Larry J. Cruz, My First Boss

LJC. He was my first boss. It was a shock to hear about his death last Monday.

LJC was the first true bon vivant I met. The year I worked for him was before the LJC Restaurant Group was even formally named although they already had a string of restaurants open in the Philippines and in Washington DC. That was the year Karihan Karitela and Cafe Adriatico-Hong Kong were opened. It was an exciting time and I was so young – everything was just so new to me. Your first job is always your baptism of fire and it was for me…I still shudder when I recall how dumb I was back in those days.

LJC: Hello Mita, what did you do today?

Me: Sir, you won’t believe this…I typed ONE letter the whole day today.

LJC: Ummm….I’m not paying you to type one letter a day….

Is it any wonder I didn’t stay on long as his secretary, with my boss mostly in the US on vacation! I was promptly moved to the Marketing department. But I learned so much working for LJC. He was involved in every phase of conceptualizing, menu-planning, recipe-testing, building and construction and marketing of each and every single restaurant he opened. Everyone knows he was also a former journalist and government press officer and avid antique collector before he became a restaurateur so there was nothing that escaped his watchful eyes. I learned just by watching and listening and boy did I lap it all up.
If there’s any one person I cannot separate from LJC when I think back, it was his father. Ambassador Emilio Aguilar Cruz, Lolo Amba as his family and all his employees called him, was LJC’s best friend and probably the biggest influence in his life. It was always a pleasure seeing those two men interact – more than father and son they were mentor and student, best friends. LJC had a reverence and respect for his father like nothing I’ve ever encountered. That truly was a special relationship.

I remember LJC, like his father, had that curiosity for new technologies. You might guess my age if I tell you one story to back me up…but here goes…

When cellphones were just introduced in the market, LJC promptly got one and was on and on about how wonderful it was he could conduct business while sitting in his car weaving through the infamous Manila to Makati traffic of those days.

Lolo Amba on the other hand was so fascinated by a photocopy of my hand I had tacked by my desk and asked if it was a fax copy. He went on about how wonderful fax was and how easy communicating had become. Sadly, I lost contact with them before the internet and email. I always wondered how Amb. Cruz would have felt about it all. He would have been a great blogger if he ever got into it.

LJC’s mother, Fely de Jesus-Cruz or Lola Ising as we called her, was another fixture in those days at Bistro Burgos. She’d come by usually in the afternoons and sit by the restaurant patio. I loved talking to her and listening to her stories of when she was a young wife and mother. She was a published writer too so her stories were all very interesting and brought me to an era I never experienced.

Those days, it seemed LJC was always in a hurry…he had this purposeful shuffle, with both hands in his pockets, walking from his car to his office in an old converted garage right next to the old Bistro Burgos. I’d spy him from the second floor window of my office and before I even had time to prepare he’d be barging in with an energy that always surprised me.

He’d be on the phone with his daughter first…then he’d have his stereo playing classical, jazz or broadway music depending on his mood, and conduct his business in just a couple of hours with people coming and going through my office it made my head spin …and then he’d be off again…to one of the restaurants most probably.

LJC’s passing has left a big, gaping hole in Philippine society. He was a forceful influence not just in the restaurant industry or publishing or urban renewal. In a way, you could say his influence spanned a couple of generations of restaurant patrons in the country and raised the bar for what to expect when you enter a restaurant….spoiled us all if you will.
As each and every person walks into any restaurant bearing his name in the future, they will be welcomed into Larry Cruz’s world…a wonderful, soothing world of the best food and and music, set against an ambiance only Larry Cruz could dream up.

Denver Post Food Critic

I want to share this very dramatic article by The Denver Post dining critic, Tucker Shaw about the Basic Breakfast at a Denver diner called Kyle’s Kitchen.

My favorite part is his colorful and over the top description.   You just have to read the whole article to appreciate it.  Might I also suggest reading it out loud like you were reading a book to pre-school aged kids…his words really work better if you do.

