eNTeNG’s The Best Of… Breakfast (‘An Introduction’ and 1st in a Series)

10 12 2008

A week after my birthday in 2000, I wrote an essay I entitled, ‘Over Coffee.’  And yes, I unashamedly forced it down my friends’ throats.  I sent them copies and ended up short of quizzing them about its contents – just so I knew they did read it!

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The best of breakfast at Leisure Coast Resort... was very affordable. Only Php 600+ for full breakfasts for four very hungry people.

In that work, I recognized that most of the good years and the good times of my life and my friendships had been punctuated by coffee.  And now I have to say, by food too.  And as I have said, I’ve been toying around with the idea of sharing my own ‘eNTeNG’s The Best Of…’ a.k.a. ‘eNTeNG’s Favorite Things(?)…’.  From the moment the thought of doing this ran through and ricocheted in my mind, it had been so persistent – an itch that had been dying to be scratched.

 

Whatever will make it under this ‘The Best Of…’ header, is purely eNTeNG’s opinionated voice speaking.  Without a doubt, all the ‘best’ items here were judged by no other than me, myself, and I.  So I won’t be too hard on any reader who would end up violently reacting.

 

Quite fittingly, my first selection is for the best of breakfast.

 

And in this world of fastfood chains that had sprouted everywhere, I surprised even myself with my selection that found me going all the way up north to Dagupan City in the province of Pangasinan!  It was a plate of hot garlic fried white rice; sidings of sliced cucumbers and tomatoes; a cute mound of “atsara” (pickled shredded unripe papaya, with carrots and shallots); and, the shining star that had got to be the crispiest, tastiest, most flawlessly executed deep-fried vinegar-marinated milkfish that I’ve ever come across!  I found this unassumingly simple platter at the eight-year-old Sabina Restaurant of the Leisure Coast Resort.  And my finding it was quite serendipitous.  I was in that beauteous resort, with friends, to attend the wedding and emcee the reception of two of my best friends – James (Spider-man!) and Juvy.

 

I had the milkfish for two consecutive mornings there and up to today, nothing has come close to it.  All I can do is look back to how perfect it was.  The flavor was awesome, as I got right away how the salt, black pepper and white vinegar blended harmoniously, infusing every shred of the fish meat with undeniable flavor that complemented well the resulting fried-to-golden-brown-perfection texture.  I loved the crunch that came resounding with every bite as if what I was having were crispy chitlings.  The first that would hit me was the subdued acidity from the vinegar, made more defined by the salt and rounded by the pungency of the black pepper.  Because of all these, hard as it was for us, we couldn’t leave any piece – not even a small one – for any cat to enjoy.  And I love cats.  Alex (one of our engineers) actually finished everything from the head to the tail.  No sign of the tasty fish dish was left on the plates.





Figaro Coffee Company – rediscovering a long-lost love at La Posada

7 12 2008
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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 PosadaOh, 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.

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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!

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Figaro Coffee Company's Pudding with Vanilla Sauce. One of the best pudding's ever!

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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!

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Blueberry Muffin

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Cheese Muffin! The first one I sank my teeth into... much to my happiness!

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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!).

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Blueberry Muffin, beautifully sitting on my 'Salty Dog' plate from the 'Bar Lingo' series of the 'Pottery Barn.'

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Cheese Muffin... seconds before being devoured!

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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.

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A trio of delectable treats! Three lovely muffins. Blueberry! Cheese! Chocolate!

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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.





The sign said ‘Tagaytay Highlands’ – portent of things to come (a.k.a. ‘Up in the Highlands with a steak so good!’)

4 12 2008

Breathless in anticipation of yet another lunch date tomorrow at Tagaytay Highlands, I am writing this down – a tribute to one of the most unforgettable feasts I have ever had in my life.

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It all started with little to no expectation, especially since the date of the lunch fell on my most toxic day at work, Thursdays.  I was actually already begging off but good manners prevailed and I honored my RSVP (that I had given a couple of months before!).  Besides, it was in celebration of one of my dear friends’ birthday.  Gotta be thankful she was born to this world!!!

 

With the persona of a brooding melancholy young man, I joined the lunch invitation with a bit of hesitation.  But the moment the gentle breeze caressed my face as I alighted from the car, I knew I made the wise choice to show up.  The nobody that I am – a perennial hanger-on – I made sure I kept an arm’s length’s distance to my gracious hostess as we walked to the steakhouse, lest the security personnel of this gated resthouse community remove me from the premises.

