Finally – Honey Calamansi!

31 07 2009

UNFORTUNATELY, I haven’t chanced upon one on any of the shelves I had ravaged these past days.  It’s quite ironic that about a month ago, I had held a bottle of it in my own hands and transfixed it with a long, emotionless stare; while inside my head, a debate was ensuing, especially since I wasn’t particularly keen on the merits of calamansi in a fancy sounding vinaigrette – in a commercially bottled one at that!

That’s from my post a week ago.

Grocery Basket - Honey Calamansi Vinaigrette

Dizon Farms Honey Calamansi Vinaigrette

Last Tuesday, I went to SM Supermarket in Makati, where I first saw “this.”  And where a month ago, all that “emotionless stare” above was happening.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Funny enough – or maybe because of something in my physiology that precluded logical thinking – all that I got at SM was this bottle of Dizon Farms Honey Calamansi Vinaigrette.  For the greens, I decided to go to Rustan’s.

So here was how a spur-of-the-moment grocery basket looked like.  The big bag of Basic Necessity’s SaladTime mung brean sprouts was intended for those moments when I would enjoy my pho (Vietnamese – errr, Vietnamese-inspired – noodle moments).  I threw in the San Remo angel hair because I have this gut feeling I’d crave for angel hair pomodoro before the weekend is through!

Grocery Basket - Rustans 00

In the basket – Sunsweet hydroponic hearts of Romaine, Basic Necessity's SaladTime Arugula & Mixed Greens, Basic Necessity's SaladTime Mung Bean Sprouts... San Remo Angel Hair, Basil Leaves!

 

Grocery Basket - Rustans 01

Waiting to ring up my purchases!





Breakfast for a Superhero and then some

31 07 2009

WE ARE in between concessionaires for our office cafeteria.  And this week that serves as the transition period between the old and the new proved to be the worst as well.  I was actually just sailing along, but I have never realized just how bad the breakfast options have become than when I saw the very very sad look on Spider-man’s face yesterday.  He couldn’t decide which in the pile of supposed-to-be-crunchy “dilis” (fried dried anchovy) was still fit for human consumption.  He ended up munching on just four – exactly four!

So for today I thought about making breakfast!  I made corned beef, sunny side ups, eggs over easy, and fried SPAM lite.  Okay, not exactly something you could call “healthy,” but nevertheless home-cooked.  To balance off the “processed” part, I used only 100% pure canola oil.  And in the corned beef, I put lots of fresh roma tomatoes I blanched and peeled.  For the corned beef, I used Purefoods.

I usually share the breakfast table with Spider-man and some of my other friends.  So I hope they’ll like these.  And oh, for good measure, I brought a 375-gram bottle of Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread by Ferrero, and a loaf of Gardenia classic bread.

Kainan na!!!

Breakfast - Corned Beef

Sauteed Purefoods Corned Beef. The onions were super sweet! I first pan-fried them quickly in just a touch of 100% pure canola oil.

 

Breakfast - Spam & Egg

Halfway through the pile of SPAM lite and eggs. Half the eggs were sunny side ups, half were over easy.

 

Breakfast - Nutella

Chocolate you can lick! - Nutella by Ferrero.

 

Breakfast - The Bags 01

I don't have a cooler. So I made do with these bags. Hahaha! But the Takashimaya Singapore bag waas for something else.





Dinner, a movie, and “semblance of a life”

30 07 2009

 

“THE PROPOSAL” had me at the mere mention of unsweetened cinnamon light soy latte.  “Christmas in a cup,” as it was succinctly described.

ATC - The Proposal Movie Ticket

"The Proposal" – well-worth the Php 150.00 movie ticket!

Any movie that uses food and / or drink to make a point – or establish a premise – has me all ears and eyes.  And in the particular case I had last night, it even had me re-examining my decision to get the Starbucks Coffee Company® Dark Mocha Raspberry Frappucino I was sipping.  Definitely not unsweetened.  Definitely not light.  But I snapped out of it in a jiffy – all ears and eyes to the movie, remember?

“The Proposal” stars Sandra Bullock as Margaret Tate, editor-in-chief of book publishing company Colden Books, who – in the opening scenes – could very well be Miranda Priestly incarnate.  For a moment, it felt like it was “The Devil Wears Prada” all over again.  From the walk to the office to the flurry of activity that results as the rank and file put on the token appearance of being hard at work as the big boss passes by…  to the executive assistant – with coffee in hand – that barely dodges a morning tongue-lashing by making it to the office literally a mere few steps ahead of the boss.  Margaret swipes the coffee off of her assistant’s hand in one clean motion and I knew the movie had finally started rolling.

