3.29.2010

A "Longganisa" Love Story

Yesterday I got a very interesting call (skype) from my sister Addie. She broke the BIG news that Neil proposed and she said Yes! I was thrilled and ecstatic. My little sister is going to get married!!! But at the same time I got sentimental...especially when she said that she is absolutely clueless on how to go about the planning because you usually do these things with your mother. She was right. I totally felt the same way when I got engaged myself. *sigh* We miss you mom...wishing that you're here to share the good news. But as they say, 'Life goes on..." and I know it will. I assured Addie that she had me...her Ate (big sister) who will help in every way she can.

I realized that I actually played a huge part in their love story. And so I dedicate this journal entry to them....

Roughly 4 years ago, I played matchmaker to my sister Addie and my good friend Neil. At that time, we had this weekly "Poker Nights" which happened every Monday. I was hooked with the challenge and the game. One Monday, I decided to bring Addie along because she wasn't doing anything that night. I told her I'd teach her how to play and it was a chance to get to know my boy barkada (group of close friends). At the back of my head, I was already thinking that it could be a chance for her to find a "date" because a number of the boys were single at that time! hahaha! And true enough, someone caught her eye. I believe they felt an instant connection that night because Addie ended up talking to him the whole night and not joining any of the poker games at all!

At first, they were both mum about it. I finally confirmed that there was something special brewing when I got a pasalubong bag full of Ilocos longganisa from Neil when he got back from his business trip up North. I thought to myself, "Why did he send me this?!?!". I mean, I love Vigan longganisa, who doesn't? For those not familiar, it's a unique combination of pork, fat, spices, vinegar and garlic (lots of them!) stuffed in an intestinal casing. Ofcourse it wouldn't be complete if you don't dip it into some spicy native coconut vinegar. Just beware because they produce the deadliest burps! You'll know what I mean when you smell one...gulp! Going back to my story, it then hit me! The bag of goodies wasn't for me (duh!) ... it was for Addie. I guess he was just too shy to admit it that time. As you would have guessed, that garlicky tasty and meaty longganisa went a long way...the rest is history!

Congratulations Ads and Neil! I love you both! Mwah!


3.27.2010

Max & Mina's Ice Cream : Out of this World Flavors

This is part 2 of our dessert quest (Doughnut Planet entry).

We were in a mission to bring Gaea around and let her have a "taste of New York". So we were off to our 2nd dessert stop after our doughnut sampling...ICE-CREAM! (What were we thinking!!!Kinda crazy, right?). Joel typed the address of this ice-cream place and said that it would take about 15 minutes to get there. Since we were not in a hurry and had no plans for the afternoon, we all cheerfully agreed. The supposed 15 minutes actually became 45 minutes because of the traffic. So we were all getting a bit restless inside the car. Our fingers were crossed that the drive was worth it.



Max & Mina's : a cute mom and pop ice cream shop in Flushing, Queens. The small space was filled with a plethora of colorful stickers and signs both vintage and modern. They offered a wide array of bold and innovative ice-cream in boxes (not plastic tubs!). They had crazy and random flavors such as Ginger, Horseradish, Cabernet, Beer, Spicy Peanut Butter, etc. The ice cream dude was kind enough to let us taste everything we wanted....and we really took advantage of the free sampling. I sampled probably 7 flavors. I remember tasting the Horseradish - it really tasted like it, not my type though, Cabernet- creamy red wine, again this did not really tickle my fancy, it was kinda weird, Coffee - Coco and I loved it!, Doughnut - it really had small doughnut bits with a hint of cinnamon, Pomegranate - creamy and a bit tart, Silk Chocolate and Oreo Fudge - complete sugar rush! super yum! After all the tasting, we had to decide what scoops to get;


Joel and I shared 4 different flavors. We told the guy to pick 4 of his top picks because we couldn't choose. And we got Oreo Fudge, Doughnut, Some weird Chocolate flavor and Cookie Dough.