 

So there we were, right at the steps of The Highlander Steakhouse.  As some of my friends were uttering praises about ‘the steak’ with unrestrained enthusiasm, I knew it was just proper for me to bow my head in front of the sign, as if saying a prayer of thanks in advance.  The main restaurant was full-packed with gentlemen and ladies ‘who golf and lunch,’ and I soon realized that we had a set-up waiting for us, by the verandah, overlooking the rolling ‘cliffside.’

The moment the plated salads were served by the cheerful wait staff, I knew that I was in for a very welcome respite from the daily grind of my life as an engineer.  The salad was beautiful – whole leaves of bright green not-so-bitter hearts of romaine lettuce; thin slices of cool cucumber; lovely and peppery baby arugula (my fave!); plump and juicy corn kernels; crowned by a pile of carrot strings!  We had a selection of dressings – the classic thousand island, caesar, and italian.  This is where I had one of just two ‘kinda low’ points in this lunch.  I was raving about the vegetables – they seemed like they were just plucked from the backyard – but the dressings could be improved.  The thousand island, I could make it in my sleep.  The italian, I found it a bit tangier than I’m used to.  The caesar?  It was a far cry from what I know as really good caesar salad dressing.  I couldn’t sense the anchovies, and the garlic was really faint.  The consistency was a bit disappointing too.  But know what?  The freshness of the vegetables more than made up for the shortcomings of the dressing selections.  If my mother was there and if I were still a kid, she would reprimand me for playing with my food as I was picking out all the arugula with my (clean!) hands, setting them aside, and ceremoniously muching one leaf after another.

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Only the freshest vegetables make it to a 'The Highlanders' Steakhouse' salad.

Then came the Steakhouse Clam Chowder (Php 90.00).  It was just alright for me, nothing special.  It had the requisites of a soup, a chowder in this case – really warm, chunky, with clam but not ‘fishy’… clean-tasting even.  I relished the creamy soup while grabbing bites of the house bread.

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The Steakhouse Clam Chowder

 I suddenly became impatient, waiting for the staff to clean up my soup course, upon the sight of the next two dishes they were parading from the kitchen – Henry’s Barbecue Baby Back Ribs (Php 780.00) and Roast Cornish Game Hen (Php 680.00).  A check of their menu description didn’t help at all to stop me from salivating over these pieces, no, slabs of meat.  The ribs were “tender barbecue bourbon-flavored imported baby back ribs” and were of fall-off-the-bone-then-melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.  The marination or basting was just right.  It didn’t drown the meat.  I could actually taste the meat and I loved it.  And lest you forget, that’s coming from an herbivore!

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Now that's what I call ribs!

The roast cornish game hens were cooked with rosemary, caramelized shallots and bacon.  And lying on the big serving platters, they looked like the ‘high society’ kin of the lowly (but always fulfills!) “litson manok” (roasted chicken) street fare. Our gracious hostess issued marching orders to the others at the table to pile my plate with slice upon slice of the ribs and the chicken.  I could only manage a sweet smirk because there was no pretending to the hostess, who unabashedly shared to the big group the tale of how we first met and when she first realized I could be one of the “special” people she would keep as friend.  We first met each other over a Pampanga ‘foodtrip’ dinner and she still let out guffaws everytime she would recall how surprised she was learning that I had already downed six cups of steamed rice, when everybody else was just practically starting!  Bwahahaha!

 

Up to this point, I was already satisfied, and I thought everything I had had prepared me enough for the ultimate course.  But boy was I in for a huge surprise!  The moment the steak landed on our table, I needed a 6th, even a 7th sense just to be able to take in the experience.  My olfactory nerve went on overdrive as I savored the smell of the restaurant’s signature dish.  My text message to ‘my public’ kinda summed up the experience: “The 20-oz. dry-aged certified U.S. Angus Beef Rib Eye Steak, served with Peter Luger Steak Sauce at Tagaytay Highlands’ ‘The Highlander Steakhouse’ is really to-die-for that I could die!  Even when well-done it was still oh-so-tender and succulent, oozing with its ‘jus’!  It’s the best steak – and I’ve been to a lot of restos so I guess I know somehow.  Anybody who loves steak should have it!”

Purists wouldn’t want anything to meddle with the flavor of their steak, and would shun any marinade that would mask the meat’s taste.  Sometimes, they’d end up feeling wanting, as the resulting piece of meat would be bland.  But Highlanders’ was really a cut (pun intended) above all the rest.  My steak was well-done but all my fork pierced were tender slices, oozing with the most flavorful jus that could only come from the highest quality meat to start with.

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The star – 20-oz. dry-aged certified U.S. Angus Beef Rib Eye Steak! See the 'jus'!

