Friday, September 30, 2011

Starry-Eyed at Starbucks

When gluttony kicks in, it doesn’t matter where you are or whose birthday it is. It’s all about what we want to eat. And make it now.

Caught in Starbucks, the only natural reaction is to hoard the most breathtaking cakes. Forget the fruits or the oatmeal cookies, it’s all about creamy chocolate bliss. Unfortunately for my brother’s wallet, there were 3. What the hell, it’s our dad’s birthday!


Heaven on Earth (P130) 5 layers of chocolate, mousse and cream—made more divine by its glossy chocolate top that sheens with the floral overlay. The celestial aura makes it the perfect gift, but a bite will make you decide otherwise. The chocolate cake base is light and fluffy, which complements the overly creamy middle layers and the fudgy peak. A gift from the gods indeed!

Concorde (P120) Embodying its aviation namesake, the Concorde inspires action, marvel and French style. Each bite embraces an assortment of textures and chocolate intensity, you’ll be in awe until the very last bite. Chewy and toasty on the outside, the meringue provides the protective and addictive crust. Finding our way inside, the chocolate mousse is just as luscious and satisfying. This is one delirious flight I’d ride all over again.


Sugar-Free Trio (P160) You’ll never settle for the regular chocolate mousse again, after indulging in this sugar-free delicacy. You wouldn’t even know it was sugar-free, unless you read the label (or I blabbed about it). The cream and mousse are mildly sweet yet decadent enough to satisfy those sweet urges. The chocolate base is a remarkable surprise, as it strays from the conventionally boring cake and delves into something more sinister—a firm, semi sweet cookie crust. It’s a surprising sugar-free triple threat that I’d keep all for myself!                                                              

Best part of all, no need to travel far for this chocolate fix. Trinoma alone hosts 3 Starbucks, not to mention the Landmark branch. Plus there are a couple more spotted on the way home. Ah yes, the stars have aligned indeed. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Typhoon Tea Time

[caption id="attachment_672" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="At the background, Pedring uprooting trees, plants and playground swings"][/caption]

Typhoon Pedring has been nothing but a menace, spoiling a supposedly normal Tuesday and causing me so much trauma, no consolation was conceivable except for a trip to Chatime SM North Edsa.

Despite power outage, ubiquitous puddles and tormenting winds, I braved the storm for the Brown Rice Green Milk Tea with extra pudding (P100 total - 30% sugar and less ice). The mousse variants are eliminated, in the meantime, from my to-drink list for fear of catching a sore throat - in this weather, you know what I mean! Hence, something smooth, creamy and "roasted" seemed to do the trick.

Having promised myself to soon try the 30% sweetness, well, today seemed to be the perfect time for that. And perfect it was, since lowering the sweetness level allowed me to savor the roasted rice and green tea flavor, floating in the silky creaminess of the milk.

Who'd have thought even a drink could inspire zen on this catastrophic day of flying umbrellas and tree-splattered streets?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An expedition all the way to Makati on a Sunday morning only becomes reality with the promise of gastronomic satisfaction, zero traffic and a New York kind of weather. With the monsoon season taking an unexpected nap, we took our chances and navigated all the way to the Legaspi Sunday Market for our well planned brunch fiesta.

Some premeditated buys were scrapped off the list such as the Indian fares (didn’t look as appetizing in real life), Chap Chae (not vegetarian) and Mexican nachos (M.I.A). With gluttony leading the way, our curry-enhanced senses led us to the following catnip treats:

1.       CHK (Cantonese Home Kitchen) Dimsum – Yes, even dimsum can be MSG-free and organic. At P75 for 4 or 5 pieces, a serving of CHK Dimsum in reheatable plastic containers may seem a bit pricey. Novices will find the dumpling fares rather on the bland side, but with sauces abound, you can easily recreate the flavors of the original, chemical free. Pair them with noodles from adjacent stands and enjoy a wonderfully wanton meal, au naturel. My companions sure did.

