Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Chocolate review: Valrhona Abinao 85% Cacao

There was still a couple of Valrhona bars I found inside our refrigerator so we decided to open one. This one turned out to be special as it was a dark chocolate with a relatively high cacao content of 85%. The description on the box (Powerful and Tannic) served as a warning to those not into dark chocolates and their signature bitterness compared to the sweet milk chocolates.

This bar claims 85% cacao
Details on the chocolate at the back
The ingredients state that the bar contained a minimum of 85% cacao, which is quite high for something you probably want to eat as dessert.
It is not clear from the information on the package but Valrhona chocolates support and practice fair trade with cacao farmers. I think this should count with those who are quite picky (or snooty?) with respect to their chocolates.

As the price tag indicates, a 70g bar cost US$ 7.10 or about PhP 354.32 at current exchange rates. It is definitely an expensive bar. However, we thought again that it was worth it and perhaps, to those who were surprised by its bitterness, one should pair this with a good wine given the powerful and dry aftertaste.  I would even suggest that one pair this chocolate with ice cream. Crushed Abinao should go very well sprinkled or mixed with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tipanan, Maginhawa Street/V. Luna Extension

Our first lunch out for the year was at a restaurant at the end of Maginhawa Street in an area that is generally called Botocan. It is also at the fringe of UP Teachers Village. Tipanan Cafe appears to be another old house that was transformed into a restaurant, keeping pace with the commercial developments along Maginhawa Street. This part though was already commercialized being close to Kamias and V. Luna Extension and near the corner where there is a branch of a large supermarket chain.

Interior of the restaurant showing features of what used to be a house
Counter and entrance to the kitchen
People entering the restaurant will be greeted by this set-up at the foyer
Tipanan's menu offers an assortment of food. I used the word assortment because there seems to be no single or unifying theme or maybe that's because they intended for this to be a meeting place, the direct translation of the word tipanan. That is, they have pastas, they have Filipino food, they also have sandwiches, and so on.
Chorizo pasta
Pesto pasta with chicken
Adobong manok at baboy (Chicken and pork stewed in vinegar and soy sauce)
We would also probably eat here again soon. We want to try the other items in their menu since the variety got our curiosity. I just wonder if, on a regular day, the limited parking spaces would allow us to have a quick meal here during one of our lunches out.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Replica watch

With a lot of fakes being featured in the news and social media, I thought why not have a feature on a fake. Only, this fake is termed as a 'replica' by those who would like to twist the words or perhaps are too proud to admit this.

I got this watch during a trip to Dalian, China. Our group was going around the city during our free time while attending a conference and we chanced upon not a few shops selling what we knew were bootleg watches. Curious about the watches and why a lot of what appeared to be tourists looking at the watches, we decided to take a look ourselves. We ended up getting some as souvenirs (just for fun). One friend even asked for the 'higher quality' replicas of a luxury brand he fancied.

If you weren't an expert, a collector or familiar with luxury brand watches and the features of genuine specimens, would you suspect this was not the real thing?
This is supposed to be a replica of an Omega Speedmaster automatic watch with calendar, day and date features. The tachymeter doesn't work unless you deliberately wait for the second hand to be at the 12 o'clock position for each run.
The makers of this watch did a decent enough job trying to replicate the Speedmaster emblem embossed at the back of the watch.
Even the bracelet is made to appear as an Omega

Here's the dial bearing Greek letter

Technically, this is not a fake watch as it is very much real. It is functional and gives good time as well as has having desirable features like it being automatic (I haven't determined how long it will run on a full charge but it will not stop if you wear it during your typical day and leave it on the table overnight until the next use.), waterproof (we submerged our watches in our hotel room's tub as we had some fun with it) and having a scratch-proof glass face (we tried scratching it with a knife and later a paper cutter to no avail). It's only sin is its claiming to be an luxury brand watch. I keep the watch as a memento from that trip to China and do wear it once in a while. It's a bit heavy compared to the usual watches I wear (I prefer my Seiko Kinetic Titanium or one of my Swatches depending on my mood.).