Ryan Reynolds stars as Andrew Paxton, Margaret’s assistant.  So the parallel to “The Devil Wears Prada” could end there as the assistant here is a guy.  Besides, this movie has an Hermes Birkin, a Louis Vuitton luggage, a Louis Vuitton Speedy Carry-All, and killer Louboutins all over the place.  Not Prada.

Within the first few scenes – and showing she can really think well on her feet – Margaret forces Andrew to marry her to avert getting her well-toned heinie deported to her native Canada after her Visa application got denied.  Put on the spot, not to mention tormented for years (the movie established this well in just a few minutes), Andrew begudgingly accepts, but not without conditions of his own.  The “engagement” clearly has sham written all over it – and a fiancée visa that needed to be filed – that the government has to investigate and stay hot on the newly betrothed couple’s trails.

One personal appearance at the immigration office and Margaret and Andrew find themselves forced to visit with Andrew’s family in Alaska to make the charade believable.  Here, the uptight, control-freak editor-in-chief finds herself out of her comfort zone, and so not in command.  Unexpected episodes of comedic proportions ensue, culminating when Andrew’s family insisted on a weekend wedding to coincide with Andrew’s grandma’s 90th birthday.  Sticking to their plan – probably with a quick divorce waiting in the wings – Margaret and Andrew have laid out contigencies for any eventuality.

Except for genuinely falling in love.  (I’ll stop here lest I spoil it for you!)

 

———————————

I haven’t seen a lot of movies this year, but “The Proposal” is the first one to be worth the steep Php 150.00 free-seating ticket I paid for for it!  Sure, it’s not about to be remembered when Academy members fill out their nomination ballots come the 2010 awards season – though a Golden Globe for Sandra for Best Actress, Comedy is not far-fetched! – but I will remember “The Proposal” for heralding the return of Sandra Bullock as one of America’s real sweethearts.

Ringing true to the words of Ingrid in “Tayong Dalawa,” Sandra Bullock could very well declare:  “I’m back.  I’m sooooooo back!”

I find “The Proposal” to be a (romantic) comedy that appeals to the intellect.  It doesn’t rely on slapstick or special effects to draw out a chuckle or boisterous laughter.  I found myself to be laughing even at scenes that just involved dialogue.  And not even the shrilly or loud kind.  Sandra and Ryan had perfect comedic timing – on their own and as the on-screen couple.  They trade witticisms and quips like it’s nobody’s business.  Usually, I would sense even a nanosecond of pause or uncertainty in the way lesser actors would exchange lines.  But not with these two.  They could give Lorelei and Rory Gilmore a run for their money.

Long after the credits had rolled, I was still playing in my head the scenes in Margaret’s office when she put Andrew on the spot.  The scene when she fired one of her editors.  The one where she cut the line at the immigration and was later shown impatiently waiting for the officer who later launched to a no-nonsense discussion on what would take to get her fiancée visa approved.  And of course, the “proposals” that took place.

Credit has to be given to the excellent support cast that buoyed Sandra’s and Ryan’s performances.  Academy award-winning actress Mary Steenburgen was lovable as Andrew’s mother.  She gave the understated elegance her role needed.  But something has to be said about Emmy award-winning actress Betty White.  Not only did she deliver her punchlines perfectly – suspending the wit and then releasing it to elicit full laughter – but she also managed to almost steal the scenes she was in.  Somehow, she knew exactly when to dole them out one by one for “dramatic” effect and when to just lay them down one time.

Having said all these, “The Proposal” remains to be Sandra Bullock’s movie.  She gave the role of editor-in-chief the icy cold quality that demanded both hypnotic obedience and snickers.  But as the movie unravels you shall see that the warmth of human affection melts the ice and reveals a person who finally realizes she needs someone else – however scary the thought could be.

I said that with the reference to the unsweetened cinnamon light soy latte I became “all ears and all eyes” to the movie.  But with the one pivotal scene when Margaret and Andrew shared things about themselves – originally intended just to prepare for the immigration officer’s questioning – I found myself to be “all heart.”

Best Sound Bites.  I heard a lot of lines in the movie that may find use in my day-to-day existence.  Hahaha!  It was kind of hard to take down notes while in the dark that was the movie house.  But here are those that really stuck, culled from my memory.

I guess I’m alone because I’m comfortable that way.  It’s easy that way.

It’s hard to ruin someone’s life after you find out just how wonderful they are.

I started to see something.  I saw something when we kissed.

 

———————————

Dinner and then some.  Obviously – judging from the photo of the movie ticket above – I flew solo.  But I didn’t mind at all as I got to enjoy my Pepper Lunch dinner to myself!  I had The Double Beef Pepper Rice, Miso Soup, and Green Tea.  Super value for money at just Php 334.00 total damage!