Coco's Coffee scoop



Gaea was the most adventurous, she got the ??????? (it's the ice-cream with no name because it's a mixture of random things. And it's bright crayola green!) and Cotton Candy (I have to confirm this). All I remember was that it was light aqua with generous colorful sprinkles! Very Gaea! hahaha! :)

Max & Mina's Ice Cream
7128 Main St., Flushing NY 11367
E,F to Union Turnpike-Kew Gardens, then Q74 to 72nd St.
(718) 7938629

Doughnut Plant : Ooooh! Creme Brulee Doughnut!



We declared yesterday an official "pig-out" day. Joel, Coco and I decided to take our friend Gaea around on a food trip. Since it was a Friday and we couldn't eat meat, we made our first stop at this Sushi place at the East Village. I don't quite remember the name now (I have to verify with Coco) and blog about that separately. So I'll jump to our outrageous dessertfest. Our first stop was this place called Doughnut Plant. We didn't want to park anymore so Gaea and Coco just went down to take out some doughnuts. We sampled 3 flavors and devoured each one with gusto. Get ready to drool...

Coconut Cream
Coco highly recommended this because it's her absolute favorite. And it didn't disappoint. The square-shaped doughnut had a soft cakey texture with a sweet outer glaze and coconut flakes. It was generously filled with rich, creamy-dreamy coconut custard. Yum!


Valrhona Chocolate
I'm not much a chocolate doughnut fan but I thought it wasn't so bad. The chocolate wasn't that overwhelmingly sweet. This was my least favorite though out of the three.



Creme Brulee
It was pretty small (more like an over-sized doughnut hole) compared to the other two but it was certainly amazing and I mean A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! It was crunchy on the outside (you could really taste the torched burnt raw sugar turned into caramel) and inside was a silky and creamy custard filling...just like real creme brulee. This was completely in a separate league in comparison to Krispy Kreme or Dunkin. I have to admit that I don't usually crave for doughnuts but I think this one just changed that!

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St (bet Essex St & Norfolk St)
New York, New York
(212) 505 3700

3.24.2010

Brunch at Sarabeth's



I was having pancakes and strawberries for breakfast this morning and I just remembered that the last time I had this combination was a few weeks ago when I met up with some friends at Sarabeth's. I've been wanting to check out that place in a long time because I've seen good reviews on it. I actually read about their award-winning "legendary spreadable fruit" in a website once and was instantly intrigued with the place. similarly, I see their products in the local grocery (though I've never really bothered buying them because we are not big on jams/spreads at home). So when my friend Am said that she wanted to meet us there for brunch, I was thrilled.

The place was packed. Country chic interiors, small tables beside each other, very "upper east side" kind of place...that's how I will describe it. People were waiting outside but we had to squeeze in because it was a bit chilly and I didn't want Henri to be cold. We struggled to find a spot and ended up waiting in front of the pastry counter right when you enter. They told us that the wait was about 15 minutes but it took more like 45 minutes to get a table. Christina came right in time. We finally got a table upstairs. We were all starving and were eager to order. I already knew I wanted pancakes so I got their lemon ricotta pancakes with strawberries because I read that this was voted the best lemon pancakes in a blog. Am and Christina ordered their open face omelette with tomatoes, sauteed onions, spinach and mozarella and Joel (who at that time was still at his diet) ordered their soup of the day (clam chowder).


My plate had 4 fluffy and light pancakes with a hint of lemon. I didn't taste much of the ricotta but the sprinkle of powdered sugar and fresh strawberry slices compensated for it. The rest of the dishes were pretty,hmmm...mediocre. Am and I agreed that the omelettes were bland and lacked seasoning.

I walked out there wondering what accounted for the "line outside the door" because I certainly wouldn't go back and wait that long for that quality of food. Maybe we should have just bought their jams/preserves (that's what they are most known for anyway!).


