Archive for the ‘Food Adventure’ Category

BANANA BLAST 

That the Philippines is replete with cakes, pastries, and gelato cakes is an understatement. Every nook and cranny of a city is teeming with such sweet stuff imaginable that anyone with a sweet tooth would simply burst with excitement. Amici is one of the most popular places to satisfy one’s cravings for something sweet with their line of Caramia cakes and gelato cakes. A favorite among its loyal clientele, I learnt, is their “cute version of the banana split” called Banana Blast. It is a colorful vista of scoops of banana, strawberry, and chocolate gelato neatly arranged on top of a chocolate-flavored crust and topped with slices of strawberries. The final touch: chocolate syrup drizzled all over the gelato cake. 

Banana Blast was the unanimous choice for the Christmas Eve dessert following the suggestion of Cathy, manager at the Tomas Morato outlet. It is no wonder it is a perennial favorite among Amici’s regular patrons. The sweetness of the chocolate crust and the scoops of gelato is balanced by the slices of strawberries, creating a delicate fruity-chocolatey sensation on the palate and a light feeling in the tummy. Gone also is the guilt of indulgence in such a decadent dessert during the festive season. A slice goes for PhilP140 and a whole cake is priced at PhilP935.

Banana Blast by Amici

MANGO TANGO 

Christmas is my raison d’etre for indulging in sweets which I had dutifully avoided almost the entire year owing to my personal trainer’s dictum. Thus one simply has to have crepe when at Cafe Breton whether savory or sweet. My game plan was ordering a savory crepe for lunch: Galette Bretonne, a crepe filled with spinach, shrimps sautéed with crab meat and onions, fresh cream, and gruyere cheese. Then for dessert, I skipped the chocolate-filled crepe and gunned for something fruity. It is healthier, I convinced myself. The one highly recommended by the service crew at Greenbelt was Deja Vu, which apparently was a popular choice among its customers. I now knew why. The dessert crepe Deja Vu is a plate of sweet, luscious mangoes swathed in special cream sauce and drizzled with caramel syrup. It is paired with vanilla ice cream that is squirt with whipped cream and finished with caramel syrup. Enjoy the delicious sweet fruity tango on your palate.

THE MAGIC OF MARY GRACE

Goldilocks had reigned supreme for as long as I could remember. It was the undisputed leader in the ensaymada market being the go-to place for the Filipinos’ favorite snack. My childhood is filled with memories of ensaymada gracing feast tables or my lunch box. This was until Mary Grace. Alongside her signature cheese rolls that captured the palates of pastry lovers, Mary Grace inched her way into the segment becoming a formidable pastry opponent to be reckoned with. 

That Mary Grace is not a fictional character was the answer of one of the service crew of Mary Grace when I cheekily asked if she was fictional. Her short bio – written within the thick menu – outlined her rise from her stints in Christmas bazaars to setting up her own shop which eventually burgeoned into the ubiquitous cafés quaintly called Mary Grace dotting the city. The pastry shop-restaurant has reworked the traditional ensaymada: sweet bread that is roughly the size of a saucer sprinkled with granulated sugar and topped with grated cheese. But Mary Grace upped the ante by jazzing up the ensaymada and pairing it with her signature hot chocolate drink. 

Perusing the menu, it was a toss up between the banana ensaymada and cinnamon-apple ensaymada when I met up with a friend at their Greenbelt outlet. It was my first time to set foot in a Mary Grace restaurant and was piqued to try the much vaunted ensaymada. I settled for the cinnamon-apple paired with the the signature Mary Grace hot chocolate.


The magic of Mary Grace – her culinary skills honed in a baking course in the US said her short bio – had added panache to the humdrum traditional ensaymada, electrifying the palate with never-dreamed of flavors before. Washed down with Belgian hot chocolate with the right thickness and sweetness, merienda (roughly translated as afternoon snack) with a friend transformed into one magical meet up amidst a hot, crowded Christmas afternoon.

PUDDING, ANYONE?

“Good choice!” said waiter number one after I had made my choice for dessert and went to get my order done. It arrived within several minutes.

“Here you go,” said the waiter number two cheerily, gently putting the plate in front of me.

“Whoa! That’s a huge serving of bread and butter pudding,” I exclaimed.

“Actually, I find the serving portion a little small. I can’t get enough of it. Enjoy!” he retorted.

