Saturday, July 30, 2011

Puffy Pita

Pita Breads

While I study more about making a better cheesecake, I digressed into making pita breads. I read through a lot of pita recipes and what interested me the most is the fact that this flatbread is not at all flat when it starts its life. I've always had toasted flat pitas but never any freshly baked and certainly not "puffed." In this state, they are almost too cute to eat. But after I've gotten over their cuteness, I ate them with tenderloin beef kebabs. Classic combination. Certified yum.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fruity Cheesecake by Dana Bella's Oven


Cheesecake by Dana Bella's Oven


Hello, gorgeous...

My friend, Dexter, brought us in the heart of Pilar Village, Las Pinas to Dana Bella's Oven Sunday night. He promised a superb cheesecake and, boy, did he deliver. The cheesecake from Dana Bella's Oven, decked with slices of luscious ripe mango and kiwi, grapes, and a chunk of dragon fruit, is beautiful as it is delicious.

The cheesecake itself, a New York cheesecake, is the kind of cheesecake I am gunning for (you know- in my, ahem, quest for the perfect home-baked cheesecake)- light with just the right amount of richness, and delivers a perfect balance of sweetness and tang. The top skin of the cheesecake is caramel-colored and its body a nice creamy white hue. The bottom is classic graham cracker crust.

The cornucopia of fruits is a different story altogether. At first I thought they were just there for garnish, but once we started munching on them, I realized that they went surprisingly well with the cheesecake. The fruity addition added a certain dose of freshness to the dessert. It's a welcome change to the preserved or otherwise gelatinous state that fruits are usually in when they are found atop a cheesecake.

Dana Bella's Oven's other menu offerings include sandwiches, calzones, pastas, and roast chicken.

Chicken Parmesan Calzone
(Php89)
Pomodoro Parmegiana
(Php149)
1/4 Chicken Platter
Served with Pepperoni Roll,
Choice of Sides, and Coleslaw
(Php110)
Salsa Rosa
(Php149)
Fritella

Try out all these specialties from Dana Bella's Oven at Unit 11 Teresa Park Avenue, Pilar. (Manila), 1740 Las PiƱas, Philippines.

Contact Dana Bella's Oven via email at betty@danabellas.com; dana@danabellas.com; or by phone at (02)3451803.

Visit their website at http://www.danabellas.com; and Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DanaBellas.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Constructing and Deconstructing a Cheesecake


Ultimate Turtle Cheesecake
Trying my hand at making cheesecakes now. I've been thinking about this for a long time. I've bought the pan and picked out the recipe three years ago. Never really got around to doing it. The last push was provided by my friends, specifically, Apple and Mennie, who even volunteered to be taste testers. Be careful what you wish for, girls.

Am not really very fond of cheesecakes because most I've tried are too rich for my taste. A few cheesecakes, perhaps sensing my inherent halfheartedness for their kind, have stuck to my hard palate with such loathing that it had caused me to choke on several occasions. What do you expect from a cake that is mostly, well, cheese, right? Sort of like eating mayonnaise pie, if there ever was one.


But there are a handful of cheesecakes that I find to be surprisingly light to the palate and taste positively sublime. The Very Berry Cheesecake from Starbucks, for example. I really really love that cheesecake, and I am not the kind that prefers dried berries in my dessert. The Chocolate Tuxedo Cream Cheesecake by The Cheesecake Factory, with its decadent layers of fudge cake, chocolate cheesecake, vanilla mascarpone mousse, and chocolate, is also terribly good in its complexity. Then there was that Turtle Cheesecake (the eponymous cheesecake equivalent of the delightful pecan, caramel, and chocolate confection, Turtles) formerly offered by Fazoli. That cheesecake was to die for. It's long been pulled out from their menu, but I still think about it until now. So I guess it's only fitting that my first crack at making cheesecakes involves a recipe for turtle cheesecake.

The recipe I used, the Ultimate Turtle Cheesecake, is posted here. There were a couple of things I changed in that recipe- I used an 8-inch pan instead of 9, a different brand of cream cheese, walnuts instead of pecans, and topped the finished cake with 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of drizzling it with melted baking chocolate. Without pecans though, I don't think I am allowed to call this cheesecake a turtle cheesecake. "Mock Turtle Cheesecake", perhaps? Anyway... Other than that, I think I followed the instructions to the letter.


MIX crumbs; press onto bottom and 2 inches up side of 9-inch springform pan.


Place caramels and milk in small microwavable bowl.
Microwave on HIGH 3 minutes or until caramels are completely melted, stirring after each minute.


Pour 1/2 of the caramel mixture into crust.


Refrigerate 10 minutes.
Set remaining caramel mixture aside for later use.


Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended.

Pour over caramel mixture in crust.


BAKE at 325F for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes or until center is almost set if using a silver springform pan. (Bake at 300F for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes or until center is almost set if using a dark nonstick springform pan.)


Run knife or metal spatula around side of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing side of pan.
Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.


