The Old Favorite Tried and Tested

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I've had crazy cravings lately all the time during Christmas and prolly one of them is puto bumbong, the intriguing purple snack that looks like ube-flavored suman, but doesn't have that sweet ube taste. Would you believe the first time I tried and fell for puto bumbong wasn't here in our country but in the States! Weird I know. You usually find puto bumbong outside churches during Christmas and sometimes all year round that I sometimes take it for granted. Oh whelps.

Puto bumbong is actually made of glutinous rice cooked in bamboo tubes and the device used to cook it looks like this:

[picture from]

The rice mix is on the bamboo tubes. The purple color is actually just purple food coloring instead of ube. I don't know why it's purple though, maybe related to Advent or something, whoever invented it. You could have pink or yellow puto bumbong though and it would still taste the same but it still won't be the same I guess, since we're used to seeing it purple.

Anyhow, as Christmas season kicks in and with Simbang Gabi again coming up, I know early churchgoers would be looking forward to having puto bumbong after mass. I was told though, when I was craving again to try Via Mare's famous puto bumbong and to try it with cheese. It's usually with brown sugar, butter, and grated coconut but cheese? Then I have to see.

I went to the famous Via Mare in Landmark. It's now shoved over to the side instead of the center of the second floor, where we're used to seeing it, providing a more intimate atmosphere for meetings or lunches. I got the menu, and I saw that it's available in plain (with coconut and brown/muscovado sugar) or you could jazz it up by adding cheese or queso de bola. I opted to add cheese instead, since queso de bola could be too strong.

It's two long pieces of puto bumbong when served and they're quite generous with the toppings. I don't know how I'll be able to finish the coconut though and too much sugar would be too sweet.
The one they serve outside church had four pieces generously spread with margarine and coated with just sugar and coconut, but the pieces were cut smaller and skinnier, so more or less, the rice component is the same.

Anyway so how was it overall? It was okay. Taste was the same as the one I'm used to having every Sunday. The cheese however made it interesting and it lessened the sweetness if I've had too much of the sugar. I just wasn't fond of the texture though, since I prefer a smoother milling of the rice and none of the rougher texture. The cheese they used was of good quality though, and for someone like me who could only tolerate up to only a certain amount of dairy, this didn't cause me to pump out the dairy out of my gut in seconds.

I guess though for the price it has (Php 65 for plain, and add additional Php16 for cheese), the one in our neighborhood suki would do for my cravings. I'll bring a balikbayan here for sure, for the ambiance especially after touring them in the mall. Cheese is an interesting addition, and I'm going to wonder how it is when it melts too, so hmmm... I guess I'll experiment that with my Php15.00 alternative and grate cheese on top before nuking it in the microwave for a few seconds.

I'm Going to Eat....Yer....

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spotted at Mercato Centrale this morning

Braiiiinssss!!!!! er.... Cupcakes. To PVZ fans.... these cuteness pictures are for you. Yes luvvies, I'm a dork.

Fresh Face Program: Day 2

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Salmon, Tuna, you and I will bond for the longest time.

We all know the benefits of oily fish in the body, hence the abundance of it in the diet. Salmon would be the best choice of course, especially good salmon from Alaska, which is hard to find here. However, if you don't like the taste of salmon, any good oily fish could be substituted like tuna, mackarel, trout, or sardines. Tuna mostly was my choice because it's readily available and of course, it's cheaper.

I prefer my tuna pan-seared lightly with garlic and olive oil with a little spice of my choice. Sometimes, it's fresh basil or dried thyme, depending on whatever I feel that day. This day, I take a break from the fish for breakfast and have omelette instead as my protein source. The omelette recipe called for 3 egg whites and 1 yolk. Again, i cooked this only with extra virgin olive oil. Whole wheat bread was becoming more appetizing and had I not supposed to have a whole wheat bread limit, I would have eaten another slice or two. For butter though, I made sure that I only use unsalted butter and if I want more butter, I should compromise by lessening the cheese.

Since I had my tuna prepared beforehand, it was time to keep my carb source handy for lunch. For carb source, I opted for a small bowl of whole wheat pasta, which is another discovery for me. Whole wheat pasta had much more bite to it than the white pasta and it's quite firmer. Of course I didn't make it a bland pasta but looked for a healthy but yummy version by cooking it in light olive oil and garlic, adding in some black olives and a bit of herbs and spices. I've realized too that I have yet to add salt to the food I prepare, which I try not to.

I was about to go to a party that time, and I was glad though that there were food I could eat there, particularly chicken breast, fish, and steamed brocolli and cauliflower, which were my veggie sources come lunchtime. I threw in raw carrots to my veggie mix, but I had to make sure that my protein intake was more than my carbs.

Remember how we get sleepy after a heavy meal? It's actually the carbs acting up. Increasing my protein gave me enough energy for me to still be up on my toes to play with the kids and run around and still interact with guests during siesta time. Again, this I do feeling full without any feeling of throwing up. Come my 4:00 p.m. snack time of dark chocolate and fruit (I chose strawberries this time with blueberries in yogurt, since I wanted a calcium source), I wasn't wolfing my dairy like the plague. My dinner was lighter than usual, and I noticed elimination of carbs from wheat or rice and I just paired my tuna with a light salad of greens.

