Monday, February 21, 2011

Alma de Cuba – Latin Grill and Cantina

I spent the whole Saturday evening and much of Sunday afternoon watching DVD, I was so engrossed with what I was watching, I completely ignored planning for a dinner menu. Also, I wanted to dine out, just to stretch a bit. I felt a bit cooped up watching DVDs for a few hours.

After mass last Sunday night, Hubby and I were so undecided on where to have dinner what to eat. I didn’t want to go very far since I have to go back home and finish the series that I was watching. Hubby and I decided to just dine somewhere in BF, since more and more restaurants seem to be sprouting there.

We came upon Alma de Cuba – Latin Grill and Restaurant. The restaurant is just a few minutes’ drive from the church. We’ve never tried it before, so, why not?

The restaurant shares the property with Songkran, a Thai restaurant probably owned by the same group of people. Regardless of which restaurant you dine in, you can mix and match menus.

I ordered Shrimp Pad Thai from Songkran. It wasn’t bad. But I kinda miss the Pad Thai that I eat in the dirty streets of Bangkok, he he he. Those were good. Dirty, but good. Maybe I shouldn't eat in the street stalls anymore....

Anyway, Hubby ordered everything else from Alma de Cuba. The Cheese Fondue was specially good, with a little bit of kick from the jalapenos, but with one major failure. The nachos were “makunat”. It would have been perfect if the nachos were kept in a warmer to keep them crispy.

Hubby also ordered Beef Soft Tacos, which he really liked. The chili con carne that went with it wasn’t very good. I could tell that the tomatoes came from a can because they weren’t stewed long enough and the flavors didn’t come together well.

Hubby also tried the Herbed Cuban Chicken Roast (forgot the name of the dish so I made one up). He took one bite and didn't eat the rest. I didn’t even taste it because I could tell it was very dry by just looking at it. I was right.

I have mixed feelings about this restaurant. The cheese fondue (sans the nachos) and the soft tacos were good, but everything else was not very good. The service took forever. Getting our bill took even longer and the place wasn’t even full!

Um, I’m not sure if I’ll come back again.

Bicol Express

Last Saturday, Hubby was off to meet his fellow grease monkeys over at the Fortuner Club eyeball in Makati. I was left alone at home to fend for my own dinner. I didn’t know what to make for myself. So I checked my pantry, I had a can of coconut cream that lay forgotten in one corner. I thought I’d better use that before it turns bad. It happens quite a lot when I have a few things that are hidden in the depths of my kitchen cupboard. It’s amazing what I unearth there sometimes. “I have basmati rice? And couscous?”

Anyway, I’ve always liked Bicol Express but never made it at home because hubby doesn’t like food with coconut cream. So, with my coconut cream and a handful ingredients, I made a very simple and straightforward Bicol Express. This is my version:

Bicol Express:

You will need:

Cooking oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, minced
¼ kilo Pork kasim, sliced into bite-sized rectangular portions
1 can Coconut cream
3 pieces, green chili peppers, sliced diagonally
2-3 tablespoons bagoong (shrimp paste)
Salt to taste


1. In a pan, sauté onion until fragrant, add the garlic and sauté, do not brown.
2. To the pan, add the pork kasim and stir. Add about a cup of water and simmer, to tenderize the pork (don’t you just hate eating tough pork?).
3. When the liquid has reduced and the pork has rendered some of its fat, add the coconut cream. Simmer until the sauce is reduced in half.
4. Add the green chili peppers and bagoong. Stir and simmer a bit more.
5. Add salt if it needs it.

For more kick, you can add bird’s eye chilis also. I don’t like it too spicy. This dish turned out well, except for one thing, the coconut cream was too sweet! Fresh coconut cream is so much better. Next time, I will really use fresh coconut cream.

Some recipes probably don’t have bagoong altogether. Or if they do, it’s added at the beginning of the sautéing process. My mom, whenever she makes binagoongan, the bagoong is usually added last, so I incorporated that method in this recipe.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Prawns and Sole Fillet in Creamy Vodka Sauce

It's weekend again. As usual, we woke up very late this morning. I guess come Saturday, Hubby and I seem to really take advantage by sleeping in and waking up when we are actually done sleeping, ha ha.

Anyway, we had a busy busy morning (which started at 11 am, actually) doing errands, going to the palengke to buy fresh seafood and such, grocery shopping and I few others that we squeezed in before "lunch time".

I miss cooking in my own kitchen and I am a bit tired of eating the same things. I have yet to expand my housekeeper's culinary knowledge. I wanted to cook something for hubby but it was already late. I needed something that's quick to cook and a bit special, it's a weekend after all.

