Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Mountains Call

The Mountains Call
- Isaiah 40:9 -

Life is a talk of mountains
Sometimes, a struggle to overcome;
Or big, overwhelming burdens -
In a season or some.

But mountains aren't always bad
They're a happy pill for wanderers
A solace for them feeling sad
A quiet home for each sojourner.

As I sat amidst the tumult
I hear the faint mountain call
My heart beating to catapult
Away from the noise of it all.

I sounded the alarm
My friends heard the uproar
So off we went like a swarm --
The mountains - they call!

Mountains are lofty.
A footstool for all to see
Beyond the horizon-concealed beauty
Displays God's creativity.

Take the mountains as pedestals.
On each setup a milestone.
Every achievement - monumental
Per promotion, a reminding stone.

At the peak, speak aloud with fervor
Shout til your lungs grow tired
Say "I am more than a conqueror.
In Jesus - I feel inspired."

The mountains call
And I shall hearken
I will stand tall
Until comes heaven.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Foodscape: Chronicling Food Escapes (1)

Wanderlust takes you not only to spectacular sights and places but it certainly introduces you to new food. Oftentimes, food creates a deeper insight of the culture (diverse or pure) that resides in the town you visit. Couple the experience with a bit of history and you gain a different level of respect for the creators and hands that birthed the name and fame they have today.


I'm not a huge fan of sandwiches but the original Philly Cheese Steak at Pat's King of Steak certainly made an impression. The name is derived from its creator, Pat Oliveri, who discovered the recipe back in 1930. He began by selling hotdogs on a stand near the Italian market in South Philadelphia until one day he decided he'd do something new. Instead of hotdog, he filled the bread with sliced grill steaks which were first patronized by taxi drivers. Not too long after, news spread making it a big hit that got restaurants to start selling their version of the same thing. Today, the place is frequented by tourists and has become a go-to stop in most Philadelphia tour itineraries.

Their huge hoagie roll is generously filled with thinly sliced grilled beef steaks and topped with melted cheese. At the side of the store, a stainless steel cart stands full of grilled cherry bell peppers and dried dark chili for anyone who'd like them for sandwich toppings. Calorie is certainly one thing but making a pass on a deliciously juicy treat would be awful.


Mr. Beef's Italian Combo

Chicago has a similar version in Mr. Beef. Their Italian Combo Sandwich has both sausage and cooked rib-eye meat. The beef flavor is unmistakable. While you chew the chopped steak the smokey cow fat aroma enters your nostrils. This sandwich tasted fresh and excellently seasoned. The bits of cooked celery as toppings made quite a distinction but the overall taste is certainly reminiscent of Pat's King of Steak without the cheese.  You may want to eat it fast though cause I think the steak juice can wet the bread quite a bit making it hard to keep the filling intact. Thanks to The Jimmy Fallon Show for making a buzz of it in one of its episodes last year, a follow-up to the first one he did back in 2013 where he called it a "killer deal". This sandwich has smitten both him, Gabrielle Union and Jay Leno.


Four blocks away from the my office stands The National which is home of the Revival Food Hall that shelters 15 restaurants constantly flocked with people of every type and ethnicity -- mostly employees from offices around downtown Chicago. I remember the first time it opened. The line was long and extending outside the building. People did not mind the cold. All wore excitement on their faces even as they stood in front of a staff who stood (arms folded) looking like an intimidating bouncer in a nightclub making sure the crowd inside has room enough to move around.


I did not join the crowd that day but returned 3 months after when the hype has gone down. One restaurant queuing heavily was SMOQUE BBQ. Five guys formed it out of pure passion on food, particularly barbecue. Their specialty is the barbecue-seasoned beef -- smoked until tender. They pride the use of hardwood smoke and pungent (sour) sauce which makes the balance on taste leaving customers feeling as if they are in "BBQ heaven". Meats (steaks) are most American's staple food.

Sliced Brisket Sandwich
Curious of the American palate, I brought along an American colleague on a second visit to sample their sliced brisket sandwich. I asked if that was the taste he'd describe "distinctly American" but it turned out he shares my similar impression. The food was great - meat was tender, juicy, and the barbecue flavor is confirmed in taste and smell. The black surface of the meat initially scared me a bit as it looked charred but the pinkish color behind the thin dark layer overcame my worry. It was surprising that the fat blackened by long exposure to hardwood smoke did not taste bitter at all. The only thing we hoped it had more of was flavor inside as it seemed concentrated only outside. Also, cheese and vegetables would be nice in BBQ heaven too.


Classic Fried Chicken
This stall in the hall sold spicy fried chicken. I like the fact that it was perfectly cooked inside and not dry outside. The spicy rub gave its crispy fried skin the color and flavor you see when served. I find it very difficult to make comments on fried chicken as I am biased for Korea's soy garlic fried ones but this is certainly not bad. The chicken is served with pickles, beans, a Texas toast, and coleslaw.


Furious Spoon Ramen

Probably the only Asian shop of the 15 stalls inside. The adjective on its name is quite catchy and it encourages an appetite. It being the only asian store kinda has its advantage. It pulled me in among Thai, Chinese, and Japanese customers in a line. Americans who've learned to love the taste of Asia wait in the queue as well. Ramen was its specialty, so I bought myself a bowl and delightfully worked my spoon and sticks in it. The mushrooms were fresh and for some reasons I preferred it more than the sliced pork belly. The soup turned creamy after the egg was cut and mixed, but, slightly bitter.

