We can’t go out for fun, so why not bring the fun in?
Misery is a three-letter word. E-C-Q, that spells misery.
As Bilbo would put it, “There and back again,” if we were to even compare his fantastic, but equally dangerous journey in Tolkien’s The Hobbit to our pandemic spiral, very real, so very real it’s almost mundane, yet another round of isolation.
Silver linings, right? In the darkest night, the faintest star works wonders. It can shine just as bright, at least bright enough to light our path. At least we have gadgets a-plenty, 3,781 movies and 1,940 TV shows on Netflix and over 18,000 movies for free or for rent on Amazon Prime (as of this time last year, according to data from streaming service search engine Real Good), plus there are others—YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, Showtime, HBO Go, etc.
As for eating out (which is my joy), S-A-D, that spells Enhanced Community Quarantine to me, just as to Tom Cullen in Stephen King’s pandemic-kills-the-world novel The Stand, everything is spelled M-O-O-N, as in “M-O-O-N, that spells Nebraska.”
No, but in this new round of ECQ, second or third since March 2020—I refuse to keep count—I should know better. Not being able to go to Don Patrick Baldosano’s Linamnam or to Margarita Fores’ The Loggia at Palacio de Memoria is too S-A-D for me, but it must be S-A-D-D-E-R for all the restaurateurs out there and their staff, as well as their suppliers, that just when they have set up the tables, they’ll have to put the chairs back up on them again.
Closed in a room, my imagination becomes the universe, and the rest of the world is missing out. —Criss Jami
But no use sulking. Instead, they keep all the plates spinning in the kitchen, if it means pivoting to something new, repackaging an old reliable, whipping up easier-to-handle versions of the stuff they used to be known for. So I gather up a few of the restaurants I’ve found a happy spot in, where, comforted by the first spoonful of minestrone at Café Ilang Ilang or satiated with my last bite of mango crème brulée at Camille Ocampo’s The Pastry Cart, on the better, freer days of this pandemic, I must have thought, “Nothing’s really changed.”
I was wrong. Well, there and back again, but this time, here at home, in another round of complete isolation, when we should know better and find every way not to be S-A-D, what to do, what to do?
Why don’t we have a delicious date night in with Wildflour’s Cremadette, a caramelized puff pastry oozing nutella, dulce de leche, cream cheese, matcha, or custard? Think of these as dreamy half-moon desserts that’ll launch you into cloud nine. For orders, visit wildflourtogo.com, download the Wildflour app, send a message to @wildflourtogo on Instagram, or call Wildflour BGC at (0917) 852 0950.
Why don’t we take home sourdough pizzas from Josh Boutwood’s The Test Kitchen? These pizzas are naturally leavened using buckwheat and rye with some awesome toppings! Or why don’t we create a weekend feast with the menu at Josh’s other restaurant Savage, where the skillet of Chilean mussels in parsley oil and cream, with sourdough bread partly soaked in the sauce, spells H-A-P-P-I-N-E-S-S to me, as do the grilled barramundi and the bone-in ribeye steak? For orders, call or text The Test Kitchen at (0977) 288 5751 or Savage at (0915) 333 9546.
Why don’t we indulge in something that’s sure to warm or brighten up our mood and cheer up our taste buds, along with our senses, by ordering timeless Filipino comfort dishes like the arroz caldo with all the toppings at Friends and Family? Or since we’re on an Olympic high, why not Japanese? Try Saboten’s katsu curry set, open that box of goodness, and promise, you’ll have your happy dance. For orders, call or text Friends and Family at (0917) 891 7053 or Saboten at (0917) 891 6879.
Why not Japanese, indeed? Why not even flown in from Japan? Why don’t we turn Japanese-y and order the Mosaic Sushi Box from Polaris Fine Foods? The Mosaic Sushi Box, a Polaris original, features 25 squares of premium sushi airflown from Japan, a beautiful study on symmetry and balance. But there are also Sushi Blooms made with toro, Hamachi, and salmon. And check out the personalized chirashi sushi cake, the nigiri boxes, or the make-your-own sushi platters. Through this lockdown, there is also a 20 percent off on Polaris’ airflown, chilled, never frozen cut from whole bluefin tuna (Otoro and Chutoro) from Japan. For orders, visit www.polarisfinefoods.com or call (0908) 812 3462.
Why don’t we order lengua estofada, callos à la madrileña, or pork embotido from Mrs. Lloren’s, as if from the comforting past, all from the recipes of fashion designer Jojie Lloren’s mother Hermie, who might as well be our own? That was renowned sculptor Impy Pilapil’s experience of the embotido she described not only as “the best I’ve ever tasted” but also “brings back memories of the classic embotido my mom served when I was kid.” But better be fast because stocks don’t last. For orders, call (0917) 851 1225.
Better yet, why don’t we party on with the Duck Feast at Gallery by Chele, a special takeaway set menu curated from the Guillermo Premium Peking Duck Farm? This feast, good for four to five people, includes beef pastrami croquettes, tuna and potato Spanish salad, seafood terrine with parsley mayo, pulpo a la Gallerga “Chele’s style,” crispy fried squid with basil mayo, duck pie with carrots, mushrooms, peas, and spices, black ink paella, roasted duck breast, duck demi-glace, and dark chocolate burnt Basque cheesecake. Order two days prior at (0917) 546 1673 or shop online at gallerybychele-athome.com. Or try the bibingka cheesecake at Deli by Chele. Light, smooth, and creamy, these cheesecakes come with the aroma and flavors of classic Filipino celebrations. Order at delibychele.com.
And since this ECQ is also spelled D-E-P-R-I-V-A-T-I-O-N, why don’t we check out the bestsellers at Tipple Cafe by Tipple & Slaw Katipunan? Try the Shawarma Rice with either beef, chicken, or mixed meat in single serve, double, and trays good for a party of five to six? There’s also Steak Rice that’s so unique they call it “Umami Rice,” as well the Katipunan Fried Chicken that comes with the creamiest mash, chicken rice, and gravy. Don’t forget the Boneless Peri Peri Chicken with “coolslaw” of cabbage and green goddess, buttered corn, rice, and a fresh peri-peri sauce blend! For orders, call (0917) 772 0756.
Or if our post-summer beach parties have been rudely interrupted, why don’t we try the bestselling chicken inasal at Byrd Tubs? There are many Southeast Asian chicken dishes on Byrd Tubs’ menu, including Hainanese and the Szechuan saliva chicken, but this Filipino favorite does not just spark, but guarantees joy to whoever is consuming it! Apart from it being tasty even without the condiments, the charred flavor does remind you of summer beach parties or fun trips to Bacolod. Don’t forget the java rice, drenched in inato or chicken oil. Order from @ByrdTubs on Instagram or check out byrd-tubs,myshopify.com. Photos by Ching Dee.
And if parties are really your thing, why not bring Almacen vibes to your home by ordering the Almacen party nachos, me goreng chimichanga, and bagnet tacos and dance to your fave Latin music? Don’t we all miss those sizzling, sweaty nights in a club like Almacen and dancing with wild abandon, like no one’s watching? Well, no one’s watching now. For orders, call at (0956) 300 9912.
Many thanks to my council of happy foodies, chefs, and restaurateurs, who have helped me put this menu together for the days I feel this ECQ can get the better of me—Ana Lorenzana de Ocampo, Angelo Comsti, Chele Gonzalez, Don Baldosano, Francis Lim, Jojie Lloren, Josh Boutwood, Kalel Chan, Kim de Guzman Lim, and Kiko Tolentino.
Now, eating at home, we can be H-A-P-P-Y!