Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lago de Oro: A Weekend of Food and the Sea

I spent the weekend in Lago de Oro with friends and already I want to go back. Aside from a vast pristine mangrove you can walk on taking the place of a beachfront, the resort offers an amazing view of the China Sea and a spectacular sunset. Most importantly, for me at least, the food did not disappoint.

At first, I thought that the only thing we were going there for was wakeboarding. My interest however, grew a hundredfold when upon entering the gate of Lago, I was greeted by a sign saying that they make their own bread and bacon, among others. I simply admire restaurants that go that extra mile. As I expected, I ate so well there, to the point of guilt. It is funny, come to think of it now, that we were not expecting there would be good food in Lago. We even talked about finding some restaurant nearby to have dinner in when we got to Batangas. It is a good thing that we stayed.

The first thing I ever ate there, at 4:45 PM and I have not had any lunch yet, was Gnocchi (Php335). Freshly made dumplings bathed in thick home-made Italian-style tomato sauce, Lago's Gnocchi was delicious. The parmesan cheese was served on the side which I found quite thoughtful. It also came with a basket of bread, freshly baked in the resort's kitchen, and some butter. Despite my hunger and the fact that it was so good, I thought the serving was good enough for two people. Now I regret not having snapped up a picture of that meal. Maybe next time... Definitely, next time.

I did however, take a picture of our breakfast, which came with our accommodations package at the resort. My friends raved about Lago's home-made bacon, which are obviously heftier than the ones you buy from the grocery. I on the other hand, ordered beef tapa. Tapa is not exactly on Lago's menu, but the server told me that what they could do is boil away the sauce of the Filipino Beef Steak, leaving the beef. Perfect, I say, that is exactly how we do tapa at home anyhow.

My beef tapa, as with the bacon breakfast, came with a choice of plain or garlic fried rice, toasted bread and butter, two eggs (I like mine fried with the yolk completely cooked.), a choice of fruit juice, and a choice of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. (I had my beef tapa with garlic fried rice and for drinks, I chose orange juice and hot chocolate.) The beef tapa came out great and I was satisfied with the amount of serving, which was quite generous. And because it is basically simmered down beef steak, it was not oily, making it a bit healthier than beef tapa. With a set breakfast as hearty as this, who needs buffet?

Lago de Oro is located at Bo. Balibago, Calatagan, Batangas. Check out Lago de Oro and its menu at:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Impromptu Get-Together Dinner at Sariwon

Coming from the book launching of Memories of Philippine Kitchens at Enderun, I was in the mood for some dinner. All that talk of food certainly made me hungry.

For the late dinner, I found myself in Sariwon together with some friends. (I love love love it when I call friends out of the blue for a get together and they say yes!) I had been reading good reviews about Sariwon and the first time I tried to have dinner here, the place was fully booked so I was not able to get a table. So when one of my friends suggested it, I agreed right away. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally find out what all the fuss over Sariwon was about.

As is traditional with Korean restaurants, we were welcomed with little plates of appetizers from kimchi to mashed sweet potatoes. I appreciated the courteous gesture of offering wet towels before we started our meal. These wet towels start their life as little dry white tablets and they grow to their full size when water is poured onto them. I must admit that the child in me found this quite magical.

Dolsot Bibimbap
We ordered Dolsot Bibimbap, which is your typical bibimbap but served in a hot stone bowl. Left alone, the hot bowl toasts the rice in the bibimbap, which I quite like. I normally mix my own but that night, I let Sariwon's servers mix it for us, with the instruction of using only half of the Korean hot chili paste, gochujang.

Ggot Galbisal
For the grill, we ordered Ggot Galbisal and Toshisal. Ggot Galbisal is 130 grams of boneless USDA Choice ribs while Toshisal is 130 grams of fresh lean USDA Choice short plate. These beautiful cuts of beef are cooked on the grill right at our table together with some slices of fresh button mushrooms. My friend suggested grilling some kimchi as well. It resulted in a slightly sweeter kimchi with a nice smoky roasted flavor.

The food we ordered seemed to be on the thin side considering there were 4 of us sharing, but with the side dishes it was a very filling meal for all of us. To wash everything down, we were given barley tea which, despite being hot, I found to be refreshing. And if that were not enough freebies, the good people at Sariwon also gave us Sikhye, on the house. Sikhye is a traditional sweet Korean drink made with malt and rice. It was a perfect sweet ending for the wonderful dinner. 

Sariwon Korean Barbecue-Bonifacio High Street Central is located at UG/F Bonifacio High Street Central, West Superblock, 7th Ave cor 29th St., Fort Bonifacio, Taguig. Contact Sariwon at (0922) 535-2446

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scenes from a Book Launching

Last November 13, 2012, the newest edition of the book, Memories of Philippine Kitchens was launched at Enderun Colleges. Authors Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan and photographer Neal Oshima all graced the event and signed copies of the book.

"Memories of Philippine Kitchens (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; May 2012; ISBN: 978-1-58479-973-3) by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, tells a story that all Filipinos should read.  It is the story of our cuisine, told in the many voices of our countryside cooks, and told from the hearts of a couple who have become champions of Filipino food.   
x x x 
In this revised edition, the authors reflect on their continuing journey as they delve into their relationship with food, explore connections with our Asian neighbors and how their food has influenced our own, and share how they embraced these varied and wonderful flavors, transforming them into the much-acclaimed dishes that they serve at their Brooklyn restaurant, Purple Yam.   
Filled with hundreds of Neal Oshima’s delectable photographs, Memories of Philippine Kitchens is more than just a cookbook.  It is about connections and cultures, stories and more than 100 unique recipes from local cooks around the country (some of them little known to us, but all of them researched and documented with painstaking care); it is about vivid food memories passed from generation to generation, and a love for our land and our heritage.  Whether you cook, or not, this book will fill you with joy and pride.
(Memories of Philippine Kitchens-Now Newly Revised and Updated, Press Release)

Nana Meng's Dinuguan
A panel discussion also marked the event. At the end of which, the guests were treated to cocktails and some selected dishes from the book. Among those dishes was Nana Meng's Dinuguan (paired with puto, of course) and Lola Anday's Chicken Kinulob

Lola Anday's Chicken Kinulob

The Kinulob was cooked onsite in palayok (clay pots) over flaming hot charcoal. As the name suggests, between the pot and the cover, there was a layer of banana leaves to seal in all the goodness of the ingredients as the dish cooks. This ensures that the chicken is smothered with all of flavors of the Kinulob.

