Archive for the ‘Food Adventure’ Category

PINOY NOODLES

Noodles are very much part of the Filipino diet. They can be eaten as lunch, merienda (snack), or dinner.  There are myriad noodle dishes in the Philippines, but I’m partial to only a few. One of them is pancit bihon – thin vermicelli noodles topped julienned vegetables and meat – which is a staple dish during celebrations like Christmas and birthdays. The other two are my very favourite. First is pancit malabon or thick rice noodles with shrimp sauce and topped with squid, egg, and crushed chicharon (fried pork crackling). I always order pancit malabon without the chicharon from Ang Tunay na Pancit Malabon on Tomas Morato in Quezon City.

Second is pancit luglug which is slightly more difficult to find than the other dishes. Goldilocks was one place I could find it when I used to frequent the place. There was also this eatery at National Bookstore building in Quezon City but it has since folded shop. Pancit luglug is like pancit malabon in terms of the basic ingredients namely the noodles, shrimp sauce, and toppings. Its name derives from the method of cooking the noodles which is dipping, or blanching, the noodles in hot water until they are cooked. Gourmands would point out that pancit luglug is the answer of the Pampangueños’ to another all-time favourite noodle dish pancit palabok, which has thinner noodles.

pancit luglug by Razon's of Guagua

pancit luglug -without the chicharon – by Razon’s of Guagua

Razon’s of Guagua satisfied my craving for luglug at their branch in Greenbelt, Makati. The restaurant, according to their website, “is home of the best Kapampangan dishes in town”. Its menu runs the gamut of Kapampangan specialities such as sizzling dishes viz. bulalo (beef soup made from shank and the bone marrow), sisig (chopped pig’s head and liver, and seasoned with Philippine lime and chilli), and bangus steak (milkfish). Noodles include the luglug and a pancit plus. There are rice- combo dishes and rice cakes too. For dessert, there are the silvanas, empanada, and halo-halo.  Dessert was truly satisfying when I tried their halo-halo for the first time. Halo-halo literally translates to mix-mix because when you order it you have to mix everything from top to bottom inside the parfait glass. Razon’s halo-halo is simpler and less colourful than, say, Iceberg, but which belied a terrific punch to the palate. It’s a merry mix of sweetened Saba banana and macapuno (coconut), which are at the bottom of the glass, evaporated milk, finely shaved ice that melts in your mouth, and leche flan.

halo-halo by Razon's of Guagua

Razon’s halo-halo features sweetened Saba, macapuno, and leche flan

Lunch of luglug and halo-halo with an uncle was a pleasant experience peppered by scintillating conversation. After all, nothing can go wrong with a meet up over Pinoy noodles and a Pinoy dessert.

FRAP HAPPINESS III

It is a love affair with Starbucks that raises from eyebrows but who gives a hoot. Others go for the lattes as they chill on the sofas; some get a kick from collecting the destination mugs or tumblers which I completely understand. I did get myself a tumbler from a Starbucks outlet in Ubud, Bali and a decorative mug from Disneyland, Anaheim. An old university friend gifted me with a San Francisco mug. Right now, I am on a frappuccino trip. This month I trooped down to my favorite Starbucks outlet at Tomas Morato in the Philippines where the baristas are warm and get my name right all the time. Moreover, they engage in friendly banter about almost anything under the sun. My last conversation was about my tattoo on my inner forearm that he found cool.

There are two new frappuccino flavors to add a zing to that hanging out-at-Starbucks routine. First is the Banana Split and the second is the Irish Cream Coffee Pudding. The former is a reworking of the all-time ice cream dessert favorite, the banana split. As you sip through the frap, it is a smooth sensation that starts from the bottom of which is strawberry whipped cream followed by the mocha frap – caffeinated or not, your choice – whipped cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and banana syrup. The crumbled waffle gets caught up in the swirl through the straw. The Irish Cream Coffee Pudding, on the other hand, is something new on my palate particularly the coffee pudding that was velvety with every sip. Like its sister-frap, it is available in regular or decaffeinated. But unlike its sister-frap, the ground coffee is sprinkled on the whipped cream for that wee-bit of caffeine kick. 

Banana Split frappuccino


Irish Cream Coffee Pudding frappuccino


Crank up the sugar rush with the new chocolate marshmallow cake – with a caramel middle – and your Starbucks routine is complete.