Realizing that I'm halfway through the program, I'm glad I was able to sustain the lifestyle and habit of being hydrated and steering away from the cake, flan, and coffee. During this time, I am currently experiencing cough and colds and I had a tissue box with me all the time. When colds had me at my most sluggish moment, I wasn't all groggy during the day, and save for blowing my nose and coughing, I was able to go on with my normal activities. Once I saw the pattern, I saw how I could finally adapt this system to my lifestyle once I'm out of the program and back to my regular eating habits.

So now, my diet is quite strict, but what happens when I don't bring my stuff with me? My dinner on day 3 would be an example.

Fresh Face Program Day 1

Monday, November 22, 2010

Let me welcome my day one with a hearty breakfast:That's salmon that I lightly cooked with olive oil and garlic then drizzled with lemon juice from one lemon slice, two slices of whole wheat bread toasted, and slices of local queso de bola. This diet certainly got me experiencing new things - first was finding ways of making the food exciting so as I do not stick to tasteless stuff that would make me count the days I'm in this diet while keeping within the food limit required. Second was then, facing my fear of the kitchen since cooking apparently isn't my forte or have the patience to do so. Like I said earlier, this isn't an easy diet because you really have to make the time and effort for it. But as they say, no pain no gain.

As I mentioned earlier, announcing that i'll be going through a diet program got a lot of reactions, most of them being in the negative, and more negative when I expressed my desire to progress to the 30-day program in time for my wedding and keep the lifestyle probably for life. The first one mainly was why I was in it when I'm thin already to begin with and have a relatively normal body mass index. Actually, think of it this way, I'm not after losing weight. Losing weight would just be a secondary result, since I'll be flushing out the junk and bad stuff down the toilet, literally as I poop. The main goal I have (aside from the fact that I'm curious) is to live healthy.

Lesson to be learned: living healthy doesn't necessarily mean starving myself. The diet actually has large portions of food. The food choices are very good actually - tuna, salmon, broccoli, spinach, veggies, and even allows rich foods like unsalted butter, egg, and dark chocolate. I even had cheese too. Surprisingly, I didn't run to the next bathroom upon eating good cheese, like our native queso de bola.

To note the difference, I took a picture of me pre-diet and also took my measurements and weighed myself, and these numbers I list down

Weight: 110 pounds
Chest: 31 inches
Waist: 24-1/2 inches
Hips: 35-1/2 inches
Thighs: 19 inches

Breakfast alone made me discover that whole wheat bread is best enjoyed toasted and eaten lightly spread with olive oil or good-quality unsalted butter. I'm discovering too why queso de bola is becoming such a favorite and I got appreciative of its taste. I prefer my fish lightly seared and cooked, then lightly seasoned. I'm glad I'm allowed garlic too, since they made my canned fish more fun.

There is a downside too, though. When I'm out, the normal tendency though is to run to the next stall to have something to eat. Since the four-day diet is quite stricter than the 30-day, I've had the effort of preparing foods and even bringing my own little microwave-safe dishes of certain foods - cooking my salmon and tuna in batches while steaming and blanching my veggies and packing them in labeled containers. OC... :P

Lunch was quite heavy for me on the greens side, calling for a serving or two of Salad Nicoise and large morsels of tuna. The greens and veggies come in lunch and dinner for me while my breakfast is heavier on protein. I saw that this program had a relatively different food pyramid, calling for a higher ratio of protein than carbohydrates, and most of my carbs come from whole wheat.

By 4 pm I should be snacking, so my snack of choice was a large red apple (I'm starting to feel like Snow White, except I'm not fond of ivory skin) and two dark chocolates. EJ told me that dark chocolate has a lot of good effects in the body. By this time, I'm quite used to dark chocolate already, with Meiji black chocolate being the brand of choice, practically since it's cheaper than other brands and it's less on the bitter side that could gag you. On times when I feel hunger pangs though, I drink water (I'm supposed to drink water every hour at least) or have a tiny square of dark chocolate, which I always carry with me.

Come dinner time, I had an order of tuna sashimi and steamed spinach, which I ate while watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. As the moviegoers were snacking on nachos and popcorn, I was spearing down a bowlful of spinach down me. I sure missed the taste of popcorn and was thinking of ways to actually justify me buying popcorn by saying it's air popped, but I gotta keep within limits.

So far, I think I'm doing well. Tomorrow, I get my carb dose from whole wheat pasta as well, and here comes broccoli and other veggies. :) Oh yes, in case you're asking, I still work out with this diet, doing a combination of yoga and Pilates.

The Start of My Fresh Face Program

Friday, November 19, 2010

I'm glad I have a job that gets me to learn things besides makeup and beauty. I was hired for a project by a health and wellness company to do makeup for a coaching program that they have. This is my second time to work with them actually and I've had a good experience of meeting new people and picking up a thing or two to learn before I go.

I met nutritionist Dr. Claude Chauchard this week, since he was the coach to be filmed for the week. He specializes on anti-ageing and slimming, so I thought the program would be all about skin care and all that. During the filming, I was able to pick up the words "pomme" and "fromage" (French words for apple and cheese, respectively) and I thought to myself, "What are food terminologies doing in an anti-ageing session?" So while doing retouches and during shoot downtimes, I asked Dr. Chauchard about why food terminologies were included in the program. He does specialize also in slimming and anti-ageing and this was a program that targets you from the inside out, so in short, being healthy first. It was quite interesting as we both were chatting and quite interestingly, he was giving me advice on what foods are good and what practices should be avoided. Yesterday, he gave me one of his books, which had his 30-day age-preventive diet program.

