10.27.2006

A "Chocolate-ty" Find : Royce Nama Chocolates

This will be short but definitely SWEET. My cousin Alex who is based in Singapore recently arrived for vacation. And she brought home ROYCE chocolates for all of us (actually one bag per family!). Royce is a brand of Japanese chocolates which rivals the likes of Godiva. It's smooth, rich and surprisingly light. 1 Knowing how meticulous the Japanese are, the perfectly shaped milk chocolates with champagne came in an intricately...make that obsessively wrapped paper box further sealed in a silver bubblewrap-like packaging with a cooling gel pack inside. There's a tiny note recommending that it be stored below 10 degrees. So the whole packaging ensures that the chocolates stay fresh and at its best from the store up to wherever you will indulge in it! Inside the box, you will also find a mini plastic scooper which somehow imposes that the chocolate be taken and savored little by little and not consumed in chunks. The box within a silver packaging is neatly placed inside a white and gold plastic bag sealed with a classy golden ribbon which gives it the superior and snooty look.

As for the actual experience...it was magical! Each square is generously dusted with cocoa powder and as you bite into the smooth chocloate, it will melt on your mouth like silk. Hmmm....Each tiny bite was a piece of heaven! We still have a few pieces left...care to try?

Unfortunately, Royce’ isn’t available in Manila, so addicts get their fix from nearby Singapore and Hong Kong, and of course Japan. Thanks Alex for the wonderful treat! Until the next time! Pasalubong
ulit!









1 taken from a Royce choco addict - makansakan.com

8.29.2006

Cyma Greek Taverna : Lunch with Pat

August 29, 2006; lunch time

Pat and I have been really good friends (we were seatmates for a year!) since our Poveda days. Although she left for the States after High School, our communication and friendship never wained. This is because we always find time to update each other of the new and not-so-new stories of our lives. It's always a pleasant bonding experience being with a friend like her. So today was another kwentuhan day for us since she's again leaving for Spain this weekend (lucky duck?!?!). Wanting to try out something new, she recommended that we check out this greek resto Cyma Taverna in Shangri-la since it's near our area and we didn't want to go all the way to Makati. I later found out that CYMA is actually the hit restaurant in Boracay. I guess the owners found a demand here in the metro! We were lucky because we came in early for lunch otherwise we would not have gotten a table (so I suggest you either reserve or go early). Typical restaurant mall ambiance with good lighting I must say. Now let's got to the more exciting part...the food! First I want to educate those who are really familiar with Greek Food. Given the geography and history of Greece, their cuisine or style of cookery is typical of Mediterranean cuisine, with strong influences from Italy, the Middle East and, to a lesser extent, from the Balkans. Important vegetables include tomato, aubergine, potato, green beans, okra and onions. Olive oil (EVOO!), produced from the trees prominent throughout the region, adds to the distinctive taste of Greek food. Too much refinement is generally considered to be against the hearty spirit of the Greek cuisine, though recent trends among Greek culinary circles tend to favour a somewhat more refined approach. Traditionally, Greek dishes are served warm rather than hot. Okay, enough history....Back to my food encounter, Pat and I decided to split a salad and a gyro. We ordered the Cyma Chopped Salad (solo portions go for P210.00, and to share portions are P300.00), served with their special greek vinegrette, walnuts, blue cheese and pears on a bed of greens (yummy! since I looove blue cheese!). We just got the solo portion. They have big servings so the "solo" can actually serve 2 people. We didn't even finish the whole dish so that should give you an idea. We also tried their Chicken Gyro (at a very affordable P95.00 - no wonder it's a favorite!) served with potatoes and hot sauce siding. Just to add insight again, a "gyro" sandwich (pronounced YEER-oh) consists of various rotisseried meats, salad vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce and onions, along with a yogurt-based tzatziki sauce. These ingredients are placed on a hearty form of grilled pita bread and served as a wrap sandwich. The Cyma chicken gyro was worth it - tasty, tangy and zesty rolled in one! And oh, please excuse the picture of the salad, I know it's not exactly a beauty shot because we were so excited that we tossed it already before taking the pic! And if you notice, I was not also able to take a nice shot of the gyro. We finished it before I even had the chance! hahaha! ;)
I plan to order their other signature dishes (moussaka, osso bucco and their cyma lamb chops!). Anyone care for greek? Let me know so I can tag you along!

