From my Lust List: Morellato MASTER wristwatch

26 02 2009

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LUST IS such a strong word.  It connotes a feeling so intense that one is often left at its mercy, unable to resist the propensity to give in.  Fortunately for me, lust only pertains to materialistic pursuits.  And here is one item that makes it to my lust list.  Hahaha!  And yes, finally, a “wristwatch” post.

 

I first saw this wristwatch at Rustan’s Department Store in Makati.  They were having a thematic display on men’s wear and accessories.  Each glass display was a set of wristwatch, cufflinks, bracelet, necklace and what have you.  I do remember that one of them had a brand spanking new Ernst Benz wristwatch.  But it didn’t catch my fancy really (not to mention the fact that I couldn’t blow serious moolah on this brand just yet!).  And the others didn’t do a good job either in capturing my attention and awe.  Except for one that contained what I later realized to be a MORELLATO MASTER wristwatch.  I love a substantial wristwatch, enough for Brother to quip, “What time is it according to that wall clock on your wrist?!”

 

I wasn’t so keen on really spending that day – don’t you just have days that felt like they were made just for window-shopping? – so after training my eyes on the wristwatch’s curvaceous silhouette carved out of a solid block of stainless steel, I politely thanked the sales associate and went on my way.

 

I left that day only to find that I would be back a couple of days later.  I had to be back after failing miserably to sleep through the past couple of nights, as flashing scenes of the MORELLATO MASTER wristwatch strapped on my wrist haunted me incessantly.  I almost killed myself when the sales associate, recalling me from a couple of days before, said with an impish grin, “Sir, it was sold na po.”

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Fast forward to yesterday.  On a whim, I decided to go to SM Megamall and the The Podium.  You see, as Batman and I had been talking about, this Friday will be the start of a three-day, up-to-70%-off SALE extravaganza in the said malls.  So I felt the urge to survey the goods and see if there would be something worth coming back for.  I naturally zoomed in to the wristwatch stores.  And in one of them, I realized that one of my other must-have items on my lust list – the CORUM XL men’s bubble wristwatch in all-stainless-steel – was already “affordable” at Php 99,000.00!  And that new price was still negotiable.  Really negotiable!  I do remember staring at it in true “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” fashion, back in the day when a similar model would easily fetch somewhere in the vicinity of Php 100,000.00 to Php 200,000.00!  See, that’s the reason why I have a lust list.  Because that’s all I can do about them.  Sometimes, we just have to dream about the things we know we cannot have.  It is free to dream after all.  Hahaha!

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Of course, whenever I would find myself in either of those malls, meeting up with Batman would always be a likely certainty.  So there I was – on break from my wristwatch hunting – waiting for Batman in front of one of his fave stores.  He arrived within a couple of minutes from his last call.  And together with a friend of mine from work, we first had a quick eat at Mann Hann at the lower level.  Kim Hiong Food Garden (in Ongpin) and Ma Mon Luk (in Quiapo) are still tops on my list.  But I discovered at least one item on Mann Hann’s menu that I ended up raving about.  It was their chilled tofu!  The tofu was silken and really tasted fresh.  It was doused generously with a soya-based sauce (I caution to use the term “soy sauce” because it didn’t taste like that), topped with century egg and a very generous heap of pickled mustard greens!  It was the greens that did it for me.  Batman loved it too!

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Batman had to leave early so that was when I continued on my sojourn of the wristwatch stores.  Nothing really made me dig deep into my pocket and part with my hard-earned money.  Nothing even made me feel like whipping out my checkbook (as if it was loaded!  hahaha!).  So off I went to The Podium!

 

Once there, I went directly to the Morellato kiosk on the third level.  But of course, I made my requisite stop at the Philip Stein boutique and stared at the oversized ones that I – yes – have been lusting after!  Sigh…

 

The price range of the Philip Steins was a little more than I was willing to spend at the moment.  Yeah, reality bites.  And it does bite hard!  So off I went to the escalators, on my way to Morellato…  but without first bidding my Philip Steins a fond adieu.  Once there, I was so surpsrised to be greeted by the Morellato display, as well as by the very warm and comely sales associate.  I remarked that I have the very same Technomarine chronograph wristwatch (one of three Technomarines I’ve had) she had on.  It was at that point that I realized that Morellato is locally distributed by the same group that brought here Technomarine and Officine Del Tempo (I have a couple of these too)!  I’ve bought watches at their My Diamond store in Glorietta 4.

 

But the most pleasant of all was being greeted by the very same Morellato wristwatch I had lusted after in Rustan’s!  So without skipping a beat, I asked for it!  And I am so pleased with this purchase of what can only be “affordable luxury.”