Sarabeth's East
1295 Madison Ave. (bet. 92nd and 93rd St.)
New York, New York
(212) 410-7335

3.22.2010

Guilty Pleasure Trivia : Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips

It was a hectic and rather stressful Monday for me. I had to bring Henri to his pediatrician because I thought he was showing early signs of baby asthma. I was worried and restless. I wanted to know what was wrong. Turns out, he just has some phlegm on his throat. Phew! It was such a relief to hear that everything was normal. The words "He's a healthy and happy boy" from Dr. Similon gave a smile to my face. When I got home, I had to take out my stress and eat something to calm me down. I picked out the bag of Lay's Salt & Vinegar Chips which I know has been sitting in our snack basket for quite a while now (maybe more than a month already). Well we don't really eat a lot of junk food here at home so it takes time for us to consume a bag of chips/candies/chocolates.

So just a little trivia for everyone, the potato chip was actually created here in New York by a man named George Crum in August 24, 1853. Fed up with a customer who kept on sending back his fried potatoes complaining that they were "too thick and soggy", Crum decided to slice the potatoes so thin that they could not be eaten with a fork. As they could not be fried normally in a pan, he then decided to stir-fry the slices. The guest was so impressed about the new chips that they soon became a regular item on the lodge's menu, under the name "Saratoga Chips". The potato chip remained unseasoned until the 1950's. Thanks to an Irish Crisp Company called Tayto who developed a technology to add seasoning. They produced the world's first seasoned chips, Cheese & Onion and Salt & Vinegar (which is my favorite!).

As I munched the crisp and thin salt and vinegar potato chips (although a tad bit oily!), I felt a little bit better.

I need this stuff, once in a while.

3.20.2010

Momofuku Milk Bar : Cereal Milk Ice Cream and Compost Cookie



This is actually Part 2 of the Ippudo Night because after stuffing ourselves silly with ramen, we wanted to take Gaea out for dessert. The decision was unanimous. We drove and made a dessert "stop" at Momofuku Milk Bar. It was actually my second time there (Ate Nanette introduced us to the whole Momofuku craze and we instantly became a fan!).

They all went down and ordered their individual ice creams while baby Henri (who was already knocked out this time) and I stayed in the car. All the girls got the cereal milk ice-cream. This taste exactly how it sounds.. talk about breakfast ice-cream! :) Joel got us cereal milk and red velvet (too rich for me!) soft serve ice-cream plus the highly recommended 'compost' cookie.

The high concept COMPOST cookie is made up of chocolate pretzels, potato chips (yes that's right!), oats, coffee, butterscotch chips and chocolate chips! All that mixed into a batter frenzy. Thus the name "compost"... A unique, well thought-of hodgepodge of sweetness, saltiness and creaminess all in one cookie!

Momofuku Milk Bar
207 2nd Ave. , NY 10003 (corner of 13th and 2nd)

3.19.2010

Ippudo : Worth the 2 Hour Wait!




Our dear friend, Gaea, arrived last night and we decided to take her out to dinner. I let my husband Joel choose the place because it would be his last "good" meal before his scheduled wisdom tooth extraction the next day. It was tricky. he had to really think about what he was craving for. And his final decision was RAMEN. He wanted good ramen. There was just one place to go...IPPUDO Japanese Noodle Ramen Brasserie.

When we got there, they told us that there was a 2-hour wait time. We all agreed that we could just hang out in the bar first while waiting. There weren't a lot of people outside anyway so we figured it wouldn't really take 2 hours! We ordered some drinks and appetizers. Celine, who was still on her vegan diet, got a plate of 'Shishito' (deep-fried Japanese peppers). The rest of us got the famous Hirata Buns (Pork and Chicken). I haven't had pork buns in a long time so I was extra excited for it.

SHISHITO PEPPERS

HIRATA PORK BUNS

These are pillowy soft buns with slivers of Berkshire pork (so tender it melts in your mouth) combined with a special sweet sauce, japanese mayo and lettuce. Certainly a "swine sensation" especially to a lot of my FCI friends! haha!

