Cupcakes by Paul Frank for Sonja

21 01 2013
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eNTeNG and the Red Velvet Vixen, Cupcakes by Sonja, The Serendra Piazza, circa 2009

I REALIZED that, for some reason, Paul Frank has always had cupcake–themed merchandise every season.  The first time I saw their “Will Work For Cupcakes” T-shirt, I knew exactly who to get it for.

Amidst the frantic festive feeling that defined my few days in the Philippines, I resolved to squeeze a few hours’ worth of trip back on that strip called Bonifacio High Street.  And of course, to pay my favorite cupcakes place a visit.

I did intend to sink my teeth into one of my all-time favorites, the Red Velvet Vixen, but more importantly, I went there to drop off my present for my favorite pastry chef, hailed by a top magazine as the Creative Cupcake Queen, Sonja Ocampo.

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Sonja on the pages of one of the Philippines’s top magazines, September 2010

She was out on her own vacation at the time of my visit.  But the moment she got hold of her Paul Frank loot, she sent me a text message that was just as sweet as her own confections.  See you soon, Sonja!

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I left a note with my present.

 

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One of the send-off presents I received before moving to Singapore was a box of my favorite cupcakes from Cupcakes by Sonja.

 

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Peanut Butter Nutella cupcake, which Sonja made especially for the Virlanie Foundation, and my favorite, the Red Velvet Vixen.

 

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A box of four Peanut Butter Nutella cupcakes

 

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A tight shot of arguably one of the prettiest cupcakes I have ever seen and had. Clearly, no scrimping on the frosting here!

 

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The cream cheese frosting alone on the Red Velvet Vixen can send shivers down my spine. This is that good.

 

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





My kind of Thai

17 06 2011

At Thai at Silk. Vintage Mickey Mouse T-shirt from Hong Kong, Nixon "Time Teller" in Blue X, a stalk of lemongrass with an orchid.

IRON MAN wouldn’t hear any of my pleas to split the bill with him.  I knew the dinner was quite expensive.  But I knew all too well that in this place, it was always worth every peso forked over.  Or in Iron Man’s case, swiped with his pre-approved plastic.

Yet another one of our “the-best-laid-plan-is-no-plan-at-all” dinners transpired last Wednesday night.  Iron Man and I sort of agreed to foot the bill for the night, but the self-proclaimed “excellent orderer” me decided on the place on my own – Thai at Silk at the Serendra Piazza.

Thai at Silk has always been one of my usuals.  Batman and I used to frequent the place.  And since I knew very well that having amazing company – Mike & Thea, The Flash, and Iron Man – would take care of 50% of an unforgettable meal, I had to make sure that the restaurant of choice could deliver the other 50% – great food.  And in the case of an establishment that brandishes directly the country of origin, the place better deliver authentic food.

The Flash, eNTeNG, Mike, Thea, Iron Man.

And that has struck me as something consistent with Thai at Silk.  One sip of my favorite Tom Yum Kung (Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup) never fails to conjure up images of how people from the Northern part of the country would make this soup with plenty of freshly caught shrimp, then people from the South would add pounded roasted chilies in oil to give the soup its characteristic deep orange color and powerful kick.  This same soup embodies the ideal of Thai cuisine, a perfect balance of all the four tastes – sweet, sour, salty, and spicy.  To this day, I maintain that Thai at Silk makes the best Tom Yum in Manila.

Tom Yum Kung

Around the soup, I built a spread that continued to showcase this balanced play among the four tastes.  The Roti with Choo Chee Kung had wedges of slightly charred roti bread elegantly served alongside a dipping sauce of minced prawn in reduced red curry sauce.  I usually would break the roti by hand, and dip each piece into the sauce.  But Thea recommended doing it one better – by dusting each dipped piece with white sugar before eating.  It was superb.

Roti with Choo Chee Kung

To the uninitiated, the Tod Man Kung (Thai shrimp cakes) would seem to be deep-fried, dried-out breading with a sporadic sprinkling of minced shrimp.  But no.  Each cake is Thailand’s answer to the Italian Veal Milanese!  Tender chunks of fresh shrimp are lightly breaded, formed into cakes, then deep-fried yielding an appetizer that does whet the appetite – tender and juicy on the inside, crunchy on the outside.  On their own or laced with the special sweetish sauce, these are cakes you would fight to have and eat too!

