Monday, April 30, 2007

Leslie's Restaurant in Alabang

When we pass by Commerce Avenue on our way to either Festival Mall or Alabang Town Center, we would always see this monstrosity being constructed. We assumed it was some sort of church or a restaurant with a castle theme. Wrong! It's actually Leslie's Restaurant. You know, that restaurant in Tagaytay overlooking Taal Volcano. Well, they recently opened a branch here in Alabang.

Hubby and I got curious of what it looked like inside so we decided to have dinner there the other night. The building really is a monster. The place is huge with fake rocks adorning ALL of its walls and columns. It's a two-storey building with vaulted ceilings and huge windows. It's not air-conditioned, but the place is quite cool at night because of the night breezes coming through the windows. Since the place is "open-air" everyone is free to smoke anywhere. We don't smoke, so we dislike inhaling second-hand nicotine. Fortunately no one was smoking near us.

The place has a humongous indoor waterfall complete with a small bridge. There's also a man-made brook in the garden that might interest little children. Large banquet tables are set-up to give you that medieval-like dining experience.

Hubby and I weren't very hungry so we just ordered Seafood Kare-Kare and fresh buko juice. The food isn't spectacular, as with the Leslie's in Tagaytay. The presentation of the food is a bit unappetizing. The Kare-Kare would have looked more appetizing if it was served in a native clay pot or a deep dish. The buko (coconut) we ordered was not chilled, it had a paper umbrella though.

Their food is not cheap either. Hubby shelled out P650 (US$13.50) For the kare-kare, rice and the buko juice. Leslie's Alabang is best only for the novelty in dining in a castle-like/dungeon environment.

If you want good food, go somewhere else.

Food Styling with Delores Custer

I mentioned in my earlier blog that I had attended a Food Styling class by Delores Custer. As promised, here’s some of the highlights of what transpired in that beautiful Saturday.

I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to attend this seminar and it was by pure luck that I got in. My former officemate, who was assigned for that seat couldn’t make it. I was sent in his place. I was so excited. After all, Delores Custer will be conducting the seminar.

Delores Custer is a renowned American Food Stylist. She has been in the food styling industry for almost 30 years. Interestingly enough, she started her food styling career at age 38 and had worked for another food stylist as a "trainee" for five years before venturing on her own. She had worked for numerous magazines, advertising agencies, pr firms, TV shows and commercials, film and food companies. Ms. Custer also teaches courses in Professional Food Styling and Recipe Writing and Development at New York University, The New School and the Culinary Institute of America and has conducted food styling workshops in Japan, Chile, Argentina, Norway and of course, the Philippines. She also helped develop the Hearts Kitchen Course of the New York Heart Association and has lectured on the “new cuisine” and taught courses in food demonstration. She has also developed recipes for various food companies and has contributed to several cookbooks. She appears frequently on television discussing food styling techniques or current nutritional concerns. To learn more about Ms. Custer and her career, click here.

I’ve worked with food stylists during my stint in an advertising agency. I’ve always been very fascinated with their work and creativity. There’s nothing like a beautifully plated food that's carefully laid out to romance the camera. I’ve learned many years ago that when it comes to food, nothing is as simple as it looks.

Here’s what I learned during the seminar a.k.a our syllabus:

I. Review of last year’s presentation

• Here Ms. Custer gave some of the food styling secrets, like how to make condensation on a beverage glass (Mix 90% corn syrup to 10% water, mix well using a hard toothbrush, spritz to glass, make sure you cover the parts of the glass that will not have condensation.

• Lemon curls are made by using a vegetable peeler, peel skins, slice thinly, lengthwise then twist on a straw . Use pins to secure. Cover with a moist towel until ready to use.

• Fotoflow adds bubbles to beverages. Available in photography supply shops.

II. Presentation of slides: What makes food look mouthwatering and appealing

I got hungry on this part.

III. Demonstration and lecture: Working with food:

• How to style pasta – This involves choosing the right plate, the right cut for the vegetables and use of a medicine dropper to apply the “sauce”.

• How to style poultry- The poultry is stuffed with aluminum foil and tissue and secured with pins in inconspicuous places and just baked for 15 minutes to prevent the skin from wrinkling.

• How to style cakes and pies – This is a little tricky particularly placing the frosting in the middle of the slice. Cut a wedge in the middle of the slice, with an off set spatula or squeeze bottle, fill in. Holes in your cake? Use Vaseline and leftover crumbs.

