Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chocolate Encounters: Parvati and Med Chef

Down with the sugar-free diet this December! With all those red and gold boxes filled with chewy and chocolate surprises, it would be sad not to partake in the holiday binge. Horrible even, letting glorious food in the fridge and the cookie jars go to waste.

And so, even before the month begins, I’ve started my stash. Let the season begin!

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (by Vine’s Bakeshop, bought at Parvati Trinoma at P165 for 1 dozen).

The cookies are topped with a gigantic chocolate cube that nearly covers the entire diameter. The cookie itself is mildly sweetened, giving the chocolate the center stage for sweetness. Mindlessly, I could probably finish half a box in one sitting. Good with tea, better when heated. I tried eating one straight from the fridge and the chocolate put up a fight with my incisor. Okay, in the oven you go, you stubborn little cookie.

[caption id="attachment_1020" align="aligncenter" width="819" caption="Clockwise from back left: Cream Cheese Brownie, Almond Brownie, Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, Crinkles"][/caption]

Chocolate Crinkles (by Joanne’s Kitchen, bought at Parvati Trinoma at P65 for 4 cookies)

Crinkles are barely baked wrong, unless they’re burnt crisp and turn into biscuits, so these crinkles make the cut for being fresh and moist. At roughly P16 per crinkle, there’s a reason why there are only 4 in a box: each crinkle is filling enough, one is all you need for that chocolate high.

Med Chef Brownies and Revel Bars (bought at Mercato Centrale, P3 for 100)

That gigantic tub holds an assortment of flavors, even my photographic memory could not keep up with the chatty vendor—brownies, that thing with almonds on top, peanuts on top, cream cheese brownies, revel bars, etc. Truthfully, I stopped at revel bars because that’s all I wanted, but the vendor just went on until the very last row, and by that time, we all needed a drink. However to reward her memory skills, I bought a revel bar, cream cheese brownie and that light brown pastry topped with almonds (Was it caramel? Food for the gods? I’ll never know.)

The cream cheese brownie and the almond brownie (Okay, I’ll just call it that.) were on the crumbly side. I tasted them during a football match, and no matter how carefully my fingers picked at them, they broke easily and left crumbs all over my seat. The revel bar was terrific and oat-filled but yielded sticky chocolate residue and so, lesson learned: Be civilized. Do not eat with your fingers!

The recourse for the crumbly brownies was to bring them home, leave them in the fridge and eat them 1) really cold, or 2) after being reheated in the oven. The revel bar never made it home, but they must taste great after reheating as well.

Ah yes, I seem to be wholly dependent on the oven toaster for improving the taste and texture of most to-go items, as it does a wonderful job of bringing back that “freshly baked” goodness.

For those who haven’t decided on what to give me for Christmas, forget the food and the sweets, I think I’d very much like a new oven toaster. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brunch at Mercato Centrale

Last time we visited Mercato Centrale at Bonifacio Global City, it was Aubergine or nothing. The aubergine-tomato dip spiced with turmeric was simply amazing and even for a minute, I considered making eggplant my new favorite vegetable. Cheesy potatoes and Hungarian sausages filled up the meat eaters and the sugar-free Carrot Cake was a no-brainer for dessert - that was one Mercato feast that made it in my mental gastronomic moments.

The recurrence of the Mercato craving got us to brave Saturday EDSA traffic (on a November) in pursuit of our other favorites: ravioli, truffle fries, fish and chips and of course, the aubergine-tomato dip. Unfortunately all seemed to be in hibernation on that scorching day.

We ended up with lesser delights: Spinach and mushroom lasagna (P115)Beef tacos and tuna on malunggay taco shells (P100 per tray), Schueblig/Hungarian sausages (p150 for 2), and Med chef desserts (3 for P100).

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

"Vegetarian lasagna!" was what the vendor screamed when I inquired about meat content of the Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna. True to her words of foodie wisdom, the dish contained no meat but was filled with loads of cream. No one wanted to taste my lasagna and I was left to finish all the mushy portions on my plate, which left me "creamed" right after.

Buy 1 Take 1 Sausages

 The sausages were nothing extraordinary, but are a steal for buy-on-take-one at P150. Available in 4 variants, including cheese, sausage-lovers would find this deal quite enticing. Now if only there were nachos around.

Tuna on Malunggay Taco Shells

The malunggay tacos were wasabi green and had an odd mayo sauce that would've tasted better without it. But without it, there would've been nothing left because the tuna was merely a dollop which I barely tasted. For P100 I suppose we're better off with real tacos or nachos that would at least warrant an authentic burp!

