Friday, September 6, 2013

Calderon Cocina Tapas Y' Bebidas

Construction work has begun in the apartment unit next to ours. The incessant pounding and steel bar cutting, digging of the ground to make way for a new foundation, and dropping of construction materials in the driveway have forced me to find a quiet place to pursue my writing assignments. It's my rest day and going to the office to use my desktop to do some task unrelated to my job is an abuse. Truth is, the idea of working elsewhere turns me off. Not only do I find the venture expensive, bringing the laptop in public entails a lot of risks.

I would rather stay entrenched inside my room.

But there is a deadline to beat and I have already scouted a cafe that has WiFi connection. However when I got there, the attendants apologized and said their broadband Internet is not working. So much for my plans to write in-style in a place overlooking the glitzy stretch of Shaw Boulevard. I have no choice but to seek alternatives, which at that moment isn't present.

Wilson street is just ten minutes walk away from Liberty Square. And I always knew I'd find a hole-in-the-wall corner where I can write my articles in peace. As I brisk walk to my unsure destination, I was telling Buchok how underrated the area is. Wilson, like Banaue street in Quezon City is a modern twist of Binondo. Food entrepreneurs hatch their ideas somewhere in these streets before expanding mainstream. 

Gloria Maris, Alex III and even North Park have their foothold in Wilson. They have patrons who are the Filipino-Chinese living in Greenhills and Little Baguio. I followed the food trail to Jose Abad Santos and in one of the obscure streets intersecting this drive, I found rows of fancy restaurants. Small and incubating, one of these culinary establishments will make it big inside the mall.

I have one restaurant to pick, and I chose a place a bit closer to memory. Before I left the tree-lined avenues of Diliman for my indefinite leave of absence, I took up Spanish class. Passing the language exam was supposed to be the last hurdle before I could pen my thesis in the Master's degree. Our Spanish instructor was too kind to let us have a taste of Spain. And in another hole-in-the-wall cafe in Teacher's Village, I had my first bite of Churros con Chocolate.

So I walked inside the Spanish-themed restaurant in San Juan to relish some memories.

Chocolate (P80)

Calderon Cocina Tapas y' Bebidas is a forgettable name, unless you keep it short by reminding yourself of the street where the snack bar opens its doors. It is one of the few places in the city serving Spanish cuisine. From my rudimentary Espanol, Tapas 'y Bebidas mean snacks and beer. True to its name, Calderon has stocks of alcoholic drinks fermented from breweries in Spain.

A culinary adventure was never my intention. For when I walked in, the first question I asked is if the restaurant has WiFi. When the waitstaff answered in the affirmative, I requested for the menu and scanned the offerings - I have to buy something to complement my stay. The main courses are priced around P500 while the entrees begin at P150.

A bit pricey if you ask me.

So I asked for a cup of chocolate as I set up my writing space. The scene, reminiscent of a past reminds me of how times have changed. With the laptop switched on, and the Word Document ready to input the first words for my article, I could just imagine glancing the Other working across the table. It was him who introduced me to coffee shops. Now two autumns later, I find myself in a near empty cafe, being served with a warm drink in a tangerine ceramic cup.

"Not bad," a sip, and a whiff of almond complements the taste of real cocoa.

In one of the hardwood tables that can sit four people, I did my freelancing work. Guitar strung Spanish ballads played in the background, whose lyrics were being twisted by uninstructed attendants. The quaint furniture reminded you of some countryside pub somewhere in Catalunya. The dim lighting was in contrast with sprightly dining sets. It was the perfect ambiance for a European dining experience.

I was there from sundown to late dinner, and apart from the huddled guests in another table behind me, no one arrived for an evening meal. Another cup of hot chocolate and my stay is over. I asked for my bill: A measly P200 if I add my tip.

Indulgence didn't happen that night given my need to keep my resources in check, and with my solitary and unannounced presence, a feast may not be appropriate. Perhaps, another visit would be an opportune time to savor the dishes - the Paellas and Pollos Ibericos. And as I pay homage to a memory - of that someone who dreams of seeing the world and writing programming codes in a quiet cafe, I glanced at the empty chair across my table - believing that soon, a new experience will come along and I would go back for an intimate dinner, replete with life-changing conversations

- this time with another.

The Churros can wait and so are the Bebidas. Much still is to be written.


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