Thai shrimp cakes

For our entrées, we had Pla Lad Prik Sam Ros (deep-fried fillets of fish with tamarind chili sauce), Kaeng Khiaw Waan (green curry chicken), Deep-Fried Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab, Phad Thai (stir-fried flat rice noodles), Pineapple Fried Rice, and steamed fragrant Jasmine Rice.  All of these, save for one revelation, were excellent as always.  I’ve never been the one to ask for soft shell crab.  The reason why it found its way to our selection was the enthusiastic recommendation of our server.

Lad Prik Sam Ros (deep-fried fillets of fish with tamarind chili sauce)

 

Deep-Fried Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab

 

Pineapple fried rice

 

Phad Thai

 

Iced lemongrass tea

Thai at Silk’s Deep-Fried Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab is one huge blue crab cut up into pieces, breaded and deep-fried, before being tossed up in their special black pepper seafood sauce.  It was surprisingly quite tender!  I didn’t have to fight with the “soft shell” with chewing that would be a lot of jaw work.  Before the evening ended, I realized I made a new favorite that would be worth coming back for.

Granted that we feasted on a meal that balanced the sweet and sour with the salty and spicy, you would expect us not to crave for any desserts.  But Cupcakes by Sonja being a few doors down the Piazza, it was inevitable to have desserts.  And this time, on me.

The Flash, Mike, Thea, and Iron Man at Cupcakes by Sonja

 

eNTeNG with the gang!

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Love and other stuff

31 01 2011

Partner and the iPad from The Boy Wonder!

“WHAT?!  YOU’RE laughing at me?”

“No.  No, I wasn’t.  Here’s Partner again.”

I handed the earphones back to Partner.  I haven’t lasted a couple of minutes on my seat and all I had managed was indeed to laugh – to chuckle in bursts, actually – because I was quite surprised with what I arrived at at the table.  Partner, who I had moments prior envisioned to have already been losing much of her renowned patience, was actually biding the time away in the company of The Boy Wonder.  Virtually.  His Christmas present to her – a 64-GB iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G – was comfortably set up on a stand on the dinner table and he was on Skype.  All I managed was a wave.  And yes, the chuckling in bursts.

Soon they said their farewells and Partner’s attention was back to me 100%.  Having made her wait, I felt the need to launch to a lengthy apology – beginning with the horrendous traffic on EDSA.  But just like how it is with real friends, she lovingly gestured with her hand that apology wasn’t necessary.

We haven’t seen each other for quite a while – as she has been based in Singapore for close to three years now – that I knew I wanted to give her a kiss on the cheeks and hug her really tight.  I’ve missed her so much.  And we both knew there were a lot of catching up to do.  Unlike before when she would understand whenever I would miss showing up in the few days she would sneak back home for a quick respite, this time around, she was quite clear that my absence won’t be excused.

“There’s so much more to tell Partner, if only we can go to dinner now so I can tell you everything!…  I have been dying to tell you but I never really had the chance.” exclaimed some of her e-Mails from a week back.  So I knew I had to make good on my commitment to show up.

So there I was, seated across Partner at our table for two.  Transfixed at one of my best friends, wondering how she has managed to look even more beautiful.  I’ve always admired her face, but that night, bathed in the warm lights of the interiors of my restaurant of choice, Partner’s face emanated with the ethereal glow that brought to mind paintings by Rembrandt.  I guess that’s what happens when one is truly happy from the inside.  When one – or two people so in love – is “no longer hurting.”  I could tell for I was one of her friends who have seen her through the ups and downs.  I may not have been much of a help to her, but I’ve seen her through those times.

“Partner, you order.  I’m not that hungry pa naman.  I had a late lunch.” Partner uttered, snapping me out of the trance I was in.

“You sure?  Where did you eat?  What did you have?”

“Yeah.  Cibo at the Shang.  I had a salad.”

“Did you know that the owners of Cibo and Mamou are sisters-in-law?”

I just had to throw out yet another piece of trivia I know.  And the very moment I did, our server just couldn’t help but smile.

