Sunday, February 27, 2011

Philippine Astronomy Convention at SM MOA Science Discovery Center

Last Saturday, we have concluded our last leg of the Philippine Astronomy Convention, now on its third year. It was indeed an astounding success as our working nucleus made it through despite the limited time.

Held both at the Manila Planetarium for applied astronomy lecture and at the SM-Nido Science Discovery Center at SM Mall of Asia touching on relevant astronomical fields from the timeline of the creation of the universe to the cosmic collision that is both a holocaust and a harbinger for life.

There were two featured film shown last saturday, Passport to the Universe and Cosmic Collision. Three lectures were ushered after the film showing, Stories of the Stars, Searching for ET, and Cosmic Journey. Lecturers were Dr. Armand Lee, Director of the Astronomy Dept of RTU, Christopher Lu, Chairman for Special Events, ALP, and yours truly. After the indoor activities, a Saturn gazing follows next at the AstroCamp Observatory San Miguel By The Bay, fronting the SM Mall of Asia.

Allow me to cite some questions thrown at me during the QnA:

1) Is the asteroid collision from the dinosaur era the only accepted theory as far as the extinction of the dinosaurs is concerned?

***Yes, the planetary bombardment at the Yucatan Peninsula 65million years ago is the most sound theory to account the extinction of these giant reptiles, and 75% of the life forms during that time. The crater blast left layers of iridium which can only be found if a foreign object from space hits the Earth. The Sun can only produce particles up to iron only. And during the time that these particles hit the Earth is similarly the same time when dinos disappeared.

2) Is there a truth that an asteroid will hit the Earth soon?

***Apophis, about the size of two football fields, is traversing in the vastness of space and will loiter around us as a NEO(near-Earth-object) by 2029-2036. Although the chances of it entering into our gravitational keyhole is fairly slim, once in tips off its path, we will be doomed. I wouldn't worry though, the capitalists of the first world countries will do all they can to circumvent this catastrophe to preserve their businesses. Right now, United Nations is forming a sky watchdog against outer space hazards, including stray asteroid, solar flares, and human garbages up in space(the remnants of defunct space satellites).

3) Are we really alone?

***If we follow a mathematical postulation using Drake's Equation(SETI), it is fairly easy to conclude that we are not alone. However none has been found yet. The thing about us human beings is that we are pretty much conceited. When we send out signals into space, we expect that ET will ping back their IP addresses. We model the aliens to be like our very own, to have came from the same building blocks of life that we are. Amino acids, photosynthesis, water, DNA/RNA, carbon-based. We never think that they may have thrived perhaps in liquid methane. And that they don't use DNA/RNA as their genetic composition. We don't even think that they maybe are highly evolved, perhaps into biomechanical entities and at the same size as nanoparticles invisible to our naked eye. Or perhaps they behave like neutrinos. The analogy would be: we are simply like fishes in the aquarium, we think that the universe is just what is in the aquarium, waters, weeds, stones, sand. And all life forms should be in a form of a fish as well. We don't have an idea that beyond the aquarium lies a human being, highly evolved intellect, and watching over us, yet not communicating since humans have similarly highly evolved communication channels than fishes.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New York Pizza Palace: Mirage of Manhattan

When you step inside this pizza place, you'd be entranced by the astonishing mirage of the Manhattan. It is like crunching all the anchor spots of New York into this quaint splendid stop, from Times Square to Radio City Music Hall, to the New York Stock Exchange, Broadway, all the glitzy goodness of the Big Apple, right here.

What catches my attention is the scrolling LED board on their ceiling that is reminiscent to the NY Stock Exchange.

The New York Pizza Palace is an American-Italian quick casual pizzeria primordially conceptualized and originated in New York, thus explains the street signs and decorative theme to be NYC-centric. It is meant to spur the look and feel of NYC to the Filipino culture that is very much enamored with Western influence. It featured state-of-the-art clinched TV screens on the ceiling capturing the actual live footage of NYC.

I swing by for a quick gustatory break and ordered a Penne with Grilled Chicken & Pesto(Php200) and a slice of Prince Street Clam Pizza(Php195). The Penne is a pasta sauteed with Pesto sauce, chicken, and a roasted vegetable. It is so delicious especially if you're like me had been a self-professed health buff lately(had it not been because of my diabetes). The Prince Street Clam is one of their signature hand-tossed pizza with anchovy and clam mixture topped with mozzarella, provolone, roman cheese, bread crumbs and onion. Eat it folded in half. This is a topnotch pizza too. One can actually taste the clams although they're in a bit small pieces.