ATC - Pepper Lunch 01 Double Beef Pepper Rice

Double Beef Pepper Rice

 

ATC - Pepper Lunch 03 Double Beef Pepper Rice

Close-up shot of the plump, fragrant Japanese rice

 

ATC - Pepper Lunch 04 Double Beef Pepper Rice

The black pepper at Pepper Lunch are just so addictive.

To the movie, I brought a grande Starbucks Coffee Company® Dark Mocha Raspberry Frappucino.

ATC - Starbucks Dark Mocha Raspberry Frappucino

That's my Dark Mocha Raspberry Frappucino! It tasted like Royce' chocolate I could drink! Seriously.

After dinner – before the movie – I did some serious window-shopping.  Hahaha!

ATC - Sale 00

S-A-L-E !!!

 

ATC - Sale 02 Polo Jeans Co.

On S-A-L-E: Polo Jeans Co.

 

ATC - Sale 03 Springfield

on S-A-L-E: Springfield

 

ATC - Sale 04 Armani Exchange

On S-A-L-E: Armani Exchange

 

ATC - Sale 04 Calvin Klein

On S-A-L-E: Clavin Klein





The yellow is for Mrs. Cory Aquino

29 07 2009

FORMER PRESIDENT Cory Aquino – even in sickness – is a unifying force in our country.  Like most of my fellow Filipinos, I’m wearing yellow today in her honor.

Like most Filipinos, I’m a stranger to her and her family.

But like most Filipinos, I’m one with them in praying for her.

At the very least, I’m praying for the pain to go away.  Sometimes, that’s all we could hope for – for our loved ones to be spared from all the pain.  Mrs. Aquino has endured so much in her life that I feel she doesn’t deserve this suffering.

I’ve never really loved yellow.  But for Mrs. Aquino, I couldn’t help but wear it.

I’m thinking of her.  And I love her.

Unfortunately, that’s all that I can do.

Yellow for Tita Cory 02

The yellow is for Tita Cory

 

Yellow for Tita Cory 03

Yellow Technomarine Raft Chronograph for Tita Cory





Stare. Spread. Flip. Enjoy.

28 07 2009

I’VE NEVER gushed unabashedly about anything since Cupcakes by Sonja.  Until now.  All I could talk about at work yesterday was Pepper Lunch.

To think that at the time all I’d had was just the Double Beef Pepper Rice!

Pepper Lunch - Logo

Sizzle it your way!

 

Pepper Lunch - Signage

Look for this for good steak! That's the Pepper Lunch signage at their newly opened Alabang Town Center branch!

So to make good on the personal targets I had set last week (“targets” – oh it sounds so SONA-ish…  hahaha!), I returned to Pepper Lunch at Alabang Town Center after office hours yesterday.  I invited a couple of friends to this gustatory adventure – Brother (a steak authority himself) and Francis.

We asked for two Tokusen Rib Eye Steaks (Php 585.00* each, a la carte) and one Shimofuri Pepper Steak (Php 570.00* a la carte).  We made our accompaniment the Mixed Pepper Rice.  And we had to cap a fabulous dinner with luscious desserts – the Molten Chocolate Cake A La Mode and the Vanilla Crepe Cake A La Mode.

Pepper Lunch - Francis's Tokusen Rib Eye

Francis's Tokusen Rib Eye Steak!

I stared

The moment the patented sizzling plates hit the table, the first thought that cropped up in my head – as if carried by the gusts of steam – was “truth in advertising.”  Up to that point, I had actually saved up – for these steaks – whatever capability I had for understanding for a day.  I mean, I would have understood if they were smaller in actuality against how they appeared on the menu.  But they sure weren’t!  The Tokusen Rib Eye Steak was cut considerably thick and looked really fresh, red and every inch the tender and nicely “fat” cut of beef rib eye is supposed to be.  As for the Shimofuri, I have to say that I’ve never seen something marbled with fat so prettily.

Pepper Lunch - Brother's Tokusen Rib Eye 00

Brother's Tokusen Ribe Eye Steak!

Pepper Lunch - eNTeNG's Shimofuri Steak 01

My Shimofuri Pepper Steak!

I spread

As if an homage to my unabashed enthusiasm for cupcakes of days gone by, a “kiss” of a tan-colored cream sat on top of the reddish pink meat, seemingly piped in place by a pastry bag with a floral tip.  “This must be the special, unique butter that I need to spread on the steak as it cooks,” I said to myself.  So spread I did!  I felt the creaminess of the “unique” butter as I distribute it on top of the meat, noting how poetic it melted and cascaded down the developing crust that was the sides of the meat.

Pepper Lunch - Brother's Tokusen Rib Eye 01

The Tokusen Rib Eye Steak flipped to the other side.

