Author: anjc815

Discover Desserts @ Hong Kong

Okay, so the real reason we came back to Hong Kong was because of the Hello Kitty popup grocery that would be closing by the end of May. It wasn’t even a question of whether I’d go back. As my daughter puts it, “You simply have to go there.” So there. I am an obedient mother.

 

But as it was already our second return to Hong Kong for the year, I was determined that we would not just shop the way we usually do, but also try to experience more of what the city had to offer in terms of food. I was glad to find some dessert gems that we would definitely go back to.

Dim Dimsum – The one that we tried was in Mongkok. Thank goodness there was only a short line outside the restaurant. It is just a tiny place with simple furnishings, but my friends (who were big dumpling fans) really enjoyed eating a lot of different food! I personally liked the presentation of their milk tea, and enjoyed my piggy salted egg custard and pineapple buns!

Filled with hot salted egg custard, these pig buns are cute AND yummeh!
The ice outside the milk tea keeps the drink cold, but doesn’t dilute the taste!

Oddies Foodies- Located at the Soho district, this dessert place serves egg waffles with gelato. The one we ordered had brownies pressed into it. They also had packed Nutella meringue which you could buy to give away to friends.

Egg waffles are a very popular dessert in HK

Taste Cafe in Macau – Ok, so technically, it’s not in Hong Kong, but if you have time, Macau also has very interesting places to eat in. Sadly, I don’t know the exact location of this place, but it is along Senado, when you attempt to walk to the ruins. They had a purple yam sandwich, that was really a dessert because apart from purple yam, it had condensed milk as a topping!

Taste served cold brew coffee in this beautiful container

I’m glad we explored a lot of eats in this trip! Happy travels =)

 

Dumaguete on the Cheap

This year, I made a promise to my family that we would explore the Philippines more. We are avid travellers, but sadly, we rarely choose to go around places in our own country because 1) it is hot most of the time and 2) it almost costs as much, or sometimes more than travelling to certain countries with more pleasant weather. But, I told myself that I wouldn’t make any excuses this time and really put the Philippines in our travel agenda.

Dumaguete was actually our second planned trip around the country. The first one was to the Pagsanjan Falls in Laguna, which was really just a day trip so I don’t have a story for that visit.

Dumaguete surprised me with its natural beauty and accessibility. There are so many gorgeous places to go to in this tiny island of just over a hundred thousand people. But, as we were newbies, we took the more expensive route and hired a tour guide. You can skip this part, and benefit from my experience by reading along and finding a more cost-effective way of going around Dumaguete.

Transportation

As I’ve said, all the major attractions in Dumaguete are just 30 minutes to an hour away from the main city, so if you’re travelling in a group, just hire a van. This will set you back Php 3,500 per day, but the van is very comfortable and can easily sit 9 people, ideal for families and groups of friends. If you’re on your own, best to hire your own motorcycle guy to bring you to different places. Of course, you have to risk it because Dumaguete doesn’t require helmets for motorcycle drivers and passengers (go figure).

Accommodations

Our hotel was located at the heart of the city, and I still think it’s a good idea to do that since all sights worth seeing are just walking distance from the hotel. Next time though, I would opt to book a hotel facing the Rizal Boulevard because 1) the scenery’s great. You’re overlooking the sea and the island of Siquijor; and 2) all the major restaurants are lined up along Rizal Boulevard.

Rizal Boulevard
The Places to Hit

Siliman University- Apart from being one of the oldest universities in the Philippines, it also boasts of its very own anthropological museum and the biggest library in Dumaguete. The library is open to the public, while there is a small fee for entering the museum.

The sprawling campus grounds of Siliman University
Rizal Boulevard- For anyone who enjoys eating, or hanging out, the boulevard is the best place to walk through. More on what you can eat in this area later.

Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao- Oh my, this is probably one of the most gorgeous places you can visit. It didn’t even take us thirty minutes to get her from the hotel. Once you arrive, you can take a boat to see both lakes from a viewing point.

Manjuyod Sandbar- I’ve been to the Honda Bay sandbar in Palawan, but it’s tiny compared to the 7 km sandbar of Manjuyod. White sand, clear waters, boatmen selling fresh buko, who can say no to this gorgeous location? After you get your fill of walking (if you don’t swim) or swimming, they’ll whisk you off to the middle of the ocean to look for dolphins! Then there’s lunch on the boat where copious amounts of crabs, shrimp and fish will be served.

