Posts Tagged ‘tomas morato’


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.



It's the season to celebrate at  Robinson's Magnolia.

It’s the season to celebrate at Robinson’s Magnolia.

Food tripping is a big part of my itinerary when am on holiday in Manila, giving me a chance to try new places I’ve never been to. The month of December, although it is the season to stuff one’s face silly, is a difficult time to go around town because of the massive traffic snarls and the possibility of meeting with holiday crashers (read: pickpockets). There’s also the nightmarish end to a great jaunt because of the lack of cabs and where you can, literally, spend more than an hour at a taxi queue. But with a little planning, i.e. calling for a cab in advance, leaving for home before the rush hour, I was able to conduct a short survey of the culinary landscape in and out of Quezon City.

As a creature of habit, Starbucks or The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf are the usual places I head to for a cappuccino or a white chocolate mocha (the nearest approximation of the seasonal offer Asian Dolce Latte, I was informed)  yet one hot afternoon my father and I made our way to Seattle’s Best Coffee on Tomas Morato. I first tried this coffee place in Singapore ages ago but it had folded up. Now, to my surprise, there are, according to the cashier, 18 outlets in Manila. The tuna salad was to my father’s liking while my herb omelette with French toast was middling although the white chocolate mocha coffee I ordered was a revelation. In fact, it had more culinary flair to the one from Starbucks. A cousin, upon seeing my homage in Instagram, opined that Seattle’s holiday hazelnut drink was not bad either.

White chocolate mocha adds the sparkle to a ho-hum day.

White chocolate mocha adds the sparkle to a ho-hum day.

Simple but flavourful - chicken ala pobre by Cravings.

Simple but flavourful – chicken ala pobre by Cravings.

For Filipino cuisine, I stumbled upon a dish that proved a good lunch choice at Cravings at II Terrazzo on Tomas Morato. Named Chicken ala Pobre, it is a sizzling plate three pieces of chicken wrapped in gravy and toasted garlic that sits well on the palate for its simplicity. It was a filling lunch that still left one with enough room for dessert.

Italian cuisine is part of the culinary mainstays in the Philippines except that one is hard-pressed to find an Italian restaurant that truly makes scrumptious pasta (read: not commercial in taste). Lombardi’s at the second level of Robinson’s Magnolia didn’t disappoint. Looking spiffy in all-black attire when we had lunch this New Year’s Eve, Chef David Lombardi made good on its promise of giving Italian goodness. Topping my list of must-try dishes are the parmigiana di melanzane (roasted eggplant with stewed tomato and mozzarella), spaghetti ai frutti di mare (spaghetti with seafood) and the linguine tartufatti with its lip-smacking truffle.

The clean look of Lombardi's belies a lip-smacking cuisine.

The clean look of Lombardi’s belies a lip-smacking cuisine.

The parmigiana was smooth, melting in the mouth, while the two pasta dishes effused with zest – the fresh mussels, shrimps and clams melded well with the fresh tomato sauce and al dente noodles while the truffles tickled the palate to no end. The calamari fritti with aioli sauce has potential; I need to wean myself from the thicker calamari I’m used to having at Marché in Plaza Senayan, Indonesia.

(top to bottom) tartufatti, parmigiana and  spaghetti ai frutti di mare

(top to bottom) tartufatti, parmigiana and spaghetti ai frutti di mare

Indulge in a bit of nostalgia and ice cream.

Indulge in a bit of nostalgia and ice cream.

No one can resist the call of Magnolia.

No one can resist the call of Magnolia.

Rounding up the short culinary survey was a journey down memory lane. Dessert was at Magnolia Flavour House. Robinson’s Magnolia wasn’t what it was before when I was a child. It wasn’t a sprawling mall ringed by hi-rise condominiums, but a Magnolia ice cream plant that also housed the iconic ice cream parlour, Magnolia House. Thankfully, it wasn’t demolished but dressed up, sitting majestically on the first floor with a mini train ferrying young and old passengers meandering within the grounds. Look down from the al fresco section of the second floor and see how the sign seems to motion you to drop by for a sundae. Inside is a small waiting area for ice cream lovers but the wait isn’t that long. It looked cramped although it might be a matter of perspective because the place was packed to the rafters, which can also account for its warm feel. These little things fade the moment the ice cream creations are served.