I asked him too if he could sign the book for me and I'm glad he did.

I have no qualms about eating healthy food and vegetables. In fact, I'm quite fond of healthy food. However, I don't know how to really go about it. Plus, with my lifestyle and lack of time to actually take time to cook and all, I sometimes end up ordering oil-ladden takeout food or just rushing to the nearest fast food joint for fries and burgers. I guess this book tells me this is how to start it. As I have an open mind to different food styles and tastes, fast foods included, I guess I should keep an open mind too to foods and diet programs that could help improve the quality of my life. So why not try it right? After all, I have nothing to lose (except probably a few pounds and inches).

Normally, I get reactions like, "You don't need to diet! You're thin already!" In fact, I just got like quite a handful of reactions when I got home with a grocery bag full of vegetables, fruits, tuna, salmon, and whole-wheat bread. However, I didn't think of it na lang as dieting. I thought of it as a new eating adventure, just like going to a new restaurant. Aside from the 30-day program the book has, it has a 4-day trial program that claims to improve not just our skin and the cells of our face but also our metabolism. I guess it's just to see how we react or fare first before we go through the 30-day program.

Come to think of it, I've been evaluating how I eat lately and I go to a fast food joint approximately 5 times a week, sometimes even twice a day. It's not that I want to, sometimes I'm left with no choice. Seeing what I put inside my body I've realized that quite a number of it is actually junk, and these junk foods aren't called junk without a reason. They destroy you from the inside. Not only that, it would reflect on how we look. I've noticed that if I've had too much chips or chicharon, I bloat horribly. I remember the last time I had a super bundat meal full of grease, fat, and salt. I felt full yes, but it wasn't the kind of full that I want. It was the kind of fullness that had me bursting at the seams. I honestly didn't like it and I felt like throwing up. Too much of the bad stuff reflects on my skin as well. I've noticed too that I get all oily and sometimes pimply with all the junk too. Water too is also one thing I sometimes neglect. I've once been admitted for dehydration and I haven't learned from that still. During the course of time, I learned that when I'm hungry, I'm not really hungry but I could be thirsty.

Okay, so back to the program. I'm now starting on the 4-day program and I'd like to blog it as well to share everyone my own experience as well as to encourage me to go on as well. It's also to evaluate too how I'm doing. I've asked some of my friends, Fritz and EJ if they'd like to join me as well so I get male opinions too.

Before I started the program, I read the menu. The program starts on the evening before Day 1 and ends lunch on day 4. So one day is sort of broken into two. Before I started though, I eased in slowly into the habit so as not to shock my instant-everything system. First thing was getting used to the taste of dark chocolate. I'm really into the milky sweet chocolate I'd wolf down so the bitterness of cocoa was something new to me. Also, the diet required me to drink a large glass of water first thing upon waking and ideally for every hour. Since I'm not heavy on drinking water, most especially plain water, I started easing myself on that too.

Food choices were relatively easy. The protein sources were mostly oily fish like tuna and salmon. I'm fond of seafood and I'd definitely prefer sashimi over a plate of lechon any day. Vegetables and fruits I have no problem either, more on fruits though, as I gag at the thought of eating an orange in whole form. I'm glad I could juice the orange, as I prefer taking my oranges in juice form rather than fruit, as the fruit skin annoys me. I'd then have to get used to cheese though, in little amounts and the texture of whole wheat bread, which I find quite dry and mealy than white bread. But then, it's just for 4 days. Let's see what happens.

Of course, this diet would mean a lot of effort. I need to make time for this. When I got home from work a while ago, I still had to get out the pots and pans and prepare the food and then still I had to clean up before I went to bed. When I'm outside and mealtime comes, it's not anymore just going to the nearest food place. I have to be careful in where I eat, what I eat, and how I eat. I'd have to monitor as well when I'm about to drink water, my snack, and even thinking of varieties on how to spice up and keep the menu interesting yet still staying within the diet rules. But hey, it's fun, at least it's something new. Now back to my diet proper shall we?

I started this evening when I got home since the four-day diet would start on the evening before day 1. The menu calls for 1 cup of vegetables and 8.75 ounces of salmon (or any other oily fish) with olive oil and lemon juice. I should eat the meal between 7-8 p.m. so I had to make sure I got home at that time. I chose tuna for my protein source, and cooked one can with garlic and extra virgin olive oil and squeezed some lemon juice to taste. I had blanched green beans for my veggies, and whoop-de-do I finally blanched them perfectly.

It felt quite weird at first that I was eating this without rice. After the meal, I didn't feel like a boulder was placed inside my stomach. I was full but not full to the point of throwing up, despite that I kept drinking water. This one I like, since I really don't like the feeling of a heavy stomach at night, especially since I'm just about to wind down and go to bed.

And speaking of bed, it's time to hit the sack. Doctor requires at least 8-10 hours of sleep each night. I'll see you tomorrow for day one!

We Eat and We Love It

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Proof that there are models who do not go on starvation diets.

Yeoh and his model friends pigging out at one event last night. We didn't know that we filled an entire cocktail table with food. Favorite quote for the night: Wooooowwww leche flan. Ayyyyy cheesecake pala. Hahaha I love my friends.

Sweet Treats from Dessert Barn

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

[Disclaimer: Products provided for review]
I met up with Twinkle yesterday for coffee after I picked up a few items at Ortigas. I told her I'll just grab a quick bite and satisfy my fast food cravings then I'll dash off to the MRT to meet up with her in Glorietta. She texted. "Surely, Don't forget to leave some room for dessert!" As soon as the MRT reached the Ayala station, I hauled my bags, took the stairs instead of squeezing through the elevator and met up with Twinkle where she presented me with two boxes, which were her bestselling cakes.