The Med Chef brownies (photos in my next entry) were dry and crumbly and left oil marks on the paper bag, probably on account of the heat wave. I just wonder how long they've been baking in the heat or if all those desserts ever get purchased in a day. The revel bar tasted better though, eaten 8 hours later - but that must've been the sun's work. For 3 pieces at P100, my advice is bring them home, pop in the toaster and enjoy with tea!

As a person who normally eats slow, this was one brunch that ended in haste, in my opinion. The heat did nothing but make the dining experience more uncomfortable, and there was one recourse to this: Jamba Juice.

Should I be obliged to return to Mercato in the future, I've decided to plan my meals and purchases. It may not be the healthiest option, but I'll live: Green Tea Mochiko, Cupcakes by Anita and that sugar-free Carrot Cake by Low Cal. Sugar high, here we come!

Oh, and don't forget, H2O!

Ganbatte ne, Global FC!

Having a brother who is a futbolero, it is inevitable that I share the same passion, especially when almost all our conversations are sprinkled with football references, from prawn sandwiches to Angel’s shiny mane. No day ends without me hearing the word “Global” or “football” at least 10 times, so the curiosity had to end, and it was imperative to finally attend a real live UFL game.

And I did last November 26 at the University of Makati. Global FC was up against Pachanga FC, a name that leaves no lasting impression but can be a real starter for a million Filipino jokes. Actually that must be some kind of trend for football clubs, the weirder, the better: Kaya, Nomads and that club that ends with “roo” which ought to fascinate Coach Graeme as it should remind him of Australia’s national animal.


The sun was really unforgiving that day—but I was too busy filling up my mental cue cards with the names and faces that my brother wouldn’t stop enumerating—that the heat wave was the least of my concerns. Of course propping up an umbrella was a major help, considering that SPF 50 was barely enough to ward of that sunny spotlight.

The first person we had to see (in my case, look up to) had to be Angel Guirado. I’ve been racking my head, trying to come up with a slick idiom that my Spanish teacher might have imparted way back in high school, but I could only think of “Puedo ir al bano?” which would have merited a weird laugh from anyone not a janitor. Good thing, he came up with “Como estas?” to which I must have replied “Bien.” Before any damage could ensue, I had to come up with the disclaimer: Mi espanol es muy malo. It took my 5 seconds to blurt out the word “malo” so good thing he got the picture that yes, my Spanish was that bad.

Then came Coach Graeme whose pre-game perkiness seemed to be contagious. This was easy, “G’day mate!” I wanted to dish out more words in a faux Aussie accent, but alas, the game was the prime concern. Armed with his yellow cap that screamed Global FC, he was off and we were left wondering when we’d have the time to finally have a cup of Jamba Juice with him.

 As always, the game was filled with personalities with various degrees of shouting levels. From the audience point of view, do not try to mess with any Global FC player or you are sure to get a mouthful. Come closer and you might just get whacked by an umbrella. Now that’s devotion, but from whom, well I’m not telling.

[caption id="attachment_984" align="aligncenter" width="819" caption="The Global FC Cheerdance Troupe"][/caption]

The Global players cloaked in their yellow shirts were a sight to behold, especially compared to the Pachanga fiends in their fiery red get-up. The field was so inviting especially when the training sessions began to resemble a dance number. The players too were quite the sight: from Jerry Barbaso’s elaborate ringlets to Yu Hoshide’s blue stickers (I was told they were like medicated patches but I still like to refer to them as blue stickers). JJ was the name that I first learned, as he soared in the air more than once. One of the Elhabib brothers had a knack for kicking balls high up in the sky. This guy named Val had green and white corn rows and if given the chance, I just have to ask: Which salon did that, man?

William, though, ought to get the pat on the back, as he scored the goal that ended the game with the 1-0 win. Filipino-German, it might be difficult to strike a conversation with the guy as the only German word I know is Saumensch and that’s the last thing I should say to the scorer of the day. Despite injury and bandages, he just played magnificently, and so should there be a next time, I promise to invest my time in looking up the word “excellent” in the German dictionary. Oh, and "No yellow card, please."

“Taicho” (Captain) for the game was Yu Hoshide and post-game, I was tongue-tied and only got the chance to say, “Konnichiwa” which must be cliché already. It was really awful because I’ve been rehearsing phrases all morning, and I could’ve said cooler things like “Kyo wa hare desu” (It’s sunny today), “Eigo de hanashite kudasai” (Please speak in English), “Jige da yo” (This is my real hair) and the most obvious, “Omedetou” (Congratulations). Gomenasai Yu-san!

