SMORES BY CARAMIA 

One of the words of wisdom from Word Porn (@wordsporn) is do something that makes you happy. Heeding its words, these days I try and remember what makes me happy as a way to move on after a break up which wasn’t mutual. One such activity is having a slice of cake from Amici, a renowned pasta place with an outlet in Tomas Morato. Their pasta menu undoubtedly is amazing too, but a slice of cake or gelato cake is instant happiness (I’d worry about the calories later.) it is a partnership that only spells sweetness. The pasta is solely Amici but the cakes and gelato cakes are from Caramia bakery that introduced gelato cakes to Filipinos. I find a quaintness to the name, which is Italian for “my dear”, because you can look at the cake and consider it a dear or your precious. Conversely, it is a way of saying you are important to me when a Caramia cake is presented as a gift. 

The one cake that got my attention was Smores, a whole cake of chocolate butter cake smothered with torched marshmallow and topped with meringue-shaped torched marshmallows. A slice with one meringue-shaped marshmallow makes for a delicious tea break; half a slice – half of the “meringue” marshmallow – is a great meal ender. Looks are deceiving – Smores might look cloying but it is the furthest from the truth. The sweetness is just enough to tickle your palate pleasantly.



Prior to digging into a slice is the thrill of opening the box. I think of unwrapping a present during Christmas or a birthday. There is always that thrill that surges through me throwing me back to my childhood when the world seemed a better place and people were less prone to duplicity. Combined with the pleasure of eating a slice of Smores, a broken heart aches less and all is good in the world.

THE BEAUTY OF KUTA BEACH 

First timers to Bali are always told to head to Kuta Beach, one of the more popular beaches on the island. It is, I have been told, a favorite of foreign surfers, who are mostly from Australia as the flight from one of its cities is just an hour plus, and local surfers who double up as surfing coaches. It wasn’t on the nth visit and as I watched the surfers gear up to ride the wave that it finally dawned on me why it is a surfer’s paradise. The waves are every surfer’s dream: glassy surface (read: nice and smooth), rolls in one direction, big, and powerful. If the surfers find the waves thrilling I find them on top of the waves absolutely amazing.

Kuta beach in April


At first glance, Kuta beach can be off-putting. First is the huge crowd at the entrance. Finding a parking space is a nightmare unless you have a scooter. Behind the entrance are legions of vendors plying anything under the shaded sun – accessories, beach wear, temporary tattoo (think henna), braiding and massage services, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. In fact, the beverage vendors have set up makeshift “bars” of plastic chairs under a huge beach umbrella and drinks in a cooler box. 

Second push-factor are the aggressive vendors. I cannot forget the mistake I made in browsing this woman’s accessories only to change my mind because the woven bracelet I fancied looked worn out. She threw a hissy fit and followed me around the beach for a time. Lesson learned: never entertain a vendor unless you are certain of buying. 

However, hurdle the crowd and the vendors, and you will come face-to-face with the pulchritude of Kuta Beach. A divine, majestic landscape of blues – light blue, cerulean, aquamarine – intermingled with yellow, gold, and white play before your eyes that is completely mesmerizing. Standing or sitting, it is almost meditative as you slowly breathe in and breathe out the fresh sea breeze. The sun on your face, the breeze dancing with you, and the sound of waves rushing to shore is like a welcomed benediction from the universe and your guardian angels that you thought had abandoned you. A tingling, vivifying feeling shoots through you and you feel a smile tugging at the sides of your lips. For a moment everything is copacetic in your topsy-turvy world – the veil of sadness has been lifted and your heart has stopped crying.

Scanning the area, I people-watch: smiling at the lovers strolling by the water, laughing at the failed acrobatic stunts, staring at those sunbathing wondering if they had put on sufficient sunblock lotion. Then my gaze falls on the horizon and my thoughts take a different direction. In due time the beauty of Kuta Beach will permeate my gray-tinged world.

PHILIPPINE BREAD 

A traditional Filipino breakfast is someone’s version of lunch or dinner: sinangag (garlic fried rice), tocino (Philippine version of the Spanish bacon) or corned beef, and fried egg (usually sunny side up) washed down with black coffee. This is too heavy for me so I opt for two pieces of pan de sal slathered with jam, cream cheese, peanut butter, or butter. Pan de sal is part of any Filipino’s breakfast or merienda (roughly translated as snack) if you’re going for a lighter fare. Unfortunately, it is difficult looking for pan de sal outside of the Philippines unless you’re somewhere in the US where Filipino bakeries and convenience stores are ubiquitous.

pan de sal by Kamuning Bakery


In the Philippines, pan de sal is now usually sold in major bakeries in the malls and supermarkets in the cities which means that they are not the usual piping hot, fresh-from-the-oven bread that is less on sweetness which is normally expected of Filipino bread. As its name would have it – pan de sal translates to salt bread – it’s leaning on the salty side, but not enough to give you blood pressure problems. However, French Baker, a bakery cum cafe located in most SM malls, has bucked the trend and has been selling huge, fresh-from-the-oven cracked pan de sal (it cracks when you pinch it).

