Sunday, September 24, 2006

I couldn't decide which one is the best among the small plates of asian fusion dishes we ordered that night. Is it the crunchy 'chili crusted calamari', the fresh 'lettuce cups', the tasty 'glazed pork short ribs', the juicy 'seared scallops' or the decadent 'lava cake'?

When I called Betelnut to make a reservation, I was told that 10p is the next available table for four. The voice on the other end of the line suggested that walk-ins can eat at the bar and that the wait, if there is any, could be from 30 to 45 mins. I learned it gets pretty crowded on Friday evenings so the earlier we get there, the shorter the wait. I called my aunt right away to relay to her the message. We agreed that 6p is probably a good time to meet.

The Salvadoran and I got there first and we were seated at once. Perhaps we got one of the only few tables available for walk-in guests because we passed by rows of empty tables as we followed the hostess. My aunt and her husband waved at us as soon as they spotted us. I had never been to this restaurant so I didn't know what to expect although I heard a lot of things about it especially on the noise level and the $$$ department. Another thing I noticed is that the place reeks of attitude. It must be a Marina neighborhood kind of thing.

The group across from our table looked like they're regulars here and they gave us the impression that they are enjoying their food so we decided to order a couple of items that they had ordered. My aunt suggested we share 3 or 4 small plates which turned out to be great as it encouraged engaging conversations. By 7p, I could tell the restaurant have filled up because our normal chats have turned into small shouting matches. I had to yell to be heard because the noise level inside the restaurant goes high during dinner hours.

In the end, the winner that evening was the perfect chemistry of the drinks, the small plates, and the stories shared on our table. I would go back again, that is, after I tried all the other restaurants scattered around the city. What I would do again is have another dinner with my aunt and her husband and take them to our side of town next time. We'll go to Delfina's, perhaps?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Italian Class In the City

For the Fall Semester, I am taking an Italian language class at the city college.

You probably think I have gone nuts to learn another foreign language on top of my stilted Spanish and my unadorned American English. (For those who don’t know as yet, Tagalog is my first language. Can you tell from my accent?) A couple of friends had warned me that I might confuse Spanish and Italian because the languages are too similar and that sameness makes it all the more hard to differentiate. Some suggested French would be a better choice since more countries speak French than Italian and I know at least three people who is a native speaker of French.

I wish I could say I don’t have any choice but to take Italian, of course, I do. Let me tell you my reasons. First, I had taken all the Spanish classes available at the city college - all ten of them. I think this is the farthest I can go schoolwise or I can go back to Casa Hispana and take advanced lessons in conversational Spanish. Just like in all things in life, if you don't use it, you lose it. It a matter of applying what I’ve learned in real life (especially the past tenses and the modismos). Making Spanish words part of my daily vocabulary so my brain can assimilate and retain them. Aside from the Salvadoran who I speak Spanish on the phone with whenever I feel like showing off to friends and coworkers, I apply my modest Spanish by helping the spanish-speaking tourists with directions and recommendations anywhere in the city. I still watch Escandalo TV and Doce Corazones at the gym when I am not tuned in to the Food network or a tennis match at ESPN.

Second, I fell in love with Italy when I spent my birthday in Rome this year. If I am going to extensively travel around Italy in the future, I might as well learn the language. Locals appreciate it more when you try to speak their language and this is from my experience.

The evening classes for Elementary Italian (ITAL1A) are available in the college’s Language Center, which is the Noe Valley campus on Wednesday or Thursday evenings, and in their Downtown campus on Tuesday evenings. I chose the latter because Tuesday nights fit in my schedule well. Before I forget to mention, the Salvadoran is taking the class with me so that gives the class a different twist. He blushes whenever he is called in the class. I've never seen him from that angle. We already missed the third class because of our short getaway to Puerto Vallarta so we need to study to catch up with the class.

So far, I've learned le presentazioni, i saluti, l'alfabeto and i numeri. The way I pronounce chianti and bruschetta will never be the same again.