Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Malate Church

I was a primary sponsor (ninong) at the wedding of the Clairvoyant's niece last August. I took it as an excuse to buy me a new Barong Tagalog made out of pineapple fiber. 

The wedding was held at the Church of Our Lady of Remedies (Nuestra Senora de Remedios), which is also known as the Malate Church. Originally built in the late 1500's, it was used as a garrison by the British when they invaded Manila in the 1700's. It has been rebuilt several times including after being damaged by a typhoon and after the Second World War. 

Actually, the current church seems to be continually under a state of repair or renovation. I had first been to the church attending a wedding of a colleague more than a decade ago. It was also under renovation that time. Much later, I think the church was spared from the storm surge that inundated Roxas Boulevard and damaged many establishments in the area. Below are a couple of photos we took at the church that wasn't blurry.

Main altar of Malate Church
Close-up of the sanctuary behind the main altar and the stained glass window above it
Unfortunately, it was raining that day so I was not able to get a good photo of the church's exterior. However, I found I was able to take a photo of the church one time we had lunch at a restaurant in the area. My objective then was to get a photo of the bicycle lanes at the plaza in front of the church but I managed to get what I thought was a good shot of the church.

Exterior of the Malate Church showing part of the plaza in front of the church.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fruit treats

The Philippines is blessed with so many varieties of fruits and there's so many to choose from all year round. I recall a time when the market was not saturated with imported fruits like apples and pears from China, grapes from the US, kiwis from New Zealand. Mostly, you would find local favorites like mangoes, bananas, papaya, pineapple, chico, atis, kaimito, lanzones, suha, watermelon, canteloupe, rambutan, durian, langka and guyabano. Many of these fruits are exported and are well-known around the world, especially our bananas, which you can probably buy in many if not most supermarkets abroad. I was particular with the "Product of the Philippines" tag or sticker on bananas when I was residing in Japan and Singapore. 

When traveling around the country, I make it a point to eat fruits, especially those in season and ones you can easily buy in the place we are staying. Many of these are sold along the roadside and are cheaper than those you can buy at a grocery store in Metro Manila. In fact, if I had the time and baggage allowance, I would often purchase fruits while on trips to the Visayas and Mindanao. I don't know how many boxes of mangoes, pomelos and mangosteen I have purchased during trips to Iloilo and Davao, or the pineapples we have bought when traveling to Tagaytay.

On a recent trip to Mindoro, my first one, we were treated by our hosts with rambutan, lanzones, durian and marang. While I have tasted the latter two, I can say I am not really a fan of these fruits, which people say have an acquired taste. That is, they are not really for everyone. Needless to say, I like rambutan and definitely lanzones so I just had to have some for take home.

Rambutan and lanzones from Mindoro
Durian, marang and papaya
Marang looks like guyabano or large version of atis once the skin is peeled.
It is unfortunate that while many of these fruits are in abundance, they cannot reach Manila cheaply and transport costs alone bring up the prices so they can be quite expensive compared to the provinces of their origin. This poses as a major challenge to producers and government should exert more effort towards more efficient but less expensive transport of fruits as well as vegetables if the objective is to achieve fair prices and food security throughout the country. Hopefully, that can be realized within our lifetimes and soon enough!

Sunday, September 22, 2013


There was this craze about cookie butter spread recently, and friends and relatives have been raving about it as better than peanut butter or nutella. Relatives even asked people in the US to bring home some jars of the popular variant from Trader Joe's. We were supposed to have one jar among the pasalubong but was not able to get it due to a mix up in schedules.

I found Belgium Treasure Biscrips Crunchy and Tasty Speculoos Spread at a nearby supermarket as I was doing my groceries. Curious as I have not tasted this spread, I decided to get a jar. I did remember that speculoos did not originate in the US but in Europe. Biscrips is a product of Belgium, which makes a lot of goodies including delicious cookies and, of course, chocolate. The spread is said to have originated in Belgium and so I guess the jar I bought at the supermarket pretty much represents a high quality sample of the spread.