I flipped

As the molten butter sizzled, flowing perfectly into the fat that had earlier been hissing already on the sizzling plate, I glided the tines of the fork carefully under the steak, not wanting to pierce the seared meat.  With one quick action, I flipped each cut to sear the other side.  More hissing action ensued.  In two minutes, I had no other choice but to move towards satisfying my craving.

Pepper Lunch - eNTeNG's Shimofuri Steak 02

Halfway through to enjoying the Shimofuri Pepper Steak.

I enjoyed

With the orange chopsticks, I picked up one cut of my Shimofuri steak and put it in my mouth, being very careful not to burn my tongue.  And I have to say, Pepper Lunch’s Shimofuri steak has got to be one of the most tender steaks I have ever had.  I was preparing myself to chew, only to realize that I didn’t even have to.  The meat literally felt like soft butter in my mouth.  In describing some of my successful gastronomic adventures, I would be holding back in saying something as “literally melting in my mouth.”  But the steak I had at Pepper Lunch deserved nothing less for a description.  And I liked it the way it was, just flavored with the fragrant outermost shell of black pepper that the store prepared for the day.  In between bites of the meat, I helped myself to the generous heap of high quality mung bean sprouts and the mixed pepper rice I had in the bowl on my hand.

Pepper Lunch - eNTeNG's Shimofuri Steak 03

Just the way I like my steak - seared but kept moist and juicy, and pink in the center. Apparently, cooking on the high heat available thru Pepper Lunch's patented sizzling plate does just that!

To cap this unforgettable steak dinner, I made good on yet another promise – to try the desserts!  I asked for a la mode renditions of the Vanilla Crepe Cake and the Molten Chocolate Cake.

The Vanilla Crepe Cake was a patient work of art.  Imagine thin layers of crepe piled one on top of another, separated only by the subtle hint of vanilla-flavored cream in between.  I’ve loved crepes so much that whenever I’d have it, what I would actually do is remove the filling and just enjoy the very thin, very light pancake.  Thanks to Pepper Lunch’s Vanilla Crepe Cake, I got to live this “fantasy” dessert many many layers over!

Pepper Lunch - Vanilla Crepe Cake 00

The Vanilla Crepe Cake!

 

Pepper Lunch - Vanilla Crepe Cake 01

Now one of my fave desserts - Pepper Lunch's Vanilla Crepe Cake!

With a name like Molten Chocolate Cake, I expected a cake that at the very least, should be warm.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  Pepper Lunch’s version was so much more – perfectly “half-baked”, slathered – no! – blanketed with good chocalte fudge, and dusted with (I think) chocolate or coffee powder.  I turned into a giddy kid armed with a teaspoon.  I aimed for the domed cake top, pierced it, and waited for the molten chocolate to ooze out.  I took a good teaspoonful of everything and tasted what could very well be the best cake Php 120.00 (a la carte) could buy.  I closed my eyes and dreamt away.

Pepper Lunch - Molten Chocolate Cake 00

Molten Chocolate Cake

 

Pepper Lunch - Molten Chocolate Cake 01

The molten chocolate seeps out of the Molten Chocolate Cake!

Brother and Francis had to wake me up.  The desserts were that good!

Pepper Lunch - Ice Cream

Our desserts were "a la mode" so we had two of these - the lovely (vanilla) ice cream!

 

Pepper Lunch - Official Receipt

"Clark" (that's my "coffee name") has a new favorite - Pepper Lunch!

 

Pepper Lunch - Order Slips

I forgot to get Brothers "dish up" slip before his tray was taken away.

*a la carte prices corrected from previous post





Now this is sizzling hot

27 07 2009

  

I WANTED to be gentle on myself because it was going to be my first time.

Pepper Lunch - Double Beef Pepper Rice 00

Pepper Lunch's Double Beef Pepper Rice. Sizzle it your way!

To dine at Pepper Lunch, that is!  (You naughty kids!  Hahaha!)   So, to be “gentle” on myself – meaning, not panic at the sight of the restaurant’s patented hot plate – I did my research.  I spoke to and asked tips from Friendship, who has been an avowed loyal patron at the original Rockwell branch from when it opened.  I also checked out the restaurant’s official website where I surprisingly found a video on “how to sizzle it.”

So, armed with my knowledge and buoyed up by flashing scrumptious scenes of steak as it sizzles – not to mention being given a “kwento-filled” ride to the place by Spidey – I resolved to make my initiation to Pepper Lunch a filling experience.  But first, I realized I had to get some cash (it was just the restaurant’s second day of operations at the Alabang Town Center, so, cash only!).  After two “unable to dispense amount” error messages at the BPI ATM terminals at the one outside Rustan’s Department Store and at the one right in front of Bench™, my sizzling dreams seemed to have been losing steam.  Begrudgingly, I dragged my feet to the one on the second level, to the side of the escalator landing, and summoned the powers of my lucky stars to make three times the charm.  And the stars conspired when I saw my transactions go through and see all the moolah that was spat out.  Hahaha!