And I have to make special mention of the Peter Luger Steak Sauce.  At Php 800.00 a bottle, it was well worth it!  I spent time going thru its label with a goal to reproduce the same sauce from scratch, at home.

I left Tagaytay Highlands with my mind imprinted with the details of one of the best lunches I have ever had.  I’ve never tried the steakhouse’s branch at the Mall Of Asia.  But I’m so damn glad I got to dine first at the original.  You should too!

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This is the best steak sauce ever!





Gotta go back to ‘Myron’s Place’!

26 11 2008

Myron’s Place

Greenbelt 5, Legaspi Street,

Legaspi Village,

Makati City, Metro Manila

Tel. No. (632) 757-8898

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Bianca's Cut - A slice of heaven, only at Myron's Place in Greenbelt 5

One line in the Oscar-award-nominated movie Catch Me If You Can stressed upon me the value some people attach to going on ‘steak dinners.’  Cashing a check, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Frank Abagnale, Jr. charmed the pants off the bank teller, and invited her to a steak dinner.  I guess they made it to dinner because the next sequence was somewhere else more intimate.  Hehe.  But I digress.

So why does having steak conjure up notions of (perceived) grandeur?  I guess it’s because the more tender the cut is, the more premium we pay on the price.  Though I don’t have the budget for it, I can appreciate a good steak.  Besides, I’m more of an herbivore than a carnivore.

But for some reason, the rather unassuming signage ‘Myron’s Place‘ on one of the ‘stores’ on the ground level of Greenbelt 5 has had a beckoning appeal to me.  I mean, everytime I walk in to Greenbelt 5 by way of Greenbelt 4  to go to ‘Adora‘ (just window-shop! hahaha!), or go to ‘John and Yoko‘, ‘Banana Republic‘, ‘Classic Confections‘ or ‘Kenneth Cole‘, I can’t help but notice in my peripheral view, the glistening letters that spell M-Y-R-O-N-‘s P-L-A-C-E.  So when the time came to finally swing its doors open and peruse its menu, I was so glad I finally did.  Before I move forward, it needs no mentioning that yes, I braved this place, much to the prodding of Friendship, Cecille.

As I write this down to share with you, I’ve been to Myron’s Place a couple of times already.  And before I get ahead of myself..  Oh well, what the heck!  I’ll get ahead of myself and tell you that you too need to check it out!  And that is coming from an herbivore!

I usually start off with the ‘Mushroom Cappuccino (Php 135.00)‘.  To this day, it is for me the best ever mushroom soup I’ve tasted!  It has the color and frothy finish of an actual coffee cappuccino.  Only the perfectly toasted garlic-butter baguette that rests on the rim of the bowl gives away the fact that it could very well be the best concoction of wild mushrooms, onions(?) and cream that you will ever put in your mouth!  It was so damn good.  Any skepticism I had about the promise of this well-appointed restaurant (sometimes some restaurants hope to get away with good looks!), vanished with the first spoonful I had!  This mushroom cappuccino boasts of the robust flavor of the freshest wild mushrooms  I’m thinking creminis, white and brown button mushrooms, portobella  crowned perfectly with the comforting richness and goodness of real cream.  Sinful but worth every calorie!

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Mushroom Cappuccino - It doesn't get any better than this!

Before I even finish my mushroom cappuccino, I always make sure that they serve their ‘Baked Oysters Rockefeller (Php 330.00)‘ well within my first few spoonfuls of the soup.  Their version of this New Orleans original dish is six big, fresh, succulent, oysters drenched in garlic butter, lined with spinach, and generously topped with cheese and bacon bits, then baked to perfection.  The six oysters on the half-shell sit prettily on a bed of coarse sea salt, on a pristine white platter.  They were too pretty to devour, and too intimidating that I thought I could only manage to eat one.  But I later ended up apologizing profusely to my friends as nothing less than three could satiate me.  I’m no expert on Baked Oysters Rockefeller, especially since all I know about oysters is shucking them, drizzling them with fresh “calamansi” and slurping them right out of the shell.  But what Myron’s Place does to them.. wow.

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Six pretty oysters, all in a circle!

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These three were all mine! Simply irrisistible.

After getting warmed up by the soup and the bivalves, I would be ready for the star of any sumptuous Myron’s Place dinner   the steak!  I always ask for the entry level steak  the ‘Bianca (Php 800.00)‘  which I think is about 5 ounces(?).  I love the sauteed vegetables that come with them, along with the rice I prefer over mashed potatoes or french fries.  I love it that Myron’s Place respects the rice lovers in us.  Though my friends would try their very best to hold their judgment (and frowns!) over my poor choice for a side dish, I have kept asking for rice to come with my steak.