IV. How best to promote your food product of food company - This segment is pretty much about making the product you're selling stand out.

V. Working on TV Commercials

VI. Developing and writing recipes - This part is very informative for a blogger like me. It gave me insights on how to present recipes better and more friendly to the home cook.

VII. Working with food in front of an audience or a camera - In this segment Ms. Custer showed us a very funny clip of "don'ts".

Needless to say, I learned tons of stuff on this seminar much more information than what I have posted here. One of the best part (for me at least) was that we got to taste Ms. Custer’s famous carrot cake. Yum! She even gave us the recipe. I can’t wait to bake it. I hope it will turn out as moist and as delicious as hers. Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ang Bango!

I first fell in love with Bath & Body Works when my cousin Ate Binky sent some from the US many years ago (I was still single at that time). From then on, I kept a lookout for them in PX stores here in BF and Alabang area. I would occasionally see them here and there but the stocks were always "old".

Through the years, relatives would bring me some whenever they came home for a short vacation. Hubby even bought me some from his last trip in the US (together with Victoria's Secret Lingerie, he he he).

The scents are so fabulous and would linger in the room long before after you've applied it on your body. I was so elated when I saw "new" stocks being sold at Robinson's Department Store here in Festival Mall. The kikay in me couldn't contain the excitement!

I still have some leftover from gifts given to me by my cousins. I was making tipid the precious liquid. Now I can make pahid liberally! Yey!

The price is not bad either, practically the same price in the US. Lotions in 2 fl. oz sell for P399.75 (US$8.33), in 8 fl. oz sell for P599.75 (US$12.50), liquid hand soaps sell for P399.75 (US$8.33) per bottle. I can't wait to try all the scents!

Friday, April 27, 2007

The French Corner

As I mentioned in my previous blog. Hubby and I tried this restaurant called The French Corner. I have read somewhere that this restaurant is owned by Chef Billy King of The Manor Hotel in Baguio. I've stayed in that hotel before and the food was good.

We've always drove by this French restaurant in West gate, Filivest, Alabang many times and we were always apprehensive of what it might be like. At one point, hubby asked me what French food has he eaten? Well, french fries? Croissant? Escargot? I was stumped for more fancy dishes.

We might as well try it since we see it all the time. Not very many people dine there. We thought maybe it's either the food is bad or the place is hellishly expensive.

So begins our first "French" culinary experience.

The facade is not very friendly and a bit cold and imposing. We forge ahead anyway. We were seated in a nice candlelit table in the middle of the restaurant. Most diners were expatriates and yuppies. Our waiters were very attentive and cordial.

We were given french bread and fancy dinner rolls with the most delicious dipping sauce ever! I sweetly asked the waiter what was in the dipping sauce, he gladly complied: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, red and green bell peppers, shallots, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and black olives (I could taste a tiny bit of sugar in there) everything was diced in perfect tiny little pieces. Oh my gosh, they should bottle this and sell it to the masses!

For starters, we ordered the Grilled Seafood Salad which has grilled prawns, squid, salmon, sole, shitake mushrooms and eggplant in ginger vinaigrette flavored with saffron. Sounds very delicious. It was! The seafood was grilled to perfection. The vinaigrette was very balanced in terms of sweetness and tartness, a perfect compliment to the salad.

I ordered the cheese, spinach and mushroom souffle because I've never had it. It was very rich and quite salty. Not good, but not bad either. Their serving is quite generous. The cream sauce was served on the side and a bit too thick. The souffle itself was not "puffy" enough and a bit overdone.

For main course, hubby ordered the Salmon in Filo Pastry. The salmon is wrapped, lumpia style in filo pastry, baked and served with a spinach sauce and Caesar's salad. The salmon, according hubby was not the best but it was nicely done. The spinach sauce was a bit bland. The Caesar's salad was just your average kind. The lettuce was a little but wilted maybe because they placed a cold salad on a hot plate, duh.

I ordered the Organic Pasta and Escargot. It's made with a French herb pasta and escargot sauteed in olive oil and garlic with red wine sauce and cafe de Paris-butter. Very French sounding. This dish is just plain awful. The sauce was way too salty, there was no "herb" in the pasta, the escargot was tough. Awful, awful, awful. I refuse to pay P400 for it. I told the waiter that I would like to return the dish for it was too salty. They calmly and cordially told me that they will replace it with a new one. I politely refused. Who knows? They might put spit in my food :-)

To appease me, they offered a dessert of my choice. I ordered the Mango Marscapone. It's similar to tiramisu but with mango layers instead of lady fingers, no espresso and with cornflakes and whipped cream on top. This one is a definite winner. The mangoes were very sweet and the marscapone was just right. This dessert is pre-made and chilled in margarita glasses so I hoped it didn't have any nasty things in it because I returned the pasta.