And yes, the night’s restaurant of choice was Mamou at the Serendra Piazza.  Partner told me I could choose whichever I want.  Having been meaning to visit the place – almost on a number of occasions, but never quite! – I thought our dinner was the perfect reason to make good on that goal.  I chose it because it does boast to be “a home kitchen.”  It was, after all, a special dinner between really great friends.

Careful to spill out all my compliments, then all my questions, in one go, I kept myself in check and diverted my attention to Mamou’s laminated menu card.

“Partner, I’ll start with a salad.  Then…”  I was about to mention the pièce de résistance when – just how it is with real friends – Partner finished my sentence.

“You said you wanted to try the steak, right?”

“…then the steak!”

As if violinists in a symphony, Partner and I flipped the menus over in one orchestrated motion and perused the “Meat” section.

“Partner, I want this,” I spoke, mimicking how my six-year old nephew speaks, pointed on the menu card and continued, “the Angus Ribeye USDA Prime Grade Steak!”  At that very moment, I could tell from my peripheral vision that our server (failed to get his name!) was having a field day with my and Partner’s repartee.  And probably, he already could surmise who was getting the check!  Hahaha!

I could very well have stopped with the salad – we asked for the Healdsburg’s Harvest – and the steak.  After all, the pairing brought to mind one of my favorite lunches-for-one that I had learned from Nigella Lawson years ago.  But I just had to ask for one offbeat, somewhat tangential choice – noodles.  And I’m not talking pasta here, which could have very well been inspired by an Italian spread of Bistecca alla Fiorentina served with pasta.  I’m talking good ol’ Hong Kong egg noodles swimming in a potent beef broth.  They call it their “Mamou Mami.”

As the steak would be a bit of a wait – the menu said 20 minutes – Partner motioned to me to try the complimentary house bread.  They were actually more like rolls, four rather unassuming pieces of rounded bread – two bark brown (whole grain?) and two white – in a small wicker basket.  I took the white one, tore off a piece and launched with my questions.

Just about the best rolls I have ever had!

 

Aw-aw-aw... aw-aw-aw... Awesome!!!

 

Butter!

 

“Did he know you told me about how he felt about you?  Did he know I already knew.  I mean, from your end.  Because from his, I know because he told me.  And I told you.  Hahaha!”  I asked.  And as Partner responded, I felt I was holding in my hands the perfect metaphor to how her heart probably goes whenever she would mention The Boy Wonder’s name – like butter sliding down hot toast.  Her eyes would glow and her heart would melt.  “If this isn’t love / L–O–V–E / What is it to me?/ L–O–V–E ”

And Mamou’s bread does melt, literally, in my mouth!  I’ve never been so taken by any restaurant’s complimentary bread.  But Mamou’s are something different.  In the middle of Partner and The Boy Wonder’s love story, I just had to interject,

“Partner, these rolls are so good!!!”

I looked for our server, and with a smile told him, “May we have more?  Please.”

He took the basket, with a smile.  And I knew, more metaphors of butter sliding down hot toast were in my immediate future.  Like, in 5 minutes!

“So, Partner, when did you know that he was good for you?  That he was what you needed and more?”

That was when the salad, Healdsburg’s Harvest, arrived.  How could something so healthy, look so yummy?  I could tell that the salad was able to whet Partner’s appetite but she was understanding of my unspoken, unwritten “shoot first, eat later” policy.  My knees were weak at the sight of the salad and the shivering translated to the photos.  It was hard to focus!  The purplish veining of the greens were teasing and the explosion of juices that the cherry tomatoes promised – the moment I’d pop one in my mouth – were too much to handle by someone not blessed with steady hands.

Healdsburg's Harvest!

 

The first portion I served Partner.

 

I got so intrigued by this leafy green that I had to ask what it's called... and forgot it! Hahaha!

 

“What’s the dressing called?” I just had to asked, my curiosity piqued by the explosion of purple that appeared to me more as candy than vinaigrette.

“Berry dressing, Sir.”

“Partner, it has glazed pecans and candied cranberries!”

