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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dunny Series 2013: The Wait Begins

So it's that time again when Kidrobot  previews its Dunny series for the year.  Unlike before when it leaves us guessing the release date of the series, this year Kidrobot already announced the official date: June 14.



I'm not sure if I'm right but I believe this is the first regular series with a theme.  It's called the side show.  More like a carnival show as the site itself describes it:

Dunny series 2013 invites you to tour the tent, point & wonder, and behold a collection of freaks for the geek you didn’t know you were. Artists from off the beaten path and the road less travelled lure you to embrace the strange and scary. Featuring 20 designs across 14 artists, each artist applies his or her custom style to bring fantastic, eccentric and sometimes downright frightening designs to homes and shelves throughout the world.
And it's first teaser is obviously a Julie West:






I can't wait to see the rest of the designs, especially photos of the actual Dunny figures.

(all images from kidrobot.com)


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Flickr Gave Me 1TB Space for My Photos for Free!

I just noticed this afternoon that my Flickr account looked different. The photos that used to be arranged neatly in columns are now filling the pages.  No more empty white spaces, just photos in different sizes.  Then I opened my mail and discovered that Flickr has just introduced innovation to my favorite online photo sharing site.

Flickr has a new design that puts photos at the heart of its users' Flickr experience.  The homepage is now a gateway for everything the site has to offer. A new Activity Feed combines recent uploads with activity of photos of the users and their friends.  There is also a slideshow mode to allow users to flip through photos hands-free.




The biggest change of course is the amount of space allotted for the users to store their photos.  Flickr just gave each one of us a whopping 1 terabyte of space for free.  This is to encourage users to upload their photos in high resolution.  Here's what Flickr has to say:

At Flickr, we believe you should share all your images in full resolution, so life’s moments can be relived in their original quality. No limited pixels, no cramped formats, no memories that fall flat. We’re giving your photos room to breathe, and you the space to upload a dizzying number of photos and videos, for free. Just how big is a terabyte? Well, you could take a photo every hour for forty years without filling one. 
And yep, you heard us. It’s free.

Aside from more spaces for photographs, Flickr is now supporting up to a full 3 minutes per video of 1080p HD quality.

And there's another major change, a little kink for me.  Flickr Pro is not being offered anymore and in its place, the site introduced the Ad-Free and the Doublr accounts which basically have the same benefits as the free account except that subscribers can browse ad-free.  Doublr account holders also have up to 2 terabytes of space for their photos.  Ads-free accounts come at US$49.99 per year while the Doublr is offered at US$499.99 annually.  

By the way, if you have a pro account you can still renew it at US$24.99 per year and still have an ads-free and unlimited browsing experience.  However, the "pro" badge in your profile and buddy icon will not be there anymore.

Anyway, that's 1 terabyte of free space plus ALL your photos and videos are available for your visitors to see and watch.  Not bad for a free account.  I just hope it stays that way.




Saturday, May 11, 2013

Viajeng Cusinang Matua - A Capampangan Food Trip Pt. 3

This is the third and final part of my account of our Viajeng Cusinang Matua trip to the old kitchens of Pampanga.

Our next stop was the Prado Farm in Lubao.  It's owned by the Gutierrez Family who are into arts and eco-management.  The first thing that you will see when you get there is the main gate made out of old LPG cylinders.  We went around the farm first before we had our afternoon merienda.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Everywhere you go inside the compound, you'll see things even buildings made from recycled materials.  Even the art installations around the farm were fashioned from old things

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Viajeng Cusinang Matua


Viajeng Cusinang Matua

The farm has a chapel which also made from recycled materials.  It can be rented out for a wedding and could accomodate about 300 guests.


They also have an Ifugao House where guests may have a bonfire at night. It also looked like an amphitheater where anyone can do some performance.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Guests can also dip in the salt water pool.  We were told that the salinity of the water is monitored constantly and they add salt when it goes down.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

We had our merienda at their main building, beside a lily pond.  They have a fountain coming straight from the roof of the building, giving the impression of rain on a warm summer afternoon.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Our merienda included another version of pisto topped with longganiza, pan de sal and kesong puti made from goat's milk, as well as tsokolate baterol with pinipig paired with crunchy fried suman.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

We moved on to our final stop of our trip, the Gosioco Ancestral House in Sta. Rita.  It was a really old house made of wood with only the lower part or silong made of concrete.  It reminded me of the old house my father's family used to own in Paco, Manila.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

The house was full of old stuff and what attracted my attention were the frames of cut out religious figures that were like 3D pictures.  Atching May who now lives in the house told me that the frames were made by the grandmother and grandaunts of her grandmother.  So those must be at least a hundred years old.



We ate outside, in the backyard beside an old kamalig where they used to keep their harvested rice.  Our dinner included food that were traditionally served to the guests of the Gosioco family.  Atching May explained that the recipes were handed down through generations.  