Cyma Greek Taverna is located in the Edsa Shangri-La Mall, Cinema Level. For reservations, please call 637-3090.

8.23.2006

Sushi Tales

If you ask me what my top asian cuisine is (apart from Filipino that is), I would not think twice about it....It's definitely JAPANESE! Thanks to my dad who has been my biggest influence into loving this kind of cuisine, I never seem to get tired of eating sushi and sashimi. Let me tell you how this all started...I vividly remember the first time I tasted sushi was when I was in kindergarden in Montessori School inside San Lo. I hated it like anything! We had a pot luck party where we all had to bring food that we could share with our classmates. My Japanese friend brought these tiny little cakes with bright red stuffing in the middle (ofcourse that time I was completely clueless that it was tuna sushi!) neatly arranged and packed in plastic containers. She was seated beside me that time so when we were asked to put out the food we brought for sharing, I was attracted and utterly tempted by what she had to offer (compared to the same-old ensaymada I brought!). So I reached out for a small piece expecting to taste a burst of sweetness since I thought it was something for dessert but was confused with what my taste buds experienced. It was sticky, somewhat sour and fishy...Ewww! I thought to myself. Not wanting to offend my friend, I politely asked for a napkin and discreetly put out the semi-chewed piece. And that was how my hate-love (that order!) relationship with sushi and sashimi began. This experience was followed by the myriad of times my dad brought us to lunches at Sugi (as I mentioned on a previous post, this is really where my love for Jap food started). His love for jap delicacies had a great impact on how my relationship with raw fish evolved. Slowly, slowly, slowly my palate was trained to appreciate both sushi/sashimi. And now after so many years, I've actually developed an incredibly strong passion for it! Just to share my faves;

SASHIMI:

Salmon - Japanese name: sake. A slightly-salty, orange ocean fish.

Yellowtail - Japanese name: hamachi. A creamy, firm-fleshed, mildly flavored ocean fish ( This is my dad's all time fave!)

Tuna (the most basic of all) - Japanese name: maguro. A bright pink, fine textured, mildly flavored ocean fish. * I usually order the spicy tuna to give it an extra kick! Or at home we make fresh tuna salad where we mix the diced sashimi with jap mayo and wasabi! super good!

Also, I've ventured out to trying out the more "bolder" kinds. So for those who are feeling adventurous and have an intrepid palate, I suggest you try the ff;

Sea Urchin - Japanese name: uni. Inside the delicate purple and white globe of its translucent shell hides the mustard-colored blob that is the sea urchin. Somewhat pricey and only in season from August through April. The taste of this unique sea creature was once described by a sushi-lover as, "The flavors of an entire tidepool distilled into a single bite." You'll either love it...or you'll hate it, but you gotta try it at least once. Tata and I just loooove this, I think one of the main reasons I first got attracted to him was the fact that we both enjoyed this delicacy! ;) I can't imagine myself with someone who won't enjoy this with me!

Salmon Roe - Japanese name: ikura. These luscious fish eggs look like bright orange capsules that ooze their salty juices when you bite down on them.

Eel - Japanese name: unagi or anago. There are two varieties of this snake-like sea creature, freshwater or ocean-going, both of which are usually served broiled with a sweet soy glaze. It has a surprisingly mild flavor and a fine texture.


Just to add to this informative blog, I'd like to share some trivias below ( from a website of a sushi aficionado);

Sushi Trivia

Picking up sushi with your fingers is the traditional method of eating sushi in Japan, which is perfectly acceptable, although the use of chopsticks, called ohashi, has become the preferred method for eating sushi in the U.S.

