Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sweet Potato and Fish Chowder

I was looking for a light, easy  but delicious soup recipe for FF's birthday lunch celebration. Yes,  FF had another year to be grateful about and he will  be celebrating , so little wifey took a day off from work to play cook and  waitress. No complains here, I love stepping into those shoes since we hardly have any celebrations at home. It would be a three course meal and birthday boy wants to have a soup for starters, so soup it is. A week before the celebration, I made some experiments and naturally, he became the instant Guinea pig taster. First, I made carrots and apple curry soup ( remembering how wonderful the subtle curry soup we had at Medici) but my own version failed to impress us both. The soup was ok but end up too bland, too simplistic and too so-so. A short trip to the grocery shop  and I made another choice. The sweet potato on the vegetable and fruit section looked all mighty, chunky , titillating and almost begging to be bought. I gave in, and gave it a try. It was just one of those , throw a bit of this and that to the pot that somehow yield a jackpot. The soup was delicious, so I was told. Here's how I did it. This recipe served 10 happy campers at FF's simple lunch celebration the following week.

Camote Soup ala Emily

Into the big heavy pot goes  3 tablespoons of butter and 200 g of smoked bacon ,finely chopped. Heat gently, stirring frequently until fat runs, meat starts to brown and a wisp of smokey goodness that spells blood clot undulates the air. Ignore that, it's worth it. Add in 1 big, finely chopped onion,  cook over a low heat until translucent but not brown.

Turn heat to medium high. Add in 5 medium size peeled and chopped carrots, stir well and let it slather in those delicious but not-so healthy butter-bacon fat amalgam. Beta carotin made better? Also peel and chop sweet potatoes and add into the pot. I used 1 ginormous sweet potato weighing close to 600 g, stir well and cover pot for 5 minutes.

Pour 1 Liter of fish stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes and carrots are tender. Take the pot out from the heat and leave to cool for few minutes.

Process soup using a hand held mixer or food processor until smooth. It will get thick, almost heavy . Loosen it all up by adding another liter of fish stock, bring to a boil, uncovered.

Gently stir in 500 g of cubed white fish fillets ( like haddock, cod , ocean perch or what ever is available to you) and a handful of finely chopped parsley. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes until fish is just cooked. Season with salt and white pepper. If you want to have a smooth, velvety soup, you could puree the soup again once the fish is cooked. FF, however wants to have a chunkier version so I just skipped that.

Reduce the heat to low and add in 400 ml of cream, gently heat through without boiling,  stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot and garnished with chopped fresh parsley.

Enjoy it as we all did !

Monday, March 19, 2012

Crimson Resort and Spa, Mactan

Stepping into Crimson Resort and Spa in Mactan , one would feel that people working there are genuinely happy to see you. ''Welcome to Crimson Resort, Ma'am, Sir!'', greets a beautiful welcoming attendant with a smile. Voice even, sweet but well modulated, somehow makimi and praise Wolverine, no Kris Aquino/ Pinoy Starbucks  twang.  A  hint of pride and anticipation lingered in their eyes as they slightly bow ( Yes, bow!) down to you in greetings with their right palm touching  over their heart . This unique  courtesy /salutation somehow conveys a silent message that it is their pleasure to serve you. At least that's how it was to me. And it was indeed a pleasure. Everybody was so friendly and helpful during our 4-nights stay. The staffs at reception, the housekeepers, drivers, the polite guards, bartenders, restaurant crew and even the resort's company nurse who checked on FF as he've gone down with abdominal flu making him eat nothing but banana for days, he could be Tarzan's new best friend. Hey! I was off duty and  that's a completely different story.  Anyway, the  placid  smiles made us  feel welcome and yes, home. Warm, engaging,  non exuberant . This is Filipino hospitality at it's best.

The Lobby

The Bridge leading to the Reception and to the Restaurants

 The  high ceiling and open aired lobby  welcomed  guest to its postcard like view of the infinity pool that reaches out to the calm sea.  Picture this: Clear blue skies, water that stretches out as far as the eyes could see, beautiful, lush gardens and endless promise of sand and sea. I haven't seen a single patron that did not stop , look and revel in the beauty of the surroundings . True to its name, Crimson entices and  seduces  . It's easy to fall in love with this place. It made me happy to be here and  considering others' delighted smiles, they too, share my sentiments. Philippines is beautiful and I'm proud to call it my home. 

