Author: Pao Alfonso

Edible Shrooms

Today’s entry in my food journal is actually just a test page. I bought a set of Kolibri miniature details brushes from Art Nebula PH (click here for the link to the product page). I bought these specifically to add little details to my food journal entries. I’m still getting used to them  but I’m pleasantly surprised that they hold a point nicely and they load more water than I thought they would. I tried miniature brushes before (synthetic hair) but it was frustrating because they wouldn’t load enough water and it was hard to control the amount laid down on paper. I really enjoyed these Kolibri brushes, though. It’s easy to control the water laid down on paper and the points can make hairline-thin strokes. I think they would be really fun to use on my journals.

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken

Yesterday’s food journal entry. I don’t roast chicken a lot so I’m not familiar with the different techniques of doing it. I remember that I first came across spatchcocking a chicken in a British cooking show and I was intrigued by it. last Sunday I decided to try it myself. Turns out that spatchcocking a chicken is pretty easy as long as you have kitchen shears.

I’m trying to do more detailed food watercolor paintings in my food journal and wow, painting really small details on tomoe river paper is a bit challenging, but I’m pretty happy with this attempt. I’ll try my best to improve on it with every entry.

The recipe I used on last Sunday’s roast chicken is a variation of something I watched on Facebook. I just tweaked it to make it mine.

I marinated the spatchcocked chicken in salt and lemon, and while it’s marinating I prepared garlic confit. I did this by submerging peeled garlic with olive oil in a small castiron skillet over very low heat. Making the confit takes time so it gives the chicken time to marinate as well. When the garlic confit is finally ready, I mashed the garlic into half a stick of butter and added about two tablespoons of the garlic-infused olive oil. I added fresh rosemary into the butter as well. I rubbed the chicken with the garlic butter mixture and slipped a generous amount of it under the skin. At this point I preheat the oven to 350F.

Then I used the garlic-infused olive oil to sear the bone side of the chicken on the stove top. At this point, the house smells so delicious. You can really smell the butter, garlic, rosemary, and the caramelization of the chicken. Once the bone side is browned, I add more of the garlic-infused oil on the skin side and then pop it in the oven. I take it out after 30 minutes to drain the juices and sprinkle just a bit more lemon and oil on the skin, then I finish it off in the oven for another 20 minutes or until it’s browned.

After taking the chicken out and laying them on the plate to rest, I tossed French beans in the skillet where I cooked the chicken and seasoned it with salt. The result was pretty awesome. Adding the garlic confit in the butter really made sure that the chicken absorbed the flavor of garlic, even the thickest parts. The skin was bursting with flavor and has just the right amount of acidity and saltiness. Spatchcocking the chicken also resulted to a more even cook and more crispy skin. The greens were also very flavorful, my husband enjoyed it a lot. Overall, it was a delightful lunch and my husband asked me to cook it again soon.

His only feedback was that he wanted more of it next time, lol.

A Deeper Loss

I realized yesterday that I haven’t added an entry about current events in my art journal for a while. The last one was from December 4, 2020. I came to a point where I just had to take a break from social media. Except to post food photos and browse through my favorite hobby groups, I stopped using Facebook. More importantly, I stopped consuming news from Facebook. The comments sections disheartened me. Not gonna lie, posts from friends supporting the drug wars disheartened me too. I feel like people aren’t seeing the human cost anymore, and I was losing faith that we would ever recover from this.

The change in our social media spaces was so distinct with the past presidential election. There was so much hate, so much misinformation and paranoia. All of a sudden, people couldn’t even agree that fighting for human rights is important for all humans. As in all of us. All of a sudden “human rights” became bad words. Words that triggers an “us versus them” attitude, prompting certain people to go on attack mode. All of a sudden I have friends who actually unfriended me, not even because I confront them over their politics (I try to do that only in person), or that I actively post a stream of anti-Duterte memes or articles on my wall (I don’t), but because I don’t agree with their politics. Many Duterte supporters openly resented democracy and freedom, which I found odd. We “wokes” and “liberal yellows” have “too much” freedom, they say. These people who grew up and thrived in an atmosphere of hard-earned freedom don’t want the same for their own children? Weird.

I think about the fact that the issue of extrajudicial killings have not compelled many Duterte supporters to think “hmm, is this even true”? I guess it’s easier to automatically believe that all operations in the drug wars are above board because the police say so. It horrifies me to be confronted with the fact that the distance between the poor and the privileged is so far that people can become so disconnected from it because it’s that far from their daily reality. That many can be unperturbed by persistent accusations that the state has turned against some citizens is very disturbing for me, until you realize that it has, in fact, happened before. Before DDS stood for “Diehard Duterte Supporters”, it was “Davao Death Squad”, after all.

