(Small Celebrations) Black Sesame Palitaw and Coconut Milk Cacao

The weather is being very odd lately, from extreme heat to unusual rain. Some nights are extremely muggy, while a few are chilly and perfect for sitting in the garden with a blanket. We have no indication of Christmas coming except that the days are really short now.

So we've begun easing the holidays in slowly. One way is by rediscovering kakanin, or rice snacks, and a hot drink. We've learned to keep portions small, or else it's usually too much for everyone to finish. Palitaw is a good way to go about it, because it is made from glutinous rice flour, and cooks in boiling water. And cacao-- well, cacao is a great hot drink at any time of the year. Here's a recipe for two:

Black Sesame Palitaw

200 grams glutinous rice flour
enough water to form the flour into dough
A pot of water
Coconut sugar
Raw black sesame seeds
Grated meat of half a coconut

Combine the glutinous rice flour and water and form into a dough. We find that the amount of water varies according to what flour you use. The dough should be firm and pliable, not sticky.

Shape into balls, then smush with your palms. The size can vary according to your preference. Smaller ones are good for parties, because people can just pop them in their mouth. Put these into a pot of boiling water, around two at a time so they don't stick to eat other while floating around. When they are done, they will float to the top. Hence, the name palitaw.

Have a bowl with the grated coconut meat ready. After draining each palitaw, throw it lovingly in the coconut meat, imagine how nice that must feel. The meat will stick to the palitaw. Coat it well. Coconut meat makes you feel a little bit better about the fact that you're eating a glob of flour.

Sprinkle your serving plate with coconut sugar. Lay the palitaw on top of the sugar. Then sprinkle them with black sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature. Don't keep it for days. It goes bad after a day.

Coconut Milk Cacao

Two handsful of grated coconut meat
Some water, enough to make two cups
Four cacao tableas (we used the Subasta one, which is the best for us)
Coconut sugar

Combine the coconut meat and water. Squeeze some of the milk out.

Strain the milk into your cacao-cooking receptacle. We use a Turkish coffee pot, but you can use a saucepan. On medium heat, simmer the milk then add the tableas.

Use a batidor or a wire whisk to mash the tableas and mix the whole thing when it gets hot. Whisk it madly. Like you are creating a vortex to get to another dimension.

Serve in small cups, put coconut sugar to taste.

*You can get raw black sesame seeds, coconut sugar, and cacao tablea at the shop. The rest is easily spotted at your local palengke.


(Ecology) Good Refillers

We love our crew of refillers. While this isn't all of you (yet), we hope to increase refill rates drastically by 2012. Green your daily operations, come with your containers!


(New) Pure Beeswax Travel Candles

Pure, unscented, hand-poured beeswax travel candles. The wild beeswax is sourced from several areas of the Philippines, and is perfectly safe to burn (unlike paraffin) and sustainably produced (unlike most soy wax). Take it with you camping, or to the inevitably stuffy weekend home.

Candlelight and moonlight are some of our favorite sources of illumination, and this travel jar takes its cue from the underdog moon-- which, when full, "rivals the sun".


Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, October 2011

Our Traveller's Mist was featured in this month's issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia.


(New) Flavored Salts

More flavored salts for your popping corn and eggs (as in this awesome blog post on 80 Breakfasts). Alagaw salts coming up this weekend too. Yes, it's our "thing" right now. We eat it a lot.


(Travel) Weaver Conversion Underway

We're working with another weaver to move her from Chinese polythreads to 100% cotton.


(Music) Kinky Reggae

Bob Marley's Kinky Reggae, from one of his best albums.


(Small Celebrations) Simple Snacking

Simple snacking. For 30 pesos, you support street vendors who act as the final capillaries bringing nutrition into the city, you get no plastic, no junk in your body.


(New) Raw Cashews, New Coconut Sugar, Coffee Concentrate, and Theo + Philo Toffee Flavor!

New stuff at the shop! Raw cashew nuts from Bataan, a new coconut sugar from a new community in Cagayan de Oro (great sugar-- minimal moisture), cold-brewed arabica coffee concentrate, and a new flavor from Theo + Philo-- milk chocolate and toffee! The new bar chow-- so good with shots.


(Music) Santo & Johnny

A pair of teenage Italian brothers from Brooklyn (with their uncle on drums) played a swooning hit that has been covered by countless artists since-- but none come close to the clean simplicity of the original. Like salonpas for your soul on this rainy morning.


(Food) The Ritual of Cacao

When the day was still and cool, I whisked together some Subasta tablea, carabao milk, and mascobado sugar for something to sip in the garden. We need some sacred time and space before we venture out into the world.

Three separate plant and animal species, molded into three products by human process. From pure tastes of rounded nuttiness and bitterness (cacao), "bodily" and silky (milk), and dark caramel (mascobado sugar), a cup came together that was, for lack of a better analogy, like a symphony.