As I was enjoying the dessert, I could see that the chef came out of the kitchen and was looking at me and was probably wondering why I made such a big fuss on the pasta. Oh my, I told hubby, I think he's mad. No one wants to hear that their food sucks, specially a foreign chef! Maybe they thought I was a restaurant critic or something for I was jotting down notes and taking pictures so I was spared from the chef's wrath. Har har har.

We would still go back to this restaurant if only for the bread dipping sauce, salad and dessert. It's a hit and miss type of restaurant. Not everything is good. The service, however is excellent. Average price for dinner for two is P2,300 (UD$48) with drinks and a shared dessert.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What a week!

My week was unbelievable. First, I scratched the car on a steel signpost while dropping off my uncle to Asian Hospital. I don't mean a little scratch, half the car was damaged. Hubby was very understanding and calm while I was in hysterics.

My uncle was hospitalized for another operation. Mom was his primary caregiver until Tita Socky's helper was sent to the hospital to help mom care for him.

Then, I was invited to attend a food styling class by renowned food stylist, Dolores Custer. I will tell all the juicy details in another blog, promise. This is the highlight of this week.

Last weekend we also had lunch with my husband's relatives from Canada. Of course we had to eat at Serye in Festival Mall so that they can have their famous barbecue, Pinoy style, with a peanut dipping sauce. Serye is a "spin-off" from the Aristocrat chain.

A trip to Santi's to buy some Kalamata Olives (which cousin AA loves btw), capers and apple juice came right after since it's just beside Serye. I love Santi's, I want to buy everything in their store!

We managed to try out a new French restaurant in Alabang, which I will share with you in another blog.

Then the water pump in the house broke and the laundry area was flooded. No water for the night. Hubby had to haul water upstairs several times that night. Poor thing.

Worst of all, my mom was hospitalized too for hypertension. Her blood pressure spiked to 240/120 very close to a heart attack. Thank God she was at the hospital when it happened. This is the fist time my mom was hospitalized since she gave birth to my brother 28 years ago! Thankfully, she's been released and is now resting in LP with her beloved grandchildren.

Thank you for all your prayers.

Is it time for next week yet? This one is taking too long to be over.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dinner to Share

After a long day, hubby and I wanted to have a (semi)"fine-dining" dinner but didn't want to spend a small fortune. There's a quaint little restaurant found on Aguirre Avenue in BF Homes called Amalia's. Amalia's is the brainchild of Amalia Jocson, widow of the late Chef Minggoy Jocson of the Minggoy's chain of Spanish restaurants.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Amalia's serve the best Callos that I have ever tasted (well, so far). For tonight though, the husband and I were craving for their famous Oysters in White Wine. The oysters are baked in a bed of salt with lots of garlic and white wine. I believe the extra sauce has the marinade and liquid seasoning. Their oysters are always plump and succulent. Much bigger than what I usually find in the palengke. The best Oysters in the Philippines come from Aklan. Oysters from this province are usually flown to Manila to supply most high-end restaurants and hotels. I know Soleil in Greenbelt get their oysters from Aklan. Well, because it it says so on the menu :-)

After feasting on oysters (we resisted to get two orders), we ordered Ceasar's Salad, to share. There's nothing really unique about their version but it was OK and a welcome change on our palates.

For main course, we ordered Paella Espanola. A rice dish cooked with saffron, green peas, chicken, chorizos, shrimp, mussels and hard boiled eggs. Among their paella dishes, this is the best and would please everyone because it has a little bit of everything... meat, seafood, vegetables and chicken. The best part though is the tutong, toasted rice stuck on the bottom of the paellera pan. Sarap! Hubby and I just ordered the single platter, again, to share. They do give generous servings, one single order is good enough for two people with leftover to boot.

We were stuffed and didn't have the space for dessert, which is unusual. I recommend the Canonigo, a nice meal ender, light and not too sweet. Served with a mango rum sauce. Their version in quite good, but not as good as mine :-) I will post the recipe in a future blog.