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My MORELLATO MASTER wristwatch (Reference: S 020E 003) has three hands with calendar date aperture, quartz movement Miyota 2315, is water-resistant up to 50 meters, is in an all-stainless steel case and bracelet with a spring-locking buckle, and boasts (really?!) a 0.01-carat NATURAL DIAMOND on the crown.  Per my understanding, each Morellato wristwatch is made in their plant right outside Padua in Italy where each item is made in accordance with their strictest standards!

 

For its list price, it’s such a steal!  How can I not love this?!  Finally, something I lusted after and had!

 

 

 





The Notes Book

25 02 2009
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Some of the notes... I've yet to take a photo of some of the others.

SENTIMENTAL SCHMUCK.  Those two words really come close to describing me.  And I’ve never come face-to-face with this than when I chanced upon the many many little notes I have collected and saved all these years.  I was frantically (as if I was rifling through my own drawers!) searching for the new tube of “mighty bond” adhesive I had unceremoniously thrown at my study table the other night, when, little notes from years back, tucked in to one side of a drawer, put a standstill to my scouring.

 

I totally forgot the tube of adhesive and the repair I needed to make on one of the worn-out (but I-so-love) straps of one of my wristwatches as I couldn’t put down the stacks of notes I was holding in my hands.  Some were written on post-its.  Some were scrawled on envelopes.  A number were scribbled on the back of restaurant receipts.  Others were on gift wrappers.  Still others were on torn pieces of paper.  I slumped at the end of the bed and just read on and on.

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There were the messages attached to gifts (birthday, Christmas and New Year’s – no Valentine’s.  Hahaha!).  A lot of scribbling about TV shows, movies and mp3s burned onto CD-Rs and DVD-Rs given to me.  A particular message about me finally being able to know who “Louis” is and why the giver associated me with the character (attached to an original, limited edition DVD release of “Casablanca”).  Quite a number were tags that have clearly outlasted the edible gifts they clung to at one point.  And still others were really just simple one-liners saying someone thought about getting me something when they saw them (the “something”) on a trip abroad.  The hours just passed and going over these messages made me run a whole gamut of emotions.  And more importantly, it made me realize that at a lot of points in the past, I have been at the receiving end of the thoughtfulness of so many people.

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This realization brought to mind one of the characters Paul Newman played in the movies.  He asked the difference between people in the world.  He said it was neither about being rich or poor.  Or even about being good or evil.  He said it was about those who have had the experience of pleasure and love…  and those who haven’t.  I have a good feeling where I belong.

 

Now, paging Batman.  Can you tell me which Paul Newman movie was that?

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A note on this pile came from Spider-man!





Cooking for someone

18 02 2009

I THINK that most of today’s chefs – budding, struggling, successful, or otherwise – must have started with just a very simple desire.

 

To cook for someone.

 

I’m neither any of those descriptions I used above.  Budding chef?  Nah.  Struggling  chef?  Say what?  Successful chef?  Didn’t you just get past the answer to the budding chef question?

 

But what I know is that I have the same very simple desire in me.  The very same desire that has been brewing up in me these past couple of decades.  I vividly recall that as a kid all of nine years old, I started cooking.  And I’m not talking sunny-side ups or eggs over easy – but real serious stuff like kare-kare (Filipino oxtail stew in peanut sauce with fresh vegetables and fermented shrimp paste dip).  My hands still bear the nicks and burns from the knives and flame that have formed part of my regular companions during my early years as a chef wannabe, under the tutelage of my mother.

 

And I’m just so glad I have learned to cook.  Yes, I can cook as if my life depended on it.  But more so, I’m glad that I have learned to do it for others.

 

I’ve always believed that the greatest gift is a portion of one’s self or simply, a portion of one’s time.  And that is exactly what cooking for someone is – it is a gift of self.  Sometimes…  no, a lot of times, in the frenzy of all the many and crazy things we need to get done in the 24 hours we have each day, we end up obssessing about managing “our” time.  And no matter how much we believe we do “own” our time and therefore can manage it well, there just seems to be not enough time.  In the office alone, I scurry to and fro tasks on my to-do list (though my STARBUCKS COFFEE® 16-month Date Planner and Journal from Singapore helps!) as if I were in a relay-race.

