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The friend that my palate keeps

MANILA, Philippines - Most people believe a diamond is a girl’s best friend, while a dog is a man’s; well, mine is food!

Food has been my best boon companion since I was young. I am an only child with a mother who loves to cook. My liking for homemade food led me to yearn for more at school canteens and restaurants.

Way back then, my mother would take me to Central Market in Manila to shop for her ingredients for cakes and pastillas. Afterwards, she would treat me to the lugawan and pancitan alleys. Sometimes, we would go to Hongning for their unforgettable pancit canton that up to this day, I swear, no other restaurant can equal such delicious pancit saturated with thick sauce.

I was one of those so eager to smell and taste Jollibee’s Langhap Sarap burger at their first branch in Cubao where I grew up. I am truly a burger addict, that’s why I landed, ironically, as a crew member of McDonald’s in Morayta when I was still studying at UST. I savored their cheeseburgers, quarter pounders and bigmacs with so much delight. Needless to say, I have been a fan of Wendy’s and Tropical Hut as well.

Max’s at Roces was very much a part of my life, too. My cousins and I could each finish half a chicken with half a bottle of catsup in a flash.

You can imagine how fat I was as a child as I grew up thinking that a restaurant is my Disneyland. However, growing older and bigger wasn’t easy. I had to distance myself from my best friend. I tried to starve myself to lose those extra pounds. I attempted going vegetarian but I was lonely; South Beach and Atkins diet made my carbo friends feel empty. My relationship with food started to turn sour... and even bitter.

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Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t totally abandon my best friend. I had to rediscover her and learn more about her goodness through health, diet and cookbooks. Being more informed made me embrace my friend back in a better light. I became excited again in my search for more friends at different restaurants.

Food, like people friends, should be sought. And when you have found the best among the rest, you keep her dearly. I would share gladly with you my friends:

Mamou, Bellini’s and Taste of LA are almost like family. The owners and their food make you want to stay for good. My favorite at Mamou is their steak. It has a counterpart in Antonio’s, but please don’t ask which is better because even in life no two friends are alike; both are nonpareil. Aside from their steak, I always come back for my beloved lamb tapa and creamy spinach.

At Bellini’s, any plain pasta will suffice my appetite. It has a deep flavor that you can only find in this restaurant; how much more with their sauces and extra toppings... lavish!

In LA, California, I extremely enjoyed the spareribs there. So when I came across Taste of LA in Morato, it was comforting to know that I can find the same delicious friend here in Manila. And I even met more friends in their pizzas and oysters... so pleasing!!!

In Canada, my husband introduced me to his Chinese Fried Noodle friend. I saw how much he loved her so when I came back here, I searched like a fool for its equivalent. Alas, I found her at Mr. Choi.

When we crave for authentic and foreign associates, we go to Sereyna and Sushi Katsu for Japanese; Kirin for Chinese; Kogi Bulgogi for Korean; Persian Square for Mediterranean; Cyma and Mickey’s for European.

Via Mare shall always be my reliable and comforting friend; while Café Juanita and Sonya’s Garden are my charming allies. Le Souffle and Inagiku are the glamorous ones.

And nothing else can be a sweeter friend than Padre Damaso’s Ube cake.

As you can see, my relationship with food wasn’t exactly smooth but as I grew more mature and wiser, I was able to pick the kinds of friend to keep.

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