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Lots of freshly ground black pepper on my steak please!

The steak comes with a choice of three sauces.  I don’t know if they just give you what you ask for but the couple of times I’ve been there, they have served me all the three wonderfully amazing sauce selections Shiraz Cabernet-Shallot Jus (the red wine reduction)‘, ‘Brandy Pepper (the pepper sauce)‘ or ‘Mushroom Sauce‘.  I personally adore the red wine reduction sauce!  And before I forget, I always ask for the kind waiter to please ‘crust’ my steak with a good dusting of freshly, coarsely cracked black pepper.  It is almost like asking them to make my medium-rare (the way I love it!) piece of meat, ‘au poivre‘.

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The three perfect sauces - red wine reduction, pepper, or mushroom.

The steak truly is one of the best I’ve ever had.  It’s got a nice grilled crust, while remaining pink in the center.  Juicy and tender.  With the flavor of the beef, really pronounced, and not disguised by any other heavy marination or basting.

For dessert, we decided on their ‘Panna Cotta (Php 145.00)‘ (literally translated as ‘cooked cream’ in Italian).  It was delicate, with a subtle sweetness.  I savored it, slowly, bit by bit.. as it proved to be the perfect dessert to cap such an extremely pleasing dinner.

Myron’s Place has a really wide menu.  But these four for me are my must-haves every visit.  As for my friends, they’ve had the ‘Foie Gras Burger‘, the ‘Franco (the next cut after the Bianca)‘ and all the other offerings like the ‘Cream of Pumpkin Soup‘, and the ‘Barley Soup‘.  I realize, I’ve never tried any of the salads too.  And what about an attempt to pair each course with wine, and give the tired lemonade a rest?  How does a nice ‘chianti‘ by the glass sound?

So, as the title of this post suggests: I gotta go back there!





Happy Birthday, Superman!

23 11 2008

TODAY IS the birthday of one of my really good friends, Ronoel (a.k.a. ‘Superman‘).  He’s out of the country so a birthday dinner with Batman and Partner.. Spider-man.. and Friendship is out of the question.

Superman Limited Edition DVD

Limited Edition Complete Superman DVD Collection in Steel Case (bought from an online seller), on top of that nice 'bright' table at Classic Confections in Greenbelt 5.

But if I were to think about a good birthday dinner for Superman, then it would be at Cyma Estiatorio at Greenbelt 2.  I’ve been there quite a number of times, and the one time we brought Superman there, he liked the place too.  For starters, we’d have the ‘Roka Salata‘, a salad of fresh arugula and delicate romaine lettuce, sun-dried tomatoes, candied walnuts, topped with shaved parmesan cheese in a special, original Greek vinaigrette.  Then, we’d have the ‘Kakavia‘, or Greek Fisherman’s Stew.  It is chockful with the freshest seafood, in a saffron broth infused with fresh herbs – I get the dill right away (I’m thinking it is dill).  The thread-like foliage of the dill, together with the saffron, gives the soup its aromatic quality.  For our entrees, it will be the ‘Steak (Beef Tenderloin) Souvlaki‘ and the ‘Solomos Angel Hair.’  The souvlaki is the traditional kabob, skewered with fresh vegetables, and grilled to perfection!  They come with warm pita bread and yougurt garlic sauce.  The Solomos Angel Hair is pasta with a tomato-cream sauce and lots of feta and romano cheese.  It better be an original by Cyma because I’ve never had it anywhere else.  It is so good that it may very well be my second favorite pasta, after my classic Angel Hair Pomodoro.  The last time we were there, I coulnd’t help but rave about it to one of the Staff.  We were already on our way out the door but I just had to tell her (the Staff) how much I loved the pasta dish, especially since I’m not crazy about cream-based sauces!  For Superman’s birthday dinner dessert, we’d have the ‘Glyka Sampler.’  Or, we could go to ‘Classic Confections‘ in Greenbelt 5 for a ‘Sugar-Free Lemon Torte‘ and lots of my favorite ‘Russian Tea Cookies.’ 

 

So much for thinking up a birthday feast.  For all I know, Superman will just want his favorite ‘Oxtail Kare-Kare‘ (traditional Filipino stew of cooked-to-fall-off-the-bone-tenderness oxtail in a peanut sauce, with lots of fresh vegetables, served with a fermented shrimp paste sauce on the side).

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SUPERMAN!

Superman Birthday Cake

One of Superman's birthday cakes – a chocolate cake with a mousse / ganache filling, from 'Secret Recipes'.. Again, Happy Birthday!





