September 30, 2016 § Leave a comment
Credits: Paper from Splendid Finn’s Now is paper series; Polaroid Frames from Splendid Finn; Happy Day worn ribbon by Trixie Scraps
Sounds strange to some but surely got me interested. And so I found myself in 1st Colonial Grill on Rizal Street in Daraga one evening after dinner with my team.
First of all, I can take the heat and secondly, bold flavors always call out to me. They don’t always appeal to my taste bud but more often than not, I like what I discover.
Such is the case with this Sili (chill pepper) ice cream. You taste the fruitiness of the pepper first then the punch at the end. It comes in 3 heat levels, we chose the middle. Pretty good but unforgettable is Tinutung na Kanin (toasted rice). A familiar flavour presented in an unusual fashion. The taste (of toasted rice) was very subtle and quite refreshing. And last but not the least is Salabat (ginger tea). I chose this because… well, you should know me by now. And it did not disappoint.
Other unique flavours also worth trying are Pili nut and Malunggay (mooring). But despite its many unique ice cream flavours, 1st Colonial Grill was first known for its Tinapa Rice and other iconic Bicol dishes. Yes definitely something to come back for.
October 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
Do you sometimes feel like troubles and obstacles are a constant visitor? Yes, it is pouring now. One snag at a time, I tell myself. “Don’t let them stress you out, it’s not worth it,” I convince myself. I take comfort in His words … Cast all your cares upon Him, He cares for you (1Peter 5:7). God is in control, He truly is. Adversities he allows for a reason, many times it is to prove to me that He is in control and that I must not worry. Easily said than done. And to relieve me from worrying, I bake.
A recipe I grabbed from Gourmet a while back has become a recipe for keeps. This Zucchini Ginger Cupcake is spiced and flavoured with ginger, cinnamon and a touch of orange zest… wouldn’t it call out to you too?
What’s so marvellous about it is it’s easy and quite healthy as it uses olive oil (I also use virgin coconut oil sometimes) instead of butter and honey instead of sugar. Best of all, this moist cupcake is high up there in the flavor department with or without the cream cheese frosting (the only thing not so healthy, actually).
Half of these cupcakes ended up with the security people of the building I live in. The maintenance guys, the receptionist, and the security people—they make me feel safe, and cared for, so I show my appreciation by feeding them sometimes. I wonder if they know that they are eating a vegetable cake?
June 2, 2015 § Leave a comment
Ubud. The heartland of Bali where gently rolling rice paddies and volcanic hillsides offer a cinematic backdrop to a land steeped in culture.
Add to this a vibrant dining scene and you can’t keep me away for long. In this wonderland of art and culture, one can eat extremely well whether it be in fine dining spots, warungs or roadside eateries. Global or local, the choice is likewise abundant. Barely scratching the surface on our last visit to Ubud (last year), here’s sharing with you some delightful new discoveries and old favorites.
Campuhan Bridge, Jalan Campuhan, Ubud. +62(0) 361 970 095
Our Ubud escapade started here. Fine dining without the steep price tag tucked neatly along Ubud’s famed Campuhan Bridge.
The elegant multi-level white veranda overlooks the tumbling river through lush greenery. A few small nooks at the corner of the upper dining hall offer uninterrupted views of the river, so I recommend calling ahead for these corners.
The menu is a mix of modern continental with local dishes thrown in, beautifully executed.
Expect salads, pasta, meat dishes and an array of imaginative desserts.
Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud +62(0) 361 977 547
A simple shack this place may be, but the irresistible aroma of pork ribs grilling by the roadside is what will lure you in.
This grill house located halfway along Jalan Raya Sanggingan (and luckily, a stone’s throw away from our wonderful boutique hotel) has as main highlight its pork ribs—succulent and fall-off-the-bone tender.
So pleased with the ribs, we forewent exploring more restaurants for a last bite here before heading to the airport. This might indeed be the best ribs in Bali.
Jalan Hanoman, Padang Tegal, Ubud _62(0) 361 975 489
Bali is known for its duck. Set in beautiful, relaxed surroundings, Bebek Bengil (also known as the Dirty Duck Diner) serves a wonderfully tender and flavorful dirty duck with skin so crispy. Steamed in Balinese spices then deep-fried to crispy perfection.
Another specialty is the Balinese Smoked Duck. This needs to be ordered one day in advance. The duck is smothered with Balinese spices, wrapped in betel nut leaf then slowly smoked the traditional way, which is the whole day.