Banana split - all-time favourite ice cream creation at the  new Magnolia Flavour House.

Banana split – all-time favourite ice cream creation at the new Magnolia Flavour House.

The pickings are not abundant but they were sure packed with flavour. I muse at what the culinary landscape will be like on my next vacation.

For the chocolate lover - Black and White.

For the chocolate lover – Black and White.


Ensaymada with a twist

Ensaymada with a twist

My first choice was Red Velvet – it was simply calling out my name – but I wasn’t going to get a slice because it wasn’t part of the day’s available slices. This is where my grouse with Icings starts. That thought of a customer making do with the slices available to satisfy the sweet craving is terrible. Actually, it’s not just Icings that has made a practice of not cutting up their whole cakes. Red Ribbon, another local cake-pastry place, has made a practice of it, which is so annoying and frustrating.

That my penchant for cakes and pastries is strong is so obvious. They figure so much in my childhood that when I stumble upon a favourite after years of absence on the dining table, it’s such a joyful ride on memory lane. I met an old childhood delight one afternoon day out after Christmas with my parents. From North Park, a noodle place on Tomas Morato, we walked to the back of it to Icings Cakes, Bread & Café. More than a decade ago, Icings was prominently located along Tomas Morato, but it moved elsewhere until my family discovered it returned to Tomas Morato except now it’s on a road perpendicular to it. The old Icings I remember had a dim interior, a glowing cake display and teeming with holiday goodies. The “new” Icings is brighter because of its floor-to-ceiling windows and exuded a more café ambience, meaning it’s a place to chillax or catch up with an old friend over coffee and cake.

Take your pick of Icings whole cakes - regular and seasonal

Take your pick of Icings whole cakes – regular and seasonal

But I resolved to be a little more understanding and tolerant of an odd cake policy. Good vibes in place, Faye, cashier-server, good-naturedly offered alternatives to the unavailable Red Velvet. They included Guiltless Strawberry, Healthy Carrot Cake, Tiramisu, and Pistachio Paradise; the first three slices were our choices paired with hot Spanish Chocolate, Premium House Blend and Café Mocha.

My slice of Guiltless Strawberry, which is perfect with the strong and flavourful Café Mocha, was a pleasant revelation that made me forget about Red Velvet. The strawberry cream icing glided smoothly on my palate – it wasn’t cloying or heavy – and exploded in a nice fruity taste courtesy of the thin ribbons of strawberry icing. Adding to the flavourful rumble on the tongue were the ube bits (a.k.a. purple yam) interspersed into the rows of icing in the middle of the cake. As I took bite after bite of my Guiltless Strawberry and my mum and dad tucked into their Tiramisu and Healthy Carrot Cake slices respectively, I looked around to see the other goodies in the café. My gaze landed on an old childhood delight – Ube Ensaymada.

Guiltless Strawberry is a nice coup de grace to lunch

Guiltless Strawberry is a nice coup de grace to lunch

Strong and flavourful Cafe Mocha goes well with Guiltless Strawberry

Strong and flavourful Cafe Mocha goes well with Guiltless Strawberry

Ensaymada is a throwback to the time the Philippines was a territory of the then super-power, Spain, for more than 300 years. In the Philippines, the Spanish ensaimada evolved into bread looking like the French brioche. Made from flour, eggs and butter, the finished product is sprinkled generously with sugar and cheese. Icings version is pure delight; in place of grated cheese are swirls of ube giving it that distinct Icings look and taste. Every Christmas, we’d have ube ensaymada and gifted a dear aunt of ours with a box. We simply had to share the goodness of ube ensaymada during the festive season! For me, it was truly Christmas even before December 25 arrived. But then Icings moved shop and it was goodbye ube ensaymada until that afternoon.

Without hesitation I had several pieces packed to go and raring to go back for more.



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