All in all it was a pleasant experience, having met the people behind Global, the coach, the coordinator, Mr. Dan Palami himself and the ever hyper staff whose dedication stands out on a SATURDAY.

This is how a football club ought to be, with a culturally diverse team that plays in absolute harmony and dance numbers to cap off a winning game. Their golden charm can be inspiring and their victory, my newfound goal.

They might need a little help in the dance choreography, so I nominate my brother in that department. If that still doesn’t help, we’ll have to ask the Coach and Captain to sing instead.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fancy Cakes

When I peeked at Fancy Cakes (Magiting St.) with the best that my mundane eyesight could do, I spotted no Angry Birds or Plants vs Zombies cakes in the chiller. No Twilight-themed cakes either or I would've dashed so fast even Edward couldn't catch up. It was just cheesecakes and chocolate cakes staring back at us. I knew the coast was clear. 

The cakes were less than frilly, as one would expect, but with delectable-sounding cheesecake and chocolate cake variants staring back at you, this is fancy enough for me!

The chocolate cakes I spotted came in 3 variants: Decadent, S'mores and Romeo and Juliet, all priced reasonably at P70 a slice, while the cheesecakes at P80 per slice were just as mouth-watering: Nutella, Blueberry, and Oreo.

[caption id="attachment_919" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Romeo and Juliet (Black and White)"][/caption]

Romeo and Juliet was the black and white cake, with dark and white chocolate filling the layers, making a really pretty picture. The taste wasn't all that fancy (or maybe I'm not much of a white chocolate person) but all right for its price range.  Of the chocolate cakes <P100 per slice, this one makes it to the top list. Competitors within range offer spongy, chiffon-like cakes or overly sugary batters that are heavily commercialized and far from satisfying.  At least at Fancy Cakes, there's a "comfort food" vibe to the place, especially with neighboring Moonleaf Teahouse, so nearby residents may consider this for their next tea time.

[caption id="attachment_920" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Nutella Cheesecake"][/caption]

The Nutella Cheesecake had mini swirls of nutella, but the hazelnut flavor was barely discernible. The cheesecake was about an inch and a half high, firm and on the cheesy side (vs creamy which I hate). Despite its seemingly minute serving, it was rather compact and filling. The cheesecake base was great because it didn't get all oozy or crumbly. The crust was thin but at least not bathed with sugar, which made the cheesecake the central part of well, the cheesecake - which ought to be the case.

If I ever get lost in the Magiting-Maginhawa area, which is very likely to happen, I'd most probably try the Oreo Cheesecake, and of course cross over to Moonleaf for an Oolong fix. Now that'll be one cheap, fancy treat!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nuts About Soy Butter

There was a time when peanut butter was banned entry in our fridge because it triggered the rise of our adolescent bestie, the zit. Poor Peter Pan and Jif had to live a life of neglect along with the vegetables, as we favored cheese and eggs for our sandwiches.

Lately though, Peanut Butter has slowly been making its way back in our sandwiches, being protein-deprived most of the time. Lounging around the supermarket aisles and reading nutritional labels of peanut butter brands gave me a pretty clear direction on future purchases.

Actually, the peanut butter mantra is rather simple (I apologize in advance for committing treason):

  •  NO to local brands, unless you want a weekly visit to the dentist (and we do admit that an annual visit is already a pain).

  • As for foreign commercial brands, NO to Goober and my childhood sweetheart, Peter Pan.

  • YES to Skippy Natural (the one with "no need to stir" printed).

  • YES to Laura Scudder Organic Peanut Butter (love)!

  • MAYBE to PB Co. Dark Chocolate and Green Tea Peanut Butter because they're new and I only bought them because they're so kawai and cheap!

  • Last but not the least, NEVER to crunchy peanut butter! Damn, you make chewing such a difficult task!

[caption id="attachment_964" align="aligncenter" width="819" caption="I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter and Skippy Natural"][/caption]

By default, the calories and fat level of peanut butter are normally high, so for those seeking a "healthier" option, go for an ingredient list that shows mainly Roasted Peanuts, as is the case for organic brands like Laura Scudder.

In the supermarket though, I've found that Skippy Natural already presents the least damaging nutritional data with 190 calories, 18% Saturated Fat and 3g sugar for every 2 tablespoons. That serving isn't particularly diet-variety, so you can probably imagine that what to expect from other brands: flab or an early death.

Healthy Options, the store, provides other " nut butter" categories that are health-friendly but on the budget-averse side. Seriously, I am still in the process of saving up for the almond butter, which costs as much as a facial (see why I'm torn) so I've settled for an interesting alternative: SoyNut Butter.

