Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chocolate review: Delfi Dark Chocolate 60% cocoa

Delfi chocolate bars were on sale at the neighbourhood supermarket so I decided to pick up a couple of dark chocolate bars just to try them out. The label states it has 60% cocoa so I thought the taste would be just between the sweeter dark chocolates (e.g., Meiji Black) and the bitter chocolates (i.e., those with at least 70% cacao).

Delfi Swiss chocolate claims to have 60% cocoa

More detailed information on the chocolate at the back of the packaging.

Delfi is a bit on the sweet rather than bitter side and this was surprising for me considering it is supposed to be 60% cocoa. I got the 100g bar for PHP 115 (~ USD 2.55) so it is relatively cheaper compared to other imported chocolates. It is not as satisfying though as the bitter chocolate it is supposed to be. It's probably good for satisfying cravings but if there are other options on the shelf, I would rather go with the other options instead.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sentimental about Iloilo

My recent trip to Iloilo brought back a lot of memories. I have many photos from my childhood vacations in Cabatuan but few remain after most of them were destroyed by the floods of Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009. So every time I go back to Iloilo, whether or not I have the opportunity to pass by our home in my father's hometown, I try to get a few photos here and there to (re)create memories of the city and the towns I knew since childhood. Here's a few photos I took a couple of weeks ago including a couple taken from my hotel room. 

Iloilo City sunset - I have seen many sunsets here but I don't recall taking photos. It seemed to me as if the sunsets will always be there.
Iloilo City waterfront taken during the evening from the rooftop of the new Iloilo City Hall building.

A shot of what was the old airport at the Mandurriao district of the city. I remember we either took a ship or flew via this airport to Iloilo. My first flight that I could remember was on a turboprop plane (SD 360?) and then later there were jet services using the BAC 1-11. Those were in the 1970s and 1980s. The runway is now a highway and the old control tower is still standing. Hopefully, the developer will not demolish the tower and preserve it as a museum or perhaps something more functional (e.g., part of a fire station or maybe a restaurant?).
We bought mangoes at a fruit stand in Jaro. We learned that the mangoes are from the town of Leon. We would have preferred mangoes from Guimaras but Iloilo mangoes are also very good. I recall that Leon was also one of the province's towns well-known for its mangoes. I bought a few kilos to tide us over the week. Some were a bit green so they would ripen and be just right for eating in a few days. [Note: The bananas were not from Iloilo.]
I hope to be in Iloilo again soon and perhaps try going to Guimaras to explore the attractions of the island. Despite being Iloilo so many times in the past, I have yet to go on a trip to Guimaras. That would be something to look forward to maybe this coming summer when we plan our regular trip for our vacation.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Another Ondoy

I couldn't sleep last night because of the heavy rains that until now have not let up. Tropical Storm Mario (TS Fung-wong) is currently battering Greater Manila with rains reminiscent of a typhoon almost exactly 5 years ago. On Sept. 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) poured a month's worth of rain over a 6-hour period that indundated much of Metro Manila and its surrounding areas. We had to retreat to the 2nd floor of our former home as waters rose to what we estimate to be just under 6 feet inside our house. Outside, it was much deeper. Our two vehicles were totally submerged by the floods (one was lost the other resurrected) and we lost a lot of more sentimental, personal items especially in my parents' home in Cainta where photo albums, books and others perished in the floods.

It took us 4 years to save up for a new home in an area that is flood-proof (as well as relatively safe from other potential disasters as well). A few more floods including monsoon- (Habagat) generated ones encouraged us and reinforced our resolve to transfer residence where we could finally have peace of mind in times like this. So far, our investment has paid off although windy typhoon Glenda took a big piece of our mango tree that only last summer provided us with a bountiful harvest of fruits. Today, the product of our hard work is validated with "Ondoy-like" floods all around Greater Manila.