So, I made Prawns and Sole Fillet in Creamy Vodka Sauce. You wouldn't believe how easy this dish comes together. Here's the recipe:

12-15 pieces, prawns, peeled
1 sole fillet, cubed to bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter (oh, I would say 1/4 cup, maybe a bit more)
1 very small red onion, minced (Hubby hates onions, that's why I'm only putting a teeny weeny portion here)
1/3 cup Vodka
1 cup all purpose cream
Dried Basil (maybe a teaspoon)
Fresh parsley, snipped into little pieces

1. In a non-stick skillet, heat butter. Add in the sole fillet, turn the fish over after a minute.
2. In the same pan, add the prawns, toss for about a minute. Season to taste.
3. Remove the prawns and sole fillet. Leave the juices in the pan. Set the prawns and the sole fillets aside.
4. In the same skillet, saute the onion with the remainder of the butter. Add a bit more butter if the pan has become too dry.
5. De glaze the pan with the vodka. Add the cream and let bubble until about half of the sauce has reduced. (At this point, I think adding a tablespoon of dijon mustard might work too, for an extra layer of flavor)
6. Add the prawns and the sole fillet. Mix and simmer for a few minutes.
7. Add the basil (fresh is better, but I didn't have any) and parsley. Lots of parsley.
8. Serve piping hot.

Mine had a bit too much sauce. It would probably better to reduce the sauce a bit more before adding the seafood.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

The High Line Park, Chelsea, New York City

One would think that abandoned train tracks are useless and ugly. Not so with High Line Park, also affectionately called The Hanging Gardens located in Chelsea, New York City. The city of New York transformed this useless and abandoned train track into one long beautiful park.

I've heard so much about this park, High Line Park serves as an inspiration for all park developers,communities and individuals wanting to convert wasted spaces into beautiful gardens.

The plants and shrubs found at the Hi-Line Park are native to Manhattan island (I overheard one of the guides). I know, right? It's hard to imagine that Manhattan used to be filled with shrubs and flowers instead of the concrete jungle that it is now.

I love the architecture of the benches, with their curved lines and the sun loungers with their train wheels.

When I went there last November 2010, it was almost winter and most of the flowers have lost their blooms but it was a pretty sight nonetheless. What a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New York City's Version of the Jollyjeep

I have so many things that I want to post about our New York Trip. Please bear with me :-) I'm back in Manila for over two months now and there's so much more adventures that I want to write about! I'll intersperse some of those articles with my usual local posts.

I'd like to share some bargain dinners with you guys. One of my favorite cheap eats in New York City is the Halal Trucks (food trucks) found everywhere. On our second night in New York City, aside from being jet lagged beyond belief, we were starving in the wee hours of the morning. Our apartment was located in the downtown area, near Wall Street and 24/7 restaurants are quite few and far between. Yes, I found that hard to believe as well. We were in New York City, the city that never sleeps! Well, in downtown they do :-)

Anyway, we found food trucks found on Broadway and Liberty, selling Halal food, fruit smoothies, burgers and fries. The food trucks nearest our apartment are located near Wall Street. The food trucks remind of Makati's Jollyjeeps, where you can get a meal for just a few bucks.

There's even a small park across where you can sit and enjoy your meal. The park's floor is even lighted so it's very safe, albeit very windy and super cold when we went there to eat. It was past midnight after all.

It was a shock for me to eat outside in such cold weather! My teeth were chattering but the food was hot and delicious. Sorry for the blurry pictures, my hands were frozen as well :-)

"I make it big for you tonight" said our vendor. It was humongous alright. I got a free egg too!

Hubby and I even managed to order a couple of smoothies made from fresh fruits. I think my tongue froze when I tried drinking mine, ha ha ha.

I love midnight food forays with Hubby. Hand in hand walks under the moonlight in a world famous city, cool air blowing in our faces.

At that time I couldn't believe I was actually in New York City. It felt surreal.

Monday, February 14, 2011

More Flowers!

There were more flowers waiting for me when I got home.

Hubby is so sweet :-)

Lovely Flowers from Hubby

I just received these lovely flowers from Hubby. So sweet.

I love you too Hubby!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Day Shy of Valentine's Day Dinner with Hubby

Tomorrow night will be very hard to get a reservation anywhere decent. Hubby's been sick a few days and we had to cancel our reservation at Antonio's so that he can rest up a bit and recover.

My family came over this lunchtime to have our usual Sunday lunch here at home. I won't post pictures because it's so funny, we almost had the same dishes from last time, he he he. Are we in a glut or what? :-)

Anyway, after the family left. Hubby was feeling better and wanted to go out for dinner. It was quite late when we left home and we had no idea where to go. Hubby suggested two restaurants, a Japanese Resto in Alabang (yeah, I said, Japanese again?!!) and the second one was Hooter's. Go figure. Of all the restaurants in Manila, he suggested Hooters. Oh welll. I ain't goin' there, not tonight mister!

Anyway, we ended up going to our standy CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) in Alabang Town Center. We've eaten in all of the restaurants there and since we were both full from the foodfest with the family earlier, we had a hard time choosing which one. CPK seemed the safest.

I ordered the Blue and White Corn Nachos with White Corn and Avocado Guacamole Dip since I was still full and wasn't in the mood to eat anything heavy. I love it, the guacamole was light, a little tangy and the petite serving size was just the right portion for me.

