Saturday, December 31, 2016

A blessed 2017 to all!

In just about two hours as I write this post, we will all say goodbye to 2016 and leave behind all the joys and tears that came with it, and welcome 2017. On a personal note, I am doing this with a somewhat heavy heart because of a still unanswered prayer, but at the same time, I'm hoping and trusting God that the coming year will be one of breakthroughs. I know deep in my heart that whatever happens, whatever is in my future, He has gone there before me so I have no reason to fear. Didn't the Lord Jesus say "In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world (John 16:33)"?. Praise Him! I will continue to be confident because I know that God is faithful to His promises. I urge everyone to welcome 2017 with a trusting heart, praying ardently until God decides it's the perfect time to grant our requests. 
Happy New Year, friends! 
God bless everyone. 

(Thank you for this photo)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Have a merry, yummy Christmas!

I know you are all in the thick of preparations for Christmas lunch and dinner, busy cooking your family's traditional Yuletide dishes. I could almost smell the lechon, ham and queso de bola, fruit salad, chicken relleno and other special food being prepared in your kitchens! In my family, it's morcon that's the star of the holiday spread because my mom slays it! And she makes morcon only once a year which makes it doubly special. Us siblings really look forward to having our mom's very special dish either 
on our Christmas or New Year's Day table.
But on the days leading to Christmas, I enjoy taking pictures of those cute Yuletide desserts in restaurants. They're not just too lovely to eat, 
they are also yummy! 

Clockwise from left: Christmas cupcake at Amor Bakery; Chocolate cake at Urban Cafe; Chocolate cake at Costa Coffee

Merry Christmas, folks! I hope you're all having a wonderful celebration with your families, partaking of special and sumptuous food. But don't get too excited with eating and opening gifts! Remember Him whose birthday we're celebrating: Jesus! Praise and thank Him today for the gift of eternal life and all the blessings He is showering us with. 
Happy eating!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

St. Marc Cafe: My new chill-out place

I'm not sure if there really is a saint named Marc (spelled this way, I mean, because the apostle Mark's name has "k" as the last letter) but I find it a bit odd to name a restaurant after him. Well, you name a school, a funeral parlor or a church after a saint but I think it's not a usual name to call a cafe. But apparently, somebody in Japan thought it was the best name for his (?) business and thus, opened St. Marc Cafe in 1987. It became such a big hit that it now has over 350 branches in Japan alone. In 2014, St. Marc Cafe was brought to the Philippine shore by the Suyen Group and to date, there are already six branches in the country, all in Metro Manila.
I had been passing by St. Marc Cafe at SM North Edsa and Robinsons Place Manila for too long and drooling over the most beautiful display of desserts I've ever seen (I know they're faux food but they look so real and delicious!), before I was finally able to go inside and eat and drink. I'm happy I finally did -- and three times at that in a single week! On Sunday last week, I was with my son and three days later, with my office group of friends so aptly christened "Kain Club". Then that Saturday, 
I went solo after running an errand.
These were my/our orders on those three occasions:

Sepia Nero, P320.
This pasta may look gross for some people, but it tasted really good! Squid gave it it's beautiful black-as-night color but the flavor from the seafood was just an undertone and there was no unpleasant fishy taste. If there was, the zing from chili reduced it to a miniscule. I sprinkled more parmesan cheese into the pasta and mouthed a forkful of it with a piece of the halved baby tomato and my taste buds went partying! I so loved this Sepia Nero because not only was it delicious, it was also a departure from the usual pasta with cream or tomato-based sauce served in many restaurants. And yes, it comes with a piece of a rather rubbery but tasty garlic toast, and is filling enough for lunch or dinner. I've had this pasta dish twice 
and I won't mind having it a third time.

White Fish Katsu Burger, P245.
Want a healthier burger? This one's a perfect choice if you're cutting down on red meat or avoiding it altogether. And there's a lot of shredded cabbage for a bonus of vitamins and fiber. What's more, each bite into this sandwich is a heavenly treat! The fish katsu is perfect - crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, and flavored just right. There's also mayo 
and cheese for added delight.

Carbonara, P300.
Two of my friends ordered this. I asked if it was good and they both nodded in agreement. The dish was topped by a raw egg and one has to break the yolk and mix it into the pasta while it's hot and not yet "cooked". By the looks of it, I know this is one delicious plate of carbonara.  

Bacon Cheese Croissant, P75.
My boy, who loves croissants, ordered this and it's just the way he loves it -- crusty and flaky. 
I loved it too!

Chicken Teriyaki and Vegetables sandwich, P150.
When I was with my friends at St. Marc, I shared this, the Sepia Nero and dessert with my bestie. Not an outstanding sandwich but we were quite happy with it. I never thought chicken teriyaki would make a nice sandwich filling.

Egg and Ham Sandwich, P150.
This was another friend's order together with a plate of Sepia Nero.

Strawberry Heaven, P250.
I planned to skip dessert but my bestie ordered this and insisted that I share it with her. No regrets! This lived up to its name. It was heavenly indeed! First, we loved that it was just a bit sweet and the little sweetness that it had was countered by the sourness of the fresh (frozen?) strawberries. Also, the crunch of the cereals added much delight to eating every spoonful of this dessert that took our taste buds to Cloud 9!
Elvis, P150.
I wanted to say this was like a banana split in a cone but quickly, I realized it couldn't be because there isn't a trio of ice cream flavors. Anyway, my son enjoyed eating this one 
on a hot Sunday afternoon. 

