THANK GOD for Powerbooks. There was a good year in my life when I would regularly – almost daily! – hang out at their Alabang Town Center branch after-office hours and just flip through cookbooks. On most occasions, I was able to finish a whole book in one sitting! But last night, I was in their Glorietta branch and while I noticed that the place had shrunk, I didn’t miss out on the cozier feel I got when I stepped in. I reached out for a nice hard-bound celebrity chef cookbook (Wolfgang Puck’s), doing so as I fought the urge to look for a warm blanket to pull up to my chin as I cozied up on one of the seats (that could very well double as couches).
Of course I had to contend myself with slumping onto the floor. But I chose my position strategically – the one with the cookbook shelves behind me and to my left. And why so? Simply because should the world come to an end by way of an earthquake that very moment, and should I survive it albeit caved-in in piles of books, I would at least be surrounded by the ones I do love to read. And I had my contingency plan in check – an extra pair of titanium spectacles stashed in the nether recesses of my Adidas bag. It would have been very pathetic to be surrounded by books after that earthquake only to realize that the Emporio Armani-framed eyeglasses I had on got broken in the midst of the temblor.
But yes, there was no earthquake. Quite obviously, I didn’t get caved-in anywhere. So all of these things I’m scribbling down on the pages of my 16-month Starbucks date planner & journal would have a great chance to see themselves on print in wordpress.
So there was I in Powerbooks, waiting for one of my best friends. We had to meet up. I felt a bit guilty because weeks before, I had failed to meet up with all my other friends. And even with this one, I had cancelled twice before already. But things really do have a way of working themselves out and I made it to the appointed meeting place last night. I came all the way from way down south of Metro Manila while he was coming from the Ortigas area. I arrived first and I didn’t – actually, NEVER – mind having to wait.
After flashing feelings and thoughts of guilt tinged my early evening reading; and after I had memorized a recipe for decadent chocolate cupcakes with a gooey and seductive center (much like Giada DiLaurentiis’s!), in came a text message announcing the advent of the best friend.
[And then the best friend arrived! Pen had to be parked for now…]
He just had his birthday and he is about to leave for a trip abroad. So those are a good couple of reasons to see each other. Friends really do find reasons to see each other. And of course, the fact that I still couldn’t figure out his Christmas gift for me was another come-on. Up until the time I left work at 4:00 P.M. sharp, I couldn’t figure out what could be something that “I truly like but may end up returning to him the moment I see it.” Hahaha!
I decided to meet him halfway so I walked towards the SM side. I saw him first at one of his favorite stores (or only favorite?) and stood right beside him to check if he’d notice me while his attention was totally demanded by the objects of desire staring him to his face. Unfortunately, it took a nudge, after a good couple of minutes had first passed, for him to notice me.
First order of business was getting my gift. Hahaha! He handed it to me and my eyes zoomed onto the note he scribbled on the wrapper. It wasn’t his original, but it was VERY NICE. Of my few best friends, he is one of those who writes really nice notes. He was a bit disppointed that I didn’t revolt over the ‘shabby’ wrapping (a first from him) – sheets of plain white paper held together by strips of torn masking tape. He called it to be very ‘Frankenstein.’ It didn’t matter to me. All I cared about was the note:
“BECAUSE SOMETIMES, THE TRUTH ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH…
SOMETIMES, PEOPLE DESERVE MORE…”
So nice. Still not caring to open the package, I went on babbling about my understanding of the note. Apparently, apart from the escalators, walls, ceilings and floors, nobody was listening to me. Best friend wasn’t listening. He cut me mid-sentence and with a dagger look demanded that I tear apart the wrapping and check out the gift, before we reached the night’s dinner place.
I had no choice. So I did. And I was speechless. It happened to be one of the things that I had wanted for quite a while. You see, apart from me, he is best friends with another one of our friends. And all this time, I had played second fiddle (it’s just an inside joke…). But with this Christmas present, I guess I had inched closer to the top. Hahaha!
But of course, getting to our dinner place was pleasantly marred by a few requisite stops which allowed me to get my photo taken with two of my fave superheroes – MY TWO SUPER FAVORITE SUPERHEROES.
But things only got better when we got to our dinner place, especially since we decided to uphold the Filipino tradition – ‘the birthday celebrator pays!’ Along the expanse of the Greenbelt 3 restaurant strip, we decided on Café Bola – innovative, cutting edge Filipino cuisine. Pinoy dishes with a twist! Café Bola has never failed me and I’ve raved about it eversince – way back four or more years ago!
We are both on some sort of ‘diet’ so he had just the very basic, very bare Chicken Cutlet Sandwich (Php 145.00). Since I was feeling really hungry, I threw all my diet impositions out the window and asked for the very substantial Botsky’s Tuna Laing Rice (Php 195.00). I made it extra special – and sinful – by replacing the plain steamed rice with the Crab Fat Rice (Php 80.00).
The laing (torn dried taro leaves and stems cooked in coconut cream) was not swimming in the coconut cream and had the taste and goodness that could only come from slow-cooking. I could tell that the cocount cream reached the point that gives off a hint of aromatic nuttiness without actually curdling. The dish had a smooth texture but I could still make the torn leaves and stems – it was not at all unslightly mushy. And the tuna was very fresh and oozed with the flavor of the laing. I had to really savor the moment of chewing each chunk of tuna as every piercing of the perfectly cooked meat literally burst with creaminess and flavor that could only come from fresh meat from the sea. I loved it that the restaurant opted to just beautifully ‘plant’ the siling labuyo (Filipino fiery red chili) on top of my dish. I wasn’t particularly craving for hot and spicy last night, so having an option worked well for me!
But just when I thought the laing was great, I never realized how the lowly fried rice could further elevate my gustation up a notch! I first caught the faint gust of yummy steam that escaped as the mound of plump premium rice slightly gave in crumbling to the thrusts of my fork. Yummy! And some things do taste even better, this rice no exception, as I took my first forkful. I’ve sampled so many executions of crab fat in various dishes (foremost the pasta variant) but Café Bola has got to be the one to perfect it. The rice didn’t taste fishy at all. It was just oh-so-wonderfully good. Each full fork would leave an impression in my mouth that just begged for more. I couldn’t let up! While the rice was resplendent in the hue of commercially bottled crab fat, the resulting dish was surprisingly not salty at all.
As I have said, in keeping with the Filipino way of celebrating birthdays, best friend put his foot down and took care of the bill.
We had a lot of catching up to do and that we did at Starbucks. Though I knew I would fail miserably again in earning the required number of stickers to get the limited edition 2009 planner for free, I still routinely collected the stickers, proudly brandishing my card that could only muster pride and courage worth three stickers so far. Goodluck to me!
My drink was the Praline Mocha Frappucino (Php 170.00 for the ‘venti’). Of the three 2008 holiday drinks, this was the one I loved the most. It was love at first sip from when I asked for it on the night of November 28th at their Las Pinas branch where some of the staff would greet me by first name the moment I dart in through the doors.
And yes, what I mean was that they knew me by my “coffee name.” Which, judging from the picture below, has now changed to ‘Clark.’ I just love the sound of that name – Clark.