 

And that’s where small acts of kindness – like cooking for someone – really help to slow me down and allow me to take stock of what is (or are) really important in life.  And it doesn’t matter in what portion of my day I do it.  As long as I would do it for someone who matters enough, I couldn’t care less anymore if it were in the morning, right after office, or late into the night.  Beyond the mise en place, and long after the visible steam of simmering food has disappeared after slaving over a hot stove, what I take away from cooking for someone is how effective it is as a means of communication.  I won’t go as bold as to declare that somebody would want my cooking.  But suffice it to say, by cooking for someone, a part of me is cognizant that someone else has a basic need…  and with my time and little skill, I wish to fulfill that need.  If that is not even the slightest indication of caring for someone, I don’t know what is.  And I’ve never thought that by doing so I’m doing someone a huge favor.  For me to cook for someone means that they deserve it in the first place.

 

As a chef wannabe, I recognize that cooking for someone could render the “chef” to indulge in the highest form of self-expression – a propensity to demonstrate prowess that could overshadow fulfilling the basic need.  And that is where I keep myself in check…  that what matters is to give pleasure and to show I genuinely care.  That in my convoluted concept and belief of “owning” my time, I have realized that only when I give of my time, do I really rightfully get to “own” it.  And when I do feel I own it, next comes finding the time for everything that I need – or want – to get done.

 

But know what?  Sometimes it is not even a matter of finding the time to cook for someone.  If there is one thing “FINDING NEMO” taught me, it is that “finding” can take a long time.  Hahaha!  So it’s not really a matter of finding.

 

Sometimes, it is all a matter of “making” the time.  So make the time and cook for someone.  I’m telling you, it’s food for the soul.

 

 





Red Velvet Vixen for RED CROSS

17 02 2009

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CUPCAKES BY Sonja is giving back!

 

Have your cupcake.  Eat it.  And help too!

 

For a limited period, CUPCAKES BY SONJA, through their customers, is donating Php 5.00 to the Philippine National Red Cross (Rizal Chapter) for every purchase of their signature Red Velvet Vixen cupcake.  Now, doesn’t that sound like the perfect deal?!  On my visit to their store last night, this was the first thing that captured my attention.  Strategically positioned on top of the display counter and right on the dividing glass to the kitchen are the posters that announce this worthy cause.  I was told it just started this week.

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So apart from this cupcake being one of my all-time favorites (already), this signage made my choice for last night’s cupcake all the easier!  Make that choice for last night’s cupcakes.  I don’t know what it was, but I managed to down a couple of these moist, flavorful, cream cheese-frosted confections!  And for the first time, I tried their brewed coffee (extra cream and sugar, please!).  Funny that it has been a couple of years already since I first started frequenting this store and it was only last night that I finally noticed they have their own coffee machine!  See, even with those you’ve been so used to, there’s always something new to discover or learn in an otherwise usual day.

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The first Red Velvet Vixen Cupcake I devoured in the store premises. And that's the brewed coffee you see.

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That's the second red velvet I devoured!... Just couldn't get enough!

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Loved their brewed coffee!

Yes, I again had that comforted and satisfied feeling in my tummy.  But knowing I somehow helped out a worthy cause (no matter how little), makes the feeling more profound.

As it turns out, this tie-up between Ms. Ocampo’s signature Red Velvet Vixen cupcake and the RED CROSS has been in the works for a while.  It is just so nice to see it into fruition.  And as I have said in my “recessionista” post a short while back, if there is anything that these trying times have room for – it is generosity.

 

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Next on my must-try list - the NUTTER BUTTER COOKIE!

 

 

**  And of course, I got a few boxes for special people.  I had a box of four Choco Cream Cheese Swirl cupcakes put together for four new friends.  Another two boxes of four Red Velvet Vixen cupcakes (I finished a couple more at home!).  And I had two sets of boxes of four – two Bunny Huggers Carrot Cake cupcakes and two Red Velvet Vixen cupcakes – one each for Spider-man and Superman.  Ms. Ocampo graciously threw in for free an “Elvis,” though I would insist on paying (I never mind paying for good food or service).  The Reese’s peanut butter chocolate pieces on top of the whipped cream were portents of the yummy-ness underneath – cookie crust, peanut butter mousse… caramelized bananas!  Now that’s a specialty cupcake!…  The “Nutter Butter Cookie” sandwich is next on my list of must-try goodies!





Revenge of the nerd

16 02 2009

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I LOVE the hit NBC series “CHUCK.”  Zachary Levi essays the role of Chuck Bartowski so well that I guess he has totally sunk into the character’s skin.  There are actors who cannot – hard as they try – disappear into a role.  Zachary Levi playing Chuck is not one of those.

