Monday, August 27, 2012

Go Fish!

This crunchy Dory goes by no English name, so we like to refer to it as the Fish Ice Cream or the Korean Fish. The English Alphabet fails to grace the packaging as well, leaving us with so much imagination as to the ingredient listing or catchy write-up of the Fish Ice Cream. Does it start with "Here fishy, fishy?" Or how about, "Tastes better than Kimchi."

Ah, forget it.

The nutrition facts portion does provide a ray of hope, posting 200 kcal and what seem to be loads of fat percentages. However when compared vis-a-vis fellow grocery chiller item Magnum, the Fish Ice Cream posts a better "health" return, in terms of calories and sugar. That much I can figure out. 

For 200 calories, this is quite a catch for those yearning for a suitable dessert while minimizing the excess load (i.e. sugar, ice cream, Magnum or even frozen yogurt). On top of that, the fish wafer is such a delightful thing to look at, it took me a while to realize that ice cream was melting, it had to be eaten.

This is one of those instances when keeping a photo proves to be handy, although there's also the risk that it would make me hungry.

Inside the fish wafer are vanilla ice cream and adzuki beans to warm that sweet tooth. Don't expect the fish to be that crisp crackling wafer that pops from the package. Science should explain that the moist level of the packaging coupled with its liquid interior will certainly seep into the wafer, creating a softer and chewy feel. 

Still, there's that sweet vanilla fill that the Fish Ice Cream provides, sans the overbearing chocolate or nuts that can get stuck in your teeth. 

At P41 (Landmark Grocery) per fish, there's nothing fishy about this treat, other than being shaped like a fish. 

Go fish!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mi Piace Trattoria Gourmet

The word Trattoria can be one tricky fellow for those whose Italian vocabulary is limited to panini and gelato. The hypotheses of the weary and trying hard can range from “traitor” to an anagram of “Tori Amos”.  Either answer is obviously more misleading than the previous, which leads to consulting the handy master, Google.

Turns out, Trattoria is simply translated as “little Italian restaurant”. No need for Boggle skills, which I fail miserably at in the first place.

In Manila, there’s this Trattoria Gourmet in Shangri-La Mall, which reflects the proper translation. Only difference is that it engages more in commerce and less in village-people-get-together tavern behavior where take home is common. Sure, in the Philippines take home is just as acceptable when visiting villages, but in Trattoria Gourmet—respectable restaurant and retail business that would like to make a proper living—no take home, containers or spilling alfredo inside well hidden lunch boxes. Let us do our part in preserving cleanliness of our surroundings and not screwing with its real income return.

Trattoria Gourmet serves eat-all-you-can dishes on a daily basis, and that eat-all-you-can salad and soup combo makes a pretty good target for vegetarians, South Beachers and prim old ladies. I would have to fall under the first category.

The Sunday buffet includes that lush salad bar with 6 types of dressings (I remember herb vinaigrette, balsamic vinaigrette, garlic something, low cal italian dressing and 2 more) with quite a spread of of toppings, one visit is never enough.

The ubiquitous Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, carrot strips, mushrooms, cheese, egg, olives form the spread but there are also the strange visitors (strange since I do not make the habit of placing them on my plate): raisins, corn, green gulaman, turnips, and pineapples (which I had for dessert instead).


Ready-to-eat Potato and macaroni salad are also served for the lazy, and there is also that Penne Pesto salad which deserved a scoop every time I visited the salad bar. It was that magnificent that foregoing the actual pasta selection was of no regret to me.



The soup section offers 2 variants in steaming vessels, even soup haters would have to try at least a teaspoon of their luscious concoctions. The Creamy Asparagus seemed all right, so I moved on to the more enticing catch: Mushroom Soup!

The mushroom soup was clear-brown with grand bits of oyster mushrooms swimming at the bottom. Scoop them out and find yourself in shroom heaven. I had two bowls, enough said.

The soup actually goes well with the house appetizer, which was lovingly prepared and presented, we jsut had to finish the entire display, as courtesy to the host.

