October 12, 2015


Al Fresco with a gatecrasher (see that dark object - lower right - that landed on the prosciutto)

I had it all planned – dining al fresco with spectacular views just like in glossy travel magazines.  After touring the highly-touted Naramata Bench with its wineries, a gustatory high of wine and its accoutrements, overlooking the panorama of the Okanagan Valley as the sun sets, was in order. 

What triggered this sophistication or the pretense of it?

A cache of red wine glasses (CAD$1.oo each) bought at a garage sale earlier in the afternoon on my way to Lang Vineyards.  A retired couple who worked overseas for CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) had a week left to empty and vacate their sold house which has a sweeping vista of the vineyards sloping down to Okanagan Lake.  They were moving to a condo unit on the other side of the lake a few miles north in the retirement community of Peachland.  They also had coronation grapes harvested from their backyard at CAD$ 1.oo a pound.  I said two; I think she gave me four as I found out during the "al fresco".

It was 5:30 in the afternoon, and I knew I only had about an hour and a half before twilight.  I hurriedly bought all-butter petite croissants (I was not in the mood for baguette or crackers) and imported prosciutto (from Italy – the deli guy said don’t buy anything else) at Save-On-Foods Supermarket in Penticton. 

Once I reached my site at the Camp-Along campground in Kaleden (right next to Highway 97, you can hear the road traffic at night), I opened my bottle of black currant wine (CAD$ 18.00) from Elephant Island Winery. Fortunately it was a screw top since I did not have a corkscrew opener.  With it, in addition to the purple blue grapes, croissants and prosciutto, I had a local Poplar Grove soft cheese called Harvest Moon (about CAD$10 a round).  These days, the word “local” often means pricey despite the fact that quality can be lackluster at times including this time.   

Earlier that day, to my surprise Poplar Grove Cheese cannot be bought at Poplar Grove Winery.  When I asked the lady at the winery " How come?" she was quite evasive.  Three miles up, I turned into another winery, called Clean Slate, where the boutique cheesery had its own separate small tasting room.  The man receptionist behind the counter, a retired school principal, somewhat implied the lady behind the cheese operations is no longer living with the man who owns the winery with the same name.   How apropos: a “clean slate”.  

Dusk was salubrious.  With great expectations, I laid my spread on top of newspapers on a picnic table perched on a hill overlooking the small city of Penticton at a distance, wedged between two lakes, Okanagan and Skaha.  It was glorious and elan!  Until ...  Not even 5 minutes soon – the gatecrashers made their presence.  I thought they were bees, until the following morning, from my walk to the nearby showers, I saw plastic bag traps labeled for yellow jackets wasps – which obviously did not work for me the night before (perhaps the traps were too far).  These wasps do not care, are aggressive, and can sting, though for some reason they did not on me.

So I was forced to retreat to my car with closed windows to finish my meal … So much for great expectations.

How do the outdoor restaurant patios in the area shoo away these pests (which are biologically important since the wasps eat other insects)?  I wonder.

October 11, 2015


It was a good adobo so I had to ask Edwin how he prepared it.  He mentioned an unusual set of ingredients (for me anyway).  There are a million ways to cook Adobo and just like any good recipe I wanted to be able to do it myself anywhere anytime.

Edwin told me to buy pork belly and ribs.  I called Beefway Butchery at Kingsway Street about their prices.  The lady said pork back ribs are more expensive than the side ribs because it is meatier.

I never did get a chance to go to Beefway. Two days before Canadian Thanksgiving, I saw what looked like high-quality meat at Osaka’s T&T Supermarket inside the Yaohan Mall in Richmond.  So I got both pork belly and back ribs.

The Sunday night before Thanksgiving, Edwin demonstrated his Adobo version.

For  around three kilos of chopped meat rinsed in water and drained, Edwin poured with restraint about five tablespoons of Heinz Apple Cider vinegar.  “You don’t want the mix to be too sour.”  He also said he prefers apple cider vinegar because it is less acidic than other types such as palm, coconut, or sugar cane vinegars.  Then around 10 tablespoons of Maggi Seasoning  (instead of the traditional Soy Sauce) which contains MSG.  On top of the meat he dropped about 8 cloves of pressed garlic, two medium sized yellow onions chunked, around one tablespoon of vetsin (MSG), two tablespoon of white refined sugar, and one tablespoons of ground black pepper.  Absolutely no salt as the Maggi is already sodium-laden, and no water as the meat will release plenty when heated.   Upon setting the pot on high heat, Edwin put in three small bay leaves (laurel).  Edwin said that he will definitely do some seasoning adjustment at some point.

Philippine cooking dictum dictates that one should not move, touch the contents in a pot when it is in a marinade of or  while stewing in vinegar until the liquid boils, or with some chefs until the meat is almost done.  I personally have in the past detected a less favorable taste when the ingredients are mixed prematurely.