Mangan Tamu Quing EBUN (‘Let’s eat at EBUN’)

20 11 2008

[This was originally written on October 15, 2004 for my department’s monthly newletter]

 

ebun    Kusinang pinoy

Greenbelt 3

Level 1, Greenbelt 3,

Ayala Center, Makati City,

Tel. No. (632) 757-4792

 

NOTHING BEATS getting tips from your friends on where to wine and dine.  For sure these are the people who will let you in on the latest and very happening watering holes, the most authentic cuisine offerings, and hopefully, the biggest bang for the buck, especially if you’re on a budget.  Eversince I started this column, I’ve gotten quite a number of suggestions on places to check out.  But among my small circle of friends (and all the nice people on my NPI Team for Crystal Falls), it’s Cecille (Carnay, PACT-CDC) who always seems to be a step ahead in discovering the ‘it’ places.  She has always had impeccable taste so the moment I realized that it was already the second time that she had asked if I had paid ebun a visit, I knew I had to feature it this month.

 

I’m nowhere near being associated with Pampanga or being “Kapampangan.”  But Pampanga and things “Kapampangan” have always had a special place in my heart.  I’ve made really great friends with “Kapampangans“, among other reasons.  And this visit to Ebun just made things even more special.  Having just gone out of the two-hour commute from CV2 to Makati, and thankfully coming out of it alive, though probably with blackened lungs much thanks to the soiled aircon vents of the shuttle bus, I darted through the Greenbelt 3 security with nary an acknowledgment of the security guard’s greeting.  Bordering on frantic, I searched for Ebun and was so pleasantly surprised and greeted by the calming white exteriors of the restaurant.  Still trying to mask my pent up hunger, I pushed the doors hurriedly.  But they wouldn’t budge either way and it was at this point that Arnie told me that they slide to the sides.  It must’ve been the hunger, I opined.

 

Once inside, and comfortablty settled on what could be their booth section, my hunger was appeased by the cool interiors that are nothing short of a massage to the eyes.  The walls and the ceilings were done in white.  And in such limited space, I marveled at how the monochromatic approach made the place bigger than it really is.  I guess that it must have been the dramatic high ceilings, and the huge mirror that covers one wall.  And I think they had to stick with just white, or egg shell white, knowing for a fact that “ebun,” in “Kapampangan,” means egg (and you’ll see plenty of indication inside the resto about this).  While the interiors were a feast to the eyes, the food they served us was a whole new level in pleasure altogether.  Talk about a party in your mouth!!!  The menu was a study in simplicity, done in just black ‘(really old) typewriter’ fonts on white paper.  The sections had headings in “Kapampangan” such as “Mga Lutong Ebun,” “Mapaling Sabo” and “Bayu Ning Bale” that I felt so lost in translation.  It was a good thing that Arnie was around to guide us through the list.

 

Millet ordered ‘Sizzling Tuna Sisig’ (Php 175.00) and ‘Jasmine Rice’ (Php 20.00).  The tuna sisig was flavorful and surprisingly not dry at all.  Pleased by this order, Millet went through the menu again and asked for the “Sinigang na Ulo ng Salmon sa Miso” (‘Salmon Head in Tamarind and Fermented Soy Bean Broth with Native Vegetables,’ Php 155.00).  The salmon head was meaty, with the meat very tender and not overcooked at all.  The vegetables were still brightly colored and bursting with crispiness on every bite and it was so tempting to slurp the hot and full-flavored broth.  To wash everything down, Millet ordered a tall glass of made-from-scratch “Gulama’t Sago” (‘Sweet Gelatin and Tapioca Drink with Crushed Ice,’ Php 35.00).

 

Edu, the most adventurous among my friends, ordered Cecille’s must-try recommendation “Tapang Damulag” (‘Dried Carabao Meat, served with Jasmine Rice, Salted Egg and Tomatoes,’ Php 150.00).  He found it to be a little bit bland in flavor and quite a task for the jaw.  Though on the plus side, it didn’t have any strange taste or smell that we would expect from exotic meats.  Somehow, Edu managed to enjoy it just the same, especially with a hot bowl of the “Sinigang na Ulo ng Salmon sa Miso,” and a side of “Inihaw na Liempo” (‘Grilled Pork Belly,’ Php 65.00), in between sips of cold “Gulama’t Sago.”