Outside of the malls and within residential areas, Kamuning Bakery in Quezon City is still the to-go to place for freshly baked pan de sal which is available early in the morning. This small mom-and-pop store, which opened its doors in 1939 on the corner of K-1st and Judge Jimenez streets, is still standing but has since gone through major upgrades and expansion. For one thing, they now have an outlet at SM North Edsa, one of the major malls under the SM group. Another noted difference is the absence of the homey, neighborhood store vibe which has been replaced by a more formal bakery ambience complete with a glass display of refrigerated cakes and drinks, and several racks filled with an array of wrapped breads. 

The sale of pan de sal is an open secret.There is no sign advertising its sale. One simply goes up to the counter and places an order with the crew (sadly, a grumpy one) who then asks monotonously how many pieces you want and proceeds to pick up the pan de sal with tongs and drop them in a paper bag. The carb-conscious eater shuns the regular pan de sal because it primarily uses white flour, but Kamuning Bakery has got its ear on the ground about healthy eating and has come with wheat pan de sal. Regrettably, it wasn’t available that day. 

pan de suelo by Kamuning Bakery


Looking around the bakery, I spotted what I thought was a bag of wheat pan de sal. I was mistaken and was immediately corrected by grumpy chops who said it was pan de suelo. Pan de suelo is, as my research yielded, a precursor of pan de sal. Made from wheat flour, its consistency resembles a bagel or a softer French baguette. My Spanish should have kicked in after hearing the name: pan de suelo translates to “floor bread” thus one gets an inkling of its texture. Not a fan of the French baguette, the pan de suelo, I discovered, was a good alternative to the pan de sal. A few minutes in the toaster oven and you have a softer pan de suelo ready to be smothered with one’s spread of choice. This time I went for pineapple jam from The Fruit Garden.

The pan de sal and pan de suelo are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pantheon of tinapay (Filipino for bread which is pronounced as tee-na-pie). Word of caution: you need to love carbs to discover them.

What is for breakfast- pan de suelo (back) or pan de sal?

FRAP HAPPINESS II

A different country, different speciality drinks at Starbucks – this is the Starbucks rule I managed to confirm on my Starbucks-hopping. Simply put, the US market had the loved-by-the consumers and hated-by-the baristas Unicorn Frappuccino, Indonesia is now tooting its counterpart of Popcorn Caramel Frappuccino. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Starbucks is treating its loyal customers to two special flavors, one of which is the Roasted Smores Frappuccino. Apparently, this one is back due to popular demand.

Roasted Smores Frappuccino

The scorching heat – 35 degrees is normal temperature each day in Quezon City – was a strong impetus for me to get Roasted Smores Frappuccino (tall size only) and throw caution to the wind. I would worry about the calories later when I get to the gym. Truly frap happiness with each sip, which was far from my imagined saccharine taste. Nestled at the bottom of the ice-blended Frappuccino roast coffee beans were swirls of chocolate syrup reminiscent of the chocolate sauce for chocolate sundaes bonding with swathes of marshmallow. Topping the iced beverage is a whirl of whipped cream sprinkled with bits of graham crackers. It is not hard to grok that it is pure frap happiness: a sip of it is a sweet (not cloying), gooey, and chocolatey goodness that momentarily quells the searing summer heat and uplifts the sadness in one’s heart.

It is a sugar fest with the Roasted Smores Frap and sticky cinnamon bun. (Imperial Suites,Tomas Morato branch)

FRAP HAPPINESS 

The colorful Unicorn Frappuccino did not make it to Asia or my Instagram feed would have been inundated with pictures of it. But it is not like the other side of the globe has been deprived of frap happiness with its absence. This May saw Starbucks Indonesia introducing frap happiness with their new variant, Popcorn Caramel Frappuccino, to its loyal Starbucks card holders before releasing it to the general public.

Popcorn Caramel Frappuccino

It is triple happiness in a tall cup: caramel popcorn reposing on swirl of whipped cream that sits on a perfectly blended caramel frappuccino. It is not cloying and is simply perfect to cool a Sunday early afternoon baking under the blazing sun. Forget the calories – frap happiness is a great momentary cure for the lemons and spanners flooding your universe and a crying heart.

CHAMPAGNE DINNER BY TAITTINGER

Dark skies and an almost-empty gas tank weren’t enough to stop us. Even the snail-pace traffic to Jakarta from Bekasi wasn’t a deterrent. With a little bit of prayer and switching off the car’s AC, we made it to Fairmont Jakarta with time to spare to freshen up. On the 22nd floor of the hotel was the Taittinger Champagne Dinner. The last time I had flutes of the delectable champagne was two years ago when Taittinger was introduced in Indonesia at Orient 8 at Hotel Mulia.