I have always been partial to bread and butter pudding as dessert ever since I served myself a bowl of it from the buffet restaurant of Royal Plaza on Scotts. From then on, nothing could compare to bread and butter pudding of Carousel until Taste, Hotel Ibis Singapore on Bencoolen’s restaurant. I decided to be more adventurous – stop being a creature of habit when it comes to food – and try other versions of bread and butter pudding. That moment came when I hankered for dessert after my now-favourite bento box of chicken teriyaki from Taste.  And it was a truly serendipitous culinary find!

The “bread” was not your regular day-old white bread. Taste’s version was a croissant – or it could have been brioche – dusted with powdered sugar that topped the heavenly custard, and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It was a perfectly put-together pudding: the croissant or brioche was melded well with the non-gelatinous soft custard which paired brilliantly with every spoonful of vanilla ice cream. However, unlike waiter number two who yearned for a bigger portion, I could only finish half of the bowl, and it wasn’t because it became cloying at the end. I was simply satiated with the chicken teriyaki. I think my game plan next time is to simply have the bread and butter pudding on its own for lunch or at high tea. At S$9, it was and is one delicious steal.

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It’s a good choice for dessert – the bread and butter pudding of Taste restaurant.

LUNCH WITH KITTY 


Curiosity egged me on to journey to the other side of Singapore – from Bugis Junction to the airport – for a late lunch. I was once an avid collector of its merchandise in my younger days, so upon learning that Hello Kitty had morphed into a bistro-cafe naturally piqued my interest. It was something I had to see for myself. A Hello Kitty- themed birthday party seemed more possible than a full-pledged dining place. I was mistaken.

Named Hello Kitty Orchid Garden, it is located at Level 1, Terminal 3 of Changi Airport and festooned with colorful orchids high above the ceiling and its white metal grates carved with the tell-tale silhouettes of Hello Kitty. The backrest of the chairs are shaped into Hello Kitty’s iconic bow while the marble top tables are stamped with her face. At the entrance is a display counter of Hello Kitty pastries and to the right is a Hello Kitty wall of merchandise. The place wasn’t that full or empty at 230pm, its tables filled with either solo diners or those with children in tow. Its menu is a Hello Kitty picture book of dishes – pasta and rice, chicken, fish, sandwiches and wraps, pastries, sundaes, and many more. 


The feeling was surreal; I was half expecting Hello Kitty’s friends, Kiki and Lala (popularly known as Little Twin Stars), and My Melody, to come out of the kitchen bearing my order. But that was my mind on hyper imagination mode. The service crew who took and brought my order out were definitely regular humans decked in jeans and red/black checkered long-sleeved polo shirts. 

Closing the picture book-menu, I settled on Enchanted Forest (S$17. 90) for my main course and Hello Kitty goes Banana Split for the sweet coup de grace to my dining experience. Admittedly, I was intrigued by the name, Enchanted Forest, and persuaded by the pink bow attached to the name – it is one of Hello Kitty’s specialities. How would a magical woodland translate to a culinary affair? For this immortal cat, it is a wooden platter of quesadillas, or four pieces of tortilla shells filled with prawns, slices of avocado, caramelized onions, melted cheese, and their special blend of wasabi sesame mayonnaise. For someone who isn’t fond of wasabi mayonnaise, it was a treat biting into the quesadilla as the flavor slowly built up into a soft, gentle explosion in the mouth. There was no need to keep drinking water to quell the fire in the mouth. It was a smooth transition from one quesadilla to the last one. 

The waiter highly recommended the Hello Kitty goes Banana Split (S$18.50) when I asked for suggestions for dessert. His first suggestion was a panna cotta, but the banana split won me over. Hello Kitty’s version tweaked the classic banana split. The usual three scoops of ice cream has been replaced with gelato – wild strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate – while the plain slices of banana has been reduced to one but topped with caramelized sugar. To complete the banana split, pieces of macarons and berries are added, and finally drizzled with marshmallow sauce and raspberry coulis. One would think that the whole concoction would be overly saccharine, but it wasn’t, as there is a perfect balance between the gelato scoops, macaron, and berries with every bite.


From merchandise to a full-blown bistro-cafe, Hello Kitty has come a long way and her orchid garden-themed place has not disappointed. Hello Kitty fan or not, there is something to highlight one’s dining experience. I was fortunate on two counts: I got to enjoy a trip down memory lane and savor delectable spins on classic dishes.