 

Arnie, the “Kapampangan” among us, settled for the “Im-Bento,” the house combo meal option which allowed him to order two dishes from a long list of “Karne (Meat, Php 50 to Php 95),” “Mula Dagat (Seafood, Php 50 to Php 95),” “Inihaw-Ihaw (Grilled, Php 65 to Php 105),” and “Mga Gulay (Vegetable, Php 40)” choices.  These will then be served with a side-dish and condiments combo (Php 40.00) of Jasmine Rice, Soup of the Day (it was native Corn Soup that night), Atcharang Papaya (Pickled Green Papaya), Burong Camias (Pickled Camias), and Burong Mustasa (Pickled Mustard Greens).  He decided to have “Tidtad” (‘Pork Innards Cooked in Pork’s Blood,’ Php 50.00) and “Sugpo sa Aligue” (‘Prawns in a Sauce of Baby Crab Fat,’ Php 80.00).  The “Tidtad” was extremely delectable and with just one bite, it transported me back to the time when my mother would treat me to lunch at the La Perla restaurant in the Ongpin area in Manila.  I was in elementary then and I would always look forward to those Friday lunches at La Perla.  Up to this point, I say that that restaurant still made the best “Tidtad” and “Beef Mami” ever.  (Fastforward back to ebun …)  The “Sugpo sa Aligue“, on the other hand, wasn’t disappointing at all.  The prawn was actually the black tiger variety, and was cooked only up to the point it turned pink.  The sauce of baby crab fat was rich and quite flavorful.  I could’ve put a tablespoon of it on my Jasmine Rice, stained it (the rice) just enough and had it for my dinner already!  Yum yum!  As for his drink, Arnie had “Guyamango Shake” (‘Soursop and Mango Fruit Shake, ‘ Php 60.00).

 

I was the last to order and I also decided on having the Im-Bento.  For my two dishes, I opted for the vegetables.  The “Gatang Sigarillas with Bagoong” (‘Sigarillas, a Filipino vegetable, in a sauce of creamy Coconut Milk and Shrimp Paste,’ Php 40.00) was a delicious layer upon layer of flavor and texture.  The sigarillas was fork tender while maintaining its bright green shine and its salad-quality crunch.  The coconut milk sauce was creamy and specked beautifully by the shrimp paste that wasn’t at all overpowering the total flavor of the dish.  The “Grilled Eggplant with Burong Hipon” (‘Grilled Eggplant with Fermented Shrimp,’ Php 40.00) has always been a personal favorite no matter where I get it from.  The eggplant had the smoky savory quality I’ve always loved and it went perfectly with the fermented shrimp dip.  Much as I wanted to resist the temptation, I couldn’t help but have the Jasmine Rice that night.  After all, they steamed their rice to a plump and fluffy perfection I just had to have.  And as if throwing all caution to the wind, not to mention four weeks of being on a Filipinized version of the South Beach Diet, I had their “Mais Con Hielo” (‘Sweet Corn Kernels with Milk and Crushed Ice,’ Php 45.00) to perfectly cap my dinner.  Almost, that is, because dessert was still coming.

 

We ordered two each of the “Tibok-Tibok” (‘Maja of Fresh Cow’s Milk,’ Php 50.00) and ‘Cassava Cake’ (Php 40.00), and one “Leche Flan” (‘Flan of Milk and Eggs,’ Php 25.00).  All these three were sumptuous and scrumptious at the same time, not to mention quite cheap for desserts you’d buy in a Makati resto.  The “Tibok-Tibok” was really fresh and tasted almost like a cake of “Pastillas De Leche” (‘Fresh Milk Candy’) and the “Leche Flan” was very smooth in consistency and wasn’t overly sweet.  But I particularly found the Cassava Cake to be to-die-for that I made sure I had one whole slice to myself.  It was actually the one that I feel I should keep coming back for.  I’ve never tasted any other quite like it.  It was warm to the core, smooth all throughout, with a creamy goodness and just the right, I should say, coy sweetness.  How I wish my three other best friends who love cassava cake    Cecille, Erwin Chua and Erwin Sabio    were available to join us that night because they sure would have flipped over this one.  I did!  And I wasn’t a cassava cake person to begin with!

 

We had so much great time over dinner that night that we totally cancelled our plans to see the movie ‘The Bourne Supremacy‘ (which we eventually saw on a later date).  Besides dinners with family, nothing beats getting together with your closest friends once in a while.  It afforded us the chance to discover great and authentic cuisine, while catching up on stuff that we miss during very busy days in the office.  Not even the ‘warning‘ on the place mat, which I surmise they put there to keep the mood light and sort of poke fun at the Pinoy diners, kept us from staying long enough at the place.  It read: “babala:  bawal magtsismisan, bawal mang-intriga, bawal manigarilyo at mangalumbaba …  Hmmm    I guess they would have been kinder to Edu, Arnie and Millet because they would’ve just violated two at most.  Whereas for me, with a third violation, they would have kicked me out!  Hey, I have a long chin.  It gets heavy from time to time so cut me some slack!  Ciao for now 🙂