New York Pizza Palace also caters to the guests on the go(road warriors and mobile professionals, like me) who long for value snack meal in a cool and cozy ambiance. To complete that, they have free wifi too.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jap-Ok!: Filipinizing Japanese cuisine

Yes, we love Japanese foods. However, to the unfortunate few, either Little Tokyo restaurants are way too far to indulge or just utterly expensive to spend. Does being a cuisine of the first world country meant similarly bearing the same price?

Indeed, Japanese entrees, especially authentic ones, are darn too impractical for daily body refueling, which only makes them only intended for family gatherings and special occasions.

Good thing, Jorge Wieneke, long time restauranteur teamed up with Irene Oloris and ken Okuya, son of Kimpura's executive chef, Mutsuo Okuya to come up with Jap-Ok!

The menu concept of Jap-Ok is essentially filipinizing Japanese cuisine. Blending Japanese into Filipino menu is not to averse one's taste bud, but to fortify it. That's the reason why you can see pulutan and pork chop amongst their portfolio offering, thus sourcing from a commissary is as easy as a pocket friendly undertaking since the basis and raw mats are not necessary hailed from Japan. And that ecosystem of resources also reflects on their price strategy… "a Japanese food na patok for every Juan." And it fits my gustatory philosophy which has been fastfoods for weekdays and fine dining on week ends. It is because fastfoods are fast to prepare as I can't be late on my business endeavors and office affairs.

I ordered a Katsudon(Php85) and Jappy Maki(Php70 for 4pieces). Fresh egg instantaneously dropped into the Katsudon tender breaded beef is something that caught my taste. The Jappy Maki all the more, it has the flavor halfway between a maki and a dessert.

I only know of two branches though, one in CyberMall Eastwood and McKinely Hill Woodridge.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Peking Garden: Chinese Fine Dining

I don't really know the insane extent of my "dimsum dementia" that it brought me to the country's classiest Chinese restaurant nestled at the top floor of Greenbelt 5. The name of the restaurant is Peking Garden.

Renowned for its famed Peking Duck, this HongKong-affiliated restaurant serves the best in its class. The Peking Duck, crisp and deftly sliced by the server, one that you can wrap in dough pancakes minced with cabbage leaf, or with lettuce in broth, or even with scallions and sauce, received a rippling undulation from the foodie community at large. One, accordingly, can even create his own idea of engorging it to his ultimate satisfaction.

The restaurant's interior is a fusion of traditional Chinese with modern design elements, wood panels combined with glass and glitzy chandeliers. Even their aircon vent is exquisitely decorated.

I can't order roast duck, come on, it's a whole duck. My gastronome is not an endless pit of digestible stuff. So I got myself a Noodles with Dice Chicken & Vegetable(Php200 + 10%SC), Steamed Supreme Special Pork Dumpling(Php180 + 10%SC for 5pieces), Steamed Vegetable Dumpling(Php180 + 10%SC for 4pieces), Shrimp Dumplings(Php160 + 10%SC for 5pieces), and a Fresh Orange Juice(Php118 + 10%SC) to cap it off. Unlike most Chinese restos, their dumplings is served in a steamer with cabbage. The soup is a bit sour but I think that is how authentic Chinese restaurants cook it. You have to be careful with the Pork Dumpling because the sauce inside will spurt upon your first bite.

One can get a courtesy appetizer which is a Fried Wanton Wrapper. You can even ask for refill if you want.

The waiter(I think he is the head waiter or probably the restaurant manager) has a distinct Chinese accent, an authenticity of sort one couldn't dismiss.

Everything else is delish, but I was hoping I can grab Peking Duck next time once I will be able to grab a company. Or perhaps go there at an empty stomach.

Peking Garden... northern Chinese cuisine at its finest.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Krazy Garlik: Giddy over garlic

This is probably the only restaurant where the secret formulation is trumpeted along with their brand name. That secret? Garlic.

Though it has been a common denominator of all cuisine types from virtually all cultural landscape, it remained a hidden secret that makes a dish 10times tastier than without it.

The reckoning force behind a garlic bulb has been the compelling concept of one of the Bistro's Group restaurants, Krazy Garlik at the Greenbelt 5. It is operated by the same restauranteurs as Flapjacks, TGIF, Fish & Co, and Italiannis. Though plain and simple garlic infusion as the primordial ingredient of their menu, there is a continuing tipping point to it--- having lots of garlic spells fantastic concoction, but too much of it also spoils into a distasteful course. The Krazy Garlik have found a way to perfectly blend garlic into all their entrees, the way it should be.

The interior has a bistro type, no less, ambiance with multi-colored glass blocks, red painted tables, cocoon-style lamps, and an Alice in Garlicland design elements of their dining wall.

What's up for grab that day? Fettuccini Oriente(Php465 + 10% SC), and Garlic Snowflake Pizza(Php385 + 10% SC). The Fettuccini Oriente is served with Chinese greens and creamy seafood sauce with plump shrimps and seashells. Another mouthwatering goodness is the Garlic Snowflake Pizza topped with shrimps, pineapple and garlic flakes.