2.       Khun Caesar's Thai Kitchen – Watching Mr. Pad Thai stir fry the noodles to perfection is such an awe-inspiring sight. With a multitude of garnishing and flavors—peanuts, tofu, fish sauce, amongst others—that surround the noodles, the finished good is even more awesome. The Shrimp Pad Thai (P195) gleams with such resplendent pride, it’d be a shame to leave even a single noodle behind. Large enough to feed 2 or even 3 individuals, fighting over the last noodle need not be an option. The giant shrimps though, well, that calls for war.

3.       Pizza di Grazzia - An oven in the middle of a parking lot may be an odd sight, as is a tray filled with samosas.However with flavors such as Quattro Formaggio  and Antonio's Special (garlic, shrimp and mushroom) and at P180 for a small pie, you’d forget your manners and gorge on these pizzas on the spot. Unlike commercial pizzas, Pizza di Grazzia makes the pleasing effort to serve substantially cheesy pizzas topped with gourmet goodness. The crust is thin and light, giving the top bill what should be the stars of the show—the cheese and other toppings. Other pizzas ought to hide in their scrimping shame, as this one’s the philanthropist in the pizza universe.

4.       Manvy Fresh Vegetable Noodles – While the mushrooming stir fried noodle stands scream triteness, there is nothing banal with Manvy’s produce.  Homemade noodles from polunchay (Chinese Spinach) fill us with organic goodness, free from the awful salt and oil that contaminate the retail noodles. The Beef Stew (P120) and Seafood (P100) toppings are carefully prepared and generously scooped on the noodles. With a smorgasbord of sauces to choose from (I counted at least 6) and a serving filled to the brim, we’re left with the same noodle satisfaction, sans the post meal I’m-about-to-have-a-heart-attack feeling.

5.       Manang’s Chicken - Caught by the Chicken BonChon phenomenon of double cooking chicken, Manang’s performs the same procedure and tops off the chicken wings with her secret sauce. Tender, zesty with the Pinoy twist, Manang’s goes for the local vibe. Not as exclusive as the other Legaspi tenants, Manang’s has other branches in the Metro, so no need to wake up early on a Sunday morning just for wings.

Thank you mijigonzales for this brilliant brunch scheme and treat! Till the next market day.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Promenade Picks: BonChon Chicken and Happy Lemon

After years of non-existence in my mental malling destination, Greenhills Promenade finally makes a grand entrance with the opening BonChon Chicken at its ground floor foodcourt-ish section. Alongside Singaporean and noodle stores and with Happy Lemon manning the revolving doors, it’s Asian food bliss.

Despite the lengthy queue and the spiteful stares of the standing crowd—hoping to grab a table in the foodcourt’s limited seating capacity—BonChon Chicken’s debut finally draws in people by the hordes. For once, we don’t have to force ourselves on Mexicali, Pepper Steak or Hizon’s. Hurrah for the chicken homecoming!

BonChon Chicken, with its twice fried chicken and special sauce, has been hailed the Best Chicken in America. The Chicken Chops are tender, sweet and mildly crisp. The batter is chewy and compact, making the 4-chop serving very filling. Pair it with fries for a zesty sidekick. With the fares a bit (okay, greatly) on the oily side, there’s a reason why Happy Lemon is just around the corner.

As expected, only Happy Lemon can match the queuing length and time at BonChon Chicken. With the in-line May-I-Get-Your-Order personnel and the vibrating flying saucers, you might think that efficiency is finally brewing at Happy Lemon, but not really. Compared to our previous visits, the Green Tea with Rock Salt and Cheese has dwindled in taste (the tea concentration, more specifically) and the Crispy Cocoa Matcha with Brown Jelly  and additional Aloe had too much ice and NO cocoa and aloe. Checking the receipt—Hey, I paid P10 for thatI want my aloe!

Hopefully, this lackluster experience will not be the service norm. Coming up with nicknames is my specialty and I’ve already brainstormed the following: Zero Intensi-TEA, Where art thou, my Aloe?, Matcha Misery, and of course, the apt no-brainer: Unhappy Lemon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Revel Yell (Revel Bars at Parvati)

Entirely an accidental aftermath of eating a gigantic cheese omelet for lunch, I considered it imperative to pay another trip to Parvati at Trinoma to look for something randomly sweet.

