Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ruby's Country Cafe for Mango Chew Cookies

There's a charming cafe in Las Pinas which we visited a few months ago, perfect for whiling the hours away.

They have very good baked goods, but I love the mango chew cookies the best.

It was creamy, and I love how chewy it was with the pull of the dried mango.

Below are the other products they sell.

Ruby's Country Cafe
Lot 112,5 Tropical Avenue
BF International, Las Pinas City
(+63) 917 9281537

Friday, December 27, 2013

It's All in the Mix: Great Meal Combos at Banana Leaf

I've been to Banana Leaf twice previously, the first was more than a decade ago when it was newly opened, and I must say I was impressed. The next visit was only recent, and I wrote about it here. For this month I've been there twice, and call it serendipity, but the meals we ordered worked well together that I'm kicking myself for not dropping by the restaurant more.

Combo 1: Chicken Satay + Stir-Fried Malay Noble Leaves with Garlic + Penang Fried Rice with Salted Fish and Chicken

Chicken Satay (P138)

Stir Fried Malay Noble Leaves (188)

Penang Fried Rice (P188)

I let my friend do the ordering when we met in the Greenbelt 3 branch. I love the honey-sweetened Chicken Satay (satay is skewered grilled meat)--juicy and perfect with the peanut sauce. The garlicky greens went well with the chicken and fried rice. The other choice was Kangkong in Sambal Sauce, but I thought we need something different this time. I was intrigued--what are noble leaves? They sure are tasty. The fried rice had just enough saltiness and was full of chicken bits. The combination was well-balanced, and we capped  it with creamy Thai iced tea. Note: sweet counteracts spicy, so have a sugary drink if you think you're not sure if you can handle spicy food.

Combo 2: Malayan Beef Curry with Potatoes + Japanese Eel Fried Rice

Malayan Beef Curry (288)

Japanese Eel Fried Rice (P188)

The next day I went back (in the name of research,  just to make sure the other day was not a fluke), this time in the Robinson's Place Ermita Branch. I ordered  Malayan Beef Curry and Japanese Eel Fried Rice. I thought the flavors would clash but they melded well together. Imagine  soft beef in creamy curry and lovely Japanese eel fried rice. It was a heady and tasty combo, indeed a very satisfying meal.  The server was right--they do good curry. I thought the curry was not spicy enough, but a few minutes later small spice bombs detonated in my mouth. It was also much later did I sense the umami goodness of the eel. The rice did not overpower the curry, allowing the latter to shine through.  I ended up mixing the curry in the rice.

Banana Leaf Asian Cafe
#213 Level 2 Greenbelt 3 Mall
Ayala Center Makati
(+63) 02 729-3333

188-189 Level 1 Robinson's Place
Midtown, Ermita, Manila
(+63) 02 567-1888

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

New Zealand Natural Ice Cream's Hokey Pokey

hokey pokey (bottom), and the choco hokey pokey variant

hokey pokey paired with macadamia supreme

One of the best memories I had of childhood was the non-stop supply of ice cream my mom provided us. That was where my love story with this frozen treat started. I love most flavors, and lately I've been partial to caramel and vanilla.

Today I'm sharing with you the best-selling flavor of New Zealand Natural, the Hokey Pokey or Butterscotch Candy Ice cream--creamy vanilla with small solid lumps of honeycomb toffee. I love the unmistakable taste of honey in every scoop, the pop of caramel, and the unusual texture. I'm also taken with the chocolate hokey pokey--the rich dark choco and pop of toffee do not overshadow each other but go well together.

Go for two scoops. Th first will set you back at P95; the additional scoop is a steal at P50.

New Zealand Natural
2F Robinsons Place
Ermita, Manila

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jump-starting a wellness program

For all my posts on eating out, the one thing I don't want is to start you on the road to illness and excess. I've been struggling with my weight myself--there are times I make it, there are times I don't, but I persist nonetheless. Yes, grit, not giving up, is important for most goals. And, for losing weight, portion control, which I tend to forget when eating myself out of a funk.

For inspiration on living healthy, one of the resources I check out is Erwan Heussaff's blog.

