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NOLITA: My Favorite Neighborhood in New York

NOLITA (acronym for North of Little Italy) is my most favorite spot in New York and I have a song for it!

NOLITA is the area bounded by Broome, Spring, LaFayette and Elizabeth streets in Downtown Manhattan. I lived in this area for some time and these were among the happiest days of my life.

 Map of NOLITA
Map of NOLITA
    The song is composed and sung by Vanessa Carlton who also once lived in the same neighborhood. The video is shot on location at NOLITA and NOHO (North of Houston). CLICK HERE FOR THE  ==> NOLITA FAIRYTALE VIDEO COMPLETE LYRICS I know, you know, we don't see We sow our truth, wait patiently I walk the streets with a song in my head We ebb and we flow so Got my toes on my pup at the foot of my bed My heart always seems to know Now take the glitz back, I want the soul instead 'Cause I found some kind of fairytale I used to hover outside my truth Always worry of what I'd lose Take away my record deal Go on, I don't need it Spent the last two years getting to what's real And now I can see so clear I hope you feel just like I feel I found some kind of fairytale Want a garden by the ocean tide Because I lose my way searching for stage lights Well, Stevie knows and I thank her so 'Cause it's your seeds I sow and now I know Nolita, flat on rent control, that's the life I choose And you drag me to the fashion show The poses that I see through The movies in the afternoon 'Cause I found some kind of fairy, tale, hey Nolita Fairytale (Ba da da da da da, ba da da da da da) Nolita Fairytale (Ba da da da da da, ba da da da da da) CLICK HERE FOR THE  ==> NOLITA FAIRYTALE VIDEO

Hot Choco on a Stick

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Creamy and frothy hot chocolate. The chocolate melts in 3-5 minutes with constant stirring.

Pop Bar, an ice cream shop in Greenwich Village, gets ready to make a sell this winter by offering a hot drink addition in its usual 'handcrafted gelato on a stick' menu.

The store serves hot chocolate drink on a stick for less than $5 each. The idea is to melt a bar of chocolate, which is given separately, in a frothy and steaming cup of milk. The options are regular, dark and white chocolates.

I ordered the dark variety and once melted, the drink is just the right sweetness and very creamy! Recommended for those looking for something more than the usual hot choco drink. Definitely a no-no for dieters.

Pop Bar website

Orient Beach Trail: A Different Kind of Hike

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Posing in front of the Big Lighthouse, a fully operational state-facility with a vast history starting from the late 1800s.

 

The place is one of a kind! In the middle of the long narrow beach are alternating marshlands filled with contrasting live green and withered gray pine trees that create an eerie yet enchanting feel. On the left side is Gardiner Bay and a great view of famous Shelter Island. Where there is no marshland are patches of cactus and other desert plants. On its right are several natural salt ponds that are teeming with life: sea gulls, ospreys, edible seaweeds (gurgurmot) and different varieties of shell fishes such as hermits, horseshoe crabs, clams, alimango, alimasag, etc ... There are also small ponds and swamps. This is a strip of land that can't decide what it wants to be. Parang Baguio na La Union, Pangasinan, Batangas at Ilocos all in one.

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Nature-polished stones cover the entire beach. The island is so narrow that one can walk it for ten minutes from west to east. It is so long that it took us 5 hours to walk its entire length from trailhead to the tip and then back.

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Gallery Photos by Henry Medrano, Yolly Guese and Myrna Chua From Orient Beach, Suffolk Country in Long Island, NY.  

Ilocano Songs in New Apple Radio

After updating my mobile to the new iOS 7, the first thing I checked was the music icon. Being a big fan of Pandora, a predictive and automated music service that plays songs based on artists and songs initially chosen by a particular user, I was so happy to see that Apple came out with their own version of online radio that is somewhat similar to Pandora. After trying it out, I think iTunes radio is one step better than Pandora because of its extended list of songs that included OPMs, Filipino singers/bands (and even novelty singers like Yoyoy Villame) and surprisingly, songs in some other Philippine languages including ILOCANO. I made a station for 'Nagimas Kan Mayang' by the Bukros Brothers and the first song that iTunes radio played was 'Biag Ko Sika Lamang'. It was followed by Nora Aunor's cover of Pearly Shell. The picture of the album showed Nora and Tirso in their younger years. I skipped. Next was April Boy Regino 'Paano ang Puso Ko'. I skipped again. Then 'Anak' by Freddie Aguilar. It was followed by a certain Kris Lawrence singing 'Kung Malaya Lang Ako'. I skipped the third time. The next song was 'A Thousand Years'. I didn't order for an English language song so I skipped again. This is when I found out that one can only skip 4 times. I created another station and it has pre-selected 'Ligaya' by the Eraserheads station and Cooky Chua's Color It Red is in iTunes radio as well. Oh my gulay! Try it out and be surprised!