Pulangbato Falls and Sulphur Mountains- Pulangbato waterfalls is another easy-to-reach place in Dumaguete. You can swim here, so do bring your bathing suits along. Very near it is a hot springs resort that gets its heat from the sulphur mountains. The water is really rusty, and the stones are a magnificent copper color!

Twinning in Pulangbato Waterfalls
Eats Time to Eat!

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention all the wonderful food that you can eat and bring home from Dumaguete.

Budbod sa Tanjay – A good thing to snack on, and a cheap pasalubong to take home is Dumaguete’s version of suman (sticky sweet rice). You can choose from just plain suman, suman with chocolate (the one I got) and suman with mango. This is normally served along the marketplace. If you want to take some home, I suggest you refrigerate it, or store in the freezer until you’re ready to eat. I usually fry mine once I take them out in the freezer. Yummy breakfast!

Panda Fried Ice Cream-Located at Maria Cristina St. (very near Siliman University), this treat is like eating a donut stuffed with ice cream. I really liked it!

 Sans Rival Cafe – You can get cheap meals here (some are not even Php 200 a plate), plus you can take home a box or two of their silvanas and sansrival. This, and many more restaurants are found along the Rizal boulevard. That’s it! I hope you learned a thing or two! Happy travels =)

Chocolate silvanas? Yes, please!

Sweet, Sweet Osaka

I ‘discovered’ Osaka in 2010, and since then, have made it a pilgrimage country, one that I keep religiously going back to on an almost yearly basis. Here are the top three reasons why I love Osaka:

  1. I love Osaka because it has a proliferation of Daiso/Seria stores, my favorite fabric stores and oodles and oodles of craft supplies. Yes, it might be weird for other people to see that this is my top reason to go back, what with Daiso stores being available here in the Philippines. But, guys! The Daiso stores here are Php 88! The Daiso stores in Japan are just Php 45-50 (depending on the exchange rate). Plus, the stuff available there are really not available here (particularly craft supplies!). So do you understand why it’s the first thing I go to when I arrive in Osaka? (I imagine people shaking their heads at me…hehehe.)
  2. I love Osaka because of the proximity of very interesting places surrounding it. It’s a train ride away from Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara! It’s the home of Universal Studios, the home of Harry Potter! It’s where the Kaiyukan Aquarium is! Castles, temples! They have it all!
  3. I love Osaka because of the food! Every time I’m there, I just have to order gyoza, katsu and karaage. Not the most adventurous set of meals, but I always get a kick out of how authentic the taste is. I have yet to find a gyoza place in the Philippines that can rival Osaka’s vendo gyoza, the cheapest gyoza you can find there! And the desserts are so plentiful! Methinks Japanese, like Filipinos, love their sweets.

So, on to my actual article. On this trip, we really wanted to sample more desserts. This was the first one I tried–a cream bun from Hop Chou ala Creme in the Shinsaibashi-Namba area. The outside looks like its hard bread, but looks can be deceiving! Inside is yummy, cool and creamy filling! I chose a chocolate-flavored one because you can’t go wrong with chocolate. The thing though is that it’s not heavy on the stomach, so you could be tempted to eat more than one bun. Plus there are many flavors to choose from, which is another temptation.
The next dessert I sampled was the waffle-on-a-stick at Maison de Gigi (Shinsaibashi Suji, Chuo-Ku). We each ordered our own flavor, and I again got the chocolate-flavored one, while Bumbum got the strawberry-flavored waffle. Okay, note that this was spring time in Osaka, which may have accounted for the waffle being a bit cold. But that said, the chocolate on mine was very good, dark (the way I like it) and the waffle had the sugar crystals that gave it a bit of crunch. Bumbum polished hers off in no time.
Finally, we ate the small cheesecake tarts in Pablo and the big premium one as well. I wasn’t able to take a picture of the premium cheesecake (too busy stuffing my face with it), but here is how it looks like:

*photo borrowed from http://mogmog.us/category/review/106/

I really loved the premium cheesecake with the creme brulee-esk top. Honestly, if left alone with this cake, I could probably finish off half of it. The burnt sugar top gives a wonderful flavor to this cheesecake.

I wish I could tell you that I ate more desserts, but sadly, I did not. After all, I’m always on a diet 😜

 

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast

beauty_and_the_beast

Once upon a time (around 1991), I watched the original Disney version of Beauty and the Beast and fell in-love with the blonde prince who only shows himself in maybe the last 5 minutes of the movie. I loved it so much that I watched the Broadway version in New York in 2006. Suffice it to say, I am a fan. The story is a classic made richer by the beautiful songs.