 

For those of you who don’t follow this series, let me tell you that it is about Chuck, a computer geek by day, a government secret operative agent by night (sometimes, the geek doesn’t even make it to dusk).  The series starts with Chuck, who inadvertently downloads top secret government intelligence information into his brain.  And from then on begins the double lives he lives.  As an operative agent referred to as the “human intersect,” he has also become the government’s top asset in need of protection.  Which, to most fans of the show, is something Yvonne Strahovski fits to a T as the Agent Sarah Walker.

 

I first chanced upon this show on CS9, watching it for the first time, when I didn’t have the faintest idea about what it was all about.  I fell in love with it and ended up sharing it with my friends.  The actors and actresses fit their roles perfectly, and each character contributes well to building the backstories about our protagonist Chuck.  I like how the story achieves the separation of the lives of the geek Chuck and the agent Chuck, while at the same time, when needed, juxtaposes the two realms, blurs the lines between them and leaves you as the audience rooting for either – or both!  The storylines of each are solid on their own, while complementing each other well.  One way to put it is that Chuck is simply ALIAS…  with a whole lot of sense of humor!

 

Partly in order to pacify me, Batman began watching it as well.  And he too fell in love with the show (or with Sarah, I believe so!).  Soon enough, he was burning me episodes on DVD-R’s.  But before you pass judgment, in our defense, we buy the original DVD boxed sets ones they are out in the market.  Hahaha!  Another one of my best friends who got converted to the show is Spider-man.  And to me, Spider-man is Bryce Larkin!  (You’ve got to see the show to know who he is).  And by the way, Spider-man adores Agent Sarah too!

 

Why am I talking about Chuck?  It is because one (yet again!) of the many pasalubong Batman got me from Gotham City is the “NERD HERD” ID holder from the NBC Studios office!  And “Nerd Herd” is the name of the technical service team in the fictitious “Buy More” store where Chuck works.

 

Now you know!

 

And one last thing…  one scene in a Season 2 episode of Chuck gave me one quote about food (I’m collecting “Quotes from the Screen” that relate to food or dining).  It says something to the effect (Chuck to Sarah) that Morgan Grimes is Chuck’s go-to guy for dining recommendations for under ten dollars.

 

Beat that!

 

 

 

**  And since Batman knows how much both Spider-man and I would like this ID holder, he (Batman) has allowed us to share.

 

 





What exactly are the secrets?

16 02 2009

I ACTUALLY don’t have the time to be writing this right now (on a Sunday!).  You see, I am working on a number of presentations for the coming work week.  And putting together concise comments in call out boxes on graphs has put me on a standstill.  I’ve hit a blank wall so bad, I could hear Jewel singing “Standing Still,” on heavy rotation in the music player in my head.

 

But I’ve decided to write this one because I’m building strong opinions about this show I’m watching.  I thought I would be using that term loosely – watching – as I just turned the TV on, for ambient sound in the background as I work.  It was supposed to be nothing but a collage of chiaroscuros that would play as I get busy on my laptop.  But this show I’m watching – the premier telecast of QTV-11’s “Secrets of the Masters” – has demanded my attention.

 

“Secrets of the Masters” has been touted as a showcase of the country’s culinary masters.  They played out names in their teaser and I actually saw some that got me excited – Ariel Manuel, Ed Quimson, and Jill Sandique.  For this premier telecast, they have Chef Gene Gonzalez of Café Ysabel fame (and yes, that corned beef ad).  I do remember watching him on his cooking show on TV before.  And I do know that he has had an illustrious career, owns a culinary school, and has had the opportunity to cook for visiting royalty.  Some of the dishes he made before for Princess Anne (I think…  could be somebody else…) were even featured on the major broadsheets.  I have the newspaper clippings somewhere.

 

The show’s set reminds me of the show “Emeril Live!” on the FoodNetwork.  I’m actually just waiting for Chef Gonzalez to interject “Bam!” everytime he seasons or garnishes his dishes and I swear, it will be “Emeril Live!” all over again.  Fortunately though, he doesn’t have a signature expression or catch phrase – or “Bam!” – so all that I’m left with, as an audience, is contending with his speaking voice that seems to always be at the top of his lungs.  Kind of annoying at times.  Especially since he is in a studio setting, with sufficient voice amplification provided for by microphones.  He doesn’t have to speak so loud as if he were in a Broadway theater trying to reach the audience who bought the cheapest seats in the house.