Hubby on the other hand, despite having heavy lunch and two servings of spaghetti during merienda, still managed to order a few things and was giving me the evil eye when I wouldn't share a salad with him to go with his orders (I was too full!). Hubby had the Baja Fish Tacos instead, made with mahi-mahi. This is a sure hit, I managed to get one bite to taste, and I loved it too. Very light and no fishy taste. The mahi-mahi seemed very fresh.

Hubby also ordered Lettuce Wraps made with chicken. We both didn't like it since the taste seemed one dimentional and "nakakasawa". We had to request for cilantro leaves to balance out the taste.

Since it was almost Valentine's Day, all patrons at CPK were given a free Sundae with chocolate hearts on top. Of course hubby gobbled it up and didn't order any more dessert.

So full today, we've been eating practically the whole day!

Hubby and I won't be able to have a real Valentine's Day dinner since both of us will be working tomorrow and won't be able to meet up for dinner. So, spending the day with family and the evening with each other I think, is a better alternative.

Look, we even wore couple shirts (we bought these last week). Hubby's shirt has a cute spiderman graphics on it and the spidey shot up a web. And on my shirt, is Mrs. Spidey being captured inside his web. Cute eh? So cheesy, I know, but we loved wearing it in public, he he he :-) Right, we were a middle aged couple behaving like a couple of teenagers!

Happy Heart's Day everyone!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Early Valentine's Dinner at Home

I cooked a special dinner for hubby and myself tonight. Hubby's feeling a bit under the weather and we had to cancel our dining plans so that he could rest.

I decided to just cook something to celebrate Valentine's day. I made steak with mushroom and whisky sauce with a side of scallops wrapped in bacon. I only had an hour to prepare because I over slept and hubby was starting to get hungry already.

This is the first time that I made the sauce so it came a bit salty. Other than that, I think the sauce will be great for grilled pork chops or grilled chicken breast.

I heard hubby barreling down the stairs while I was finishing up the sauce because he was already hungry. I didn't have time to make a salad. Haay.

Anyway, here are the recipes in case you want to make them at home. All are quite easy to make.

2 Rib-eye Steaks
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
Worcestershire sauce
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

1. Rub rib-eye steaks with garlic cloves, worcestershire sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper just before cooking.
2. Pan grill according to you preferred doneness.
3. Remove steaks from the pan, wrap in foil and keep warm while you make the sauce.

Mushroom Whisky Sauce
1 and 1/14 cups beef broth (I used a beef cube to make the broth, that's why my sauce became a bit salty, home made is the best of course)
Crushed black pepper
I cup all purpose cream
1/4 cup whisky (I used Chivas Regal)
1 heaping tablespoon Tarragon Dijon Mustard (which I bought in NYC, but may be available in Santi's)
Olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small shallot, minced
I small can button mushrooms, drained (fresh is better, if you have it)

1. In a sauce pan, boil beef broth and pepper. Reduce until about a cup is left.
2. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the all purpose cream and half of the whisky. Keep whisking until reduced in half.
3. Set aside.
4. In a separate pan, saute garlic and onion in olive oil. Do not brown. Add in the mushrooms until warmed through.
5. Set aside.

To bring together:
1. Deglaze the steak pan with half of the whisky, add the cream and whisky sauce and simmer.
2. Add the tarragon dijon mustard. Stir and simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.
3. Add the mushrooms.
4. Pour sauce over the steaks,

Bacon Wrapped Scallops:
6 strips of bacon
6 Scallops
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Cilantro leaves

1. In boiling water, blanch the bacon. Drain in paper towels.
2. Let cool a little bit.
3. Wrap scallops with bacon and secure with a toothpick.
4. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, pepper, olive oil and cilantro leaves and pour over the scallops.
5. In medium heat, pan grill the scallops, bacon side down, roll until all sides of the bacon are golden brown. The heat from the bacon will cook the scallops.
6. Remove from pan and remove the toothpicks before serving.
7. Serve immediately.

Advanced happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Weekend Cake Expo

Got a complimentary ticket from Goldilock's Cake Expo yesterday.

The demo was conducted by Sandy Folsom and Diana (sorry forgot her last name) from Wilton. They flew in from Illinois just for this expo. In fact, they were the last flight out before O'hare was shut down due to the snowstorms!

Yesterday's demo was about brownie pops, a new trend in the US and soon to be here in Manila too. The demo wasn't hands on, sayang. I would have loved to learn how to handle the fondant.

I did have a great time nonetheless. It's such a rare opportunity to see a decorating guru in person!

The decorated pops are just adorable. Makes me want to bake a batch and decorate!

They did some cupcake decorations too and some fun stuff in fondant which are super cute for children's parties.

The dome cake decoration looks so easy when they do it!

This one's just too cute for words!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Taho and Hubby

This is hubby. He likes to eat taho, even when he's wearing a brand new barong while attending a wedding. Yes, the two cups are JUST for him.

He would have eaten the cotton candy too, but I put a stop to that nonsense. It was 9:00 a.m. for crying out loud!