If you want to be healthier or you want to achieve a fitness goal, here's a video from The Fat Kid Inside to help you along

For more of Erwan's blog, go here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tagbilaran City's Gerarda's for Squid-Ink Pasta

If you love squid-ink, this is for you. In my notes this is seafood pasta, but I might be wrong. We were invited here for dinner, it was our first time at the restaurant (which turned out to be quite well-loved), and as guests we pretty much let our hosts do the ordering. I tried doing online research on what this was, but my efforts yielded nothing, so let's just name this squid-ink pasta.

This is the bounty of the sea on a plate--generous squid meat and ink, and fishballs, brightened by pechay. This was so tasty I mixed the left-over pasta with rice, a carb-on-carb combo Pinoys know only too well.

33 J.S. Torralba Street
Tagbilaran City

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top Picks from My Last Visit to My Kitchen by Chef Chris

I've been recommending My Kitchen to my friends since my first visit, and I'm glad they also enjoyed their meals there. I've been back a couple of times, and this is my report on the dishes I enjoyed in my last visit. 

The Oasis Salad is described as a blend of artichokes hearts, roasted peppers, capers, caramelized onions, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, aragula, and romaine lettuce with red wine vinaigrette. I love the zesty dressing and well-balanced flavors. This is my first time to sample artichoke and I  appreciate how it is rendered both sweet and sour. I wonder how it tastes like fresh. As usual, the sweetish dried tomatoes were divine.

The Pan Roasted Salmon Fillet with lemon butter sauce. The salmon was creamy and rich, tempered by the blanched tomatoes. The potato cake served as perfect foil for the tasty dish. .

The Slow Roasted Chicken, seasoned with lemon, white wine and olive oil , on a bed of chorizo pilaf with roasted carrots, pumpkin, and spring garlic. This tasted like upscale afritada. The meat was soft and the sausages were a nice addition to the dish.The rich dish was balanced by the slight bitter aragula.

My Kitchen by Chef Chirs
The Oasis Paco Park Hotel
(+63) 02 521-2371 to 75

Monday, December 9, 2013

Top Picks from Kai: Spider Roll, California Maki, and Ebi Tempura

Until a few years ago, I wasn't crazy about Japanese food: I find it too subtle for my taste. I saw the light eventually when my friends introduced me to sashimi, and later I began to appreciate tempura and ramen. In yet another get-together with former schoolmates, we agreed to meet at Greenbelt's Kai Restaurant. I wasn't expecting much from a mall-based restaurant, but I'm glad to have been disabused of such notion with the following excellent dishes:

The California maki (P190). I'm usually wary with this, because it is trite and usually sloppily done, but Kai's was firm, and tasted delicate and exquisite. It was a delight bursting the fish roe by pressing them with my tongue against my teeth.

The exquisite spider roll (P380). I gravitate towards bold flavors but I like the creaminess and crunch of the soft shell crabs and the umami goodness of seaweed. This dish was the best for me. 

The delightful ebi (shrimp) tempura (P390). It was light and delicately battered.

The Chicken teriyaki (P350)  was so smoky and flavorful, with a taste profile that is so Pinoy. I love the accompanying veggies. It was a perfect ending for a wonderful meal.  

Unit 1-112 Greenbelt 5
Legazpi Village, Makati
(+63) 02 757 5209

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka for Roasted Pork Cheeks and Shio Ramen

I went to Singapore last month without planning anything, save for the hotels I would stay in. My first stop was at Pickering, and hours after I settled in I realized being spontaneous has its limits when it comes to solo travel. Good thing I downloaded the Singapore Tripadvisor app, and one of the hits for recommended eateries nearby was Ramen Santouka. No, I was not able to eat there, and so I vowed to do so next year.

A few weeks later I met up with a friend in Makati in what I would eventually realize as the Manila branch of Ramen Santouka. We waited twenty minutes before we were seated. I was ahead of Mel Tinagco and her family, who also waited for their turn. It appears the hype was not limited to the lion-state. Perhaps it's  true, if you want something bad enough, the universe conspires to make it happen.

I ordered the roasted pork cheeks and ramen shio. The broth was out of this world good. Very tasty and flavorful, and surprisingly clean. I love the porcine goodness of the cheeks, which tasted like it was cured, and the firm noodles. Would I be back? Yes, for the spicy ramen (kara-miso). Is it better than Ukokkei's? No, but it's a good second.