 

SURPRISINGLY, I like the choice for the show’s host – Issa Litton.  I say surprisingly because I didn’t like her in that lifestyle show.  But here in “Secrets of the Masters,” her vocal modulation and facial expressions do come to good use.  And I have to say that she is one of the few TV personalities with almost impeccable enunciation.  Having said that, I was prepared to sense from her feign affection or appreciation for the dishes she is being served.  But know what?  I could tell that she has been reacting to them genuinely.  I feel her palpable joy over the icre cream, as well as over the oxtail stew with saffron rice (more on the dishes later).  She comes across as someone who could very well be your friend, out to lunch or dinner with you.  She does speak good English and may very well stick to it 100% of the time.  But for good measure – and I guess to reach a wider demographic – she throws in some Filipino words, attempting even to simplify the chef’s highfalutin “chef speak.”

 

But definitely, the stars of the show are the creations of Chef Gene Gonzalez.  While I don’t see myself bowing down in his presence just yet, I have to give him mad props for the creativity with which he concocts “new” dishes and the “innovation” he introduces to time-tested recipes.  He started the show by getting the ice cream churner working on his Chocolate-Tomato Ice Cream (names not accurate), which is being served last.  The salad course is called Silk Road Salad, a tribute to the “silk road” that extends all the way from China to Russia, passing through a number of countries along the way.  And truthful to this name, Chef Gonzalez puts together a melange of, among many other things, delicate lettuces, Philippine mango, Persian apricots, Indian papadoms, and slivers of smoked salmon in a dressing made of extra virgin olive oil and the pulp of ripe Philippine tamarind.  The salad looks good to me.  Seriously.  I feel like the dressing is Chef Gonzalez’s version of a raspberry vinaigrette that I love!  He also makes this Pork Belly with Chocolate Demiglace.  Issa puts it succinctly as “lechon kawali (pan-roasted pork belly) with chocolate!”  For fowl, he makes something called Pato Al Caparas (Braised Wild Duck with Three Kinds of Rice).  This one looks really yummy, especially the close-up shots of the meat and the sauce.  The meat is so tender it was literally falling off the bone.  And having tried various kinds of rice myself, I can tell how delicious the three varying rice textures are, soaking the sauce in.  And then there is the Menudo Sulipena (old-fashioned Pampanga Oxtail Stew) which also looks so sumptuously, sinfully rich.  The oxtail was boiled to perfect tenderness and the ingredients on their own sound temptingly good – the roasted peppers, specifically.  And the Saffron Rice he serves this stew with couldn’t look any better.  It is almost risotto-like, glistening with the golden yellow color the saffron infused each grain of rice with.

 

But unfortunately, as the show comes to an end, I am being left here wondering what the secrets really are.  I didn’t see anything I don’t already know or somehow have an idea about.  Unless of course if it is all about Chef Gene Gonzalez’s creativity and innovation.  Then, I will agree – those are his secrets.  And he is a whiz too in plating his dishes!  We eat with our eyes first, after all.  And watching this show, all I can do is eat with my eyes.  And I have to say that Ms. Litton did a great job giving me the vicarious thrill of savoring the night’s masterpieces.  As this is a new show – unless they have all the episodes in the can already – I hope they will do away with the heavy editing that cuts a lot from the actual cooking process.  The dishes were almost instantaneously dished out.  I would’ve loved to have seen the chef’s technical skills and techniques.  But I think it is because of their desire to pack in as many dishes in just one hour.  They had to compromise.

 

And yes, Chef Gene Gonzalez has to hawk his cookbook series as the show does come to an end.  Which is a good thing actually.  I guess I will check it out on my next visit to the bookstore.

 

The next show is HIRED, the search for Cravings’ next Chef de Partie.  I turned the TV off.

 

 





Tumbling over this tumbler from Batman

13 02 2009

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OF THE many pasalubong I got from Batman, one that really made me tumble with joy is this tumbler.  Which is kind of surprising as just about anybody owns a tumbler nowadays.  For my birthday last year, I actually got almost EVERY imaginable tumbler from STARBUCKS COFFEE®.  Seriously!  And just about anybody actually carries one to anywhere and everywhere – either lugging it around or brandishing it with pride as if it’s the ultimate symbol of being “it” or “in.”

 

But of course, I’m overjoyed by this tumbler because it is nothing short of what can only be described as a huge 20-oz. STARBUCKS COFFEE® Green Travel Tumbler!  And it came all the way from Gotham City, that’s why.  Unfortunately, this is the only photo I’ve taken of it so far.  I’ll try to get a better shot that would do justice to something made with 28% post-consumer recycled material.  These times, you gotta love Mother Earth.  She’s all we’ve got!