‘The Café Mediterranean – Flavors of the Sun’ on a night out in Alabang

20 11 2008

TUESDAY PROVED to be the usual toxic day at work.  ‘Swamped’ wouldn’t even come close to describe how I and my fellow engineers have been feeling since we started executing the plan to expand our operations here in the Philippines.  Tell-tale signs abound – text messages left unread; voice mail and e-Mail response time averaging at at least a couple of days.  Though busy as I am, I still made sure I checked on the people who really matter.  But for all else – living and non-living –  I just didn’t have the time of day.  Hehehe..

 

Which was why it was such a pleasant surprise to get a “may walk ka?” e-Mail from my friend in-the-know, Cecille.  Quite obviously, she is on the short list of the people who matter (Hahaha!).  Among us friends, for very sentimental reasons, we use “do you have a walk tonight?” or “may walk ka?” to ask each other if we have plans.  I will digress if I shall clue you in on the etymology of that question.  But suffice it to say, her e-Mail was so welcome at that moment of my helplessness with the huge excel worksheet staring me flat to my face.  So in a heartbeat, my mind had grabbed the opportunity for a night out long before my hands could even type a response.  As it turned out, Cecille had quite a schedule in Alabang that night.  She was to meet another friend for an important chat.  Then, she was to hear mass, right before swinging by Rustan’s to get gifts for a friend’s wedding and another friend’s daughter’s birthday – both in the coming weekend.  And I thought I had a full plate!  At the end of the list was the possibility of a “bashing” session with me over.. you guess it right, great food!

 

 

So I made it to Alabang.  But not without having to first subject myself to the mercy of the rush-hour traffic on the currently-being-renovated-rehabilitated-widened SLEX.  After bumping into a friend from way back (the Jansen Enriquez!), I got a text from Cecille saying that she was already in the vicinity.  So I met her in Rustan’s (ladies’ shoes and bags section) and upon seeing each other, she politely excused herself from the sales associate that had been eagerly showing her the latest arrival.  The sales associate was right to be eager, because Cecille is one of those who go to stores to shop and really buy, and not just waste somebody’s time.  Definitely not like someone I knew who made me wait after a couple of hours only to end up saying that she didn’t get anything because they were “mahal” (expensive).  It took a couple of hours to figure that out!

 

So we stepped outside Rustan’s and started to discuss where to have dinner.  We made a quick scan of the mall.  Cibo’ – been there!  Recipes’ – been there!  The Good Earth Tea Room’ – been there!  Brazil! Brazil!’ – been there!  Crustasia’ – been there!  Italianni’s’ – ALWAYS there!  T.G.I.Friday’s’ – been there!  California Pizza Kitchen’ – been there!  Delifrance’ – been there!  We almost considered going to Westgate and settling for ‘Kanin (Rice) Club’ (also a Miele Guide entrant!) when one final quick scan of the second level made Cecille ask if I’d been to ‘The Café Mediterranean(Café Med)  I actually had – at The Podium.  But that first time, with the lovely Data after our project meeting on a weekend, I was a bit full going to the place, because I had been snacking non-stop in ‘Figaro’ on mini-sandwiches and a bread pudding with warm vanilla sauce (a fave of mine!), which I downed with a couple big gulps of their iced tea.  So you could imagine just how full I was already feeling when I came in on that first time at the The Podium branch of The Café Mediterranean.  No matter how extensive and appealing the menu was, all I had the space for was the big bowl of their roasted vegetable soup and a glass of fresh lemonade.  They didn’t disappoint.  But they didn’t make me go crazy over them given the almost-full state of my stomach that left very little interest to dissect my gastronomic finds bite-by-bite.  So Cecille bringing up a ‘Café Med’ dinner option, sounded perfect!  The stars aligned!

 

 

image109
Open up the world of Mediterranean cuisine.. The Cafe Mediterranean menu.

