Taboan Dried Seafood Market in Cebu City, the Philippines

 Drying and salting fish (and other seafood, like squid) provides an effective preservation option for hot climates with little refrigeration. Although you can buy dried seafood everywhere in the Philippines, seeing it sold in bulk is an eye-widening experience. The Taboan Market in Cebu City is filled with stalls selling a variety of mostly small fish, squid strips, and fish bones. The latter are not used for soup, as you might imagine. Instead, they’re deep fried to make crispy fish-bone chips for breakfast. Although dried fish is not on most Americans’ top 10 list, I’ve developed a taste for dilis (anchovy), danggit (rabbitfish), and pusit (squid) with rice for breakfast. Try it, you’ll like it!

Miscellaneous dishes from three Manila meals. All good. Jay J’s Inasal was the best. I can’t remember the names of the other two, one in a mall, one in an outdoor foodcourt.

And then there’s balut, a favorite filipino snack. Supposedly sold everywhere by street vendors, I didn’t see any on the street. Fortunately, I found this dish of balut adobo at the buffet. So what is balut? It’s a partly developed duck (or sometimes chicken) embryo, hard boiled. How does it taste? Like a fowl-tasting (sorry, couldn’t resist) hard boiled egg. Any texture issues? Not too bad, the bones are still soft and the feathers not feathery. Did I like it? Yes, enough to eat it again. Of course the adobo sauce didn’t hurt.

And then there’s balut, a favorite filipino snack. Supposedly sold everywhere by street vendors, I didn’t see any on the street. Fortunately, I found this dish of balut adobo at the buffet. So what is balut? It’s a partly developed duck (or sometimes chicken) embryo, hard boiled. How does it taste? Like a fowl-tasting (sorry, couldn’t resist) hard boiled egg. Any texture issues? Not too bad, the bones are still soft and the feathers not feathery. Did I like it? Yes, enough to eat it again. Of course the adobo sauce didn’t hurt.

Filipino food has such enormous variety that the hardest decision for a newcomer is what to choose. Fortunately, the all you can eat buffet is alive and well, even if it’s a chain in a mall. Two well regarded representatives are Kamayan and Cabelan. We ate lunch twice at Kamayan, with little repetition (except for balut. More later about that.) and once at Cabelan, which had completely different regional cooking. Everything was new, everything was good, some dishes were great. We suffer from a severe shortage of filipino restaurants in the US. Hopefully I’ll get back there soon.

Cafe Juanita serves some of the best filipino food in Manila, in an over the top setting (not just our opinion). Thanks to the excellent advice of our local friends, we had a great dinner. Cost was US$50 for four, including tax and tip, considered moderately expensive as Manila restaurants go. I hope I get to return.

Breakfast buffet at Linden Suites Hotel, Manila. The Philippines is one of those countries with breakfast that seems like dinner to Americans. Fried rice, soup, fish, meat, stews—all available. The buffet at the Linden Suites Hotel in Manila was excellent (as was the hotel), with a menu that changed daily (unlike most hotel breakfast buffets in my experience). Noteworthy items included crunchy dried fish, congee (rice porridge, sadly not repeated) and kare-kare vegetables (stewed in a peanut sauce).

Brasilia may not be the “real” Brazil, but like all capitals it gets good food from all over the country. I was successful in finding real traditional food at Mangai (no plate picture because I ate it too fast), great meat at Fogo de Chao, and a great fish stew—moqueca—at Bargaco. No feijoada (Brazil’s national dish), since I wasn’t there on a Saturday. And all these were lunches, the big meal of the day.

A light lunch at Insalata Ricca near the Vatican of a pizza margherita and lentil soup following the roast pork sandwich and fresh ricotta purchased at the Trionfale market. Our last dinner in Italy was at da Mario’s near the Parthenon, an old favorite with traditional Roman dishes and a happy neighborhood vibe. January 18, 2013

Tags: food italy travel

The Trionfale Market, Rome’s largest, is an endless invitation for gorgeous food photos. On a sunny winter’s day in Rome, wandering through the medieval section of the city and enjoying the people and sights is definitely the way to go. January 18, 2013

Tags: food italy travel

Paestum is in the center of mozzarella di bufala production, so after our visit to the site and museum we walked in search of a venta diritta direct sale opportunity. Success meant a delicious indoor picnic of cheeses back at our Salerno hotel. The sales girl couldn’t believe that we only bought one medium sized ball of mozzarella for three people. After we tasted it, we wished we had bought more too, even though we couldn’t begin to eat it all. We took the high speed train back to Rome, and arrived in time to have dinner at a great traditional trattoria, da Gino’s in the Campo Marzio. January 17, 2013

Tags: food travel