Unpretty Food

Celebrating unphotogenic but absolutely delicious food.

The word itself looks so unpretty when typed out that my spell-checker rejects it as incorrect, a quick look at Webster confirms it’s a valid word, however. This post isn’t meant as an insult, so please don’t take it as such, my affection for these foods is unwavering. But in these snap-happy times we live in, everything’s got to be picture pretty, and as you’ll soon see, that’s not always the case. Despite the title of my post, I think that each of the following dishes offer their own brand of beauty; after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all.

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Ravioli Verdi at La Nuova de Pasteleria
This is the House Specialty at what I call the little neighborhood restaurant, only because I’ve been coming here since I was in college, but the place has been around for much longer than that. For some reason, I’m always alone when I end up eating here, but I never mind and I enjoy myself every time. I just don’t eat the desserts because they always seem to taste old.

Sometimes I have the antipasti or the chicken liver pâté, partnered always with a good glass of wine. When my hunger has more of an edge to it, then I order the Ravioli Verdi. Though the pasta squares are normally green (‘verdi’), sometimes they run out so the squares are made with regular wheat flour. No matter, because the pillows – all six, sometimes seven of them, are completely blanketed in tomato sauce. Luridly orange like the orange color of appetite, the sauce is just sour enough before being tamed with a touch of sweet and cream. It’s also pleasantly chunky, mimicking the al dente texture of the pasta pillows hiding a cache of soft spinach and ricotta.

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Risotto in Squid Ink at The Black Pig
My first time at The Black Pig (TBP) was very upsetting. I was eating with six other people, two of whom were chef-restaurateurs. We must’ve ordered nine dishes and we were unhappy with the majority of them. The egg in my Poached Egg & Mushroom Puree dish was beyond overcooked – twice! So I didn’t bother asking for a third. Then we all wondered why the bone marrow that came with the Oven-Baked Local Pork Belly looked like it had been scooped out, fried, then returned to the bone. (Months later, the chef tells me why and though I can’t agree with his method, I respect his creativity).

So when my friend from San Francisco comes over for a visit and asks me to take her to TBP, I have my apprehensions. Turns out I’m the one in for a surprise.

The Risotto in Squid Ink is a stunner, and the inspiration for this article. A moat of moist, black rice holds aloft angulas (baby eels) and delicate rings of crisp calamari. The stark darkness is surrounded by a ring of caper jus and so every spoonful is a synergy of crunch on soft on salty and briny, then at the very end, a zing of citrus to prepare the palate for more pleasure.

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Peanut Butter, Banana, and Apple Crumble at Draft
This gastropub always pleases me and its desserts especially, never disappoint. There aren’t many places in Manila where I can get “spoonable” desserts – those lapped up and loved with a spoon – and now Draft has three of them.

This latest dessert has a mouthful of a name: Peanut Butter, Banana, and Apple Crumble. Its components are undecipherable, deluged as they are in that – dare I say it again – devastatingly delicious caramel sauce. Reams of peanut butter run rings around a mash of apple and banana amidst bites of a powdery crumble, then a breath of cinnamon. The dessert itself is warm, a blissful counterpoint to the creamy coolness of the ice cream melting away atop. I love this dessert so much, I can’t care less how it looks.

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Cookies from The Wall St. Baker
Lara Martirez tells me that she named her home-based artisan cookie bakery, The Wall St. Baker, because her favorite place in the world is New York, and her day job is “banking/trading in a well-known investment bank in the Philippines.” She adds that, “I don’t know of many traders who have a baking sideline.” I reply that she’d be surprised, she’s not the first trader to have contacted me. I assume that the pressure cooker environment of such a job does indeed merit a stress release activity. Ah, if only cookies were currency!

Lara’s cookies are what I look for in this sweet: moist, chewy, lots of flavor. I’ve already told her that I think she needs to work on consistency since most of her cookies are unevenly shaped, and there’s much that can be done to improve their appearance. Still, these cookies are a terrific alternative and the options she offers are so creative.

In photo from top to bottom: s’mores, s’mores on “steroids”, cookie butter chocolate chip, salted caramel double dark chocolate chip, and “once you go black”.

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Addresses of establishments mentioned in this post:

La Nuova de Pasteleria
San Antonio Plaza, McKinley Rd., Forbes Park, Makati
02 867.2370

The Black Pig Charcuterie, Bar & Restaurant
2/F The Commercenter Alabang, Commerce Avenue. Corner East Asia Drive., Filinvest, Muntinlupa City.
02 808.1406

Draft Gastropub
Various locations.

The Wall St. Baker
For orders: 0917 623.6323
On Instagram: wallstreetbaker

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