Capping off our gastronomic journey are Blueberry Cheesecake with Vanilla Ice Cream(Php395 + 10% SC), Apple Juice(Php85 + 10% SC) and Infinity Lemonade(Php110 + 10%SC).

Whether the garlic comes in crushed or chopped, sauteed or roasted, Krazy Garlic made it perfectly sumptuous.

In the pic is me holding a $50 Australian dollar. The transparent section of the paper bill catches my fancy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Tale of the Two 45-Peso Dimsum Restos

I am in a frantic search for the best value-for-money, hole-in-the-wall, best-kept-secret-style Chinese restos but since I couldn't go to Chinatown more often, I ended up prowling in my vicinity.

I always see these competing restaurants in Timog, one Causeway Seafood Restaurant and the other, the Shaolin Tea House right before I pass Victoria Towers where Gold's Gym is at.

In as much as I wouldn't compare restaurants, I couldn't help but do for these since

1) they have the same culinary portfolio

2) they have the same promo, Php45 on all dimsum from 1pm to 6pm, daily

3) they belong to the same area of operation, one is just barely the opposite side of the other in the street, a lot like Tekken characters ready for duel

Let me start off with the following critera:


Both of them are a bit old with unkempt, unmaintained furnitures and facilities. Although they strive to make their dining area clean, the old painted walls and decors are still apparent of its banality and daily rigors of wear and tear.

But for this aspect, I would like to commend the Causeway to be better since they have a better design elements, they have more spacious interiors compared to Shaolin.

Shaolin's tables are a bit cramped, one i just barely 2feet apart from each other. The Causeway had larger tables too for group diners. They even had circular ones for those traditional Chinese family who had an unexplained ardor over rounded things, one that they perhaps attribute to having a good fortune.

The winner in this category? Causeway.


They serve almost similar entrees and menu offerings. Their culinary portfolio includes that one that I am having a seasonal fancy over with: Pork Siomai, Shark's Fin, Hacao, Kuchai, Chicken Feet, Beancurd Rollls, Siopao, Xiao Long Bao, Hickey & Mushroom wrapped in vegetables.

Two days I spent to judge what they offer: first day I spent at Causeway, and Shaolin on the second day.

For the Beef Brisket Noodles, although the Shaolin serves more beef quantity than the Causeway, the Causeway's still taste better.

For the dumplings, this time the Shaolin cut short of the quantity as theirs are a bit smaller than Causeway. And not only do they fail in the serving size department, they also fail in the taste test. Causeway taste better.

The winner: Causeway.


This time I could have easily declared a tie in this bout, but for the presentation, Causeway wins. Look at Shaolin's change slip, it is simply a calculator-printed figure. The Causeway won by giving out the same price but with the more detailed POS-printed receipt.

The winner by technicality: Causeway.

The Verdict:

Causeway is generally better in terms of the aforementioned criteria. Although it garnered my heart's delight and gastronomic judgement, I couldn't discount the fact that both of them requires imminent renovation and make over.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chinatown's Best: The Buffet Specialist

A heap of nostalgia in this restaurant reminds one of a stereotypical Binondo stretch, a traditional culinary Chinese melting pot of Manila. Chinatown's Best though is located not at Binondo, but rather in Banawe, an odd combination of food abundance within the automotive accessories district.

Chinatown's Best is best known for a buffet that one could find only at HongKong and Chinese seafood restaurants. Only a lot more.

Replete with the best a Chinese and Asian fusion cuisine can offer, they have a wide variety of food choices, from roast ducks to dumplings, from crispy pata to huge crabs, from a myriad of seafoods to plethora of Japanese sushi. They even have a salad bar for a DIY salad smorgasbord. And their unlimited avalanche of food doesn't end there, they have unlimited drinks too.

My favorite spot is the ice cream corner, salad station, and the dumpling area. Although I also hop into the seafood area more than twice but it was the grilled squid I am frequenting at.

The buffet has a window of time from 11AM to 2PM and 6PM to 9PM. Prices were as follows:

Php388 for lunch

Php440 for dinner

Php518 for week ends

The place though is divided into three floors. The ground floor is for a la cart orders, the second floor for buffet, and the third floor for events and functions.

One gripe that I have though is that the plates were plastic which is letdown since it seemed a bit cheap, but for its price, I don't have to complain.

So if you are the kind of person who doesn't expect a Peking Garden type of Chinese concoction, the Chinatowns Best is the best for you... without going to the Chinatown.

I shall return, and this time with my monster platoon from the office.