Cheesecake was the first that came to mind but strangely enough, the ones I pointed to were all out of stock. Those available were puny and blueberry - not quite a match for my post work leviathan appetite.

Hence, I reverted to my original favorite: revel bars. Parvati's selection, baked by Sweet Beginnings Patisserie, made it impossible to ignore. Temptingly named Dark Chocolate Walnut Revel Bars (P90 for 4 bars), no further introductions are necessary to identify what these glistening bars are made of. Immediately captivated by the flowing silky carpet of brown, the revel bar is mostly dark chocolate - a welcoming improvement to other local competitors. Each bite is interspersed with chewy oats and walnuts, so despite its miniature size, it takes a while to finish the entire box. Chewy, semi sweet and erratically crunchy - there is no overwhelming sweetness or nuttiness that seeks to dominate the overall flavor. 

Small but sinfully blissful. This one's definitely worth a revel yell: More, please!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just last year, people barely cared about tea, considered it a post meal obligation and called it a Chinese influence - which was weird because I was actually drinking Japanese matcha.

After being snubbed for centuries, fast forward to the present: Filipinos welcoming and bombarding the milk tea joints with the same Pacquiao intensity. Strange what these Asian popstars can do to our dietary preferences. From frozen yogurt and gelato to chai latte with pudding—much better though, wouldn’t you say?

Scouring through the Metro you will spot them everywhere, with names that have nothing to do with tea to a myriad of adjectives that could possibly describe drinks. Let's not be fooled by flashy names and pink colored teas though; TASTE still matters. Oh, and location as well.  

Here are my Top 5:

1.       Chatime – Found in some SM Malls, Chatime provides fast, cheap and cha-rming (“tea”) drinks with customizable ice and sugar settings, not to mention the plethora of toppings that includes rainbow jelly, coconut jelly and aloe vera. With huge servings and a vast menu selection, you’ll never get tired of this place and neither will your wallet. With oolong tea, chrysanthemum tea and a host of Oriental pop teas included in the selection, and the mousse variants that will take straight to froth heaven, you’ll find yourself asking: So, when’s our next Cha Time?

 2.       Happy Lemon – Insanely popularized by Chris Tiu, females first flocked to Happy Lemon for the purpose of a celeb sighting. However, with its casual ambience and trendy, enticing and fancy offerings, everyone has been raving about Happy Lemon, the place and the owner—an added bonus. With innovative drinks including malt, yakult, yogurt, blueberries, coffee, and an assortment of teas, one trip is never enough. First timers encouraged to order the bestseller Green Tea with Rock Salt and Cheese can only say, amidst frothy smiles, “This rocks!”

3.       Serenitea – One of the pioneers in the local milk tea scene, Serenitea fuses organic and fun tea drinking in its giant swirly cup. There’s something very zen about the sight of real tea leaves (genmaicha, oolong, assam, black, green, jasmine—you name it) being scooped from their tranquil homes and brewed to our desired tea concoction. Savor the aroma that’s enough to summon Buddha for a sip of Grass Milk Tea or Passionfruit Fruitea. Straightforward and simple, de-stress at Serenitea with its peaceful atmosphere, yummy tea drinks and delightful menu fare. Yes, they serve delish snacks as well.

4.       Tea.ology – Unfazed by the stocking dilemma at Mercato Centrale, I fled to Tea.ology’s Il Terrazzo branch for a queue-free experience. Undulating patience required, drinks are concocted to match each buyer’s tea and sweetness preference. With an atmosphere that mimics local cafes—complete with magazine racks, tempting product visuals and ornate sounding drink names—Tea.ology provides the less sinful alternative to the local calorific hangouts. Who can resist Roasted Barley Milk Tea, Dark Chocolate Milk Tea or Kyoto Matcha Milk Tea? This place is something even tea novices would pay their respect to. Amen to that.       Kozui Green Tea Café - Winner of the "Going Green" campaign is awarded to Kozui’s teas which are mainly—what else would you expectmatcha/green tea.  Not to be outdone by the more prominent milk tea joints, Kozui  (Tomas Morato) offers its green tea blend in various concoctions and fruity flavors. Not to be missed, the ice blended Korichio ventures to the “frappy” drink but with fruity fusions and of course, whipped cream! While Kozui’s food selections may be short on the so-awesome-I’ll be-back department, its tea drinks can certainly boast of the delicious tea twist. Green, but certainly not mean.