Pasta dishes available were the usual favorites for the local folks: Alfredo and Bolognese.

Having passed up the pasta and pizza buffet, it seemed that the Bolognese was the better choice. Meaty and al dente, numerous diners did return for seconds (or thirds), while the alfredo seemed to be its buttery and bland companion.


The pizza served included Margherita and PepperoniRather minimalist in toppings and size, the flavor made up for this seeming deficiency. Especially when freshly baked, the pizza still brings in much love from the Italian oven compared to other local counterparts.

[caption id="attachment_2247" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Note: Pizza embellished with pasta bar toppings[/caption]

The Trattoria Gourmet Sunday Buffet was a grand trip to Italian gourmet excellence. There was no need for 10 more dishes or a smorgasbord of items we could not pronounce or better yet, not have the chance to eat.

Minimalism was the key in getting us to enjoy the feast, and not really waste our time wandering and walking into areas of less interest. If all buffet set-ups were this friendly and well stocked up, then everyone would be happy and sipping wine on the side. No tempura banters or fighting over fried rice.

Just wondering how they got to make their pesto that bene.

Other than that slight hitch, Non mi posso lamentare. ("I can't complain.")

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Saved by the Bon Chon

The fact remains that almost everyone has probably eaten at Bon Chon Chicken in Manila, so there's a possibility that any reader would hit the close button.

Or try to look at the photos, then close the window.

So, for the sake of novelty and aversion to chicken cliche, let's skip the ambience, service excellence, cleanliness and cluck-cluck chicken goodness and get on with the other menu items.

Bon Chon does serve fares other than chicken, and I'm not just talking about the rice. If rice is your main concern, you're probably better off knocking on Mang Inasal's door.

The Caesar Salad (with extra chicken) came as quite as a surprise with its pepper-studded and thick dressing. It wasn't the watered down, purely mayo magic kind, making this one of the better tasting Caesar Salads for its price range. With only Romaine lettuce and croutons to make up the salad, many will find this a tad too plain - which, on the contrary I found appealing since for the first time, I didn't have to say: No bacon, please.

The Chap Chae's glass noodles were slippery perfection, and I couldn't get enough of this Korean creation. A bit too sweet, I'd prefer it to be more bland and with sesame seeds and chili. However the sweetness level can be waived as this dish is doused with chicken, green and carrots and loads of those lovely glass noodles. Enough as a meal, it still went perfectly with my salad. You'd probably find that combination as rather queer, but then again, I like to include go, grow and glow foods in one meal! 

Balancing 2 Chicken Chops in between what seemed to be an oat bun, the Chicken Sandwich makes one chunky feast, with fries on the side. Between chicken chops with rice or that sandwich bun, the latter seems to be the more attractive option. And there's that dip as well. Don't expect the bun to be French bakery goodness, but all right enough so as not to sidestep the chicken highlight.

Of course the Chicken Chops will always be a staple for the so-so diner.

Bon Chon's frozen yogurt (Korean Yogurt) had to be the fitting finale for this grand meal, but I already had my advance dessert c/o Merry Moo from Mezza Norte. Next time though, that Blueberry Torte ought to be the next buy. Just looking at the poster was torture enough. 

How I ended up in Bon Chon can only be explained by Mezza Norte's seating scheme (which was close to nil) and properly explained in my previous post: Mezza "Messy" Norte. In the dim haze of UP Technohub, Bon Chon's cheery presence seemed to be the guiding light for diners who refused to eat on the floor or steps. 

This is is really one of those rare instances when we can thank the chicken. Saved by the Bon Chon Chicken.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mezza "Messy" Norte

If you have not heard of UP Technohub, chances are you belong to the lower side of the Metro where Greenhills and BGC are enough sources of entertainment and food splurge. Where words like Commonwealth, Balara or "Winter is coming" make no sense.

There was a time when Mercato was once the distant gourmet-landia, requiring one heck of a road trip with a siding of patience.