We also ordered the chicken gyoza. I wasn't expecting it to be good, but it was. This is the best version for me--very tasty even without the sauce.

Galila, mangan tila!

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
GF Glorietta 4
Ayal Center, Makati
(+63) 02 728 1381

Friday, December 6, 2013

Top Picks from Gen San's Ranchero's Grill and Seafood Restaurant

When someone asked me where to eat at GenSan, I suggested Ranchero, and he loved it. A quick look at Tripadvisor shows that it ranks 1 out of 45 restaurants in the city. My first visit was at the Paseo del Sol branch was about five years ago, and I was smitten. For this year I got to return twice, this time at SM. (I'm partial to the charms of the first branch, though.) Below are the dishes I enjoyed. 
Duck in Coconut Milk, I think (help!). I forgot where I stuffed my notes, but this dish was very memorable. Sweetish creamy and soft duck meat. I tried to resist eating more, which was futile. The bite from green pepper offered a welcome heat.

Dragonfruit shake. I had this years ago, and the I wondered what the fuss was all about. This time they I was lucky: it was refreshing and creamy, a medley of flavors that reminds me of mixed berries.

Pako salad. The plating is uninspired, but this one's a winner. Pour in the bagoong (fermented fish paste) for the flavors to meld in. The mild greens acted as good foil for the slices of bagnet and salted egg. I also love the tiny zing from the julienned ginger.

Again, ignore the poor presentation. The Pugon Pork does not look pretty, but it is flavorful and not greasy, with skin so crisp. It comes alive with either vinegar or bagoong sauce. And I must say, the pork in these parts taste clean.

SM City GenSan
Santiago Blvd cor. San Miguel St.
General Santos City, South Cotabato

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ukokkei Ramen Ron for Ebi Mayonnaise and Karamiso Ramen

It's no secret I love Ukokkei Ramen Ron (proof here and here). I love that there's a branch where I live--the culinary hubs like Bonifacio Global City could be logistical nightmare to got to, so I savor good restaurants within my vicinity, and patronize them often. I've been to Ukokkei about 5 times, and I fear pretty soon I'll be eating through the menu unless they offer new items. 

In my most recent visit I ordered the wonderful Ebi Mayonnaise. Imagine fat, soft prawns in delectable, sweetish mayo sauce. It was a bit saucy but the shredded greens soaked up everything. I also ordered the curry ramen but I found it just okay. 

A few months back I ordered the Karamiso, a miso-based ramen, and the spiciest on offer. It was rich, complex, well-balanced. As usual, the noodles were firm.  I love the caramelized onions. At first I wondered where the heat was. After a little swirl with my spoon, the heat became more apparent, until there was a growing contagion of spiciness mixed with the sweetish, nutty broth. A few minutes later my sinuses were clearing, my heart was singing. Mangan tila!

Ukokkei Ramen Ron
2126 A Mabini St., Malate, Manila
(+63) 02 516-5511

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Top Picks from iBagnet

I love Iloko food, and I've featured it quite a lot: see here, here, here, here, and here. There were lots of dishes to love at the Scout Borromeo branch of iBagnet: the bagnet, of course, which was on the lean side; the smoky poqui-poqui, topped with chicharon; the garlicky goat caldereta, which was creamy and sweetish.

But tops for me when I had lunch there were the longganisa: medium-sized jewels which  looked tostado but were juicy inside. My tummy is grumbling as I write this--garlicky longganiza is one of my favorite things, and I can eat this with loads of rice every breakfast. The grilled squid was excellent as well. It was smoky, buttery, and soft.

Disclosure: two of my friends are co-owners of the restaurant.

iBagnet Restaurant
Scout Borromeo, Quezon City

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Banana Leaf's Malaysian Seafood Laksa

I came for the Haianese chicken (which was just okay), but I left impressed with the Malaysian seafood laksa. Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It merges Chinese and Malay elements. It is made of rice vermicelli, coconut milk, and curry soup base. Banana Leaf's laksa is warm, creamy, sweetish, a tad nutty, and spicy--perfect for the rainy weather. I love the crunch of the togue. I wished there were more noodles, but nonetheless I love it. It was a complete meal in itself, what with the generous portions of the seafood.