Warung Pulau Kelapa
Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Lungsiakan, Ubud +62(0) 361 821 5502
This came highly recommended by our guide instead of Bali Guling (Balinese Suckling Pig). I can’t say though that this is a better choice as I have not tried Ibu Oka’s famous suckling roast pig, but I can say that this was one of the best recommendation one can give.
First of the all, the warung is a beautiful, original Javanese village teak wood house with a beautiful herb and vegetable garden at the back.
Ayam Bumbu Rujak: Stewed roasted chicken cooked in a mixture of coconut milk, Indonesian spices, and mild chilis. An East Javanese dish.
The menu is an extensive array of authentic Indonesian dishes taken from different islands cooked without MSG—Bali, Borneo, Sumatra… No disappointment there.
At the back, behind the restroom area is a café where they serve excellent Indonesian coffee. They were test-running and invited us for a free taste of their coffee. We returned the next day to enjoy another round of coffee and dessert, this time we insisted on paying.
Coffee break at Café Angsa
Jalan Hanoman 43, Ubud
All over Ubud, coffee shops with scenic views of the paddy fields abound. Walk into any along Ubud’s three main roads, JL Monkey Forest Road, JL Hanoman, and JL Raya Ubud and enjoy a break from shopping or walking around town. In between shopping, we came across Café Angsa along JL Hanoman.
A cute little café with views of the rice paddies, cushions on the platform makes for a beautiful relaxing rest.
March 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
For the last few years, I’ve wanted without success to try La Terrasse that it has somehow become an obsession.
My first attempt was in 2012; they were closed for the Easter holiday (seriously, on one of the busiest week?). It is, to me, a sign that they don’t really need the tourist patronage.
Suffice to say that when we were planning our trip to Puerto Princesa last January, I had my mind set on this cozy, open-aired restaurant-cafe. And the truth be told, it was our first agenda after touching down. Straight from the airport with bags in tow, there we were at their doorstep.
From the idyllic vibe to the service, appetizer to dessert, La Terrasse did not disappoint.
The duck was superb.
Crispy minced duck in a Hoisin-based sauce combined with cucumber sticks and leeks wrapped in a soft thin pancake adapted from the very popular Peking Duck. We loved it and went back for it on our last day before heading to the airport.
Another memorable dish was the Adobo Overload.
Adobo fried rice served with fried chicken and pork adobo and topped with pork adobo flakes. Now that’s overload in a good way. More importantly, the flavor of the sauce is how I prefer my adobo to be, not too acidic but very flavorful from the blend of soy and garlic. Started serving my adobo the same way. Love the idea of serving the rice already flavored with the adobo sauce.
The killer. Their Palawan nougat made with wild honey and cashew nuts
and their Candied Orange Peel.
It’s really more of a “pasalubong”, something you take home, but we had it for dessert and I was floored, blown-away. I, of course, had to bring back some of these babies for when I need a pick-me-up. That good.
Highly recommended when in Puerto Princesa, do make it a point to drop by La Terrasse. It’s on Rizal Avenue and a hop away from the airport.
September 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
Roasting vegetables is my new favorite thing. It turns a humble, everyday vegetable into a taste sensation as it brings out sweet flavor notes of any vegetable. Cabbage is one of them. I already love how it adds texture to a dish if cooked right. Think soups and pancit (our local noodle dish). But roasted, with bacon to boot, it was mind-blowing. The sweetness of the cabbage and the salty, smoky bacon is a highly addictive union. A simple dish made to impress flavor-wise because admittedly, food porn it is not.
Roasted Cabbage with Bacon
What You Need:
- 1 head of green cabbage, outer leaves removed
- Olive oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 slices of bacon
What You Do:
- Heat the oven to 230°C.
- Cut the cabbage into eight wedges, discarding the core.
- Lay these down on a large pan, drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
- Cut slices of bacon into strips and scatter over the cabbage.
- Roast for 30-40 minutes, flipping the cabbage wedges once halfway through.
- Serve immediately.
June 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
Occupying a tiny peninsula on the south of Spain with five coastal provinces, Cadiz is blessed with some of the best and freshest fish and shellfish provided daily by the Mediterranean Sea. Although its cuisine is typical Andalusian in character, subtle influences from the Romans, Phoenicians and the Moors spawned an exquisite regional cuisine with flavors unique to Cadiz.
Yes, the gaditanos (native of Cadiz) are meat lovers too, the pastures of the province keep it supplied with Iberico pork, goat, the local Retinto beef; however fish, fried fish, is the star.
Dredge in flour (only) and then fried in a large amount of hot olive oil. So simple yet so ridiculously addicting. Sea bream, Dover soles, sea bass, cuttlefish, dogfish, and monkfish are usually what is used for this staple.