Sushi mostly comes in bite-sized pieces. However, some items on the menu are larger than others, and some sushi bars can be quite generous with their portions. Therefore, you may occasionally find yourself faced with something that won't fit comfortably in your mouth. In this event, it's okay to take a partial bite, but be forewarned that a delicate piece of sushi may fall apart in the process, causing the two-fold embarrassment of making a big mess in your shoyu dish, and the awkwardness of salvaging the remnants of the remaining bite. So, when faced with a two-bite morsel, you may want to deviate from propriety and pick up that piece with your fingers instead of using your chopsticks. You'll have much more control over its structural integrity that way. Another thing to consider is that some seafoods, such as squid, octopus, and large clams, are not easy to bite in half. With those, you'll have to bite the bullet, so to speak, and put the whole thing in your mouth at once. But if you do decide to go for the whole thing, it's not only polite, but also customary to shield your mouth from view with your free hand until you've wrestled the mega-bite into submission.


Happy Sushi eating! Beware, you can get hooked! ...just like me!










8.18.2006

All About Cheese

I can't think of any real vice I have because I don't smoke, I only drink occasionally but I know of one thing I'm addicted to...CHEESE. Whether it be the sweet smelling kind or the strong pungent rotten (yup! you got that right!) kind...I delight in them with pleasure at any time of the day (from breakfast to midnight snack!). There are almost a hundred kinds of cheese from all over the world named and classified in a myriad of ways (according to how it was made, the place where it was processed and aged, etc). You will be surprised at how many types there are. Just to give you an idea... There is the Yunnan Cheese from China; Paneer from India; Danish Bleu Cheese from Denmark; Emmental and Cambozola from Germany; Edam and Gouda from the Netherlands...etc. In France alone, they have about 246 types of cheese! Anyway, this is not to overload you with all this information on the subject but to share with you some of my cheesy favorites;


GORGONZOLA
DESCRIPTION : blue-veined Italian Cheese made from unskimmed cow's milk
TASTE : buttery or firm, crumbly and quite salty, with a 'bite' from its blue veining
TEXTURE : soft, crumbly
USES :
eaten as a dessert cheese, melted into a rissoto in the final stage of cooking, served alongside Polenta. Also because of its savoury flavor, it is often used as a pizza topping
*** PATTIE : We use it at home to make a rich and flavorful white pasta sauce or actually spread it thinkly on wheat crisps!
BLUE STILTON
DESCRIPTION : produced in two varieties: the well-known blue and the lesser-known white. Hailed by some as "the king of cheese", both have been granted the status of a protected designation of origin by the European Commission.
TEXTURE
:
semi-soft, crumbly, tangy, earthy
USES : often eaten with celery , or added to cream of celery soup . Traditionally, port is drunk with blue Stilton
***PATTIE : I eat this with various crackers and biscuits coupled with slices of peppered salami! yum! This guarantees to give a kick to any meal! ;) Smells great too! haha ;)

MANCHEGO
DESCRIPTION : Spanish cheese that's barrel-shaped and weighs about 2 kg. It comes in a ten inch diameter wheel, five inches thick, with a herringbone design on the inedible rind caused by the surface of the press used in the manufacturing process. The colour of the paste is white or light yellow and the rind is between light brown and dark grey
TASTE/TEXTURE: very distinctive, slightly salty but not too strong; creamy with a slight piquancy, and with the characteristic aftertaste of sheep’s milk
USES : As the focal point of Antipasto, it can be served with olives, sun-dried tomatos, crusty bread and a robust red wine (Rioja) or a dry sherry (Fino); equally enjoyable as a snack or dessert with fruit or fruit tarts; the aromatic intensity of a Manzanilla wine makes it an excellent foil for this cheese
***PATTIE : intense taste and crumbly texture make it perfect to eat it as is, with a slice of bread!
BRIE

