My trip is about drinking all the hot chocolate and coffee my already belabored stomach can hold. I adore the coffee shops I see around me and marvel at all the sweet offerings on display. This latte and mocha is from Emporio Rulli, a place that bills itself as the ”˜quintessential Italian pastry, caffé and wine shop.’
My friend Joy and I visit a shaded café that sits overlooking the breathtakingly beautiful stretch of Union Square. Surprisingly, none of the pastries appeal to me at the time ”“ cream cakes that remind me of Bizu and tarts layered with almond paste. So we settle for a cup of java each and find that that’s just fine.
Emporio Rulli Il Caffé at Union Square
Stockton Street Pavilion
On the Square at Stockton & Post Street
San Francisco, California
Mexican food is something I yearn for often but can never get enough of. There certainly aren’t enough (are there any?) Mexican restaurants in Manila, so eating Mexican food is tops on my list in California. My tita takes me to Chevy’s, a Tex-Mex chain that she likes very much.
Chevy’s is very proud that their tortilla chips are always fresh, that they blend fresh salsa every hour, and that their tortillas are made fresh off of something they call “El Machino,” a machine that to me, looks like an enormous pancake turner complete with a conveyor belt. Cool.
Sadly, my photos at Chevy’s don’t turn out too well, so here’s a glimpse of what I had, a Grande Chimichanga: picadillo beef with red sauce layered in a flour tortilla with refried beans, Jack & Cheddar cheeses, topped with chile con queso, served with heaping piles of guacamole, sour cream, and fresh salsa. It’s one of those plates whose enormity I take in and then I just dig in. Their tortilla chips and wrappers are just the best, I must say. Hot and crispy, the essence of corn can truly be tasted. This ain’t your ordinary Doritos.
Here’s the flan we share, although I eat most of it. There are four of us, so four forks. Having been spoiled with leche flan, this flan is miserable in comparison. Gelatin-like without the velvety mouthfeel of egg yolks, its poor taste is only hidden by the largeness of its serving. It makes for a nice picture though, no?
I have nothing against being taken to American chains while in the States, even though there’s a profusion of them here in Manila. I just don’t want to be taken to Asian restaurants because I staunchly believe that Asian food in the States can’t compare with what I get back home. So my cousin Joane takes me to Elephant Bar. We’re a large group and she says this is a good place since there’s something for everyone. She’s right ”“ the menu is overwhelming and there is a line out the door.
Joane introduces me to something called ”˜half and half,’ half lemonade and half iced tea. Up until this point, my version of half and half is cream and milk. It sounds delightful and it’s refreshing, although ‘refreshing’ is perhaps not what I need on this chilly San Francisco night. Still, what a discovery of a drink. Joane tells me that in other parts of the States, the drink is called an ”˜Arnold Palmer.’
Strangely enough, many of the dishes have an Oriental slant to them, and I end up ordering an Oriental Chicken Salad. It’s satisfying and tastes exactly like what I can get at California Pizza Kitchen in Manila. The Baja fish tacos here are a revelation to me, the first time I’ve ever tried fish … in tacos!
But while the rest of our party throw up their hands in surrender (gasp!) at the mere mention of dessert, Joane, my sister Charley, and I eagerly order the Giant Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich. A dessert that’s exactly what its name says, it’s two titanic chocolate chip cookies bear-hugging vanilla ice cream, drizzled with oreo cookie crumbs, and then someone overdoes the squeeze-bottle thing with this dessert, creating a crazy network of lines composed of caramel and chocolate sauces. As with anything that has chocolate chip cookies in it, this dessert is irresistible. I want to hog the entire thing for myself. Oink. On the car on the way home, my sister Charley tells me, “I am astounded at your capability to put away dessert, Lor.”
Elephant Bar website
This place is dissed a lot on the Net, and even my tita has nothing good to say about it, but I love a good fish and chips whenever I can get it. In Manila, the only place that does it right is Fish & Co.
Camelot Fish and Chips is a tiny, nondescript place that serves a mean fish and fries. You can get just that or pair it with other seafood like fried oysters, scallops, and shrimps –the Camelot Special. I also enjoy the crab cakes and these fried balls of polenta, the name of which escapes me now. As you can see in the photo, the fries at this place are on steroids. Look at the size of them things!
Going to a Krispy Kreme store, for me, is like going to Disneyland. I become like a kid, marveling at the sight of donuts coming off the conveyor, seeing the ”˜Hot Doughnuts Now’ sign, and pressing my already-flat nose on the glass wall that separates me from the machines. As I step forward to squint at the overhead menu, one of the servers thrusts a donut in front of me with the characteristically cheery, “Have a fresh donut!” Why, thank you, I’ll have two please!
This is what my fresh-off-the-conveyor donut looks like after I’ve sunk my teeth into it. People have told me that it melts in the mouth, but I can’t vouch for that. After waiting years to try a fresh Krispy Kreme donut, I don’t have the patience to wait for the delicious thing to melt in my mouth. I polish it off in under 15 seconds.
Being at this temple of fried dough is all about the experience: tasting the fresh sample, seeing the donuts made, and then being able to buy some for myself. As I sit there in Krispy Kreme with a donut in one hand and my latte in the other, I am the happiest kid on earth. By the way, it’s easy to see now why I’ll have no problem polishing off a dozen of these donuts — they’re light as air!
Something simple and down-home that I enjoy during this trip is having a slice of pie at Marie Callender’s. It’s a full-service restaurant, but if you ask me, their pies are the stars.
This is the Lemon Cream Supreme Pie: a layer of sweet vanilla cream on a moist lemon cake topped with a zesty lemon filling (love lemons!), reposing on a superlatively flaky crust that reminds me of broas, for some reason. This is like a Boston Cream Pie except in lemon.
Sigh. When life gives me lemons, I’ll gladly eat pie.