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Nutella Champorado

Champorado is a Filipino porridge flavored with tablea, a cocoa tablet used for cooking or making hot chocolate drinks. It is best paired with something salty such as tuyo or tinapa. Last night I made my pairing a little more unique with Nutella! The result was an even yummier champorado with hazelnutty flavor. The dried fishes were fried to a crisp and were eaten with every spoonful of the champorado. These imported dried fishes are called 'pinka' and 'danggit' in the Philippine north. Milk is optional. I prefer mine dark and less sweet.

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Pinakbet Guisado

Pakbet or pinakbet guisado is a popular and modified version of the authentic pinakbet. Although the ingredients are the same, the manner of cooking is guisado. Instead of strategical boiling of the vegetables, this version is sauteed in pork fat (generated from cooking the other main ingredient, pork belly) and added with a generous serving of Ilocos bagnet or 'Chicharon Camiling'. Ingredients Eggplant, 2 lbs Bittermelon, 2 lbs Sweet potato or yam, 2 lbs Tomato, 1 lb 1 small can of tomato sauce Bagoong monamon, 1/8 of a cup Okra, 1 lb 2 tablespoons of minced garlic Half cup of white onion Pork broth Sliced Pork belly, 2 lbs Scallion Preparation of the vegetable is as important as cooking it. The shape and size must be bigger than usual to not overcook. Timing, cookware, variety of vegetables used are the different factors to consider when cooking pinakbet. Vegetable Cutting Procedure 1) Peel the sweet potato. Cut into big chunks around 1" by 2". Do not cut too small because they easily crumble once cooked. Soak in water while preparing the rest of the vegetables. 2) Cut the bittermelon. Clean out the seeds. Cut into half-inch sticks. To those who prefer it less bitter, soak in brine water for 15 minutes or more. 3) Cut the eggplant. If it is the round variety just slice a little bit on top. If it is the asian long ones cut into 3 slices and slice the top part making sure the two halves are still jointed on the lower part. Just like the sweet potato also soak in water to prevent darkening of the cut vegetables. 4) Mince the tomatoes. Keep the juice and seeds. 5) The okra just needs to be washed and cleaned on top. Do not cut the head. The seeds will spill out once cooked if the top is cut. Pork Belly Preparation 1) Boil chopped scallions and pork together. Wait until pork is tender. Remove from broth then cut into bite-size pieces in such a way that fat, skin and meat are evenly distributed in each slice. 2) In a thick pan with splatter cover, pour little oil. Once ready, fry the pork. Turn over when necessary. Wait until both sides are brown. This can be dangerous as oil splatters can burn the skin. If available buy already cooked bagnet or crispy pata as an alternative. Set aside when done. Keep the oil for next step. Saute Procedure 1) Using the remaining pork fat, saute garlic and onions. Mix the tomato. Pour a cup or two of pork broth. Wait until the tomato is melted. 2) Throw in the sweet potato. 3) Once the potato has changed color, put the eggplant. 4) Put the bittermelon. Do not disturb and cover. 5) Once the other vegetables are 80 percent ready, put the bagoong, tomato sauce, pork belly and okra. 6) Simmer for another 5 minutes. There you go! Pakbet guisado is now ready! TIP: The pinakbet is best enjoyed the same day it is cooked. Not recommended for tomorrow's baon. 20130911-123654.jpg

Hiking at Breakneck Ridge

Last Saturday I spent the entire day hiking one of New York's best hiking trails, the Breakneck Ridge mountain. After a 5-hour long trek, my group went to nearby Little Stony Point where there is a hidden beach with fantastic views of the Hudson River and its surrounding mountains. I have been coming back to this trail for the past 3 years and I plan to return for as long as time and my physical condition will allow me.