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Albino bougainvilleas

I noticed something unusual with our bougainvilleas one morning while I was having breakfast. Curious and already suspecting something, I approached and confirmed my suspicion. We had an albino among our bougainvilleas. But this was only a stem out of an entire bunch. Here are a couple of photos I took of the albino stem and leaves including  close-up of leaves sprouting from the stem.

The albino developed from our variegated bougainvilleas
Here is a close-up of the step with a thorn and new leaves sprouting from the stem
I don't know how long the stem will survive given that the plants are located where they could get a lot of sun. Bougainvilleas love the sun and triggers their flowering. We do have other bougainvilleas around our home that don't get as much sun and so don't bloom as often and as much as the variegated variety along our back fence. It is something special and I also made sure our daughter saw it.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sarsa, UP Town Center

There is an Ilonggo restaurant at the UP Town Center. We sort of discovered if the one time we were there last December. We have not had Ilonggo food in a while and kind of missed eating chicken inasal and molo so we decided to try Sarsa. The Clairvoyant had heard about this restaurant by a chef who we sometimes chance upon on TV and was recommended by those who already ate here. For me, Ilonggo food was comfort food and I didn't mind eating this on a more regular basis.

The menu and their specialties are on the board
Inasal lumpia?
Pancit molo just the way we like it
Inasal na pecho (chicken breast)
I forget what this was but I seem to recall it was a special for the day (or week?) so we tried it.
Sarsa was, as expected, comfort food and it is most welcome among the restaurants at the UP Town Center. The inasal was just right and the so was their inasal lumpia. The pancit molo was also good and refreshing; perhaps perfect for rainy days. The prices are also just right for a non-fast food restaurant. It's no wonder a lot of people especially families and other big groups eat there. 

While I look forward to eating there again soon, I am not so sure about going to UP Town Center as frequently as we do to UP Village and our suki restaurants there. The traffic is pretty bad going there especially during lunch period although the parking situation's better and one does have the option to avail of valet services.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Happon, Maginhawa Street

There is another Japanese food-themed restaurant that we tried last year. I first saw Happon from across the street when we were eating at Hapag. And then a friend posted some photos of their group having dinner there. And so one time last December before the Christmas break, we decided to have lunch there.

Happon is located at the ground floor of a new building along Maginhawa Street
The interior is quite nice and shall I say picture perfect. The owners did very well here.
Tables and kitchen
The decors are simple and make you feel at home
There's a long counter near the entrance, which we thought was designed for individual customers (i.e., those who come to eat by themselves, and likely are there for a quick meal and won't really stay for long)
Their version of gyoza or fried dumplings
Miso ramen
We thought their food was okay but perhaps just par with your average Japanese restaurant. I think this is partly because they chose to be a ramen house and we know that there are just so many really good ramen restaurants around (e.g. the Ikkoryus, Ramen Nagis, etc.) that you could compare them with. Their donburi is better than the average but not really spectacular. There's room for some improvement here. As for the gyoza, we couldn't help but compare them with another restaurant at the end of Malingap Street near the corner with Matahimik Street. That restaurant's gyozas are the best in the area (although their ramen is also average). Will we eat here again? I would say yes but maybe not as often as in the other restos that we frequent in UP Village.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Chocolate review: The Freefood Co. Coco Dolce Milk Chocolate with Rice Crisp

We recently discovered another chocolate brand from Davao. We got this chocolate from an Echostore, which we recently found to be already closed. It is a milk chocolate but I made the exception to buy a bar if only for it being made in Davao and the nice packaging. I had some high expectations when I read from the packaging that it was from the same region that produced the Malagos chocolate bars that we loved.

The Freefood Co. Coco Dolce Milk Chocolate with rice crisp
Details on the chocolate including the price at the back of the package
The write-up at the back claims this bar is artisan chocolate.
Nutrition and manufacturer information and the price

This 100g chocolate bar was priced at 250 PHP (about 5 USD). We thought this chocolate was priced too high considering it was just par with the mass produced milk chocolates (both local and foreign) you can find in supermarkets and groceries. I was willing to pay more for the Malagos chocolates, which I found to be of higher quality and definitely competitive with the more elite foreign brands including the Valrhona's and El Rey's. We thought this one was better than local regular, mass produced chocolates but not yet at par with the Toblerones and Meiji Blacks. Perhaps the chocolate's claim to be 'artisan' made it expensive? I might be willing to taste this chocolate again but for the price tag.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Chocolate review: El Rey Chocolate Oscuro Apamate 73.5% Cacao

The features on El Rey chocolates continues with this first post of chocolates for 2017. This one is about another dark chocolate from the pack of El Rey's we got as a gift last year.