And the place to have a taste of this fried fish is at Freiduria Las Flores, a traditional fried fish restaurant, almost an institution in Cadiz.
This fry shop serves excellent fried fish without the frills. Ordered from a counter and served in a cartucho, paper funnels. And like the dishes it serves, this shop is simple and functional. Be prepared to wait for a table especially at peak hours. Most locals order to take away.
I always leave room for dessert and if you are like me, you will love the pasteleria across the Freiduria Las Flores 2 in Calle Brasil.
Antonia Butron is famous for her savory pastries, but the empanada filled with dates comes highly recommended, and so are their cakes and roscones (sweet bread loaf).
Or how about this delicious dessert common and renowned in this part of Spain? Tocino del cielo, which means “bacon from heaven”, is so true to its name.
Traditionally made with the egg yolks that are discarded in the process of making sherry, this rich and creamy egg custard truly is a slice of heaven and a perfect way to end any meal. Definitely a must have.
Freiduria Las Flores Plaza de Topete, 4 +34 956 226 112 Freiduria Las Flores II Calle Brasil, 5 +34 956 289 378 Obrado Antonia Butron Plaza Jesus Nazarino, 5, Chiclana +34 956 401 094 Av. Ana de Viya, 16, Cadiz +34 956 284 260
February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
Davao. Home to some of the country’s pride— the world’s largest bird, the monkey-eating Philippine Eagle and a rare orchid of exceptional beauty, the waling-waling— both found in Mt. Apo, Philippine’s highest peak. But there is more to Davao than these. Let’s not forget the “king of fruits”, durian. The area is known to be the center of durian production, thanks to its rich fertile volcanic soil and until recently, typhoon-free area. But more than durian, Davao is favored with other fresh, quality produce and fruits that are available all year round— pomelo, banana, mangosteen, lanzones, rambutan, mongo, peanuts, cabbage eggplant… among others.
The city is a fascinating mix of small town allure and modern metropolis refinement. A metropolis inhabited by 1.4M people of different ethnic groups, culture and faiths. The city teems with good food and on my not so very recent trip there, I discovered a few worth mentioning.
Along JP Laurel Ave., in Lanang is a deli and restaurant offering fine sausages, cured meats like bacon and hams, a selection of cheese, US and Australian steak cuts and even ostrich meats. Owned by a butcher and a baker, Swiss Deli has been around since 2005 catering at first to expats and Davao’s upper crust. Today, they supply some of the bigger supermarkets nationwide. On my visit, the restaurant was packed for lunch.
Claude’s Le Café de Ville
We drove into a driveway of a well-lit ancestral house. The garden well polished, the interior emulates the facade with old photos gracing the walls and well-appointed antique pieces scattered around.
My favorite part of the house would be the porch— what a wonderful way to be greeted.
This house epitomizes old world elegance through and through. An ancestral home of the Oboza family (also called the Oboza Heritage House) now dwells the only full-service French restaurant in Davao, Claude’s Le Café de Ville.
Complementing its charming home are wonderful dishes served from its kitchen headed by husband and wife team Claude and Tess Le Niendre. I had the Crab Cocktail to start and the specialty of the house, the Fillet of Beef Tenderloin with Pepper Sauce.
The crab appetizer was excellent, and my main, albeit a bit overcooked for my taste (it was more medium well than my preferred medium), was tasty and still juicy.
A pretty authentic French restaurant in Davao was definitely a pleasant surprise.
Malagos Farmhouse Artisan Cheeses
Davao surprises me, I tell ya. After an evening of wonderful French feasting, we were on our way, the next day, to buy artisan cheese. This wasn’t the first time I had tried cheeses from Malagos and so impressed I was, I had to find them and see what else they had to offer.
Olive Puentespina, the woman behind Malagos Artisan Cheeses, has been producing cheeses since 2006. All made from hybrid cows and goats from their dairy farm.
A cheese spread was laid out for us to try over at the farmhouse—from quesong puti, to flavored chevres, to manchego blue—an unbelievable spread, all proudly made in Davao.
Personal favorites are: Queso Rustico (semi-soft cow’s milk similar to a manchego), Blush (Queso Rustico with a tint of blue), La Maria (similar to a camembert), Feta tricolor (feta with chili and rosemary, infused fresh), and the Chevre with mango (a blend of creamy French style goat cheese with sweet mango bits).
For wonderful pasta and pizza, Spirale Ristorante will not disappoint. Thumbs up for the Vongole ai Chorizo (a wonderful combination, don’t you think?) and the pizza, which is cooked in a wood-fire oven. Crust was doughy yet crispy.