So when the vinegary broth began to boil, Edwin tossed the pieces around, sideways, and up and down.   He said it didn’t smell quite right yet because our nostrils were detecting a strong whiff of vinegar.  Smell?  Edwin does not adjust his cooking on taste but rather on smell.  

He let the adobo boil for 10 minutes more in medium heat, and then came the reformulation.  To counter the sour tang, Edwin added one more tablespoon of white sugar (although Edwin remarked brown sugar is better if available).  Once the sugar was mixed, the aroma indeed changed from vinegary to a perfect ying yang balance of sour and sweet, pleasant to the nostrils.

By this time half of the meat was almost immersed in its juice. This is when we added about two cups of cubed potatoes.  Twenty minutes later, the lid was taken off to reduce the sauce.  The process of confit has begun.   After almost an hour of cooking, Edwin turned off the heat.  Throughout from start to finish, Edwin did not once taste test the dish – gauging only by the sense of smell.

Unlike other recipes which called for the meat to be hauled out, fried to make the skin crispier, and then reunited with the delicious sauce – with Edwin there was none of this.  The pork belly skin would remain flabby.

The longer the meat marinates in its sauce the tastier – no rocket science here.  The following day the Adobo was like a caterpillar that overnight became a butterfly.  It was good on its own and with steaming rice, it was incredible.  I did dip the meat in fish sauce to give it my personal preference of kick.

On my own I would drop the MSG, and  for the coup-de-grace fry the pork bellies to make the skin crunchy.  

It is a must on most meat dishes or seafood, or soup for that matter, the presence of bones which imparts flavor – a tip I learned from an elderly lady when I was in Southhaven, Mississippi.  She said the local catfish was best cooked with its bones as opposed to  a fillet.  So do your adobo with ribs.

What is your adobo recipe?   Please share at telljosephlopez@gmail.com


September 28, 2015


Almost always, every fruit vendor will tell you the goods in his store was freshly picked that day or a few days ago.  Never will you hear, “10 days ago”.  But that is what exactly Soni said when I asked her about the peaches displayed at Peach King Fruit Market, a fruit stand in Keremeos, the Fruit Stand Capital of Canada.   

Soni, the honest sales lady

I was astonished at the seller’s honesty.  I commended Soni who said the store has to be (truthful) in order to attract and maintain customers.  With that guarantee, I did my shopping of peaches, tomatoes, onion, and russian garlic.  How are the watermelons?  Soni pointed out those green watermelons with black stripes called “Sugar Baby” were yellow inside and good.  Yellow?  Really?

The last time I had yellow watermelons was as a kid in tropical Philippines.  They were referred to as La Mallorca, after the passenger bus line with all-yellow coaches.  The red ones were called Victory Liner or Philippine Rabbit which have red-colored coaches.   Across the US and Canada, even Mexico, I have never seen yellow watermelons, red being the only one.  Although if you google it, some stores do carry the yellow variety.  So I got two at $3.99 a piece (regardless of size or weight though more or less everyone were comparable in volume).  This was mid-September at the doorstep of the end of the season.  Soni said at the start of the season, both red and yellow are sold by weight a t$0.49 - $0.79 cents per pound depending on the bounty of the harvest.  The watermelons range from 4 lb to 7 lb in weight.  When to expect it next year? Red and Yellow start rolling off the fields the first week of August until the end of September.  All local watermelons have seeds, only the imported ones from the US and Mexico are seedless, said Soni.  “The seeds variety are juicier.”

A few days later, sure enough, when I bludgeoned the chilled watermelon with a cleaver, the San Andreas size fault revealed a bright golden flesh spotted with black seeds.  Crisp, sweet, cool, thirst-quenching, and most importantly firm not mushy.  It was a terrific rebirth of a young boy’s gustatory joy.

Peach Fruit King Market also carries cherries (the Lapin variety are bestsellers – middle of July), nectarines, summer and winter apples, pears, berries, pepper, tomato, plum, prunes, pumpkins, and other vegetables -  all grown from their huge orchard behind the store. and other properties in the Similkameen Valley.

As to the tastiest peaches, Soni said in addition to Harbrite (an early variety that starts 1st week of August), the other flavorful peaches are Red Haven (also 1st week of August) and Glow Haven (2nd week of August).

The retail and wholesale store opens annually around June 10th and closes end of October. Seven days a week even long weekends and holidays from 8 am - 7 pm (longer depending on daylight)

Call Jessi or Soni at Tel. 250 499 7053.   E-mail: mundi1998@gmail.com

Location: 990 Keremeos Bypass Road (at the corner of Highway 3A going towards Penticton), Keremeos BC

There are many fruit stands in Keremeos and along the Okanagan Valley (Kelowna, Summerland down to Osoyoos) – which will give you a smorgasbord to choose from.   It is fun to fruit-stand hop.