I tossed the salad and served Partner a decent portion.  She pierced some of the delicate greens with her fork and with the first taste told me, “Partner, it’s good!”  I managed to break into a shy smile.  Because for a moment I thought, while Partner may have told me that the salad was good,  she actually unknowingly just answered my question.  She just knew The Boy Wonder was indeed good for her.  I know the guy quite well and if he came in a bottle of supplements, I’d call him “Multi-Harryboy” – complete from A to Zinc it would say on the label, just what Partner needed.  Very much like the salad she was having.

We needed more space on the table when my big bowl of Mamou Mami arrived.  In one quick motion, Partner willingly let go of the bread basket and handed it to our server.

“Do you still want that, Partner?” she asked.

“No, I’m ok.”  (Though a part of me ached for that last brown roll.)

With what Partner removed from our table, a space was created for something she knew I really liked – the bowl of noodles.

Mamou Mami. This has got to be the best I've ever had outside of Ongpin. For this alone, I'll keep on coming back to Mamou!

 

“So aren’t you going to tell me about all that happened and came before The Boy Wonder?”

“No na, Partner.  Those are all in the past.  Let’s just focus on happy thoughts right now.  Ask me about The Boy Wonder na lang.”

I bowed to catch a whiff of the savory bowl of Mamou Mami in front of me and almost instantly, a sense of comfort washed over me, making me totally forget about that last piece of bread.  It was in the past now.  Partner was obviously happy I was enjoying myself, though I was waiting for her to pass judgment on my unconventional choice (this was supposed to be a steak dinner!).  But the happy person that she is, she allowed me my own happiness.  Which, at that very moment meant a generous portion of perfectly cooked Hong Kong egg noodles in a robustly flavored broth that was part homage to the La Paz Batchoy of Iloilo and part to the mami of Ongpin.  I fell in love with the hint of fresh coriander that perfumed each quiet (quiet!) sip of the broth.

“Partner, do you think The Boy Wonder came just at the right time?  I mean, you shoo’d him away before.  Good thing, you gave him another chance.”

And as with all good things in this life…  As with all good things that have come in Partner’s life at this point, the fabulous steak came to those who were willing to wait.  Served tilted to one side, our Angus Ribeye USDA Prime Grade Steak was perfectly done to Partner’s desired medium-well goodness, oozing with its natural juices and the goodness of – I surmised – really good extra virgin olive oil.  I told myself, the generous jus and oil would make for a perfect dressing for the delicate greens, the sweet cherry tomatoes, and the slivers of cranberry stilton cheese.  And to bring the salad to overdrive, I would tumble into the salad the slices of succulent steak.  Sinfully good.  For a while there, I could pretend that I was having dinner overlooking a vast vineyard somewhere in Tuscany.  Yet, I was where I exactly wanted to be – with Partner at Mamou.

14-oz. cut of the Angus Ribeye USDA Prime Grade Steak

 

Medium-well. Just as how Partner asked for it.

 

Last couple of slices!... And we thought we were not that hungry to begin with!

 

The best corn pudding ever!

 

Creamed Spinach

 

We started dinner with the excitement and intensity of how it felt for butter to slide down warm rolls (the promise of something new!), managed to let go of the past (that last roll!) and made room for the unexpected (Mamou Mami is mami from heaven!), and at the appointed time, became ready to receive the best of what the restaurant could offer (what a steak!).

I thought to myself, very much the story of Partner and The Boy Wonder’s love.

I politely asked our server, "Is the iced tea good?" To which he responded, "I'll bring you a tasting portion." A tasting portion?!?! If that's not luxurious, elegant service, then I don't know what is. (The iced tea was great!)

 

(I may not be the voice Partner hears first in the morning, and listens to last at night to tuck her safely and warmly to bed.  Mine may not be the strong arms that hold her in a tight embrace whenever the world is cold and she needs comfort.  My dreams may no longer hold as much importance or generate as much excitement to her ears like before.  But Partner is exactly where she deserves to be – with someone I prayed she would be.  With someone who can love her for everything that she is and for everything that she could help nurture in someone else.

 

I am a much better person because Partner has touched my life.  She has done so for so many other people – to family and friends.  It’s about time she allows the universe to pamper her and put her happiness first above all else.  I know The Boy Wonder is up to the task.  He has loved her with a love that was never afraid to take the pain, honest, sincere, unceasing.  I pray for them.)

