Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dinner at Casa Marcos

Paella at Casa Marcos

Tonight the Travelife team celebrated the return of our managing editor Carlo from Manado, Indonesia, where he attended the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2012, which is just about the most important tourism meeting in this region; and it was also a farewell for our director for business development, Gel, who is flying to Italy next weekend for ten days in Rome and Tuscany on official business for Travelife.

To celebrate, we all ate at Casa Marcos at the Fort, which is a new-ish Spanish tapas place right at that corner when you make a sharp right to turn into Burgos Circle from the main Fort area. We'd heard the food was good and we all wanted something that we could eat in a very relaxed way with wine and cocktails. Carlo, especially, had just spent a week in Indonesia and -- although he said the food was great -- I think he was hankering for Western food.


He'd just arrived this morning, you see, after an all nighter that involved flying out of Manado yesterday and one stop before Jakarta, and then waiting for hours at Jakarta airport for the early morning flight to Manila. Obviously he'd had very little sleep but he'd gone straight to work, because our policy at Travelife is that if you want to work at Travelife and travel a lot (and, yes, the trips are coming out of our ears at the moment...), you'll have to be able to travel and work without any interruption.

"You should be able to work from abroad as if you're still in the office, and go seamlessly from travel to work and then travel again," as I always like to say. No jet lag, no down time. We're Travelife after all. Not some indie publication trying to just copy everything we do.

This grilled pampano with Marcos sauce was my favorite

Very garlicky clams


So while eating and drinking, of course we were talking and planning travel. So Carlo had just returned and he was fascinating us with food stories from Manado, Gel was closing ads while thinking about enjoying pasta in Tuscany, and I was booking a hotel in Yangon via email, coordinating a trip to Taiwan for my TV team via text, and looking at my phone calendar for still-open dates for trips to the Middle East and Eastern Europe that were just waiting for my go signal. Meanwhile, Bryan, our creative director, was already planning what he would do on his trips to Japan and the Czech Republic this year. And, oh yes, I have two tickets to Paris I have to find time to use in the next six months.


The food at Casa Marcos was perfect, too, because it made us think of going to Spain. As if we needed even more trips this year, but yes, I was just in Spain last June but I can always use a trip to Spain again or think of an excuse to go to Spain. I remembered a couple of restaurants I really like and my favorite jamon jabugo shop in Barcelona.

Now Casa Marcos at the Fort opened just a year ago but if the name sounds familiar, that's because it's been around since the 1940s, although then it was located in the Roxas Boulevard area. It was owned and run by a Spaniard with the surname Marcos who then sold the business to his friend, recipes and staff included. The guy running it now is the grandson of the friend who bought the business.

Kalderetang usang from the past


Casa Marcos closed temporarily but in 2008 it opened in the Ortigas area; then now there's this new one in Burgos Circle. Most of the recipes are original from the 1940s so it's pretty delicious, old-fashioned cooking. The kind of stuff you'd imagine your grandmother to make if you had a Spanish grandmother.

Steak a la pore out of Batangas beef.
I couldn't believe how tender it was.

Anyway we looked at the menu and ordered everything that looked good. They had four kinds of paella including a black paella and a saffron one, but we ordered the tomato-based paella. We also had a beautifully grilled pampano, a steak a la pobre (which I hear is one of the most popular items on the menu and a great favorite of the owner), pandesal sandwiches filled with corned beef and adobo, and wild boar meat. And, oh yes, some of the guys ordered the kalderetang usang, but that never made it to my end of the table.

Delicious grilled pampano

Wild boar for a main dish


Casa Marcos is famous for its Marcos sauce, which is a special vinegar made from a secret recipe. All I know is that it takes at least three days to make and it's got tons of garlic. It goes very well with everything, but it was especially heavenly with a bit of the grilled pampano and a spoonful of paella. I'm not even a fish person in general, but this was really good.

Pan de sal with corned beef

Pan de sal with adobo and kesong putt

They also make very good pandesal, and again it's the old-fashioned kind that's very solid and tasty. It really brings you back to the good old days before people tried to cut costs and maximize profits. So their pandesal sandwiches -- they have about 10 kinds -- are very popular all day. But what was most interesting is that they had two delicious desserts made out of this same pandesal. These came out almost like French toast and topped with ice cream, and it was very good.

Pan de sal for dessert, topped with ice cream

It was a very nice evening -- the kind that a magazine staff that's always on the go and that wants to climb every single mountain should have every once in a while. I left midway at about 930 PM because that's my cut-off time for most events on a daily basis, but everyone else was still eating and drinking merrily. Just another night in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

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* * *

To commemorate the resilience of the Japanese people
one year after the Great Earthquake,
and to celebrate the beauty of Japanese culture.




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