Cupcakes from Little Jose’s Kitchen

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My happy stash

My unsuccessful attempts to launch my own business made me grow fonder of entrepreneurs. Starting your own business requires guts, confidence, commitment to what you’re doing and an awful lot of energy translated into productive action. It is for these reasons that I accept invites from people in the food industry – restaurateurs, food stall owners,  fellow food bloggers, what have you.

Today, I am introducing several cupcakes made by Joy Acosta, a home-based baker and stylish mom, who was introduced to me via Twitter by a common friend and fellow food blogger Shawn.

Ever the classic entrepreneurial story, Little Jose’s Kitchen is named after her gorgeous son Jose (the adjective was exactly made for kids like him) and was conceived out of her love for pastries.

All her cupcakes are shamelessly topped with icing that’s aptly sweet and perfectly meshes well with its base. As  Red Velvet was the most eye-catching  with its edible gold beads and smooth icing, it was the first one I tried. I was told that it’s a  bestseller and I’m not surprised.  Red velvet cupcakes are everywhere these days although I’m still baffled over the craze with the red food coloring it’s known for. The icing  is made with Philadelphia cream cheese which makes the flavor slightly milky and not buttery.  My teeth glided easily and needless to say, it was moist and quite tasty. There’s a slightly bitter after-taste that’s appealing to those who don’t like their treats too sweet.

Red Velvet
Red Velvet

On first glance,  the carrot and pineapple cupcake  failed to pique my interest as it was the plainest looking one in the box but I am thankful that I was wrong as this became my favorite.  The pineapple amplified the flavor of the carrot but had I not been told there’s pineapple in it, I would have missed it completely as my  tongue failed to detect the citrus taste of pineapple.  It also has walnuts folded into the mixture which were still delightfully crunchy, even after a week inside the fridge.

Carrot and pineapple cupcake
Carrot and pineapple cupcake

The last one I tried in one sitting was the Black Forest, a German dessert prepared with cherry liquor. It’s definitely a treat to the eyes with its fresh cherry topping and chocolate shavings over a buttery icing. With the powerful ingredients in it, this dessert is something one would immediately love or loathe.

Black Forest

Apart from cupcakes, LJK also offers cakes and other cupcake flavors.  Some of what I’ve missed are the banana dulce de leche cake and butter cupcakes with dulce de leche, the thought of which makes me drool.  Joy with her enthusiasm over batter is continuously coming up with ways to elevate her offerings and I wish her a happy ending over this courageous venture.

 

Price : P330/6pcs. (Minimum order) P600/Dozen
*For pick-up in Mandaluyong;
Delivery options in Makati & Mandaluyong area available for bulk orders.

Little Jose’s Kitchen
Facebook Page: Little Jose’s Kitchen
Twitter: @JosesCupcakes
Instagram: @josescupcakes
Email: littlejoseskitchen@rocketmail.com
Mobile: +63 915 273 1111 – Joy

Food Tasting at Kanto Freestyle Breakfast

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The main dining area of Kanto Freestyle Breakfast located a few steps away from the pavement. 😛

Music blared from the speakers of a van, invading our ears with a catchy jingle of some politician campaigning for the coming May 13 election.

With our tables at the side of the road, a few feet away from the van and no walls barring the sound, all conversations momentarily stopped.

It’s definitely not for its decors or design that I travel to this section of Mandaluyong to dine at Kanto Freestyle Breakfast but what keeps me coming back is the quality of food and  friendly service that comes at an unbelievably low price of less than 100 Pesos/meal.

Order counter which also serves as dining table for some customers.
Order counter which also serves as dining table for some customers.

Located along San Joaquin Street, a few blocks away from Mandaluyong’s ever busy Boni. Avenue, this simple eatery is easy to miss. Apart from their white and blue signage, there  isn’t anything that distinguishes its façade from a regular carinderia.

It’s not until food is served that one’s put under a spell, making your surroundings irrelevant.

Mixed berry pancakes - topped with strawberries and blueberries (90 Pesos)
An old item on the menu and perhaps the most photographed food here is the Mixed berry pancakes, topped with strawberries and blueberries (90 Pesos)

A 24/7 hole in a wall type of restaurant, Kanto Freestyle Breakfast, offers gourmet breakfast food right at the side of the road. It is owned by brothers Vince and Chef Archie  (owner of Lime 88), along with DLSU schoolmates Eugene and Ian.

Together with fellow food bloggers, we sampled old and new items on the menu, some of which are yet to be offered. Gleeful guinea pig I was inside,  I tried my best to look composed as each dish was served on our table.  But I couldn’t.  They were all a treat to the eyes and an even bigger delight to the stomach. I had to say one word repeatedly, “Sarap!”

I’ve dined here before with friends, fell in love with the food and been in love with it ever since. Food is normally served hot, prepared on the spot and served with class, a glaring contrast to the humble environment around it.

Among the new items that are yet to come out on their menu : Churros Con Chocolate, a fried snack served with 5 ps. of Churros and a cup of melted tablea from Batangas. It tastes like a rolled-up pancake and slices easily with a fork so it’s easy to chew. Its sweetness complements the chocolate dip very well.

Churros Con Chocolate (Normal serving size is with 5 pcs. of churros).
Churros Con Chocolate (Serving size is with 5 pcs. of churros).

Healthy eaters rejoice! Kanto will be offering Oatmeal. Doctors and the media has bombarded us with its health benefits. As it’s   whole grain, it can help lower the risk for Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure.  You can’t go wrong with oatmeal mixed with apple, mango, raisins and milk. I failed to ask which milk they used but it’s very light on the stomach. It’s good. However, I am loyal to rice and I’d probably turn to this one as a dessert. 😛  This would be a great pre-race meal though.