Well thank you for finally noticing QC's rather hefty occupancy on the map. And yes, there are a lot of hungry people living in Quezon City with population I-don't-know, but certainly large enough to devour Makati, Mandaluyong and Pasig.

Mezza Norte, the newly established "Mercato" for the northern dwellers, is located at this place called UP Technohub, along Commonwealth. As for proper directions, you're better off with Google Maps, since I bear no tourist navigational perspective, living minutes away from this tent mania.

Pretend you're the persistent type and try to prod me for info, the best I could come up with is: Quezon Circle, right at Commonwealth, U-Turn somewhere, then follow the cars moving slowly and making a right at this hazy joint. Oh yes, mind the weird barriers on the road, meant to trip swerving buses, they can be a pain to the disoriented driver.

Before anyone can beat me to it, I would like to lovingly refer to Mezza Norte as Messy Norte. It's new, perhaps the talk of the nearest schools and villages, so everyone in the nearby vicinity decided to skip market day and have dinner at Messy Norte.

Flocks of cars and ID-wearing blokes came in violent throngs and forbade me from even sitting on a monoblock chair, not even to rest my tired toes. People looked at me as if I was trying to cut them in line (for a roast beef sandwich? please!) and those lucky enough to bag a table gave us bite-me looks - not that i even wanted a bite of any of them, just something sweet!

For being unlucky or jut plain gracious, we failed to find a table in 30 minutes (this was 7pm on a Friday). That rather long waiting period gave us roughly 3 rounds of the place and thus I concluded:

1) No way are we finding a table in this sea of hawks, moms and ID flashing peeps, 2) No way am I eating on the pavement, stairs of Mini Stop, and 3) Time to scout for grub outside Messy Norte. Boo-hoo.

This is how we ended up in Bon Chon, still in UP Technohub, which will be actually my next post, thanks to Messy Norte's seating scheme.

However, I did get what I initially came for, a taste of Merry Moo Ice Cream!

The only place that was free from grief stricken tasters and manned by gracious ladies who patiently waited on our orders. The Earl Grey was divine but put off in the meantime for fear of insomnia bouts. Milo was comfort food material, but I opted for Dark Chocolate, because it matched my already dark mood.

[caption id="attachment_2218" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Sea Salt Caramel and Dark Chocolate[/caption]

The Sea Salt Caramel managed an "oohh" from my brother who was already blinded by the inihaw haze It was on the buttery-caramel smooth side. Next time I shall try that Berry Trifle or Strawberry Shortcake.

Or why not both?

Getting stuck in a spot while walking, these 3-for100 cakes finally got to me, and so to at least buy something to-go from Messy Norte, I decided to give in: Revel Bars, Turtle Cake and Oreo Cake.

For P100 these should be a steal, but if you're looking for Parvati-variety these won't make the cut. However again, for the price, they make quite an extravagant pasalubong.

The secret is not to tell the recipient the price of the cake/s. Just shove it in their face and watch the glow of gratitude.

You're welcome!

Nearly giving in to this hyped up Tuguegarao pancit, that seems to be the Pad Thai of Northern Philippines, the queue was already long, not to mention the waiting period. Oh and we don't have a table.

Too bad.

I spotted 2 Chap Chae Joints (unfortunately they both have pork), Manang's, Bumble Tea, the ever present Mochiko, Mio Gelati, the Roast Beef Lady, that Shabu-Shabu Place, Taclings, Takoyaki, Medchef, etc. Nowhere in sight were (from Mercato) that ravioli place, Panzarotti, Messy Bessy, Human Nature, Anita's cupcakes, Low Cal, dumplings and that place that sold kefir.

Should we return for a take 2, I do wish that Messy Norte would be more organized or would have more tables or just courteous diners.

If not, I could always lend you a comb, er, a hand.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Piadina and Pariahs

As a newly baptized pariah of Philippine society, it was fitting to dine in a place of childhood comfort where our wallet size was always welcome: Piadina. McDonald's and Coffee Experience nearly made it to the list but then again, cushioned seats were mandated that day. Last time I ate in Piadina was probably a decade ago, and last time I fully enjoyed Robinson’s Galleria, I was still sporting my Goldilocks high school uniform in a sleek bob. So 90s.

