36 Things

12 07 2010

36.  AFTER THREE unsuccessful attempts, I’ve finally completed the Starbucks® Coffee Company’s Christmas Traditions Promo Card.  I redeemed my 2010 planner at their Las Piñas store on New Year’s morn, just hours after I was treated at the hospital for firecracker-related injury – also a first.

Starbucks Christmas Traditions Promo Cards

My Starbucks 2010 Planner, plus three bags of New Year's gifts.

 

35.  I’ve been in the same job for the past 14 years and two months.

34.  My beverage of choice be it at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or at Starbucks® is Hot Chai Tea Latte served over ice.  Strong on the freshly steeped tea, easy on the steamed milk.  Unfortunately, neither has perfected it, just the way the Sodexho Coffee Bar at Intel Corporation in Folsom makes it.

The very kind staff at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf didn't mind me taking a shot of their fragrant chai tea loose leaf blend. It was a bouquet of cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and fennel, with hints of ginger and black peppercorn.

My chai tea latte over ice is finally served! Notice that it's quite milky white, unlike in the States where they put more of the steeped tea. Chai tea latte should be a mug of spicy black tea with milk and sugar, profuse with notes of cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, and black peppercorns.

I've kept these beverage rewards cards all these years.

 

33.  I’ve been meaning to prop up my Americana Wooden Birdhouse at the terrace.  But I haven’t gotten around to actually doing it.

32.  The first time I’ve ever seen a movie on 3D here at home was when I saw Toy Story 3.  I thought the Dolby 3D glasses over my Emporio Armani prescription spectacles were putting too much strain on my eyes.  I didn’t know the lump that was forming in my throat had managed to escape through my eyes.

Toy Story 3 movie tickets

31.  The best motion picture I’ve seen in the past six months is Up In The Air.

Movie ticket for Up In The Air

30.  During flights, I take photos of the airplane’s wings at 30,000 feet.

Took this photo of an airplane wing on a flight from Penang in Malaysia to Singapore.

29.  I’ve never seen an episode of Glee.  But I never miss watching Royal Pains weekly – on its original time slot and on both its encore screenings on Saturdays.

28.  While I prefer tempura batter to be light and fluffy, I don’t mind the heavy batter Healthy Shabu-Shabu uses on their mixed tempura.  My favorite in their platter is the shiitake mushroom caps.

A small portion of Healthy Shabu-Shabu's Mixed Tempura

27.  Gourmet’s Farm grows the sweetest, most fragrant basil leaves.  I bought one packet, stuck it in the fridge, and forgot about it.  Three days later, when on a whim I made my angel hair pomodoro, I got arrested by the unusually heady, invigorating scent that tearing Gourmet’s Farm’s basil leaves emanated.  Basil had never smelled that good to me!

Gourmet's Farm's Sweet Basil

Really fragrant Gourmet's Farm sweet basil leaves ready to perfume my pomodoro sauce.

The actual Angel Hair Pomodoro I first used Gourmet's Farm's Sweet Basil on. Sumptuous!

26.  Mapúa Institute of Technology, where I studied in high school, was near Baker’s Fair where I used to get my favorite hopia monggo.  Nineteen years later, I serendipitously discovered their ube ensaymada.  Simply scrumptious!

Baker's Fair's Ube Ensaymada

Purple yam swirls through the brioche.

25.  I eat noodles using chopsticks from Shanghai that my friend Tenz gifted me with.

Chopsticks from Shanghai, courtesy of Tenz.

My favorite chopsticks piercing through a pile of Beef Tendon Noodles from Kim Hiong!

 

24.  The big Zara S-A-L-E is going on.  There is one item I didn’t get before – because it was still full-priced.  Hahaha!  I wonder if it’s still available.

Zara S-A-L-E, 2009.

23.  One of my principles in life is:  “Never pay full price!

22.  The only vegetable entrée I consistently ask for everywhere is Ampalaya Con Carne (bitter gourd with beef in a fermented soybean sauce).  At Max’s, I’d rather have that than the all-you-can-eat fried chicken they are currently offering at a very reasonable – almost a steal – Php 165.00.

Max's Ampalaya Con Carne

 

At Maxim's Tea House, Ampalaya Con Carne with Rice can be had to go.

21.  I prefer fried chicken to be doused by nothing more than a good Worcestershire sauce.

Max's fried chicken

 

Worcestershire sauce does wonders to fried chicken!

20.  My tea of the moment is TAZO Mint Blend, courtesy of my Ninong Allan Paz.  It’s a caffeine-free herbal infusion described as a bracing blend of mint with a pinch of tarragon.  Doesn’t that sound lovely?!

