Saturday, February 19, 2011

If I Just Click My Heels Three Times...

     ...maybe I'll be in the Philippines in the blink of an eye.  But I'm not Dorothy and I don't have the ruby slippers on me.  So if I want to get there, I'll have to do it the old fashioned way.  Too bad that costs a lot of money.  Not to mention all the other expenses included in a vacation.  But if money was no object, what would I do during a month long vacation?

     No trip to the Philippines is complete without a trip to the beach.  Every summer, it's de riguer to have a summer outing, either to a pool or to the beach, in some cases to both.  Sometimes even when it's not summer, if I was staying at my sister's place in Laguna we'd go to a pool for a neighborhood outing.  These outings are never fancy, more like plain and simple kind of roughing it type of thing.  The only extravagance, if one can call it such, during these affairs is the food.  We'd bring lots of food, either cooked or to be cooked.  There's always tilapia to be grilled, pork or beef to be barbecued, sometimes pansit, sometimes squid, maybe some mangoes with bagoong to dip them in or made into a green mango salad.  And of course, rice.  Mmmm...just mentioning all that food has made my mouth water, especially at the memory of green mango salad.  I'm not a fan of green mango per se because I don't like sour things, but the way this salad is made has me eating it until it's all gone.  Pairing it with grilled fish makes it even better!  Yum!!!  We also do  a lot of swimming, in all that lovely hot springs water.  That would be so nice right now.  So, yes, an outing to either a beach or a pool will definitely be part of my vacation.

     Another important part of this vacation would be making the rounds of my old stomping grounds.  First on the list is the neighborhood in Marikina where I lived almost all of my life.  I don't know what changes have happened in the years since I left so I'll want to check everything out.  I'm sure my husband will be happy to know that there is a Jollibee a block away from our house.  I'll also go to Cubao, Ortigas and Makati.  These areas were places where I either worked, played or both.  I'll make sure to check out the old and new shops, restaurants, buildings, all the sights and sounds.

     To round out my to do list is spending time with family and friends.  This is actually the most important item on my to do list.  Having been away for so long, I'll want to reconnect with my family, my nephew and nieces in particular.  They'll be so grown up, so different from when I saw them last.  I'll want to spend time with my dear, close friends and catch up on all the stories and news that no amount of chat or email can really cover.  It's quite possible we'll do a few slumber parties with just us girls.  I haven't done one of those in a long time.

     There will be a few other things I'll do on this vacation, what I've mentioned thus far is just half the list.  Hubby will surely want to see and do some things too, including a trip to Cebu and Taguig to catch up with his side of the family.  But I'm sure that whatever and wherever we might be, I'll soak up everything in the Philippines that I possibly can.  Because who knows when I'll be able to go back again.

     Ok, now back to reality.

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Taste of Home

     I've often wished that we had all the Filipino stores that the West Coast has that we don't have here in the East Coast.  They have Goldilocks, Red Ribbon, Jollibee, Max's and all those stores that sell Filipino goods.  Over here we do have some Filipino stores and restaurants but more in New Jersey rather than in New York.  So I was very happy when I learned that Jollibee had opened a branch in Woodside, NY.  And pleasantly surprised when we discovered that Red Ribbon had also opened a branch in the same area.

     The Jollibee in Woodside occupies a small corner location right next to the subway and rail lines.  So while dining one will hear the roar of the number 7 or the LIRR trains roaring past.  Tables and chairs are somewhat cramped in the dining area and when the place gets packed (usually the weekends), just finding a place to sit and eat is a challenge.  The service can get a bit slow, and the last time we were there it seemed like they were short staffed.  Given that it was not busy at the time, their slow service was quite puzzling.  That aside, the food tastes just like it does in Philippine Jollibees.  The chicken joy is just as crispy skinned, tender and juicy.  The palabok has the same saucy topping.  The burgers just as flavorful.  They even have the pearl shakes and pies offered in the Philippines.  They're still coming up with new offerings, some of which they are tailoring to American tastes.  We have yet to try them, but they do look delicious.  I'm glad to say that in the few times we've been there I saw not just Filipinos eating there some non Filipinos as well.

     Red Ribbon bakeshop is a few blocks away from Jollibee and also occupies a corner location.  Though appearing to have the same size venue as Jollibee, there is a more relaxed atmosphere at Red Ribbon.  The dining area is much smaller, with the back area for the kitchen and others seeming to have the lion's share of space.  Perhaps the owners were thinking people would come in more to buy than to dine in?  In the two times that we've been there I barely saw people eating at the tables, so I guess they were right in allotting just that much space.  Shelves of bread are to the left of the door when coming in from the street.  Facing the door is a display counter for their cakes, some other baked goodies like mango bars, and the cash registers.  On the menu above this area one will see that they offer Filipino foods in addition to the baked goods like arroz caldo and palabok.  We haven't had a chance to try any of the other goods aside from the cakes and mango bars.  I'm happy to say that the Rocky Road and Black Forest cakes they have here are just as moist and tasty as the ones I used to have at home.  The mango bars have lots of chewy dried mango bits in the moist and cakey bar.  Their coffee needs improving though.  That aside, I would definitely like to go back to sample their other offerings.

     Now that Jollibee and Red Ribbon are here in New York, hopefully the other Filipino restaurants will soon follow suit.  It's really nice to have a taste of home even when halfway across the globe.

© Margj Castillo, Between You and Me, 2010 - Present.