Oatmeal with mango, apple and raisins
Oatmeal with mango, apple and raisins

When asked about our favorites, I enthusiastically pointed out these two:

Hashbrown with eggs benedict and lima beans looked gorgeous. The potato is crisp and though fried, wasn’t greasy at all. If you’re looking for a power breakfast, this is it. The sliced tomatoes glazed with pesto sauce and lima beans were successful in balancing all the flavors coming from the eggs benedict and the hashbrown. The hollandaise sauce, a combination of egg yolks and spices were a nice touch but its taste was negligible.

Hashbrown with eggs benedict and lima beans
Hashbrown with eggs benedict and lima beans

My second favorite, quite ironically, since I don’t enjoy unprocessed pork,  is the Pork and beans. The beans reminds me of the fillings placed in a burrito. It has a powerful flavor,  on the verge of becoming spicy but not quite there.   It comes with a big piece of pan de sal with pesto sauce and butter. We were told that the bread is from Pan de Manila, a favorite local bakery.

Pork and Beans
Pork and Beans

Another interesting new item that is yet to come out on their menu is  champorado with tuyo.  Trying this was  monumental  for me. Although this dish is so popular and craved by many, this is the first time I’ve tried this.  The combination never made sense to me until now.  The saltiness of this  fried fish jives well with the sweetness of the chocolate rice porridge!   I love how the fish was  so crispy that my teeth cuts through it effortlessly.

Champorado with tuyo
Champorado with tuyo

For drinks, we tried Scramble, delightfully crushed ice mixed with strawberry & milk powder, marshmallows, sprinkles and topped with chocolate syrup. It’s aptly sweet, perfect for summer refreshing and goes well with fried dishes.

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Scramble – originally offered at their other restaurant, Lime 88, which is just a few blocks from Kanto.

As the moon advanced into the sky, so did the  amount of food on the table. We were also served with the existing dishes on their menu.

French Toast with bacon and eggs – It’s easy to love bacon and with soft, sweet French Toast and eggs prepared according to your liking, I wouldn’t wonder why the it’s a favorite among their patrons.

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French Toast with Bacon and Scrambled eggs (90 Pesos)
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Batangas beef tapa served with 2 eggs and slices of tomatoes with pesto sauce (90 Pesos)

By the time the plates of the savory Batangas beef arrived, most of us were about to burst around the middle, but still, it was only fair to our hosts to do our share of shoving this inside our mouths. It proved to be an easy task for one of our companions who was able to consume two  plates. I can only watch with jealousy as he enthusiastically finished it. I on the other hand, could only take a miniscule bite.

I was full and feeling lethargic from all that food as we closed the tasting session but I know I’d be back for more.

More photos from Kanto Freestyle Breakfast are on our FB page. Please click here -> Pinakbet.Net.

Our group together with the owners Archie (black shirt with colorful print), Vince (in red) and Ian (far right)
Our group together with the owners Archie (black shirt with colorful print), Vince (in red) and Ian (far right). Photo from aldousatetheworld.blogspot.com

 

Kanto Freestyle Breakfast
Address : 549 San Joaquin St. Brgy. Plainview , 0550 Mandaluyong, Philippines
They deliver too! Contact : +63(02)400-22-68
Facebook Page :https://www.facebook.com/kantofreestylebreakfast
Open 24/7

How to get there by Public Transpo:
From EDSA-Boni MRT (under Mc Donald’s, Southbound side), ride a jeep going to Kalentong. The terminal is at the side of Mercury Drug. Ask driver to drop you off at San Joaquin St. It would take you around 30-45 minutes depending on traffic condition.

Driving?
Check out the map below. If you need to ask for directions, just show the picture of the facade on this page.

Map from Kanto Freestyle Breakfast FB Page
Map from Kanto Freestyle Breakfast FB Page

Doggie’s Mexican Chow Taste Test

Every now and then, I  find myself craving for Mexican food. Unfortunately,  there aren’t a lot of options here in Manila, well, at least not one that’ll dent my pocket.

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Doggie’s Mexican Chow, a start-up business named after  a stuffed dog that serves Mexican snacks that are friendly to the pockets and the Filipino palate.

Incidentally,  I received an invite from fellow food blogger Aldous, to check out Doggie’s Mexican Chow, a stall located at the food court of Burgundy Corporate Tower in Makati City. I had an inkling that it would be worth checking out as  it’s not very often that  food stall owners would invite bloggers.

Its location is not hard to find as BCT is along Gil Puyat Ave. At the ground floor, the small food court is easy to spot as its clear glass walls reveal some stalls. Going in, I am overwhelmed with the smell of oil and food but I was not deterred. I have been to grimmer places where I discovered sublime food.  😛

After a few minutes,  our group was complete. The gorgeous and friendly owners, Angel and Fred welcomed us and food started pouring in.

The multi-colored nachos creates an amusing sound of corn chips breaking inside your mouth.  I initially though the purple and pink ones represented other flavors but we were told that it was due to food coloring. Health concerns aside,  I find it creative. The regular  yellow corn chips which is usually served in most restaurants are becoming boring. The flavorful cheese, beef and salsa, as expected, meshed well with the chips.

Multi-colored Nachos  (80 Pesos)
Multi-colored Nachos (80 Pesos)

Soft Tacos which can be availed in either chicken or steak fillings has a chewy and tasty shell. It’s not hard to bite into it. The special sauce is not too spicy and thankfully, the onions were not too intense.

Steak Soft Taco -a tasty filling of meat, lettuce, salsa, fruit, cheese and special sauce (60 Pesos)

Burritos which were served to us had white rice but starting this week,  will  be replaced with spiced up yellow rice. I agree. The white rice although it was bearable,  just doesn’t suit a burrito.  I still liked this one for the same reason that the spices  are mild, the wrap is tasty and the mixture of ingredients blend well. I love that it has corn because it diffuses the tangy after-taste.