So of course, I was one of the people who was excited to find out they were going to do a live action version of the movie. Finally, my family was able to watch it last Sunday at a block screening in support of the mentorship program of Differently Special Achievers Movement (https://www.facebook.com/SpecialAchievers). Before the movie, we headed to the art exhibit of these kids, entitled Enchanted,  An Art Exhibit of 18 Child-Artists with Disability. That in itself was already a magical experience, having seen the wonderful works of these kids, who thankfully, have the opportunity to have their voices heard through their art.

Moving to the movie itself, I have to say that the little princess in me was still every bit as excited as she was all those years ago. While a lot of things were taken from the original cartoon version, I thought the additional details made the re-telling much more interesting and gave a depth that was lacking in the first movie. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the movie yet, you should stop reading at this point.)

First, I liked that they explained that the prince wasn’t born cruel. He was made cruel by his haughty father. I also appreciated that they took the time to explain where Belle’s mom was. I had always just assumed that she died, but now I know why. It made their struggles more believable, seeing that they had to go through these experiences.

Second I thought that the idea that the whole village forgot about the castle and the prince was an inspired addition. After all, wouldn’t it be odd not to notice why your prince, nay, an entire castle, suddenly went missing? For me, it also symbolized that maybe, the villagers became cruel too, thus forgetting that they had this hidden gem.

Third, I really liked the beginning, with the prince all made up (makeup and heels–very French) so you couldn’t really see how he looked like. I was wide-eyed as I awaited his transformation. Squee! He is the cartoon-made flesh. Yup, so handsome!

pjimage41.jpg

The true testament to how good the movie was? My little stoic daughter said she cried a little! She has never cried in any movie she has ever seen. EVER.

Yes, it is a story made for kids and for kids-at-heart. So if you fall into one of these categories, you will enjoy this movie a lot!

 

Dad Dear and the Big Bad Tech Monster

My dad is a septuagenarian. He turned seventy last year, and while at times I feel that my age is catching up with my parents, when he hit his 70’s, I realized that the age gap is greater than ever, our differences punctuated by technology. He says things like, “Maan (my pet name), kunin mo ang Facebook ko” (translation: “Please get my Facebook”). To which I reply, “San ko dadalhin?” (trans.: “Where do I bring it to?”). It’s my fault, really. I bought him the iPad that is causing him so much distress. He feels that every time someone messages him, he is required to message back (meaning, I would need to type and edit what he wants to say). He’s quite popular in his circles, being an educator for decades, and when he celebrates another birthday, a ton of people will most likely greet him. This guy might actually need a media manager! Another thing that changed for my dad is that he loves to have lots of pictures taken using his phone. He would then ask, “Paano ko makikita ito sa Facebook?” (How will I see this on Facebook?) To which I reply, “Upload mo” (upload it). Which results to him giving me a perplexed look. (Translation: I, or one of my siblings, should do something so that his friends could see his pics).

My daughter is most patient with him, connecting him to Youtube, messenger and Facebook whenever she can, but even her patience runs thin when he continues to badger her on things he had already been taught. And while I am mildly amused at his attempts to understand technology, it does get me thinking when I will hit my “technological learning barrier” (copyright Anj CP). You know, that ‘virtual wall’ where no new learning will want to penetrate my brain. I already see glimpses of it as I watch my daughter do her programming. Will I be my dad someday and simply not understand how the new world works? While I hope that I will not lose my willingness to learn, historically, it’s not looking good for me. My hope is that I will get a patient grandchild to help me grapple with technology. Karma, please be kind 🙏

Good Deeds and Life Lessons

Once upon a time, when we were college students, my group of friends organized a Christmas outreach in CRIBS, an orphanage for newborns and babies. It was a great experience for us, caring for the babies, singing to them, and even carrying some in our arms. Now, ehrm, about 17 years after, with most of us having had babies of our own, we repeated the experience, this time in Bahay at Yaman ni San Martin de Porres in Bustos, Bulacan. And we brought our babies along as well to share in the experience. 
While some orphanages fare better than others, with this one in particular looking very well-kept and managed, the format is that normally, the kids in the orphanage would have a short program, which begins with a prayer and then maybe a short introduction of the orphanage, plus a song or dance number. The kids of St. Martin did not disappoint, with a complete program of songs and dances. We, in turn, brought food to share and some games to play. In the end, everyone came home with a lighter heart, having been blessed with the experience of sharing.

