Saturday, 29 November 2008

Restaurant Feature: Fresh Catch Isdaan (Gerona, Tarlac)

Fresh Catch Isdaan

Koi-filled fishpond
The open Fresh Catch Isdaan, along the highway in Gerona, has one huge koi-filled fishpond with "floating" (actually on stilts) cabanas with tables for diners, all connected by bamboo walkways.  

All over the place are huge, eye-catching statues of Buddhas, mermaids, monkeys, dinosaurs and crocodiles; Disney characters; noted Filipinos (Corazon Aquino, Joseph Estrada, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Ninoy Aquino, etc.)  as well as Marvel comic characters such as Batman, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk. 

Food served here was mostly Filipino, the restaurant being part of the Barrio Fiesta Restaurant Group.  Its signature dishes include chicken tinupig, sisigadobong pusitbulalomanok sa gatakare-kare, sinampalukan, sizzling taniguehototai (mixed vegetable soup), Bicol Express, pinakbet, inihaw na liempo, buko pandanbinagoongang baboysinigang na hiponlumpiang shanghai, fried chicken or porkchop, lechon kawali, among others.  There were subli dancers as well as roaming singers with guitars serenading guests, all dressed in appropriate Filipiniana attire.  
Tacsiyapo Wall

A big surprise was the Tacsiyapo Wall, a cool and neat though not original idea which is bound to bring tourists, looking for stress relief, to this place.  Here, you can release your anger by throwing crockery such as cups (PhP15), bowls (PhP18), plates (PhP35), pitchers (PhP100), vases or even a broken TV (PhP2,000) at a wall.   

According to the attendant, to get the feel of it, you need to shout "tacsiyapo!" (A Kapampangan word meaning, at best, "shame on you" or, at worst, similar to the Tagalog P...I....).  Before throwing, you can choose at a  selection of targets on the wall such as "Taksil!," "Sip-sip!," "Bolero!," "Bolera!,""Ingitera!," "Tsismosa!," etc.  

Fresh Catch Isdaan: MacArthur Highway, Brgy. Salapungan, Gerona, 2302 Tarlac.  Tel: (045) 931-2196.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Concert Review: Bobby Kimball of Toto (Manila)

Bobby Kimball

I’ve always been a big, big fan of 1980s rock band Toto.  However, for the past 16 years, I’ve never watched their Philippine concerts though, the last held April 2-3 at the Cebu Waterfront Hotel and Araneta Coliseum respectively.  Naturally, I felt bad when Toto split up again a few months after the fact.  

But imagine my surprise when Toto founder and lead vocalist Bobby Kimball blew into town to do a series of solo Philippine concerts.  I and my son Jandy, another Toto fan, decided we won’t miss out on this one especially with the Mirror as one of its media sponsors.  It seems others had the same thing in mind as the 2,750-seat Aliw Theater, the new (opened October 2007) centerpiece of the Star City carnival complex and the country’s hottest new concert venue, was filled to the rafters with a sell-out crowd consisting mostly of the post-Baby Boomer generation (the young once) but also with a sizable group of young ones, all wanting to stroll down the rock music memory lane.    

Kimball sang as a vocalist in various area bands in New Orleans throughout the 1970s before he moved to Los Angeles in 1977 and founded Toto with accomplished session musicians Steve Lukather (vocals/guitar), David Paich (keyboards), Jeff Porcaro (drums), David Hungate (bass guitar) and Steve Porcaro (keyboards).  The band’s September 1977 debut album immediately broke into the charts with the hit single, “Hold The Line,” as well as “Georgy Porgy,” “I’ll Supply The Love” and Bobby’s self-penned audition song “You Are The One.” 

Toto ultimately won international acclaim and went on to garner nine Grammy nominations (winning seven including “Best New Artist”).  However, Kimball left Toto in 1984, relocated to Germany and South America and resumed work as a session singer, performing background vocals for various artists, and played in Sao Paulo (Brazil), Los Angeles and Moscow.  

The author with Bruce Conte, Bobby Kimball and Joe Lamont
He rejoined the group in 1989, recording songs for Past to Present 1977-1990, its landmark greatest hits album. 

In 1990, Kimball left the band again, released a live album (Classic Toto Hits) in late 1990 and followed it up in 1994 with Rise Up, his debut solo album featuring the single “Woodstock.”  

In 1998, he rejoined Toto and actively participated in the band’s numerous studio recording sessions and concert tours.  Toto officially disbanded on June 5, 2008.
Presented by Steve O’Neal Productions and BDS All Hits Productions, this first major solo Philippine concert of Bobby Kimball, the centerpiece of the Philippine leg (including stints in Bacolod City and Cebu City in the Visayas and Cagayan de Oro City, Davao City and General Santos City, Tagum City in Mindanao) of the 14-date, 13-city 2008 Grand Asian Tour ,was opened by the good looking Joe Lamont who sang his signature song "Victims of Love" (which also hit the airwaves and karaoke joints in the 1980s) plus “Can’t Live” and “Broken Dreams.” 