The first time I met Twinkle, she was my client at MAC and I encouraged her to take the plunge for red lipstick. She was one of those clients you would want to have often and we ended up making chika while doing her makeover. The second was at a food event and she shares too her fondness for sweets. I then knew that she also bakes. She has a baking business that she fondly calls Dessert Barn that fuels her passion for baking, which are among her many other passions.

After a bit of chat, she showed me the first cake, which, I was reassured wasn't fruitcake.

Bananalicious cakes with [top] cranberries and roasted walnuts and [bottom] roasted walnuts. Php 350 for a 6-inch cake and Php 500 for a 9-inch cake

She calls this cake bananalicious cake, which she describes the cake as literally "half banana and half cake." For every 1 cup of batter, she's got 1 cup of bananas thrown in. The natural sweetness makes it less migraine-causing than cakes overloaded with sugar and grease, so not only does it taste good, but it's also healthy.

The icing on top, I asked if it was made of cream cheese. She said it was snow glaze, the same glaze used in donuts. The one I tasted was the one with cranberries and roasted walnuts and she also has another bananalicious cake with just the walnuts, for those who aren't cranberry fans. I actually like cranberries, and this brings me memories of turkey and Thanksgiving, making it a perfect Holiday giveaway. The dried cranberries are less tart though, and go well with the sweetness of the snow glaze. I had to give in to a slice though, and wedged a teaspoon at the edges. Usually, edges are hard though, with the tenderness and moistness of the cake concentrated on the middle. The Bananalicious cake, however, had a uniform moistness and consistency through and through. Even kids wouldn't gag at this cake. My 10-year-old nephew at first was apprehensive to try this out since he thought it was just banana cake. However, after a tiny sliver of this, he asked for seconds and had another slice for breakfast the following morning. When cakes get dry and mealy by the third day absorbing whatever flavors and odors the refridgerator has, this one was still true to its flavor, of course I kept it inside the cardboard box.
After that, I sipped some peppermint tea to cleanse my palate in tune for the next cake, which I assume would be a hit among everyone with a sweet tooth but also those who want to indulge in a guilty pleasure once in a while, the Amnesia cake, a four-layer moist chocolate cake with chocolate filling with dark chocolate fudge encapsulated with an Oreo cookie crust.
Amnesia cake, so good that you'll forget your name. Php 480 for a 6-inch cake and Php 958 for an 8-inch cake.

I asked Twinkle why it was called Amnesia cake. The name was actually from her brother, who said that this cake is so good, you're going to forget your name. I chuckled a bit at the description. When I took a bite, I was quite surprised. Normally, I thought a chocolate overload like this would be too sweet that I'd be getting a sugar overload but it was quite a surprise, really, that the sweetness was mild and mellow. The reason for this was that Twinkle uses dark chocolate for the recipe, which is healthier. You get to taste and enjoy the chocolateness without the bitterness. The texture and genuine chocolate flavor are in one delicious compromise. The fudge was also rich, which added to the melt-in-the-mouth texture of the soft chocolate cake layers.

The Amnesia cake travels well when frozen. If you're taking this with you as pasalubong or baon when you go abroad, you could tell Twinkle ahead of time and she would give you instructions on how this could stay fresh up to your next destination. This makes a great pasalubong as well for your loved ones abroad when you fly off to visit them. This was an easy sell to the kids, though and they didn't think twice when I said chocolate and enjoyed their slices even though I told them after they got their second slice that it was dark chocolate. Normally, kids don't like dark chocolate because it's bitter but this one was sweet enough for them to go halfway the 6-inch cake in minutes. If you've got more of a sweet tooth that you can't handle, try a scoop of vanilla ice cream too. Too sweet? Then have a cup of espresso or tea.

Aside from these cakes, another bestseller is the Red Velvet cupcakes (iLOVu), which you could order per dozen (a dozen costs Php540). The Red Velvet cupcake is for the romantics who love the rich taste of red velvet cakes and cream cheese. Twinkle adds another touch by dusting some cocoa on top and adding a rosebud.

Dessert Barn also has cupcakes for giveaways and desserts during Christmas parties or Christmas dinners. To order, you could send a PM at Dessert Barn's Facebook page or if you want to sample their treats, Dessert Barn would be at Our Awesome Plante's Ultimate Taste Test 5.0 this Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the NBC Tent. In the meantime, you could check out Dessert Barn at or Facebook page.You could order too by texting or calling 0927-2697252

*Pictures taken from Dessert Barn's website.

Manila Joins Keso De Gallo with Cheese, Vegetables, and Tangy Tamarind Sauce

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

To most of the people in the world, Christmas isn't a big production number unlike here in the Philippines. But to us, it's more than a month-long celebration. As early as September, people are putting up Christmas decorations. I was at the mall last weekend and they were already playing Christmas songs and in fact, had a humongous Christmas tree already displayed. Some Filipinos abroad use their vacation leaves to spend Christmas here in the Philippines. Weddings are big on December because that's when relatives abroad go home to visit and that's also one way of maximizing time, to celebrate a milestone with the people you love.