Chicken Burrito (120 Pesos)/Steak Burrito (140 pesos)
Chicken Burrito (120 Pesos)/Steak Burrito (140 pesos) – normally served as a whole

Among the snacks that were served to us that evening, the crunchy tacos garnered the most dramatic reaction from me. Nicely prepared sauce over cheese with fresh lettuce.  It looks as good as it tastes. It was a bit challenging to eat though – with all that sauce, but I’m not complaining. It’s not fun to eat tacos without creating some mess. If you want to consume it with poise, order the Taquitos. It’s a mini version of the Crunchy Tacos.  For 30 Pesos, you get two cute baby tacos.

Crunchy Taco,a classic Mexican food favorite that has ground beef, lettuce, salsa, corn, cheese and special sauce.

Crunchy Taco,a classic Mexican food favorite that has ground beef, lettuce, salsa, corn, cheese and special sauce. (50 Pesos)

 Another favorite of mine were the Potato Wedges. But hey,  fried potatoes are easy to love, especially when you’re not counting calories. It can be availed without the ground beef and salsa but if you want a full meal, go all the way. It’s only 70 Pesos. The wedges were nicely fried, no greasy icky after taste. It was drained well.

Potato WedgesRegular - Served with Ketchup (45 Pesos)Supreme - comes with ground beef, salsa and nacho cheese (70 Pesos)
Potato Wedges
Regular – Served with Ketchup (45 Pesos)
Supreme – comes with ground beef, salsa and nacho cheese (70 Pesos)

Here’s an interesting trivia that was shared to us by Angel about another favorite Pinoy comfort food. “Did you know that Champurrado is a warm and thick Mexican drink based on masa (a type of flour) that Mexicans introduced to the Philippines during the galleon trade? Filipinos adopted it, converted it into a rice porridge and changed the name to Champorado.” Amusing isn’t it. I’ve always thought champurrado was a brainchild of our ancestors as rice is one of our major harvests especially in the Cordillera region.

Champurrado (35 Pesos) – a rice porridge mixed with sugar, milk, cinnamon and vanilla

The cinnamon and vanilla truly sets it apart from the regular pinoy champorado so expect a hint of the two spices when you taste it. The chocolate mix used is unfamiliar but jives well with the extra flavorings. I’ll let you be the judge if it’s good. I am not a fan of  any form of saucy rice.

Much as we were having a blast with the friendly chatter and the great food, when the chimichangas came out, we groaned. Everyone was full.  But curiosity won and we found ourselves finishing half a piece each. That was how far my stomach could take for the day.  Though I try to stay away from anything fried, I enjoyed it very much. It’s tasteful and most importantly, it did not taste as though I just gulped cooking oil, very good grub indeed!

Chimichanga is fried burrito. You can go for either  Chicken (45 Pesos) or Steak (55 Pesos)
Chimichanga is fried burrito. You can go for either Chicken (45 Pesos) or Steak (55 Pesos)

Everything that was served to us were exactly what Angel told us, that their offerings are catered to the Filipino palate, one that is accustomed to heartening flavors that will not cause hyper-acidity triggered by powerful spices. For those who are keen on burning their tongues,  hot sauce is available upon request.  😛

 

Doggie’s Mexican Chow
Address : Burgundy Corporate Tower Ground Floor Food Court, Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City, Makati
Business Hours : Mon – Sun: 07:00 – 07:00
FB Page : Doggie’s Mexican Chow
Location Map here

Don’t feel like stepping out of the house?
Order online via Quick Delivery.PH or by dialing +63(02)212-1212 and asking for Doggie’s Mexican Chow menu items. Full menu available at Quick Delivery PH.

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Bandwagon : The IHOP Philippines Experience

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IHOP’s facade in Bonifacio Global City. It’s a few blocks away from the stores and restaurants of Serendra and Bonifacio High Street.

I am not one to jump quickly over something just because it’s new, but when you’ve got a fun group in tow who shares the same strong connection with food, waking up early to check out a new restaurant turns into an exciting journey, a mission to find something that may or may not even be worth it.  For those who are hopelessly in-love with food, this treasure is something edible. Gold is round, flat, served in a platter and dappled with syrup. Sparkling diamonds are your shiny eyes, when satisfaction from devouring a good meal has set in.

Fearful of the long lines since iHop opened its first branch in the Philippines last February 15, 2013,  me and my energetic dining buddies arrived a few minutes before 6:00 AM, it’s opening hour. It turned out we were still late iHop time, as there were  already several people  ahead of us.  We barely came close to the front door. In fact, we were the third batch in. Fortunately, we only waited for less than 20 minutes.

A waitress led us to a table at the second floor. I looked around eagerly. The ceiling was high, the interiors look cozy and in various shades of brown, like the color of wood. Everything looked and smelled new.  As we are in the posh area of Bonifacio Global City (BGC), the vibe was a far cry from the very casual IHOP I saw on Hangover 2. Well, I shouldn’t be too critical. IHOP is popular as a diner in the US, where you can  come in with disheveled hair and holes on your favorite house clothes, but over here in happy, humid Philippines, it’s marketed as a restaurant and the whiff  of pancakes is accompanied with the aura of the rich and famous clad in their casual outfits.  To be honest, I don’t really care who I mingle with as long as food is great, aptly priced and served quickly with a genuine smile.  😛

Check out the IHOP scene here from HangOver 2:

Hunger escalating, we went over the menu with critical looks. There are the usual American breakfast favorites such as pancakes, waffles, omelettes, bacon and sausages. Then there’s a portion for regular meals – burgers, chicken and steaks. (Menu here).  The selection for pancakes, waffles and omelettes is massive, it took us about 10 minutes before we finally decided what to get.

Seats at the Ground floor near the entrace
Seats at the Ground floor near the entrace

In my quest to eat more healthily, my eyes zeroed in on  Simple and Fit Whole Wheat Waffle with Blueberries Combo (served with two strips of turkey bacon). Unfortunately, wheat waffles were not available at that time.  Ugh. I settled for the next best thing – omelettes! While trying to convince myself to get one that came with chicken, the waiter  looked into my eyes and suggested, “Bacon Temptation, it’s our best seller.”.