DESCRIPTION : About 25 liters (6.60 gallons) of pasteurized cow's milk are needed to make one Brie de Meaux cheese. According to tradition, the cheese is cast manually with the help of a "pelle à brie" (perforated ladle/shovel). The cheese is then salted, exclusively with dry salt
TEXTURE/ TASTE
: creamy, rich, buttery, mellow. Inside the smooth, edible rind, you'll find Brie's soft, ivory or yellow interior that not only looks elegant - it tastes elegant!
USES : nicely tops crackers or complements green apples, strawberries, pears, melons, grapes or walnuts.
***PATTIE : I eat this by itself...or sometimes heat it until the interior melts! Perfect for crackers and crusty bread!

CAMEMBERT
DESCRIPTION : Made from pasteurized cow's milk. At the beginning of its ripening, Camembert is crumbly and soft and gets creamier over time (usually 2-3 weeks). An affinage of 21 days is legally required.
TEXTURE/TASTE
: delicate salty taste with a clear yellow appearance
USES : famous with baguette bread.
*** PATTIE : Excellent if served wih fruits or nuts, and is best eaten at room temperature!



BOURSIN
DESCRIPTION : triple-cream cheese made with cow's milk, cream and flavored with herbs, garlic or pepper
TEXTURE
:
rich and creamy cheese, full of flavors.
USES :perfect match with a baguette. It goes also very well with almost any bread. Boursin adds flavor to many products such as meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables. You can use it in mashed potato or in sandwiches instead of butter, or even in tomato soup instead of sour cream.
***PATTIE : I make small boursin sandwiches for a nice afternoon merienda ;)


AGED GOUDA (pronounced GOO-da!)



DESCRIPTION : Identical to Edam in terms of flavor, texture and appearance. Their main difference is that while Edam is always made from partially skimmed milk, Gouda is always made from whole.
TEXTURE/TASTE : Baby gouda has a mellow, rich caramel-flavor. Aged Gouda is lightly sweet and has sharp individuality. Smoked Gouda has a musky and rich aftertaste. Baby Gouda is usually coated in red wax, aged has a yellow coating, and smoked usually has a black or brown rind.
USES : serve with dark bread and toasted almonds
*** PATTIE : I eat this with nuts ;)

Now, say cheese!!!!

In Search for Good Food...My Fave Restos

Alright, I must first confess that I am a real food aficionado even if it's not that evident with my rather slender statusque. I would eat almost anything once even just for the thrill of trying something for the first time. I don't mind spending for quality cuisine but I'm most certainly not limited to five-star hotel buffets. I find excitement in hole in the wall restos, small quaint cantinas, pleasingly hidden cafes and places that are homey in its entirety which serve good comfort food. I've been wanting to start my FOOD Blog for the longest time but haven't found time to do so...until NOW! Don't get me wrong, I'm no connoisseur but I certainly have a discriminating palate. So let me share some of the restaurants that have made it to my personal list of fave places to eat. I narrowed it down to categories or else my list will just go on and on. Hope it can serve as a guide the next time you contemplate on where to eat....Happy dining! Bon Appetit!

* above: Me and my Tiger Beer at my recent Singapore trip. CHEERS!


JAPANESE

* Hyatt's Tempura Misono for their Japanese lunch/dinner buffet
* Tsukiju - authentic Japanese food along Pasay Road. Superb selection of sushi and sashimi. And if you feel like splurging or find an occasion to do so, go for their Kobe beef. I must give a fair warning though that it is pricey... so get ready to swipe that credit card! The last time I ate here was with my parents who almost fell off their seats when we got the bill ;)

* I know this may be cliche but the Classic Sugi would still have to be on my list. I have a lot of fond childhood memories in this resto. I developed my love for Japanese cuisine because I grew up eating sushi and sashimi from this place!
* Thanks to the influence of my bf, I will include Shinjuku for their Mabo Tofu Ramen and Seafood Ramen that's great comfort food during a rainy day- oh and yes their gyoza too is a must-try!

* Heijoken for their Yakiniku (not much ambience but the food undeniably compensates for it!)