Amalia's doesn't have the best food presentation nor the best service but, they do have good food at reasonable prices and the servings are good for two people. Hubby and I only paid P600 (US$12.50) for our shared dinner including tax and service charge. Not a bad deal.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Miskipaps Lumpia

Miskipaps a Filipino slang for miskipapano or however which way. This lumpia recipe is very easy to make. Mostly made with "found" vegetables from your fridge. This recipe is certainly very flexible. Adding shrimps or chicken will make it more filling.

Miskipaps Lumpia: (2-3 servings)
1 Clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Small shallot, finely chopped
Any hard vegetables, diced in small even sizes for easy cooking:
1 Carrot
1 Sweet Potato
1/5 of a medium Pumpkin
Approximately 1/4 cup oyster sauce
Approximately 1/4 cup Togue (mung sprouts)
Approximately 1/4 cup Ubod (coconut heart), julienned
1 pack lumpia wrapper (small size)

1. Saute garlic and onions in a little vegetable oil until tender, do not brown.
2. Add the hard vegetables first (carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin).
3. Add oyster sauce (no need for salt the oyster sauce is already salty)
4. Mix well and cook until tender.
5. Add the ubod and togue. Add more oyster sauce, if needed. Cook for a minute or two. Cool.
6. Wrap in lumpia wrappers (local crepe made with flour, salt and water). Put a teaspoon of the cooled mixture about 1/2 inch from the bottom of a lumpia wrapper, roll about half way, fold in the sides, roll and seal by dampening the edge with some water or egg whites.
7. Fry until golden brown.

Best served with a vinegar and garlic dipping sauce.

Suggested other filling: vermicelli noodles (softened in hot water for 10 minutes then drained), potatoes, turnips, thinly sliced Baguio beans, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, cooked shrimp, ground pork, flaked chicken and fish.

Tip: To keep the lumpia wrappers from hardening up and make it more workable, cover it with a damp cloth while you're working. I saw a lumpia vendor do this with hers and it works!

Plates and platters

I love platters. I lovingly look at the hand painted platters that are sold in high end department stores.But I find it too indulgent to spend a small fortune on these things albeit lovely.

To pacify my need for hand painted and unique ceramic plates and platters, I went to the factory outlet of Cardinal Ceramics in BF Homes. After all, who can resists that orange banner! They have a wide variety of factory overruns that are priced much lower than what you will find in the department stores. Most items are not perfect but it makes them more charming, rustic and shabby chic. I bought all these these for only P870 (US$18). Not bad, eh?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Seafood Pasta with Aligue

Aligue or crab fat paste is one of those Filipino delicacies that are just plain so darn good to eat. To hell with the doctor's warnings.

I got my hands on a bottle of pure aligue sauce sold in one of the kiosks in Market!Market! The crab paste on display vary in price. I couldn't tell the difference. The sales clerk gladly informed me that the bottle with the golden cap sells pure crab fat, no extenders. I gladly paid the P195 per bottle. The imitations sell for only P90 per bottle. I recommend you get Navarro's with the golden cap, it's really good and not too salty.

My hubby was horrified when he found out what I bought. It would seem that I had purchased poison or something. I dare not feed my hubby aligue for this is an artery clogger (2grams of fat per 2 tablespoons). This one is reserved just for my own pleasure :-)

Here's an easy pasta dish that you can whip up in no time (1 serving).

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Saute chopped garlic in olive oil. Do not brown.
3. Add peeled and deveined shrimps and fresh squid rings (skins removed). Cook for 1 minute.
4. Add about 1 heaping tablespoon of aligue and some water. Mix well.
5. Add the pasta.
6. Serve with lime or calamansi on the side.

Devour at your own risk.

Mango Refrigerator (?!) Cake

I remember my lola who used to make the creamiest mango refrigerator cake ever. I was desperate to make it. I had remembered only bits and pieces on how it was made. I only remember that it had rum, broas (lady fingers), mangoes, cashews, cream and condensed milk.

After finally getting the courage to wing the recipe, I did it. I was so disappointed when it was done. I totally got the proportions wrong! Hay naku! The cream and condensed milk sauce was too runny and the broas that I got were too soft and soaked up the rum too fast. I even forgot to add the cashews. I had to freeze it to keep it together. Palpakation, as my dad would say.