He seriously got me salivating at the mention of bacon, no other description had to accompany that. I looked back at him and smiled with my gums fully-exposed.  He knows my needs!

As a last minute decision, the coffee addict in me was unable to resist ordering the Never Empty pot, a refillable pot of freshly brewed coffee. I find the price too hefty to pay when Mc Donald’s large brewed coffee is only at 35 Pesos and it’s powerful enough to perk me up the entire day.

The waiting time for our orders to reach our table was sufficient enough for us to chat a bit and not wonder where the heck it went. Though my memory has failed  to remember how long it took, my estimate is that our food came within 10-15 minutes.

Bacon Temptation
Bacon Temptation

Bacon Temptation omelette comes with two pieces of buttermilk pancakes. You may also substitute it for other flavors or add hash brown for additional 75 Pesos. With my enthusiasm over bacon,  I consumed the omelette first.  I groaned.  Encroached with strips of crispy bacon, diced tomatoes – which I am currently addicted to, a creamy cheese sauce, Jack and cheddar cheeses, I couldn’t help the lewd sounds. My head tilted upwards. My toes are about to curl. It’s pure pleasure to the tongue.  Its flavors – slightly salty and very creamy digs into my senses.Stimulated in a rather obscene way, that’s exactly how I felt.  Food does that to me.

The pancakes that accompanied my lovable omelettes were negligible. With minimal pressure from my hands as my fork dug into a pancake, it crumbled easily. Bits of it scattered like loose pebbles on my plate. It looked messy. I didn’t like it. The only cheerful thing about it was the butter pecan syrup which was sweet and nutty.

Top : Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes (255 Pesos)Bottom (L-R) : Double Blueberry Pancakes (275 Pesos) & Original Buttermilk Pancakes (comes with an order Bacon Temptation, 285 Pesos)
Top : Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes (255 Pesos)
Bottom (L-R) : Double Blueberry Pancakes (275 Pesos) & Original Buttermilk Pancakes (comes with an order Bacon Temptation, 285 Pesos)

My friends got the Double Blueberry Pancakes and Chocolate Chip Pancakes – which are incidentally, two of my favorite flavors. Unfortunately, neither of the two provided any reason for me to miss them.  As with the buttermilk pancakes, my issue was the same, though it was fluffy,  it crumbles so easily and all that tiny holes  as seen in the photos are unattractive.  The flavors of milk, butter and eggs were present but I failed to catch anything extraordinary.

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Quick Two-Egg Breakfast. The sausages can be substituted with 2 pcs. of bacon (295 Pesos)

Ordered by another friend, the Quick Two-Eggs with its two small sausages  didn’t capture my attention. The sausages are as big as an regular Purefoods hotdog, around 5 inches.

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Never Empty Coffee Pot (you may opt for decaf, 125 Pesos/person)

Ordering the Never Empty Coffee Pot was a great decision. The food I consumed began settling in. My stomach’s inching outwards and I was beginning to feel lethargic. The pancakes felt very heavy. I wasn’t able to finish it all off.  The coffee is strong, aromatic, just the way I like it. If only we didn’t have to go back to the office, I would have stayed a few hours more and enjoy it in a slow, blissful manner.

By the time we paid our bill, more people had streamed in.  There was lively chatting everywhere. There were even more people at the waiting area and several more outside its doors.

With the few items I tried from IHOP’s menu, it’s still premature for me to judge that it’s just a hype. The service we experienced was congenial and efficient. The food, the omelette and coffee though a bit pricey for my pockets were just right, given its location. However, I still missed a lot of items on the menu. Will I go back? Perhaps, as long as I don’t have to wait in line. My suggestion is to wait a couple of months when the craze has diffused. There are a lot of nice cafes and restaurants around.  I had just recently explored food scene  in Kapitolyo, Pasig City and the experience was amazing!

IHOP Philippines
W Global Center, 30th Street cor 9th Avenue, BGC, Taguig
Business Hours : Mon – Sun: 06:00 – 00:00
FB Page : IHOP Philippines
Twitter : @ihop_ph

How to get to IHOP BGC:
IHOP is a few blocks away from Bonifacio High Street (BHS). It’s walking distance from the Mexican Restaurant in BHS, Agave.
Commuting or taking a car to BGC? Directions here or you can just download Waze on your phone to guide you with driving directions. Some friends of mine worship it.  😛

 

 

Buffet Escapade at Primero Casa Filipino

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Hard to miss facade of Primero Casa Filipino

I crossed my legs, gnawed on a Smint and gulped some water. It was my second Smint in a span of 90 minutes. The buffet was being set.  I tapped hard into my inner Audrey Hepburn (which was very challenging to find) to  suppress animated squeals when  I saw some delicacies and  miniature blocks of pastries. It was 40 minutes before the start of the evening buffet and my stomachwas revolting.

We were here for half business, half pleasure. Accepting an invite from Kim Marcelo, my fierce fellow blogger Shawn and I  traveled to Quezon City  and arrived too early, to sample the buffet offerings at  Primero Casa Filipino.

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A post-war ancestral house, turned Filipino buffet restaurant and events venue, along Scout Torillo cor. Scout Fernandez,  it is not hard to find. Coming from EDSA, then Timog Avenue, the huge signage at the left side of the road kind of screams at your face. 😛  On the Google map, it’s still labeled as Chef Laudico Casa Filipino, its old name. The Laudico’s are no longer affiliated with the restaurant so former patrons can expect some fresh offerings under the new management.

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A foyer that leads to the bar entrance. On it are copies of a local magazine that has featured the restaurant.

Inside the primary dining area, one can find wooden tables,  paintings adorn its walls, candles on each table, jars on side tables and chandeliers on the ceiling. Near the entrance is the staircase to the function room which seats 60 people. There is also outdoor seating and an enormous bar where pop and jazz bands perform on occasion.

