Category: Food

Smart Travels: Madrid

I’m doing a thread of smart travels to help those who are planning their future trips make the most out of their journeys.

Madrid, as I’ve learned, is a city that comes alive in the afternoon. Breakfasts at our normal Filipino times (7 to 8 am) is practically unheard of. When you go to the mall at 10 (yes, the mall does open early), don’t expect the dining places to be open earlier than 12 or 12:30.

TIP #1: Breakfast

If your hotel does not serve breakfast, make sure you go to the grocery and buy easy breakfast food that you can prepare, like fruits, cheese and bread. This is especially important if you’re traveling with kids. They will get fussy and no one wants that. Now, if you’re really not keen on making preparations, or stocking food, look for the San Gines Churreria which is open 24 hours. Churros dipped in hot chocolate is a perfectly acceptable breakfast for Spaniards.

TIP #2: Free Walking Tours

Now, if you’re ever wanting to learn about Madrid’s rich history and their leaders (eg. Isabel II), you might want to take advantage of some companies that give free walking tours. All you need to do is sign up online and you’re set for a walk around the city. Cost? Just tip your guide! You’ll also most likely have a coffee break at another Churreria 😊

TIP #3: Free Museum Entrance

Just like Milan, Spain’s museums offer free entrance an hour before closing time. By the time you finish your walking tour, have a coffee break and take a very late lunch (around 3-ish), you’ll most likely be just in time to take advantage of this freebie.

TIP #4: Flamenco!

Wondering what to do with the money you’ve saved taking advantage of all the freebies? Why splurge on a Flamenco night of course! Yes, it’s bit pricey (about €40), but it comes with a free drink and an hour long of feverish dancing! Cap your night off with some paella from the nearby mercato and you’re set!

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Smart Travels: Milan

Milan is quite an expensive place to visit, with museums costing on average € 15, and simple meals at € 10. However, if you’re smart, you can still save a few euros without depriving yourself of a good time.

TIP 1: Transport Cards

There are 2 types of transpo tickets that can get you around the city. One is a €1.50 card that expires within 90 minutes after use. There’s another that’s €4.50, that can be used for the entire day. Now, you might think that the obvious choice is the €4.50 one since it’s for the whole day. But here’s the thing—sometimes, you will really only need to use it twice (going to one place, and then going back to the hotel). That means you’ll actually be better off with the one-time use card. Remember, Milan is a walking city. If you’re going to the center where all the museums and shops are, you just might opt for walking.

*Note: kids 10 and below ride free.

TIP 2: Museums

How many museums can you possibly go through in a day? Now that really depends on the museum and your patience in walking. Some, like the Biblioteca Pinacoteca Accademia Ambrosiana, are all in Italian. While there are important pieces there from Da Vinci, like some paintings and his codex, there are hardly any English translations. You will need an audioguide to survive this. A complete walkthrough might take you about 2 hours. So, assuming you do a museum in the morning, take a leisurely lunch, a walk/in the park/shopping in the afternoon, you should just be on time to avail of the ‘free’ museum pass—around 4 or 5 pm, an hour before the museum closes. I suggest to research about the museum and go directly to its most important pieces to save on time. A beautiful place to visit in the afternoon is the Castellos Sforzesco. You can buy food-to-go and then eat it at the park.

TIP 3: Food

There aren’t really any “cheap” food in Milan, unless you prefer to eat standing up. But there are some good deals. We tried the Trattoria de Pino and it serves 3-course meals for only €16! It also comes with either mineral water or a glass of wine. You can also order ala carte for the young ones. Ask for the Filipino waiter so that he can explain the menu in English.

TIP 4: Souvenir Shopping

I really didn’t do souvenir research in any of my previous travels, until a recent one in Korea. Because there were so many products, I thought it would be best to search the net for recommended ones. I did the same for Italy and got some really good deals!

Unique stuff to buy:

Marvis Toothpaste: Yes, who would’ve thunk it would be a good idea to bring home toothpaste? Well, for one thing, it’s an Italian brand. It has a cult following that swears by it. And it comes in very quirky flavors and great packaging. Buy them in pharmaceuticals or select groceries.

Soaps: Italy is home to scents so don’t forget to grab a couple. I didn’t put here any brand in particular because they had so many suggestions.

Door Knobs: I swear I’ve never seen so many different knobs in my life! Sold in hardware stores

Happy travels!

Comfort Food @Nono’s

In Manila, good restaurants are never far away. On one of my “Wednesday Date Days” with hubby, we stepped into Nono’s, a recently opened restaurant located in the newly renovated Podium. For those who haven’t been to Podium recently, you will be pleasantly surprised to see its fresh look complimented with a ton of new restaurants! We’ve tried a couple already and so far, I’ve been happy with our choices.

Now, back to Nono’s. Stepping into its calming vintage green interior and loads of fresh greenery definitely takes me back to the sixties.

