Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Million Dolllar Brew from Conlins

We were at the Mall of Asia (MOA) and on our way back to the parking lot, we remembered that we are out of coffee. With our coffee jar running on empty, we just couldn't get home without buying a pack of coffee grounds no matter how late it was. See, unlike any normal human being, we could not go to sleep without having a cup o' joe. Unlike any normal human being, we could not stay awake without having a jolt of java. Does that make sense?

Bottomline is, we ducked into the very first shop we saw that sold coffee, which at that time, was Conlins (located on the second floor of MOA, beside the IMAX Theater). The variety of their coffee offerings was promising if not altogether surprisingly staggering:

BLUENOTES 100% Single Origin Coffee
Timor
Brazil "Santos"
Columbia Supremo
Sumatra Mandheling
Guatemala SHB, "Volcan de Oro

Honduras SHG e.p.
Malawi Mapanga AA
Indonesia "JAVA", Kali Bendo

Ethiopia "Yirgacheffe"
Columbia Decaf

Conlins Designer Coffee
Espresso
Million Dollar Brew
Charcoal Coffee

100% ARABICA
Dark Roast
Medium Roast
Light Roast

100% ROBUSTA
Dark Roast
Medium Roast
Light Roast

100% BARAKO
Dark Roast
Medium Roast
Light Roast

After quite a while of mulling over our choices, we decided to try the Million Dollar Brew. It would be, should I say, the sacrificial bag of coffee by which the possibility of us coming back to try the rest will largely depend on.

We had our beans ground there, and when they were done with the grinding, they poured the grounds back into its special flavor lock bag that featured a one-way valve to preserve the coffee's freshness. If that attention to detail weren't enough, wait until they reseal the bag with an impulse sealer before they hand it over to you. Their concern to give you the freshest coffee possible is really impressive.

The coffee, by the way, was fantastic. It had a perfectly smooth and clean flavor to it. Never gritty or bitter. It brews a perfect cup each time. Now I hope Conlins' other coffee blends also aim to please, because we are definitely going back there to try the rest.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Butterscotch by Biscocho Haus

Jaro Iloilo's Original Biscocho Haus is one of the most famous purveyors of pasalubong items from Iloilo. In my predominantly Ilonggo household, I practically grew up on Biscocho Haus treats. Once in a while, somebody would go home to Iloilo and whenever I ask for pasalubong, I am pretty sure there will be something there from Biscocho Haus. I don't really ask for anything in particular because I am perfectly happy with perhaps a pack of barquillos, empanaditas, galletas, caramel tart, toasted mamon, buttered toast, otap, or, dare we forget this veteran pasalubong store's namesake, biscocho... but one thing I really get excited over is butterscotch. I go through a bag of these outrageously moist and chewy confection in a matter of minutes.

I know these things probably go straight to your waist once you swallow them but if you've tasted a Biscocho Haus butterscotch, you probably have a pretty good idea why I just couldn't help myself. For an extra heart-stopping treat, try washing them down with hot cup of tablea hot chocolate. Yum, yum, yum...

Biscocho Haus Butterscotch

Just an observation though, technically, "butterscotch is a type of confectionery made by boiling sugar, butter, cream, and vanilla. In many ways the ingredients for butterscotch are similar to toffee; the major difference is that the sugar is boiled to the soft crack stage for butterscotch and the hard crack stage for toffee" (wikipedia.com). Notably, nothing in that ingredients list mentions anything about flour or eggs. Biscocho Haus' butterscotch, however, does. As per the package, Biscocho Haus' butterscotch is made of flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and milk. Strictly speaking therefore, I think Biscocho Haus' butterscotch is more like a butterscotch brownie.

My friends, who just got back from a vacation in Iloilo, when I asked them for my pasalubong last Sunday sheepishly answered that they finished their stash of Ilonggo delicacies long before we were able to meet up and not even one butterscotch survived. Tsk, tsk, tsk... I would never have let them hear the end of it if not for the fact that a household member of ours also just got home from there and our box of assorted goodies from Biscocho Haus fortunately survived the trip. The assortment includes a bag of those much coveted butterscotch. Oh, joy! Robin, for his part, loved the otap, which he finished in five minutes on his own. Fortunately for me, he prefers the crunchy kind. So while he staked his claim over the remaining biscocho, toasted mamon, and galletas, I am left to my own devices with the soft and chewy butterscotch. Mine, all mine!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pasta (or should I say "paste") at Cibo

Cibo has been up, about, and making waves in the Philippine resto scene for quite some time now and for some reason, we were only able to try their cuisine only late last year... November, I think... that was at the Alabang Town Center branch. Robin ordered Spaghettini alla Bolognese (spaghettini crowned with beef ragu, Bologna-style, and tomato) while I ordered Insalata di Manzo (a healthy conglomerate of greens, roast beef tenderloin, and balsamic vinaigrette).