Chicco di Caffe
For their Durian Brazo di Mercedes. Yum!!! Anything durian is possible in Davao. I had my first taste of durian in an ice cream in Davao some 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I. Adore. Durian.Swiss Deli JP Laurel Ave., Lanang, Davo City +6382 234 0271 Claude’s Cafe de Ville 29 Rizal St., Paseo de Habana, Davao City +6382 305 2635 / +6382 222 4287 Malagos Farmhouse Bolcan St., Agdao, Davao City +6382 226 4446 Spirale Ristorante Damaso Complex Angliongto Road, Lanang, Davao City +6382 234 6298 Chicco di Caffe Gen. Douglas MacArthur Hwy, Davao City +6382 305 3534 Faura St., Davao City
October 28, 2013 § 2 Comments
High-rise buildings, temples, shopping malls, and traditional markets sit side by side in hilly terrain. Once home to fishermen and farmers, the Hong Kong of today is teeming with a dynamic metropolis fused with Chinese and Western influences.
A lively range of restaurants, eateries, pubs and bars are mostly found in east Tsim Sha Tsui, Wanchai, and Lan Kwai Fong, the latter touted as the icon of the city’s vibrant nightlife that consist of tourists, expat and an overseas Chinese community. For an engaging mix of locals and outsiders, and mid-priced eats, however, the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood may be a better bet.
Wandering about in Nathan Road, we turned into Kimberly Road. The flight of steps, next to the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop, revealed a pedestrian strip of al fresco restaurants and bars, and multi-story building housing more selections of eats.
An exciting mix of restaurants, bars and clubs that span the globe, Knutsford Terraces is, in some measure, the “Lan Kwai Fong” of Kowloon. Smaller and less frenetic, fascinated by the varied selections, we thought it was worth probing into. And so we found ourselves back the following night.
Eyeballing each menu on the strip, and always on the look out for fresh oysters, we walked into Island Seafood and Oyster Bar.
With most establishments reasonably priced, this joint was way off our budget. Not to read this wrong, for Hong Kong standards, the oysters we had were probably worth the price, but coming from a country teeming with fresh seafood, it was good to try but not safe to linger… not safe for the pocket, at least.
And so we moved on. Tutto Bene’s pastas, one of the oldest restaurants on the strip, won over Widlfire’s thin crusted, wood-fire oven baked pizza. Seated at the outdoor patio, we were served bread with a lovely spread set of roasted garlic, pesto, and a tomato-based cream cheese. Both our dishes were excellent with us switching plates mid-way.
The Riso con Capisanto alla Griglia is perfectly cooked Arborio rice with shiitake, portobello and porcini mushrooms and topped with grilled scallops and shiitake fritters – a mouthful of wonderful flavors of earthy mushrooms and sweet scallops.
The eggplant and mozzarella filled ravioli, on the other hand, worked remarkably well with the pesto, roasted walnut and arugula – a play on sweet, slightly bitter and slightly peppery flavors.
We capped the evening meal with fantastic limoncello, so good we asked to see the bottle.
The following evening, we stayed indoors (partly because it was drizzling on and off) and found The Tasting Room Cocktail Kitchen at the Miramar Shopping mall.
Dark interior, small tables, a large TV screen… not exactly very inviting but what caught Anton’s fancy was the beer combo – a set of four beers arranged in drinking order (as explained by the wait staff).
The choices, Hoegaarden, Budvar, Asahi, were different enough to call for this pick. What hit my spot, truth to tell, was the Dinner Tasting Sets.
Clockwise: French Mussels, Winter Black Truffle and Pig Knuckles stuffed in tomato and glazed in beef jus, Foie Gras on toast, 36 months Iberico Ham and figs
We chose the Eight Course Winter Tasting Set (to share), which comes with a max of 6 oysters at half the price.
Suffice to say that we were happy campers that evening. If it weren’t raining, the best place to sit is out back, overlooking the terrace strip.
If staying within the neighborhood, Knutsford Terrace is a good choice to be. With the many restaurants still unexplored, a return on my next trip to Hong Kong is not far-fetched.Island Seafood & Oyster Bar 10 Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon For Reservation: +852-2321-6663 Tutto Bene 7 Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon For Reservations: +852-2316-2118 The Tasting Room Shop 2015 Mirarmar Shopping Center 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui Knutsford Terrace N01-10 For Reservations: +852-2473-0168
July 26, 2013 § 3 Comments
It’s been over six months since our Takayama trip. So much has happened since then.
But when I close my eyes, I still see the foliage, still feel the autumn breeze on my face, still taste the beef that melts in the mouth, the savoury sweetness of miso that we’ve come to know so well. Oh to reminisce.