I feel that this has blighted our land. Not just the miscarriage of justice but also the deadening of the senses to the loss of lives without due process. Does it not disturb us that people are allegedly being dragged out of their homes and killed? The answer of most people, apparently, is “it depends, saan ba sila nakatira?” Try to imagine people just ignoring the persistent issues surrounding the drug war if these controversial operations were to happen inside the walls of exclusive subdivisions and gated communities. I can’t imagine it.

In other places, governments try to heal drug addiction by rehabilitating the addict and trying to address societal ills that lead to drug abuse. In the Philippines, “drug addiction” is the blanket excuse to take out a bludgeoning instrument that indiscriminately strikes and kills. All people killed in the drug war are guilty until proven innocent, and there’s no great hurry to prove that innocence. The dead aren’t going anywhere, anyway. To grow insensitive to this just unmasks the fact that the poor are seen as less than human in this country, and the cost of human life has become so cheap that the sound of families crying is nothing more than “drama” and even mere children can be shot dead in the streets and people can just shrug and say “meh, collateral damage”.

I grieve over this.

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”
Proverbs 14:31

My Version of Osso Buco

Today’s food journal entry is about my version of osso buco. I wasn’t really planning on making some today, so the ingredients aren’t complete. My husband just said that he wanted some osso buco with pasta and I saw that we had enough ingredients to make a version of it. Traditional osso buco (the modern iterations, at least) uses tomatoes, onions, carrots, and celery in the base sauce. We don’t have celery (my husband doesn’t like it either) so I replaced it with green bell pepper. I think this would be ideal with a side of mashed potatoes, risotto, or plain rice but the hubby liked pasta, so…pasta it is! Together with prep, it took over 5 hours to cook but I must say, it’s well worth the wait. Chopping the aromatics for mirepoix took up some time, but slow-cooking over low fire definitely ate up the better part of those 5 hours. Good things are worth the wait, though.

Mamale / Balitobong

Today’s food journal entry is about locally-caught wild threadfin salmon. I bought salmon steak sets from my friend’s food  business last week. Salmon is my favorite fish, and I was delighted that she was selling them with her homemade rub and herbed butter using herbs from her own garden. I was surprised when she said that the salmon was locally-caught.

I honestly did not even know that there are locally-caught wild salmon in the Philippines. Apparently they’re not very common and they’re locally called Mamale or Balitobong.

I tried the homemade rub that came with the steak set, let it sit for a few minutes. I pan-fried the fish on a cast iron skillet using a bit of olive oil and butter. Just three minutes on one side and another minute and a half on the other side. I finished it off with their herbed butter and added some dill from my own herb garden.

I must say that the color of the salmon is more vibrant than store-bought, farmed salmon. The flesh is also more flavorful, very soft and juicy. Like it has more oil. It was really delicious.

I’ll pair it with pasta next time.

A Pandemic Food Fad

A bit of a late entry, this one was written back in March. I scoured my phone for photos of the actual dish I cooked but I deleted it already, bummer. Anyway, there has been a lot of food trends online during the pandemic and this one was the only trend that I was interested in trying. It involved baking a dish of cherry tomatoes, a block of feta cheese, and garlic. Then tossing some pasta in it.

I tried the original recipe first, making sure to use Greek feta cheese made with sheep’s milk. The result was quite delicious, but I thought it could be improved.

To make the recipe mine, I made garlic confit and used the garlic-infused olive oil on the tomatoes and feta cheese. I mashed a good amount of the garlic confit into the cheese, added chopped parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, before I tossed in some fusilli pasta and pasta water. Then I topped it with some butter-fried salmon. That really hit the spot.

Vinta Neon Edition

The other half of the new capsule collections that Vinta Inks released recently is the Neon Edition. I decided to review the whole collection in one entry because they really look good together and I think that it’s such a cohesive collection.

The Neon Edition features three colors: Pop!1993 (Magnetic Blue), Tagpuan 2046 (Electric Pink), and Astro 1980 (Android Teal). These are bright colors that are surprisingly saturated enough to be legible. They can be used for main journal entries, but they also provide great contrast to dark-colored ink. I usually use these in my journal entries with black ink, they pop out of the page like crazy.

My favorite of these three is the Astro 1980, which I must admit is quite a surprise because it looks a little candy-like at first but it really grows on you. Here’s a closer look at the three colors in the Neon Edition:

POP! 1993 (MAGNETIC BLUE)

This color is a happy, vibrant baby blue. It has some pronounced shading on it, even using a fine-nibbed pen, though the shading is just a tad darker version of baby blue. There’s no noticeable hints of red or any other color on it, just straight up shades of baby blue. I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t be legible but it actually is, although I love to pair this with darker colored ink because they pop so well on the page that way.