But more than the good feeling that we brought home that day, I do hope that the experience taught my daughter a few things about life.

1. The most obvious takeaway is that she is a very lucky girl indeed because she is growing up with both parents who love her completely and unconditionally.

2. While these kids may lead very different lives, interacting with them on a firsthand basis shows that they also have a lot of similarities, i.e. they’re not so different after all.

3. Serving others, especially those who need help the most, is our responsibility because we have the means to help.

4. Trying new things, even though they are out of your comfort zone, makes you a more well-rounded individual.

5. Every little bit of help counts. Even the simple task of serving food, giving out straws, etc. is an act of love.    

And yes, every time we do an outreach, I do feel that it is a little bit unfair because I take away more than what I give. May the new year give us more opportunities to share!

Airline Review: Emirates

Although not intentional, I’m glad that I got to try a lot of different airlines this year, making it seem like my posts are cohesive and well-planned =). 

For a family trip to Germany, we opted to take Emirates. When we were scouting for airlines, we originally planned on getting Singapore Airlines again. But, since we are a big group and Emirates was cheaper, we decided to give it a go. I was dreading it a bit because I really didn’t like the Dubai airport we stopped over in our trip to Greece, but thankfully, I was proven wrong because Emirates apparently had its own terminal, which was much better than the one we landed in the first time around. All the shops were open 24 hours and there was even a live band playing at one point.

On to the good stuff: First, I noticed that the Emirates crew made an effort to be friendly. They gave warm towels before the plane took off, which in my opinion is always a good sign.The stewardess even tried to chat with my daughter. Unfortunately, it was not reciprocated because once she is strapped in, she is in entertainment-mode and is primarily concentrated on how to figure out the screen in front of her. Speaking of entertainment, Emirates had enough movies to keep me busy and not bored with the very long travel time (7 hours MNL to DBX and another 7 from DBX to Germany). The meals were quite edible, with my daughter enjoying her kid’s meal and snack pack; and daddy giving his thumbs up on the double chocolate chip cookies. By the way, my daughter’s freebies included a lunch kit, a travel blanket and a strapped bag loaded with stuff to read and craft. And while this is a small thing, it was very relaxing for me to see that when the crew dimmed the lights, the plane had a lot of pin lights overhead, mimicking a very starry night. Maybe it was to comfort the kids, as the plane was never completely dark, but for whatever reason, it looked quite beautiful. Hubby was also pleased with the leg room (he’s about 6 ft tall). I, on the other hand never seem to notice leg room because I fit anywhere! Hahah, the benefits of being tiny.

But, in spite of all those good things, Emirates would not make it to my Top 3 because of the following reasons: First off, while daughter is happy with her freebies, mommy was not happy at all because she didn’t even get a free toothbrush! They didn’t give away a basic hygiene kit, and they didn’t stock their restrooms with any either. A good airline would either have a basic kit, or have some stocked in their restrooms. A great airline would have both =). Second disappointment was the restroom. I don’t know if it was just coincidence with Middle Eastern airlines, but just like Qatar Air, the bathrooms in Emirates weren’t very well-cleaned. 

Overall though, I’d still recommend Emirates, especially when they have a good deal on the price of the ticket =)

In Search of the Perfect Pancake

I confess: I have a pancake addiction. I think I need a pancake intervention because of the level of obsession I have for these fluffy circles topped with butter and syrup. To satisfy my cravings, I have traveled far and wide in search of the most heavenly bite of pancake. And let me tell you, you don’t have to go very far. Hands down, for the price and consistency, Pancake House still gives all the places that I’ve been to a run for their money. But, as I also find it boring to eat in just one restaurant all the time, I have to have other options to get my pancake fix. Below are some of my suggestions.

Seattle’s Best, Makati

seattles-best

Of all the chain coffee shops I’ve had the pleasure of eating in, I think Seattle’s (this was the one in Makati) offers the most complete breakfast. You can choose your sides (bacon, sausage, eggs, etc.). And their pancake is good enough (not great though–lacks in fluffiness). I’m a little bit partial to a complete package, and they gave single-serve butter…not the best partner for pancakes in my opinion. But, it’s priced competitively and the service is pretty fast, so I recommend it for those who just came out of work in the wee hours of the morning and would like a decent breakfast.

Mario’s, Quezon City

Marios.JPG

As you can tell, this is a monster breakfast fit for a king! And the price is not bad at all…pretty affordable actually. They topped the pancake with whipped butter, and as you can also see from the picture, the pancakes are quite fluffy. So, it comes as no surprise that this is on my list, especially if you have guy companions because they will definitely enjoy the portions.