Two hours passed and we were actually getting a bit annoyed. Each of us started taking turns asking the hostess when our table would be ready. Gaea half-jokingly said, "Guys, I hope this wait is worth it!?!". And just when we were in the brink of giving up and leaving, they finally gave us our table. As soon as we were seated, we quickly glanced at the menu and immediately knew what we wanted. We were restless and so hungry. Sharing with you the meal we had to wait 2 HOURS for;

For starters, Joel and I got their special scallops carpaccio served with a thinly sliced jalapeno, a dot of spicy paste and a little splash of olive oil. The scallops were undeniably fresh and whole combination was truly appetizing.


SCALLOPS CARPACCIO


Joel opted for the special ramen which he absolutely adored.

Joel's SPECIAL RAMEN

Celine's VEGETABLE RAMEN

I didn't have a chance to try it because I was so engrossed with the ramen I ordered but she said it tasted pretty good for something Vegan (Cel, feel free to share how this tasted!)


AKAMARU MODERN RAMEN


Coco, Gaea and I ordered the Akamaru Modern Ramen. This ramen uses the same soup base that Ippudo is very well-known for...the "tonkotsu" broth which has a meaty and somewhat smoky flavor. It is garnished with a little pork, scallions, a dash of garlic oil, a soyish splash, some more vegetable and ofcourse the RAMEN...the white, thin, unrisen, slurp-worthy Harata noodles that are the Japanese analog to al-dente pasta! All these ingredients set off this umami bomb!

So needless to say, the wait was well worth it! I hope we didn't disappoint our visiting friend.

3.18.2010

The Art of Feeding Henri



Our baby boy just turned 7 months last week and I've started getting extra creative with his diet (I now mix 2 fruits, or a vegetable plus fruit or rice cereal and fruit). We introduced him to his first rice cereal when he was 5 1/2 months and now he's been eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. I would highly recommend the moms our there to get the BEABA Baby Food Maker. It is a one-of-a-kind, patented compact countertop appliance that functions as a steamer, blender, warmer and defroster to prepare fresh, healthy meals for baby. It starts by steam cooking vegetables, fruits and meats in less than 15 minutes, while preserver their vitamins and flavors. It then purees and blends them to the desired consistency. The bowl is made from unbreakable Polysulfone (PSU) and the cooking basket from transparent polypropylene (PP). It comes with a 2½ - cup capacity bowl, cooking basket, spatula and recipe booklet. The bowl and basket are top-rack dishwasher safe. I have been using it for over a month now and I am highly satisfied.

Here are some additional tips I'd like to share:



Henri's Food Cubes Ready To Go :)
1. I've practiced "Food Cube Serving" - a food "cube" in this case means an ice cube which is equivalent to 1 oz. (At 7 months, Henri can actually finish up to 45 ml of food). I bought these really useful baby containers so I can store whatever I make in the freezer plus it allows me to measure how much food I'm giving him.

2. Follow the 4 day wait rule - introduce single ingredient food in the beginning and wait for 4 days to make sure he/she is not allergic to it.

3. Use a Comfy Spoon - I use a plastic one to ensure that it won't hurt his gums

4. Don't force him to eat - Don't force any food on your baby. If he doesn't open his mouth immediately, wait for baby to open his mouth. Let him eat at his own pace too. And when he turns away or stops opening his mouth, it likely means that he's had enough.

5. Gradually add variety to his diet. This is what I'm doing now...mixing fruits and vegetables to make his meal more "yummy" :) Right now, Henri enjoys banana-papaya and cereal-applesauce the most! And yesterday, I introduced him to avocado which he liked!

I hope to inspire the mothers like myself to use fresh fruits and vegetables instead of relying on canned ones that you can buy in your local grocery. Fresh is still BEST :) It is such a joy to be my baby's personal chef! Happy cooking!


