Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our JONAS Pares Experience

We had lunch at Jonas Pares located at the Robinson's Place - Pioneer (Mandaluyong). According to their ads, the owner was the pioneer of the "Pares" dish of serving fried rice and beef together. We ordered their mami with beef and chicken, siomai, fish fillet sticks with rice and fish with tofu. Their servings were very generous - good for sharing. A pares dish of P90.00 can be shared by two people. I love their noodles - white, soft and thick - the soup was also tasty. The noodles (similar to Ersao) are better than other noodle shops. Our son, Geoffrey had high praises for the noodles - "it's better than the Kowloon noodles", he said. Their fried rice topped with garlic and green onion was also nice - very appropriate for its "pares" viand (fish, beef or even siomai). Serving good food at affordable price really makes this restaurant as the ads says "a restaurant with a conscience. "

Appetizing Japanese Drama Series

I enjoy watching free Japanese drama online via http://www.tv-links.cc/ - some titles I already reviewed in one of my blogs in Multiply about Hooked on J-Drama.

Let me review two titles which combine food or gourmet and drama.The first title is a mystery/detective entitled “Kuitan” (meaning “Big Eating Detective”), a series about a detective named Takano who has the uncontrollable appetite in eating any kind of food and fights with his chopsticks. He belongs to the Holmes detective agency which includes a kid. The cases they solve – murder, kidnapping, robbery- usually have a connection to food – food quiz show, baking powder left as a clue, allergy to food, etc. Takano and his partners eat at the murder scene, at restaurants, at various food shops – their appetite leads to the solution of the case. While watching this series, you get to know the different kinds of Japanese food – sushi, okonomiyaki, nabemono, sweet bread, etc. It’s a mystery drama and comedy you will enjoy.

The second drama is “My Little Chef”, The story revolves on an unknown lady chef, Seri, who was assigned as a chef in a small French restaurant in Tokyo. Her special skill is that she prepares the food based on the background of the customer. She interviews the customers and prepares the appropriate dish for them. It’s interesting to watch her recreate the flavors her late father has mastered as a famous gourmet chef. She also concocts her own recipes based on the character or feelings of their customers. Each episode focuses on a specific customer who has his/her own story and the dish prepared by Seri somehow enlightens the customer about his/her life. If you love cooking and eating French food, this is an appetizing drama series.

Monday, December 29, 2008

39 Clues (Book 1): The Maze of Bones

We gave Geof (our 9-year old) a copy of the first book in the "39 clues" book-series by Scholastics publishing. He was raving about it, after hearing a representative from Scholastics gave a talk about the book-series in their school. While Geof was in school, I checked out the book.

The "Maze of Bones" was the first in the book-series (there will be 10 books in all) and is meant for those who are in the transition years (being a child to becoming a kid like Geof). I guess those who enjoyed Harry Potter would enjoy this too - although the Harry Potter book-series have a different appeal and hooks the reader from the start - this book has some of that element, but not as intense.

I find the book engaging. I only meant to read the introduction, and before I knew it, I was already in chapter 5. I had to stop myself from continuing since I still need to finish a lot of things. But a book-addict can't be stopped - interspersed with my work and research, I finished the book in 3 days.

The book chronicles the adventures of the Cahill family in their search for the '39 clues' (allegedly the key in unearthing great fortune and power), with the "bidas" (protagonists) Dan and Amy Cahill, the 10-year old and 14-year old orphans who had the least connection and resources, but had the most wits.

For those with kids who already appreciate reading pocket-book style books, this seems like a good investment - a copy costs about PhP500, and if there are 10 books in the series, you can do the math. At least the books come in installment (Geof said all 10 books will be out by 2010, after which they will make a movie.)

The innovativeness of this series is that it's not only a book but there's an interactive web-game, too. Only those who have the book are able to get the cards (embedded on the book-cover) where the codes are written. Without the codes, one cannot participate in the internet-based game/ treasure hunt.

Both Andy and myself have finished the book, and we recommend it to those with 9-14 year old kids.