As they touted their comfort food, I, of course, ordered fried chicken (my definition of comfort food). We also ordered cheese wontons and a plate of pasta for sharing.

The cheese wontons were yummy, with a drizzling of honey and nuts. With the way it looks, I assume the wontons were torched.  It was just enough to satisfy my cravings for cheese, without ruining my appetite.

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Cheesy wontons drizzled with honey and nuts

The plate of pasta was too much for a party of two, but it would be a great order for bigger groups. I loved the freshness of the cherry tomatoes and had I not stopped myself, I could’ve easily gorged on the flavorful garlic bread.

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Carb fest!

Now on to the pièce de résistance—the fried chicken to  be dipped in gravy and honey! It came with a side of potatoes and corn (no diet here folks!) Among the three orders though, I’m afraid this was my least favorite. Not that the chicken tasted bad. I just didn’t like the gravy, which was too peppery for my taste. Hubby, on the other hand, enjoyed it. When the staff asked me if I was enjoying the meal, I said that I was, except for the gravy. And you know what? She was kind enough to make me a fresh batch. That’s service!

Nono’s is located at the second level of The Podium Mall.
12 ADB ave. Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City.
(02) 637 5147
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Leave the diet at home.

Dining at Foo’d

Many of my friends turned forty this year. And it’s been a lot of fun seeing how they decided to celebrate their personal milestones. A college friend of mine had her very own pictorial with her besties, while another one decided to treat us to a 5-course dinner. Since it’s a rare occurrence for me to be treated to such a fancy meal, I decided to write about it.

The dinner was held at Foo’d by Davide Oldani, a relatively new resto in Shangri-la BGC. When you receive their menu, they will give you their standard signature dish. However, they’ll also give you many other options in case you don’t like one (or more) of the items. So, you have a lot of room to customize your menu. I chose their signature 5-course meal which consisted of Cipollo Caramellata, Truffle Cacio e Pepe, Salmon D’o, Pork Ribs and Dark Chocolate Mousse for dessert (fancy names I will explain later).

As the orders come in, the chef will approach you to explain what he is serving. It was a bit hard to listen to him because I was hungry and wanted to eat the moment the food arrived. Hahaha.

Ok, now to evaluate each plate. By the way, they also served appetizers, such as super flaky breadsticks and complimentary bread. However, I suggest you go easy on these because a five-course meal is very filling, even if the servings look tiny.

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Complimentary bread

The first plate was the cipollo caramellata. It was white onion on a very flaky pie crust. The edges of the crust and the onion had a caramel coat on top, making this a very sweet appetizer. I love white onions and if you’ve ever had one, it really is already sweet on its own. I loved this first dish, but I was also very conscious that I still have four more plates to go.

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Cipollo Caramellata- caramelized onions, 24 months aged grana palano gelato, grana Padano hot cream

The second dish was truffle cacio e pepe–spaghetti with lemon and truffle oil. I loved this dish and hope that someday, I can replicate it. The truffle oil wasn’t overpowering so you only had a hint of mushroom. But the lemon in the pasta was so refreshing. I could eat this on its own and be very satisfied with it.

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Spaghetti, lemon, pecorino romano, black pepper, truffle oil

On the third plate, we were given the option of seabass or salmon. I’ve always enjoyed salmon so I opted for this one. The salmon skin was crispy, but in my humble opinion, the salmon itself was a little overcooked. So, out of the five dishes, this was my least favorite. However, my friend who ordered the seabass said that it was melts-in-your-mouth delicious.

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Seabass or salmon, lettuce, caviar d’o

The fourth plate was my meat dish. I had a lot of choices, from wagyu to conchinillo, but I picked this for health reasons. Hahahaha! Under it was a flavorful gravy, which hubby likened to Mang Tomas, but of course, it wasn’t. The pork was very soft and easy to chew. This would be perfect for those on a keto diet because it wasn’t paired with any rice.

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Pork Ribs (I actually forgot to write down the correct name of this dish)

And the finale was a dark chocolate mousse. I’ve got to say, I think the bit of rock salt sprinkled on the chocolate and the freeze-dried raspberries really made the flavors pop. Too bad I had taken coffee before going to Foo’d. Otherwise, it would have made a perfect partner, and a great way to end to this five-course meal.

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Cacao crumble, framboise, dark chocolate gelato

A Taste of Hello Kitty

Historically, this is not the first Hello Kitty Cafe in the Philippines. So, to those who blogged that the Hello Kitty Cafe in BGC was the first HK Cafe in the Philippines, I’m sorry to dispute your claim, but this is wrong info. When hubby and I were still dating (early 2000’s), I distinctly remember going to a Hello Kitty restaurant situated in a mall. I tried searching it online, but so far, I have not been able to pinpoint exactly which mall (it was either SM North Edsa, or Megamall). I even remember ordering a sort of gelatin-like concoction shaped like Hello Kitty’s head. I recall that everything on the menu was quite pricey. Mostly, I remember that the food was not good. At all. I dutifully packed my souvenir (a Hello Kitty table napkin) and left, swearing I would never eat their atrocious food again.