3.17.2010

Choux Factory

It was such a nice day yesterday and Joel and I didn't want to waste it. We decided to take our Little Henri to Central Park and make the most out of the beautiful day. After strolling the park and enjoying the scenery, we decided to take a 'snack' at this little Southern place called "Cilantro". We simply shared a spiced chicken enchilada and their assorted chips and fried plantains and homemade salsa. The food was just 'ok' that's why I don't intend to write a separate entry about it. What I truly enjoyed was our "dessert" afterwards which we got on our way home. I was craving for something sweet and light. Initially, I wanted ice-cream until I came up with something I didn't have in a long time... pate a choux!!! And the perfect place that came to mind was "Choux Factory" which was located just across our apartment (how convenient, I know!).

Pate a Choux (pronouned pat-a-shu) commonly known as 'cream puff' is a pastry dough used to make profiteroles, eclairs, gougeres, etc. In culinary school, we were taught that the defining factor of this dough is that it is cooked twice... in the pan and in the oven. It contains only flour, butter, water, eggs, pinch of salt and sugar. In lieu of a raising agent, it employs a rather high moisture content creating steam and allowing the pastry to "puff". I remember that this recipe was asked repeatedly in our evaluations so I will never forget the amounts and ingredients of this dough.

Joel and I shared a "berry berry" cream puff. The dough had a crunch on the outside and was airy and soft inside. It was filled with vanilla custard (which was just right...not too sweet!), whipped cream and topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries.It just took probably less than 6 bites to finish the small piece of heaven. Yum! Next time, I want to try the green tea choux!

Choux Factory - 1685 First Avenue, NY NY
(212) 289 2023

3.15.2010

Sik Gaek Chun Ha Dinner : For the Crustacean Lover

















Last night, my husband and I (along with Henri) met up with our friends Coco, JM, Koa and Lisa (the latter two were visiting from Manila). We went on a spontaneous and very unique Korean adventure. We decided last minute to check out this Seafood Bar that Anthony Bourdain (who happens to be one of my main inspirations in pursuing a culinary career) featured in one of his shows. It was actually Coco who watched it and told us about that episode. She said that Anthony tried this dish with "live" octopus as in he ate it while it was still 'moving' and was freshly cut into pieces. This got us very intrigued and so last night, we found the opportunity to drive all the way to Flushing to check it out.



When we walked into the place, it was like we walked into Korea. The place had a sort of local bar set-up, very casual but not at all baby-friendly because the music was just too loud (poor Henri :(!) As soon as we were seated, they prepared a set-up right in front of us and made us an over and easy fried egg alongside an appetizer plate of carrot and cucumber sticks with a pasty pepper sauce. They also served a spicy rice cake "dukkboki" platter and an egg custard/omelette. So we browsed through the menu and immediately saw what we came there for : the massive seafood pot with crawling live octopus, lobster and a variety of clams, mussels and assortment of vegetables. Thinking that order wasn't enough for the 6 of us, we ordered another seafood platter that was to be grilled tableside and their beef bibimbap. We would regret this decision at the end of the night because the seafood pot was more than we could possibly handle! haha!


Our fresh seafood came first (since there wasn't really any special preparation to it). It was a generous assortment of shellfish (clams, scallops, mussels, big snails and 2 unbelievably huge clam shells with some kind of cheese topping). It came with a dipping sauce topped with chopped green onions and fresh garlic). And the grilling began...

The bibimbap came next but we left it untouched for a while because we were all waiting for the "main event". I actually wasn't able to eat this because my focus was on the seafood pot.