One of the many highlights of our trip to Hida is the eating. Located high in the Hida Mountains in the Gifu Prefecture, Takayama was kept fairly isolated during the old days allowing it to develop its own culture. Land-locked, they depend a lot on mountains and rivers for ingredients, taking inspiration but veering away from the cuisines of Tokyo or Kyoto.
If you’re looking for quaint towns, a wealth of excellent street foods and sake, a unique way of enjoying miso dishes, and different melt in you mouth beef dishes, then you must go to Takayama.
Along with their carpentry, lacquerware, and pottery works, Takayama is likewise known for its local cuisine. I truly enjoyed the food in Hida.
There were small shops, and stalls of food, from their famous dango balls to soft serve green tea ice creams everywhere we went.
And the mochi. Oh the mochi.
One of the popular street foods, in this part of Japan, is Mitarashi Dango, little mochi (sweet dumplings made of rice flour) balls on bamboo skewers, dipped in a mixture of dashi, mirin, and soy sauce then grilled.
The chewy dumplings glazed with the sweet soy mix lets out a slightly burnt fragrance that is addicting, tempting me at every corner.
The unique combination of Hida’s landscape and climate produces excellent buckwheat and local soba noodle shops are all over Hida using the buckwheat flour to make their noodles. Locals love their soba paired with sake.
These handmade noodles are served hot in miso broth, a favorite during winter or cold (zaru soba) dipped in a light soy broth during summer time – hot or cold, the earthy flavor and the firmness of the noodles always shines through.
And the beef. Holding its own against Kobe and Matsuzaka is the pride of Takayama.
One distinctly local and considered Hida’s specialty is Hida beef cooked with another of Hida’s specialty, Hoba Miso. A plate of sliced raw beef is cooked at the table. On a ceramic brazier a hoba (magnolia) leaf topped with Hida’s special miso, the beef cooked over it. The miso added another layer of subtle fermented bean flavor. But what doesn’t go well with miso anyway?
This special miso is one thing I bought to take home with me.
Savory miso paste mixed with leeks, shiitake mushrooms, and pickles placed on dried hoba leaf then heated over a charcoal fire – simply divine over plain rice.
July 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
I’ve been remiss, forgive me. This is the real world catching up with me here. It’s been a busy few months since I got back from a month-long trip that started in Casablanca and ended in Madrid with Lisbon, among other cities, in between. And now I am missing the flavors of Spain.
Spain. A country of soaring mountains, beautiful cities, towns and villages, outstanding art and architectures, and a diverse cuisine left by the Moors, Romans and the Greeks.
Although very familiar to me, its cuisine still managed to leave a lasting impression. One dish that persists three months after our pleasurable acquaintance is Salmorejo, a variation of one of Andalusia’s famous dish, Gazpacho. A close cousin, if you will.
Like gazpacho, it is a cold tomato soup, only thicker. While gazpacho has tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper and onion, the vegetable present in Salmorejo is only tomato, and it uses garlic, not onions. Not as popular as gazpacho outside of Cordoba, where this soup originated, it has lately been gaining more recognition in and outside of Spain. Both are excellent summertime dishes, great as a starter or a light meal.
Usually served with hardboiled eggs and Spanish ham (Jamon Serrano or Iberico), I opted for the lighter accompaniment of green grapes and almond, a garnish borrowed from another cold soup, Ajo Blanco.
Adapted from Food And Wine June 2013 Issue
What You Need:
- 1 kilo tomatoes
- 1 ½ cups white bread or baguette, crust removed and cubed
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, grated
- 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- a few seedless green grapes, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp. roasted almonds, chopped
What You Do:
- Scald the tomatoes: Bring to a boil a large pot of salted water. Cut a small cross at the bottom of each tomato. When the water is boiling, add the tomatoes, leave for 30-60 seconds. Remove and immediately place in ice water. The skin will peel right off.
- Cut out the cores of the tomatoes. In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the bread cubes. Let stand for 15-minutes until the bread is soft.
- Transfer the tomato mixture to a food processor. Pulse with the grated garlic and vinegar until smooth. With the machine on, gradually add in the ¼ olive oil. Season with salt.
- Cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Serve the soup in bowls and garnish with the grapes, almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.
I find that the longer it sits in the fridge, the better the flavors of the ingredients meld. And on a truly hot day, the cold grapes is a burst of refreshing sweetness, combine it with the crunch of the almonds… you know you have a winner here.
For more of Spanish food goodness, check out the article I wrote for Exquise Magazine here.