Besides writing songs and producing artists, Joe also promotes concerts worldwide. This 30-minute icebreaker heralded the arrival of Bobby with Bruce Conte’s (original guitarist of Tower of Power) band as backup. This hour-long performance met all expectations as Bobby sang my favorites “Rosanna,” “99” and “Hold the Line,” plus the other classic Toto hits “I Won’t Hold You Back,” “I’ll Be Over You,” “Anna,” “Georgy Porgy” (with Wowowee host Willie Revillame at drums) as well as the original Led Zeppelin hit “Stairway to Heaven”  plus guitar solos by Bruce.  

The show ended with the encore songs “Africa” and “Lucille.” To cap it all, Jandy had a personally autographed Bobby Kimball CD (with Bruce’s autograph thrown in for good measure).  I, for my part, couldn’t resist a photo op with Bobby, Bruce and Joe Lamont which the guys gladly provided.  What an evening!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Flavors of Spain in Clark (Pampanga)

Chef Mikel Arruiz and Juan Roca
The “Flavors of Spain,” a yearly culinary event, was now to be held at the new Hotel Vida at the Clark Economic Zone in Pampanga.  I was joined, together with Ms. Michelle "Mitch" Garcia, Fuego Hotels Marketing and Communications Manager, and her assistant Ms. Victoria “Tori” Teves-Vicente, by a media group which included fellow Business Mirror contributor Ms. Ethel S. Timbol (Dean of Philippine Lifestyle Editors) and Ms. Norma O. Chikiamco (“Filipino Homestyle Dishes” author).  

The trip from Ayala Center to the hotel took all of 2 hrs. and, upon arrival, we were welcomed by Korean hotel owner Mr. Daesik Han and Gen. Manager Mr. Juan Roca. A lunch featuring Spanish cuisine and wine, hosted by the Economic and Commercial Office (headed by Mr. Javier Alvarez Casanova) of the Embassy of Spain and prepared by Club Punta Fuego Resident Chef Mikel Arriet Arruiz (again the star of this running fiesta) and his culinary team, awaited us at the SALT Coffee Shop.
Clara Ole paella

The set menu included fardelito de berenjena relleno dequeso cremosogranizado de remolacha y aceite de pistachio (eggplant stuffed with cream cheese, beet root crush and pistachio oil), consome de txipriones, flotante de manchego, esfereas de pimiento verde y crujiente oscuro (squids consome, idiazabal flotins & black crackers), marmi-tako (tuna & potatoes stew), magret de pato con peras al romero (duck breast with pears & rosemary) and, for dessert, esferas de chocolate con limon (dark chocolate balls with lemon).  Also served was Clara Ole paella and country-style pasta.

Claude, Norma and Maryann
Come dinnertime, we were joined at the coffee shop by fellow travel writer, artist, culinary expert and Angeles City resident Claude Tayag and his wife Maryann Tayag.  After a sumptuous buffet, it was chitchat time, with yours truly and Ethel regaling (or scaring) the others with our ghost stories.  The equally scared Norma also joined in with her signature Makati Medical Center elevator ghost.  

Our stories must have had their desired effect as Mitch and Norma switched from separate rooms to adjoining rooms.  They wouldn’t even let me go until I accompanied them in the elevator (Norma is to blame here). Even so, they were so scared to go to their respective toilets.  I suggested catheters. 

Come breakfast (Filipino this time) at the coffee shop, it was the same group all over again minus Ethel who woke up with a fever (possibly “possessed” or sinapian by a ghost?).  She later joined us and the talk turned culinary with Claude at the helm.  Claude is the author of “Food Tour” and co-author of “Kulinarya.” 

Our breakfast talk soon extended into lunch and we decided to go Asian and indulge in Korean fare which included the signature bulgogi.   As with all things in life, the good times never last forever and it was time to pack up and go back to our respective homes, families and jobs in Manila. However, to soften the blow of leaving, Claude did not let us go without an early Christmas pasalubong of his signature Claude 9 inasal barbecue marinade, Oriental sauce and pure crab fat.  Now that’s la vida!   
Hotel Vida Clark: 5414 M.A. Highway, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga 2023.  Tel: (045) 499-1000.  Fax: (045) 499-0979.  

Manila Office: UG-9 Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 V.A. Rufino corner Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City. Tel: (632) 840-1430.  Fax: (632) 840-3589.