Will the Philippines be in the running as the next Tea Capital, perhaps in Southeast Asia? At this rate, I should hope so. Forget the frozen yogurt shops and coffee joints that are making us fat, pudgy and too chatty for our mates.

This time, let's make time for tea!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Finding decent and delectable vegan fares in Manila can be quite the challenge. Ask about the meat content of a particular dish and watch the waiter's brows go up the high heavens. Continue to probe on the matter and be the talk of the entire kitchen, amidst steaming noodles and filleting knives.

Is that the one?

Oh yes, I am that weird, annoying girl who can't shut up about meat.

Indeed, I live to pester the lives of Manila's predominantly carnivorous food industry. After all, you do the same to me.

Manila's meat-eating hoity toity is one tough force to crack, so rather than rally against your beefy staunchness, I've decided to revel in the miniscule meals I find greatly edible. Case in point: AMICI.

Amici's vastly diverse menu can serve and feed every type of personality in Manila. I've found extreme enjoyment in discovering pizza and pasta that are edible, tasty and rather affordable. Not to oily or doughy and devoid of any form of animal, La Vegetariana (3-cheese and roasted veggies) is the ultimate treat for any vegan gourmand. It boasts not of meaty goodness but rather a light, crisp and roasted gastronomic satisfaction that can certainly get a nod from any veggie lover.

[caption id="attachment_598" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="La Vegetariana with Parmesan and Chili"][/caption]

Sharing the spotlight on this vegan fare is the Fettucine al Tartufo Classico (Truffle Oil, Button and Shiitake Mushrooms). Bask on the simple flavor of this dish, and let the truffle oil lends its "oomph" factor to this new favorite. Since truffle oil has been winding its way to fries and pizzas, topping it on a classic Fettucine can never go wrong.

[caption id="attachment_596" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="Fettucine al Tartufo Classico"][/caption]

Dessert is a luxury that one can afford, and Amici's rows of colorful gelato flavors are too troublesome to ignore. Hazelnut and Oreo are flavors we might as well do without. Seen everywhere, from grocery snack packs to shakes and cafes, we're better off with something fruity, light and promising: Mango Jubilee. Sweet, creamy and packed with mucho mango, no wonder it's named as such. 

[caption id="attachment_591" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="Mango Jubilee"][/caption]

Craving for something with a flurry of flavors? The gelato cake can certainly fill that urge. Banana Blast (P110/slice) combines chocolate and strawberry gelato with a banana base and chocolate crust. Each bites is a medley of flavors and textures, and by the time you finish the slice, you'd have banished a month-long craving for dessert.

[caption id="attachment_583" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="Banana Blast"][/caption]

It is certainly gratifying to find local spots that offer vegetarian-friendly fares and don't shun us with an all-meat menu fiasco. Of course for the meat lovers, Amici is just as, if not more so, appealing with its wide range of meaty (read: Prosciutto) pastas and savory pizzas.

Feast away!

[caption id="attachment_593" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Prosciutto e Funghi Pizza"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_601" align="aligncenter" width="645" caption="Lasagna"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_595" align="aligncenter" width="645" caption="Tutta Carne Pizza"][/caption]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Who's Afraid of the Big Bread Monster?

Not me. I’m actually rather fond of it, and I bet you would too, if you give it a pet, errr… taste.

First spotted in the Ateneo de Manila University cafeteria, Bread Monster roared into existence as a school-based kiosk that specializes in cookies, cupcakes and pastries. Famous for its Blue Eagle Brownies and other thematic goodies, Bread Monster has clawed its way to the mainstream trade, finally showering its treats outside the Eagles’ lair.

A mainstay stall at the TriNoma Ground Floor (near Mercury Drugstore), Bread Monster offers the same set of sweet treats, sans the penchant for blue. Bestseller S’mores Cookies (P130 per pack) dishes out everyone’s favorite in a chewy cookie form, made more gooey with its marshmallow infused batter. Other cookies in the fare are just as luscious and chewy—from chocolate chip cookies to the traditional oatmeal cookies.