With flare jeans memories flooding my vision, you might call it blast from the past, though I’d prefer pariah on a budget—and a bit lost on the side. That Robinson’s Galleria Veranda required crossing the street, while my old-time favorite apple pie and St. Cinnamon have succumbed to the decade 2000’s advancement to gelato and anything red velvet.

And so, if there’s anything left from the quaint past, it’d be Piadina. Plus points for being empty on a Saturday. Lunch time. Sale day. Come to think of it, where are the people? Is this the new after life? Oh right, they’re looking for Mang Inasal.

Piadina used to be our destination of choice because of its piadina-pasta meals which were innovative back then, and cheap on the side. Having Italian food for such pocket-friendly price was quite the attraction, and the thought of eating at Piadina (back then, I repeat) sounded rather sophisticated, unfamiliar folks might as well thought we had lunch in the hills of Sicily.

[caption id="attachment_2200" align="aligncenter" width="491"] Warning: These are not tofu orbs.[/caption]

Of course moving to the present these unabashed thoughts seem rather unfounded.

A decade smarter and heavier, it seems that the Piadina references to Italy were liberally granted and being a conservative, I would like to paraphrase my adolescent mumbling. Piadina is still that Italian restaurant that wishes you “God bless!” upon your exit. Why they do that, it must be a call for glad tidings or a possible return. I’m banking on the latter because based on my 2012 experience, Piadina can certainly improve on its dishes, to at least reflect its ambience and colorful menu. True, the place continues to offer meals at affordable prices, but as for taste, I suppose Michael Corleone would on a spontaneous shooting spree once he gets a bite of anything from here.

The Pasta Cabrese lacks the flavor of anything under the bright Tuscan sun. While oil based, it could still benefit from the collective flavor of the garlic and anchovies, but I received nothing gastronomically satisfying, not even after shaking half the contents of the parmesan cheese. If it wasn’t for the broccoli, this pariah would’ve been a reincarnation of one angry and hungry consigliere.

The Margherita Pizza looked stunning upon delivery, with the waft of freshly baked ingredients and the promise of that delightful Piadina crust. While the flavor was excellent—after all it was just cheese and basil—the crust was on the tough side. Being tough is a good thing for a person, but for pizza crust/dough, it doesn’t go well, especially when there’s no olive oil-balsamic vinegar dip to dunk that chunk of rock.

As a precaution to those with dentures or use Sensodyne, the pizza is not for you. If you insist on it though, do share it with someone. Don’t hog it all to yourself or you’ll find yourself drinking your Sensodyne the next time around.

The Baked Chicken meal came with rice and a wee scoop of vegetables that looked like cafeteria cooking. Mediocre was the order of the day, and it looked more like a normal rice meal than a serving of Italian-inspired pollo. It’s probably their way of saying, Piadina is our specialty so it’s the only food we got right. Live with it.

But wait, isn’t the pizza also Piadina-based?

Ah well, it’s best that I end this harangue before I get banned from Galleria, my once second home and haven for the giggly Goldilocks girls.

Piadina doesn’t claim to be gourmet par excellence, just an Italian joint for the economically challenged. It is highly possible that my menu selection is flawed and their Pasta Vongole or actual Piadina do taste sublime.

After all they’ve been in that same spot for years, so there must be a sensible reason for that longevity. Outliving Las Paellas and Chef d’ Angelo, Piadina’s secret recipe might remain a secret from me, but not for the people (Who are you?) who dine there. I may not have seen you, but you probably exist under the tables or belong to the next shift.

My 2012 Piadina experience may have been quite the letdown, but visiting Robinson’s Galleria will always be a reminiscent escapade.