I made more than enough for hubby and myself so I shared half of the cake with my mom. Of course I told her it's nothing like lola's. When I handed it to her yesterday she said that it's supposed to have egg yolks in it. Ayayay, now she tells me.

My mom finally tasted my botched refrigerator cake. She called me this morning and she and my nephew Jay-jay loved it. Maybe it's the rum, no?

My first attempt at Callos

Callos is a type of stew made with pork, tripe, garbanzo beans, chorizos and a host of other ingredients. I've always loved this dish. I particularly fell in love with the version from Amalia's along Aguirre Avenue in BF Homes (they also serve the best Oysters in White Wine, by the way). I felt that it was time for me to try my hand at making it. I found this recipe and it looked easy enough to make. I trimmed down the recipe a bit since I am cooking for just hubby and myself. Hubby was quite pleased with it. I felt it was still lacking something. More experimentation in the future for moi. Any suggestions?

Legend has it that the longer you keep the Callos, the better it will taste. This is great when you're entertaining. You can make it a week before and just stick it the refrigerator and forgeddabouddit.

Anyway, here's the picture.

My late father, who was a very good advertising photographer, would probably turn in his grave for I take such crappy pictures. After all, I was named after a camera.

Cheap and Good Sisig

For me, nothing beats the sisig of Tita Zeny, my late Tito Florante's wife. But Sisig Pinoy in Pure Gold comes a close second. I've never made sisig before but my Tita Zeny at one point years ago, told me how it's done. (I'm enumerating from memory here)

1. Clean pork face, ear and nose. Remove all the dirt and hairs.
2. Boil the meat in salted water. Drain.
3. Grill the meat in charcoal. Cool and mince.
4. Boil pork liver, drain, cool and mince.
5. In a heavy pan, saute onions, green finger peppers and/or siling labuyo (bird's eye pepper, very spicy), liver and pork with soy sauce and calamansi (native lemon). (Sisig Pinoy adds what looks like mayonnaise at this point).
6. Transfer to a hot sizzling plate. Topped with raw or fried egg.
7. Served with calamansi and hot sauce on the side.

The Sisig Pinoy version has generous helpings of chicharon on top instead of the egg. This dish is best paired with beer and is recommended to people who has no heart condition, for obvious reasons.

For P50 with rice and P125 for a full order, Sisig Pinoy is very good. If you're craving for something Pinoy and fattening and doesn't have the energy to do all the cooking steps, Sisig Pinoy is your best bet.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Brunch with Ma

I was on the way to the palengke (wet market) this morning and I decided to pick up my mom from her house so that we could shop together.

Since I haven't had breakfast yet, mom suggested we eat at Pancake House. Mom is on a "diet" so she just ordered the Tuna Macaroni Salad. I was biting my tongue to tell her that the mayonnaise in her "light" salad is loaded with fat. She would have been better off eating fried pork chops or something. Anyway, she was full and just wanted to eat something light. The verdict on her tuna macaroni salad? Ordinary and she laments, "I can make it better". No surprise there. The egg on top is overcooked, you can tell by the dark ring around the yolk.

I ordered the taco and the Gambero because the picture on the menu looked good.

The Taco was the usual. I particularly like their version because I can specify to hold the onions. I also like the taco shell that they use. It's not tortilla but a crackly shell that's crispy and tastes better (for me at least).

The Gambero was a huge mistake. The garlic is too burnt, the sauce is awful and bitter and the shrimps were too tough. Don't order this, you'll just waste your money. Pancake House is yet to come up with a nice pasta dish. None of the pasta dishes that I've ordered in the past were good.

I love having moments like these with my mom (despite the bad food). It gives us "girl" time, just the two of us to catch up on family matters and we always talk about food!

Our next step was of course, the wet market. Mom had a plastic container with her. It was for the prawns that she will buy. It's to make sure that the heads are not damaged during freezing. Makes sense. I'll bring my own next time.

The wet market is always always a source of temptation for me. I always buy more than what I had planned. The fish are so fresh compared to the supermarket. My market list was just for prawns (P450/kilo) and some squid (P180/Kilo). I ended up buying tilapia (whole and fillet) and I was conned into buying a ridiculously expensive piece of lapu-lapu (red snapper) by my mom.

The tilapia are sold live and they clean and fillet it for you. The tilapia are so cheap only at P95 a kilo. I knew I couldn't resist. I would have bought more stuff but my freezer is already crammed and couldn't take any more. Mom ended up buying more stuff too. We always get inspired when we're at the palengke. Everything looks so fresh and the variety of seafood there makes my head spin.

