entire Bourdain experience on his blog, appropriately called Choo On This.


[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157604039920060″]

First up was SPAM Musubi (a.k.a. SPAM sushi), but this version had a fried rice filling instead of the traditional steamed rice.

“That’s great,” Bourdain said. “I’m thinking stoned at two o’clock in the morning, watching TV…I want this really badly.”