Like Ondoy 5 years ago, I think Mario caught a lot of people off-balance, unprepared for the heavy rains and the floods that now resemble if not exceeding Ondoy's. News reports this morning stated that Mario has so far dumped the equivalent of half a month's rain in Greater Manila. It's been about 6 hours since then and the rains have not stopped. The weather bureau has issued an advisory saying these rains will continue until tonight and so that means more rains and deeper floods. We can only hope that the rains will finally stop and the floods subside. The conditions outside as I write this is not encouraging and its has become darker in the last few minutes. The rains continue to pour and more reports are coming in about people being evacuated or rescued. There are a lot who are stranded in their houses and those braving the floods to get to safer grounds. I hope we will be alright after this very sad episode.

Keep safe everyone!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Our exploration of places to eat at along Maginhawa took us to what was formerly Henry's Grill, another restaurant that started out strong but eventually fizzled out likely due to the stiff competition among restaurants in UP Teachers Village. The place across from Bayantel is now occupied by Brazo, a resto that I recall was featured on TV some time ago for their frozen Brazo de Mercedes.

Menu on the chalkboard 
Interior and accent wall
Industrial-inspired lamps
Their mushroom pasta was creamy (very) to the point of being soggy. Pasta should be firm and not too soft. It tasted more like carbonara rather than a specialty pasta
Their lechong kawali was crispy  just the way people would like it to be.
My friend says their callos was good.
Their signature frozen brazo was okay but nothing really special.
Another friend mentioned that the specialty at Brazo is their Iberian chicken but we didn't order that. Instead, we got items on the menu that we thought were safe choices. I guess we generally got good meals when we ate at the restaurant but we felt it was not good enough for us to go there more regularly for lunches. Maybe its a good drinking place in the evenings or nighttime? But then again that was how Henry's Grill was packaged before and Brazo's menu does not indicate the restaurant is more of drinking place than one where you'd like to have lunches and dinners.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Transition - Troy & Mocha

It will be 4 weeks now since our beloved Labrador Retriever Troy passed away. A week before his demise, we brought home Mocha, a Golden Retriever puppy, that we had adopted in part to lessen the impact of Troy's inevitable farewell. We thought that we had to have the two dogs meet up at least in order for Troy to be able to impart some of his "wisdom" and training to Mocha. It may sound weird but we believe that dogs communicate with each other somehow. This was how Troy was able to help us train our other dog Barbi who was quite hostile when we first brought her home.

Welcome party - Troy welcomed a newly arrived Mocha
It was his custom to sniff new friends and was probably very curious about the puppy we just brought home with us.

Troy and Mocha trot along in our garden towards our lanai.

We love this photo of Troy with his tongue out and licking Mocha as she turns around to give some attention to her new friend.

Troy was friendly to everyone he met. His ready smile and affectionate nature made him popular with kids and adults, humans and canines alike. We will miss those private, everyday moments with us when he was most charming and loving towards us, his chosen family. We will always remember you, Troy.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Iloilo City waterfront

I was back in what I refer to as my fatherland for a conference in Iloilo City. Iloilo City has evolved much over the last few years thanks to good governance on the part of the previous and current mayors as well as generous assistance from its representatives in Congress including one senior politician who has been very supportive of infrastructure projects for the regional capital of Western Visayas. The city has a new city hall and the mayor hosted a post conference dinner at the penthouse located on the 7th floor of the building. Unfortunately, he could not personally come to the dinner as he was called to a meeting in Manila, which we assumed was likely connected to Iloilo being one of the chosen cities to host meeting for next year's APEC summit in the Philippines. 

While waiting for the other participants to arrive at the dinner venue, we explored the open area of the penthouse that afforded visitors with a great view of the city. Though we could imagine that the views would be good whether it was daytime or nighttime, the evening gave us a distinctive look at the city after dark. The waterfront was definitely a sight to see at nighttime especially as the lights gave a different feel for the surrounding area and it helped that there was a cool breeze that made it very comfortable to walk around while waiting for our dinner to be served.