Champagne Dinner with a view at The View

Table setting at the Taittinger Champagne Dinner


champagne at the bar

the bar at The View

It was a thrilling reunion that April night at The View, one of Fairmont’s restaurants, with its magnificent view of Jakarta’s skyline. A prelude to the eight-course dinner was a tipple at the bar where I introduced Taittinger to my gal-pal Theresia as a way to let the stresses of the mid-week hang. Dropping by the bar to say hola was Alvaro Acebal, Fairmont’s Food & Beverage manager, whom Theresia and I met at Sapori Deli last March at another one-night dinner event of guest Chef Antonio Facchinetti.

with Alvaro Acebal

Photo op with Alvaro Acebal, Food & Beverage Manager of Fairmont Jakarta

Dinner commenced with an amuse bouche of Tuna Tartare with ponzu, yuzu, and avocado that strongly whetted the appetite. You just have to get pass the eyebrow-raising hand cast it is served on.  Juxtaposed to the tuna’s savory flavor is the next course of Apple Pie (View’s interpretation) which was ingenious both in taste and presentation. There was this sweet tugging sensation on the palate between the savory and sweet flavors, and that the apple pie was shaped as a mini ball reposing on a bed of pebbles in a wooden box was simply artistic.

Tuna Tartare

Ready for your Tuna Tartare?


Apple Pie

Apple Pie – The View’s Interpretation

The champagne kept coming and Satria, our gracious attendant for the night, made sure nothing was lacking from our table including enjoyable tête-à- tête. He regaled us with stories about his one-month training stint in Makati and the incidents of being mistaken as a Filipino while Theresia and I coaxed him to put Ambon – especially Ora Island – on his travel list.

Dining with a view

Champagne and dining with a view – this is the life!

Then it was time for the Foie Gras Torchon with cherry gel and macerated mix berries which was paired splendidly with the Taittinger Nocturne, Sec NV. There was this sweet and fruity chase at the end of each bite of the foie gras after nips of the champagne; Satria, following the chef’s suggestion, advised us to quickly follow up a bite of the foie gras with champagne. This dish was immediately followed by Scallop Tartare enveloped in white chocolate foam and lime jelly that did an electrifying cha-cha on the palate together with sips of the Taittinger Reims Reserve Brut NV.

Foie gras torchon

Foie gras torchon


Scallop Tartare

Scallop Tartare


Taittinger Reims

Taittinger Reims goes well with the scallop tartare

Too much champagne is a misnomer. In fact, the abundance in champagne led to a pleasant discovery that Lobster “cappuccino” – fortified lobster bisque and foam – squirted into our cups by The View’s Chef Hans actually blended well with both the Nocturne and Reims.  Discovery 2: the lobster cappuccino was a teaser to the first main dish of Canadian Lobster with Sturia caviar, shimeji, and champignon nage that grooved smoothly on the palate as the flavors mingled with the Taittinger Prestige Rose Brut, NV. Lobster and champagne – what can go wrong?

Lobster Cappuccino

Lobster Cappuccino


Canadian Lobster

Canadian Lobster


Taittinger Prestige Rose

Taittinger Prestige Rose Brut NV

Gazing out the floor-to-ceiling window of The View, the landscape had turned a shade darker as the night danced on. The ant-like lights on the streets below had lessened, but the brightness hadn’t diminished, and there I was happily ensconced in my chair sipping from flute to flute. Life is rosier with champagne in my hand.

Norwegian salmon_The View

Norwegian salmon with glazed oyster mushroom


Satria pours Taittinger Comtes

Satria pours the famed Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 2004

Then it was time for the main course of Norwegian salmon with glazed king oyster mushroom, champagne, and seaweed broth.  Without skipping a beat, affable Satria was at our table ready to impress us with, paraphrasing his words, the champagne set to dislodge Dom Pérignon from its pedestal. He poured the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc, 2004 generously into our flutes and bade us a hearty meal. The salmon was flavorful and generous in serving (read: it was more than a matchbox size) while the strip of mushroom melted in the mouth.  And the night drew to a close when the Stone Rose was laid on our table. Breaking the pinkish Christmas “ball” revealed a smooth cheesecake-like texture of lychee, raspberry, and chocolate that rolled effortlessly on the tongue. Which champagne went with it? Take your pick.

