If for some unforeseeable and inexplicable reason two places were to spring in Manila overnight, I would want these to be The Cheesecake Factory and Panera Bread. That's right, cheesecake and bread. Just those two and I'd find myself gastronomically sound for the next decade or two.
The Cheesecake Factory has topped my place-to-eat list ever since the diary was invented. Seriously though, from articles in Eat This, Not That and those hard-to-resist chiller merchandise at S&R, just a slice of the real cheesecake was my irreparable wish, but then again, I’d be mental if I refused a meal.
[caption id="attachment_1663" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Veggie Burger"][/caption]
So prior to the dessert, a proper meal was obligatory but nonetheless very appetizing.
I decided on a strange course that Manila has yet to offer: Veggie burger and side salad with Bleu cheese dressing. The veggie burger was a massive patty made with brown rice and grains and seasoned with what seemed like cumin. Sweet and curry-like, the garlic mayonnaise blended well with the burger, while the bleu cheese provided the saltiness needed for that overall vegan experience. While many might find the exotic flavor of this vegetarian fare a bit off putting, I enjoyed every bite and yearned for the Archer Farms Hummus Chips that I had stashed back home. What a wonderful pairing that would’ve been!
[caption id="attachment_1662" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake"][/caption]
The Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake was a mindless choice: chocolate in all layers for the dark chocolate lover. Even Willy Wonka would be greatly interested in this godly creation. The cheesecake was fused with chocolate, firm, no overwhelming flavor—just smooth cheesecake heaven. The sweet revelry will certainly be missed. Forget the calories and sugar, it’s cheesecake excellence that I would certainly crave for despite being halfway across the world.
As for bread lovers, Panera Bread is the way to go. Going on another "goat mode", I decided on the salad path, but still with lovely bread on the side. Lovely indeed.
Panera Bread serves freshly baked bread everyday; well loved by neighboring folks, the line stretches and peaks during meal hours as well, so best to be an early diner.
[caption id="attachment_1658" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Chicken Salad"][/caption]
My BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad was gigantic and luxuriously spread with tortilla chips, black beans and corn for that Mexican touch. The flavor is not restrained, yet carefully prepared—making comfort food its other name. Good for two and accompanied with Panera Bread's signature bread, I will be forever apologetic for passing off on that wonderful piece of bread.
[caption id="attachment_1661" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Chicken Tortilla Soup"][/caption]
The Chicken Tortilla Soup manages the same kind of flavor and toppings, good enough for a meal on its own with bread on the side.
The sight of the pastries and bread is enough to get people crowding in the place, but the wafting aroma will certainly get you hooked. As for me, another craving that will linger in my dreams.
So yes, I keep my fingers crossed that one day Panera Bread and The Cheesecake Factory will suddenly open in Manila. Oh please do, and make that soon, as I sense another cheesecake craving coming up!