Not to be outdone, the Chocolate Cupcake is just as divine—not the best way to describe a monster but taste it and lash out words such as heavenly, blissful and indulgent. The chocolate cupcakes are moist and rich but without the excessive sweetness that would make you reach out for your toothbrush. It may not be leviathan in size, but it’s monstrously packed with chocolate goodness; even just one can take you straight to Cloud Nine.

Last but not the least are the best tasting bars the Bread Monster has hatched for our snacking revelry. Seek no more, Bread Monster’s Revel Bars (P160 for 8 pieces) are guaranteed to unleash our predatory instincts, no matter how hidden they stay, no matter what diet you think you’ve pledged yourself to. Rich in chocolate and oats with its delicate sweet base, each bite is sure to bring you to a delectable high. Watch one box sink into a mouthful abyss. Heat it up and pair with ice cream and get that dessert kick. Unlike other commercial revel bars that crumble even before they’re halfway near your mouth, this is one monster you’d want into keep in your pantry, fridge and bedside.

Don’t be afraid of the Bread Monster. It’s cheap, conveniently located and bellowing with baked goodness.

And best of all, it’s wicked!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Don’t Chicken out on Peri-Peri (Peri-Peri Charcoal Chicken)

It’s charcoal-grilled, purportedly trimmed of fat and bursting with Portuguese spicy love—that’s Peri-peri Charcoal Chicken in a nutshell, so to speak.

Lured to this place out of pure hunger, the SM Annex branch was conveniently situated, when my languor finally gave in and proposed a healthier alternative to adjacent Wendy’s. Chicken lovers can rejoice with the menu filled with chicken dishes from salads, entrees, wraps, sandwiches, pasta and of course, the Filipino staple, platters and combo meals.

 The Platters (A, B, C) seem to be making it big, eliminating the need to decide on a 3-course meal, being budget friendly and as a bonus, offering the P49 beverage and soup-all-you-want. With tables basically littered with messy soup bowls, espresso and tea cups, the Platter + P49 Beverage-Soup-Special seems to be the popular family choice. Despite the average soup concoction and less-than-sweet juice, it's still quite the deal, as testified by the filled up tables and endlessly clanking soup bowls.


Platter C (P175) includes chicken, Caesar salad and Bolognese spaghetti. The Chicken is of course, seamlessly grilled, being the main core offering and pride of the place. Mildly yet still entertainingly spicy, the chicken is tender and soft and goes well as an entrée, sandwich center or topping. The Bolognese, on the other hand, appeared rather anemic and seemed to spoil the chicken’s dashing entrance. Good thing the salad made up for this climactic arrival.

The Chicken Salad (P265 to share) came in a large platter with 2 side dressings: ranch and barbecue sauce. The menu description boasts of a salad with a Mexican twist, complete with tortilla chips, jicama, tomatoes and that zesty zing. The serving is good enough for two, but don’t plan on making it your only meal. The tortilla chips were near absent and the ranch dressing resembled more of a mayo magic condiment rather than the creamy sour cream that would go well with barbecue sauce. Going solo with the barbecue sauce though, the salad becomes a sweet and spicy affair topped with enough grilled chicken to fill that meat craving.


The Chicken Rappa (P145) is an excellent choice for those who prefer a lighter meal. Pita wrappers are usually a central complaint because of their poor quality/heating, but Peri-Peri’s whole wheat pita is properly cooked yet still soft and chewy. The wrap is packed with thinly sliced lettuce and chicken and slathered with ranch—a little on the bland side. Served on the side are French Fries so thick and spiced up, the name Peri-Peri would never go to shame in terms of fill and spiciness level.

Peri-peri Charcoal Chicken manages to grill its poultry to its spicy perfection, while managing to court the wallets of its thrifty patrons. While some portions could appear so-so to the hungry and gourmet seekers, it’s fast, festive and well, frugally appealing.

If you come across this place, don’t chicken out! After all, it’s just Peri-peri chicken!