Guests, including me, waited in anticipation for the Kinulob, and we were not disappointed. The dish was a spectacle even when cooked, as bright yellow globules of immature chicken eggs generously dot the "stew", and finally, before serving, it was laced with a kind of gravy made from ground chicken liver, artisenal patis, and calamansi. This curiously salty, tangy, and mildly bitter gravy makes the dish extra special.

I am sure I have heard about Kinulob for a long time, but I realized that I have never tasted it much less seen it cooked in the traditional way until that day. So it was truly and eye-opening experience for me. Now it may be the very first time that I have ever tasted Chicken Kinulob but I must say, the flavors of this traditional Filipino dish is certainly something that is comfortingly familiar. Much like what Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan achieved with Memories of Philippine Kitchens.

Php895, trade paperback
also available in hard cover

Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan is available in National Bookstore and other major bookstores.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

FoodLab's Great Cookie Sale

FoodLab wants to make sure your cookie jar does not run out of cookies during the Holidays.

(Because nothing is sadder than an empty cookie jar on Christmas.)

Contact information:

Location: Mercato Centrale, 34th Street corner 8th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, 1634 Taguig 
(Midnight Mercato happens every Friday and Saturday, 10PM-3AM)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Divinondo": A Foodcourt Experience

Su zhou Shrimp Dumplings
Tuesday I spent the whole day in Divisoria and Binondo. Mostly, I just followed my sister around so I did not know exactly what part I was in at any particular point in time was there. But I was pretty sure we started our "Divinondo" adventure by puttering around Lucky Chinatown Mall. The last time I was in Divisoria, this mall was not yet in existence, so that was pretty exciting for me. It reminded me of Newport Mall and Eastwood Mall, and it was by far the most high-end of the malls that I had been to in that area.

168 Mall Food Court
From Lucky Chinatown, we crossed over to 168 Mall, which is in stark contrast to the former. 168 Mall is densely packed with stalls that sold merchandise that give you more bang for the buck and equally packed with shoppers that tended to cause traffic along the narrow aisles. Nevertheless, we combed through that place like there was no tomorrow, zigzagging through the many pasilios as methodically as possible to make sure we did not leave any store unturned. I was mesmerized by all the unusual trinkets and mind-blowing bargains being offered by merchants at every turn. And you kind of lose track of time there. It was lunch time when we finally decided to move away from the shopping area and into the food court.

Su zhou Beef Noodle Soup
While there are a couple of big-name food establishments that set up shop there, I was relieved to learn that the 168 Mall food courts (yes, there is more than one) have markedly different vendors from those that I am used to. There are more authentic Chinese food vendors, for instance, which was perfect because I was sure as heck that I was not going to have a burger for lunch in Divinondo. Among those we bought lunch from was Mitzi's and Su zhou. Mitzi's has very good siomai (Php60 for 4 pieces), which are bigger than say Chowking's or Henlin's. At Su zhou, we ordered beef noodle soup and shrimp dumplings. We had to wait for a while for our food here because they are cooked upon order, even the steamed shrimp dumplings was steamed on the spot, to make sure you get your meal fresh and hot. Su zhou's steamed shrimp dumpling is different in that it is not simply a shrimp ensconced in starch wrapper. Su zhou's wrapper for one, is not translucent unlike the usual steamed shrimp dumpling (hakaw) I know of. Secondly, the filling seems to be a combination of some ground shrimp and some fish mixed in rather than a whole piece of shrimp two. It is really quite interesting and something worth trying when you are in Divisoria.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Home-made Cupcakes on a Lazy Day

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes

I think I found my new favorite recipe for chocolate cupcakes. I love it for many, albeit simple, reasons. With this recipe, I can use butter straight from the fridge because the boiling water takes care of it. No waiting, planning ahead of time, or using the microwave to make sure the butter is at room temperature when I start to work on the batter. And because of the boiling water, I don't have to deal with the extra step of melting chocolate, too, since all I need is good cocoa powder.

Also, in a country where buttermilk is not something you see in a regular grocery, this is a cut above my other favorite recipe. Instead of buttermilk, it calls for sourcream, a more common local grocery staple. The best part about this recipe though, is how chocolaty and delicious the resulting cupcakes are. And they are not too sweet which make them wonderful with cream cheese frosting or good old fashioned buttercream.

I brought this up because I made these cupcakes again yesterday. It was a lazy afternoon. So lazy in fact, that I did not want to be bothered with the frosting so I wanted a cupcake that would taste wonderful even without frosting. Ooohh, and these cupcakes are especially good freshly baked. I wait five minutes for them to cool for a bit in the pan and I am rewarded with a warm, moist, and fluffy cupcake with its top still slightly crackly-crispy.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup shortening or butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, combine boiling water, shortening, sugar, and cocoa. Beat until sugar is dissolved.
Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with the beaten egg, sour cream, and vanilla.
Fill greased and lightly floured cupcake cups about half full.
Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Frost with your favorite frosting,  homemade or purchased. Makes about 10 to 12 cupcakes.


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