Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coffee Mates: Pandesal, Ensaymada and Empanada

Drinking coffee in the morning perks you up; but  having a good coffe-mate makes it even more exciting.  That's especially true if these 'mateys' include the all-time favorites - hot pandesal, warm ensaymada, and crunchy empanada!   

The pandesal from Pan de Amerikana is the first in our books.  For P6.00 you get a 4"x 3"x 2" soft and moist and chewy pandesal. It's even better when toasted and eaten with  your favorite butter or cheese...hmmmm .....yummy.
Ensaymada is one of the kids' favorite for snack or breakfast. Mom's manyaman (tasty) ensyamada at Trinoma is a discovery. The bite size ensaymadas are pillowy-soft, creamy,  and cheesy. They also have queso de bola ensaymada which we have to try.
Finally, the empanada.  At Magiting St., UP Teacher's Village, Diliman,  just opposite "Ate Fe's" corner restaurant/ carinderia (which is the subject of another blog entry :-)  at Maginhawa St.,   we discovered a new stall called Empanada Avenue (just beside the 24 hour grocery store) which sells empanadas with various fillings - beef, pork, asado, chicken, and tuna.  Of course, it is not your gourmet empanada, but for its affordable price, this empanada is already good but not as good as the empanada of  Gateau de |Manille.  We've tried the pork, chicken and tuna, and....they all taste the same! (magical :-)    But really, this empanada  is very filling, and served to you hot/ newly cooked.  

So, next time your coffee looks forlorn, try these 'mates' - it gurantees not only to wake you, but to also fill your grumbling tummy.  :-) 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Exploring Nuvali! We got "Pig Out!"

Nuvali. We've heard that it's a nice place. Last Septmber 4 (Sunday), we trooped to the place, ready to explore.

We were in awe with the hundreds of kois in the pond! Fish food pellets are available for P15/small pack and the fish just gorge them - literally. They would swim (looks more like swarming, though) to the food as soon as the pellet touches water. You can really prove that Darwin's law is true - it is really the survival of the fittest! Seeing how the fish eat, we got hungry ourselves, so off we go to "Pig Out" to have lunch - the place was recommended by friends (and also by a famous food blogger). We were really excited to go to Pig Out! As a matter of fact we had a plan a week before to eat here but the plan did not push through because of the typhoon. Before entering the resto, we had a photo infront of the place expecting an enjoyable dining experience.

However, our Pig Out! experience was not pleasant. First thing we noticed was the food was a bit pricey - barbeque at P110 a piece, 2 pieces fried chicken at P220, mongo bean soup at P85 per (small) bowl, eggplant dip at P145, rice for sharing (good for 3) P105, coke in can P65, and a glass of iced-tea at P75. But hey, if the taste is good, who'll complain?

But then, there were a lot to complain about. First was the service. The table next to us, who just finished ordering when we were seated, have already finished their meals before our food arrived. Among us, Geof is actually the most gracious and patient when it comes to restaurant eating (he always gives the restaurant the benefit of the doubt every time we complain about something), so in my world, when Geof complains re restaurant service, you have to take notice. And he complained twice! ("is the food not yet here?" "what's taking them too long to cook?") When it finally arrived, I asked for table napkins. The attendant, using his wet hands (with motorcycle gloves), handed us a bundle of tissues --- Eeeeewwww!!! Talk about cleanliness, manners, and sanitation! I had to rummage the middle part of the tissue bundle since the outside parts have all the wet finger imprints on them!!!!
The barbeque sticks were small (I think it's just twice the size of the sticks we get at UP stalls whose price range is only between P15 to 20 per stick). It doesn't look anything like the huge picture in the menu. The mongo soup has alukbati leaves on it - but the leaves were uncooked!! The soup they served us was lukewarm, and obviously the alukbati leaves were dropped when the soup is no longer boiling hot - they were as fresh as the morning sun!
But the fried chicken really blew our top. When I cut the chicken, fresh blood ooze from inside both pieces! (How hard is it to cook fried chicken? The Mcdo chicken is way much better in terms of taste and preparation! What kind of chef would serve something without checking if it's cooked?) We complained, obviously, so the attendant took the chicken, and returned after about 15 minutes, with the same two pieces chicken, re-fried!!! The color is no longer golden brown, it's deep brown. The outside and the inside are not juicy anymore, they were tough and dry. I wanted to complain again, but my kids just went ahead and ate - they were realllllly hungry after all the waiting. And personally, I just want to get out of the place ( I was mad and I don't want to give the manager a dressing down and spoil the mood of everyone - after all, it was supposed to be a happy family outing).

