Sunday, June 13, 2010

Annual Filipino Bar-B-Que – 2010 Installment

A few years back during a lunch with one of my co-workers, Agnes, who happens to be Filipino-American, we got onto the topic of food, and Agnes asked me if I had ever had Filipino food. I told her that growing up in Hawaii I had been exposed to Filipino cuisine along with all of the other Asian cuisines represented there, and that I loved it. That led to an invitation to a wonderful dinner organized by Agnes to which she invited a few other friends and colleagues, and that, in turn, developed into a series of annual potluck dinners over the last few years featuring Filipino cuisine.

Nancy and I hosted the 2010 event at our place this past Saturday. Happily after our cool and wet weather earlier this year and our fear we would all be huddling inside under blankets, Saturday was clear and warm.

Our guests (the party this year ultimately turned out to be a group of 28), all bearing their chosen culinary contributions, arrived starting around 2:00, and before long we were hunting for more table space on which to arrange the many dishes.

Filipino cuisine has a long and diverse history and diversity reflecting the history, geographical spread and ethnic mix of the Philippines.

Although I am just beginning to scratch the surface of Filipino cuisine, I have found that the “Memories of Philippine Kitchens” cookbook by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan to be a good introduction, and have also found a number of helpful blogs, including:

~ Pinoy Food,
~ Burnt Lumpia,
~ Filipino Food Lovers, and
~ Purple Yam.

We are also lucky here in Northern California to have a large population at Filipino-Americans (happily including a number at our office) which allows us to enjoy the cuisine locally (my current favorite – albeit a bit more upscale than I prefer – is Intramuros in South San Francisco, named after a section of Manila), as well as to find ingredients.

So back to Saturday -- as has been the case with these events in the past, we ended up with enough food to serve at least two or three times the number attending. However, that is never a problem since taking home leftovers is part of the tradition! The 2010 lineup of dishes - primarily Filipino but with a few Italian, Mexican and Native American riffs) was as follows:


~ Fiore Sardo (a Sardinian sheep milk cheese – OK, not Filipino, but still delicious)
~ Fennel and orange salad
~ Fruit salad

Main Course

~ Slow-roasted fennel-rubbed pork butt (aka “Forever Cooked Pork”)
~ Smoked baby back ribs
~ Dinuguan (assorted pork bits in a blood sauce)
~ Pork sisig (citrus/ vinegar marinated spicy pork)
~ Pork tinga (a spicy Mexican shredded pork dish with cabbage served on tostadas)
~ Goat calderetta (braised in a spicy tomato sauce)
~ Roast chicken
~ Dinaing na bangus (fried citrus/vinegar marinated milkfish)
~ Bangus sisig (citrus/ vinegar marinated milkfish)
~ California roll sushi
~ Pancit miki bihon (thin rice noodles with meat and vegetables)
~ Pancit palabok (round rice noodles in a shrimp sauce and topped with egg slices)
~ Pinakbet (mixed vegetable dish (eggplant, okra, bitter melon, squash, green beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger) with pork and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste))
~ Binagoongan na talong (a sauce of mango, jalapeños, chicharones and bagoong served over Chinese eggplant)
~ Laing (chopped taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and bagoong)
~ Choctaw banaha travel bread (vegetables and meat stuffed cornmeal wrapped in cornhusks)
~ Steamed rice


~ Turon (banana fritters)
~ Leche flan (two different versions!)
~ Pies
~ Mini-cupcakes

Pictures from our feast are below.

Finally, here is a shot of our entire group taken at the end of the day just before we broke up. Happily the deck held up despite all of those very full bellies.

Hopefully we can all be back together next year for a similar feast.

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Sausalito/Viña del Mar - Celebrating a 50 Year Relationship

As indicated in a post last year, I only recently learned that Sausalito, the town where I live, has had a sister city relationship for the past 50 years with the Chilean coastal city of Viña del Mar. Through the efforts of Alex Geiger-Soffia, Chile’s Consul General in San Francisco, a bronze plaque to honor that significant anniversary was produced and was to be affixed to one of the elephant statues at the entrance to Viña del Mar Plaza in downtown Sausalito.