Compared with the other blue ink in this capsule release (Peregrino), this one flows a bit dryer and dries faster. I’d say it’s pretty well-behaved, as I’ve been using it for the past weeks in my journals and planner and it hasn’t dried up on me. Here are a few close up shots of the writing sample:

Continue reading “Vinta Neon Edition”

Ink Swab: Pink Rose 1973 (Binibini)

I was really excited to learn that Vinta was including an ink that looks like old rose. I’ve always wanted to have this kind of pink in my collection but I’m always worried they won’t be legible or suitable for daily writing. I used a fine-nibbed Platinum Prefounte to try this one out and was pleasantly surprised that it was still very much readable.

It’s a dusky pink, quite muted in color. I think it gets a bit darker after leaving on a page a few days. The purplish undertone shows up more after leaving it to dry. I can say that this is my favorite color among all the new inks in the Vintage and Neon collections. It also makes it to one of my favorites in all inks I have in my collection. Now this is a pink ink I wouldn’t mind using for daily writing.

Performance wise, I think the flow is pretty good. I’m glad it flows a bit wet because that makes it easier to use on fine nibs. Even when I reversed the nib of the Prefounte, the ink is still very visible as can be seen in the line drawing. It dries up pretty fast at a little over 10 seconds. Also, look at that gorgeous, expressive shading. I think I need more bottles of this.

Here’s a few more close up shots of the writing sample:

Pen used: Platinum Prefounte, Fine
Paper used: Tomoe River

Vinta Pink Rose 1973 (Binibini) will be launched on April 7, 2021 at Vinta Inks.

Ink Swab: Vinta Pilgrim’s Blue 1970 (Peregrino)

Like Blaze 1970, I like the significance of the name the Vinta team picked for this ink — Pilgrim’s Blue. It’s in remembrance of Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Philippines in 1970. The color is a homage to the iconic habits of the nuns who bravely held the line against advancing troops and tanks during the first EDSA People Power revolution. I really like that Vinta made room in this collection for statements on activism and standing up against tyranny.

At first glance, Pilgrim’s Blue reminded me of Vinta Lucia, one of my favorite inks and the only color that I have three bottles of right now. A closer look shows that Lucia is more powder blue, lighter than than Pilgrim’s Blue. It’s a happy blue that makes me want to wear blue jeans and go out but wait, we’re on ECQ again. Deja vu. Here’s a comparison with Vinta Lucia (from the first collection) and Pop! 1993 from the Neon Edition:

I used this ink with a fine-nibbed Platinum Prefounte, a bit nervous at first that it won’t be legible but it was sufficiently saturated and easy to read. It’s a happy-colored ink, suitable for daily use. The shading is quite pretty. Performance-wise, it dries up pretty quick with a fine nib on TR paper, about 10 seconds. On a fine nib, it flows pretty well. I didn’t need to prime my nib to keep it going.

Here’s a few close ups of the writing sample:

Pen used: Platinum Prefounte, Fine
Paper used: Tomoe River

Pilgrim’s Blue 1970 (Peregrino) will be released on April 7, 2021 at Vinta Inks.

Ink Swab: Vinta Blaze 1970 (Silab)

I love the significance of the name Vinta picked for this color. Blaze 1970 commemorates the “First Quarter Storm”, an early wave of student-led demonstrations against the administration of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The name certainly fits this fiery, red-orange ink.

I’m not really a fan of orange ink, I think I only have one in my collection. As far as orange inks go, this one’s pretty good. It really pops on the page. I’ve been using it on my planner as a contrasting ink to draw attention to overdue tasks and for important notes. It complements black, blue, and green inks pretty well. I know it’s part of the Vintage Edition but I think it has a neon-like quality to it.

It’s highly saturated and the red component of the ink stained the cartridge that I used to write the review above so I would not recommend it if you’re using a demonstrator that is easily stained.

Performance-wise, it has a nice flow. Not too dry, not too wet. It does have some shading but it’s not too noticeable because of how saturated the ink is. It also has a subtle gold sheen, though I would not classify it as a monster sheener. The drying time is moderately quick, at around 15-20 seconds.

My only gripe about this particular color is that it doesn’t seem to fit the other two colors in the Vintage Edition (Peregrino and Binibini). It’s a nice color, but I think an old-timey green would have been a better fit.

Here are a few close ups of the writing sample:

Pen used: Kaweco Fox, medium nib
Paper used: Tomoe River

Blaze 1970 (Silab) will be released on April 7, 2021 at Vinta Inks.