Top with remaining caramel mixture and pecans just before serving.
Melt chocolate as directed on package; drizzle over cheesecake.
Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator. Makes 16 servings.

I must say, I was pretty excited about making my first cheesecake. I think it looked pretty ok in the end, it did not crack (every perfectionist cheesecake baker's worst nightmare) or anything, but taste-wise, I am not convinced that it was up to the standard that I was looking for. So it's back to the cheesecake drawing board for me. Sorry, Apple and Mennie, you don't get to try this one. Maybe (hopefully) the next one.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chicken Crispers by Chili's Too


Chicken Crispers
(Php300)


I must agree, these Chicken Crispers are really tasty. The batter is puffy-light and it gives a nice crunch as you bite into it. It comes with a sweet and tangy honey mustard dip which complements the chicken superbly, giving it an extra flavor boost. Good thing the nice folks at Chili's Too are generous with their honey mustard dip.


Grilled Chicken Platter
(Php275)
Also worth trying at Chili's Too is their Grilled Chicken Platter. I always am skeptical about grilled chicken breast. Compared to chicken thigh or leg, chicken breast is notorious for being dry and flavorless, and grilling the thing doesn't help its case. But the Grilled Chicken Platter at Chili's Too promised to be neither, and, well, it's a promise kept. It was juicy and well seasoned and although light calorie-wise (in my non-expert opinion), it was actually quite filling. I really enjoyed that dinner and I am already looking forward to going back.

Chili's Too is located at P1 Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City. For deliveries, contact (02)659-6527. Visit their website at www.chilisphilippines.com.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Roasts and More at Hong Kong Roast Food Express

Roast Chicken


Salted Baked Chicken
Hong Kong Roast Food Express (HKR) is the brainchild of Mary Chan, a self-confessed devotee of the authentic Hong Kong asado. HKR is a fairly new restaurant, having opened its doors to the public only about a month ago.

Last monday, I was invited to try out their authentic Hong Kong cuisine for lunch. With me was my friend, Ruth who got left by her flight to Singapore and had a great deal of time to kill before the next flight.

(Nice one, Ruth!)

Sate Beef Hofan
Siomai
It is a long drive from Cavite to the heart of Makati and I was starving when I got to Bagtikan Street. (It was 2:30PM. You can imagine my state.) HKR is a hole-in-the-wall type of restaurant and as with all hole-in-the-walls, I was worried about the parking when I got there. Thankfully, the security guard was very helpful with the parking so we were parked in a jiffy.

Parking dilemmas aside, I enjoy hunting down these hole-in-the-wall restaurants. While characteristically small and rather obscure, they reward the seeker with a treasure trove of culinary delights not available anywhere else.

Yang Chow Fried Rice
Black Chicken Sesame
There was already quite a spread when we got there, thanks to the early birds we shared the lunch with, but I couldn't resist ordering a couple more. For some reason, I was craving for noodles that day, so I ordered the Sate Beef Noodle (Light- Php115, Heavy- Php185) , that is, in addition to everything else on the table- Salted Baked Chicken (Half- Php310, Whole- 550), Black Chicken Sesame, BBQ Roast Pork a.k.a. Asado (their specialty) (Php180), Sate Beef Hofan (Light- Php160, Heavy- Php240), Roast Chicken (Half- Php195, Whole- Php390), Fried Fish Fillet in Cream Corn (Php150), and Yang Chow Fried Rice (Php110).

Fried Chicken


Milk Tea
Coffee Jelly
While I waited for my noodles, famished as I was, I started nibbling on the food already available on the table. I ate quite a lot of the Fried Chicken and the Roast Chicken. Although HKR specializes in roasts, their Fried Chicken deserves just as much praise. The batter crust was nice and crunchy and the chicken juicy and rich in oriental flavors. And while I do not eat pork, my friend tells me that the Siomai was pretty good, too. Ruth, having lived in Singapore for five years now, tells me that the food at HKR tastes pretty much like the food in Singapore. Singapore's cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese cuisine and is famous for Hainanese Chicken and satays.

Sate Beef Noodle

Iced Lemon Tea
French Toast
The Sate Beef Noodle really hit the spot for me. The noodles are fresh and the soup it came in is very flavorful. I slurped like a local. And the sate beef has a unique flavor, it definitely is a huge departure from the usual beef, normally braised, noodle I order from other Chinese restaurants. For drinks I had Lemon Tea, HKR's home brew. It was so refreshing, I finished two glasses in one sitting. For dessert, we had Coffee Jelly and French Toast. It was quite a finish for a good heavy meal.

For dine-in and take out, visit Hong Kong Roast Food Express at 7467C Bagtikan St., San Antonio Village, Makati City. For deliveries, contact HKR at (02)553-7846 and (02)984-7760.




(This is my 100th "Restaurants and Eating Places" tagged post. Yay!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Belgian Mallow Bites by Mister Donut

Belgian Mallow Bites
(Php12 each)

It's a marshmallow sandwiched between a chocolate doughnut hole and ensconced in Belgian chocolate. Best 72 pesos I spent last Friday.