The cozy, dark decors make me feel as though I’m visiting an affluent relative’s place. There is a friendly vibe, nothing eerily splendid that makes you want to hold off boisterous laughter which is probably why during that night, a Thursday, the place was filled with friends and families.

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The buffet area. Around it are tables set for groups of 4-6.

After an exchange of congenial hi’s and hello’s when Kim arrived, we headed excitedly  towards the spread.  As someone who’s used to eating set menus, I find the selection quite generous for its price range. It’s 398 Pesos  Mon-Thu  and 100 Pesos higher from Fri-Sun. They’re open for lunch and dinner.  It’s what you could have easily spent on when dining at a family restaurant with a few dishes and no dessert. Here, you get around 12 main courses and a dessert buffet with  over 12 types of  treats. The offerings per day changes so as not to bore frequent patrons.

We start off our food adventure at the appetizer section. On each platter,  small portions of food are placed  which makes you feel as though you’re just at a family gathering, a nice contrast to commercial buffet set-ups,  those with overwhelming heaps of food on trays or pots.

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Click to enlarge. Each appetizer had a sauce to complement it.

Each dish was infused with influences from regions around the world.  For example, tofu  – which is normally fried and paired with lugaw,  was prepared as Steamed Tofu Cake, glazed with tomato sauce and pierced with a tiny stick.  Baked Aubergine and Cumin  is eggplant spiced with cumin, commonly used in Mexican and Indian dishes. It elevates the flavor and compliments the natural sweetness of the food. Non-eggplant eaters could probably appreciate this one. There’s no after-taste.

Baguette Canapes which is basically bread topped with meat and herbs had a thick, chewy base.  I had difficulty biting into it.  The interesting ones from the bunch were Sisig Shooters – minced pork placed inside a crisp dim sum wrapper and prepared on a shot glass with its soy sauce at the bottom.  It was nice to look at and fun to eat.  The wrapper is thin  and the sisig itself had the right amount of saltiness that doesn’t make you crave for rice. It’s perfect as an appetizer. The Spicy & Cheesy bread kesadillas was enjoyable.  It’s not too spicy and the taste of cheese was faint but with its soft, moist dough,  it was one of my favorites. If not for the main dishes which we were yet to try, I would have consumed two more.

I declared thee as my favorites. Top : Sisig ShootersL-R : Lumpiang Shanghai & Spicy and Cheesy Bread Kesadillas
I declared thee as my favorites. Top : Sisig Shooters
L-R : Lumpiang Shanghai & Spicy and Cheesy Bread Kesadillas

Fried Lumpiang Shanghai was tasty, good thing it came in tiny pieces because it’s really good. The wrapper was again, delightfully crispy, given that it had been one of the first trays that were brought out.  Amazing!

The salad section had three types of salad : Potato Salad with Maya-maya bits, Nicoise Salad with Salted egg and tinapa meat and the least interesting, the Pinoy Salad Station which had bowls of fresh lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrots and onion . It’s boring, I mean, you get some lettuce, slap it with some dressing and it’s done. I snubbed it.  The other two were innovative and delicious.

L-R : Potato Salad with Maya-Maya bits and Nicoise Salad with Salted egg and tinapa meat
L-R : Potato Salad with Maya-Maya bits and
Nicoise Salad with Salted egg and tinapa meat

The combination of the appetizers were successful in building our anticipation for the main course.  There were two types of soup, pork nilaga and vegetable chowder.  I only tried the vegetable chowder which was expectantly creamy and had a thick consistency.  I just gulped the entire thing. I was excited for the entrees.

For meat lovers,  there’s angus beef kare-kare which is served daily, Angus beef Caldereta, Caprichon – tediously prepared crispy lechon belly with the skin deep fried, then baked. The rest is roasted then baked. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the heart to eat the caprichon. It’s been a while since I consumed unprocessed pork or beef, thus, it no longer goes  down well into my system.  I love steamed dumplings, but then again, that’s processed meat.  Shawn, my “carnivore” friend, loved it.

Caprichon
Caprichon. Photo Credit : Shawn of firenfrost.wordpress.com

There’s also roasted Angus beef and hooray – Roasted Chicken. These two appear to be the star of the buffet. Both are placed in a platter under yellow lamps.  I tried the roasted chicken which tastes the way it should be, nothing extraordinary. The real star should have been the sauce – there’s four types of sauce, the one I picked which  Mr. cool head chef recommended as it was a new concoction was buttery, complimented the chicken well and should not be missed.

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L-R : Roasted Angus Beef and Roasted Chicken

There seemed to be a lot of carbohydrates served that day because there was also pumpkin pasta (pumpkin with fettucine noodles), Asian Pancit Guisado and two types of rice – steamed rice with pandan and the colorful garlic rice  that had eggs and spring onions.  The pumpkin pasta was innovative though I wish it had a little more flavor.

2013-04-03 Primero Casa Filipino
Top : Garlic Rice
L-R : Pumpkin Pasta, Asian Pancit Guisado

Though I’m not a fan of beef, I had to at least try angus beef kare-kare and the caldereta. It looked too good to pass up. The angus beef melts in the mouth and the flavors of both kare-kare and caldereta were spot on.

We also had Tortilla de patata, Steamed vegetables, tilapia escabeche with Papaya pickle and chicken binakol. Tilapia- is something that I avoid outside the house because my mom’s an expert on tilapia, thus, with much prejudice, there is no better way that tilapia can be cooked apart from the way she does it. 😛 That being said, PCF’s tilapia escabeche comes  second to my mom’s cooking. It was good, but I prefer it crispy.

