“Who Would’ve Thought That By The End Of 2015 We’d All Be Beliebers?”

I was still woozy from that spinning teacup ride of ‘fourteen and only queued for the john to find myself shoved and strapped into the front seat of the new roller coaster. It took a slow and leisurely loop around the first month before mounting the chain-lift. Clickety-clack by excruciating clickety-clack only to release into a shallow first drop.

Marsala, marsala, marsala. The year bled an earthy wine red early. Organic. Sophisticated. Everywhere. Water into whine. One social media uproar one week only to be quickly forgotten in the next. And, oh, the very well-informed, more-politically-correct-than-thou online mob. Then everything hipster took a two lefts into the mainstream. One, that is not a bun. Two? Well…

The Year of Cheese did not exactly happen and my initial excitement of extending the effort into the next with some home experimentation stopped short with the lack of a reliable and accessible local supply of milk. I just couldn’t rely on carton milk from the neighborhood 7Eleven. Still, my guinea pigs loved the samples of ricotta and no one sued me for food poisoning. Failure never stopped anyone from just picking up items from Rustan’s Supermarkets’ cheese section. It didn’t, me. There’s also Good Shepherd Hills’ best kept secret of Smoked Cheddar from Cebu Gourmet Factory that is also conveniently a stone’s throw away from (and vice versa) The Hills’ other best kept secret, The (um) Secret Garden.

A camelback came into view and with it a rise in artisanal food and drink. The car teetered over the drop and — whoosh — the pit of my stomach moved up to my throat as if to escape the bottom of that plunge. I found myself eyeballs deep in local craft beer scene and loved it. Wine pairings gave way to beer ones just as those started to gain quite the following. Food prep came up right alongside with even more experimental treatments and more exotic ingredients thrown into the molecular gastronomy blender. Farm-to-table happened when smaller-scale farmers who were direct suppliers washed over the city with the organic wave. Mini-thrills came in tight loops of intimate and themed dinner events, chef’s dinners and secret cookouts.

While the rest of the PI was still vague at the Hague with seemingly tentative dashes at the Nine-dash, a steep helix came by a slew of personal blog projects and spinoffs and more plunges — hands thrown up in the air with new kindred spirits in the food industry. A steep climb began for Cebu’s first weekend food market, Sugbo Mercado, which went into several wild inversions after the drop. Just when I thought ‘Fifteen was running out of steam, it accelerated further into speaking engagements on writing and blogging and went into the local boob tube.

Shooting into a tunnel it exited into a fan switch point to a hundred new malls and restaurants that gave justice to the delays in the passing of the RH Bill. The ride didn’t let up with countless other exciting twists and turns until the extremely extended break run.

The click and hiss as restraint locks came off came with sighs both in relief and want for more. I immediately queued for the john only to find myself shoved and strapped into the front seat of the another roller coaster. Clickety-clack by excruciatingly slow clickety-clack up the chain lift blending into lush electronic beats from Justin Bieber’s runaway comeback as we teetered over the first drop looking over to the horizon where the sea of Pantone 15-13919 meets the Rose Quartz sky.

Señor Kimchi

 

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I’d reference the migratory cliché’s of Mexicans and Koreans if only us Pinoys are immune from the same. But, no. If anything, there are more similarities among Mexicans, Koreans and Pinoys than meets the eye. Across the board, there’s fanatical religiosity, extended families more knotted than their declared tightly-knit, some generational and cultural scarring from some or several foreign occupations, what appears to be contentment with discontent and other sweeping generalizations. That last one was a disclaimer. Across the border, the American Dream. Of course, there’s the love of food. I’ll admit I thread myself through the uncomfortable knots at family gatherings only for the good stuff.

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Downtown L.A. comes down to town via Señor Kimchi, one of the first purveyors of the MexiKor food trend on the Island. Fusion cuisine can quickly morph into confusion but Mexican and Korean seem to marry well with similarities in punch and layered flavors. Both intricately layered and spiced, the divide is set between the earthier in the former to the tart and funky of the latter.

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Extra-large brown mushrooms are stuffed with crab meat and cream cheese, battered and deep-fried, split, sprinkled with cilantro and drizzled with homemade spicy aioli in their Mushroom Poppers. The blank slate earthiness of the mushrooms make for a great base for the savory cheese and the briny Kani. As with anything, frying made it golden. Cilantro anchored Asia with the aioli putting it along the spice trade route of old. Easily my personal favorite, it’s aptly named as there is a tendency to just keep popping a piece after another into your mouth.

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Heat and punchy vegetals from local Red Peppers replace mushrooms in  Señor Kimchi’s second bestseller appetizer item, Pepper Bombs. These make great secondaries for a slow build-up of the spice intensities.

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Lacto-Vegans are represented with the Jalapeno Quesadillas. Cheddar Cheese and Jalapeno pieces are sandwiched between soft Flour Tortillas, quartered and drizzled yet again with that addictive homemade Spicy Aioli.

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A glocal nod to the fusions come by way of the Pandesal Sliders, among their house specials. The everyday-everyman explodes with baby spring onions, shredded greens and local tomato slices topped with spicy aioli with your choice of meat — in our case, Bulgogi Beef. The soy sauce, sugar, garlic and black pepper combination in the marinade is not quite unlike local preps. Eomeoni comes in with sesame oil profusions of scallions, onions and ginger to push the flavor beyond bistek to SoKor.

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Flour tortillas are quite versatile in that they can carry assortments of toppings that usually work. Fresh Kimchi Slaw and homemade pepper paste top Spicy Pork in  Señor Kimchi’s Korean BBQ Tacos. A special Tropical Salsa with mangoes pay homage to local pride.

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Rice is an unnecessary starch in my book but there is no denying the beautiful combination of the spicy pungency of Kimchi on plain, boiled rice. A stir-frying to fuse the two is quite the Korean alchemist’s trick with Red Bell Peppers, Onions and Carrots figuring in as aromatics in the Kimchi Fried Rice. A generous topping of Bulgogi Beef and an oozy fried egg stood solid proteins.

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A variety of local and imported beers are available but the obvious choice was a Corona. Mexican-American, you know? DTLA. This light, easy beer is pleasantly malty with a latent tartness brought about by that lemon wedge. Perfect for the bright and easy dining atmosphere packed with chic downtown details and arresting, thematic graffiti. Rough finishes, patchy tiling, “rusted” pendant lights, reclaimed wood look and bursts of color. The City of Angels may still be a US VISA approval away but it might as well be right smack in the new neighborhood of Axis Entertainment Center. Si, señor, at Señor Kimchi.

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Señor Kimchi is located at Axis Entertainment Center / Vibo Place, Escario, Cebu City.