Bacon & Peas Pasta

I have a love affair with bacon. If I could eat it everyday, I would. Yesterday, I wasn't in the mood to eat leftovers for lunch. I made this pasta dish since I was craving for both bacon and pasta. Hubby likes this dish too and it's very easy to make. Here's how:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a separate pan, fry cut-up bacon until the fat is rendered. Drain the bacon in paper towels. Discard the bacon fat (or you can use it for salad dressing).
3. In the same pan, saute sliced garlic in extra virgin olive oil, add the bacon and frozen green peas, salt and pepper. Mix well.
4. Add the drained pasta and chopped parsley. Shaved Parmesan cheese on top is optional.

Pinoy manners always demand that you offer your guests something to eat and drink. This pasta is perfect when unscheduled guests come to your home. A great alternative to corned beef sandwiches. Everything you need is right in your fridge.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dining at Abe Restaurant

Last night, our family dined at Abe restaurant in Serendra. I've heard so much about this restaurant and their place is always full. We assumed that the food is stupendous.

Hubby and Tito Boy were assigned to wait for a table while we, the ladies, are out shopping in Market!Market!

Abe is a Campampangan (from Pampanga) restaurant that got it's name from a Capampangan term for friend, companion and getting together. The place is a combination of old and new interiors. The walls are covered with black & white photographs, the swiveling chairs are comfy and modern. The tables are packed close together so it's a little tight to move around.

After an hour of power shopping, the men called us to say the table and the food were ready. Here's the lowdown on the food:

Crispy Tadyang (P425) is marinated beef ribs and then fried. The tadyang is tender inside and crispy outside. We all liked it. However, the crispy tadyang from Guava is still the best.

Asado Lengua (Ox tongue). For non-adventurous eaters and non-Filipinos, don't worry this is not the Fear-Factor quality tongue. Unlike the Asado of South America, the Capampangan version is not grilled but stewed in sugar and soy sauce. Abe's version had the right sweetness and saltiness. The tongue itself is very tender and is pleasant to eat. It's quite good but, my mom was quick to say "Mas masarap ako magluto". True. The lengua was good nonetheless.

Gule Magalang (P195)is stewed vegetables of kang-kong (swamp cabbages), string beans and pumpkin. It didn't look too appetizing but we tried it anyway. It's nice, but not too special.

Kare-Kare is also not bad. The meat is tender and the bagoong is home made and not too salty.

The Fried Baby Hito is fried young catfish served with balo-balo, or fermented rice. This dish was disliked by everyone. The fish had a muddy taste and the balo-balu is plain yucky...eeewww. When I saw my mom's face squirm when she tasted it, I knew it was really bad.

Steamed rice is bottomless. Sulit for the men dining there.

As we ate our meal my mom and uncle couldn't help but reminisce about the food of their childhood and how good it was. I know what they mean, I grew up too with my lola making special meals for us every Sunday.

Overall verdict?
Tito Boy: "We had much better food in our table growing up"
Mom: "Mas masarap ako magluto! Ang mahal, hindi naman ganun kasarap."

These are the comments coming from the children of Crispina Manalo, the greatest cook of all time. It's no wonder no restaurant could ever pass their discerning palates.

Ma's Binagoongan

This is my mom's version of Pork Binagoongan. Hubby doesn't like binagoongan normally but my mom's version won his gourmet approval. Mom never measures anything so good luck with the proportions :-)

Here's how to make it:
Stew pork in adobo sauce (Roughly 2 parts vinegar: 1part soy sauce, 5-6 parts water, lots of crushed garlic and whole pepper corns) until tender or until sauce evaporates. Fry then saute with bagoong only (no garlic, no tamatoes).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lunch at LP

LP as we fondly call Tita Socky's "country" abode is short for Las Pinas. It's a moniker that my dad had coined for the place when we were children. Perhaps to give it a hip and groovy name. LP has hosted probably hundreds of wonderful family lunches throughout the 30 or so years since it was built. My lola often would ask everyone every Sunday to come over for lunch. She would always say, "Konti lang handa ko ha". That means she only prepared a minimum four-course meal. Usually three kinds of "ulam" (viand) and soup. My lola was the cook of all cooks, she can outcook, outwit and outlast any cook during her hay day (well, at least she can mando the maids to do the chopping). My lola can also tell exactly what's in a dish by means of smell or taste. It's like her tongue and nostrils were equipped with CSI-type ingredient identifier or something.