I.M. Healthy Soy Nut Butter has a dubious sound to its name and blue jar but with 170 calories, 8% saturated fat and 3g sugar for 2 tablespoons and without a speck of NUT, it's an adolescent's dream cream. Soybeans replace the nuts, so the protein content isn't compromised. For anti-nuts, pimply kids or soy aficionados, here's the sandwich spread we've been looking for (I'm the anti-nut, soy aficionado).

[caption id="attachment_965" align="aligncenter" width="590" caption="(Left) I.M. Healthy and (R) Skippy Natural"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_963" align="aligncenter" width="590" caption="I.M. Healthy Soy Butter, Peanut-Free!"][/caption]

Don't expect it to taste like peanut because it's soy. The soy butter resembles the texture, color and overall "feel" of peanut butter but with hints of the soy flavor.

Don't know what this "soy flavor" I'm talking about? Think soy milk or taho (for the Pinoys) and incorporate that taste with peanut butter.

Weird? Not really, my stash is half empty already.

Whether it's peanut butter or soy or even to-die-for almond butter, what's important is that every jar contains mainly these nuts or soybeans and less of the non essentials (like sugar, salt and other ingredient we more than 3 syllables). Even if I did look like a fool reading every jar in the grocery, I'm glad I found what I wanted: Skippy Natural and I.M Healthy Soy Butter. 

Glad to have you in my fridge. Now if only we can keep you long enough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top 6 Milk Teas in Manila v2

As I read my previous top milk tea list (Got Tea? Top 5 Milk Tea Joints in Metro Manila), circa September 2011, I cringe and apologize for showing inexperience and passing off this passé list as a work of a tea connoisseur. Evil dazes and big question marks met my shallow judgment, and I admit that Kozui made it to the list because I found its green tea-inspired theme so kawaii (“cute”)!

The superficiality and naiveté have got to end, and so I proudly bring out the 2011 Top 6 Milk Teas in Manila v2. No list is perfect, as no taste buds are alike, so treat it as a guide to this cat’s pet drinks to end 2011. Before you read on though, please not that I am disorganized, hate tapioca pearls, have a propensity to misquote prices and detest sugar, extra sweetness and creaminess—which my list will considerably reflect. Other than these flaws, tea is my next favorite drink to water, and so I wage war to those who screw up this life-changing brew.

Chatime Philippines Jenina Gonzales

1.       CHATIME  

Chatime remains as the undisputed milk tea provider as it combines price, flavor, variety and location. The customizable ice setting brings bias to my decision, being constantly allergic to ice-dominant drinks. Chatime’s got mousse, frap-like concoctions, milk teas, fruit teas and the add-ons that you’d expect from the typical milk tea fares—in large servings, so P100 already ensures one mighty burp. A loyal patron of the matcha mousse with pudding, I’d brave storms just to order this comfort drink. With an extensive offering that includes interesting and novel categories such as QQ Jelly and Oriental Pop Teas, I ought to live beside a branch. With newly opened branch in Unimartuh-oh, Happy Lemon’s got one less reason to be happy.

Serenitea Jenina Gonzales


Serenitea brews teas right in front of you, so as far as “organic” goes this has got to be the closest to Mother Nature’s green heart. With roasted rice and whatnot topping the drinks, there’s the feeling of natural goodness that every cup delivers. Going 0% sweetness wouldn’t be a problem because the tea’s flavor is strong, vibrant and soothing. Spying the Serenitea branch along Jupiter was awesome sight for the Makati dwellers and workers, who need a break from the sugar-infested drinks and syrupy fares of the central business district. Genmaicha Tea Latte makes my top list, and with pepper tofu, potato and chicken chops in the menu, not to mention Amaretto Tea Latte, there's always a reason to find peace in Serenitea. 

Gong Cha Philippines J.Anne Gonzales

3.       GONG CHA 

Gong Cha collects lines for a living because every Gong Cha branch is perhaps never without a patron. Gong Cha offers milk teas, even “creams” up drinks for the non tea lover and offers fancy combinations (creative mixes) for the adventurous. Youngsters and yuppies may find delight in the ice cream and coffee offerings, so it has evolved into a tea-coffee place that can't do without cream. Gong Cha’s tagline is probably: Location, location, location—and has effectively lived by this mantra. Properly situated, even in foodcourts, no one can ever “not” find Gong Cha. It finds you, and so popularity vote goes to this one.