Stone Rose

Stone Rose

A champagne dinner is exciting. However, a well-orchestrated Taittinger champagne dinner is more than simple excitement. It’s a bubbly and electrifying dining experience that leaves wearied souls keyed up and ready to tackle the world again.

world of Taittinger

world of Taittinger

FOOD TRIPPING IN BALI

Mention Bali and food in one breath and the flavourful nasi campur that lights up the palate come to mind. But iconic local dish aside, restaurants abound in and out of Sanur that makes food tripping in Bali a very delectable experience. It is also an advantage to have a gal-pal who has had her ear on the ground when it comes to the culinary delights around the island.

Sanur is replete with myriad dining choices, but my culinary adventure always started each day with breakfast at La Tartine, the restaurant where guests of French-owned Hotel Puri Tempo Doeloe troop to from 7 am to 10 am. One’s choice of breakfast set comes with fruit salad, orange juice, and black coffee or tea. A creature of habit, my choice was always scrambled egg with fried tomatoes and herbs partnered with a thin pancake from the other sets of bacon and egg, scrambled egg with grilled cheese, tartine of the day, and nasi goreng (fried rice) or mie goreng (fried noodles). Each breakfast set is prepared on the spot with the right amount of oil and spices, and absolutely basking in freshness. For a mid-day repast of Italian, gal-pal Eta swears by the nonpareil menu of Massimo – Italian Restaurant on Jalan Danau Tamblingan. This more-than-a-decade old eatery sees nights teeming with diners already seated or waiting for their table. The first time we got there we had 40 minutes before we could get ours, so we had gelato (the cannoli is good) first and walked around the area. The gelato counter at the entrance is similarly swarmed by diners. The special dish that night was paccheri in salmon tomato sauce in which the creaminess of the sauce was a beautiful melding of cream and tomato sauce that zigzagged on the palate, urging me to finish the dish to the last tube pasta. Meanwhile, Eta’s favourite spaghetti carbonara was equally bursting with flavour. On our next visit I went for the classic mushroom fettuccine while she went out of her comfort zone and had spaghetti aglio olio.

La Tartine breakfast

Breakfast of scrambled egg at La Tartine, Sanur

pasta from Massimo

Paccheri with salmon tomato sauce from Massimo

Spaghetti aglio olio at Massimo

Spaghetti aglio olio at Massimo

Massimo gelato

gelato by Massimo

Another dinner excursion in Sanur led us to Kuu Izakaya Dining located also along Jalan Danau Tamblingan. Eta and I were in the mood for Japanese and took our chances when we spotted this one. Kuu was a serendipitous find: strong, palate-tickling flavours; food served on elegant glazed earthenware; refreshing Mango Tango and Apple Cinnamon drinks; Zen-like ambiance; and gracious servers. We had a feast: tempura ebi (crunchy and not oily), tori teriyaki (succulent and not salty), dragon maki (creative dragon rendition with the shrimp head), and chawan mushi (bouncy egg custard).

dining al fresco of Kuu

Dining al fresco at Kuu

Dragon maki

Dragon maki for two

Chawan mushi 2

Piping hot chawan mushi

Kuu

Kuu drinks

L-R: Apple Cinnamon and Mango Tango

Going beyond Sanur, it was Cafe Lotus on Jalan Raya Ubud for lunch. It is another iconic dining establishment on the island that beckons the guests because of its location and view. Located between Ubud Palace and Museum Puri Lukisan, and adjacent to a Starbucks, the sittings near the entrance are fantastic. They offer a majestic view of one of Ubud’s main temples, Pura Tama Kemudra Saraswati, which is the stage for the nightly performances of traditional dances. The temple lies beyond another pull-factor of the restaurant: an enormous lotus pond with ancient kamboja (or magnolia) trees joined by the newly added by orchids standing regally against the alluring blue skies. My chicken satay were not scrawny slivers of grilled chicken, but succulent chunks that almost melted in your mouth while Eta’s breaded chicken was not oily or thickly wrapped in bread crumbs. Sadly, service was less than welcoming – the server that greeted us was crabby.

Chicken satay at Cafe Lotus

Chicken satay by Cafe Lotus

view from Cafe Lotus

View as you dine at Cafe Lotus

Venturing into Kuta, we went American for lunch at Hard Rock Cafe on Jalan Pantai Kuta, which is just opposite the famed, crowded Kuta beach. Ironic as it may seem, I had the duck breast which wasn’t a disappointment. The slices of duck breast were juicy and the kailan crunchy. Adding a zing to the noontime meal was having chicken wings with tangy barbecue sauce for appetizer. Meanwhile, Eta’s fish and chips were a good choice – succulent fish that wasn’t thickly coated in batter or swimming in oil.

fish and chips from Hard Rock Cafe

duck breast from Hard Rock Cafe

Tangy Chicken wings

Food tripping in Bali is a gastronomic experience with the myriad restaurants ready for the picking. The choices are endless with each new day promising a palate-tickling, tummy-satisfying culinary journey.