A pile of this wonderful tea from Ninong Allan Paz!

 

The description of this tea blend alone is half the fun already!

19.  I adore Cibo’s Farfalle Genovese.  This dish of farfalle (bowtie pasta) in a wild mushroom cream sauce with fresh basil pesto is both heaven on a plate and a party in your mouth.

The family size serving of Cibo's Farfalle Genovese

 

Farfalle Genovese on my plate

18.  Still at Cibo…  I always ask for extra slices of fennel bulb and fronds whenever I have a plate of their Spaghettini Alla Romana (spaghettini with sardines in oil, fennel, and red pepper pesto).

Cibo's Spaghettini Alla Romana

17.  My favorite Chicken Tinola (chicken in a gingery broth with chili leaves) is not my own, but my friend Stave Michael’s.

Stave Michael's Chicken Tinola

 

This has got to be the best homecooked Chicken Tinola I've ever had.

16.  My favorite commercially available cookies are Mama’s Kitchen’s Mango Chewies from Iloilo City.

A box of Mama's Kitchen's Mango Chewies from Iloilo City

 

These are the best cookies!

15.  Buon Giorno! at the Cliffhouse in Tagaytay makes amazing Bruschetta and Insalata Caprese (Caprese Salad – tomatoes, basil, buffalo mozzarella).

Buon Giorno!'s Bruschetta

 

Buon Giorno!'s Insalata Caprese

14.  Of the many malls, The Podium gets decked in the best Christmas decorations.

The Podium, Christmas 2008.

 

The Podium, Christmas 2009.

 

In Christmas 2009, Victorinox Swiss Army held an exhibit at The Podium.

 

I loved the golden Christmas trees that hung from the ceiling.

13.  Whenever it’s on the menu, I ask for fresh Chrysanthemum Juice.  Here, I get it only at Banana Leaf and at North Park.

Fresh Chrysanthemum Juice at The Banana Leaf

12.  Long before Up and Toy Story 3 wrung my lachrymal glands dry, Finding Nemo had done so seven years earlier.

I found Nemo!

11.  I waited for the results of the voting in the 121st IOC Session, and I was quite saddened when Chicago lost in their bid to host the Games of the XXXI Olympiad (the 2016 Summer Olympics).

One of the placards in downtown Chicago as the city awaited the announcement of the winning host for the 2016 Olympics.

10.  The Highlander Steakhouse at Tagaytay Highlands makes an excellent Salad of Hearts of Romaine and Smoked Salmon.

Tagaytay Highlands' The Highlander Steakhouse's Salad of Hearts of Romaine and Smoked Salmon

 

I served myself with a lot of the smoked salmon! Greeedyyy!!!

  9.  I’ve had the best Chicken Curry dishes at over 30,000 feet up in the sky, on board Air India and Jet Airways flights.  The New Bombay Authentic Indian Cuisine at The Columns on Ayala Avenue and at The Podium is a nice place to go to here at home.  Besides the curry, I super love their Saffron Basmati Rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala Curry at The New Bombay Authentic Indian Cuisine

 

Saffron Basmati Rice

  8.  I have three notebooks in current (simultaneous) usage status – the Superman notebook I made, the Cardinal Notes from Mikko, and the Daily Notes by kikki.K from Friendship.  They’re for my essays, work, and all other notes of personal importance, respectively.

MIT Cardinal Notes from Mikko

 

kikki.K Daily Notes from Friendship

 

The cover of the Superman notebook I made.

  7.  More than ever, I have become really grateful for friends far and wide.  Not a single day passes by without me having conversations with Friendship, Batman, and Superman – no matter how busy each of us may be.

Friendship!

 

Batman!

 

Superman!

  6.  I’ve developed a deeper appreciation of Anderson Cooper, anchor of CNN’s AC 360O, after reading his memoir Dispatches from the EdgeA Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival.

My book of the moment!

  5.  I woke up with Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning playing incessantly in my head.  Sang it a number of times in the shower.  So it turned out to be a looong shower.

  4.  For three years in a row, Batman has always been the first one to greet me on my birthday.  And there has always been a gift.  I sure hope he does keep that tradition this year.  Hahaha!

  3.  I’m craving for the U.S. Beef Ribcap Tapa & Garlic Overload at Mr. Jones in Greenbelt 5.  TheCorporateTeener highly recommends it.  “Tapa” in this context loosely translates to strips of beef that had been cured.

  2.  I believe in this: “There comes a point in your life when you realize who matters, who never did, who won’t anymore…and who always will.  So, don’t worry about people from your past. There’s a reason why they didn’t make it to your future.”