Happy Lemon Philippines Jenina Gonzales

4.       HAPPY LEMON  

This will sound very immature but I have to say it still: Chris Tiu’s milk tea place. Chris Tiu + kawaii-sounding drink names in that signature smiley cup are enough to send giggly girls flocking to Happy Lemon. In Eastwood, Greenhills, etc. and soon in Trinoma, expect kids to arrive in hordes and sample the “rock salt and cheese” everyone’s talking about. The fancy names do live up to their expectations and produce fun and delightful drinks. I've found much love with my Matcha faves (matcha with adzuki bean and pudding and matcha with malt). From yakult to yogurt and lemon series, there’s a lot more reason to visit Happy Lemon than just basketball and boys.

 Cha Dao Philippines Jenina Gonzales

5.       CHA DAO 

Cha Dao is amazingly cheap, you can expect change for P100—and we’re talking Large with add-ons already! Assam and Wintermelon are crowd pleasers, but you can still expect the common favorites: Green tea, matcha, oolong, chocolate and classic. Why, they even have Kopiko - so very Pinoy!  Black sugar seems to be their not-so-secret ingredient, while the popping bobba as an add-on is sure to be a favorite (count me in). A locally established joint and based mainly in the Quezon City area, now there’s more reason to chill at home. Oh yeah, they deliver too!

Moonleaf J.Anne Gonzales


Flying to the moon may be a rare occurrence, but finding a P55 milk tea in Manila isn’t. Moonleaf’s got a pretty simplified menu scheme, 2 price segments (P45 and P55) for the drinks and add-ons—all offered in those XL cups (they're really huge).  Wintermelon’s still on the list but so is my new favorite Oolong. Don’t be hasty in judging the giant coolers; they contain fabulous and tasty brews of various teas (like Jasmine and Black). Student’s choice award would probably go to Moonleaf as it bests others in terms of price, location (scattered in Diliman area, among other places) and taste (rich in flavor and caffeine). Note for the insomniac: Do not consume after 3pm or you’ll end up a zombie like I did! Note for the students: Now you can party, errrr, study all night!

That’s it for my Best 6 for 2011. I ended up with 6 because I couldn’t choose between Cha Dao and Moonleaf, so I included them both!

Many haters may distrust milk teas and deem them ‘’faddish drinks cloaked in Asian health myths” but since they contain mainly milk, tea, ice and some sweetener, can’t say they’re detrimental to our health either. With inexpensive choices available and unsweetened varieties part of the menus, the appeal is compelling and universal. At least they taste better than coffee (for me), supposedly harbor less calories than frozen yogurt and sit well with the budget friendly.

Milk teas are actually doing some kind of public service by getting the population to drink tea, disguised with fancy names and flavors—but tea nevertheless! That’s some kind of feat for a nation that discriminates vegans, hates anything that taste like leaves and thinks tea is “grandma’s drink.”

All rigth, tea time!

Previous Links:

Top 5 Milk Teas v.1: Got Tea? Top 5 Milk Tea Joints in Metro Manila

Chatime: It’s Cha Time! (Chatime @ SM North)

Happy Lemon: Promenade Picks: BonChon Chicken and Happy Lemon

Gong Cha: Going, Going, Gong Cha!

Cha Dao: Cha Dao To-Go

Moonleaf: Fly me to the Moonleaf Tea House

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Let's Jamba! (Jamba Juice BGC)

Pacquiao will probably hate me, but chaos-free EDSA during his match vs Marquez was too tempting for a swift drive to Jamba Juice at Bonifacio Global City. The nation might scorn me for abandoning local pride in pursuit of fruit, but I can never ignore the whimsical reasoning of my stomach. That, and my sleepless nights over acai have got to end!

[caption id="attachment_924" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="The JJ Balloon, a better navigator than Googlemaps"][/caption]

It was a dehydrating trek to the Jamba area (it's across R.O.X. or follow the balloon) located in this pristine lot with sawdust still layering some seats. There was a country vibe to the facade, which served the fruity-Jamba image quite well, but of course inside was rather the opposite: vermillion and sweet chaos. Good thing the lines weren't that long. Skipping the Pacquiao match had its perks - reduced queuing time, which I imagine could be a real nuisance once the hordes of hungry sports fanatics decide to celebrate with mangoes, steel-cut oats and berries.

The smoothies and other drinks were prepared on-the-spot, so the constant buzz of the blenders forms the background sound for those who chose to dine inside. Skipping the aircon and going for the outdoorsy feel was another option: peace, quiet, a lot of sunlight and as already mentioned, sawdust.

Still, I'd go for country over blender music.

