Thursday, July 30, 2015

When curiosity drove the chef to Los Banos...

One of the cooking shows I watch whenever I get the chance is "Curiosity Got the Chef" which is hosted by Sharwin Tee. Then I received news that he was dropping by IRRI... And I got the opportunity to talk with him. Ahhh!! Starstruck moment!

I was so unprepared... I came from a wakeboarding weekend in Anilao, Batangas, which was why I was burned. Burned; not tanned. Great... He's fair-skinned... I'd practically look like a black blob bouncing on the rice fields! Only my orange shoes stood out of the darkness. (Thought bubble: Dementor, is that you?) But no worries, it was a beautiful afternoon to be outdoors... And my shoes were too pretty to not be an eye-catcher.

We chatted about heirloom rice, with me hoping I'd be able to give him ideas for new dishes from these traditional rice varieties. He, like all chefs I've talked with, know their food. It's fun talking science with them because they really understand what the implications of chemical properties of ingredients are on the food and they build ideas out of information dished out by lab rats... Like me. Information goes well beyond theory and transforms into something edible.

I guess my enjoyment showed because those who were watching us talk were saying we were throwing witty comments at each other. Well, what can I say? He started it! I had to think on my feet! I was too distracted to remember that I was starstruck. Haha!

The question that stumped me, though, was a personal one: How many rice varieties have you tasted? I've never counted, really. 

I'm posting pictures I didn't take during Chef Sharwin's IRRI visit. Photo credits go to Ana Reynoso. Thank you!!

Watch Curiosity Got the Chef Season 5 on Thursdays, 9:30pm on the Lifestyle Network.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Poltergeist (2015)

These days, I find Freddie, Jason, and Chuckie more gross than they are scary. But there are movies that I'd prefer not to watch because they spook me, like last year's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes... or even Blair Witch Project (which I have never watched. Ever.). Then there are scary movies that I watch because my friends want to watch them. The first one I watched in the cinema with friends was The Sixth Sense (1999). The more recent one was this year's Poltergeist.

Well, it wasn't as scary as I had thought it would be. In fact, I thought I was watching Ghostbusters without the parapsychologists and without the Marshmallow Man and Slimer... basically without the obviously comedic elements. What made it feel like Ghostbusters to me was the presence of a paranormal expert and her team of graduate students, and a tv personality who was documenting ghost stories for his show. These characters helped the family in the haunted house to save the youngest of the brood. 

I learned later that this movie was a remake of an older movie. I wonder if the older movie was creepier than this one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Jurassic World (2015)

My birthday week ended with a surprise: we saw dinosaurs! No, we didn't really see dinosaurs in an uncharted island in the middle of nowhere... we just went to watch Jurassic World.

And what a joyride it has been, as always. I knew we'd see the Tyrannosaurus rex and the Velociraptors. But I didn't quite expect the appearance of the biggest baddie in this refurbished nature park: the extra ferocious Indominus rex. Seriously, it was claiming to be the wildest king of the jungle (the name said it all). Then there was the Mosasaur that made great white sharks look puny. The first few minutes of the movie was all about introducing these new characters, along with the humans that tempted fate by allowing themselves to get close to the animals a level higher than them in the food chain. What else is new, right?

Of course, something just had to go wrong... And it just had to involve the shortage of human common sense and the higher logical functions of Indominus rex. Why that enclosure had a door big enough for the dinosaur to pass through, I have no idea. The intelligence of the dinosaur was quite extraordinary as it figured that it could food humans and get them to open the door for her. But we cannot expect less from the scientist who had thought of mixing different DNA segments from different organisms to create the Indominus rex. If I understand the movie correctly, the scientist combined DNA from the T. rex, the Velociraptor, and another reptile (a lizard, maybe)... I was thinking that maybe, some human DNA got into the mix as well, to explain the animal's intelligence (but the movie never mentioned this). The funny thing is, the scientist claimed that this was the first time that they made a dinosaur hybrid! That can't be correct, right? A T. rex and a Velociraptor had to have been cross-bred to create the Indominus rex. If the scientist stuck with the "all dinosaurs are female" premise, then there shouldn't be any male dinosaurs to breed with female dinosaurs. Also, physical differences between the T. rex and a Velociraptor would have made the cross-breeding difficult. Then there's the third DNA source... I am not a geneticist or a breeder, though, so don't take my word for it. 

The Velociraptors, I was quite surprised, were tamed... well, behaved is the better word. They found an alpha raptor in the form of their human trainer. They're still ferocious, but they followed a leader this time around. At some point, they switched loyalties towards the Indominus rex and this made life particularly perilous to the humans (who thought that the raptors could be used to hunt down the Indominus rex). 