In every city here in the Philippines, Christmas is celebrated differently, which gives it its own unique character. Manila, for example, is one city which breathes history in itself. Back in the olden days, this was the center of hustle, bustle, and commerce. The walled city of Intramuros is home to the old churches - the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church, which preserves pre-colonial Architecture of the old Manila we know. Intramuros was also a fortress, and former home to the oldest university, the University of Sto. Tomas.

The San Agustin Church.
Old World Architecture that you can't get anywhere.

I went to school in the heart of Manila, and even though the center of trade and commerce has been moved elsewhere, Manila still retains its old-world charm.

[image from]

My campus in UP Manila still has the robust old-world architecture, preserved with the big, heavy doors and pillars.

Perhaps today the busiest part of Manila is the shopping center, Divisoria, where as early as September, people go there for early Christmas shopping and bargain hunts. It's a place where anything and everything could be found at super low prices, and even lower when bought wholesale. Last but not the least, the natural artwork of the Manila Bay Sunset is one that's definitely to be seen.

Definitely Manila is a place where I spent a good deal of my life in. I've had a great number of field trips there. I've attended weddings in Manila Cathedral and Manila Hotel. I was also witness to the Manila Bay Sunset whenever I go home from class. Manila was also the place where I had my first taste of street food, and ended up loving them. At first I was apprehensive to try them, being sheltered and all but after learning how to commute plus familiarizing myself with street food, I begin loving it as well. Grab and go fishballs and cheese sticks was probably enough to get the hunger pangs away before my class.

Street food seemed to be the inspiration I guess, for Manila's entry to Keso De Gallo, a celebration where 100 towns come up with 100 unique dishes and these dishes would be showcased for 100 days to underscore this celebration of Christmas here in the Philippines. For the City of Manila, their entry is Cheese and Garlic Rolls in Tamarind Sauce

Simple and frills-free, this dish reminds me of the cheese sticks that I used to buy in our canteen. The cheese mixes with vegetables like cabbage and carrots, so it's more like lumpia than your average cheese stick. It's quite interesting though that they use tamarind sauce, which balances quite well with the richness of the cheese. If you look at the recipe here, it's quite easy to make, and I do plan to make a batch myself, subjecting myself to cooking boot camp. :P

Love this town? Are you a true-blue Manilenyo? Or did you try out this dish yourself and ended up loving it? Then go here. Oh, and before going to buy your ingredients, remember to save that box of Kraft Eden Cheese. :)

I Heart Goya Chocolate Bars

Monday, October 4, 2010

My name is Bambi and I'm a sweet tooth. I need my chocolate fix because I'm having the case of the blues, so I pick this up in the grocery:

Why I like it:

1. It's dirt cheap, It's about Php 16.00 for a bar.
2. It's not too sweet.
3. The raisins' flavor mix well with the sweet chocolate, and they don't annoyingly stick to the upper palate.
4. It's locally available, and it's a local product. Hence, supporting too our livelihood. Yeaaah baybeeeehh!

It doesn't melt as fast as other chocolates but since it's thin, it's quite soft, so I keep tissue on hand. Plus, chocolate makes me happy.

The Day Italy was Brought To Me

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Hi, I'm Giorgio Matera and if you don't know me, I'm the guy in the menu," says the guy in front. He points to the La Piadina menu, which shows his picture, and we all chuckle. It was a low-peak mall hour Monday morning. half of the new La Piadina store in Glorietta 4 was closed to several members of the media in an intimate lunch that features La Piadina's new recipes.

Before the group gathered, I arrived rather early and had a chat with Giorgio and Tetta Matera, a husband-and-wife team who owns La Piadina La Cucina Regionale, a quaint Italian chain of restaurants in Tokyo and in Manila. I immediately beamed how much I've been a fan of the Piadina stall at the Glorietta food court. It's true. My comfort food is the Pasta Arrabiata and mozzarella set.

This is Italian food from Italy," Giorgio explains to me. Italian food isn't just pizza and pasta, which are what we're used to. They've got more than pizza and pasta. There were also main courses to try. And pasta isn't just spaghetti. We also have ravioli and gnocchi, which are potato dumplings made by hand. "Are your pastas fresh pasta?" Giorgio nods in agreement and points to me his staff making fresh gnocchi with his hands and a fresh sheet of pasta being cut up. I love fresh pasta. This ought to be good.

Tetta sits two places on my right and joins us for lunch as well. Tetta is a picture of happiness and health. She mentions how her whole take on food totally changed when she met Giorgio. With minimal makeup save for obligatory mascara and bronzer, Tetta has an elegant aura similar to Monica Belluci. As her husband stays in the kitchen cooking, she's usually in the dining area overseeing everything.

For appetizer, we were served I Crostini with Liver and Tuna Pate. For someone who's not much on pate, I had quite a serving of these. First the tuna, then I conceded with liver. I noticed that there's no fishy taste unlike some pates that I've tasted. While feasting on the crostini, I opened the menu. Most people find the menu confusing, since instead of the usual grouping of soup, salad, pasta, pizza, dessert, the food is divided into regions. Regions meaning regions in Italy to emphasize food being regional. This sets them apart from other restaurants. It's a little Italy 101 lesson for us. In the Tuscan region, for example, mushrooms and truffle oil were quite popular, hence there were a lot of them. The Le Linguine ai Funghi Con Olio di Tartufo (if I get it right, that's linguini with mushrooms in olive oil) was our dish for that region, which was rich and flavorful but didn't cause my stomach to turn in somersaults. Oh here, we were served using ribbon pasta.