ICE CREAM MONSTER

To call ice cream monster is a matter of perspective. It is absolutely monstrous if you – being a pessimist – think of how it piles on the pounds. Now, if you’re the look-at-the-positive-side kind of person, you’ll focus on the good things of the ice cream such as its creaminess, its awesome flavor, and its overall appeal. Let us not forget the packaging and the meaning of monster is completely overhauled.

Sweet Monster opens its counter at 1030am.


Sweet Monster at Bugis Junction – right at the Malabar Street entrance – gives the hard message of monstrosity a deliciously soft spin to it. The Korean franchise translated it into soft serve ice cream creations with an oxymoronic twist. It begins with its cartoony monster mascots in Sesame Street texture and color that do catch your attention. A picture of a monster digging into a cup of ice cream takes grimness out of its character. Next are the monster selections of ice cream melded with popcorn: caramel, tangerine, strawberry, and many more that I can recall because the menu already had me at caramel. I am a purist; popcorn is eaten on its own at the movies or when you’re watching a movie at your home. Then I stumbled upon Sweet Monster on the night I met up with a dear friend in Singapore, who was game for ice cream, and I was an instant convert.

Presenting the Caramel Monster *applause*



The verdict: the Caramel Monster was not saccharine to the palate. The delicate balance of sweetness and milkiness was captured well that you are guiltlessly pushed to hit the bottom of the cup. However, if you are really conscious of calories or know your limits, sharing a regular cup with a gal-pal is perfect. If you’re feeling monster-mean about sharing, there is always the junior cup to go for. 

DESSERT HAVEN

Despite its penchant for cozying up to your hips for a long time, anyone with a sweet tooth will sooner cave in to the sweet cravings than resist. Resistance is absolutely futile. But futility aside, there is the cardinal rule of the sweet tooth association that does hold fast: it is sacrilegious to skip dessert. And so, taking comfort that my next workout session is the following day, thus easing the guilt of indulging in desserts, I entered dessert haven without trepidation.
First stop was Bottega Ristorante at Jl Prof. Dr. Satrio when Anto, and Theresia, and I decided to chill on a Friday night after a pick-and -shovel first week of school. Dessert was a unanimous choice, as it came highly recommended by Anto who had visited the place earlier on. The Nutella banana bread with marshmallow topping was a sweet, light-on-the-tummy end to our filling main courses. Cut into squares, each pastry puff was a heavenly blend of banana, chocolate spread that wasn’t cloying, and buttery-flaky pastry puff. *burp*

Nutella banana bread with marshmallow by Bottega Ristorante


Second stop was Kitchenette at Senayan City during a catch up session with two of my former students who were about to embark on a new chapter in their lives – university life. It was my first time at the bistro-ish, which exuded a grandmother’s-kitchen vibe with its wooden-silver interior and furnishings, and a stunning dessert display counter filled with delectable sweet stuff. Typical of women, we three decided to share the calories by ordering three desserts: tiramisu, banana crepe, and Ferrero Rocher pie. The tiramisu, my choice, was a balance meld of cream, cocoa, mascarpone, and caramel and chocolate sauces. On the other hand, the banana crepe – Indira’s choice – added a fruity taste to the caramel undertone while the Ferrero Rocher pie – Nadia’s choice – was the perfect reworking of Ferrero Rocher. Imagine – the elegant chocolate ball was turned into a divine slice of pie that was, surprisingly, a fitting end to the dessert binge. *food coma*

Clockwise: tiramisu, banana crepe, Ferrero Rocher pie


Finally, the last dessert stop was at Arts Cafe by Raffles. Adjacent to Lotte Shopping Mall on Kasablanka, it is a buffet place specializing in local and international cuisine done up against the eye-catching artworks of Hendra Gunawan. After a satisfying buffet meal – the dishes can be delivered to your table if you wish – it was certainly illogical not to head to the dessert station teeming with exquisitely created desserts. I missed the chocolate fondue fountain due being absolutely taken by the cake station. The choices were overwhelming, but after having circled the station twice, I made my choice: black forest, petite choux, and tiramisu. It was festival on the palate of cream and chocolate that tangoed in perfect harmony. *yum*

Clockwise: black forest, petite choux, tiramisu by Arts Cafe by Raffles


It was obvious that I had to make a few more trips to these dessert havens again to savor the rest of the menu. For instance, I still had to douse fruits and marshmallows with the gooey chocolate sauce from the chocolate fountain at Arts Cafe. Then there’s still the, to name a few, carrot cake with salted caramel sauce and the Nutella mousse cake at Kitchenette. Lastly, another round of the Nutella banana bread with marshmallow is never a bad thing.