So smooth, flowing into the mouth like a deep and still river. Tasting like a strong, silent warrior, confident and precise in his solitary practice. If human beings have anything to be proud of, it is our aggregated history of agriculture and migration that leads to a perfect cup like this.

(More Subasta tablea coming this Friday. It runs out fast. You know a good one when you see one, folks.


(New) Non-Sweet Pan De Sal Testing Mode

We've been testing non-sweet pan de sal, after harboring cravings that haven't been satisfied in decades. People seem to love it, giving us faith in the world again. We thought it had been overrun by the dogma of sweet, sticky pan de sal. Turns out many are yearning for the crusty, salty bread of the past. Coming soon...


(Music) Ain't No Sunshine...

A little Bill Withers on for today's fence-sitting weather.


(New) Macho Mustard and Homemade Miso

We have new stuff in the chiller!

Our "macho" mustard is coarse, pungent, sour, and very textured, made from scratch with two types of whole grain mustard. It also has some wine and dagwey preserves in it to balance out the spiciness. Definitely a "grown-up" mustard, it goes on easy with salmon or soft cheeses. It's also perfect for a quick marinating of meats. One of our customers said it reminds him of Bengali cuisine. Definitely more popular among horseradish fans.

Our homemade miso is made by a lovely Japanese lady from scratch, from ground rice and soybeans, as well as a koji starter from Japan. It is worlds apart from the miso you buy in groceries, which has a lot of wheat flour and coloring. This one doesn't spoil, only evolves into different tastes (all good) in different stages of its maturity. Fermented foods usually give that savory taste that are important for quick but nutritious food-- use it in dressings, mixed with spreads, and as a soup base instead of those crazy cubes. Make any of these recipes with grocery-bought miso and with our high-quality homemade miso-- you will definitely notice the difference!


(New) Fancy Baon

Our new enamel tiffins from Indonesia are a fancy, slightly kitschy plastic-free way to bring your baon. Enamel is porcelain hugging aluminum or stainless steel. Bring your potluck toka around in this Asian beauty and bring some Dengue Fever to play.


(New) Excellent New Tablea

We are pleased to have some of the best tablea we have ever tasted, grown, fermented, roasted, and ground in Calinan, Davao. The beans are a far cry from the commercial varieties preferred for their size in mainstream international trade-- they are from old-tree pods, smaller, green and white in coloration, and with a lot of flavor. Smooth, fruity. One of our favorites so far! They are grown and processed by a cooperative, who are doing marvellous in organizing themselves for fair, high-quality beans. We look forward to increasing their revenue by developing more products from their excellent beans.


(Travel) Banana Leaf Sachets

Sachets are a cool concept, except for the biodegradability component. They're democratic, but not as democratic as something you can make yourself. While we have been known to carry around jars of the sweeteners that suit our moods, on short trips, sachets are in order.

Find a banana tree in your village or neighborhood. They are a good thing to keep on hand for emergencies, and also to use when ironing your clothes. This leaf is from our garden. Remember, you need to "prime" the leaves by wiping clean and then heating over fire, creating a flexible sheet that won't tear.

Fold into a triangle. Make sure that you fold it in such a way that there is no small hole in the bottom. Fill with your condiment of choice. Fold the top over and staple. I'm sure there are more elegant ways, but none as fast as stapling. Click here to see the finished products before we took them to Davao.

Remember that banana leaves seal moisture in, so the sugar will get moist, but will dissolve just as well if your coffee is hot. For drier products like fine salt or peppers, paper will do.


(Travel) Travel Essentials

We are on the road quite often, and we have travel essentials: Light canvas bags for interesting finds (these are from friends Clara and Chiara), tooth powder (Indian spicy stuff,  no airport fluid constraints), safety pins (you never know), a face towel, enzymes for  naturally disinfecting any dodgy surface, massage oil for relaxing on a balcony.

A pocket-sized organizer, a notebook for thoughts, a nice book (of beautiful photos that you can look at over and over).

2 tiffins for food storage (takeout), homemade mascobado banana leaf "sachets" for our coffee, and utensils.


(Visual) Andrew Narchuk Underwater Photos

Russian photographer Andrew Narchuk shows us the other world that is underwater (found via the Imaginary Foundation).


(New) Craft Beer From Bacolod

Some of you may know this as "the beer from Bacolod". It's BogsBrew, the country's first craft beer. It is not pastuerized and then carbonated, like commercial beers. The fizz comes from the fermentation process-- it is less aggressively bubbly than San Miguel, of course.

But the flavor is worth a visit! Bogsbrew uses the usual barley, local mascobado sugar and Negros spring water, and has a pleasant sweetness and smoothness. The same brewers also make Primo, an all-grain variety containing local corn and rice, and wild honey. Both are great. And to answer a few preliminary questions, it is "real" beer and doesn't taste like carbonated fruit drink.