Belgium Treasure Biscrips Crunchy and Tasty Speculoos Spread
Information on the label includes ingredients of this popular spread
Looks like rich peanut butter or nutella but tastes like moist, freshly baked cookies
I'm not sure if I loved the taste of speculoos. I think I still prefer peanut butter or nutella but there is something about the spread that's probably addictive to some given that it is essentially good cookies turned into a spread. I guess the jury is still out there regarding the craze on speculoos but so far I think its just one of those fads that will eventually pass. There should, however, be a market for the spread as people will from time to time crave for cookie butter for their snacks.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chocolate review: Lindt Excellence, A Touch of Sea Salt

We have always enjoyed Lindt chocolates. The Clairvoyant and I have shared bars of Lindt milk chocolate with pistachios as well as the fine thin dark chocolates that was just right for dessert after lunches or dinners that featured savory viands. Only recently have we discovered Lindt's dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt. We came across this as we browsed a supermarket shelf in Singapore when we were residing there. It reminded us of the dark chocolate with sea salt that we had along with our wine during one tasting in Napa Valley not too long ago. It was perfect with wine but also great as a standalone treat. There's something about the sea salt that blends very well with dark chocolate.

Lindt Excellence dark chocolate - A Touch of Sea Salt

I bought this one during a recent trip to Tokyo. I found it a neighborhood grocery store near the hotel we were staying at.
I recall that Ghirardelli's also has a sea salt variant of their dark chocolate. I think that so far tops our list for chocolates with sea salt but Lindt's isn't far behind considering there are only two in that very short list. I'm looking forward to finding more of this variety somewhere, perhaps in another grocery store or supermarket abroad.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lunch at Uncle Cheffy's

Before heading to the airport where the Clairvoyant was to check-in for her flight to London via Singapore, we decided to have an early lunch at the Burgos Circle area at Bonifacio Global City. We tried out Uncle Cheffy's as the wife wanted something that won't bother her during her long flight. We were not disappointed with our orders and had a hearty lunch. 

Uncle Cheffy Salad
Uncle Cheffy Steak with salad and marble potatoes
We basically shared the steak and the salad as we could not finish an order each of steak. I also ordered a cup of rice to go with the steak (can't really go without that rice). The restaurant adds to our list of selections for where to eat when at the Fort. This is basically a growing list for me and the Clairvoyant likely has a longer list considering her office is located at BGC. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Eurobake Original Inipit

After featuring delicious yema cake from Quezon, I thought it was just right to write about another kind of cake. This one comes in bite size and despite its sweetness, is a favorite snack or merienda and goes well with coffee or perhaps even tea. Inipit, literally and roughly translated as "squeezed in between," consists of a sweet milk-based filling spread between two thin slices of cake. I think the best ones typically melt in your mouth due to the moistness of the cake. The filling can be creamy or chunky depending on the maker, but tastes much like yema though some can be buttery in consistency.

My brother was recently in Bulacan and bought a few boxes of inipit at a popular bakeshop that's famous for its old fashioned ensaymada pastry. People go to Eurobake in Malolos, Bulacan to buy their ensaymada for pasalubong (souvenir). I got to take home one box and I can say that the "original" is still better than the mass produced stuff by the more commercial bakeshops that are being sold at most supermarkets. These come in individual packs that can be given as baon (i.e., snacks for recess) for school children.

A box of Eurobake's original inipit from Malolos, Bulacan
The inipit slices are arranged inside the box and covered only by a plastic sheet. Its packaging obviously has implications on the longevity of the inipit so I quickly put the box in the refrigerator so it will last longer.
Up close, the filling looks just like yema or the sweet core of the brazo de mercedes. I think the sweetness is just right and it tasted closer to brazo than yema. There are no serving size information on the box (typical of many local products) but I suggest a maximum of 2 slices only since it is still quite potent in terms of sugar content.

As I continue my travels, I will try to feature more of these including perhaps the various kakanin that's popular around the country.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Rodillas Yema Cake

A friend posted on Facebook about what she claimed as the best yema cake she ever tasted. At the time, she and her family were on a trip in Quezon province and I assumed the cake was made in one of the towns there. From what I recall, yema is a sweet made almost entirely of milk (condensed) and sugar. The consistency, quality and flavor may depend on some ingredients like vanilla and nuts that are mixed with the yema.

Cake box promoting the product with the claim of being "The Smoothest, Creamiest Cake ever." There is also the tagline "The Original Is Still The Best."
The cake inside the box is unassuming but looks sinful enough for one to sample a slice to determine if the cake is really good. My first impression is that it looks just like any cake you can buy at a local bakeshop in the provinces. I'm sure this is the impression of many who will see the cake for the first time and who may not have had the benefit of friends giving a recommendation of the product.
The cake is really good. The yema filling and icing are just right and not too sweet. The cheddar cheese sprinkled on the cake adds to the "lutong bahay" taste and helps qualify the cake in the "comfort food" category.
The verdict? It is perhaps the best yema cake around. I really cannot make a sweeping conclusion as I have not tasted many yema cakes but I'll take my friends' word for it so it might be the best out Quezon until I sample other yema cakes. It also actually reminds me of another popular delicacy, inipit, that has many variants made by bakeries around the country. Maybe to some the yema cake would seem like a giant or upsized inipit? I'll leave that discussion out in the open for now...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Lunch at Jozu Kin