Look! I get to try to shape ribbon pasta too!

Giorgio is from the Puglia region in Italy. The Puglia part caught my eye and tastebuds. With a lot of fish and tomatoes, I wanted something rich and robust in favor. Tetta explains that in their menu, there are no added sugars or preservatives. Tomato sauce and tomatoes are simmered for 2-3 hours to bring out the natural sweetness.
Giorgio personally serves us sampling sizes of Le Penne con Rucola e Acciughe, which is penne with anchovies, olives, and fresh tomato sauce. He relates that this is also the same way they serve it in his home. Right before serving, Giorgio mixes in fresh arugula, so when served, the arugula isn't crumpled and wilted. I personally like arugula and mixed with the rich flavor, I think I found another favorite in place of my Arrabiata.

The sauce appears to be just touching the pasta (which is fresh, by the way) and we don't have the ingredients swimming in red liquid. Presentation-wise this is something. And this has been consistent not just in the restaurant but also in the food court version.

I've confessed I've never tasted gnocchi in my whole life, but I'm always interested in them. Here's the gnocchi served to us - in creamy gorgonzola cheese sauce. What did I say? "Why did I only taste this now?" The gorgonzola cheese had just the taste that I wanted, a bit salty but not too salty. If there were seconds I would have had seconds.

We were served two kinds of risottos. First up was a meat-lover's delight, Il Risotto Pilota, which had Parmesan cheese and homemade Italian sausage.

The second was my favorite, Il Risotto al Pesto con Scampi. The shrimps were very fresh, and these were shrimps bought straight from the market that very day, so I get none of the annoying shell sticking on the meat. In fact, there are some of clients with sensitivity to day-old shrimps who could eat their scampi without any allergies.

Risotto is actually Italian rice quite different from the rice we know. Risotto has a certain bite. However, before making risotto at home, I found out that it's a dish that really takes time and effort. You can't leave it and you have to be hands-on with it. Risotto in their kitchen takes 20 minutes to prepare, but the wait is worth it. If you're not allergic to shrimp you must try the scampi. As I tell people, I die without shrimp and seafood. By the way, this is my first time to try risotto too. Risotto is actually a favorite of Giorgio's and Tetta's children.

Main course came up, which was Il Pollo Saltato al Balsamico con Basilico. The chicken breast was soft, moist, and melt-in-the mouth. The grilled vegetables were slightly tart due to the balsamic but I totally did not complain and was lucky to get a second serving. In fact, I was glad there was one. Again, these are fresh meat and vegetables marketed everyday and delivered to their kitchen.

To cap off our lunch, we were served one of La Piadina's bestselling desserts: Tiramisu, made from real marscapone cheese. It wasn't sweet and overpowering. The taste was mild and light, and cleansed the palate from all the rich flavors we tasted.

If you go back there and ask whatever happened to the old favorites? Well they still are there. There's still Pasta Arrabiata in the menu, and in fact I had it weeks before when I dined there when it opened. Other favorites still exist, like the Pasta Scampi and Pesto, but with different twists and upgrades.

This totally new concept of Piadina still maintains the quiet and intimate ambiance of the old Piadina we used to love. Here, Chef Giorgio communicates and introduces his country via the food he serves which he believes we would all love. In fact, having dined here for quite a while, I'm glad I not only got to taste my usual favorites but also new dishes that I only see in pictures.
La Piadina (La Cucina Regionale Italiana) is located at the second floor of Glorietta 4 in Makati. :) It's right across Jolibee and next to Dulcinea.

Iced Gems are my Happy Childhood Snack

Remember these?

These little biscuits were every happy child's companion. My best Iced Gem memories (I called them "teased" gem back then, I don't know why maybe because I couldn't make out the words with the lettering , I didn't know how to pronounce "iced," or I was crazy.) were finding them in my Charlie Brown lunchbox during recess time or my mom buying them in bulk at the grocery. I was searching for Iced Gems since forever. They don't sell them in convenience stores and they're hardly in the groceries. SM doesn't even have it (please do please do please do!). I was lucky to find it in one grocery trip at Makati Supermart in Alabang and I grabbed not one but two bags. It was cornered in one section in fact, with only a few bags left.

I don't know about most of you, but I was one of them kids who would eat only the icing and leave the biscuits behind. I don't know what became of the biscuits after, but I'd behead mine during recess time and down it with my Hi-C orange or strawberry drink.

"I beheads you!" 8-}
Anyone know where else I could buy them? These are one of my missed kiddie snacks. These and a bag of Chickadees with the hop-and-pop.

Not Our Usual Makis At Red Kimono

Friday, September 17, 2010

If you're tired of your usual maki formula of nori and sushi rice either inside out and rolled in fish roe or enveloping raw tuna or kani, then the event I attended last week was definitely maki in various conoctions. Red Kimono held a contest entitled "My Maki Masterpiece", a contest that marks Red Kimono's 5th birthday. This contest encouraged participants to create their very own maki. They had to think out-of-the-box for other ingredients that could make a maki truly unique. Prior to this event, the participants were required to submit a recipe, photo of the finished maki, and a title. Ten entries were pre-selected and these were the makis we tasted that night.

Food and drinks were overflowing that night as we all gathered to witness the event where these 10 finalists would showcase their Maki recipes. These were judged by six prominent personalities namely Tweetie De Leon-Gonzales, Ricky de Vera, DJ Rob Joseph, Carlos Celdran, Dr. Edgardo Rodriguez, and Ernie Lopez. Host Issa Litton multitasks as being a judge too that night.