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Green and red

1 10 2010

I love the dusk...

THERE ARE countless reasons under the sun to give gifts.  But as I have always claimed, nothing beats giving gifts for no reason at all.  I guess that explains in part the gradual shortening of my Christmas gift list these past couple of years.  I don’t feel as excited anymore when I’m prescribed to do so.  But I don’t totally do away with making my list.  It’s just that lately, it has been for just the critical few.

During my last Sunday stroll on Bonifacio High Street, I managed to accomplish both.  I finally got to put a tick beside one to-do item (which was sadly at the mercy of a long wait for a certain delivery).  And in one serendipitous moment, I picked up a present for someone else.

Here are my finds.  I had to make sure that the recipients had already opened their presents before I made this post.  Who knew that Fully Booked’s basement is a treasure trove for comic enthusiasts?!  In my case, I didn’t even know they have a basement!  And I’ve been there numeous times for my Moleskines and StarbucksBatman will be so happy there!

Flash

 

Green Lantern

 

Copyright © 2010 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





Strutting down Bonifacio High Street

3 02 2009

FOR THE first time last night, I noticed that the seasons – at least as we know them here in the Philippines – are already changing.  Superman himself agreed with me and somewhat expressed dread over the thought of the coming scorching summer heat.  Which in my books is rivaled only by the summers I’ve experienced in Shanghai and Folsom.

 

The functional work of art below – a fountain (sorry I don’t know who made this one) – is the first thing I look for, and stare at, everytime I get to Bonifacio High Street on early Monday evenings.  My travel time from work has been constant and everytime, I have been staring at this beautiful fountain (or water something) in the darkness for the longest time, so to speak.  So when I felt the rays of the sun still breaking free of the clouds and not really hiding behind them, as I struggled to get a good shot with my Nokia 5310 XpressMusic cellphone, I knew the seasons are indeed about to change.

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Two of my favorite stores - Healthy Options (for mama's favorite chocolates and cookies) and Alessi (for wristwatches!).

 

Hopefully the same could be said about this other “season” – the recession period.

 

A number of posts back, I have harped about being a “recessionista” and how that kind of mindset may very well help someone survive these trying times.  But every time I’m in Bonifacio High Street I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is there really a crisis?  And it doesn’t help to know that in the midst of all the crumbling financial institutions towards the end of 2008, Burberry managed to post a double-digit increase in their sales in the latest financial half year.  So I guess some things are recession-proof after all.  I think luxury – the CONCEPT of luxury – is recession-proof.  But I’m saving all the luxury talk for some other post.

 

So there I was, walking my way towards the Serendra Piazza to get my Monday night fix, my own personal luxury.  Sonja, bright and bubbly in a yellow top, was again in the store.  Before I asked for my Choco Cream Cheese Swirl cupcake with cream cheese frosting and the big Chocolate Madness Milkshake, I just had to ask her if she accepts orders for cakes (the big ones).  I haven’t decided on the variant / flavor yet.  But I told her the concept I had in mind.

 

I’m really excited about this cake (should I end up ordering it).  But while I ran this thought in my head, I sat on the stool by the bar facing the pedestrian traffic outside.  I watched the light disappear into the darkness.  And I felt nothing but contentment – the security of keeping that part of my routine – that I could still manage to do the little things that help take care of myself.

 

And of course I had to get boxes to go!  I had one each for Superman, Spider-man  and the Rizzie!  I made sure their personal favorites were thrown in.

cupcakes_superman-020309

Superman's Box - Banana Monkey Pie (a new one for him to try!), Melt-In-Your-Mouth Valrhona Flourless Chocolate Cake, Bunny Huggers Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Vixen.

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Spider-man's Box - Just what he specifically requested... 4 Bunny Huggers Carrot Cake Cupcakes! He finishes the frosting first before he goes to the cake. Hehehe. I, too, LOVE Sonja's cream cheese frosting! Photo taken by Spider-man using his own iPhone.

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Rizzie's Box - Lemon Drop, Berry Delight Strawberry Cheesecake, Berries N' Cream, Bunny Huggers Carrot Cake.

 

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That's my good good friend Rizzie with her box of 4 cupcakes!