 

If what I’ve learned so far is true, this is a limited edition 2009 hard-to-find tumbler.  Now, how can that not add to this tumbler’s appeal?!  I’m lovin’ this one.

 

Reduce!  Reuse!  Recycle!

 

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See... made with 28% post-consumer recycled material!

 





Sweets for my “sweets”

13 02 2009

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NO, I am not about to burst into song as I write this one.  What the heck!…  All together now: “Sweets for my sweet / Sugar for my honey / …”  Hahaha!

 

For a while, my team in the office has been making “lambing,” asking me to bring them cupcakes.  They’re all swamped with a lot of work way beyond “punch-out” time – mostly stuff I actually need (ask) them to do! – but from time to time, they do read my blog.  Aside from the surprise they would get in seeing another side of me – the realization that I am not so much a “monster” – one thing that has happened for sure is that they have absolutely fallen in love with CUPCAKES BY SONJA.  Now that’s a FALL I’m so glad they have taken.

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The very lovely Len with Spider-man's box of four Bunny Huggers Carrot Cake cupcakes!

 

So in the very good mood that my THAI AT SILK dinner with Batman had put me into, I went to Cupcakes By Sonja to pick up boxes for my engineers.  There’s only so much that a couple of hands can handle, so I could only get one for each.  Though everybody knows that Spider-man (one of my best friends) would always get his own box.  He is after all, in a league all his own.  Hehehe.

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Spider-man's box of four Bunny Huggers Carrot Cake cupcakes!

 

When they got their cupcakes – one Red Velvet Vixen each – I could see and feel their appreciation.  And they did love the cupcakes!  Which for me, is such a small gesture for people who have always made me look good, so to speak.  I just thought about this expression – “…have always made me look good” – after seeing an episode of the hit ABC series Ugly Betty the other day.  Wilhelmina Slater (played with biting sarcasm by the Vanessa Williams), giving a major dressing down to her assistant Mark St. James (played by Michael Urie) declared something like:  Being thrown under the bus is part of your job to make me look good!”

 

Of course, I definitely do not see any throwing-under-the-bus happening within my team ever, but that snippet is just a glimpse of the hardwork and the sacrifice that the people who work “for” and with us have to do or endure sometimes.

 

So a cupcake is but a small gesture.

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That's Albert, K-Anne and Roy Patrick!

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All in a row - Edu, Adam, K-Anne, Paulo, and Roy Patrick! All smiles with their red velvet vixen cupcakes!

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This is where the best cupcakes come from! (Find the store in the picture. Hehehe..).

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A lovely cupcake tower! I just learned from Sonja that she makes this to order.

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“THAI AT SILK” lives up to its name

12 02 2009

[This dinner has been a long time coming.  And this post, even more so.  You see, I’ve loved this place since my first visit in 2007.  I’m just so glad that I’ve finally gotten around to writing this piece.]

 

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I’VE BEEN feeling so under the weather since late last week that up to about a couple days back, I’ve been literally snacking on antibiotics and what text messages had told me to be concoctions being recalled by the U.S. FDA.  I thought nothing could pick me up from such my sorry state – not until Batman texted me when we could meet up, specifically for me to be able to pick up all that pasalubong he brought me back from Gotham City.  Now that’s a good enough excuse!

 

The opportune time turned out to be Wednesday night.  And I got to pick the place where we’d have dinner.  Finally, I found the perfect opportunity to visit (yet again) one of my favorite places in the Serendra Piazza – tHAI AT SILK.  I can still remember how in 2007, after the arduous task of emceeing a major company event (and singing with the jazz band afterwards!), I got to dine here for the first time.  My finding this gem of a place proved to be quite serendipitous.  I was resigned to the fact that I could satiate my hunger with just about anything – Brothers Burgers was actually appealing already – until I saw this posh Thai restaurant!

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I never realized then just how much I’ve missed Thai cuisine, especially since Sukothai had closed shop.  I hadn’t been able to go back too to Malai Thai in the Magallanes commercial complex after they had moved to the new building.  Dusit Thani in Glorietta doesn’t quite make the grade (but their food is good nonetheless).  Oody’s and Oody’s Express, while able to serve good food, haven’t quite appealed to me completely.  And The Banana Leaf Curry House on the restaurant strip in Alabang Town Center (their only branch that I loved) had already morphed to what appears to me as either an “under-the-sea” or a “pirates-of-the-caribbean” thing-y.  As for Penang Hill (which serves Thai dishes), I’m reserving my comments for now.  Haha!

 

tHAI AT SILK was, and still is, such a welcome sight – literally too as the interiors are in the calming, relaxing hues of green and white.