Of course it wasn't just them who got a taste of these ten recipes. We also did. Check out some of the favorites:

This three-in-0ne maki stresses how breakfast is an important meal of the day. These three makis contain salted egg, tomatoes, and sardines in one big cluster. Even without soy sauce, these makis are quite flavorful.

This was the crowd favorite, having incorporated kani and aligue on the recipe. I wasn't able to have seconds of these as it got wiped out in an instant. It's very tasty, in fact, and although I'm not much of an aligue fan, I found this maki delicious.

Is that shrimp I see? well I gotta have this Kurtswheel pretty roll, I think!

There were still seven more flavors that kept coming in, most of them taking inspirations from Filipino dishes. I was glad that there were also vegan makiI found the vegan makis quite refreshing and I would recommend them to someone who wants to try maki but is allergic but could take nori.

While on a maki break, Arpee tells me to lay low on the sake. At least this picture got me cheekbones!

The winners of the challenge would have their recipes included in the Red Kimono menu. That too and also Php5,000 cash and Php5,000 gift certificates from Red Kimono. Among the five winners, the grand winner happened to be a dessert maki made of mangoes and sticky rice drizzled in chocolate syrup. It was quite unusual and original to have maki as a dessert. From those who tasted it, they said it reminded them of suman. Suman and chocolate do go together! Looks like I gotta try them soon, but I have to hurry since these are available for a limited time only.

A Very Scent-Sational Menu

Monday, August 30, 2010

Today's a holiday you guys. It's no work for me though, since I guess most of my clients decided to be laid back today.

On the other hand, it was pretty and proper for me. Donning a (very) little black dress, slipping into leopard print wedges, and totting my usual humongous clutch which holds half of my life, I sped off to the Rigodon Ballroom of the Manila Peninsula Hotel for a very interesting event. Along with the members of the media, including some of the country's most influential bloggers, I was there to witness the launch of Downy's perfume series.

If you've seen the ads, the new Downy Perfume Series has an advanced, touch-activated Perfume Microcapsule technology, which places the blend of perfume oils within the Downy formula. These capsules slowly release more fragrance when rubbed or touched. So everything smells good even way after we get our clothes from the laundry.

For this blog however, it was interesting to note the menu, which included some of the ingredients of the perfumes in the Downy Perfume Series, of course not meaning pouring soap on the food.

Upon registration, I was welcomed with Rose wine. This I find most addicting, I think I had four of this during the entire duration. What's good too was that I didn't feel like I was seeing exponential numbers of everything around me, and I was able to answer questions without slurring.

As a refreshing non-alcoholic treat, we were given red iced tea, which was infused with apple.

For soup, we had Pumpkin soup with coconut cream and coriander.

Appetizer was Smoked citrus-scented Atlantic salmon with petit mesclun greens with orange mustard dressing. The salmon melted in my mouth and the orange provided a refreshing contrast with rich fish like smoked salmon.

The main course had Honey Glazed chicken breast. On the sides, we had vegetables which I think were infused in herbs plus Jasmine rice. I love jasmine rice. Screw the fact that my dress was skintight. The rice went straight to my tummy. It was a great compliment to the honey and ginger. I finished off the vegetables first, since I love veggies and I totally drowned my chicken with the sauce.

For dessert, we had chocolate fondant with berry compote and vanilla ice cream. Vanilla ice cream or any ice cream for that matter is an uh-oh to me, you all know that, but it went absolutely well with the chocolate, which I finished up to the last crumb. The berry compte provided a tart contrast to the sweetness and richness of chocolate and ice cream, two of everyone's favorite comfort foods. We all know from my previous post how chunks of fruit could be annoying to puréed things. The cute little scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream rests on a sweet peanut brittle cup, by the way.

So how do these ingredients relate to the all-new Downy Perfume series?

Here we go. Let's start off with a little discussion on the red variant, which is Passion.

Passion was described as "sweet and vibrant". Passion incorporates what we would call sugar, spice, and all things nice - French pastries, flowers, and fruits. Hence we've got apple, raspberry, and vanilla, which were exhibited in our dessert and drink. Apple blossom, freesia, and vanilla make it to the top and middle notes, and fresh mulberry and cedarwood are in our bottom notes. Remember how the scent of apple pie reminds us of home? Or how chocolate would make us feel good after a bad day? Same idea.
The purple bottle, Attraction had a very fresh and alluring floral fragrance. Attraction is inspired by nature hence we've got the bouquet of different flower notes like jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, and iris. It sort of fades to a soft musk, tube rose, and wood fragrances for the bottom notes, for a floral and oriental blend of fragrances. Among the two, it was Attraction that my friends like, since the scent is fresher than the warmer one of Passion. In our menu, we got the Jasmine in our rice and Rose in our wine as representatives of this fragrance. Jasmine and rose are interesting variants to food. Rose ice cream and pastries have this distinct exotically interesting taste, sort of something intriguing that you can't put your finger which it is. Jasmine rice is usually my choice in Thai restaurants, giving an interesting twist to a plate staple, South Beach diet begone.