I was thoroughly satisfied with my Insalata di Manzo. The greens were nice and fresh making for a wonderfully healthy and refreshing salad, and the beef (the "manzo" part of the salad), while thinly sliced was quite generous in quantity, perfectly cooked and seasoned. I do not recall having tasted their Spaghettini alla Bolognese then, but Robin said it was good as well and surprisingly filling.

Green-eyed diners that we were, we also coveted the pizza ovale served at the next table and a good many other items on the menu that we cannot quite pronounce properly but had English translations that sounded promising. Maybe next time. As for the service, it was quite commendable-- polite and quick. I think I am not alone when I say, every diner appreciates good service. These are only a few of the many reasons why we resolved to eat at Cibo more times after that.

Take for instance a couple of days ago, at their Greenhills branch, where I was finally able to taste their Spaghettini alla Bolognese.

Robin, for his part, had Penne alla Florentina (penne pasta with sausage, cream, and fennel).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Steak!

Around here, we love our steak. The first time one of my uncles came home from the US carrying with him a case of New York cut steaks, I and my siblings thought we died and gone to heaven. The steaks, my uncle explained proudly, he purposely bought on the way to the airport when he was about to fly to the Philippines to make sure they arrive here fresh. So the first order of business when he arrived at our house was to fire up the grill, season a couple of steaks with a dry rub of salt, pepper, and paprika and grill away. Just grill away... And by golly, those thick, generous cuts of finely marbled beef not only were fresh, they melted in the mouth no matter no matter how done you grilled them.


Now there will be more steaks after the last steak from my uncle's stash was gobbled up. But nothing came quite close to those steaks after that. It doesn't help that we never could get ourselves to pay a thousand bucks for a steak, so the pool for comparison was not that big. But we have tried a good many steaks, both imported and local, from the grocery to grill at home.

We got some aged and seasoned Australian steaks, for example, from Salcedo Market before. The cuts were a bit thin for our satisfaction but they were pretty tender and had a good flavor to them.


Related article:

Salcedo Market: a photo album

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Beignet by New Orleans

Gumbo introduced me to Beignet, which I grew to love so much that no visit at Gumbo is ever complete without an order of Beignet. Beignet, while it finds origin in France, is a pastry widely associated with Louisiana, New Orleans, which is why restaurants that specializes in creole cooking would most probably carry this in their menu.

New Orleans restaurant at Bonifacio High Street, another great restaurant that serves authentic New Orleans cuisine, for example, also has Beignet. Unlike Gumbo's, where the Beignet takes a mini-ciabatta-like form, New Orleans makes their Beignets spherical, and it has a more yeast-y flavor to it. Notably, in New Orleans, Beignet is served with coffee, you cannot order it on its own, which is fine by me. The mild bitterness of freshly brewed coffee gives a good counter-balance to the sweetness of the Beignet. If you do not have a sweet tooth, on the other hand, there are also savory Beignets. Try their Shrimp Beignet, which is served with a creamy bechamel-like sauce and shrimps instead of powdered sugar.


Related articles:
Beignet by Gumbo
Surf 'n' Turf @ Gumbo

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ranchero Burger by Tropical Hut

It's no Wagyu, but Tropical Hut's Ranchero Burger is delicious in its own right. At Php99 for the meal (comes with regular fries and a drink), this big burger generously layered with iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber, mayo, and for good measure, a fried egg, sandwiched in a soft sesame seed bun is most certainly a bang-for-the-buck good deal. Luckily, there's a 24-hour Tropical Hut fastfood joint just across our office. Robin likes ordering this burger for lunch and it pretty much could sustain him for the whole day.

Tropical Hut hamburgers made it pretty big long before Jollibee and McDonald's came into the local scene. An uncle of mine who migrated to the US in the 70's came home to the Philippines a couple of years ago and the first thing he asked for was a Tropical Hut hamburger. Nothing like a visit to Tropical Hut to make you feel like home.