With cash on hand, I turned around from the machine and finally, I took the steps that would bring me closer to realizing the yummy steak dreams that had been haunting me for nights on end.  I proceeded with really gingerly footwork over the tiled floor, with full consciousness that every step I took was bringing me closer to Corte de las Palmasthat higher-end fashion store and restaurant strip – where the dream’s I’d been having would take a tangible form.  My heart was throbbing so much from the excitement that I felt it would tear my chest open.

But before I would have burst an artery, happiness took over at the doorstep of Pepper Lunch.  “Happiness”… which at that very moment meant having my place by the counter as I waited for my turn.  The personnel who greeted me with a smile so warm it could part clouds on any overcast day, saw my emotion as I was having trouble trying to conceal it.  I mumbled beneath a beaming face, “It’s my first time here.  And I’m thinking Tokusen Ribe Eye or Shimofuri Pepper steak.”  He was very helpful in walking me through my options and later convinced me that the best way to start a Pepper Lunch experience was to take the “Beef Pepper Rice” route – their bestseller, which was also the cheapest on the menu at Php 198.00 a la carte.  I started with a terrible hankering for “steak” so I asked that they make mine “Double Beef Pepper Rice!”  With miso soup and Sprite, my meal set me back by Php 334.00.  The additional “Mixed Pepper Rice” that I ordered later was Php 85.00, and was taken care of by the Staff – they were gracious enough to not let me fall in line at the counter again.

Pepper Lunch - Double Beef Pepper Rice 01

Double Beef Pepper Rice!

I took my place at table# 64 and waited for my “Double Beef Pepper Rice” – I just can’t stop saying it over and over again!  I looked around and was amazed by the lovely interiors.  Yes, Pepper Lunch may be a “fast” steakhouse but they are not about to sacrifice on the décor.  I love the cozy and calming effect the predominantly orange interiors have.  And something has to be said about the lamps that hang above each table.  Lovely!

Pepper Lunch - Double Beef Pepper Rice 03

A close-up shot of my Double Beef Pepper Rice. It was a challenge to take details photos with all the steam coming out from the food!

In a couple of minutes my order finally arrived and I actually thought my side-swept bangs would frizz as the sizzling plate hits the table.  Hahaha!  But I couldn’t care less about my hair – not with such a pretty platter staring at me!  The first thing I noticed was that a paper ring forts up around the patented sizzling plate.  Actually more a quick instructional guide than a fortification for the yummy-ness inside it, the paper ring warns not to touch the plate as it is very hot, while providing steps on how to “cook” the pepper rice.

On the center of the plate lies Japanese rice molded into a mound.  On top of it are a generous helping of plump, sweet corn kernels and chopped spring onions.  A sharp contrast to the white grain, bright yellow kernels, and deep green shoots is the liberal dusting of black pepper.  And next to the steak, it is actually the black pepper – more exactly how Pepper Lunch romanticized it – that has attracted me to the place:  “Flavoured with Black Pepper that we prepare every morning using only the outer shell of the peppercorn, which is most fragrant.”  The description is enough to make me want to puff myself with their black pepper.  Hahaha!

Pepper Lunch - Pepper Lunch Black Pepper 01

I'll never look at black pepper the same way again... "Flavoured with Black Pepper that we prepare every morning using only the outer shell of the peppercorn, which is most fragrant."

You already know how much of a wannabe chef I am.  And with Pepper Lunch’s substantial spoon and fork in hand, I began to mix my Double Beef Pepper Rice.  I started by flipping the strips of beef to cook both sides.  I loved it that the meat was laced with just the right amount of fat.  I want it that way for two things – the flavor it imparts to the dish and the moisture it helps retain.  After giving each strip of meat the once over, I zoomed into the rice.  I pierced it with the fork and noticed the whiff of steam that gust out.  Clearly, the mound shape of the rice caused steam to build up inside, where – again, per the paper ring – butter and sauce lie in the middle.  I mixed the rice and the beef together and noticed just how more and more fragrant the dish was becoming.

Pepper Lunch - Double Beef Pepper Rice 04

A closer look at the pepper rice halfway through my mixing.

 

Pepper Lunch - Mixed Pepper Rice 00

My mixed pepper rice. Look at those plump, full grains of the Japanese rice! Yummy!

 

Pepper Lunch - Double Beef Pepper Rice 05

I'm done mixing my Double Beef Pepper Rice! Look at those pretty orange chopsticks. Remember, they are NOT meant to be taken home with you!