The ceremony to dedicate the plaque was originally scheduled for March 5. However, with the massive earthquake in Chile on February 27, the ceremony was understandable postponed.

Happily, while there is much work still to be done, the post-quake situation in Chile is continuing to improve and Consul General Geiger’s office and the Sausalito city administration decided to proceed with the dedication ceremony this past Saturday. It turned out to be a sunny and warm on Saturday – a perfect day for the event. Booths and tables were set up and there was a festive atmosphere in the Plaza.

The ceremony kicked off with comments by Sausalito’s Mayor, Jonathan Leone, and by Consul General Geiger. Then they moved to the statue for the unveiling.

After that, we were entertained with Cueca songs and dancing by a Bay Area-based Chilean dance troupe named the Araucaria Dancers.

Beverages (including, of course, Chilean wine) and food (some excellent empanadas from Café Valparaíso in Berkeley) followed.

One of the people I met at the event was Eugenio Ovalle, the General Manager of a travel service named Alta Tours which arranges tours to Chile and elsewhere in South American, Spain and Portugal. Eugenio is originally from Chile and, by way of historic coincidence, his father was Chile's Consul General to San Francisco in 1960 when the Sausalito/Viña del Mar relationship was established and the plaque celebrating that event, which is attached to the northern elephant statue in the Plaza, was dedicated. Below is a photo of Eugenio next to the plaque his father helped to dedicate, together with one he kindly took of me next to the new plaque.

It was a very nice ceremony. In addition to everyone else, special thanks should go both to Erin Stroud, the Event Coordinator at the Sausalito Parks & Recreation Department, and Jacqueline Jorquera at the Chilean Consulate, who both helped organize much of the event.

So now we have celebrated the 50th anniversary of this relationship with Viña del Mar. What’s next? Hopefully we will be able to find concrete ways to expand the relationship in the near future.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Another Visit to Cody

I was back in Cody, Wyoming, this past weekend to visit my mother, Arleen. The last time I had been up there was last July with Pat. As always, it does not take long to be reminded that one is no longer in California!

On our visits to Cody, a good deal of the time is spent either in favorite local eating establishments – Our Place, the Proud Cut Saloon and the Irma Restaurant – or riding around the countryside with Mom and her good friend, Robert Eddy, looking for interesting flora and fauna. June is a bit too early in the year for the flora (especially wildflowers), but the fauna is always out in force.

We made two long drives on this trip. On Saturday we headed west from Cody up through the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park, over Sylvan Pass (still a lot of snow there even in June) then down to Yellowstone Lake. From there we went north through the Hayden Valley, past Yellowstone Falls and on to Tower Junction, where we turned east and passed through the Lamar Valley though Cooke City and along the Chief Joseph Highway and through Dead Indian Pass on the way back to Cody. We were able to see many buffalo and some pronghorn in the Park, as well an incredibly cute family of foxes playing by the side of the road just outside of Cooke City.

On Sunday we headed in the opposite direction to the Bighorn Mountains – an area with which Mom and Robert are very familiar but to which I had never been. We drove northeast from Cody through Powell and Lovell, crossed the Bighorn River and then climbed into the mountains and up above the tree line. At Burgess Junction we turned south and then west – descending over Granite Pass and through Shell Canyon. We stopped at the waterfall at the bottom of the canyon pictured below - the rocks there are bedrock which is over 2.5 billion years old. Then it was back out onto the plains and through Greybull back to Cody. We saw a number of moose high in the Bighorns – who knew they liked to be so high up - just west of Burgess Junction and again near Tie Flume south of the Junction. In addition to the below photos, see this video of a group loping along.

Then there was the Cody cuisine - a breakfast and lunch at Our Place, a diner on the way out of Cody on the way to Yellowstone where coffee is 25 cents and is refilled constantly, some Rocky Mountain oysters and local brews (we tried some Snake River ale this time to supplement the normal Moose Drool) at the Proud Cut Saloon, and a buffalo steak at Buffalo Bill Cody’s Irma Hotel restaurant.

It was certainly good to see Mom and Robert again.

I am looking forward to the next visit.

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