Here’s the excerpt:

“Two resplendent golden yolks sit in the center of the plate, each supple and taut and pregnant with primeval nutrition, each aching to burst forth with creamy yolk-manna and drown the silken bed of egg white underneath.

Just next to your eggs nestles an amber pile of crispy-buttery hash browns under four searing-hot strips of salty marbled bacon that have been draped decadently over the top, rippled and shiny with a sheen of still-sizzling fat.

A pair of white-toast triangles, buttered and hot and crunchy only at the edges, hover at the edge of the plate, begging to be dipped into the waiting yolks, which, by now, you’ve dotted with drops of Cholula hot sauce.

It’s a promising picture of potential, an Edward Hopper breakfast tableau, suspended, waiting, eager to explode from a thing of beauty into a thing of deliciousness.

Grant your toast triangles that final wish and dunk them into one yolk, then the next, coating the corners with the liquid gold before you swipe them over your tongue. You won’t be disappointed (as you would be at so, so many other breakfast specialists in Denver) by tough, rubbery yolks or worse, cold eggs; instead, you’ll be rewarded with the rich, protein-heavy, soul-satisfying flavor of egg.

Once pierced, the yolks slowly, agonizingly slowly, release their ooze onto the rest of the plate. It bleeds into your hash browns and glazes your bacon strips, transforming the once-perfect tableau into a messy, irresistible, totally alive plate of gobble-me-down breakfast.

And gobble it down you will.’

An Anniversary

A year and some 9 days ago, my husband finally convinced me to start a food blog.  He had no idea there was so much HE had to do to help me get started.  But I was interested enough when I got the hang of it…then I really got into it and was posting almost everyday. Unbelievably, this blog has been around for more than a year and is still getting hits despite the fact that I have been too busy attending to LIFE in general to take care of it

A year ago, we were in beautiful Colorado Springs staying warm indoors and heating up the kitchen with my cooking.  This year, I’m back in the tropics where I belong. My cooking activities have decreased quite a bit, not only because of the heat but also our eating so much less because of the heat…there’s also my mom who lives close by who always invites us over for meals.  Who can say no to Mama?

Thank you to everyone who came by, browsed, left a comment or just found this site by accident.  It amazes me how many people have been through here at one time or another…and from so many places, some of which I’ve never even heard of before. One time, I actually took out a map to look up where in the world the Faroe Islands is located!

Sincerely, thank you.  I feel so honored that my sometimes awkward words about  my kitchen successes and disasters, my memories and my cuisine were read.

US Internet Shopping from the Philippines




Lani of Chibong Chika Lakwatcha ATBP posted a comment on my previous post about the fish frying pan I got from Ebay.  She noted the difficulties of making purchases from Ebay  as a resident of the Philippines.  Those difficulties will extend to other US internet shopping sites including Amazon, Barnes & Noble or the bigger retailers like Target, Old Navy, Pottery Barn, Walmart , etc.  Then there are the gourmet shops like for everything Spanish you can think of – even Jamon Iberico that was previously banned in the US.  Oh and there are the  kitchen equipment/supplies stores some other food blogs have featured and which you may have checked out in the past.

First of all, most sellers only ship to a US address.  If they ship worldwide, then shipping costs could be prohibitive.  Another problem, until recently anyway, was opening a Paypal account.  Things are moving in the right direction for Philippine shoppers however.  Paypal is now providing some service to Philippine residents. Please check out this post from Yugatech’s blog which has more details about what Paypal offers.  So, one hurdle down…what’s the next?  Shipping.  Well, there’s a perfectly legitimate way for you to receive purchases you yourself made through US internet shopping sites without begging your relatives living here to help you out. Continue reading “US Internet Shopping from the Philippines”

In Memoriam



Please take a minute to pray for those who perished on this day, five years ago….in New York City, in a field in Pennsylvania and in the Pentagon.

Please also pray that God in His infinite wisdom will  grant the world peace and true understanding despite all our differences.