Note: this is the first time I'm writing most of the text using my smartphone, and though a bit clunky, I can get used to this.

Banana Leaf
Robinson's Place Manila
Ermita, Manila
(+63) 02 567-8188

Thursday, November 28, 2013

AK Bistro's Rustic Apple Pie

There are restaurants I want to visit again, and this is one of them. I like how the restaurant looks (it wasn't too cool and stand-offish, which is perfect for a bistro), and I wanted to give the chili tinapa with artichoke another go. But for the apple pie alone, AK Bistro deserve a recommendation.

There were mixed reviews online on the apple pie, but I love it. I was well-balanced--just the right sweetness and punch of cinnamon. They didn't stint with the chunky apple slices, as the pictures show. Make sure to dip the crust in the sauce. I must add, the whole nuts gave the pie an earthy character.

AK Bistro
G/F One Rockwell
Rockwell Drive
Poblacion, Makati
(+63) 02 478-9880

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Myron's Place for Seafood Spaghetti and Franco's Choice Angus Beef Rib Eye

I've been to the Rockwell branch of Myron's Place before, and I was quite impressed. I've been going to Makati to meet friends and catch up on one another's affairs. Since I blog on food, I'm given the task to scout around for restaurant choices. Good thing there are quite a few good selections at Greenbelt, including Myron's Place, so we decided to meet up there. Here are the dishes that rocked my boat: 
The spaghetti with seafood, anchovies, roasted garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. I prefer my pasta in olive oil and topped with seafood. Having one that is well-balanced is tricky, I often have more misses than hots. For me, the spicy tuyo (dried fish) pasta I had in the BenCab Museum is still the standard. Good thing this pasta was flavorful--the anchovies punched up the subtler flavors of the other seafood. This gets my vote as one of the better seafood pasta I've tried.
Myron's is known for its steak, and the Franco's choice, topped with pan-seared foie gras, didn't disappoint. The beef was soft and tender, and since I was the only one who wasn't on medication, I thoroughly enjoyed the heavenly foie gras. I will go back for this next time, definitely medium rare, since we had it well-done.

Myron's Place
Greenbelt 5
Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village
(+63) 02 757 8898

Monday, November 25, 2013

Top Picks from Tagaytay's Breakfast at Antonio's

It's a good time to be a foodie--there are countless options available, helped in large part by media playing up the restaurant scene. One of my officemate's mother watch Kris Aquino's morning show to see what restaurants the latter will recommend. Back at the office, my colleague would regale us with their latest weekend adventure, complete with Instagram-worthy pictures.

Breakfast at Antonio's came in my radar via one of the blogs I follow. One day, while stationed in Tagaytay, I called up the gang and headed there for dinner (smile). Below are my favorites:
I love the beef tapa and eggs. The tapa was savory, and flavorful, perfect with rice.

If I had to go back, I would order the sauteed corned beef. It was soft and flavorful, and not too salty. I also love how peppery it was.

If you're a fan of burgers, try Breakfast at Antonio's version.The patty was beefy, the capers gave a sour-salty punch, and the bun was wonderfully creamy.

Breakfast at Antonios
Brgy. Neogan Purok 138
Tagaytay City Cavite
(+63) 46 413 0975

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cioccolata Cafe for Churros and Pretzels

Churros. My former boss love this fried dough-pastry snack, which usually comes with a chocolate dip. We would order from Dulcinea, which was near our office, and her eyes would lit up. Sadly, that branch of Dulcinea has closed. Fortunately, Bayleaf Hotel has a pastry shop that has this as its banner item.

Ciocolatta Cafe's churros are soft and quite chewy, and quite addicting. If you look closely at the dates stamps on the photo, you'd see that we bought these on separate dates. Between caramel and chocolate, we agreed that the former was the better dip.

We also tried this lovely cinnamon pretzel. Best when hot off the oven. It remained soft, though, even when it has cooled a bit.

Cioccolata Churros Cafe
The Bayleaf Hotel
Muralla cor. Victoria Streets
Intramuros, Manila
(+63) 02 328 3170