As I had hinted, their menu at The Café Mediterranean was huge!  Which was always perfect for me as I start my meals at restaurants visualizing the descriptions of the dishes.  If I remember it right, Café Med’s descriptions were short but sweet.  Descriptive enough, nonetheless.  We started off with the appetizer ‘Sampler Plate of 3 (Php 200.00)’, which was a combination of 3 individual plate options, served with our choice of either regular or wholewheat pita bread.  Cecille and I opted for the hummus, tapenade, and kofta, and the regular pita bread.  They served the sampler on a pristine white plate, looking like a work of art with a play of textures and colors.  Hummus is the classic thick spread made of chickpeas and tahini (thick paste made from ground sesame seeds).  Usually made with lemon juice and garlic, I found Café Med’s version to be very subtle.  The flavor was very delicate and I couldn’t actually pick out the flavors of the acid and the garlic, plus I think Café Med makes theirs with sesame oil.  I loved the consistency though.  Tapenade, on the other hand, is the classic thick spread ‘from Provence’, made of black olives, capers and achovies, pureed with extra virgin olive oil.  I found Café Med’s tapenade a bit coarse (I prefer it fine).  And I don’t think they made theirs with achovies; either they don’t or that they just use a little and really puree it to a pulp so that it ends up giving a ‘nutty’ hint in the background of the spread.  If that was their intention, it worked for me!  And I think it will taste perfect for others too.  Other than the coarseness, it was really good.  So was it a tapenade that made me faint?  Hmmm..  almost but not quite.  I guess that’s fair enough.  Then, there was the kofta, the classic beef and lamb meatball from Greece.  The three meatballs were so beautifully lined up on the plate, each sitting perfectly on top of an onion ring on top of a slice of bright red roma tomato.  I didn’t get a bite of it because I was going vegetarian that night.  Hehe.

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Ain't it pretty? The Sampler Plate of 3 - Hummus, Tapenade and Kofta, served with our choice of regular pita bread.

 

image111

Soupe au Pistou - a lock for one of the best soups ever! Lots of vegetables, topped with a dollop of basil pesto and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

For my second course, I asked for the ‘Soupe au Pistou (Php 175.00)’ (this sounded Greek to me!), which was a vegetable soup topped with basil pesto and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  THIS IS A LOCK FOR ONE OF THE BEST SOUPS EVER!  It was just so delicious and comforting.  We always keep saying and hearing the term ‘comfort food’ but this Soupe au Pistou breathed meaning to it – it was so comforting it felt like snuggling under warm sheets that you pull all to way to your chin when it is freezing outside.  This soup was that good!  The tomato-based broth was the right sourness and sweetness, fragrant with the hint of rosemary.  The chunks of fresh and canned vegetables – zucchini, roma tomatoes, vahdalia onions, leeks, eggplant, and carrots – were a play on contrasting textures that really burst in the mouth.  The topping of basil pesto and the parmesan cheese was the perfect complement to round off the flavors.  YUM-O!  This was so good that after I had finished my supposed-to-be last course of pasta, I asked for another bowl, taking up our waiter on his offer to split the big bowl into two – one I’d have in the restaurant, and one I would take home with me.

For my third course, I broke my no-carbs diet by ordering the ‘Spaghettini with Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables with Tomato Sauce and Achovies (Php 190.00).’  Café Med actually uses penne (pasta in tubes, with diagonally cut ends) for this dish, which is actually the conventional type of pasta to use for a chunky sauce like roasted vegetables.  But I’m really partial to angel hair (or spaghettini, if that’s all they have), that I always brazenly ask waiters to check with the chefs if they (the chefs) will be okay with changing the pasta.  Fortunately, I’ve never been turned down.  So how did I find the pasta?  It too will be a lock for one of the best pastas ever!  Without the motley crew of the roasted vegetables, the sauce was basically a puttanesca.  But putting the roasted vegetables in there was genius!  With my first forkful, I instantly got the fragrant whiff from the vegetables, that I think I closed my eyes for a split second to savor it, letting out a muffled: “Mmmm..”  Haha!  With the first bite, I got the al dente spaghettini with a heap of mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, olives, capers, and eggplant.  It was wonderful to say the least.  I shamelessly wiped out the dish!

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Spaghettini with Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables with Tomato Sauce and Anchovies.

I capped my fulfilling dinner with two tall glasses of their fresh lemonade (what’s with me and the lemonade lately?!).  I would’ve wanted dessert but my size 30 jeans were already complaining, threatening to burst in the seams.  Of course, I have to make mention that I was devouring all of these while still being able to keep conversation with Cecille.  Surprisingly, my two cellphones were both quiet last night, and the only interruptions were from the few minutes I took to jot down on my ‘Starbucks Coffee Singapore Date Book & Journal’ key notes on the sensory experience the Café Med dinner afforded me.  For her part, Cecille had the Grilled Beef Gyro in regular pita bread, a 3”x3” slice of Baklava (rich Greek dessert cake made of thin layers of flaky pastry dough called filo, filled with nuts and honey), and Hot Moroccan Mint Tea.

 

After dinner, off we went to Powerbooks, before finally calling it a night.

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That's my to-go bag of Soupe au Pistou. I liked it that much!