(For those with kids who are just beginning to show interest in books, try the "Geronimo Stilton" books also by Scholastics - these are collections of adventures by Geronimo - a mouse - who's a newspaper publisher that gets embroiled with different kinds of problems/ adventures. The stories are simple, and the texts are interspersed with pictures/ drawings.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Friuli - Italian Resto at Teacher's Village, QC

Friuli Trattoria has intrigued us for a long time. Whenever we pass by Maginhawa Street, Teacher's Village, Quezon City ( just opposite Holy Family Academy), this little Italian-sounding restaurant is always filled with customers. There's a positive review about this resto that we've seen somewhere so we decided to try it out during the Christmas break.
The ambience is simple and homey - there are about five tables in the 1st floor, one table outside (al fresco), and a 2nd floor. But because of the tight space, a noisy group can monopolize the whole area (we had to make our voice extra loud to hear each other).

We ordered Angel Hair Putanesca Pasta, Viva Venezia Pizza, Mozzarella Cheese Sticks and Fried Raviolli. The Angel-hair Putanesca was delicious. The sauce is not the usual Del monte tomato-sauce but made from real tomatoes thickened and mixed with herbs and spices, anchovies and olives. The serving is also generous - it's good for one (with big appetite) or for sharing. The Viva Venezia Pizza (their specialty) was also superb! The crust is thin - not too crispy, not too "bready." The combination of their home-made special sauce with the ground beef, olives, bell pepper, mushroom, and cheese toppings made the pizza really enjoyable to eat. The size is about 10 inches (8 slices).

The Mozzarella cheese sticks and Fried Ravioli, on the other hand, are not too memorable. The Mozzarella Cheese sticks were too big that you quickly lose enthusiasm after a few bites (nakaka-umay). But to be fair, the sticks (4 big ones) were really filled with mozzarella cheese and not the cheaper quick-melt type. Maybe the sticks need to be made bite-size (8 small ones instead of 4 biggies). The Fried Ravioli was crispy and filled with ground meat. However, I find the ground meat filling too-dry - it would have been a better combination to find a crispy outside and juicy filling inside. The sauce of both Ravioli and Cheese sticks were also the same - thickened fresh tomatoes with hebs - save for some mozzarella mixed in the Ravioli sauce. Maybe the chef needs to experiment more on variations on sauce (sweet, spicy, hot...?) not simply resort on the tomato-based type.

The price? The Viva Venezia pizza is only P190; Putanesca, Fried Ravioli and Mozzarella sticks all at P120 each.This resto is a good find and will definitely be included in our list of favorites.

Address: 79 Maginhawa St. Teacher's Village, Quezon City Tel: 4341416 (Deliveries within Teachers' Village only; minimum of P400)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Leffe Beer

If you ever visit Belgium, I suggest you try the Leffe beer (pronounced Leff) or the blond beer. I'm not really into beer since I don't like the after taste, but I really liked this one. It's a little sweet and does not leave an after taste at all. (In the picture are my friends and me enjoying pizza and Leffe beer in a small pizza house in Leuven). This is one beer that I hope would become available in the local market.

UP Diliman Shopping Center Food Finds

The University of the Philippines - UP Diliman Shopping Center has been our (Geof and mine) favorite food-destination. Here you'll find Ersao that specializes on crispy chicken/ pork/ squid rice toppings; and Rodic's with their signature tapsilog (tapa, sinangag and itlog). Rodic's tapa is distinct since it's shredded and generously topped on rice.