Quite interesting, really, how they incorporated fragrance components to food, and vice-versa. I', sniffing my passion-scented red shawl right now, and I do smell a hint of apple. As I type this, I'm craving for warm apple crumble with a scoop of nonfat vanilla ice cream

A Road Trip To Success with Chowking

Usually events sorta require us to dress up and look good. However, an invitation from Chowking advised us to wear comfortable clothing and discouraged us to wear expensive watches and jewelry. Interesting. So last Thursday morning, in a black tank top, jeans, and my trusty sneakers, I met up with some of my friends and we boarded a shuttle to take us to a Chowking branch in Sunshine Boulevard in Quezon City where we were given survival kits after we registered.
The survival kit contained a towel, antibacterial hand wipes, a bottle of water, a poncho, umbrella, paper, pen, and antibacterial hand gel. I was intrigued as to what we would be doing in a few minutes. Would we be doing an obstactle relay? Scavenger hunt? And where would we be going? I was assured though that it was perfectly okay to bring cameras and in fact, we were encouraged to do so so we could capture this event.

At the function room, we were finally briefed as to what's going to happen. First, we were told that Chowking would be undergoing major revamping, like the new logo and an addition to their menu. Also, we were shown who the five new brand ambassadors of Chowking are. And this is where we found out what this is going to be. Chowking takes us to their humble beginnings, as to where it all started. Apparently, these five ambassadors have something in common - they had very humble beginnings before their own success stories.

When we boarded the bus, we journeyed somewhat southbound then the bus stopped at a gas station. Then, someone familiar came aboard.That's Jericho Rosales (eeee!!!!!!!) on board the same bus as we are. Behind him are some of the members of the security team that was hired to ensure our safety. Who doesn't know Jericho Rosales right? With his endorsements, movies, and TV shows? But who really was Jericho before he was the leading man of primetime TV? He told us that we were going to where he was before. He started out as a fish vendor in Farmer's Market in Cubao. Yep, you got it right. He helped his mom sell fish in the market plus he took on several odd jobs before joining Mr. Pogi in Eat Bulaga, which was the start of his career.

And here we are in Farmer's Market in Cubao, with dozens of fans screaming at Echo as he shares, now to everyone that this in fact, used to be where he worked. His former office, he would say.

After this, he lets us on a treat. We go right in the heart of Farmer's Market where he demonstrates what he used to do then - cleaning fish.
He shows everyone how it's done.... from removing the scales up to the entrails. Everything he does without fidgeting, and without gloves. Just like how he used to do before. Sanay na sanay, and I see no sign of him being grossed out or anything. It was quite amazing that when some celebrities make a 180-degree change with their personalities as soon as they hit the level of success, we have a person like Jericho Rosales who still remains down-to-earth as he is. I've heard that he never forgets the people he gets to talk to. He's the type of guy too who would pose for a photo-op when a fan approaches him at the mall.

After that, we were journeyed again this time to a center for children. Before that, we had a private audience with the second Chowking ambassador, CNN Hero Of The Year, Efren Penaflorida, Jr or Kuya Ef to his students.

Efren was born and raised in the slums. His father was a tricycle driver and his mom a housewife. Despite the lack of funds, he still strived and completed both elementary and high school through scholarships.

Efren shared his knowledge too with streetchildren. He created a "pushcart classroom" where he would teach the streetchildren during his spare time and his materials were actually in a pushcart. That he does while receiving two college degrees with take note - the highest honors. Anyway, he took us to one of his centers but before that... there were these pushcart classrooms set up, which we pushed towards the center where some of his students await.

Efren finally introduces us to some of the volunteers who also teach the kids during their spare time and the kids themselves who welcomed their Kuya Ef. The kids sang and danced with the media before we all distributed the school supplies, which were gifts to them.

We left for the next and final stop, and also we had an audience with the third Chowking ambassador, Kim Chiu.

Kim tells us her experience at the PBB (Pinoy Big Brother) house, and she jokingly tells us that she wanted to be seen on TV and so she tried out for PBB and up to now, she still sees herself on TV. The cute chinita girl back in PBB then has now become a celebrity. However, before PBB Kim was just a shy girl living a very simple and modest life. PBB was the turning point in her life. After winning, we all know the rest is history. Kim is in billboards, print ads, magazine covers, commercials, tv shows, and the big screen.

We arrived at Plaza Ibarra where Kim joins her onscreen partner and former PBB housemate Gerald Anderson where they give us a little taste of what it's like to be in the PBB house and gave us a challenge... to finish an entire box of Chowking chicharap as a group. It was quite a challenge though, since there were a whole lot of it in the bag. Yet I still had the same appetite during lunchtime when we were served Chowking's Tender Beef Broccoli Lauriat, the newest addition to the menu:
I guess beef with broccoli is one of the most iconic Chinese dishes there is and travel all over the world, you see this as a staple in every Chinese restaurant menu. The lauriat here actually costs Php 125 if you buy it and it comes with pancit canton, chicharap, fried dumpling, buchi, plain rice, and drink. You could also order it a la carte (Php 99 with drink). Despite the fact that I devoured an entire box of chicharap a few hours before, I was able to finish this too.After that, we were joined by all four Chowking ambassadors - Jericho Rosales, Efren Penaflorida Jr., Kim Chiu, and Gerald Anderson as they shared more of their experiences on the road to success. The fifth ambassador, Bea Alonzo, who started out as a beauty pageant contestant before becoming one of the finest actresses today wasn't able to make it due to her jampacked schedule but she left a message for everyone.

The event ended at around 3 pm when we all headed home. I was pretty tired from the journey so I decided to go straight home after the shuttle dropped us off. Guess nothing is impossible. We'll never know when the fish vendor in the market would soon become leading man.