My favorite was the Asadong Matua, pork asado eaten with native atchara, which I also really liked.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Then there's the vegetable dish which I didn't get the name.  It's sautéed squash and patola. 


Viajeng Cusinang Matua

We were also given their own recipe of pocherong tilapia which was a traditional Gosioco family dish.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Another Gosioco Family recipe was the Native Chicken boiled and cooked in a soup with tanglad or lemongrass.  Atching May told us that it's like tinola, except that this one was dry and yes, has lemongrass in it instead of ginger.



For our drinks, we had a wonderful and refreshing buko sherbet.  It's actually fresh buko juice but I think it was mixed with some pandan leaves extract.  It was a great way to end a meal and a day long food trip of traditional Pampanga cuisine.



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Viajeng Cusinang Matua - A Capampangan Food Trip Pt 2

This is the second part of my account of our Viajeng Cusinang Matua tour which brought us to the old kitchens of Pampanga.  You may read the first part here.

From Mexico, we went to Arayat for mid morning merienda.  We went to an eatery called Kabigting's which is known for its version of everybody's favorite summer snack - the halohalo.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

The place was rather small and could fit about three to four tables.  The owner was there and told us that we should have gone to their branch in a mall in another city.  But of course Tracey, our guide wanted to show us where the business started.

What made their halohalo different were its ingredients.  The usual halohalo has a lot of contents like sweetened bananas, camote, beans, etc.  Their version has only three ingredients: pastillas made from carabao milk, the halayang white beans and sweet corn.  These were then combined with the usual ice and fresh milk.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Once you have mixed the concoction, the entire thing thickens, thanks to the pastillas.  The result was a really thick, sweet cold treat perfect for the heat that morning.  I just wish the staff were a lot friendlier because everyone seemed to be unhappy while we were there.  They just passed us by with out even a glance.  Finally a male staff member offered us drinking water to wash down the stuff we've just consumed.

From here, we did some pasalubong shopping.  I now think that it was placed on our schedule to give our tummies a break before we set out for our lunch.  The halohalo was quite heavy thanks to the pastillas and beans.

Lunch was at Everybody's Cafe in San Fernando City.  The restaurant was built in the 1950s and the structure sure looked like a 1950s building.  It was called Everybody's Cafe because at the time, just about anybody would go there to eat, including the American servicemen who were stationed at the Clark Air Base.  The cafe has turned into a landmark and a place to get authentic Capampangan cuisine.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

They're well known for their stuffed betute or frogs.  Unfortunately, it is off season for frogs when we went there so we didn't get to taste the frogs.  Too bad because I was so looking forward to trying this exotic dish,  I've tried deep fried frog legs before though.

Their other specialty is the camaro salad.  It's main ingredient is cricket but unlike in other eateries, the legs and wings of the insects were removed by the staff during their free time.  What's left were the soft parts of the torso which was dried to crunchiness  I didn't get to take a picture of the dish because it was gone in an instant.  I have to admit that it was quite tasty and refreshing.  Unfortunately, the cricket population in the province has been dwindling due to the industrial development there.  




We also ordered their other specialty, the morcon baked with chorizos and quezo de bola.  It's so creamy with the melt in your mouth feel.  It should be eaten with it's own drippings which you have to mix with your rice.  But it looks like an embutido, though.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

So what is a meal of Capampangan cuisine without the all-time favorite dish? Yup, I am referring to sisig!  We were told however that Everybody's  Cafe serves pork sisig the native way or not the sizzling sisig we all know.  It turns out that sisig is a method of cooking, not the name of the dish much like nilaga or paksiw.  So you have a sisig chicken, fish, etc.  The sizzling sisig is an innovation and it was a big hit, especially for beer drinkers.  The sisig we had looked like and tasted like another favorite, the tokwa't baboy but this one does not have the tokwa/tofu.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

After having lunch, we were met by the owner of the business.  Actually Poch Jarolan is already the third generation owner and he showed us a mural inside the conference room.  The painting depicts major events in the history of the Philippines.  According to Poch, it was his father who commissioned a local painter to do the job in 1967.  It was repainted in 1979.  

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

The original painter happened to be someone who also make billboards for movies before there was the technology to print them.  So many of the historical figures in the mural bore resemblance to movie stars in the period.  We had fun identifying who looked like whom.  Try it for yourself from the pictures below.



We bid Everybody's Cafe goodbye and proceeded to our next stop in Lubao, which was some 45 minutes away.  We took the travel time to relax and snooze.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Viajeng Cusinang Matua - A Capampangan Food Trip Pt. 1

My officemates and I recently took the Viajeng Cusinang Matua tour, a day trip to the old kitchens of Pampanga. Our guide, Tracey Santiago, who also operates the tour told us that we will be served traditional Capampangan food whose recipes were handed down from generation to generation.