Last night, we discovered a new stall, Mashitta, that provides Korean and Japanese Food. We ordered their Korean "Ryamen" and "Bulgogi," and Japanese "Omu-rice" and "Tempura." The "Ryamen" is spicy and tastes nice although the noodle used seems like the ready to serve (pour-hot-water type) noodle. The "bulgogi" also tastes as expected - sweet and spiked with some spice. Geof enjoyed the "Omu-rice" (flavored riced wrapped in fried egg) and tempura. The price is also reasonable. Of course one cannot expect a fine-dining experience in a carinderia style restaurant, but we think that this resto is good enough when it comes to "value-for-money. "

Happy Pizza in Cambodia

In Cambodia, particularly in Phnom Penh, there is a small but famous pizza house called "Happy Pizza." Unfortunately, I didn't visit it while in the city last October 2008, only my colleague did. It's called "happy pizza" because costumers will be happy after eating them - the pizza is spiked with poppy (marijuana) leaves. It has been banned, allegedly, in September 2008, but it looks like the ban is not yet in full effect when we were there.

The verdict according to my friend - no effect on him. He said he was waiting for something to happen to him (read: feel different), but nada, no effect whatsoever. I was kidding him that maybe his tolerance level for poppy leaves is high that sprinkles of it would really not produce the effect he's expecting.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Apple's Potato Croquette

Many Filipinos look forward to Noche Buena because of the lechon or the ham. But for me and Geoffrey, Noche Buena means tasting Apple's Potato Croquette. It's only this time of the year when Apple prepares our favorite potato dish. Apple's Croquette is a deep fried potato shaped as a disk and filled with minced meat and cheese. It is soft and creamy - cheese and meat flow in your mouth when you bite it. Croquette is delicious especially when accompanied with Novellino's classic sweet red wine. Hmm....yummy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Nanay's Specialties

My mom is the greatest cook. Well, of course, everyone's mom is always the greatest to their kids. But I learned to appreciate good taste from my mom's cooking. She would always use the freshest vegetables and choiciest cuts in meat in her cooking. Her measurements are precise (to us, measurement means 1 tsp or 1/2 cup etc - but it doen't work that way with her. She measures with her hands, or the regular cups found at home, or the most accurate of all, her tastebuds).

The picture here is "batchoy" Malabon style - similar to Pampanga's batchoy. It's cut pork meat (tenderloin), spleen, and liver boiled in ginger and onion. Once tender, miswa (chinese thin-flour noodle) is mixed and simmered for about one minute. It's one of my favorite dishes.

"Halaya" (sweet purple yam) is anoher specialty. Halaya is ground purple yam mixed with coconut milk (kakang gata), sugar, milk, butter/ margarine. It's cooking needs constant stirring to prevent the solution from sticking on the pan. The constant stirring also helps to make the yam soft, thick, and chewy. Every Christmas and New Year, we always look forward tasting this homemade goody. That's my mom in the picture, oblivious to her surrounding, too busy putting butter around the inside of the llanera (tin-can mould) to prevent the yam from sticking.

"Hamonado" is also a signature dish by mom. It's pork tenderloin marinated with sugar, salt, and pineapple juice. My mom rolls the meat and ties it to get a round-shaped meat. It is then simmered to the marinate-solution until tender. So the end-product produces a round-shaped pork-meat with thick sweet-salty sauce.

It's a pity that my cooking is just survival-style cooking and have not developed the passion and patience to make these dishes. Although of course I know how these are made, I can only approximate the taste, much more the appearance of these specialties. But thanks to mom, I was able to develop good taste in food.

Crabs - Adobo Style (Pampanga)

Whenever crabs are served in our reunion or fiesta in Pampanga, they are cooked "adobo" style. I have never seen adobo crabs in the menu of restaurants including the "dampa" in Metro Manila. Usually, the choices for crab dishes in restaurants are steamed, sauteed with garlic or chili sauce but not adobo. So during this Christmas holiday, I requested my loving wife, Apple to try to cook the adobo crabs. Through the instructions given by my cousin, Ate Dina who is an expert when it comes to this dish, Apple succeeded in cooking the crab dish. I ate with gusto during our dinner. Crabs Adobo style is cooked similar to our ordinary pork or chicken adobo wherein the crabs are boiled with water, vinegar, salt and garlic. Then the crabs are sauteed with the crab egg meat with onions. garlic, and calamansi. The recipe looks simple but I wonder why crabs-adobo style is not served in seafood restaurants?