Chocolate marshmallow cake

A JOURNEY WITH MATHEW

Katnook wines

I would like to think that Chef Mathew Macartney was preoccupied with the food prep during his one-night culinary event that he could only address one section of the diners at Il Mare at Hotel Mulia. It would have been nice to exchange pleasantries with him even just to say how I enjoyed his dinner. Nonetheless, Theresia and I did have the pleasure of meeting Alison from Katnook vineyards, the night’s supplier of red and white wines for the five-course wine-pairing dinner. I am not much of a wine lover, but Katnook took my palate by surprise. Unfortunately, Katnook is not yet available in Indonesia said Alison. However, she assured us before moving on to the next table that their wines will be on the shelves of stores, bars, and hotels in Jakarta soon.

bread

A bowl of an assortment of freshly baked bread got the ball rolling for the 7 pm culinary journey. Chef Macartney’s opening salvo was Eggplant “Tofu” with pickled vegetables and burnt bread paired with Katnook Founders Block Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Creativity is a strong suit of Macartney. I was fooled by what I thought were mushrooms, which turned out to be cream cheese balls after I’d popped them into my mouth. His creative juices went into high gear in the next course. The plating of the Shiso Cured Salmon with kohlrabi, passion fruit, and roasted sesame resembled a miniature Japanese garden that had me forget my heart’s ache. Its taste had a light, minty flavour to it that complemented the Katnook Founders Block Chardonnay 2014 that was light on the palate as well.

Eggplant tofu

Eggplant “Tofu”

shiso cured salmon

Shiso Cured Salmon

Segueing into the third course, the strong – at least to my taste – Katnook Estate Merlot 2014 provided a good partnership to the succulent Canadian Lobster with avocado, chicken dashi, and kombu. There was this unfamiliar, but merry tap dance of flavours on my tongue that egged me on to take sip after sip of the merlot.

Canadian lobster

Canadian lobster

Chef Macartney veered away from seafood for the fourth course, opting to serve duck that brimmed with succulence just by looking at it. The Roasted Grimaud Duck Breast with banana purée, foie gras, and Pedro Ximenez glaze had this sweetish taste that jived well with Katnook’s stellar wine, the Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.

duck breast ver 3

Roasted Grimaud Duck Breast

As the night rushed through the hours, my table teemed with glasses of white and red wines that Akhsin, a staff of Il Mare, made sure was never empty. At one point, I forgot which wine paired with which dish, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore. Each sip of wine and each bite of the dish engaged in a thrilling dance of flavours that put a zing in Macartney’s culinary journey. My conversation with gal-pal Theresia circumvented the tedious trials at work – without effort – and focused on the positive such as the food, the ambience of Il Mare, plans for the future, and hopes as well.

Keep the wine coming

Akhsin

Akhsin made certain our wine glasses were always full.

Katnook ShirAZ

Akhsin presents the Katnook Estate Prodigy Shiraz 2010

Chef Macartney wasn’t done yet. His second main course was Char-grilled Black Angus Sirloin – the braised short rib with morel purée and onion jus was any meat-lover’s delight with its juiciness. This dish was partnered with Katnook’s Prodigy Shiraz 2010, which went well with my alternative dish of chicken. The kitchen was, unfortunately, way too busy to even tell me how the chicken was done. Was Chef Macartney miffed that I eschewed his Angus sirloin?

chicken-alternative to Angus sirloin

an alternative to the Char-grilled Black Angus Sirloin – chicken

The chef brought his culinary journey to an end close to 10pm with his sweet coup de grace of a quartet of desserts that would more than satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. Led by the caramelised white chocolate mousse, the foursome was completed by the chiboust, Mandarin, and chocolate sorbet. It was a merry-go-round of taste – chocolaty, fruity, and creamy – finished with any sip of wine of your picking.

quartet of dessert

the quartet of dessert

Bottoms up

Despite being unable to meet Chef Macartney, it was a flavourful, palate-tickling experience that changed my perception of wine as my last option for drinks. Katnook’s wines are now part of my to-go-to drinks alongside vodka and champagne.

MARTABAK MANIA II

The analogy is simple: cupcake is to the West as martabak is to the Indonesians. Think of a thick pancake that can be the size of a medium or large skillet that can be sweet or savory. The flavors are endless especially at Eat Happens where the combinations are mind boggling. One or two visits are not enough to savor all the martabak – sweet or otherwise. This particular visit to Eat Happens had my attention towards a “new” martabak which had an eyebrow raising name, Men in Black. Apropos name or not (from the top of my head I am thinking Oreo Overload or Oreo Treat or Oreo Kick), my curiosity was absolutely piqued. Men in Black turned out to be a good choice. The taste was an intermingling of cream cheese, crushed oreo, and condensed milk, which to my surprise, blended into a smooth-on-the-palate, harmonious tug of war between sour and sweet. A “pizza” slice and a half is more than enough to satisfy that martabak craving. A bonus: it is light on the wallet. It is only IDR90,000 (PhilP371) for a medium size Men in Black.

Men in Black martabak by Eat Happens



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.

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.