From yesteryear’s yellow uniform to today’s pariah, it has always turned a blind eye on our dirty deeds. And so I return the favor to Piadina: God bless!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tea Pot Session

My conduct towards the rainy season (or shall I say Hagupit ng Habagat - sadly, I don't know how to properly translate this) has been rather absurd. Rather than crave for ramen and curry, I’ve been going through a period of vast starvation and moments of just staring at my leaky ceiling.

It's all this not-a-typhoon-but-still-horrible-enough-to-qualify-as-Ondoy's-mistress rain that has been pouring with a bladder with no end. Stranded at home with no intent of release, I shudder at the thought having nothing to write about except Skyflakes or Cookie Crisp.

I don’t suppose people would like to read about the magnificent water of Quezon City or how Timmy’s homemade boiled egg is just perfectly powdery either.

[caption id="attachment_2179" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Perfect for the weather that's seasoning us with floodwater, flu and damp walls.[/caption]

So it's best to stay within the monsoon theme and get warm, cozy and that liquid high. Sadly, I wish I were talking about the Hot and Sour Soup which has been discontinued by Knorr or Maggi (what a disappointment) but no, it's best to make do with the only thing dry at home.

And so I’ll let you in on what I’ve been hoarding recently—aside from water and boiled egg—Tea. Well that must sound like old news, I would admit, but since I’ve been dunking teabags here and there, throughout the day, I like to think that I have resuscitated the tea connoisseur that was once drowned milk tea.

And I haven’t been hoarding the cheap kind, like that Nature’s Pride that claims to be green tea but tastes more like oolong, which isn’t that bad, just confusing. We also have the generic Lipton (Clear and Green) which I once adored for its wake-me-up power potential, but lately, has been dwindling in the caffeine aspect for no reason but economy. I’ve never come to appreciate that “Hirameki” Yellow Label Tea because I find its teeth-staining abilities rather off-putting.  But enough with the bashing.

My stash has consisted of Celestial Seasonings variants (top photo from old post), partly because I find their packaging lovely and partly because they have Blueberry Breeze. Yes, if any, blame the blueberry on this one. Of course, there are other companions: White Tea, Detox A.M. and Sleepytime Herbal. You can say that I’ve got all time periods covered.

My motto: Tea, all-day, everyday.

However, rather than bring your to a complete bore with a review on tea, I’ve decided to just list down 10 amazing facts (okay, not that amazing, just good-to-know and nice-to-hear which you’ll probably forget once the sun starts to shine again) that I enjoyed with my stash.

  1. Combining green tea with a fairly faint yet distinct flavor of blueberry, Blueberry Breeze makes it to my favorite tea of all time. It surely beats Lipton’s Green Tea Acai which immediately fades after the first steep. Not a good value for a well drinker, despite packing in that Acai greatness.

    [caption id="attachment_2182" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Blueberry Breeze Nutrition Info[/caption]

  2. White tea is an essential tea variant for me, which is a component of many of Celestial Seasonings’ offerings. I have only seen Twining’s as another brand offering such, but the packaging makes me think of my grandma’s kitchen, so forget it. I do not have time to bring out a ceramic kettle with matching cups just to commemorate tea time. By the time I do, I’d be half asleep, my hair catching on fire.

  3. White tea is sometimes combined with green tea for that instant perk-me-up-because when meetings start to create a mental pillow in my head, either it’s that or I douse myself in ice cold water, which wouldn’t be too civilized in a corporate environment.

  4. The tea packs a bitter punch when steeped longer than usual, beating espresso and vodka, in the health department. Plus, no HR rules violated here and my palpitations will be kept within normal limits.

  5. Flavored tea helps on those days when the tolerance for bitter is just way down the scale (like when you’re about to get sick or are just feeling angsty about the traffic). Rather than reaching for juice or fruity teas, it’s best to dunk a teabag and drown it to your heart’s content. Beware the temperature though. I have been a victim far too many times from my enthusiasm and do not care if blowing furiously on my cup purports bad manners or blows germs in the air. Either way, it’s for my protection.