So, in all honesty, I was thinking that when this new one opened up, I would again do my duty as a loyal HK fan, go in, take pictures, “experience” the Hello Kitty-ness of everything, raise an eyebrow on the prices of items, and then never again return because I didn’t like the food. I was correct on all accounts, except for one. First, the Hello Kitty dining experience was pretty good and consistent with the theme. Except for the restroom (C’mon, cafe guys! You can purchase HK toilet rolls. You just need to do a bit of research!), which was really just a restroom with a bit of decal, the overall store was pretty classy, with the HK bows stamped, carved and stuck on almost everything. HK cutlery would be a nice addition, but methinks they purposely didn’t do that so as not to “lose” their forks and spoons to clients wanting a souvenir.

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Perfect place for a bro date…pretty bows for pretty guys!

The items were a bit on the high side, with the main meals hitting 350 php and up. But I guess my biggest surprise (and the thing I was wrong about) was that the food was actually good. Really. I’m not saying this because I was momentarily distracted by the pastel bows on my herbed pork. I’m also not saying this just because I happen to like French food (most of the food on the menu were French). Even my benefactor, (let’s call him Professor J) said that the food was decent. We ordered the roasted pumpkin soup, mMoroccan chicken, herbed pork, spaghetti bolognese and another dish that I forgot.

My daughter dearest polished her plate off in no time at all!

Suffice it to say, I was wrong…the HK Cafe in Uptown BGC is a place I would go back to…mainly because I failed to sample their desserts. Ahaha!

Happy eating!

The Barn by Tipsy Pig

UP Town Center is fast becoming a food lover’s  favorite destination. A lot of really good restaurants have long been serving customers here, like Mama Lou’s, Cafe Shibuya, Mad Mark’s, Backyard Kitchen, Casa Verde, Dulcelin, Silantro, Genki Sushi, and a lot more.
One such establishment that recently opened is The Barn by Tipsy Pig. Originally located in Capital Commons in Pasig, they opened their door in Katipunan November last year. They mostly serve Filipino food, with some pizza and pasta in the mix. The Barn drafts their own beer, and it goes without saying that they serve good “pulutan” to go with that beer.

 

Signature Burger – very juicy and the meat is cooked just right

 

 

Not your typical kare-kare, this one is made with crispy fried liempo underneath the steamed vegetables

 

 

 

My favorite – their version of pares made from premium beef, with garlic rice, of course!
Sebastian dip – spinach + crab meat + cheese = FTW
Nachos – pack a flavor and good enough for 4-5 persons
Sebastian’s salad – greens with candied walnuts and balsamic dressing, my kind of salad
Their signature dish, sisig tacos. So good one order is not enough
One of their house-brewed beer, Salted Caramel

 

 

 

Since it opened, The Barn by Tipsy Pig has been a regular hangout for us Katipunan moms, not only for the good food, but great ambiance and service.

 

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 travelers, 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 along 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 😜

 

My Chow Down Rundown

My Chow Down Rundown

It’s been a while since my last blog post, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating!  There have been a number of great food experiences in the past 3 months that I thought it best to quickly share them in one post.  So, here goes:

The brisket at Mighty Quinn’s.  I had the privilege of getting invited to a private tasting event a few days before its official opening.  It was a great experience to meet the man behind New York’s award-winning slow cooked barbecue, Hugh Mangum.  One thing else that had a lasting impression on me was the brisket.  Tender, moist, savory, with just the right amount of fat.  Need I say more?

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Rib Eye at Maria Luisa’s Garden Room.  This place is one of my favorites and I’ve written about their Scandinavian platter and cassoulet in the past.  But I’ve discovered their rib eye only recently…and they do it very well!

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Degustation at the Champagne Room. This place’s old-world ambiance and decadence is perfect for special occasions.  A must try is their degustation menu – with champagne of course!

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The Arroz Negro at Tomatito.  I knew this place was a must-try even before I stepped into its doors.  How could a restaurant from the same team behind Las Flores and Rambla not be great?  The very playful ambiance added to the experience.

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The Porterhouse at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse.  This was probably the biggest piece of meat I have ever had the chance to devour.  It was also a glorious, juicy, tasty, piece of monster meat!

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Yakiniuku at Urameshi-Ya.  I have been to Little Tokyo so many times but it was only recently that I discovered Urameshi-Ya.  Aside from really good yakiniku, I could not get over how good their rice was!  It was quite pricy for a bowl of rice (P120) but it was worth it!

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Mutton Rajwari Kofta at the Royal Indian Curry House.  This was the chef’s secret recipe – worth a try!

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Beef cubes with Garlic at Mandarin Sky Seafood & Shabu-shabu.  This dish made going out of my way to Banawe well worth the trip!

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I will end this jumbled post with this quote from Julia Child: “People who love to eat are always the best people.”