What U see is NOT What U Get

Photos in a menu help the customers decide on what to order in a restaurant. We were enticed with the picture you see here - "butter and garlic shrimps" - when we had lunch at Casa Reyes - Greenhills Shopping Center. As you can see, it really looks scrumptious. That's the picture in the menu.

Here, on the other hand was what's delivered to us. It doesn't only look pathetic, it tastes even more pathetic. In the menu-picture, there were 6 tiger prawn shrimps, in the dish given to us, there were 5 suaje shrimps - the size is just a little bigger than the five-peso coin. Also, some shrimps are peeled, others are not, as if the cook couldn't decide on whether the dish should be served with skin or not! Likewise, it's not sauteed in butter and garlic, it's swimming in butter and garlic!! You can't taste the shrimp anymore because the butter taste is overpowering (and that word is still an understatement!) Maybe they need to change the name of this dish to "butter soup with floating shrimps"! The price of this dish? P166 - that's P33 pesos per (very small suaje) shrimp! That is an over-kill!

We also ordered "young corn and mushroom in oyster sauce." The "young corn and mushroom" is too salty and too (dark) brown that it doesn't look appetizing at all. In short we were not impressed at all!!! Restaurants must at least approximate the apperance and size of what's displayed in their menu.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Good, Authentic Thai Food

We were introduced recently to SOMS Noodle House, a Thai restaurant located within the vicinity of Rockwell (exactly outside the gates of Rockwell). It's not your usual resto with the "Rockwell" ambiance but more like a carinderia. The gound floor of the house-converted-to-restaurant can accomodate 10-15 people, and they have tables outside for those who like it al fresco. On our trip to Mandaluyong, we discovered another branch of SOMS (Tel. 0929-7024379) just infront of the Mandaluyong City Hall.

So what did we discover in this restaurant? Food, glorious food!! The cooking is authentic Thai food at its best - and the best deal is that it's not expensive at all. For curry lovers like me, try the three variants - green, yellow, and red. You choose the main ingredient - chicken, beef or fish and the color. Of course they all taste like curry, but the spiciness and sweetness varies with the color (red is more spicy, yellow is spicy and sweet). The curry dish is a must try - believe me!

The fried catfish-mango salad is also good. The preparation is similar to what is served in Bangkok - crispy shredded catfish topped the semi-ripe mangoes (dipped in salt solution) and mixed with chopped onions, tomato, and peanuts (we ordered the same dish at Recipes in Trinoma...ngekk! ..... what we got is green mango (ang asim!) with chopped onions and tomato topped with very few soggy catfish and accompanied by bagoong - too mush fusion food is sometimes not good).

Another dish that passed our taste is the kangkong with shrimp. And Geof's all-time favorite, the deep fried "Tonto" fish (no idea why they call this fish "tonto" - poor fish :) is crispy and delicious especially when dipped in vinegar with sili. We still have to try their Tom Yum soup.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Soft & Spicy Meat Noodles at ERSAO

Whenever we pass by West Ave. , QC, we notice the big sign of Ersao. We were not a big fan of the food served at this food chain except for their milk tea and fruit shakes, but one night with no parking available in the restaurants of our choice at West Ave., we ended up at Ersao.

I was craving for hot soup and spicy noodles. Enticed by the big photo display, I tried their Jachai Meat Noodles. It was served in a big bowl (good for sharing) steaming hot. When I tasted the soup... wow! It was a little bit spicy just right for my taste. Using chopsticks, I bit and chewed the noodles... wow again! The noodles were color white, thick and soft (not the usual noodles found in Chinese restaurants). Apple and I shared the noodles and in an instant the soup and noodles were completely gone... up to the last drop! The Jachai Meat Noodles only costs P85.00. There is also a set menu of noodles, a liitle appetizer salad and milk tea or shakes where you can save about P5.00.
We brought our kids the following day to Ersao and ordered the Dumpling noodles since Geof does not prefer spicy soup. The Dumpling noodles has the same white, soft and thick noodles - Geof loved it! - but I still prefer the spicy taste so I have to put some chili powder to my soup. We also tried the meat ball and the beef noodles - also a little spicy. Aside from the noodles, we tried their rice toppings - spicy squid rice and the chicken steak rice. The fried dumplings at P75.00 were also good. The only disappointment was the Yofan, this is sticky rice with some meat, mushroom, etc - it's bland and lacks flavor.