The Reception

The lobby leads guests to two directions. To the right is the reception. To the left, the restaurants, leading  to the pool . We were then  whisked to the reception.The area was cozy and  not your typical  it's-so-wide-you-can-waltz- space  common in big  hotels. It was homey and the entire place was adorned with intricately detailed ornamentations. With a Mediterranean flair combining with our traditional Filipino influences, the place is your best example of east meets west  integration.

The Lobby although well ventilated,   could get pretty sultry and hot on some days .

I taught FF how to play  Sungka at the lobby. Reminds me of my childhood days. This was one of my favorite  board game as a kid, if we could not get ourselves a wooden board and cowrie shells, we simply dug some holes on the ground and use  pebbles. Yes, in those days kids don't need Wii, PlayStation's and Ipad  to enjoy themselves .

Some of the artistic woodcrafts using the country's own indigenous materials.

The Facade

Me in front of  the gate leading to our accommodation.
This  6 hectare secluded  sanctuary has  a village type setting, each  little village  has its own gate providing a sense of exclusivity and privacy to guest.  The resort takes security matters pretty seriously. One could not simply barge in  without showing some  identifications. The entire resort is enclosed  and has  a main entrance and exit area with security personals keener than a K9 dog  on guard. They checked, wrote the car's plate numbers down and asked for papers . They don't cut  some slack, not even to their own resort drivers .  Taxis, tour buses, private vehicle owners must leave their papers at the guard house ( sometimes handing over their driving licence! ) and could only retrieve those items when they leave the compound.

Bungalow type rooms

Crimson Resort and Spa has over 250 contemporary casitas, 40 luxury villas with private plunge pool to boot. The place looks a bit like a  residential subdivision  .

Guest are driven around the resort, sent and picked up  to and from their rooms by golf carts per request Strolling along the  well maintained walkways is still a nice alternative.

The Accommodations

The garden suite

The rooms are lavish  without compromising comfort. I swear, this was the  best bed I've ever slept on this entire trip. Soft but a bit springy, just the way I like it. Once your head touches those marshmallow soft pillows, you will drift off  to an eminent space  riding flying unicorns, leaving a trail of star dust, as you snore the night away. The dark wooden floor and furnitures give a nice contrast to the whitewashed walls and celling. Hues of orange and gold here and there pops out and brightens the place up.

The bathroom
Modern, marbled and  well kept bathrooms with a tub. You could even watch TV while taking a dip.

Like points:
  • Modern and beautifully appointed rooms with a comfortable   day bed perfect for lazing out, cozy outdoor sitting area or veranda.
  • 42 in'' LCD TV in the room and a smaller version in the bathroom  with access to trillions of TV programs.I was  quite with happy with cartoon network though.
  • Free and F-A-S-T Wifi in the rooms and being in the Philippines, that's saying something .
  • Clean bathroom and toilette with huge overhead shower . For once, I forget about global warming and took  looooong soothing  showers til  I was wrinkled as a prune.
  • There's an umbrella in every room for guests to use. It did came in handy. I do appreciate little things like that.
The Dislike points:
  • Some rooms ( like  the first one we've slept on during our first night) had  huge door gaps. We could practically hear everything from the inside. Bickering couples, wailing kids, giggling and everybody who passes by our room! Sleeping was a bit difficult on the first night due to the noise.
  • Toiletries were not replaced daily. I have a haystack for hair and those minute shampoo bottles won't last 2 showers but the empty container wasn't refilled or replaced. Oh well, I simply bought my own stuff on our second night. No biggy.

The Beach

View of the beach from the resort's wharf.

The sand  wasn't as powdery white or as fine as Boracay. It was sun kissed,  close to ocker . The total area wasn't big and some parts of the beach were cliffy. The sea bed  was quite rocky so very few hotel guest swim . The beach front was however secluded and provides total  privacy so you can sunbathe in skimpy bikini  until you'll be as crispy as a  bacon. Crimson offers water sports just like most resorts.

The Amenities


View of the pool from the sea side

View of the pool from the clubhouse

This huge multi leveled infinity pool is the resorts biggest attraction. Guests were surprisingly scare on our first day so we have the pool almost to ourselves . I naturally took the opportunity to hone my  dog padding skills while FF laugh his ass out since I can't swim. LOL.


The pool was child friendly  and gives courage to vertically challenge people  ( here! hereeeee!) to waddle to its deepest point  which is only 5 ft . Hurrah!