The Iloilo City waterfront taken from the penthouse of the new Iloilo City Hall
Iloilo City has transformed a lot from the city that I knew from my childhood days. The transfer of the airport from Mandurriao to the site in Cabatuan was a big factor as the former airport grounds is now being developed into a modern CBD. In fact, I believe that efforts for restoring and preserving the old buildings that are part of the city's heritage gained significant ground as the city suddenly had more land that could be developed without demolishing the olds buildings. Decongesting the old city center is now underway and the tall buildings that are often associated with big cities are now under construction, giving the city a very urbanised cityscape in a few years. I just hope that the city doesn't lose its Ilonggo appeal with more people coming to the city from elsewhere (not West Visayas) to make it their home.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Breakfast Table

Our lunchtime exploration brought us to another restaurant along Maginhawa Street. We have been curious about The Breakfast Table every time we were in the same building it shared with several other restaurants. We are regulars at the Katsu Cafe and we also wanted to have other choices especially as we have our lunches out more frequently nowadays (We are quite tired of the food at the eating places at the university.).

It was a bit difficult for us to select a specific dish from their menu so we ended up with their "Build your own breakfast" option. This allows the diner to pick out his/her choice of viand to go with the eggs and rice of the popular "silog" combination breakfasts. Here are a few photos I took when we had lunch at The Breakfast Table.

Interesting placemats made out of denim.

Promoting the special - tablea pudding should be perfect for the morning (sugar) rush.

There are also interesting decors like this shovel on the wall, which probably is a lamp (we didn't check).

The blue bottles and the buckets turned lamps are part of the restaurant's curious interiors.

Their taho shake is refreshing and is one of their bestsellers. 

My do-it-yourself meal of Vigan longanisa with egg and plain rice. You can order other combinations  including several types of longanisa (subject to availability).
I think the restaurant is a good choice for breakfast and lunch. The build your own breakfast option allows one to have several viands (e.g., different types of sausages) for breakfast. This option is basically comfort food to many Filipinos wanting the simplicity of the "silog" for breakfast. The menu is quite limited though after the breakfast dishes but then it is supposed to be a breakfast place so that is understandable. Make sure you ask for their specials so you can try out what people have been raving about this restaurant. The staff are attentive and helpful so service is good and this definitely makes for a good experience in any restaurant.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chocolate review: Chocolat Stella Organic by Nature 75% Dark

I didn't realize that it's been more than 2 months since I did a chocolate review. I actually have a few drafts of several bars we have tried that I wanted to post but never got to finish any one of them until now...

There are many dark chocolates now on supermarket shelves in the Philippines but few seem to be at par with the smooth, bittersweet dark chocolates we've found abroad or at the airport duty free shops. Chocolat Stella Organic by Nature 75% cacao is one of those chocolates that one would surely enjoy and crave for but not available on your typical supermarket shelf. Neither Robinsons or SM sells these bars. Even the "higher end" Rustan's or Shopwise do not have these chocolates at their branches. Perhaps only Santis carries this brand and a few of its variants as I have not seen this in other shops. I found this at NAIA's Duty Free Shop at Terminal 2.

This bar caught my attention in part because of its packaging, which seems to make a statement that it's really good chocolate.
More detailed information on the chocolate is at the back of the package including the price of this bar.
This 100g bar cost 6.10 USD or about 265.10 PHP using current exchange rates. That translates into 2.65 PHP per gram, which is a bit expensive considering the typical imported dark chocolates available in supermarket shelves that are usually priced at about 65 PHP for a 100g bar (Note: I was able to get a 5% discount on the chocolates as I availed of the "travel light" promo at NAIA Duty Free). Nevertheless, it would be a shame for a true chocolate lover not to try out the more expensive (and presumably higher quality) chocolates once in a while. It is assumed though that the price will not be a deterrent to trying out these chocolates.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Afternoon tea

We were at the Bonifacio Global City last week to receive the memorial to our black lab Troy who passed more than two weeks ago. As we waited for the delivery, we decided to check out the newly opened TWG tea restaurant at Bonifacio High Street. The wife and I had a few cups of tea at the TWG's in Singapore when we lived there a few years ago though I don't remember us purchasing tea for consumption at home. 