Eggs n’ Things, Fukuoka, Japan

eggs-n-things

I first discovered Eggs n’ Things when we went to Hawaii some years back. It’s a breakfast chain store (like IHOP) but I think its origins are Japanese. So, when we came across it in Fukuoka, I just knew I had to order their pancakes (I had forgotten how they tasted like…it was so long ago =). As the picture shows, it was a very big meal. The slabs of bacon are thick and the eggs are a beautiful shade of orange. Whipped butter, check! Fluffiness, check! And yes, quite pricey! It’s not for everyday breakfast, but definitely a place to go to when you’re entertaining guests, or celebrating a special occasion.

Wild Flour, The Podium, Ortigas

wild-flourI saved the best for last! Wild Flour is known for its tasty concoctions, from sandwiches to meals and I have never eaten anything here that I didn’t immediately like. This pancake is way up there, level of Pancake House, great. It’s not whipped butter, but its salted butter on top of a sprinkling of confectioners sugar. Look at its glorious fluffiness. I don’t know how they achieve it, but these pancakes are as light and fluffy as clouds! Inside it is ricotta cheese, mmm. Makes me think all pancakes should have built-in ricotta cheese. I also love  that it’s partnered with caramelized banana (you know, to keep it healthy =). But since both are sweet, I still need to order a side of bacon. It is pricey, but so worth it!

Yeah, I need help. I’ve got pancakes on my mind!

Fukuoka Food Delights Part 2

ramenA food trip to Fukuoka would not be complete without ramen. Hubby researched that Ramen Stadium was a good place to pick our ramen meal, and so off we went! Ramen Stadium is a floor located inside a beautiful mall, called Canal City Mall, so yey to hitting two birds with one stone! As hubby is very sensitive to certain meats and veggies (no cabbage, beansprouts, potatoes and beef), we had to be extra careful in choosing our ramen. We went to Marufuku Ramen (I hope I got the name right…all signs were in Japanese) and selected via their vendo a Tonkotsu Ramen. Of course I’ve had these before so was really curious what the difference would be. For 800++ yen, we got a bowl with two pieces of chasu, kelp, an egg and nori on the side. We noted that the aroma of the ramen was a bit stronger than what we were used to. Methinks its because the chasu was smoked. It did not disappoint. The flavor of the broth was very rich, the chasu was so soft it was like chewing butter. Noodles were nicely cooked, not soft or soggy, rather on the firmer side. Even Brie polished off her plate! Maybe next time, we shall order more meat, but again for the price, quite a satisfying meal.

I’m sure it will also be worthwhile to visit the other famous ramen places at the Ramen Stadium, Canal City, Hakata.

Fukuoka Food Delights Part 1

To celebrate our 15 years of marital bliss, hubby and I decided on a less familiar, but still familiar travel destination: Fukuoka, Japan. Why Fukuoka? The answer: food!We’ve always been a great lover of Japanese food, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to see what Fukuoka had to offer. Incidentally, we discovered that some of our fave Jap food in the Phil (Uncle Tetsu for cheesecake and Nagi Universal Ramen) originated from Fukuoka.

Just so you know, we’re not really foodies. We don’t do in-depth research on the places to eat in. We’re kinda the “let’s-get-lost-and-go-into-the-resto-with-nice-food-pics” people. So on our first night, that was exactly what we did. Our hotel wasn’t really in the busy and tourist-y district so no English translations. When we entered Ten Jin Cha Han, we pointed to what looked good, while our very gracious waitress tried to understand what we were attempting to say. I ended up with a set meal composed of thinly sliced beef steak cooked in garlic sauce, cha-han (fried rice with pork bits) and vegetable salad. Hubby ended up with cheesy cha-han and Brie got her safe, but sure karaage. Since I got the house specialty, I assumed it would taste decent. And boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t decent…it was obscenely delicious! The beef required very little chewing and was flavorful, so good choice on the garlic sauce (the other option was Wasabi sauce). Although I’ve always been a “well-done” kind of beef-eater, I have to say that their medium-rare is heavenly. Didn’t taste a drop of blood, no slimy aftertaste. Each slice had a bit of pesto, which added a very interesting flavor. And it paired nicely with the cha-han. Hubby also gave a thumbs up to his meal and said the karaage was flavorful and crispy. To top it all off, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. It was actually a very cheap meal (1,600 Yen, or about 800 Php) for ALL of us. Yup! That’s what I call a successful first day!