Comfort food and veggie eats in Kapitolyo

Epic Coffee

Epic Coffee

Even after a long day at work, one of the things I find comforting is when I get to cook. It’s an escape from a blinking (and demanding) computer screen and into the warm welcome of a kitchen counter, chopping board and pots and pans. But living near the Kapitolyo area (it’s been a year!) provides another source of comfort–exploring its bustling dining scene.

The neighborhood of Kapitolyo in Pasig has been abuzz of all things food for some years now when restaurants, cafes and other eating joints started sprouting in every corner of the residential area (especially along East Capitol Drive). I’ve always wanted to list down some of my favorites, so here goes. If ever you’re in the neighborhood of Kapitolyo and you’re wondering where to eat, here’s my quick guide (just prepare for the not-so-quick search for parking):

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Dining out meat-free (my favorite vegetarian eats in Metro Manila)

Or another title to this post should be, When I Try To Be Good. Because seriously, I like my meat. I like it so much that sometimes when I do the grocery, I like to linger by the meat section just to get a whiff of that animal flesh sprawled on the shiny counter and imagine the many possible, mouthwatering dishes it can become before I take a very grateful bite into it. But it’s 2011. And literature on climate change has long indicated that the planet–well, it is not as grateful when we eat meat. Meat production generates those awful greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change. It just takes more water and fossil fuel to have that pound of beef as compared to big bowl of salad. (That on top of years of Catholic guilt. Yikes.)

The point is I try to eat less meat whenever I can, even if it’s just one meal a day. This includes eating out. In the Philippines though, where local favorites are a carnivore’s dream (lechon or roasted pig, crispy pata or deep-fried pork leg, kare-kare or stewed oxtail, beef and tripe in peanut sauce, sisig or a sizzling plate of pig’s cheeks that have been boiled, broiled and fried… you get the heart-stopping picture) and where “meatless” is a vegetarian’s nightmare as it often just means stir-fried veggies in animal fat, the options may look slim. But look closely. There are a number of dishes out there that are delicious and meatless, and restaurants that can help you minimize your carbon footprint. (Though cooking your own meatless dish would probably be best.) Here are my favorites 🙂

1. Greens Vegetarian Cafe & Restaurant. Besides the local vegetarian fast-food chain Bodhi, Greens is probably one of the older vegetarian restaurants in the city. It’s been around for almost a decade (it opened in August 2001), serving lacto-vegetarian dishes. With its mock meats–“pork” barbecue (my favorite!), “beef” and broccoli, “fish” relleno, sisig, etc.–it makes vegetarian eating palatable to meat-loving Pinoys. (The photo below is courtesy of Greens.)

Another Greens favorite: Grilled Mushroom and Tofu Kebabs

Address: 92 Scout Castor Street, Quezon City; phone: (632) 415-4796, 376-2781; website: click here for its Facebook page

2. Pipino. I don’t get to go to this resto as often as I want, but I think this is one of the best vegetarian restaurants here in Metro Manila. They serve a lot of plant-based dishes and both vegetarians and vegans will be satisfied. My vegetarian sister loves it so that’s a big plus. Its vegan lasagna is something I dream about every so often. It doesn’t have cheese but it’s creamy (thank you Silken Tofu) and I love it against the layers of wheat pasta, the tart tomato sauce, the texture of those slices of eggplant and zucchini, and the subtle hints of the humble malunggay.

UPDATE: When I recently had this (April 4, 2011), I have to say that it was a big disappointment 😦 The lasagna noodles were stiff, the silken tofu far from creamy and soft (it was in big dry globs) and the vegetables were just dry. It tasted like day-old lasagna that was heated in the microwave too long and on too high a temperature. It was far from how it looked in that photo below–all soft and creamy. I’ll see how it is if ever I do find myself in Pipino again. Sigh.

Pipino (that's my sister in the mustard-colored cardi!)

Pipino's Vegan Lasagna

Address: 2/F 39 Malingap Street, Teachers Village, Quezon City; phone: 441-1773

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Meatless Dinner: Arugula, Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

I haven’t been slouching off anywhere out of town for almost two months, but I have been frequenting the kitchen lately to cook dinner or lunch that P can bring to the office. Last Sunday, my vegetarian sister brought some freshly harvested organic arugula to the house and we decided to cook pasta. She recently signed up to the Philippine-based Good Food Co., an organization that enables farmers to grow organic produce and connect them with socially-aware consumers who want organic food on their plate. She signed up as a stakeholder and that means she regularly gets organic vegetables that are in season, while being able to help the small local farmers that Good Food Co. supports. It’s a good cause and as consumers we get to know where our food comes from and how it’s grown or raised.

With the bountiful harvest of arugula from Good Food Co., some sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese or kesong puti, garlic, canned mushrooms, and a pack of linguine from the cupboard, we made this meatless and very satisfying pasta. It had the wonderful flavors and textures of the peppery, bitter arugula, the chewy, sweet and tart tomatoes, the soft, subtle cheese and the comforting combination of olive oil and garlic.

For the recipe: While you’re cooking the pasta (we picked linguine just because it was what we had in the kitchen), chop a few cloves of garlic, slice some sun-dried tomatoes and soak it in olive oil, rinse and slice some button mushrooms (one can) or some other mushrooms you prefer, wash and drain the arugula.

To put it all together: Put 1/4 cup or more of olive oil in a pan. Put the garlic in, followed by the tomatoes and the mushroom. After a few minutes toss in the cooked pasta. Once the pasta is well-coated with the oil mixture, tear handfuls of arugula leaves onto the mix. Season with salt and squeeze some lemon juice over it. When the arugula starts to wilt, crumble goat cheese over it. Mix it up. Turn off the heat. And serve! Yum 🙂

Start with lechon, end the day with vegetarian

Yesterday was all about food–both the good and the not-so-good-for-you variety. We had a children’s party to go to at Pizza Hut in the afternoon and a vegetarian buffet of a fundraiser for dinner.

At the party, we got to taste Pizza Hut’s latest concoction–the Lechon Pizza. Yes, it is as sinful as it sounds. Lechon or roasted suckling pig is a beloved Filipino menu staple in fiestas, parties and all forms of celebrations. As celebrations and get-togethers are especially in full swing during the holiday season, it’s no wonder a pizza chain finally thought of incorporating many Filipinos’ favorite fiesta fare into their pies at this time of the year. So was it a genius mash-up or two things that never should have gotten together?

Pizza meet lechon. Lechon meet pizza.

Topped with crispy lechon skin, cheese, and, wait for it, lechon sauce

Is one slice enough?

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