I noticed that they have some unique soup specials in their menu which are only available at the West Ave. branch - Ampalaya Chicken and Ribs Soup, Bamboo Ribs Soup, Gabi Ribs Soup, Mushroom Chicken Soup and Sesame Chicken Soup. Hmm next time, I will have to try them.

We have other favorite restaurants along West Ave. - Mr. Kabab, Lido, KKK, Mushroom Burger. Now Ersao will be part of this list.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ken Afford is really "Can Afford"

If hunger gets to you while you are in the Katipunan area, specifically in the Miriam-Ateneo vicinity, the place to go would be "Ken Afford." It's located just beside the Citibank, across Miriam College's gate.

Ken Afford is obviously a play with words, "can afford." And indeed it is. But more than the price, the food is really good.

As soon as you're seated, they serve you with a steaming hot beef soup. And it only takes a few minutes and viola your order is ready - steaming hot too (hence you know that it's newly cooked - or heated? :)

The "sisig domeng" (sisig with fried egg on top), "stir-fried vegetables with squidballs," "kare-kare," beef steak," and "lechon kawali" are just but some of our favorites.

Our bill (5 people with 5 viands and drinks) - between P500-650 tops! Now, that's value for money!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Noah's Ark and Monster Cabbage: Jaman Movies

We watched animated movies for kids through the Jaman Player which we downloaded at the Jaman site: http://www.jaman.com/ for free. The movie, "Baby Miracle: Noah's Ark," uses the story of the Great Flood and Noah's Ark in introducing different kinds of animals from farm animals to wild animals to kids - especially ages six months to three years. The movie captures the attention of toddlers like Julia since they get acquainted to animals using music, puppetry and video.

Another Jaman animation movie our kids enjoyed was the "Day of the Cabbage." The movie features a giant cabbage monster from outer space that terrrorizes an all-vegetable character community. It's funny to watch tomatoes and bell pepper fighting a monster cabbage. It's a vegetable version of Godzilla or King Kong!.

We recommend that you visit the Jaman website especially if you want to watch independent movies shown in international festivals. Some moves are free. Others you can rent for a fee or for free if you have a free ticket. You get a free ticket if you invite friends to join Jaman.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Delicious Ampalaya (Appetizers)!

During our family reunion last Nov. 30, 2008, products and food were sold by some of our enterprising relatives. We bought these Delisha's Home Made Atchara made by Flor Maglalang, wife of my cousin, Hector.
Atchara is the local variant of the western-based pickles. It is made by combining the basic ingredients salt, sugar, vinegar plus other spices, (based on the tastebuds of the maker) with the vegetable of choice. The most common is the pickeled young papaya, known also as atchara.
The innovativeness of this product is that it debunks the usual notion that atchara is papaya - instead, it introduces various pickled vegetables that are equally delicious - ampalaya, singkamas, broccolli and cauliflower, sitaw, ubod, talong. Thus far, ampalaya is still first in our list (yummy).
When we, my friends and my mom (who is a great cook) tasted them - we all agreed that they were good. My friends who are health conscious because of their mutiplying ailments - diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. - enjoyed with gusto the delicacy especially when accompanied by that crispy chitcharon! (so much for the heatlh buff :) We were convinced by the taste that we've ordered more to give to our friends and relatives this Christmas. The price of the product ranges from P60.00 to P 100.00. Try it. It's appetizing! It's nutricious! As the product's advertisement goes, "Pampagana na! Masustansiya pa! Ulam Pa!" They are ideal giveaways!

Updates: Flor Maglalang passed away and the secret on how to prepare the delicious Delisha's atchara remains a secret.