I replaced the spoon and fork with Pepper Lunch’s orange chopsticks and ate away.  The beef was really tender and was the perfect doneness.  It was not yet the “steak cut” yet I didn’t have to struggle – even for a bit – with the meat.  The rice was another story altogether.  It was so flavorful!  The butter and the sauce did a great job in complementing the “fragrant” pungency of the pepper.  Even if it posed quite a challenge, I stuck to using the chopsticks as I intended to leisurely savor my first experience.  With each digging – almost shoveling – action, I’d get as much rice that I could pile up in a heap.  Halfway through, the fact that I hadn’t yet used any of the condiments available tome – save for some more of the peppercorn outer shells – was testament to the right balance of seasoning that had gone to my plate.  But since I eventually wanted an as-complete first time as I could, I eventually doused the beef with the “honey brown” sauce and found it to provide the beef a coy sweetness that left my tongue teased and wanting for more with each bite.

Pepper Lunch - Pepper Lunch Sizzling Plate 01

Wiped clean! That's my sizzling plate where a Double Beef Pepper Rice once was!

 

Pepper Lunch - Pepper Lunch Sizzling Plate 00

Like a burried treasure, the Pepper Lunch logo lies beneath, at the bottom of the plate. Now that's one sure way to tell you're eating only at the place that knows their steak!

After I had literally wiped my plate clean, I had to pause and ruminate on the filling meal that I just had.  Without a doubt, Pepper Lunch is all about the freshest and the best ingredients.  I’m not privy to the details of where they get their meat and their rice but one thing’s for sure – they are not about to compromise on the quality of the food that they offer to their adoring public.  In times like this, when all people could think about is the “recession,” it would be expected for some restaurants to cut back on cost at the expense of the quality of their food – and ultimately, at the expense of their customers’ satisfaction.  But not Pepper Lunch.

And speaking of what they offer, I gave the menu a glance back – this time a wide-sweeping view in cinematic slow motion – and just found myself salivating over the images of the Tokusen Rib Eye Steak (Php 625.00 a la carte) and the Shimofuri Pepper Steak (Php 610.00 a la carte).  I made a mental note to come back and try these.  I’d be more confident on what to do with them as my initial foray into the world of the sizzling pepper rice – meaning, how to “cook” them table top – was considerably a success.  Another mental note I took down was to try some of their desserts.  The Vanilla Crepe Cake and the Molten Milk Chocolate Cake just sound so divine to ignore a second time around.

Pepper Lunch - Interiors

Pepper Lunch - Alabang Town Center's cozy interiors. I love the lamps!

 

Pepper Lunch - Kitchen

From the counter - a view of the very clean kitchen.

I texted Friendship to let her know about how my first Pepper Lunch experience turned out.  “Thank you” was in order since she was the first ever person to tell me about this.

And I just had to text the Justice League and Spidey that I’d be glad to buy them “steak dinner” at Pepper Lunch should all our schedules permit it.

If only all “first times” could be this good that you’d want to tell everybody about it.  HAHAHA!

Pepper Lunch - Pepper Lunch Facade 01

Congratulations to Pepper Lunch - Alabang Town Center!

 

Pepper Lunch - eNTeNG's Order 00

My order!

 

Pepper Lunch - eNTeNG's Order 01

Do not touch the plate as it is very hot!

 

Pepper Lunch - eNTeNG's Order 03 Directions

Hurry!! Mix them up! - Actually, Pepper Lunch had me at "butter" and "sauce". Hahaha!

 

Alabang Town Center - Corte de las Palmas 00

Corte de las Palmas

 

Alabang Town Center - Corte de las Palmas 01

A lot seems to have changed at Alabang Town Center from my last visit. I found Corte de las Palmas to have this illusion of a greater expanse! Good thing Pepper Lunch brought me back!





For those about to sizzle!

24 07 2009

THIS IS as much a shoutout as it is an homage to Friendship who has been egging me on to try Pepper Lunch from when it first opened in Rockwell in mid-2008.

Pepper Lunch has finally sizzled its way to Alabang Town Center!

From style maverick and icon herself, Chuvaness, Pepper Lunch has finally opened last night.  It is at Corte de las Palmas, 2nd level, Alabang Town Center (between Cibo and Recipes).

I THINK IT IS HIGH TIME THAT I GATHER THE JUSTICE LEAGUE – AND SPIDER-MAN – AND BRING THEM ALL THERE!





A jolly bee and Spidey

24 07 2009

TWO BIRTHDAY boys deserve a break.  And since our breathlessness in anticipation over the supposed opening of Pepper Lunch at Alabang Town Center went kaput yesterday, off we went to our trusty neighborhood Chinese restaurant – King Bee.  While waiting for the food to arrive, I played with the desk top ad and noticed that this Mandarin hat-wearing bee happens to be a jolly one.  Dinner with a jolly bee, and Spider-man – definitely not a bad idea at all.