LP again yesterday, hosted one of the family's infamous lunches. My mom obviously inherited the throne for making the best "ulam". She made caldereta, sinigang na maya-maya sa miso (stewed fish in tamarind and miso broth with mustard greens). We also served Batac longganisa from our Ilocos trip paired with salted red egg and tomatoes. I brought Brazo de Mercedes (a meringue-type cake roll with a sweet egg yolk center) for dessert. Tita Socky brought Crispy Pata (fried pork hocks). Needless to say, everyone had their tummies full. Sorry no food pictures. We attacked the food as soon as it was announced lunch was ready.

After the feeding frenzy, we did manage to take some pictures.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Our fifth wedding anniversary

Hubby celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary yesterday. After a long vacation, I wasn't in the mood to cook for our anniversary dinner.

Hubby and I decided we'll dine at a Greek restaurant at Shangri-la Plaza Mall in Ortigas for a change of scenery.

Five minutes into the high way, we changed our minds and proceeded to Serendra instead. I had read about one particular restaurant there called Guava. It's a restaurant that offers a modern take to Filipino food. The specializes in guava based dishes. The place is cozy and welcoming and it only seats 32 people. Come early if you want to get good seats.

I particularly don't like the taste of guava so I veered off from their specialty dishes. Hubby ordered guava juice made from real guavas. It was good but a bit sweet for my taste. I prefer to get my sugar quota somewhere else.

For starters, we ordered the Pritson (P195 per order). It's fried lechon (doubly sinful) garnished with chives, leeks, cucumber, onions and cilantro wrapped in soft tortilla. It is served with a variety of sauces chili garlic, sour cream with chives, sour cream and garlic, peanut sauce and lastly, a black bean sauce. Upon the recommendation of our waiter, we combined the chili garlic sauce and sour cream with chives . The lechon was crispy and succulent and the mixture of the herbs provide the perfect balance. It was heavenly sinful! It was so damn good, hubby and I ordered another one.

As main courses, I ordered the Fettuccine Pasta in Bihod (P200). Bihod is lapu-lapu caviar. It was an unusual entry in the menu and my curiosity got the better of me. It came in multi-colored strands of al dente fettuccine with the prized bihod mixed in with the olive oil based sauce.Huge chunks of fried bihod lay atop the heap of fettuccine. It was also very very good. It's not oily at all and there is no fishy after taste.

Hubby ordered the crispy tadyang (crispy beef ribs-P295). The ribs are served with three different dipping sauces, vinegar with garlic, eggplant garlic and soy sauce with onions. The ribs are delicious. I can taste a bit of calamansi (native lemon) and soy sauce on the ribs. Perhaps it was marinated prior to frying. The ribs are so tender and falling off the bone. This dish is huge, meant to be shared. VAT and service charge are not included in the menu. Be prepared to fork out extra for these.

Hubby can only say, "The food is freaking good!" Our compliments to Chef Bernard Dee.

For dessert, I wanted to try Cupcakes by Sonja. I've heard such positive reviews about it and I wanted to taste for myself if the cupcakes are really that good. Upon entering the bakeshop, we were assailed by the wonderful smells of baked cupcakes, whipped cream and the sweet smell of sugar. I was in sugar heaven! The shop itself is very pretty, dainty, bright and inviting. The walls are covered in striped and floral wall paper with country accessories in pastel colors. It was so girly girly, I love it.

The cupcakes looked so pretty and delicious. I wanted to buy every single one. I settled on buying just 6 cupcakes. I ordered peppermint patty (P68), mint condition (P68), strawberries & cream (P75), chunky monkey banana (P85), grandma's pecan pie (P98) and the red velvet vixen (P65). I got a free cupcake (strawberries & cream) because I used my HSBC card. Sweet. Hubby and I settled in their dainty tables and chairs with cupcake seat covers (so cute) and ate our cupcakes. Hubby had the peppermint, I had the strawberries and cream. The cupcakes are really good, not too sweet but quite heavy. Hubby and I can only finish one each. We would probably eating cupcakes for the next few days. I bought too much! Their cupcakes are a bit pricey, but well worth the price.

With our stomachs full and our wallets empty *laughter*, we make our way home. Hubby promised me a massage. A perfect ending for a wonderful night.