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Top : Tilapia Escabeche with Papaya Pickles
L-R : Angus Beef Kare-Karen, Chicken Binakol

My appetite was still revved up when it was time for dessert. On the spread, I counted 15 : Rhum Balls, Turones jackfruit with butterscotch, Palitaw with latik, banana bread, Pichie-pichie, Halo-Halo Shooters, Chocolate Cake, Chocolate mousse, Chocolate Fountain, pineapple, watermelon, ube and vanilla ice cream, Vanilla Tort Cake, Brownies and Chocolate-ooh.

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Top (L-R) : Brownies, Ube Ice Cream
Bottom (L-R) : Palitaw with Latik, Rhum Balls

Off all the desserts I tried,  the only one I didn’t enjoy was Turones jackfruit as its wrapper was a bit tough to bite into.  Rhum balls with its adequate mix of liqour and chocolate, palitaw with latik, which came in green and orange, tastes as good as it looks and were my favorites. All the pastries were aptly sweet and chewy.  Baking seemed to be another strength of this restaurant. The Halo-halo shooters were too small for comfort, but that’s just me. I like halo-halo with tons of shaved ice and minimal ingredients.

The home-made ice cream which is offered in ube or vanilla was a nice surprise. It had a rough texture, felt some minuscule ice caps on my tongue which Shawn and I liked. Vanilla was milky while the ube had the right amount  of flavor.

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One side of the dessert station

By the time we got through with dessert, my stomach felt like bursting.  Kim, Shawn and I capped the evening with stories about our personal life, alternating serious and funny topics. Nothing like great dinner to get your mouth spewing with happy raves.

With a homey ambiance and an array of well thought dishes that comes at a fair price,  I’d recommend Primero Casa Filipino  as a place for families, friends and long term-couples to dine, reminisce and talk about anything.  The place spurts out long term relationship vibes. After all, it is an ancestral house that has withstood the decades.

Primero Casa Filipino
26 Scout Torillo corner Scout Fernandez
Brgy. Sacred Heart, Quezon City
Contact Nos. : +63 (02) 9212448 / 9211850
Facebook Page: Primero Casa Filipino
Twitter: @PCasaFilipino

Buffet Schedule :
Mon-Thu : 398 Pesos net (buffet)
Fri-Sun : 498 Pesos net (buffet)
Lunch Buffet: 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Dinner Buffet : 6:00 PM-10:00 PM

Merienda (Set Menu):Daily from 2:00 PM-5:30 PM
*188 Pesos (comes with appetizer, main dish, dessert and iced tea)

 

 

Filling Treats at Moonleaf Tea Shop – McKinley Hill

I am currently writing half conscious, half intoxicated with euphoric feelings due to my latest favorite find.

Located a couple of blocks away from our office building is Moonleaf, a  tea shop that serves freshly brewed tea leaves from Taiwan. Their first branch which opened in 2010 at Magiting Street in UP Teacher’s Village became a hit and now, they  have over 30 branches around Metro Manila and on several bustling provinces.

The craving for are refreshing drink brought me to its Mc Kinley branch the first time, but it was for the pastries that I come crawling back quite frequently the past couple of weeks. Their pastry menu, which seems to change weekly, include brownies, cupcakes, cookies, cakes, as well as more filling treats such as sandwiches and pastas.

On separate visits, I’ve tried  the Red Velvet cake, Peanut Butter and my latest try – Vanilla cupcake. All cupcakes are well-chilled, taste fresh,  frosting has  the right amount of sweetness and nothing too buttery.  It’s also aptly priced at 55 Pesos a piece which means you can buy as much as you can without denting your pockets too much. It’s a far cry than other cupcake shops which sell them at 70-100 Pesos a piece, but then again, some of them are really worth the splurge.  Take out boxes come in delightful pink shades so it’s a nice token to give to someone (ahem, ahem!) who rolls over with delight for pastries as much as I do.

I have only visited the Mc Kinley Hill Moonleaf branch so I’m not sure if the pastry and pasta menus are the same for each branch.  It’s a nice place to hang out or  have a quick office meeting (they have wifi here too!).

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Vanilla Cupcake (55 Pesos). Photo taken from a phone camera.

I also got immensely fascinated with their Chaotic Good Chocolate Chip Cookie. It’s a strange combination of Kalinga coffee, potato chips, oats, crackers, pretzel and dark chocolates. It’s chewy, tastes salty, bitter and sweet – all at the same time!  Very weird indeed, but I like it. 😉

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Chaotic Good Chocolate Chip Cookie. It’s a strange combination of Kalinga coffee, potato chips, oats, crackers, pretzel and dark chocolates. (35 Pesos/piece).
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Ham and Cheese Pan de Sal (35 Pesos). It’s easy to munch and tasty but I would need two to fill me up.

Hooray to finally finding a sweets haven near the office where I can sit down and enjoy brewed tea and a pastry or two, or three perhaps. 😛

On my latest visit, I was accompanied by my cheerful colleagues, all kindred spirits who share the same extreme level of enthusiasm and love for food.

Moonleaf McKinley Hill
Business Hours : Monday-Friday, 10:00 AM – 3:00 AM
Unit A3 Two World Square Mckinley Hills Fort Bonifacio, 1634 Taguig
FB Page : MoonleafMcKinley
Twitter : here
Website : http://moonleafteashop.com
Contact Number : +63 2 519 6602
Check out other branches here

 

 

 

 

 

Kanto Freestyle Breakfast

After playing our guts and hearts out at the office football tournament, we scoured the streets of Mandaluyong for Kanto Freestyle Breakfast, a modest place I read about which serves amazing food.  It was past 12 midnight and me and three other friends – Shirley, M and Henry, who have been deprived of a sufficient meal since 10:00 AM, were in need of a happy, filling sustenance.

Kanto’s a Filipino word for street corner and the concept of finding a great meal just around the corner which you can customize is basically the gist of Kanto Freestyle Breakfast.  It serves food, gourmet style 24/7 (Hooray to  untimely cravings!) . What’s striking is  that it’s set-up is really just a casual eatery by the road.  Cozy ambiance and cute decors are definitely not the reason you would go here.