Funny that for someone craving for great steak dinner with lots of plump rice, we decided to totally do away with our requisite Yang Chow Fried Rice.

King Bee - Hot & Sour Soup 00

Hot & Sour Soup... in the smallest bowl!

We started with the Hot & Sour Soup, the smallest bowl size, which was still quite a lot.  The store manager who took our order repeated a couple of times that we might want to consider individual servings instead, as the smallest was – as I have said – still quite a lot.  Spider-man, squinting his eyes, managed a chuckle as he knows just how much I adore this soup that he would almost need to wrestle his way to get himself a cup.  Hahaha!  After sending dagger looks towards the store manager’s way, as if saying “I know what I’m asking for,” I was appeased to see that she finally took the order down.  She was extra attentive to my special instruction “no bell peppers please,” especially since a single julienned strip of bell pepper in the soup would have made me send it back!

King Bee - Hot & Sour Soup 01

Ladled to my own cup – my favorite Hot & Sour Soup!

Having placed the soup order, I went back to perusing the extensive menu, something that to me was actually an exercise in futility.  Absent-mindedly, I was thumbing thru its pages, but with full cognizance of what Spider-man and I would want for full dimsum-only dinner.  Of course, we asked for Hacao (steamed fresh prawn dumplings).  While deliberating the pros and cons of Kutchay Dumpling – which we later decided against ordering – Spider-man asked for Asado Siopao (steamed buns with Chinese pork barbecue filling).

King Bee - Hacao 00

The best Hacao

 

King Bee - Asado Siopao 00

Spider-man suddenly wanted the Asado Siopao!

To round everything up, we asked for the Sea King Roll.  The very very hot house tea was quite good already that we didn’t feel the need to wash everything down with something else.  Besides, the wait staff were so kind to provide us with complimentary sugar syrup to fix the drink to our liking.

King Bee - Sea King Roll 00

Sea King Roll – the most royal of them all

Apart from the soup that has always been consistently satisfying, the stars of our dimsum spread were the Hacao and the Sea King Roll.  King Bee’s Hacao remains unparalleled as far as I’m concerned.  Each dumpling has just one thin layer of dough that enrobes inside it really fresh, plump, and naturally sweet prawns – always two in every dumpling!  Each actually appears so full that I would fear the pinched end that holds everything in place would just burst.

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This Hacao is sitting prettily on my plate – only to be devoured minutes after I took this shot.

 

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A Hacao cut open reveals fresh, plump, really juicy prawns.

The Sea King Roll deserves such a royal name.  And it’s really a work of (edible) art too.  It’s undoubtedly Chinese, but something about the “obi belt” thing going on with the napa cabbage tying everything together – a crab stick, a thick fillet of white fish, a jumbo prawn, and a brocolli floret – just looks Japanese to me.  But the very moment I’d sink my teeth into one, there is no denying the deep-rooted origins this roll has to all its Chinese kin.  As noted by my Spidey dinner buddy, the Sea King Roll is just literally bursting with the natural juices of each seafood component that the resulting melange of a broth is just too good to put to waste.  We just have to take sips of it!

King Bee - Sea King Roll 04

Each Sea King Rolls boasts a huge crab stick, a thick fillet of white fish, a jumbo prawn, and a brocolli floret.

Spider-man and I enjoyed this light but really filling dinner.  We even asked for one more each of the hacao and the sea king roll.  The latter was packed to-go for his midnight snack while he watches Chuck.  But more importantly than the fantastic food, we had the chance to really catch up with each other’s goings on.  Till the next time best friend!

King Bee - Spider-man

Spidey!

 

King Bee - The Bee

...and the jolly bee!





For Spider-man – Salad of mixed delicate greens topped with pan-grilled black tiger prawns in an oriental dressing

23 07 2009

IT ALL started with the honey calamansi vinaigrette that best friend Spider-man tasted on a trip North.  When he came back to work the following Monday, he couldn’t stop gushing about that salad that he had.  “eNTeNG, have you ever had honey calamansi vinaigrette on your salad?  Sarap!”  Honestly, I’ve never had.  But of course I was all ears to all he was saying because the talk was about food.

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Black tiger prawns to be pan-grilled for Spider-man's salad!

And since it is still his birth month, I promised to make him a salad dressed with that same honey calamansi dressing he so loved at that first taste.  And I’m keeping that promise – almost, but not quite.  You see, simple as the dressing may sound – all you need are just freshly squeezed calamansi juice, extra virgin olive oil, pure honey, salt and pepper – I was still opting to just use the Dizon Farms version available at all leading supermarkets.  Unfortunately, I haven’t chanced upon one on any of the shelves I had ravaged these past days.  It’s quite ironic that about a month ago, I had held a bottle of it in my own hands and transfixed it with a long, emotionless stare; while inside my head, a debate was ensuing, especially since I wasn’t particularly keen on the merits of calamansi in a fancy sounding vinaigrette – in a commercially bottled one at that!