[caption id="attachment_925" align="aligncenter" width="768" caption="The infamous photobooth (Oh wait, is that my foot?)"][/caption]

First timers would be delighted to see their drinks poured from a hodge podge of raw materials, blended and transformed into those colorful smoothies. For those who can't get enough of photos and tagging themselves everywhere, there's the live photobooth which directly sends the photos to your email. Good thing, people were still in the lazy Sunday mood, so cam-whoring was not part of their agenda or perhaps my foot was just in the way. (Sorry, it was a long drive!)

[caption id="attachment_926" align="aligncenter" width="819" caption="(L) Acai Supercharger and (R) Banana Berry"][/caption]

From reading the list of ingredients of the drinks, you could already tell how the smoothie would taste, in close approximation. When I got a sip of my Acai Supercharger, it tasted way better than I had imagined. I was expecting sour-fruity shake, but what I got was Fruit by the Foot yummy-fruity flavor that was not hampered by the soymilk's queer taste. The consistency was thick not because of the ice but because the drink was jam-packed with fruit. The same went for the Banana Berry that had that candy kind of fruity taste that brings comfort drink and nutrition in one cup.

With that voluminous serving of fruit, it's natural to expect a lot of sugar and calories in one drink. I suppose that's why they say it's equivalent to a meal or a great refresher after a work-out. Whoever said Jamba Juice is a dieter's dream still must be dreaming because with that much fruit and milk in one cup, you can't expect to just fly away with zero calories. Same goes for diabetics who ought to check out the labels before indulging in a fruit fiesta. is rather keen on posting the nutritional content of the drinks and food served at Jamba Juice, to which I'm grateful for. Here's some trivia on our drinks plus what's listed in my next visit's to-try list:

The Acai Supercharger (16oz) is blended with acai juice, blueberries, strawberries, soymilk, raspberry sherbet, and antioxidant powerboost (equivalent to 2 fruit servings). A cup contains 260 calories, 46g sugar and 930% of the day's Vitamin C requirement.

The Banana Berry (16oz) is blended with bananas, blueberries, apple-strawberry juice, raspberry sherbet and frozen yogurt (equivalent to 2.5 fruit servings). A cup contains 270 calories, 57g sugar and 3g fiber.

The Steel-cut Oatmeal variants are very promising buys in the future because they are all under the 300 calorie level, sport at least 5g of fiber and a maximum of 25g of sugar. With bananas, apple cinnamon and blueberry & blackberry as available toppings, this is going to be another tough decision.

If in the mood for granola (but with soymilk, so very PETA-friendly), the Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits would be very, very tempting for breakfast or snacks. Available in Mango Peach, Berry and Chunky Strawberry - I can only wish that Jamba Juice will soon be blending in Quezon City! But wait, the 16oz parfait contains at least 550 calories and 55g sugar, so make sure you're super hungry when you indulge in this granola cup!

With pretzels and California flatbreads, there really ought to be a next time. I haven't even started with the breakfast snacks, the boosts and shots and my all-time favorite matcha!

[caption id="attachment_930" align="aligncenter" width="819" caption="Blending Soon in... QC? I wish."][/caption]

Here's to a new alternative to milk teas and fraps!

My grandmother might call it a  fruitshake shop wrapped in organic sophistication, but then, our blender's broken so someone ought to make my smoothie.

Seriously though, Jamba Juice ought to blend soon somewhere up North. If you're having trouble finding a spot, you can always use our house!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saint's Alp Teahouse

If you're going to make saintly references to teahouses, you might as well serve drinks that are so heavenly, people would squeal, "Holy cow, I love it!" in delight. Saint's Alp Teahouse at 2F Regis Center, Katipunan didn't get us close to squealing, isn't situated on a snowy hilltop or is even close to one and is far from heavenly as far as taste goes. We might as well call it Mortal's Alp, though this particular mortal will think twice before coming back.

So to answer a potential question: No, I don't suppose Saints congregate and have tea at this place. I surely didn't see one when I went there. They're afraid that if they do linger, they'd choke on the tapioca pearls and become mortals again.

[caption id="attachment_907" align="aligncenter" width="646" caption="(L) Green Tea with Milk and (R) Oreo Milk Tea"][/caption]

The Green Tea with Milk (Regular P105) came with tapioca pearls voluminous enough to clog my esophagus. The milk tea's sweetness was on the median side, but tasted more like jasmine. I sprinkled a bit of Matcha powder on top, with the hope of bringing out more green tea flavor, but it turned to jelly the moment it hit the liquid. I ended up having messy green residue that wouldn't stick to the straw and tapioca pearls that I wished the Saints had never invented. The Oreo (Black) Milk Tea (Regular P115) obviously tasted like oreo, barely the tea. The pearls have a way of hogging the spotlight from the oreo bits, which is a really a nuisance especially for the oreo lover. And I admit, the place doesn't offer pudding, the only add-on I recognize, so my bias is sure to reach the heavens.