Me doing everything to stay afloat. Read:  Hands and feet frantically kicking and splashing in all direction.  Nobody dared to join me on this side of the pool because of the riot I was making. LOL

Kids' Indoor/Outdoor Playground

For the kids and kids at heart.

The Gym

For those who are scared of piling those unwanted holiday pounds, there's enough things at the resort  that would help you burn calories out. Aside from the usual  fitness and exercise equipments,  the resort also has an indoor badminton/tennis court. Biliard table and board game are laid out at the Sport Bar to provide  a less arduous entertainment alternative.

  • The Resort Shop

Sells mostly swimwear and gears just in case overnight guest or day tourist forget to bring appropriate bathing suits. Souvenir items could also be found here but you could naturally get cheaper and probably better options downtown. We bought 4 post cards here and payed 92 PhP each for it to be sent off to family and friends in Germany. Those postcards are probably floating at the Pacific by now or stashed among somebody's piling rubbish since it never reached its destination. Disappointing!

  • The Spa

 Feel the sea breeze caress you, listen to  the gentle  waves as it embraces the shore while you indulge yourself in some serious pampering beside the pool facing the beach. If you want privacy , try out the more secluded Aum Spa aaaand tell me about it since I haven't tried it myself. Hek hek!

  • Restaurants and Eats

Azure Pool Bar

With wide covered cabanas by the beach, this is a nice place to stay and laze out during the day and a cool place to chill out at night. Had dinner here on our first night.

Food was OK, nothing remarkable aside from the mango based flan which was delicately flavored and utterly delicious . Price rather steep but it did not surprise me.

Tempo Lounge

Located at the 2nd floor, this restaurant offers a magnificent view of the the resort's pool and shore. Loved the eye catching and beautiful artistic pieces that spruce up the entire the place.

Breakfast spread sample in Tempo Lounge

Had our breakfast here on the second day, choices were considerably less compared to the Saffron Cafe below but I prefer the atmosphere here. It was more lax , table setting considerably spacious that you don't have to worry about bumping  somebody's elbow as you grab a donut or two..

Saffron Cafe
The 250 seater restaurant is the resort's main dining venue , serving buffets and ala carte dishes from breakfast, lunch to dinner. It was  located near the swimming pool with an outdoor dinning option. Since more than 80% of the resorts patrons are Korean, Korean dishes are prominent at the buffet table. The choices were abundant but not overwhelming. I  personally am not a big fan of exceedingly extensive buffets where the entire place will be laden with so much food you that feel sated and full by simply looking at it.  

Breakfast spread

During breakfast, try to avoid peak hours ( round 9) since securing a table could be difficult if the resort is full.

Although the resort is quite far from Cebu city, about 45 mins drive and could be longer when there's a traffic jam ( which is pretty much always!), the resort has a free shuttle bus  that sends and picks up hotel guests to and from Ayala and SM City mall , downtown. A taxi ride to and from the city would cost you around 200 PhP or more.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cebu Food Trip: SU TU KIL

After 21 hours of  travel on  plane, train and all things in between, we finally arrived in Cebu. One more plane ride to Mindanao and I would be home. Since the next plane to my island would have us wait for 6 hours at the airport, we decided to stay in Cebu for a night before travelling further. I was a wrecked and it shows. After a hasty shower ( Praise Batman!) I almost dragged  an equally weary  FF to the place where I have been researching for months. ( Read: Me in front of the PC, drooling over some pictures of food!)

 Since our hotel is smack in the middle of the growing touristic location  and resort laden Mactan, we decided to pay the monumental site of Magellan's battle  a visit but we were famished  and longing for real food so we headed off for some chow .  Lapu Lapu can wait, I can't. Not that I'm ungrateful for the set meal that I got on the plane. It was not bad  but I never really enjoy food when I'm 10 000 meter  above earth's orbit. Fear of flying, small contained spaces, high altitude and low air  pressure  somehow dampens what little appetite that I have . As my feet touch the soil , moi appetito came back with gusto. I wanted fresh food, cooked in a way I liked it and not microwave heated, packed meals . A girl could wish.

Real plates, spoons and fork thank you very much!

Just a few minutes ride away from our hotel is a cluster  of al fresco Sutukil restaurants.  Su-Tu-Kil are shortened Cebuano words that stand for the method of cooking different dishes. Su for sugba meaning grill, Tu for tuwa which is soup and Kil for Kilaw,  foods mainly   fish , marinated in vinegar concoction.These are just the three main dishes, typically offered in such places.  On these restaurants, smorgasbord of seafood  are laid affront the restaurant to entice on lookers. We arrived around 3 in the afternoon and it looks like the some of 'freshly caught' spread have already seen better days .