At the end of the day, the T. rex showed the Indominus rex who the real boss of Jurassic World really was... to the expense of the Indominus and the satisfaction of the Mosasaur. 

The thing about Jurassic World is that it showed truly scary dinosaurs even though these animals aren't so ferocious in real life. This has made the movie a steady topic over our lunch breaks because we just couldn't get over the movie for several weeks! For instance, we couldn't stop talking about how, in real life, the Velociraptor fossils suggest that this animal was the size of a turkey and has feathers. How scary can this animal be, right? But the movie maintained it to look like a baby T. rex (most likely for continuity's sake). 

And that's how we celebrated the end of my birthday week, the nerdy couch potato way. Come to think of it, we were eating potatoes before we watched the movie.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Rochie's 2015 birthday celebration :)

Yes, another "over-celebrated" inconsequential number. As always, it took me a week of partying to celebrate my birthday. 

I kickstarted it on Tuesday. I ate dinner at The Black Pig with Ana, Anna, Pau, Annette, and Matty. A strange mix people, it seems, but really it's a group of my friends all involved in heirloom rice, who love rosé wine, and some I went (or got dragged into) roaming the exhibits and ice cream shops of Madrid Fusíon Manila with. As always, the food at The Black Pig was excellent; Carlos has outdone himself again in the kitchen. Anton and Berna, as usual, were very warm hosts. How could I not drop by for a great dinner when the restaurant partners are all my friends, right?

On Wednesday night, I had dinner up in the heights... near the infinity pool at the penthouse floor, in fact, of The Nest, of Vivere Hotel (in Alabang). This time, I was with my foodie friends: Man, Ate Bing, and Justin. Ate Mary opted out at the last minute; otherwise, the group would have been complete. I learned of Justin's food enthusiasm when he and I became probies at the invitation-only Dinner Club. Man, Ate Bing, and Ate Mary last joined me in our biggest June 19th cultural food trip splurge to date: Bale Dutung's scrumptious 10-course dinner.

Thursday was all about family again. I drove to Sta Cruz to eat Calda's Pizza's famous giant pizza with my aunts, cousins, nephews, and niece. This pizza, for me, is made all better with an additional helping of olives. The potatoes are also very good here. 

Friday, Matty took care of our lunch at Mio Cucina, where I really love the pako salad with white cheese and radishes. I then had a pizza reprise for afternoon meryenda. Thing is, it was with officemates and we got four huge pies from Yellow Cab... My got-to pizza for when I'm at work because it delivers. I was just overwhelmed (and the boss was too) by the amount of food because aside from pizza, there's pancit, cake, and bread too! But like at any party, the food was efficiently polished off. It's as if a party didn't happen.

Ironically (because it was the start of the weekend), Friday night was quiet. No dinners out. No parties. I just went home and slept. 

Then I had Saturday lunch with Lola Bats, Tita Ising, Tito Sibing, and Annapet. Since Lola is weak already, we skipped eating out and decided to bring the lunch to Lola's house. She was quite happy to see us visiting her, complete with a blueberry cheesecake. She, as always, was excited to listen to Anna's and my adventures... I just couldn't give her pasalubong from Switzerland because they're all sweets.

Sunday, as I was winding down my birthday week, i spent the afternoon with Tito Tony, Tita Ching, Ate Nina, Pinky, and Chinky at their home. I was assigned to bring ice cream as dessert to the lunch they had prepared. As always, I had fun spending time with my childhood friends. Plus, Tito Tony is my dad's best friend... he and Tita Ching are our sort-of second parents.

I thought it was over as Sunday drew to a close. But no. Matty got me to help him search for his new mobile phone. At first he didn't want to drive all the way to Alabang because he thought it's too far. So we went to Nuvali because I found out that that's where units that matched his specifications were being sold. Yes, we've returned to Nuvali on my birthday week. Spanking new phone and SIM card in hand, we were in a celebratory mood. We had a relatively early dinner in Nuvali. But since he thought it was still early enough, we ended up going to Alabang after all... to watch Jurassic World! We didn't get over the tamed Velociraptors, the intelligent Indominus rex, the heroic Tyrannosaurus rex, and the gigantic Mosasaurus. These were our topics of discussion for several days after watching the movie.

Over-celebrated might not be the right word. It was a very good birthday week, with two of my most fervent prayers coming true. I was just sharing the Lord's overflowing blessings with family and friends. Paying it forward, so to speak.