Friday, October 21, 2016

375 Miles: The Rest of Florida

The Miami to Inverness drive the day before demanded rest for our tired bodies and so we woke up late. There were still plenty of food from Gavin's birthday party last night so we just heated some of the food in the microwave. Mayette and Mayet (coincidental twinning) came out to join us for breakfast. Ace will be in-charge of Gavin the whole day while Gloricel drives us to the Kennedy Space Center which once launched Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle. It will be a quick visit since we needed to hit other stops in Florida and hours were dwindling since starting late at 10am.

First we paid Gloricel's former home a visit. They moved out not too long ago and purchased the one we came to last night. And then tall, stately trees along the road didn't go unnoticed. We got off the car and started taking photographs.

Finally, we made it to NASA. We realized that if we went in, we'd be spending the whole day so we settled with pictures outside the visitor entrance. Not too long after, we headaed towards the famed Daytona Drive-In Church. The photographs online just looked mystical and odd. On regular services, cars drive into the property to park at the church front which bore the Portate Cross (slanted to refer to a carried cross). At the Friendship Hall, the church attendees get the chance to socialize with everyone over a Krispy Kreme donut before going back to the car to tune in for the broadcast at 88.5FM. After the service, all cars parade towards the exit. We came at a deserted hour and so we found none of the above descriptions in sight. On the other hand, we lobbied without competition at the parking area. Just as I finished taking the pictures and began heading towards the car, the girls were in the mood to play. I moved a meter closer and the car moved a meter away. I dashed to it and it sped further. Gloricel just drives you nuts. She's the same playful soul I know back in high school. It was hilarious.

The beach was just around the area, therefore, we decided to stop by. Daytona Beach is known for it's hard-packed sands making it possible for motorized vehicles to drive into the certain areas in the shore. It regularly hosts Daytona 500 where 200,000 fans gather for the season opening. We arrived at a crowded sea shore and everybody where minding their own business in bikinis and shorts and we went on with ours unperturbed. The girls took a spot at a nearby bay watchtower and got me trigger-happy with my camera.

The afternoon was getting late and Orlando, Florida is about 70 miles away. The scorching sun was getting us all lazy but we were motivated by the thought of dining at Boston Lobster Feast, their famous all-you-can-eat lobster restaurant. We arrived to find it fully-booked but we we didn't give up. While Glo and Mayet waited for admission, I and Mayette decided to walk around the area to see the eye of Orlando and Rippley's Believe it Or not, stopping also outside the Pirate's Cove. There is always amusement at every block and the town was so alive -- streets, brightly lit. We came back to the restaurant and found our friends digging in on a plateful of lobster. A joke cracked that got everyone boisterous enough to gain attention from customers. Eyes glared at us, some tried to mimic Gloricel infectious laugh, and others didn't look very happy at all. The laughter continued like screams inside Gloricel's car as Mayet sounded lobster-drunk saying loudly "I lobster you". It was crazy and fun. Everyone was generous of themselves and not holding back.

Finally, we were back at the house and Gloricel went straight to nurse Gab who vomited hours ago as reported by Ace. It was a little late so we just drank water and went to our respective nooks. I must have slept very soundly that night that the next thing I know was hearing the squeaking sound of door opening the next morning.

"Gab, Gab!", I said, while reaching out for Ace and Glo's baby after the mother and son woke me up the next day. I looked out the window and felt peaceful seeing the green grass carpeting the backyard. I must've done really well holding Gavin that he started leaning on me as if he knew me well. Then, I started enjoying the so-called feeling of borrowed paternal bliss. It was like that for quite a while until I took him outside the room and showed him his gifts. We opened some of them and showed them off to his parents while he drove his mini car around the living room. The neighborhood was very quiet and so did the house as if it knew we were leaving back to Chicago that day. Ace played the slideshow that showed pictures of him and the family while we watched closely. After we ate our breakfast, the doctor wrote me a prescription for a year-long supply of my hypertension medication (lol). We prayed and took some more pictures outside the house until the Filipino driver, contacted by Gloricel, gave us a ride to our last destination in Tampa, Florida.

Mayette met with her friend who chose Florida over Chicago for career and personal reasons a couple of years ago. We were welcomed into their home with fried chicken and Pizza. Soon after we were done, they fixed us a short trip to Tampa bay which was hands down marvelous! The white sand is real deal white and soft on the feet. It was surprisingly a little bit more appealing than Miami in my opinion. Sadly, we had to leave. Off we went chasing for the flight back. We came at the airport on time but not early enough to get through the lines and security inspection easily without dashing one stop to the other. We were literally running around since it was getting past boarding time. That was in my recollection the only instance I ran as I simultaneously unbuckled and dug for my wallet to surrender them for scanning. Mayette was doing a good job herself and finally we got on the plane, eyes on us, hyperventilating, sweats trickling down our faces, and man --- did I stink!

This ends my Florida trip. Dare to read the complete itinerary here:

Day 1. 418 Miles - Destination: Key West through Tamiami Trail
Day 2. 5 Miles - Around the Southernmost Point of USA (Key West, Florida)
Day 3. 654 Miles: Hello Everglades. I Heart ♥ Miami
Day 4: 375 Miles: The Rest of Florida
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