Customers are provided a copy of their tea book to browse about the hundreds of teas available with TWG. Of course, if you want a quick tip on what would be nice to drink any time of day or what teas are the bestsellers, don't hesitate to ask their very helpful staff. Afterwards, do a little reading on teas.

Our afternoon snack consisted of Imperial Jasmine tea, muffins and macarons. They were the perfect combination to a relaxed afternoon at the Fort. We actually ended up taking home a muffin and a few macarons but we did finish our tea.
With TWG finally in Manila, I guess there will be more branches opening soon. I'm not a coffee person and I actually prefer chocolate but I definitely enjoy a good cup of tea more than coffee. TWG is more than welcome to expand my knowledge of all these teas. I'm just not sure I can try out all those listed and described in their book.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wicked Kitchen, Maginhawa Street

My good friends and I have been trying out restaurants along Maginhawa Street in UP Teachers' Village the past two weeks. We took advantage of our lunch times and the fact that Maginhawa is nearby our office at the campus. One building near Camp Karingal houses several restaurants and we wanted to try out every restaurant even as we were regulars at the Katsu Cafe on the ground floor. Of course, it helps to know a number of good restaurants around so that we could have choices whenever we felt like eating out or when taking guests out to lunch or dinner nearby the campus. 

We were already curious about Wicked Kitchen every time we were in the area and having a meal at the Katsu Cafe. One friend saw it featured on a TV show and wanted to try it out and so we did a couple of days ago.

The interiors are cool with featured specials or specialties on the chalk board.

The items on the menu are quite limited compared to those in other restos but there are very interesting dishes here and certainly ones that customers will be coming back to enjoy over and over again. It also seems that they have a lot of beer battered items and dishes for dinner or a barkada's night out.

Wicked Kitchen's version of beef salpicao is quite good but the jury's out there regarding the serving size.

A friend ordered their bagoong rice that has pork and bagoong alamang with green mango salad on the side. Not in any photo is the beef steak (or bistek) Pinoy ordered by another friend.

Entrance is simple but I'm sure that the lamp in the photo will be of interest to many people.

Greed - we got this dessert free from a promo. The generous serving is quite sinful with the mallows hiding the rich melted chocolate underneath. The graham crackers do well to balance the sweetness from the chocolate and marshmallows. Parang bitin lang yung three pieces of grahams. Maybe they gave us three because there were 3 of us?

We all agreed the food was good and the service friendly and efficient. We'll probably be back to try out their other dishes soon. Wicked Kitchen is located at the 2nd Floor, 189 Maginhawa Street, UP Teachers' Village. The building is at the corner of Makadios Street (going to Camp Karingal).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Home made brownies

I love brownies and my mother used to bake some before until our oven conked out after being submerged in the floods of the late 80's. Though there are many good brownies available out there including those from a major bakeshop chain, Goldilocks, most of the more "desirable" fudgy, moist ones are more expensive. Mrs Fields, for example, has the crunchy on the outside, moist inside variety that I prefer. I could easily consume a lot of their brownies in one sitting but then that will cost me some money aside from probably raising my blood sugar level!

I remember a very good college friend of mine bragging about the brownies that he made. We didn't believe him until we finally sampled his brownies one time we celebrated his birthday at their home in Paranaque. These brownies were the real deal and we had more than a few. Nahiya lang kami ng barkada na mag-take home ng brownies.

Last week, the wife baked some brownies (after much encouragement from me). Of course, this was also partly in preparation for a baking activity with our niece and nephew that's coming up soon. Though we committed to making cookies, the kids also like brownies and it might be a good addition to what we'll have in the oven this weekend. I took a few photos of the finished product. It's nothing really fancy as we used a brownie mix you could buy at most supermarkets.

Brownies right out of the oven

Sliced and ready for serving

Crunchy on the outside and moist inside

An even closer look at a brownie slice with the cashews and chocolate chips
We have another box of brownie mix ready. This one's a different brand so we don't know how this will go int he weekend. We'll probably just follow the instructions and see and taste what happens afterwards.