But quite surprisingly, I didn’t even opt to whisk my own honey calamansi from scratch!  I opted for the next best thing – Dizon FarmsOriental Dressing.  ConvenienceConvenience.  Besides, putting all the components of the salad will take care of the labor of love part.

I love to “name” my salads so loftily – fanciful even – and so lengthily!  For this one, I’m calling it Spider-man’s Salad of Mixed Delicate Greens, topped with Pan-Grilled Black Tiger Prawns in an Oriental Dressing!

Salad for Spider-man 01

Dizon Farms' Lollo Rosa (from the Asian Salad Kit) and Dole's Hearts of Romaine go to this salad.

For the mixed delicate greens, I’m using Lollo Rosaboth the green and purplish leaves – and Hearts of Romaine.  Those were the only ones available last night.  Usually, I’d always put arugula and iceberg lettuce.  I prefer salad greens from Dizon Farms, Basic Necessity’s SaladTime, Dole and Sunsweet (whenever I long for the buttery taste of their hydroponically grown hearts of romaine).  Apart from the highest quality these brands are known for, I love it that their greens are already completely washed – some with mineral water, and some three times even!

For the black tiger prawns, I always make sure to start with the freshest catch.  I buy them only when I’m going to use them.  Never frozen!  I clean them well, remove the heads and carefully devein each.  I season one side with just a kiss of salt and pepper, and put that side down on a well-heated heavy bottom skillet.  That’s when I season the other side.  Once the prawns start to curl up, I flip them.  One more minute and they’re done.  I leave them on the pan to “carry-over” cook, and to cool before packing.  Whenever I have them on hand, I squeeze orange juice on the prawns as they sizzle away on the pan.  I hit both sides with a generous douse of the orange juice.  By the way, as much as possible, I only wipe my pan with pure canola oil ever so lightly.  Just a very thin film to cover the bottom.

Salad for Spider-man 03

A few minutes and the prawns are done!

As I had to bring this salad to work today for Spider-man, I packed the greens separate from the prawns and the dressing.  To keep the greens cold on the ride to work, I pack its container with the ice replacement gel packs that I would save from my Royce’ Nama Chocolates!  I first put the (recycled) ice packs in a Ziploc bag before I put it on top of the container of the greens.

I guess Spider-man would be a happy camper with this salad.  He’s actually saving this for his dinner tonight.  And no matter where he decides to enjoy this filling salad, he need not worry about cutlery.  I threw in an Oneida® Silversmiths fork in the bag.

Salad for Spider-man 02

Another shot of the salad greens before they're packed!





Happy birthday, Rizzie!

23 07 2009

FAITH IS the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.  I’ve always believed that.  It is hard enough as it is to have faith on one’s self.  So to expect it to come from other people, I guess that could be quite a stretch of the imagination.  But fortunately in life – in this life – I have had the opportunity to surround myself with people who can help nurture the best things that I like about myself.  Two of them have actually believed in my talents and capabilities that sometimes, I have felt their grasp of believing on things not seen has been bordering on the palpable.  One of them is celebrating her birthday today – Marie Therese Monique Rizzie Cruz Ocampo Lontoc.

Rizzie - Birthday 01

That's me with Rizzie!

Rizzie and I don’t really go from way back.  It is only here at work that we met, where she is one of our Senior Finance Analysts.  And me being “me” (hahaha!), I’ve never really expected to click with most people (All my few friends can have a field day to fill in the rest).  And the circumstances around that first meeting where I first saw her weren’t exactly bright and bubbly – I was actually hitting my boling point.  But I couldn’t help but notice just how calm, composed and objective Rizzie was running the discussion.  I had to stop and realize that I was in the presence of someone from whom I can learn how to keep my cool and exercise my influence better.  Suffice it to say, she charmed the pants off me (pun not intended!).  Before I knew it, I had pledged to her and her task force my unwavering support.

But more importantly, I genuinely and sincerely felt that I wanted to be her good friend.  And she let me!  Soon enough, we’ve started sharing small talk – and big laughs!  And it was through her that I came to meet another great person – Bom – who she later married in what for me still stands as one of the most heartfelt, grandest weddings I’ve ever been to.  And by “grandest” I mean something that really reflected their values, their sense of style, and the real meaning of them being “one.”

Happy birthday, Rizzie.  Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your life.  You have to know that you have one of the very few smiles that can really brighten another person’s day.  And on this day, I hope I could return the favor by brightening yours.  Take care my friend!

eNTeNG Rizzie Bom

At Rizzie & Bom's wedding, 10 January 2009