As we arrived just after its peak hours, we were able to get seats instantly.  Contrary to a regularly eatery where you just browse several trays and point out what you’ll be getting, a smiling attentive waiter handed out menus. I skimmed excitedly with the wide selection and felt torn  over several options. I decided to get Vigan Longaniza,  shared an order of mixed berry pancakes and as a last minute decision, corned beef hash.

Wide-eyed and with a smile as bright as sunflowers, I turned to Henry who was sitting beside me. His habitually stern face was glowing.  There was mutual understanding between us, but it was not out of romantic chemistry but of gastronomic delight. A gorgeous white plate with garlic rice, honey garlic chicken and tomato pesto has just been served to M and it was not long before the rest of what we had requested arrived.

Vigan Loganiza served with two eggs and tomato pesto. I love it that you can request how you want your eggs done.  (90 Pesos)
Vigan Loganiza served with two eggs and tomato pesto. I love it that you can request how you want your eggs done. (90 Pesos)

I enjoyed the longaniza and the egg. It’s well-prepared, not oily and best of all, tasty. I’m not really a fan of garlic rice so I wished I got steamed rice instead.  However, if you’ve got some wild appetite, you can take advantage of their unlimited garlic rice by adding 20 Pesos only!

Henry got the Batangas Beef Tapa (90 Pesos)
Henry got the Batangas Beef Tapa (90 Pesos)
Shirley got spam, French toast and scrambled eggs.  (90 Pesos)
Shirley enjoyed her spam, French toast and scrambled eggs. (90 Pesos)
Corned beef hash - my least favorite. It was just okay but I love how it was prepared, topped with egg and sprinkled with spring onions
Corned beef hash (90 pesos). It lacks the flavor of beef but I do appreciate how it was served, topped with egg and sprinkled with spring onions.

Though not really a dessert, we consumed the mixed berry pancakes last. I wished it was fluffier but it’s not bad either, I enjoyed the blueberry part. I am more inclined to try their peanut butter and banana pancakes on my next visit (which I’m itching to do very soon).  🙂

Mixed berry pancakes - topped with strawberries and blueberries (90 Pesos)
Mixed berry pancakes – topped with strawberries and blueberries (90 Pesos)

Here’s their menu. Drooool!

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The location map :

Map from : Kanto Freestyle Breakfast FB Page
Map from : Kanto Freestyle Breakfast FB Page

Part of the appeal of Kanto Freestyle Breakfast comes from pleasantly surprising its visitors with gorgeous, yummy food that’s served at the side of a street, (yes, your feet’s just a couple of inches from the pavement). It’s a great place to chat with friends as long as you don’t go during the peak hours as the tables are limited (around  4) or when the sun’s glaring happily above the sky. Best to call the numbers below to check on the crowd or have your food delivered although you’ll be missing out on the experience if you do.

Whatever floats your boat, Kanto Freestyle has something that can make your mouth open wide with joy,  as long as you’re not strictly vegetarian as the menus doesn’t give you much option other than pancakes (but it has eggs), Coke products, hot chocolate, coffee and their very congenial crew. :P.

Kanto Freestyle Breakast
Open 24/7
Address : 549 San Joaquin St. brgy Plainview, Mandaluyong City
Accepts Delivery : +63(02)400-2268
Facebook Page : Kanto Freestyle Breakfast

 

Marks & Spencer Wine Tasting Event 2013

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A curious crowd swarming over the M&S wine bottles.

My comfort zone involves playing football and hiking mountains – heart-pumping, sweat-inducing activities that make me feel happy and inspired, but much as I enjoy roughing it up,  I also feel the need to try other things,  which is why I accepted the  invite from Nuffnang for a wine tasting event organized by Marks & Spencer Philippines.

The event was held last February 7, in front of the M&S branch in Greenbelt 5, Makati. Various types of wine, most of which I am unfamiliar with, were displayed on tables when my brother and I walked in. After a few minutes, waiters circulated the area serving glasses of wine, kicking off the start of the program.

Next came the part I enjoyed much more than the free liquor. Chie Gatchalian, Wine and Spirit Education Trust  (WSET) awardee stepped on the podium and delivered a very engaging and informative talk about  wines.  (WSET  is the “only wine & spirit education organisation approved by the UK government as a national awarding body of vocational qualifications. – WSET Website)

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Chie Gatchalian drew a huge crowd with her lively and humorous discussion on wines.

Her passion for wine is hypnotizing, she could have convinced me, despite my embarrassingly low tolerance for alcohol and strong preference for caffeine, to consume a whole bottle of wine in one sitting.

In her talk, she explained the different types of wine, how to taste it, where it came from and the fruits in it. For each type, we were given a glass and that’s 10 glasses for each person!

Chardonnay is great to be consumed with flavored fish or chicken dishes and practically anything. :)
Chardonnay is great to be consumed with flavored fish or chicken dishes and practically anything. 🙂

There were tons of amusing facts that were shared to us  but the most helpful thing I learned was that in pairing wine, there aren’t rules at all. If you love the way it tastes, pair it with whatever you want. You can find suggestions everywhere on which dish goes well with a certain type of wine and that’s to maximize your dining experience, but no need to sweat on the pairing! 😛 Whew!

Dessert wines
Dessert wines – Port, Moscatel de Valencia and Olorosso (Sherry)

Other fun facts :

1.  If you find yourself craving for wine without the sour kick, go for Merlot. It is recommended for  those who don’t really  like wine. It also goes well with cheese, red meats, stews, barbeques and savoury dishes.

2. For people with an expensive taste bud but don’t have the budget for champagne, go for Proseco It’s extra dry and semi-sweet.

4. All M&S wine bottles have labels which give information of flavor, style , serving suggestions and storage which makes it very easy for people like me who don’t really know much about wine.