 

So right after the requisite stop at CUPCAKES BY SONJA – just to say “Hi!” to the friendly staff and to introduce them to Batman – off we went to tHAI AT SILK.  As I was the one insisting on this place, Batman gave me the free hand to choose the dishes.

 

We started with the Tom Yum Goong (Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup, Php 310.00), which we asked to be made mildly spicy (in deference to Batman…  Hehe…).  If there is any one dish that can transport you back to Thailand, or introduce you to the place, it is this dish.  And after having had this soup in its many possible incarnations – here and abroad (including the one I made to rousing reception by an international crowd) – I still maintain that the best version of Tom Yum Goong is made by  tHAI AT SILK!  Their version perfectly showcases just how Thai cuisine has achieved the balance of the basic tastes, while allowing each component to explode into its own momentary highlight – layer by layer – from the very instant the very hot soup tempts my olfactory nerve, touches my puckering lips, and swishes into the wall of my mouth.  The soup is faithful to its name.  It is HOT.  It is SOUR.  And it is chockful with really large, plump, juicy, and fresh white freshwater shrimps.

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It is HOT from the chilies, which could very well be at least three kinds (as what my personal recipe requires).  Like freckles on a pretty lady, crushed red pepper flakes beautifully dot the broth.  Under the restaurant’s subdued lighting, the soup glows in its appetizing orange hue, that can only come from the roasted chilies in oil (on its own a separate recipe!) that Bangkokians added to the original recipe from the Southern coastal villages of their country.  And that is how I prefer this soup – with the roasted chilies in oil.  It is SOUR (and a bit cloudy) from the undeniable bursts of fresh lime juice, that really  do give the dish its “characteristic” sourness.  And rounding off the robust flavors are the freshest ingredients that form a background symphony for the senses – the galangal for the floral hints; lemongrass for the mildly floral-and-citrusy notes; and cilantro for the very mild pungent undertones.  And as I said above, I’ve had this soup in its many versions and even the ones I’ve had in a number of layovers in Bangkok, seem to pale in comparison.  That’s just me.  And I think now, Batman too!  It was so good that I couldn’t wait for our main entrée and I had to already ask for steaming hot long grain Thai jasmine rice.  As you see, this restaurant doesn’t scrimp on the quality of grain and ingredients they use.

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For our second dish, I was actually considering the Massaman Chicken Curry I’ve loved from when I first tried it.  I have fond memories of that dish.  Besides falling in love with it during a trip to Bangalore, Goa and Mumbai in India, I will never forget how  tHAI AT SILK chef and owner Cecille Ysmael graciously served me the dish.  She even recommended to me a pickled concoction she just made in the kitchen which she said would perfectly complement the curry.  She even went the extra mile by keeping me company during my dinner, talking me through the dining experience that was the curry and that side dish (thrown in free of charge!).  I was so bowled over by the charm and demeanor of this lady!  I thought I was just going to share my table with the many boxes of cupcakes, the Barack Obama book, and the two Alessi wristwatches I had just bought.  I thought she would just pass by my table as she surveyed the dining room – only to stop and ask why I was alone and where my friend (from the previous dinners) was.  Clearly, she pays attention to her clientele!

 

Unfortunately last night, I couldn’t find that curry on the menu.  I asked for the “small” menu they used to have, which contained the new dishes and where the massaman curry was listed before.  But our polite server told me that everything had already been incorporated in the “big” menu I had on my hands.  As I failed to fully articulate what I was looking for, I settled for the Thai Chicken Basil (Php 310.00).  This choice turned out pleasantly… even surprisingly great!  Served on a green cake-pedestal-like platter, it was a festive medley of minced chicken meat, chopped green beans, and thai sweet basil, crowned with three thin rings of orange chili.  This dish was superb!  The basil perfumed the dish beautifully.  I loved it that the saltiness was kept to the bare minimum, allowing the natural sweetness of the moist chicken meat and the crispness of the beans to shine through.  I will definitely order this dish again.  And again!

