Perched on top - Figaro Coffee Company.
ONLY ONE word best describes most of my Saturdays – lazy! I stay in bed well beyond 12:00NN. My family just lets me be because I guess they realize that this is the only day I could really recharge from all the energy loss I sustain on the other five days of the week. On the downside, because of this ‘staying-in-bed-well-beyond-lunch-time-on-Saturdays’, I had failed to make it to Greenbelt lunches with Friendship, especially a while back when she was taking up French language classes (wow!). I also couldn’t really commit to showing up for anything that has a call time suffixed with the time stamp adverb ‘ante meridiem.’ So, everytime I had to meet up with Batman at The Podium, I would negotiate for a friendlier noon-to-evening time slot. Those and the fact that with my oversleeping, I wouldn’t be able to name any of the gyrating scantily clad dancers on the noontime show ‘Wowowee.’
But today was different. Right around 10:00A.M., I had to drag myself out of bed – picture pulling one’s self against so much resistance – to pick up a persistent call on my personal mobile phone. It was my youngest brother. Familial duties required me to meet him up at his office in the Greenbelt area in Makati City.
But halfway thru the trip from way down south of the city, he called me up for a change in plans and asked me to go to somewhere in Sucat – ‘La Posada’. Oh, that commercial complex with the impressive castle-like façade with glass-walled establishments offering an unobstructed view of the high-end residential development behind it. I hadn’t been there so I was kinda excited in spite of the traffic situation at the Sucat interchange that had turned the place to a huge parking lot that could put EDSA (Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue) to shame.
So, after what seemed like a tense moment pulled from right out of the ‘Amazing Race’ – the original, not the ‘Asia’ clone – we made it to ‘La Posada.’ Standing there on the sloping driveway, I instantly developed a better appreciation of the place now that I had set foot on it. So much better than when I would just pass by it while traversing through SLEX (South Luzon EXpressway). Truth be told, I had never thought about paying a visit to this place because the establishments there are well-represented in the malls. So I thought, ‘nothing special’ – save for, again (this time with drum rolls please), the ‘castle-like’ façade. But this Saturday I needed to be there, I’m quite glad I did! And I’m not about to rave about all the takeout food we got from ‘Dencio’s.’
The one place I felt ‘with-a-hint-of-nostalgia’ excited about was ‘Figaro Coffee Company.’ Hence, the post’s cover photo above (taken with my Nokia XpressMusic 5310). And while in a previous post I had declared that the Bunny Huggers Carrot Cake Cupcake from ‘Cupcakes By Sonja’ has trumped the carrot cake I have been getting from Figaro all these years, the latter still occupies a special place in my heart (awwww). So, I flung the store’s door open, and with a playfulness in my steps, approached the well-lit counter, ready to aim my finger at my ‘other’ favorite carrot cake. Much to my temporal disappointment (were you expecting me to say chagrin?!), they’d run out that day, way early in the day. ‘Not all is lost,’ I said to myself as I asked for their Figaro House Blend Iced Tea (Php 95.00, 16oz.) – arguably the best house blend iced tea there is. Quite unfortunately, they had run out of it too, as the previous night’s carousing Christmas party people had drained their supply dry. I don’t know if this situation would now benefit a ‘much-to-my-chagrin’ sigh.
Figaro always has a good display. La Posada's is no exception. Just gotta snap this shot!
For the second time, after heaving a sigh, I turned the situation into a ‘not-all-is-lost’ moment. I started off by asking for the Pudding with Vanilla Sauce (Php59.00) – warmed up in the microwave for a few seconds with vanilla sauce served on the side. I like it that way because when I first ordered this in their Tagaytay City branch, I didn’t know that it would be served doused with the vanilla sauce. I love this pudding because it is nothing short of genuine comfort. It ranks way up there, together with the pudding that my mother taught me to make, and the pudding I learned from TV and made to rousing reception – Oprah’s personal chef Art Smith’s ‘Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding with Orange Butterscotch Sauce.’ I had my Figaro pudding wrapped to-go. But even when in the car already much later, the moment I broke it in half, it was still warm, letting out a steam of faint vanilla. It was moist, with soft, fluffy specks of chunks of bread. It was a small rectangle but it was substantial. As I proceeded with savoring it, I’d dip every bite in the luscious vanilla sauce. I would just stain each piece and not bathe them with the sauce as anything beyond a stain was overwhelmingly sweet for me. I finished it with my eyes closed, feeling a warmth that went beyond a fulfilled tummy, to a heart hugged with a warm, loving embrace. The remaining vanilla sauce was just too divine to throw away. So what I did was finish it off with my fingers! I let its perfect creamy consistency stick to my fingers, tease me for a while, until I licked it off. It was so damn good. I felt like a kid!
Figaro Coffee Company's Pudding with Vanilla Sauce. One of the best pudding's ever!
Ready to be warmed up - my to-go pudding with vanilla sauce (served on the side).
My Figaro trip didn’t end with the pudding though.
With my own Figaro Frost (Mocha, Php 125.00) in tow as I was about to leave the store, I noticed all the beautifully tempting muffins on display. I felt my heart would sink if I was not to try out even just one of each. Looking at all the food I had hauled from the next-door ‘Dencio’s,’ I just thought that perhaps, I would have the will power to reserve stomach space for dessert – for a change! If there was one store display that runs away with a visuals award, it would be Cupcakes By Sonja. But standing in front of Figaro’s at the moment, I conceded that there was another one, though maybe on a different level. For one, the muffins I was looking at had bare tops, none of the delicious, colorful frostings whatsoever. Not that muffins need any frosting. It was jus that the items on display weren’t embellished. That’s my point. Which actually brings me to another point. How different is a muffin from a cupcake? I’m more of a cook than a baker so my attempt to answer this will be purely based on what I think, guided by personal observation and a little past reading.