There is a lot of buzz in the food world now about unpasteurized wines and beers, because people have begun to realize that commercializing them has made potentially healthful and funful products into things that are "bad for you". Drinking Bogsbrew gives you a nice little buzz and doesn't create that acidic taste in your mouth. The fizz is emitted by microorganisms that release CO2 as part of their "eating" the sugars-- essentially the fermentation process-- which you can get from making ginger "beer" at home. It replenishes your digestive enzymes, leaving you ready for a Sunday rebound brunch. There is a natural sediment in the beer from the fermentation process that contains vitamin B complex, which vegans could use.

Now, to track down some unpasteurized wine. And more brewers, please.


(New) Absentee Gardener Mushroom Waterers

Do you like plants and travel? Sometimes that can be a problem. Coming home to dead plants is tragic. These mushroom plant waterers may help. They are filled with water. The bottom, porous part must be buried under soil beside your plant roots (or you can plant in a circle around the mushroom). Water will seep out gradually into the roots. The rate of weeping is determined by heat, soil consistency, and other factors.

The same concept is used on a larger scale in traditional American ollas or terra cotta jars. Click on the link to see an article on ollas from the homestead Path to Freedom.

There are vintage waterers for sale in other parts of the world. The above was our favorite variation that we found on eBay.


(Literature) Hemingway And The Garden of Eden

Hemingway is the Herge of prose. Not the most complex, not the most verbose, but excites in us, early on, the desire to travel and wear linen. His protagonists are like Tintin, negotiating a strange but simplified world.

Around two hours after reading any of his novels, you find yourself speaking with the spareness of his characters. After reading a few of his books, the idea of Hemingway captivates you.

You think you know him, then you read the posthumous The Garden of Eden. A tale of Europe, lust, haircuts, cross-dressing, and slow descent into insanity. If you are harboring a particular idea of Hemingway, read this book to shake your world up a little bit.


(New) Nipa Moonshine ver. Wild Civet Cats

It is an understatement to say that our "moonshine"-- nipa vodka, distilled from the nectar of the brackish palm Nypa fruticans-- has a rabid following. We have been asked "Aren't you the ones who have that moonshine?" in the strangest places indeed.

Over the months, we've made various incarnations: plain, infused with various plants (pepper, star anise leaves, local oranges), mixed with mascobado sugar and honey. The latest, very limited variation is an excellent infusion of wild civet coffee beans (from a sprawling mountain estate in Batangas) together with pure vanilla bean.

Not that we are alcoholics, but when a night of free-flowing conversation and libations is in order, we prefer this local spirit: sustainably grown, harvested (by cutting off the fruit, pictured above, and installing a bamboo collector, below), and wood-fired distillation (allowing for a carbon emission equal to only the amount captured by the fuelwood). It is an open base, with slight sweetness, and a poweful punch (80 proof). Not jarring like coconut lambanog, it has received raves from our friends all over the world (yes, we do pack our own alcohol).

Our expriences around the moonshine have been some of our best. Riding small boats down several marshes, past wild crab hunters and those collecting nipa leaves for thatched roofing, drinking our booty in a log cabin at night, preparing our mix for the ride back home (coconut milk and pineapple). It is an honor to throw our own little wrench into the huge machinery of global alcohol production. We are perfectly happy to sip our local organic spirit, with excellent quality, sans preservatives, not from concentrate, not shipped from halfway around the globe.

Locals, get brewing, get distilling. Small-batch alcohol production, thine time has come.


(New) More Theo & Philo Chocolate Flavors!

We are happy to introduce the new Theo & Philo flavors in our shop: ginger and calamansi! The pan de sal flavor is gone, but sink your teeth into these two tropical lovelies.


(New) Sewing Tools

Mending things reminds us that we have the ability to make things right again. It soothes our subconscious and acquaints us with problem solving at a small, manageable level. I cannot begin to expound on the therapeutic value of taking a needle to a hem that was undone, and holding your finished creation up for inpsection.

Sewing in itself has always been an important domestic avenue of creativity and invention. My grandmother would innovate on the toaster cover by including a pocket for small tongs (to handle hot bread with).

Unfortunately, in an age when shortening an ordinary pair of pants in Makati will set you back about 100 pesos, the tools (and skills) of sewing are obviously no longer ubiquitous.

Thimbles (above, on middle finger) were originally essential in every household, but are now met with puzzled looks. I still remember getting a fancy painted porcelain one as a childhood present! They are used protect the finger from needle pokes, or to help push needles into thick fabric like denim. They have small indentations that allow for slip-free forcing of the needle through.

We have a bunch of stainless steel ones at the shop.

Tailoring scissors or shears are used to cut through heavier fabric, where "normal" smaller pairs of scissors would prove challenging to use. Traditionally, they are made with cast iron and steel, with a brass bolt holding the blades together. It provides the weight for a steadier hand.

Our tailoring scissors are vintage pairs made from traditional materials, and come in these awesome boxes. They have a well-sized cutting edge (the "bottom" blade), allowing for good slicing through your pet fabrics.