5. My favorite fact, mainly because it’s related to geography : “Champagne is a protected name and cannot be used on any sparkling wine produced outside the Champagne region found in Northern France.” – M&S Wine Guide

6.  M&S wines are reasonably priced from 195, for those that come in small bottles to 3,650 Pesos, for champagne. For a list of the wines and pricing guide, download a PDF copy of the catalog from their website.

As I’m not really into alcoholic beverages, I had slipped into a hazy state when the talk ended, but despite the clouded thoughts swirling  in my head, there’s also this happy buzz I’m feeling for attending an affair I’d normally passed. You can never go wrong with stepping out of your comfort zone – be it as simple as wine tasting event. 😛

Thanks Nuffnang and Marks & Spencer Philippines! 🙂

J.Co Donuts

A dozen reasons to smile

When Indonesia’s J.Co Donuts opened its branches  here in the Philippines  in 2012,  the internet buzzed with mouth-watering images and descriptions about its wonderfully crafted look and taste.

Though quite late in the foodie world,  it was only two weeks ago that I got to understand the fuss and detestably long line whenever we attempt to buy at its SM Megamall branch.

Fortunately, one of my hard core foodie cousins, upon learning of our failed efforts,  dropped by the house with a surprise  box of treats. I was asleep at that time but my mom, all hyper and excited, woke me up. I don’t think anyone would appreciate being disturbed when they’re resting,  but when someone’s shoving a box of gorgeous  J.Co donuts  at your face, a foodie graciously responds with twice the level of excitement.

The next few seconds went by quickly. While in bed, I managed to devour two donuts of the same variant. It was topped with white Belgian chocolate and sprinkled generously with thin and crunchy, almonds. It was fluffy, flavorful and not sickeningly sweet. I was quite surprised when I realized I had two already and I wasn’t even fully conscious. Later, I learned that one I tried was alcapone.  It’s no surprise that it’s a bestseller.

I couldn’t stop thanking my cousin when I called her  up that evening.

A week later, my brothers and I got two more boxes from their branch at the SM Mall of Asia. It was not even 10:00 AM and there was a line already, although much more manageable than the ones we see at Megamall.

After seeing the price list, I now understand why I see a lot of people buying it in bulks. At 350 Pesos for a dozen box,  it’s irresistibly  much more cost-efficient than opting for singles, which costs 42 Pesos a piece. It’s even more cheaper if you get two boxes because it only costs  550  Pesos which meant you are only paying for 22.92  Pesos per donut. It’s a great deal if you’re planning to share your donuts or give it as a gift.

A favorite of mine, Green Tease, carries the flavor of green tea minus the bitterness.

Apart from donuts, their branches also serve fat free yogurts, coffee – hot and blended and tea which makes it an ideal place to mingle with friends and families who either have a sweet tooth or  stick to a healthier diet.

J. Co Donuts and Coffee
Facebook Page : J.Co Donuts – Philippines
Branches : Greenbelt 3, SM Megamall Building B, SM Mall of Asia
Opening soon in Trinoma, Alabang Town Center, Eastwood City & SM Fairview

Azalea Residences’ Breakfast Buffet

 

According to an article I read on Huffington Post, eating breakfast reduces your cravings for food later in the day.  Unfortunately, it’s not true in my case, but it sure does brighten my day. 🙂

As someone who enjoys waking up way before the cheery sun glares from the sky, I have this intense need to gorge on an amazing breakfast, or else I’ll feel out of sorts. It’s actually one of the last things on my mind before bed.  😛

I doesn’t really take much for me to feel delighted over a first meal as long as there’s variation, food’s steaming, prepared well and not too greasy.

Such feast that I look forward to, is the complimentary breakfast buffet offered in Azalea Residences, Baguio where I spent the night two weeks ago. Hotel buffets are so easy to love. You wake up from your room, fix your hair a bit, walk towards the restaurant, grab food and leave your mess at the table when you’re done. No preparations, it’s all too easy, breezy.

The buffet is served at Tradisyon, the hotel’s restaurant located near the lobby. On a previous visit, me and several blogger friends met the amiable head chef (and please accept my apologies for not remembering your name) who took some time off the kitchen for a short chat. He was eager to know how our stay was going and excitedly told us about a nice treat for breakfast the next day which was the daing na espada, now, one of my favorite fish dishes on earth! 😀

The selection is pretty generous if you’re someone who’s not confined to just vegetables or fish. There’s two kinds of soup – usually rice porridge and a clear soup where you can choose to put toppings such as kikiam, green onions, eggs, pork chicharon and garlic.

Soup up!
Keep your tummy light by munching on mixed green salad.

For those who prefers to keep it light in the morning, there’s a colorful salad bar where the ingredients are fresh and very crisp. Non rice eaters can opt for a cereal  or grab some bread and jam. They also have a corner where you can have your omelets and pancakes prepared on the spot.

Main dishes may include chicken and pork adobo, nuggets, hotdogs while the regulars, which I’ve noticed from the 4 times I’ve consumed a breakfast buffet here are longganisa, danggit, daing na espada, garlic rice, plain rice and a vegetable dish.

Coffee addicts, (ahem, ahem!) would love the strong cup of freshly brewed coffee that’s served on your table and yes it’s unlimited! 🙂  I normally consume three cups during breakfast because I enjoy it too much. For non-caffeine freaks, there’s also two types of juices that’s available (refillable too!).

Daing na espada – my favorite! These are as thin and crunchy as potato chips. Unlike other dried fishes, this one’s not salty at all. It tastes better when dipped in vinegar.

Despite my newly repaired lower two front teeth, injured lips and severely bruised arm which were in the process of healing from a freak accident in the bathroom four days back, I managed to enjoy my breakfast, hurling the food directly to my molars and gulping on coffee with my tongue blocking the teeth. Never mind that my tongue’s directly touching the cup, it had to be done.

Azalea Residences
#7 Leonard Wood Loop, Baguio City, Philippines
Website

More information on Azalea Residences on my travel blog – Jovial Wanderer.