One of my best friends was actually the first one to ask me that. I was telling him about the blueberry muffins being made on a show I was watching, and how I was getting so hungry just at the sight of the dry and wet ingredients being dumped together into a mixing bowl. He retorted with a question asking how different a muffin is from a cupcake, if they are different at all. He posted the question while sharing his memories as a kid growing up and watching his older sister whip up muffins in the kitchen, telling me that one thing he remembered (aside of course from his sister’s muffins being so good!) was how oily they were. Hmmm.. I didn’t expect a question to come out from my sharing of gluttonous thoughts over blueberry muffins. But the foodie in me, offered a response. You see, a muffin is a bread while a cupcake is a cake. A muffin is actually a type of sweet quick bread baked in a muffin tin pan or baking pan with ‘cups.’ And yes, they are usually oily. There are the healthier oils anyway – think canola. A cupcake, on the other hand, is actually cake baked in a muffin tin pan. So there you go!
Cheese Muffin! The first one I sank my teeth into... much to my happiness!
Chocolate Muffin. Don't the chocolate chips just say: "Bite me!"
Going back to the beckoning muffins on display, I have to tell you that I was so helpless, I ended up asking for one of each – Blueberry (Php 55.00), Cheese (Php 55.00), and Chocolate (Php 55.00). For some reason, I clutched tightly my bag of Figaro goodies the whole drive back home. Maybe it was because it was only then that I got to go back to one of my all-time favorite places and I couldn’t wait to get home and pleasurably ravage my buys with unbridled passion.
After cleaning up a pile of Grilled Squid; Beef Kare-Kare (Beef Stewed in Peanut Sauce with Fresh Vegetables and Fermented Shrimp Paste on the side); Asparagus Sauteed in Garlic; and Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and Onion Salad on my favorite Corelle plate in the ‘Provincial Blue‘ motif; accompanied by a hot bowl of Sinigang na Hipon (Shrimps in Tamarind Broth with Fresh Vegetables); I stared at my trio of muffins and decided to start with the cheese. From the sound of what I had for a very late lunch, an overripe banana sounded more appropriate. But hey, I’ve got to have my muffins, this time, already sitting on my ‘Salty Dog‘ plate from the ‘Bar Lingo‘ series of the Pottery Barn! Normally, I would pop a pastry – doughnut or muffin – in to the microwave oven on high, and wait 8 seconds before I savor it. I got this BKM (‘best known method’) from the side of a Krispy Kreme doughnut box, the very first one I got from their downtown store in Sacramento, California, near where the Sunrise Mall is. But I was a bit tired and ‘8 seconds’ felt like a long wait so I passed up on the microwave reheating step and peeled off one side of the muffin paper liner and tore off a piece. The excitement of the first bite (what’s with me and all the ‘bite’ reference – could it be ‘Twilight?’ Hahaha!).
Blueberry Muffin, beautifully sitting on my 'Salty Dog' plate from the 'Bar Lingo' series of the 'Pottery Barn.'
Cheese Muffin... seconds before being devoured!
Chocolate Muffin. Yum yum!
The muffin top had a sheen to it – almost like beautifully aged wood sealed by a primer. That analogy was meant to whet your appetite! Hahaha! I meant, the muffin tops looked so good I felt they rendered the pastries a finish that can be likened more to display items meant to entice buyers, not really something to pop into your mouth. From the first bite, I got the cheese right away – both in flavor and in texture – as cheese bits were so generously mixed into the batter. From the top to the bottom, almost piercing through the paper liner, there were cheese bits. The actual muffin was dense, and had consistent flavor, almost like that of a pancake batter’s, but in a better way. It also had a very consistent crumb, and didn’t leave any bitter aftertaste in the mouth. So off the bat, I know they didn’t excessively leaven my muffin. I surprised myself because I finished the huge cheese muffin in one sitting! And before I put the rest in the fridge for, probably, a good midnight snack, I shamelessly cleaned off the top of the chocolate muffin. Sorry, I couldn’t help it. The chocolate chips that dotted the muffins were irrisistable. The muffin was ‘bittersweet’, ‘semisweet’ at best. So I liked it too.
A trio of delectable treats! Three lovely muffins. Blueberry! Cheese! Chocolate!
It was only this time that I tried Figaro’s muffins, getting them there, from their La Posada branch. I will be chalking them up my board as the new things I love about this coffee company. Up to now, I have a vivid recollection of what food item I sort of (first) discovered and loved at Figaro and where – their house blend iced tea at their The Podium branch; pudding with vanilla sauce and mocha frost at their Tagaytay City branch; Pasta a la Carlo (Php 199.00) at their Alabang Town Center branch; and of course, their miniature, individual carrot cake with cream cheese frosting at their Glorietta branch (right across Cibo).
It also helps when people associated with a brand or store, have innate style. I’m no authority on this. But when I saw the accompanying picture on a magazine feature on the lovely lady who owns the Figaro branches at The Powerplant Mall and the Joya Residential Towers, I loved the (Figaro) brand all the more. She was put up rather simply, but the bold Panerai Luminor on her wrist spoke volumes about her taste and success. I love wristwatches too (check out the tagline of this blog). I can’t help it.