Paradis: Ice Cream Cafe Gourmet

Tucked away incontestably from the charming Tomas Morato area, Paradis Ice Cream Cafe Gourmet is a fairly new player in the leisure dessert arena. In fact, they have just opened last December 16, 2010. If you happen to pass by along the area, you couldn't spare its existence because of its profusely vivid lighting fixture and extravagant yet minimalist interior.

Paradis boast of a gourmet ice creamed from the freshest ingredients and milled in house the traditional style. Yes, their cold kitchen is found at the shop itself. Mouthwatering bestsellers include Chocolate & Tomato, Red Beet & Orange, Wasabi, and Strawberry. You will also have an option to splurge as may toppings as you want and they have a myriad of it.

They have two kinds of ice cream:

Signature Ice Cream - delicious and vitamin packed with health promoting properties from natural herbs and vegetables. Priced at Small Php110, Medium Php190, Large Php250, and Extra-Large Php385.

Traditional Ice Cream - natural ice cream without synthetic flavors and colors made fresh from the finest milk, fresh fruits, and prime ingredients. Priced respectively as Small Php85 Medium Php145, Large Php195, and Extra Large Php355.

What catches my attention are the the Yolive - a healthy, synergistic combo of yoghurt and olive oil, and the Soybet Ice Cream, ice cream with a touch of soya. They're both pegged at Small Php95, Medium Php180, Large Php240, and Extra Large Php370.

I ordered a Yolive and a Chocolate & Tomato. The chocolate is something that doesn't melt easily and it has a tangy aftertaste because of the tomato blend, but it is so far the best chocolate ice cream I have tasted. I could also taste the olive oil in the Yolive which sends me a message, I'm healthy and I am yours.

Slightly more expensive but who says anything organic isn't.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Celebrity Gym

For me to be able to maintain relatively normal shape while being a self-professed foodie, I hit the gym thrice a week at the least.

True enough, Gold's Gym is a fitness haven for most celebrities, a convergence point of those who, at their intermission find time to work out, as this is a lot closer to the country's two rival TV stations, GMA7 and ABS-CBN.

No wonder in my most of my fitness sessions, I always bumped into with celebrities and renowned characters. And most of the time, these people have terrific PR skills, as they are always warm, exchange funny antics, and smiled at everyone. Maybe their interpersonal skills are honed because of their TV exposure? Or that they are forced to smile to obtain leverage of patronage for their upcoming shows. Hahaha, I am so sinister. But such a gesture is appreciated.

But to tell you honestly, unlike their studios, this is a place where they are as ordinary as WE are. People just mind their own businesses without prying eyes as to who they are running aside with in the treadmill stations, or stretching beside with in the group exercise rooms. Although I don't really frequent myself in the group exercise room because that is where most women stay. While us men preferred to thrive on the weights area.

So who says you need to be in the studio to find stars. Hit the gym and you'll find them there.

This picture was taken a the locker room wall of Gold's Gym in Victoria Towers where I am frequently gym-ing at.

Lenovo IdeaPad U460: Fashion-driven laptop

If you're like me whose fancy for gadgets is the same as my fondness for overall fashion, then this Lenovo IdeaPad U460 is just right for you.

The IdeaPad U460 offered an intricate textured covers featuring modern look for the next-generation geeky fashion-driven individuals, offering red and black variants with chic geometric print in lay on its lid. The inside comes with a sleek aluminum finish featuring a full-chiclet style keys, as well as touchpad with two buttons for mouse-free navigation. A fingerprint reader is integrated into a system for security and easy access.

The portability comes astutely fitting at the package weighing 4 lbs. and less than 1 inch thick with a promised 6hours of battery life. Of course, we know that battery grades are often nominal at a most power-efficient computing conditions.

The IdeaPad U460 has two variants. Each varies with the processor and graphic card configuration. Intel Core i3-350M 2.26Ghz for 087723U with Intel GMA HM45; while the 087722U comes with Intel Core i5-450M 2.40Ghz with Nvidia Geforce 305M. Although both of them sports dual core chip, they differ in Turbo mode. This is due to the RAM sharing of Intel graphic than the dedicated one wit Nvidia. So from a gaming perspective, the 087722U is better.

The rest of the specs are essentially the same: 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, 14" HD LED 1366 x 768, 8cell Li-Ion battery, and a 1.4MP webcam resolution. Ports include 3USB, ethernet, HDMI, eSATA/USB, 5-in-1 Card Reader, headphone output and mic input. Package is slapped with Windows 7 Home Premium Edition.

The raft of connectivity options include wifi link 1000 and bluetooth version 2.1 + EDR.

Price starts tagged at $799 in the US, while some SKU's are bundled with dataplan in Singapore. I haven't confirmed the price points yet.

Sorry for the slightly blurry pics as they're iPhone 4G taken only.

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