Saint's Alp veers away from the common milk tea trend by 1) Offering unusual add-ons such as agar and wheat germ, but not my favorite pudding, 2) Having no customizable sugar/ice settings, 3) Serving drinks in real glasses (making me Mother Earth's killer having opted for a plastic cup), and 4) Displaying an extensive selection that includes breakfast, salad, toast, rice, milkshakes in its vast menu with font not-made-to-be-read by the near-sighted.

On a Saturday afternoon, the place was half full with a reasonable turnover of wi-fi seeking and chatty youngsters, who seemed to love their pearls as much as their highlights and gadgets. Good for them. With other milk tea places closer to home and at the malls - cheaper and provide a more delightful experience - I don't suppose I'll be climbing this Alp again soon. Unless you call it something more relatable and appropriate, like Mortal's Mountain or Cat's Alp.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Another Parvati Cheesecake

I never thought Cebu Pacific's delayed antics would ever get to me, but maybe it's the awful November heat so today, I wasn't very forgiving. Spiteful perhaps, having seen a shoeprint on my checked-in backpack. Come on, my backpack is probably the lightest item that ever rode the conveyor belt, what could possibly be the reason for kicking or stepping on it? It's pure black, so don't tell me it resembles a soccer ball, a weighing scale or even someone's face. Cebu Pacific, you owe me laundry!

Oh, and add the chirpy cabbie who just had to pretend to be a human taxi meter with an inaccurate sense of distance, and I wonder, "Since when did Wednesday the 9th become the new Friday the 13th?"

I needed cheesecake.

I ran to Parvati and bought whatever I saw first. It was a wee slice priced at P140, but the Triple Decker Chocolate Cheesecake by Kusina Torre seemed to calm the raging storm and I suppose that ought to do the trick.

The decks include: fudge brownie - cheesecake - butterscotch brownie.

The fudge brownie and cheesecake were all right - what you'd typically expect from their "traditional" flavor. The layers weren't extraordinarily spectacular but are great enough to be comfort food variety. The brownie though is compact but not dry, which makes a perfect partner for tea.

The bottom brownie seems like a repetition of the fudge brownie, but this one was topped with something nutty-butterscotch. At first glance, I thought it was oats (like revel bars) so I instantly shoved a giant mouthful, but had to cry out when I detected nuts. Not really a "nut" fan, the cheesecake could do without this nutty layer, but I suppose for those looking for a sweet crunchy center, this ought to do it. (I scraped out mine, sorry!)

This lengthy critiquing has got to end, since I did finish the cheesecake in one sitting. It's really filling, so good thing someone decided to invent caffeine-free green tea or I'll be up all night blogging about Cebu Pacific.

And I'm not even a travel blogger. Yet.  LazyBlackBackpackCat.wordpress - no way! Too lazy for that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fly me to the Moonleaf Tea House

For those highly prone to get lost in those long-sounding Filipino adjectives of Teacher's Village, welcome to the club! Maginhawa, Magiting, Mapagkawanggawa, Mabait.. My God! Pronouncing them is difficult enough, but to remember the intersections and landmarks is pure madness, a crisis for the geographically challenged. I propose adding easy-to-remember street names such as Matakaw or Mataba. They have better appeal too, especially for restaurants, but I digress.

Moonleaf Tea House was the reason for this navigation challenge. Described as along Maginhawa St., Teacher's Village - that alone was vague, since Maginhawa is kind of a long winding road, which hosts denizens of other milk tea joints. Spotting Mini Stop at an intersection, we turned left (that was Magiting St.) and found the green Moonleaf logo at the right side, beside Fancy Cakes. Basically it ought to be called Moonleaf along Magiting, but probably Maginhawa has scored a higher popularity score at the polls, making it a more desirable address name. It doesn't matter though because WE FOUND IT! Tea time!

The popular choice for the day: Oolong Milk Tea! No one wanted to try the Jasmine or Black tea so Oolong it was. Oolong Milk Tea (P70) with Pudding or Pearls (+P10) was available in one size, but it was huge and not even a well could complain at the height of this cup. I suppose to-go was the trend at this place, having just a few seats that served as its waiting area. Brewing time was fast though and it was more like, checking my watch than waiting, texting and counting the change in my pocket.