Adidas Samba shoes... my favorite!

  1.  My favorite shoes are still the Samba by Adidas.  They’re the best!

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





Back again up in the highlands

28 06 2010

Tender and juicy U.S. Rib Eye Steak from the kitchens of The Highlander Steakhouse at Tagaytay Highlands.

NOTHING COMES between me and my meat.  Good steak, that is.  So even with the alarm that had to be raised due to Taal Volcano’s heightened activity, I had to be at Mama Hen’s lunch treat in Tagaytay Highlands.  It has become a tradition with her.  And traditions are nothing if not to be kept and observed.  The simmering wrath from the innermost core of the earth be damned.

A panoramic shot of Taal Volcano

The meal started with the complimentary house bread, which, I surmise to be a French baguette and a Tuscan round served on a wooden cutting board.  It was like having a taste of France and Italy, just a cut of the bread knife away.  Unless there would be focaccia, I would always gravitate towards the Tuscan round.  And as a force of habit, I smothered each piece with mounds of fresh butter that I would first allow to come to room temperature – which, suprisingly, was easily achieved in the cool Highlands air.

Complimentary bread – a smallish French baguette and a Tuscan round.

 

The bread comes on a huge chopping block.

 

A close shot of my fave Tuscan round.

We did away with the salad course and opted for soup instead.  What came to the table was a dish so pretty I initially felt I didn’t have the heart to disturb it.  I’m used to French onion soup having a beautiful finish of a bread “crust” and melted Gruyère cheese on top.  But I’ve never expected much of Cream of Mushroom Soup.  The Highlands Steakhouse’s rendition came in a heavy mug lidded with perfectly puffed puff pastry.  With one careful swift motion the wait staff made, my nose unconsciously followed an invisible trail of buttery goodness that could only come from pastry hot and fresh out of the oven.  And the moment it hit the table, the domed crust that glistened under the light conjured up images of chicken pot pie made with organic Dorset puff pastry.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

I punched through the protruding fullness – undeniably bearing luscious smears of golden butter – and saw steam quickly escaping from the inside, clearing to reveal the creamy goodness of a melange of fresh wild mushrooms, most likely white button, swiss brown, cremini and baby bellos.  I loved how the soup was generously seasoned with plentiful crackings of the pepper mill.  I first tasted a piece of the puff pastry on its own before pushing the rest down into the soup.  What resulted was one of the most comforting, heartwarming, and really chunky good soups of recent memory.  In deference to our hostess with the “mostest”, Mama Hen, I kept myself from licking the last remaining drop from my mug.

Punching through the puff pastry dome.

Good thing the pièce de résistance finally arrived, lest I ended up committing a gastronomic faux pas.

The steak was actually a hefty portion of U.S. Rib Eye – easily anywhere from 10 oz. to 14 oz. – well-done this time.  It bore perfect grill marks that proved the meat was turned only once, making sure that the natural and flavorful juices were preserved inside the meat and not dried out.  Mama Hen chimed in that the true test of a chef is not when he makes rare steak when all the blood oozing out onto the plate could belie how well (or not) the cooking was done; but when he is asked to make well-done steak when there is always the risk to cook it to the point of being rubbery tough.  I’m not complaining about my steak!  It was flavorful, quite tender, and had perfect marbling and really tender, juicy fat.  It was so good I felt like committing a sin with each piece I cut and stained with just the right amount of the mushroom gravy.

Now that's lunch! My steak and choice of sides.

 

Side number one was buttered steamed asparagus spears. The corn on the cob comes with.

 

A look at side number two – the very yummy mushroom ragout!

The plate came with the requisite corn on the cob (really sweet!) and a choice of two sides.  I asked for buttered steam asparagus spears and the mushroom ragout.  I chose the stew of shiitake and oyster mushrooms to help tie all the flavor experiences together – from the soup, to the main course, to the sides.

As always, thanks for the wonderful, fabulous lunch, Mama Hen!

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





When it rains

3 06 2010

Something to have when it rains – caféteria purple sticky rice cake.

NOW I know how it feels like when someone rains on your parade.  Especially when that “someone” is the rain itself!  No thanks to the heavy rains and the flash floods that turned SLEX ‘round the Sucat area into a giant parking lot yesterday, Mama Hen had to reluctantly call off plans to treat us to yet another fabulous lunch in Tagaytay Highlands – something she has so generously done in the past, here and here.

But seeing her again after quite a while was such a treat in itself.  And it didn’t matter that we just bonded over caféteria purple sticky rice cake, dimsum, and hot tea.  The conversations were as thought-provoking and hilarious as they have always been – “scandalous” even – that the rain was really just kept outside – literally and figuratively.