I'd been hankering for one of these Belgian Mallow Bites ever since I saw a giant picture of it on a bus and then again on a billboard along EDSA. (I love mallow pies, which made Belgian Mallow Bites a winning proposition for me even before I bit into one.) It took quite a while after that before I actually got to buy them though. And that only made me giddy when I finally found a Mister Donut store in Robinsons Galleria a couple of days ago. I bought a box of 6 for Php72 in a heartbeat. 

Despite the components which scream "sugar overload!", Belgian Mallow Bites are not overly sweet. That is why it's easy to eat too much of it without really noticing it. Consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beer Below Zero at Kabisera

Beer Below Zero

I am not a big beer drinker. Not really fond of the taste. Bitterness, mostly. But the same beer at below freezing temperatures, that's a different story. The harsh cold tames that bitterness, gives the beer a certain smoothness... All beers should be served this way. At least I won't have mine unless it's below zero. Freezing beer though is not as simple as I thought it was. That is why there is Beer Below Zero. They freeze beers for you so you won't have to. 

"The technology has been made perfect through extensive research and development with refrigeration engineers and chemists. Using a scientific approach, they’ve perfected the recipe of your “perfect beer”, cold but still liquid and easy to drink. Consistency is the defining characteristic of this process." -http://www.beerbelowzero.com/about-bbz.html

Got my San Mig Light below zero (Php75) in Kabisera ng Dencio's at the Power Plant Mall recently. What do you know- I got another one free because of their 1+1 promo on all alcoholic drinks starting at 4PM up to the wee hours. Now, how cool is that?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My First Cannoli

Cannoli

Cannoli consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannoli

I'd been curious about this pastry for the longest time as I hear about them a lot in US pop culture, especially so in mobster themed movies and TV shows. It does not escape me that no matter how menacing and burly the person who mention it is, the cannoli is often referred to with a certain level of fondness. So when I saw the cannoli on the New York Pizza Palace menu, I practically jumped at it. Finally, I can learn first hand what the hubbub is all about. 

The cannoli I got from the NYPP dessert showcase had been pre-stuffed. Must be the reason why the shell was not crisp as it should be. Despite this, I can say that I liked it. After all, I did kind of scarf that poor cannoli down in under a minute, swiping chocolate syrup off the plate with forkfuls of the pastry as I went along. But I do wonder if I can have the crisp shell freshly stuffed with the cream filling as I order... Maybe when I go back for my next cannoli.

I love the general vibe I get in the NYPP premises.
It's frenetic yet cozy at the same time.
New York Pizza Palace is located in A-Venue, Makati Avenue, Makati City. Visit their website at: http://www.newyorkpizzapalace.com/

Monday, July 11, 2011

Banoffee-ing it up at Banapple


Banoffee Pie

Insalata Rustico
(P135)
Asian Sunshine Salad
(P140)
I first learned of Banapple during one of those rare occasions that I went to Quezon City. I was driving southbound through Katipunan on my way home and there it was, its yellow and red signage waving at me by the roadside. It promised of pies and other sweet things... It was a little shop, so easy to miss, but sugar harkens to me like a beacon, so I knew it was there.

I failed to stop by at the time. It was so hard to park at that shop. And not even after I learned that they opened a bigger place northbound of Katipunan, did I find myself in the area thereafter, so I never got the chance to try Banapple's sweet offerings. That is until I got an invite to try out Banapple goodies at their newest branch in Greenhills. I just couldn't wait to finally sink my teeth into their famous Banoffee Pie.

And that Banoffee Pie did not disappoint.

Breaded Fillet of
Cream Dory with Honey
Thyme Mustard Sauce
(P185)
Hickory Smoked
Barbecued Country Ribs
(Php185)
I particularly appreciate the fact that the bananas Banapple uses are nice and firm, not mushy. And that is a big thing, bananas being the heart and soul of the pie. You can say that the banoffee pie rises or falls on its bananas. And Banapple's- well- that pie has really good bananas. The graham cracker crust gives the pie a nice crunch and the topping a lavish creaminess. All in all, I can say that Banapple's Banoffee Pie is just how I imagined it would be.

While I knew that Banapple is home to great desserts like pies, cheesecakes, muffins and cookies, I didn't know that they served full meals. They have quite a selection- from light options like salads and soups to heavy hitters like rice meals and pasta. They all come in big servings and are reasonably priced. The Lasagna Rollups is one of Banapple's pasta bestsellers.

Strawberry Crunch
Cheesecake
Lasagna Rollups
The Banapple Greenhills branch is located in Northeast Square, Connecticut Street.

Aside from Greenhills and Katipunan (206 & 225 Katipunan Avenue, Blue Ridge, Q.C.), Banapple also has branches in Makati (Ayala Triangle Gardens, Ayala Ave., Makati City) and Tomas Morato (2nd level Il Terrazzo, Tomas Morato cor. Sct. Madrinan, South Triangle, Q.C.).

Visit their website at: http://www.banapplekitchen.com/

Classic Pecan Pie

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