The ordered Oolong Milk Tea came with less sugar, giving emphasis to the Oolong Tea. Oolong happens to be my second favorite tea, next to green tea which wasn't available in their menu. Nevertheless, the flavor was strong (translation: deliciously intense) yet properly complemented by the smooth and sweet taste of the milk. The overall blend bursts with flavor and tea-delight. The pudding is slightly soft - not sure if it's Moonleaf's version to mimic the consistency of "taho." Maybe next time, I would try the Aloe Vera add-on (P15). The drink on its own though, is sweetly addictive, appealing and greatly filling. Nothing watered down or boringly bland going on in their gigantic tea coolers.

I'm this close to mastering the map to Magiting, unless Moonleaf decides to land on the malls on its next sighting. Now that would really make me maligaya and masuwerte, but I don't suppose mahirap would make it to the list!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bon Chon Fish Tacos

That's right. For those of you who consider Chicken Bon Chon to be well, a chicken place, that is partly true. Spotting the Chap Chae poster at the entrance of the Promenade branch piqued my curiosity, but I wasn't in the mood for noodles then.

What did catch my attention was the Fish Taco that retails at P75. Ah yes, I haven't had a decent fish taco in months, so it was time to refresh my taste buds, and that meant devouring at least 1 taco. Reading on, I realized the value of thoroughly scanning the menu and not just deciding spontaneously based on the best looking photos, as I found exactly what I was craving for: Fish Taco Meal (2 fish tacos + drink for P150). Perfect.

At first glance, you can already assess the overall appeal of the fist taco. Here's what I thought: If you're not a cabbage person (good thing I am), you will hate the taco.

Seriously, the taco is composed mainly of cabbage shreds with a light mayo dressing. The cabbage feast was mildly enjoyable, and underneath all these baby shreds, a chunky dory marinated in the same flavor as the original Bon Chon Chicken. Allow me to re-christen it as the Bon Chon Fish - really soft, tender, tangy and a fantastic breather from the nest of cabbage that surrounded it. Pescatorians will finally get the chance to enjoy the taste of Bon Chon in this excellent seafood selection. The only downside: the pita wrapper. It was hard, toasted and definitely a challenge to masticate. And, my fork broke! That's the type of fight it put up against me, trying not to be eaten. In retaliation, I tore it with my fingers and ate the tacos partly with my hands - very out-of-character!

In the midst of this wrapper struggle, a big mess was made. Hence, no photos of that fabulous fish fillet. As an apology, here's the regular Bon Chon Chicken leg. Imagine it without the bones - same coating and color but soft, white fish steaming from within. Yum, huh?

Next time, my self-made Fish Taco + Chap Chae super combo!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cha Dao To-Go

Cha Dao Tea Place along Maginhawa St. was seen as the only destination to ward off the potential mad November heat stroke. But no, we couldn't go there because it was All Saints Day and we had to, well, do the more holy things required by law to make this holiday appear more official.

The only solution to deal with the summer madness: Cha Dao to-go! Brilliant idea.

I watched in fascination as 11 cups of milk tea were delivered, gulped in various degrees of thirst and delirium, and all finished in a matter of minutes, with matching burps and sighs. The assortment was colorful too: from chocolate to assam to the classic milk tea with extra, extra pearls.

I had the Matcha with pudding, less sugar. It came with less ice too, after having been in transit for a few minutes, which I pretty much preferred since too cold a drink would be an invitation for a sore throat with this kind of weather. The matcha flavor was rather diluted by a combination of water, milk and perhaps the ice that had melted. The tea flavor was not as rich as other milk teas, but I spotted a hint of jasmine in the green tea that made it more "fruity" on the side. The egg pudding was all right - sweet and smooth.

It might be safe to say that Cha Dao boasts of quantity over flavor, which might seem appealing to those more into the milk portion of milk teas, the tea novices and those who just like to go for that sweet milky drink. Without the egg pudding, this would've been a lighter drink and in that sense, a refreshing treat and life saver for those suffering in this unforgiving -ber month heat wave. Best of all, it's cheap and with branches scattered in the QC territory (Katipunan and Teacher's Village - what joy). I guess it's cheers to Cha Dao!

*Do forgive the crappy photo. Dehydration prodded me to take pictures in haste.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shakey's Ultimate Cheese and Garlic

Shakey's finally got it right! 

We've been battling with burnt crusts and absent cheese for some time now, but luck finally pushed through with this Shakey's Ultimate Cheese and Garlic, Thin Crust. Of all places, the Domestic Terminal. Way too far from home but thank goodness, the road trip to Manila was worth it.

The cheese toppings were thickly and generously spread; each bite was made chewy and garlic-zesty. There were no craters from lack of cheese, and the crust was baked just right and veered away from cracker-dom. A far cry from the Margherita that would make its namesake cry out in frugal shame.