1999 or 2000? I cannot remember. Our retreat has to be one of our high school highlights but for some reason, all I remember are the astonished faces of the Canossian sisters during meal time. Breakfasts meant hotdogs. Plateful of red ones. There are 48 of us in our class; 5 males and the rest of are females. I can tell some of the nuns are thinking: “Gone?! The hotdogs are gone? Just like that??!” Yes. Gender differences do not exist in our section when it comes to eating. I am quite thankful that such pattern continues in all the groups I have been part of, including college friends, graduate school dormmates and workplace colleagues. Speaking of college friends, our group had a get-together last June 18 in UP Los Banos or Elbi to most alumni. I cannot remember the last time I have been there so the food establishments left and right is just delightful. It is not hard to imagine Elbi as a foodie paradise. The landmark of the road leading to the campus is Jollibee and the last thing one sees is as one enters its premises is McDonald’s near the main gate. In between these fastfood giants are bakeries, cafes, kiosks and a smorgasbord of eateries. Is the food scene in UPLB better than UP Diliman considering there are iconic places in the latter such as Rodic’s? Been living near UP Diliman for the last 5 years, and I came up with the conclusion that in terms of food, UPLB wins but in terms of FebFair and Christmas-related activities, UP Diliman is the clear winner. I guess it has to do with the place. One ride from UP Diliman and its off to Trinoma or some other malls. But Elbi is a different animal. The shopping centers are smaller and offers limited choices so the mom-and-pop eateries continue existing despite numerous competitions. Andrew Zimmern has a thing for stubborn food places or establishments refusing to die in the face of globalization. Students are one of the reasons the Papus remain strong: cheaper and more accessible. If schedule permits: RETURN TO YOUR COLLEGE CAMPUSES AND EAT. Eating more than nourishing and replenishing nutrients. It is a form of social bonding. Trust a group of sociologists to argue in such a manner.
The contribution of Italians to the fascinating sphere of duos is pizza and pasta. A couple of words denoting feast and carbo-loading. It is not surprising rice-addicted Filipinos have taken a liking to pasta, as seen in the various Italian restaurants throughout the Philippines. It is the sauce-dependent cousin of our staple carbo food. Apparently, there are several pizza-pasta places in Elbi. (Thank goodness, it is non-existent when I was still a student or else budgeting will make no sense.) Bonito’s at UPLB Grove is one of such restaurant. Pardon the ventilation because the food is REALLY GOOD. The menu gets high marks for noting their recommendations. Just a tip: it is not a bad thing to follow their recommendations because it is more or less a great choice.
PARMESAN POTATO WEDGES
Thick slices of potatoes and topped with generous amounts of Parmesan cheese served in a wax paper-covered wooden board. The sauce is dispensable. This appetizer is one of the restaurant’s recommendations. I just had to order it. Good decision.
Compared to the Primavera of Cibo this is WAY CHEAPER. Yeah it is Cibo but still. Like the usual Primavera, the dish consists of pasta and fresh vegetables. Onions. Carrots. Capers. Olives. Tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. The icing on the cake? The serving is even bigger than Cibo. Is it too much to ask Bonito’s to create their version of Spaghettini Al Tris Di Formaggio? Please. Please. Please.
GREEN MANGO SHAKE
Too much ice.
SIOMAI FOOD HOUSE
Before deciding to fulfill our dimsum needs in this steaming place, there has been some sort of discussion among the group. Papu’s or Siomai Food House? Both offers siomai. The former being the more popular one and the latter is the rising star. Yielding to the decision of our bloc leader is never difficult. He lives in Los Banos AND WE DON’T. So Siomai Food House or SFH. The argument is SFH tastes better than Papu’s ever since the latter decided to branch out and mass produced. The place is LITERALLY STEAMING from all the cooking siomai. There are several choices on the menu, including a fried version of their siomai, but the group stuck to a strict steamed siomai diet. 16 orders of siomai. That is 16 x 3 = 48 dumplings for 6 people.
SIOMAI FOOD HOUSE SIOMAI
3 pieces for Php17
Just the right size. No aftertaste. Real pork. So explain the B+ rating. I am not a huge fan of pork siomai because I prefer either shrimp or beef. Then there is the case of siomai wrapper that keeps falling off. Blame it on its hot-off-the-steamer nature. Several steaming siomai packed in a single platter – of course, some of its wrappers will depart the filling. But the SPICY sauce? Damn. Pass the sauce! Plus check out the price one more time. The Coke Sakto I bought is more of Coke Kulang in the presence of 48 pieces of dumplings.
One of the trends in UPLB is the emergence of the cafe culture. No Starbucks or Seattle’s Best but home-grown cafes. Boston Cafe occupies the first floor of a building housing several food establishments. As one enters the place, it is quite obvious that it tries its best to Starbucks-fied its ambiance. Required cafe music. Several couches and chairs. Nice lighting. Wireless Internet. Open 24 hours. Then there are Elbi touches including several copies of UPLB Perspectives and UPLB-related bulletin board. Three points missing: the aroma of brewing coffee, better ventilation and a more UPLB feel. It is too organize to feel like a real campus cafe. Like the academic freedom vibe of UPLB is missing. Better if the bulletin board also includes a freedom board where students can doodle stuff such as poems, messages and the likes. Since there is a conscious effort (Elbi sandwiches) to market it as a UPLB hangout despite the name (Boston Cafe?!) then it should go all out looking and feeling like one. But props to the wireless internet (though I was not able to check if it is working fine) and the 24 hour-service. Imagine Boston Cafe on a Hell Week. I bet it’s insane.
Is there doubt I will not order Elbiccino? A coffee blend named after UPLB. No doubt I will take a cup of it. So based on Elbiccino, how does UPLB taste? Bittersweet. Hints of caramel. Chunks of coffee jellies for a surprise end. I miss UPLB. There. I said it.
Note: a couple of months to go before Part II