After some small talk with our taxi driver who became our guide , we found out that SuTuKil area used to be a hole in the wall eateries on Mactan's seaside that serve  locals . Then tourism blooms and Korean invaded Mactan, there's no blood spilt. They bought land, build resorts and give Mactan area a boost . I guess if Magellan were to come today, he could be sitting at this bay drinking SMB with Lapu Lapu. Ok, I'M drifting off. Anyway, the small stalls grew big and like most thriving businesses, competitors sprout like mushrooms. Bigger and better Su Tu Kil restaurants pop all over the place and as  the place rocks sky high , so has the prices. Only very few locals come today,  nowadays it  caters mostly tourists,  both Filipinos and foreigners. Competition among restaurant owner is palpable and yes audible. Once you step into the street, salesman  from each restaurant zooms up to your face and do what they think they do best. Persuade. ''Ma'am! Ma'am!  Sir!  Sir! Diri! Diri sa amoa ! Lami kaayo, presko! Barato ra!'' Ma'am! Ma'am! Sir! Sir! Come to our restaurant. We offer delicious foods. It's fresh! It's cheap!  Each trying to convince costumers that their restaurant have the best offer.  All these men talk..... at the same time it's overwhelming and yes almost irritating . Much to our chagrin, few offered to be our ''Umbrella Man''. Oh come on! I could carry my own umbrella! I'm not J.Lo and FF is certainly not P.Diddy! We were laughing just to hide our discomfort. With bickering salesman  hot on our heels, the first restaurant that we saw provides us an escape hatch and we did not even bother looking at its competitor's offer. My bad. Jet Lag, ....nerves....hungry.

 I try to blend in  while being in the Phil. walking the walk and talking the talk of the locals , hey,  I'm as  native as native could get but having a 6 ft. tall, fair skinned, blue eyed companion  simply gave me away. No matter how much I tried  and even if I could speak their  dialect, people knew we were tourist. And in a place like this, tourist tend to pay more since they get 'tourist' prices, if you catch my drift.

Each of these restaurants have second or three levels/stories. Some even have air conditions but why go there when you can have fresh air and nice view of sea? This particular restaurant  uses indigenous materials common in the Philippines such as Abacas and bamboos. Sea shells and corals adorned the entire place.

Open air restaurant with a view of Mactan sea..

And so I, FF and his new found friend/taxi driver shared this spread:

The camaron rebosado was a tad too dry for my taste. It was probably cooked too long, since it end up rather chewy. The shrimps lost all its succulence.

 I have been dreaming for weeks eating this. It certainly looks promising but it failed to perk me up and FF, being a sweet and sour fan was somehow disappointed. The fish did not taste fresh and the sauce, well, it tasted sweet and errr sweet? Too much banana ketchup if you ask me. There was very little sour agent to balance the sweetness of the sauce. We still lap it up anyway.Hehe

Probably the best dish we had that day. Seasoned well and fried to a crisp, this Calamares was my favorite. I could have all to myself but it was thankfully big enough for three.

We went againts the norm while eating at Su Tu Kil since we did not eat Sugma, Tuwa or Kilaw. We had everything fried down to this Shanghai fried rice. I might as well call it a Pri-Pri-Pri meal. Pri for Prito ( fried).(^_^)

I had high hopes for this meal, after reading a lot of promising reviews, I guess I set my expectations too high but  this  first  homecoming meal failed to impress me. I guess it could have been different if we checked the whole place out. Here are just few thumbs down reasons.

  •  Hoping to get freshly cooked food, I notice that all our food came lukewarm. Even the sweet and sour fish was not hot. I guess being in a country that has a minimum temp. of 27°c, serving a dish hot goes at the bottom of quality ladder.

  • The overzelous sale representative is a big turn off. I hope they would give costumers some space to choose and contemplate and not ganging up to them in unison!

  • Lastly, I was astonished when I got the bill. It was almost twice as I expected. The foods are weigh before cooking and I did a mental calculation after making our order, adding about 2 to 3  hundred ''cooking fee'' for the dishes. Now, I have no qualms paying for foods I consumed but I do look what I get for my money and in this instance, I somehow feel ripped off. I reckon, we could have twice as much foods and certainly way more delicious somewhere else. The opposite restaurant perhaps?

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