* Kai Greenbelt - great ambience and excellent presentation. It's been a while since I last dined here though but I cannot forget the portobello mushroom appetizer we had ;)

* Kikafuji (near Makati Cinema Square) - thanks to my officemate Bap who introduced me to this place, they serve fresh salmon and uni sashimi daily. The place is always packed with Japanese natives (that's one way of telling how good a Japanese resto is!)

* Tsuru - in Davao (wink wink!). They serve great authentic Japanese food with buffets every 16th and 30th of the month. So the next time you're in Davao and suddenly crave for spicy tuna sashimi (gosh! I love raw fish!), grab some from this cozy place.


THAI

* People's Palace in Greenbelt - great atmostphere, small proportions but quality Thai food (crispy catfish salad with shredded green mangoes and their Tom Yum Soup - spicy, sour, lemongrass & kaffir lime soup)

KOREAN

* Do Wan along Julia Vargas - for their Galbi Chim and Chapche/Japchae

CHINESE

* Shang Palace - peking duck and dimsum...need I say more?

* If you're tired of traditional Chinese cuisine which serves a lot of fried food and meals that you think have a loads of the killer MSG try Shabu-shabu at Tong Yang or Mini Shabu-Shabu for a healthy and hearty meal

* San Jacinto along E. Rodriguez Ave - affordable Chinese meals - try their pinsik (I'm not sure if I spelled it right) and jamon rebosado


SINGAPOREAN

* Penang - because I never get tired of their hainanese chicken...yum!


VIETNAMESE

* Hanoi in Davao (another wink wink! hun, I should get paid for marketing this for free! haha!) Seriously though, they serve the best butter garlic crabs (served with white pepper, salt and lime dipping sauce! Lami (bisaya for masarap)! Their fresh spring rolls are also the bomb! Oh Wait their cabbage roll soup is also delightful...Needless to say, everything in their menu is worth a try! Hope it opens a branch here in Manila!


FRENCH

* Le Souffle

* Je suis Gourmand at the Fort

* Lolo Dad's - If you are not too conscious on your calorie count, the duck entree with foie gras on top and mash potato with duck fat drippings is delectable!

* Segundo Piso/Terry's - I'll give a thumbs up for their mess sandwich on french baguette

ITALIAN

* Mi Piace - charming rustic setting where you can indulge in authentic Italalian cuisine

* Carpaccio Ristorante Italiano - as the name suggest, you shouldn't miss their carpaccio offerings (pick from either beef, tuna, salmon, ostrich or lamb) though I've only tried the salmon and beef

* Zuchinni - I love their fresh mushroom soup

* Bellinis - nicely hidden at the heart of the Marikina Shoe Expo -- they serve homemade pastas cooked "just right" meaning al dente (I usually order the simple Bellini's sauce - tomato based with eggplant) and one of the best pannacottas I've tasted so far...ok fine, next to my Mom's ;)


SPANISH/MEDITERRANEAN/PERSIAN

* Alba - I almost always have their dinner buffet which is well worth it so I can eat all the paella I want!

* Persiana

INDIAN
* Prince of Jaipur

* Queens

* True Food, Boracay


OTHER
* Antonio's Tagaytay - For their house specialty "Spanferckel" (I'm not sure if I got it right but I call it cocinillo) stuffed suckling pig with herbs, fennel and potato served with horseradish cream, sauerkraut, homemade apple sauce and mustard. The last visit I had here with Tata I remember having the...
Baked Oysters with spinach and Pan Seared Foie Gras on top, Chilean Sea Bass on top of Linguine with truffle sauce and Dark Chocolate Souffle with Cardamom Creme Anglaise

FILIPINO
I guess you're wondering why I missed out the Pinoy cuisine..well, that's because I am truly fortunate that we cook great classic Filipino food at home so I don't have to go out just to get my share of dishes like sinigang, adobo and kare-kare. I get to enjoy these viands at the comfort of my home ;) Thanks to my Mom and our cooks Ate Minda and Ate Pla who are superb!