Finally, the much-awaited and highly rated seafood pot came. Our jaws dropped! It was GINORMOUS and I mean huge and overwhelming. And like what Anthony featured in his show, the octopus and lobsters were alive and moving. They squirmed and moved around along with the other fresh shellfish. And the 5 of us (minus Lisa that time because she unfortunately wasn't feeling so well!) clicked away with our cameras out of sheer delight! My husband Joel wanted to eat it already but the server told us to wait another 10 minutes before devouring the live creatures. The seafood combination, udon noodles and vegetables were simmered in a kimchi-based broth that was not too spicy and certainly very flavorful. JM scooped out a hearty serving for each of us and we each enjoyed the treat. Everything was very fresh and juicy that you could almost smell the saltwater breeze and imagine yourself near the water. The lobster meat was sweet and succulent and the moving octopus (when cooked) was incredibly tender. We enjoyed each bite and combined it with small soju shots to complete the whole experience.

Sik Gaek is definitely a place to try especially for those who are in love with seafood. It is heaven! We all agreed that it is a perfect place for a fun birthday get-together although at one point, the crowd got a bit too rowdy when they sang a loud and wild happy birthday greeting to one of the celebrants which ended in a cake fight. Joel had to take Henri outside for a bit and let the commotion die down.

After consuming as much seafood as we can, we all threw in the towel and agreed that we simply couldn't finish it. We were served a very refreshing cucumber juice to cleanse out our palates.


I must say that for a total bill of about $30 each, we did serious damage! :) *wink*

Sik Gaek
40-01 149th Pl., Flushing, NY 11354
(718) - 4604564

3.12.2010

Anniversary Lunch at CIA's St. Andrew's Cafe

















For our first wedding anniversary, my husband Joel decided to take me and our little one to the CIA campus all the way in Poughkeepsie which is about 2 hours from the city. I've been really wanting to see the campus since I was originally suppose to study there until our plans changed the last minute. CIA has a total of 6 restaurants inside the campus (American Bounty, Apple Pie Bakery, Caterina de Medici, Esoffier, St. Andrew's Cafe and Al Forno). All of which are basically student-staffed. Out of the of the 6, I chose St. Andrew's Cafe because I wanted something casual since we were with Henri. St. Andrew's Cafe focuses on the so-called "Farm to Table" Movement. It highlights locally sourced ingredients which to me was very appealing since this is one of the things I want to do when I get back home and work on our family's "farm".

Before going to the restaurant, we decided to take a tour and get some nice pictures because the weather was perfect!


This was their Main Library

There was a lake in the middle



We arrived at the Cafe just in time for our 1 pm reservation after sightseeing and taking some photos. Their lunch menu was just a page and not too intimidating. I decided to order the prix fixe and Joel ordered a la carte.















Sharing with you our meal;


Puree of Roasted Pear, " Wonderland Farm" - Butternut Squash and Fennel Soup - this was very tasty, not too thick, and soothing. I enjoyed the texture of the three components combined.

Joel tried their Duck and Hudson Valley Foei Gras Sausage with Roasted Shallots and Quinche Compote with "Minard Farms" Cider Braised Cabbage. This was a winner! You could taste the richness of the foie yet it was balanced out by the sweetness and tartness of the compote and cabbage.


Joel's "Meiller's Farm" Hudson Valley Beef with Red Wine Jus and Pomme Frites. This was a huge disappointment because 1) the meat was chewy and not tender (but I'm guessing this had a lot to do with the actual cut of the meat. It was more like a tough hanger steak!) and 2) the pomme frites were soggy and obviously wasn't cooked right (L'eocle wouldn't serve frites like that for sure!!!)


For my entree, I initially ordered the special that day which was a pork dish (I don't quite remember now) but they ran out :( So I was left with the Wood Oven Fired Pizza of the Day which was one with homemade Pesto, goat cheese and prosciutto. The crust was light, airy and crispy which was a delight!



Finally it was time for dessert and Joel and I decided to share one. We chose the "Sampling of Milkshakes and Floats featuring Hudson Valley Fresh Milk" - Caramel and Chocolate Milkshake, Root Bear Float and Mint and Chocolate Chip Milkshake! It was a fun and youthful dessert experience (2 straws and alternately sipping from the cute little glasses!) - t'was the perfect way to end our "date"!





St. Andrew's Cafe at CIA
For Reservations Call - 845-4716608