    [caption id="attachment_2183" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Ah yes, ingredients straight from Professor Snape's Potions class![/caption]

  6. The Detox A.M. helps with the morning rush, in case there’s isn’t any.

  7. Sleepytime is the best boost for sleep for those who’ve had too much fun, too much food or just too much to think about before sleeping. When the sheep can’t help, the try counting tea leaves instead. That should put you out in a jiffy.

  8. The tea sleep enhancer works better than melatonin, sleeping pills, and cough syrup because its sole component is tea. Herbal and organic, you’ll know that when you wake up, there won’t be a zombie facing you in the mirror.

    [caption id="attachment_2181" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Works better than a punch in the face. No black eye too![/caption]

  9. Another perk of the tea is that it gets you to sleep, helps with the digestion process and relieves/relaxes the stomach. That’s like the combination of 3 different pills and a glass of water. But with tea, you’re guaranteed not to pee at 3am, unless you don’t care because you’re over 70.

  10. Lastly, there are other variants for perk-me-up, dozing off, half-and-half chill and K.O. that it’s best that you be your own judge. Tea isn’t that bad—bitter for many, digestion-altering for some—but on the whole, is a grand experience for anyone who just loves to drink. Just like water, but with benefits.

Don’t get swept by bottles and sugary finds, plain teabags are still the way to go, and you can squeeze them until the very last miniscule leaf and that’s economy for the Third World. Some may taste funny or curiously like flora and fauna, but waive these strange flavors for the ultimate benefit of health and wellness.

And weird weather has been strangely bipolar, I don’t need to invest in ramen or force-palpitate myself with coffee, tea’s got that “warmth” covered.

And best of all, being the Lazy Black Cat that I am, a few steps to the water dispenser and everything’s in the bag.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Green Dinner

With so many green jokes out there, the title does not pay tribute to any one of them.

Instead here comes a tongue twister to best accompany the statement: The Green dinner comes from dining on greens, not beans, at Greenbelt, a place that's rather clean and certainly far from mean. Lucky are those blessed with knack for writing these tongue twisters, for I am not one of those. 

Ah well at least my school was green and I love edamame, so that ought to settle the score. Now back to dinner.

[caption id="attachment_2168" align="aligncenter" width="614"] If I could get seconds on the cheese, why bother for a main dish?[/caption]

First stop was Cafe Mary Grace that seems revere all that's green and natural with its menu doused with herbs, pesto, salad and aglio olio, staring at the menu is a recommended activity for every customer. Failing to decide what to order for the first 10 minutes meant that the menu was just packed with likable fares - a rarity for me!

However sticking with the green theme, the order was Fried Kesong Puti with Calamansi Vinaigrette. The salad came in a jiffy, rather small yet the kesong puti squares were begging to be attacked. The vinaigrette was tinged with garlic, relieving us of that purely sour note. Best was the kesong puti square, lightly breaded, but very much the fancy of any cheese lover. 

[caption id="attachment_2169" align="aligncenter" width="614"] Whoever named this dish must've been stoned during spelling class.[/caption]

Next was Cafe Breton. Trying to avoid a sugar rush so late in the evening, I had to settle for more greens: Chix with Asparagus.

Why "chicken" is spelled as "chix" will be a spelling blunder I will never comprehend. It is neither cute nor proper for a restaurant that serves dishes with capers. However I am glad that the asparagus was not shortened to something hideous like "aspy" or "raguz".

If that were the case, I'd be charged with arson - setting fire to a menu. Now where's that Grand Marnier? Better make a spectacle out of this.

The Chix with Asparagus lives up to its image of impropriety, as it fails to get a proper "oooh" from me. The chicken strips were hard, the cream was bland, the onions were a tad too thin and the asparagus undercooked. The cheese dip turned out to be grated cheese on the top, which reminded me of childhood spaghetti.

All aspects turned to a "cheesy" misadventure, not even the crepe could salvage my distaste.

On the bright side, the menu was gone so you'll be glad to know that no arson took place that evening.

The next time I see "CHIX" spelled anywhere though, hold on to your lighters.