We got out of the place (still hungry), and robbed of P1,100 for food that is way, way, way (WAY) below our expectations - and I hope whoever owns "Pig out" reads this! (And never give us the excuse "bad timing" - cleanliness and food quality are non-negotiables in the food business! We were pigged-out! Na-"baboy" kami.Obviously this will be our first and last visit at Pig Out!).

But enough of that. There were other things we did that redeemed our stay at Nuvali - the boat ride was a joy, especially for Julia, and Geof's 1st attempt at planking allowed us to forget our horrible lunch experience. The ice cream at "Crisostomo" was a delight - it's thickness and creaminess remind me of the ice cream I enjoy growing up in Malabon. In all, it was a good trip and refreshing because of the wide and green environment (save for the torture we had during lunch). There are other restaurants at Nuvali which I believe can give good service and food - Conti's, Crisosotomo, Nature's Trail, Domo Tomo, Brothers Burger, Yellow Cab . According to the Nuvali website, there is a wildlife and bird sanctuary - but we never attempted to go there because of the heat. Nuvali should offer more attractions - like a butterfly park/ zoo, go-cart rides, kite flying areas, museum and other things that a family can enjoy doing together.

PS: Because we were still hungry after our Nuvali trip, we stopped by at the Paseo de Sta. Rosa and ate at Kanin Club. Wow, we feasted on pancit canton, toron and banana con yelo. Our Sta. Rosa trip was redeemed! We went home satisfied. LOL!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mommy's special pasta

"Kesong Puti Pasta" - my version :-)
I had a dinner date with friends at LA Cafe in Timog QC. Among the food we gorged, I mean ate, is the "kesong puti (cottage cheese) pasta" that, according to the waiter, is the late Doreen Fernadez's favorite. And indeed, it was really nice - it has a taste so finesse, you can savor each of the ingredients in your palate - fresh cherry tomatoes, kesong puti, and basil leaves. The simplicity of the flavor lingered in my palate-memory (if there's such a thing) that I've attempted to imitate it.

Instead of cherry tomatoes, I used the big, plump tomatoes (those as big as apples), and instead of just kesong puti, I added mozzarella (for the simple reason that the kesong puti you get from groceries are too madaya (cheats) - it looks big, but it's actually just the banana-leaves' wrapping that's bulky. The actual cheese you see once all the wrappings are removed are too small, you can perhaps fill 4 small pandesals (Pinoy buns) with it. (I later discovered that the Nestle cottage cheese taste almost the same, and with the same price you get more cheese, and its shelf-life lasts longer.)

Preparing (my imitation) is actually easy.
1. Heat olive oil, then add crushed garlic - the amount of garlic depends on how much garlic-ky you want your pasta.
2. Once the garlic's in (maybe after 20 seconds) - don't let it brown - add the sliced tomatoes. For 300g (spaghetti) pasta, I use about 1/2 kl of tomatoes (you can also use ordinary tomatoes). Add a dash of salt (adjust according to your taste)
3. When the tomatoes are cooked and saucy (the skin easily peels from the meat), add the cheese and basil. Allow it to boil for about 30 seconds (1 minute max) only, since the cottage cheese, when cooked, melts and sticks to the pan. You don't want that, you want the cottage cheese to retain its texture and taste. As I've mentioned, I've added mozzarella in my first attempt.

Voila - my kids loved it! (see picture above)

In succeeding attempts, I've been more adventurous. Once, I made it with 4 different cheese - cheddar, mozzarella, Colby's (Anchor/New Zealand), and cottage cheese; on another occasion, I added canned tuna (see picture below).

"Tuna Pasta"
Now, whenever my kids feel like eating pasta on any (special) occasion, they'd alway request for "Mommy's special pasta..." aaahhhh, music to my ears :-)

PS: Daddy likes Spanish sardines pasta (we tried it at Mary Grace Cafe) .. maybe I will try it soon ....

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