We followed up our exploration of Burgos Circle (in Bonifacio Global City) restaurants with another lunch in another restaurant that the Clairvoyant has told me about. Jozu Kin is located right along the circle unlike the other restaurants that are actually located at the Forbeswood Town Center between the Forbeswood and Bellagio condominium buildings. The restaurant has a really good menu with lots of choices for Japanese food lovers. Some items looked like fusion to me but after ordering and tasting their food, I concluded that they did quite well and that added them to my list of restaurants we should return to in order to sample other items they offer to diners.

Tartufo hotate - grilled scallops and shiitake mushrooms with asparagus
Seafood moriawase - grilled seafood including tiger prawns, swordfish and scallops over stir fried vegetables
Angus prime teppan
While we will definitely be back at Jozu Kin, that won't be in quite a while given the prices are relatively on the high side. This may be justified by the quality of the food and the servings are just right but it is not for "everyday" fare. Perhaps some residents (expats? upper class people?) can afford to be regulars but typical office workers might opt for other restaurants in the very competitive scene at BGC.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lunch at Wrong Ramen

The Clairvoyant had mentioned to me more than once about a small ramen restaurant at the Burgos Circle area of Bonifacio Global City. Wrong Ramen is somewhat an obscure restaurant near the wife's office where she and her colleagues occasionally have lunch. She did mention the ramen as along the lines of the good ramen shops that we tried out in Singapore and so I became curious as I had limited choices for restaurants serving good ramen in my area in Quezon City. Meanwhile, I felt like I was missing the ramen craze in Makati (lots of old and new places to get really good ramen) and Taguig (mainly in BGC). After one unsuccessful try where we ended up instead at another restaurant in the area, I finally was able to try out Wrong Ramen with the wife. It was almost full at the time despite our objective of having an early lunch and there were a few recognizable faces in the restaurant with one prominent government official going solo with his lunch and a couple of celebs enjoying their ramen in one corner. Just as we were finishing our food, an old college friend came in and joined his wife (whom I didn't know) who happened to be sitting beside me. This guy knew his food and his ramen so I guess that speak volumes about the place. Here's a link to their menu.

Tonkotsu ramen
Chicken akuma (or what's left of it)
I took this photo thinking about how food-themed TV shows in Japan showed the ramen to their audiences. I think this shot alone speaks a lot about the really good stuff at Wrong Ramen.
Wrong Ramen's tantanmen and tonkotsu ramen are definitely must try's and I won't mind eating lunch at the restaurant everyday... if only it's possible to get a seat every time considering it's usually crowded during what are supposed to be peak periods and there are limited seats in the restaurant. I think the price is just right given the quality of the food and the serving sizes. Two thumbs up for Wrong Ramen! Until the next lunch (or dinner)...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chocolate review: Amber Lyn Sugar Free Dark Chocolate

Sugar free chocolates are difficult to find in Philippine supermarkets and stores. I usually bought a few bars of Lotte's Zero chocolate whenever I went to Japan (I couldn't find this anywhere else.) But Zero doesn't taste like anything special and it always seemed it lacked something (sugar?). And so I continued to look for good "sugar-free" chocolates, partly so that I could get some for my mother who likes chocolates but now has diabetes (but not because of chocolates).

The Clairvoyant and I found sugar-free chocolates in Singapore, at the Cocoa Tree shops at Changi. I forgot the brand but these were better than the Zero chocolates I bought in Japan. Singapore has a good health care system and I would like to think that the government's advocacy against diabetes probably meant they made it possible for diabetic-friendly chocolates in their markets.

More recently, we found good "sugar free" dark chocolate at a local store. Amber Lyn's sugar free dark chocolate came as a surprise as most "sugar free" chocolates in the market have aspartame or some other artificial sweetener in place of sugar. Instead, it uses maltitol, a sugar alcohol that has lesser effect in blood glucose, which is significant for those who have diabetes. Excessive consumption of food with maltitol, however, may have laxative effects.
Sugar free dark chocolate is quite a hard find in Manila. We found this bar at a Healthy Options.
There was no indication of the % cacao so I guess it is not in the same league as the 60+% dark chocolates that are our favorites. Still, the bar was satisfying and the serving was just right to prevent over-indulgence in what is supposed to be a healthy serving of sugar free chocolate.