El Rey's dark chocolate Apamate claims 73.5% cacao
Details on the chocolate at the back of the package
Nutrition information includes an emphasis on ingredients like polyphenols, which are antioxidants, phenethylamines, which affect the moods ("love", "happy"), and flavonoids, which are also antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. These three have contributed a lot to chocolates being tagged as health food.
Information on the cacao - where it is grown in Venezuela
This dark chocolate is smooth and with a cacao content at 73.5% is just the right blend in terms of bitterness and sweetness. It is up there in terms of the really good chocolates (dark) that we have enjoyed. Is it better that the other El Rey chocolates I've written about? Perhaps not necessarily so. Liking or preferring one  over the others can be quite tricky or even unfair because a different person would also likely prefer one chocolate over the others. I would be partial to the dark chocolates while others may prefer the whites. As it is, each bar would have its own unique taste and should probably be compared to other chocolates of other brands.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Simple celebrations for the New Year

We celebrated the arrival of the New Year without much of the more festive atmosphere that included the food and drinks at the dinner table for what was supposed to be traditional media noche. Instead, we decided to have a simple dinner and had some sandwiches and slices of cheese to tide us by while we waited for midnight and the turn of the year. Our daughter made an effort to stay awake and she did follow our advice to take a nap during the early afternoon so she won't be sleepy at night. Her almost 2-hour 'siesta' was enough and we played and read with her so she won't get bored.

Towards midnight, we already made the observation that there seemed to be less of the initial revelry that usually ushered in the New Year. We thought perhaps it was because of the rains that day that may have been a deterrent for some who didn't want to risk spoiling their firecrackers by getting them wet. We also thought that maybe more people have become aware of the risks and costs of fireworks and have come to appreciate the fireworks displays that cities and municipalities have organized usually in partnership with the private sector. Those celebrations I think can become a tradition and help build stronger communities. And the benefits are definitely worth it as you get less noise, less garbage (from the exploded fireworks) and even much less air pollution from the smoke generated by fireworks.

And so we celebrated the coming of 2017 on the balcony of our home, enjoying the view of aerial fireworks care of our neighbors and those residing in the villages around us. We heard few of the sinturon ni hudas (Judas' belt) and sawas (snakes or pythons) and definitely of the other conventional paputok (usually ground-based fireworks) like the trianggulo, 'five star', fountain and other lusis. People probably now understand how costly it would be to quite literally blow your money on such things just for the sake of generating noise to drive away the bad luck. That's one pamahiin (superstition) that we certainly like to phase out.

Happy New Year to all!


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Lola's adobong manok

I had wanted to write about some happy memories late last year but thought it was most apt for New Year's Day. This is about the adobong manok (chicken stewed in vinegar and soy sauce with bay (laurel) leaves) that my lola, Tatay's mother, cooked for us when she was still able. I remember she used to travel to Manila from Iloilo almost every Christmas in the 1970s. We usually went home for vacation during the Holy Week when Tatay could have longer leaves. Those times, it usually took from 22 to 26 hours by boat between Iloilo and Manila but as long as the weather was okay, travel didn't make you tired so lola wasn't so tired when Tatay fetched her at the port (Pier 2 as I recall as this was where the Negros Navigation ships docked). Every time, she brought with her a small pot or caldero containing adobong native chicken that she had cooked at our home in Cabatuan. Adobo is just the kind of food that could survive a whole day's travel. There was something special about that adobo and not just because lola made it from ingredients from Iloilo but because it was made with a lot of love.

We could never enjoy my lola's cooking again since she passed away in the early 1980s. But then whenever we had a chance we brought native chicken raised at our home in Cabatuan so we can at least recreate some of our favorite chicken dishes with the main ingredient no less. Recently, Tatay came back from Iloilo with some native chicken and below are a couple of photos of the adobo.

Adobo using native chicken from our home in Cabatuan, Iloilo
A close-up of the native chicken adobo