Please feel free to add to my list and input your comments... I'd be happy to hear from you ;)

SINIGANG : The Stew That Spells Home

It is one Filipino treat that I don’t mind having every week. Sinigang is something that I delightfully enjoy even when I’m sick and my taste buds seem dysfunctional because everything else seems strangely bitter. I yearn for it after coming home from a long summer vacation abroad which means months of “rice-less” meals. And even during the mundane days, I request for this special stew. I believe most Filipinos will agree that sinigang can already be considered as the national stew because this basic recipe has become a staple ulam or viand in the diverse regions of the country. In fact, people of all social classes enjoy this particular dish. One can easily order this in almost all Filipino restaurants, fast food stalls or even karinderias (side street eateries) but I believe that sinigang is best eaten at the comfort of one’s home where the whole family partakes in this sumptuous meal. Not only have I enjoyed eating and drinking this soup through the years but I've likewise taken sheer pleasure from watching my very own mother stir up this amazing sour broth to perfection.

It is a simple, affordable and healthy dish which is done by first making broth from practically any type of fish, shellfish, shrimp, pork or beef. Although I must share some personal favorites which include sinigang na baboy (pork), ulo ng salmon (salmon head) and tiyan ng bangus (milkfish belly). One can also use rice washings instead of plain water for making the broth if a cloudy and somewhat thicker soup base is preferred. It does not matter what main ingredient one chooses to put because the ultimate challenge of making good sinigang lies on the delectable souring of the soup. After boiling the main ingredient of choice, the broth is now flavored and soured to its goodness by choosing from an assortment of sour leaf, fruit or flower. One can select from the diverse assortment ranging from tamarind pods which is the most common, or its leaves; kamias, santol, guavas, green mangoes or for those desperate, calamansi. According to my mother, any sour note will suffice so long as it’s not as blunt as vinegar because that would already result to another famous Filipino dish which is paksiw. My Lola from Davao even uses tomatoes to subtly give her own version of sinigang its due sourness. However, I personally like my sinigang distinctively sour, that is extra sour than usual, so I prefer the traditional tamarind pods being the most sour of all. Although nowadays, one can already pick from the wide array of ready-sinigang mixes which can pass the genuine taste of the traditional stew and would save a considerable amount of time. I must admit though that nothing beats the traditional and natural method of souring. The stew then is brought to a slow and gentle boil with intermittent stirring. Finally, the accompanying vegetables are poured in to add freshness, color and health value to the stew.

My mother uses a variety of them including kangkong, talong (eggplant), sitaw (string beans), radishes, mustard greens and ofcourse 2 my favorites okra which is sappy, slimy but truly delectable and gabi which gives a pasty, thick and rich savor to the monotonous broth. The greens are allowed to cook just for a few minutes so as not to make them wilted and soggy. And voila! The luxurious stew is ready for the taking. Alas! The culmination of it all is when I dive into the steaming sinigang using the large wooden spoon my mother used to cook it oftentimes forgetting that it is still too hot thus making my tongue feel slightly numb and burned. However, the delight I get from the first time I actually savor the wonderful sour taste makes the obtrusive pain seem unnoticeable. And after the first sip, I never fail to commend my mom for the wonderful dish! Sinigang can be served as a meal in itself or with rice. When eaten with steamed rice, the sour broth undeniably turns into the perfect ulam. When we have this dish at home, I pour myself a generous serving of the soup and gently drench my rice with the broth making it mushy just the way I like it. My meal wouldn’t be as complete without some drippings of patis (fish sauce) with gently squashed siling tagalog as my sawsawan (dipping sauce) to add a hint of saltiness and zest to the soup. True enough, whenever I experience the tickling, almost edgy, feeling of the sour soup streaming down my throat, I feel a sense of comfort, security and warmth. Home-cooked sinigang not only makes me smirk because of its sourness but it more importantly makes my heart feel peacefully at home.