Mama Hen came in Gucci! Here's the bag and the wallet.

 

I shall call thee – "The Rock"!

 

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





Greens, meat and sweets with Mama Hen

23 12 2009
 

Turning at the Highlander Steakhouse driveway, this was all I could see. The dense fog blocked all view from the ridge.

  

The Highlander Steakhouse interiors has that authentic log cabin look.

  

The restaurant's antler chandelier got dressed up for the season!

IT FELT like we could make it a scene straight out of a Western or of a 15th century vagabond roasting meat over a roaring fire.  It was the really dense fog that conjured up these images in my head.

Stepping out of the car, the chill in the breeze pierced through my pique polo shirt and I knew I was back to a familiar place, unforgettable to me for their 20-oz. dry-aged certified U.S. Angus Beef Rib Eye Steak – the Highlander Steakhouse at Tagaytay Highlands.  I first wrote about it here.  But unlike in that first experience, my lunch last December 21st was embraced in the thickest concentration of water droplets suspended so near the ground it rid me of all visibility.  It took our hostess’ generosity to warm the surroundings and my heart, making me truly feel it’s already that time of the year.

The hostess with the mostest happens to be Mama Hen, our top legal eagle at both multinational companies I have had the pleasure to work in.  To a certain extent, I feel like she is my adoptive mother.  But her interest with me came much later so her family’s looks and her flawless complexion have never rubbed off on me.  Hahaha!

I espied Mama Hen's brand spanking new Tod's bag!

Bling it on! I couldn't help but ask for a shot of that diamond. It was he size of my thumbnail! Probably bigger.

A tight shot of that bling bling!

Everytime we share a meal, I feel so taken care of.  She never fails to remind me of that first dinner we had together and how it has brought about the lasting impression she and her husband has had about my legendary appetite.  In the small details – she sharing her pot of tea with me, she asking me if I prefer rice over the potatoes, she allowing me to get served first, she asking the wait staff to tell me about the dessert options, she constantly referring to me as “growing boy” – I can’t deny just how much premium Mama Hen puts to valuing her friendships.  And just how much – even in all my decades of existence – she still sees me as that shy, unassuming boy who needed at least six cups of rice to feel satiated.

Mama Hen always remembers and can make anybody feel so loved.  Thanks for always remembering me (the same goes out to the one person who always makes it a point I make it to these get-togethers – Ms. Jo!).

The complimentary bread – a small French Baguette and a small Tuscan Round – came stylishly nestled on a cutting board with a knife dramatically wedged in.

A slice of the baguette. I finished almost half the bread!

 

A slice of the Tuscan round, which I liked better than the baguette. I finished almost one whole of this.

 

Salad of hearts of romaine lettuce with smoked salmon, bacon bits, croutons, and freshly saved parmesan cheese in a light vinaigrette.

 

A tight shot of the yummy smoked salmon.

 

A portion I served myself. I had a couple more helpings after this one!

 

The Steakhouse Clam Chowder

 

The star of the lunch – the fabulous air-dried aged U.S. steak! This was my first serving. Hahaha!

 

The steak with a side of sweet grilled vegetables. My favorite was the zucchini.

 

The sweetness of the grilled roma tomato went perfectly with a cut of steak doused with A1 steak sauce.

 

The steak came with plates of grilled vegetables – green beans, eggplant, carrots, onions, and zucchini.

 

... and the crunchiest French Fries!

 

Plenty of steak sauce options – mushroom, pepper, and a red wine reduction.

 

I had this Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert. It had the most delicate texture and flavor, with the subtle hint of orange.

 

Mama Hen asked for this Apple Tart with a yummy steusel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

Others favored the Blueberry Cheesecake.

 

I washed everything down with Hot Green Tea infused with Jasmine Blossoms. The lady at the background is Ms. Jo – simply the most thoughtful colleague there is!

 

I sipped cold water from this lovely crystal.

 

I couldn't figure out what the stamps were on my dessert fork.

 

My Western-themed main course plate.

 

The very lovely and gracious Mama Hen (fifth from left) with the rest of the gang – Vi, Glendz, Vic, my good good friend Ms. Jo, Cynch, and Gus.

 

On our way out, it finally cleared.

 

View at the top, where the Steakhouse is.

 

I took this shot while we were speeding off... Wow, my Canon Digital IXUS 860IS has a good stabilizer!

 

All throughout the meal, I'd keep on glancing at this window beside me. I found the play of light through thick fog, through the frosted glass poignant and melancholic.

 

 

Copyright © 2009 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MuchTime™©.  All rights reserved.