This year I didn't go home unscathed. My legs have a lot of bruises and scratches. Yet despite my aches, my spirit is refreshed and I came home renewed.

My Breakneck Ridge annual hike is now my favorite metaphor for life. While scaling boulders with daunting cliffs behind me, I was reminded how gripping fear worsens an already difficult situation. Watching my friends ramble through gorges showed me how a right attitude / approach defeat all other obstacles and limitations. And as I look at a heavier friend successfully climb; I again saw how confidence can be the best tool in carrying one's entire weight in one haul. Until next time!

To those interested, you may email me at kairoscoordinator@gmail.com to join my u[coming 2013 Fall Hike.

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Do-It-Yourself Binubudan: When Craving Gets Tough, BREW!

One of my favorite Ilocano specialties is the binubudan or tapuy. Binubudan is a wine porridge that is a favorite northern Philippine delicacy usually eaten as a snack or breakfast item. It has a soupy rice consistency and with a sweet juice that tastes a lot like sake. The key ingredient is the 'budbud' or live yeast balls available in the Philippine north. Once I tried using the yeast balls available I found in oriental stores in New York, the finished product did not quite come close to the kind we eat back home. (Maybe in the microbiological level there are also ethnic differences) In my part of the US, the perfect timing is during summer, June to August, when the hot weather is most ideal for fermenting binubudan.

Preparing binududan is fairly easy. The hardest part is waiting 3-9 days before the delicacy can be enjoyed.

INGREDIENTS

1) Sweet sticky rice (for stronger wine taste) or red rice (for sweeter binubudan) 2) Budbod, usually imported from the Philippines 3) PATIENCE! - Fermentation can take 3-9 days. WHAT TO EXPECT 3 days: it starts smelling like alcohol. 5 days: my favorite when I can taste the alcohol, but the rice remains sweet. 9 days: results to a very intoxicating binubudan and bittersweet taste. 10 days or more: Expect some kind of hard liquor. Rice will disappear.   PROCEDURE 1) Steam cook the rice. (Like you always do) Let it cool.

2) In a clean (must be very sterile) container, terracotta or steel, sprinkle the powdered budbod evenly on cooked rice. For one cup of rice, I usually use half of the budbod cake. I arrived at this preference by trial and error.

3) Cover the container with a clean cotton cloth. This allows the fermentation agents to breathe and do their work well.

4) Keep and place in a cool dry place away from sunlight and movement. Do not disturb until its ready.

5) Once the binubudan is ready it will smell sweet and with soup that tastes a lot like alcohol. No need to add anything. I like serving it cold though so I put it in the fridge to cool before enjoying.

Like any alcoholic beverage and food, it can be intoxicating so eat moderately.

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Yeast cakes imported from the Philippines

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I prefer using the red rice variety. The red wine once fermented is sweeter compared to the usual white sticky rice.

Stumbling on JOSE GARCIA VILLA in Greenwich Village

Yesterday, in one of my quests to illuminate a Fil-American about her very rich heritage, my focus was showing her the poems of the Filipino writer/poet and National Artist for Literature Jose Garcia Villa who once roamed Greenwich Village, NY. In my online search, I accidentally found out that when he died in 1997 he was interred at Our Lady of Pompei Church, now my chosen parish Church in NYC. Trivial as it may be to some, I find it absolutely stunning! One of my greatest literary-historical moments ever! I wish I could retrace his steps in Greenwich Village and actually create a JG Villa Tour for Pinoys and literary lovers! Dreams!

Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/08/classified/paid-notice-deaths-villa-jose-garcia.html

Also a literature guzzler, Atty. Mitzi Arao checks out JG Villa's death registry at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Greenwich Village. Mitzi, also an Ilocano, is Ilocano York's classmate in numerous comparative literature courses at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Also a literature guzzler, Atty. Mitzi Arao checks out JG Villa's death registry at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Greenwich Village. Mitzi, also an Ilocano, is Ilocano York's classmate in numerous comparative literature courses at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Anyone who knows Prof. Luis Francia's contact information?

Empty Bowl

I started my early evening calling friends to check if they can have dinner with me somewhere in Manhattan. No one was available so I went home and ended up spending time with a surprisingly enjoyable company ... myself. The dinner was a bowl of homemade sinigang na baboy.

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