Our first stop was at the Kusina ni Atching Lilian Borromeo in Mexico, Pampanga where we had our breakfast.   Atching Lilian (atching is a local honorific word for an older sister) is a food historian who has her own cook show on cable TV in Central Luzon.


She explained to us that Capampangan homes usually have a big kitchen because they love the cook.  She then told us what we were having for breakfast that morning.  Although some of the food looked familiar, Atching Lilian explained what gave these dishes the Capampangan treatment.

For example, the tidtad which is actually dinuguan. Their version was not as thick as what I am used with and the pig's blood was more solid.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

My favorite in the lot is the kilayin.  It tasted like lechon paksiw but more sour and less sweet taste.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

There's also the pisto, which Atching Lilian explained other families usually prepare using left over meat.  Her family's recipe uses fresh meat and also they added carrots and tomatoes.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

There were also the chicken embutido.  We also tried the tocino and longganiza made of carabao beef that's why they were called tocino and longganiza damulag. Carabaos are called damulag in Pampanga.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua
Viajeng Cusinang Matua

For dessert, we were given the tejadang camatis or candied tomatoes.  They're sweet and the texture of the tomatoes was a little gummy.  Atching Lilian explained that they used three varieties of tomatoes for this: the red, green and purple.  She also gave us her secret how to keep the natural color of the tomatoes even when cooked: copper pans.  In fact she showed us a copper pan that she got from her grandmother and estimated to be more than a hundred years old.  It was also quite heavy.  But since such pans are rare now, she said that we could just put a copper coin in while cooking and the effect would still be the same.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

After the main course, we had some tsokolate baterol and tamales.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

After having our meal, Atching Lilian demonstrated to us how they make the San Nicolas cookies.  She said that the recipe calls for 6 egg yolks, some flour and water.  The resulting dough is then pressed in a mold similar to what Atching Lilian is holding in the picture.  The mold is almost like a family crest since each family uses its own design for their cookies.

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

Viajeng Cusinang Matua

And here's another interesting trivia Atching Lilian told us.  She explained that these special cookies were brought here by the Spaniards in the 1600s.  During that time churches were built in Pampanga using limestone combined with egg whites.  The yolk was thrown away and given the number of eggs used, they soon had a problem with the unpleasant odor brought about by the rotting material.  What the convent nuns did was  they taught their young convent girls how to make San Nicolas cookies.   The Capampangan modified the recipe to suit their taste and over the years, every family has its own version of the cookie.

The cookie is very much like the uraro.  But the locals believe that if blessed, the cookies have miraculous powers to bring a bountiful harvest, protect one from sickness, and other things.

We had to move on to our next stop though so we left Mexico for Arayat for our mid morning snacks.



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Birthday Celebration at Vikings Buffet

This year, I celebrated my birthday at the Vikings Buffet The Block SM North EDSA.  It's food spread is quite extensive and includes Asian and Continental cuisine.  If you choose to, you can even ask their cook to make something special for you.  Drinks are also unlimited but wines and liquor are not.

Vikings

I went for the roast leg of lamb first.  I love lamb and theirs passed my taste. Tasty and juicy, the meat was soft and tender.  I missed the distinct lamb taste though my brother said it was still there.  I also tried  the Angus beef and it's also tender even when I had it prepared medium rare.

The Japanese selection was also extensive and well prepared.  To my utter shock however, they put on display the remains of a giant tuna with all its flesh removed and only the head, spine and tail remained intact.  I pity the poor fish.



And the choices for dessert is quite extensive too.

Vikings


By the way, if you're celebrating your birthday, the restaurant has an on-going promotion where you get a 100% discount as long as you eat there with a group.  Just make sure that it is your actual birthday and you show them a government issued ID (driver's license, BIR, GSIS/SSS or TIN ID) that indicates your birth date.  As an added treat for my birthday, I was given this special chocolate cake.  Little did I know that this cake also serves as a marker.

Vikings

You see, they have a surprise for birthday celebrants where some of the staff sing to you a special "Happy Birthday" complete with guitar and some shouting.  They would even shout out your name before they start singing.

At first I wanted to join in the fun but then I saw that one of the staff was dancing, or should I say gyrating in front of the other celebrants. I was turned off and decided to let them pass.  I also think that this merrymaking is quite rambunctious and somehow disturbs other patrons who want to eat in peace.

Over all I enjoyed the experience.  We went there on a weeknight so the buffet was priced at PhP888.  You'd think that's quite pricey but I tell you, there's so much to eat there.  Compared to other buffets I've tried, the food in Vikings is also very good.  If there's a senior citizen in your group, he's also entitled to 50% discount off the regular price.   You must also reserve a table two weeks in advance so you will have seats and need not fall in line to get a number.

Vikings is located at the 4th floor of The Block SM North EDSA.