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And going back to the usual Thai “route,” we asked for the Pad Thai (Php 400.00) as our final dish.  This is where  tHAI AT SILK’s visual presentation skills are taken – not only to the “next” – but really to the “highest” level.  The farthest I’ve gone to Thailand would be the times I waited for connecting flights at their international airport in Bangkok.  But as I understand it, this technique in presenting pad thai in a mesh or net of scrambled egg is exactly how it is traditionally done there.  And tHAI AT SILK surely didn’t want to cut corners and went for the entire nine yards with this one.  Beautifully ensconced and nestled in the egg net is the pad thai, surrounded by traditional condiments that include crushed peanuts, a wedge of lime, scallions and mung bean sprouts.  I felt that it was almost a sin to disturb the presentation.  But Batman wouldn’t let me to just stare at it endlessly…  I had to do the honors to mix everything together.  And in seconds, Batman had a taste of what could be the best pad thai he has ever had.  I love it too!  The sauce has an authentic tempered sweetness, allowing for the tamarind pulp to shine.  The noodles were cooked with the perfect give to it, and the smokiness in the dish was just right.  Even with the piles of Thai jasmine rice already on my plate (and in my stomach), I easily finished half of this dish!

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Batman and I washed everything down with tall glasses of this restaurant’s signature Lemongrass Juice (Php 115.00).  This drink was just perfect as it soothed my throat (which towards the end of dinner was all the more strained from all the “kwento”) with its citrusy goodness, punctuated with the hint of ginger-like essence.

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By the time I was taking my last spoonful of the rice, Batman had been heaping praises on my dinner choices.  He actually said that he had never been “that” full in recent memory.  Hehehe.  Either he really meant it or it was just the jetlag talking.  Hahaha!  But I guess he meant it.  I too, after a while of missing out on tHAI AT SILK, had to stop and acknowledge the fact that I haven’t had that great a dinner too.  All the food were literally wiped out from the plates and I couldn’t think of any better compliment to pay the chef.  tHAI AT SILK lives up to its name – it is THAI, and it is smooth as SILK – simply one of the finest in the world.

 

Oops…  I actually did, as I wrote a short note on the back of our check just to say how fabulous the dinner was.  And how attentive, prompt and warm the service was.

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After dinner, we took a leisurely walk to CUPCAKES BY SONJA.  I got a box for Spider-man and a couple more for my engineers (I’ll post this later!).  I didn’t get a box for Superman as he won’t be onsite tomorrow.

 

 





Happiness is a box of six

10 02 2009

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ONLY A few things do manage to stop me on my tracks.  Some of them, they just stop me and then I would carry on.  Some of them, they stop me, demand for my second look…  and then a scream.  Hahaha!

 

And still, there are others that stop me, demand for my second look…  and deserve my appreciation and say, a few minutes to even hours of my time.  I can enumerate at least three of these.

 

The CUPCAKES BY SONJA signage (especially when lit at night).

 

Big bold red letters that spell SALE (there’s a recession, sleepy head!).

 

And wherever a lit neon sign says, “HOT KRISPY KREME ORIGINAL GLAZED NOW.”

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Which is only at – wherelse?! – Krispy Kreme!  I can still vividly recall the first time I saw that sign.  It was right across one mall in Sacramento.  I think it was Sunrise Mall.  You may very well know that everytime that sign would be lit, it only meant that Krispy Kreme’s famous Original Glazed yeast-raised doughnuts were coming out the dougnut-making line right that very moment.  And I have never been disappointed with Krispy Kreme.  Even after all the hoopla has died down from when it first opened in the Philippines, I will remain forever enchanted by these doughnuts and excited with even just the thought of getting my hands on one.  Krispy Kreme still stands unperturbed as the ultimate doughnut experience.

 

An Original Glazed never fails to remind me that some of the strongest and longest-lasting friendships I have made were forged over a box of these doughnuts.    Obviously, munching on one always brings back happy memories.  Lately, these doughnuts and Sonja’s cupcakes have had that effect on me.

 

Won’t you also be happy when you get your hands on doughnuts that taste so good, they could surely only be made in batches within the store’s premises?  You can tell with one bite that they are cut, yeast-raised, fried, flipped…  and then glazed right there and then.  And of course, if you’ve been to a store – right in front of your very eyes.  Without question, the anticipation of this doughnut experience is something that will make your eyes beam wide and your mouth water.

 

Arguably, happiness is a box of six Kripy Kreme doughnuts.  But since I was not up to making the whole trip to Bonifacio High Street last night (which also explains my absence at Cupcakes), I depended on the kindness of one of my new friends.  He thoughtfully texted me last night to ask if I’d like to have some boxes brought to the office today.

 

Of course I said yes!  Sometimes – I can’t say this enough – you will get surprised with the kindness and thoughtfulness of people.  It’s like wishing upon a star…  and seeing your wishes come true.  Hahaha!

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Spider-man's box of six - three original glzed, 2 cookies n' cream, 1 chocolate something.

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Superman's box of six - three original glazed, one cookies n' cream, one chocolate something, one new york cheesecake (luv this one, my fave!).