Related article:
Wagyu Beef Burgers at Salcedo Market

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Surf 'n' Turf @ Gumbo's

Last night, I went with my wife and her family to Gumbo, at the Mall of Asia, to watch the 2008 World Pyrotechnics Olympics. It was France versus Canada for that night, and the mall was packed. We got a little worried that it started to rain real hard at about 7 P.M. But luckily, not even the rain could stop the show.

Well, actually, my wife and her family went for the show. Me, I went for this...

Surf and turf or Surf 'n' Turf is a main course particularly common in North American steakhouses which combines seafood and meat.

Gumbo's version, the Ribs and Fish Bucket, is a bottomless pit of two sets of ribs, two fillet of Cream Dory, in a bucket full of fries and corn on the cob (more corn at the bottom of the bucket)... (Php1,195 + service). A feast fit for a...

Service is good at Gumbo. Lalaine and the other servers there really pay attention to you. I could not get my refillable Coke Zero (Php55) past the halfway mark without someone (either our designated server, or any other Gumbo employee who happens to pass by) saying "Refill, Sir" and whisking the glass away and bringing it back, filled before I could even finish swallowing the food in my mouth and say "no thanks." After the fourth refill, I had to physically hold my glass down and scream "STOP!" Okay, so it was not that dramatic, but seriously. These people will just NOT let you empty your glass.

Oh by the way, here is the complementary bread with olive oil and roasted garlic. Other stuff we ordered were Pan Seared Cream Dory with Lemon (Php425), Calamari (Php275), Blackened Salmon (Php475)

The first of two fireworks shows started, and people made a beeline for the exit.

Me, I sat at my table and finished my coffee. I do get a pretty good view from in there.

By the way, their coffee (Php45), is like their refillable Coke. They refill and refill and refill. No more! Stop! :) You should also try their refillable house blend iced tea (Php70) which is a family favorite. It has a distinct tangy flavor to it, it's certainly not made from the powdered kind.

After the first show, things settled down again until... JAMBALAYA!!! It was someone's birthday (one of two that night) and the folks at Gumbo help liven up the celebration with mardi gras hats, percussions, and complimentary scoop of ice cream topped with a candle. Now the show is inside, Gumbo. This is just one of the many reasons why I resolved to have my next birthday here.

After the second fireworks display it was off to home and updating my new blog (if you like wristwatches, please do pay it a visit). If you want to see more shots of the fireworks, I should get around to posting them in our photoblog here.



Related article:
Beignet by Gumbo

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Make Pretty Red Velvet Cupcakes

Like I said a few posts back, I had been searching far and wide to have a taste of Red Velvet Cake. Unfortunately, it's not that easy to find. The nearest I got to it was Red Velvet Vixen by Cupcakes by Sonja. And despite this, my Red Velvet curiosity remained unsatisfied. So finally, I resolved to make my own. I researched online for good recipes until I decided on the recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes from recipegirl.com. It looked easy enough to make and promises to make knockout cupcakes so I was pretty excited. Notably, this recipe calls for this much red food coloring:

The verdict? Soft, moist, and flavorful cupcakes, not to mention very nice to look at.

Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe

Cupcake batter:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ tsp salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
2¼ cups granulated sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ounce bottle of red food coloring (2 Tbsp.)
1½ cups buttermilk*
1½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp vinegar

Butter Cream frosting:

1½ cups whole milk
1/3 cup flour
dash of salt
1½ cups softened butter
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until combined. One at a time, add eggs; beat on medium speed after each. Bet in food coloring on low.

Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to egg mixture; beat on low-medium after each just until combined. Stir together baking soda and vinegar. Add to batter; beat just until combined.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean.

Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Gently remove cupcakes from pans; cool.

Frost with buttercream frosting.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, flour and salt. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Transfer to a small bowl; cover surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cooled (do not stir).

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed for 5 minutes until light and fluffy and sugar is almost dissolved. Add cooled milk mixture, ¼ cup at a time; beat on low after each until smooth.

Yield: About 28 cupcakes


*Instead of 1 1/2 cups of commercially available buttermilk, I used a mixture of 1 1/2 tablespoons of white vinegar (you can also use lemon juice instead of vinegar) and 1 1/2 cups of fresh milk. I let this mixture stand for 5 to 10 minutes before using.


Related article:
Red Velvet Cupcake from Cupcakes by Sonja
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