Iced Cafe Mocha, P150. (M) 
A friend paired this one with carbonara and was satisfied with her meal.

Iced Matcha Latte, P130. (S)
I love matcha and this was no exception. It was refreshing and guilt-free for a diabetic like me because there was just a wee bit of sweetness in it.

(L-R) Cappuccino P120 (S); Matcha Latte P120. (S), Cafe Latte, P120. (S)
The cappuccino was my friend's but she wasn't very happy about it. I liked my cafe latte, though, but loved the Matcha Latte which was just a little saccharine and very creamy. I found out from that it landed at #9 in their list of Top 10 Matcha Lattes. 
To me, it's no surprise. This matcha is really good!

Iced Yuzu Tea, P170. (L)
My friend's drink which she loved and described as citrusy and refreshing.

St. Marc Cafe at the ground floor of SM City North Edsa Main Bldg.
Faux food but still drool-worthy!

Thumbs up for St. Marc Cafe! The food and drinks are yummy and out of the ordinary. The servers are friendly and attentive to our needs. The ambiance is very comfy and relaxing and remarkably quiet compared to other coffee shops, allowing good conversations and even reading, working on a laptop or studying. 
To top it all, there's free and fast wi-fi!
Visit the nearest St. Marc Cafe, folks and enjoy a relaxing meal 
whether you're alone or with company. 
Happy eating!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Merienda All-You-Can at Syudad by Barrio Fiesta

Wilcon City on Visayas Ave. in Quezon City is one of the places I frequent near our office as I often buy food and groceries there. There is a number of restaurants in this mini-mall -- some have the staying power while others have closed and given way to new business. Last month,  a Filipino restaurant opened there -- Syudad by Barrio Fiesta -- which replaced one that offered Japanese cuisine. One thing drew me to this new foodie place: the poster announcing it offers a Merienda All-You-Can 
at a very pocket-friendly price of P159.
 Who wouldn't get excited? 
Happily, the opportunity to try the afternoon buffet came swiftly. A niece who lives in Canada came for a long vacation, so I invited her to Syudad. We checked out the merienda buffet spread. I counted the dishes...14 in all. Hhmm..quite a lot! And everything looked inviting! Well, the food tasted really good and my niece and I both liked the ones that we ate (Not everything. I passed on the camote cue, sapin-sapin, mini-sandwiches, pork giniling and bread to spare myself of extra carbo and sugar). 
When I came back to the office, I immediately told my friends about Syudad and just a day later, our group went there to celebrate the birthday of one of us. Her treat! I found out most of the dishes were also served the other day, 
and there were just a few new ones. 
Here's the spread at Syudad's Merienda-All-You-Can which 
I took pictures of on the two days I was there:

Palabok and Fried quail eggs (more popularly known as "kwek-kwek")
Spaghetti and Ukoy

Pork giniling and loaf bread slices

Puto and Dinuguan
Tokwa't baboy and Goto
(L-R) Lomi; Chicken Sopas; Chicken Sotanghon Soup; Ginataang Bilo-Bilo
And well, these are my favorites:

Dinuguan, Kutsinta, Puto (2 kinds there) and Pork Giniling
The round puto was really good - soft and just a tad sweet. 
It was great with the Dinuguan!
Tokwa't baboy and kwek-kwek
The fried tofu cubes are perfectly done - crunchy on the outside 
but chewy on the inside. I ate them with lots of chili and onion and bathed in vinegar 
and soy sauce. Yummy!
Chicken Sotanghon, Ginataang Bilo-Bilo and Palabok
All tasty especially the ginatan (I had two bowls of this!) and palabok.
Chicken Sopas
Milky and comforting to the tummy. It would be good to eat 
this first if you're famished.

Try Syudad's Merienda All-You-Can, folks! It's really good at a price your wallet will thank you for. So sulit! And because it comes from the same company that owns the famous Barrio Fiesta, you are assured of the good quality of food. Bring your balikbayan family and friends and they'll surely be happy to have a Filipino merienda spread.
Happy eating!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Today's Word: Psalm 97:1-6

Do you marvel at nature - the stars, the skies, the sea - and be in awe of their Maker? I do whenever I'm at the beach or there's a full moon when I go out of the office at night. God's creation reminds me of His might and infinite power and moves me to give Him praise. All of His works also remind me that He reigns, that whatever is happening in my life, God is still the Lord Almighty and He is control. 
Are your circumstances difficult today? I would like to assure you that God is all-powerful and all-knowing and He can change your situation. He is by your side, listening. Pour your heart out to Him, seek His help. The Lord who made the heavens and the earth will turn your circumstances around, as nothing is too difficult for Him to do. 
Blessings for you today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Maginhawa St. Gastronomic Walk #13: Empire Fashion Cafe

Think you've had enough of Maginhawa St.? Think again. I've been to over 20 restaurants in this well-known stretch (loop, actually, because foodies include peripheral streets such as Malingap) that is heaven to the gastronomically inclined and thought I've had the best of it (That reminds me of my posting backlog!). Then comes an article saying there are newbies that offer great promise. Hmmm.. Time to go back to Maginhawa? The tummy thought t'was a good thing to do. 
And so, last Monday, my daughter and I set our feet again at Maginhawa, particularly at this interesting place that's perfect to visit at this time of the year when shopping shifts to high gear. We were at Empire Fashion Cafe, you bet! It's perhaps 
the most popular new address at Maginhawa today, 
having received its good share of publicity. 
But before looking at or buying anything, we ate: 

Aussie Shark Bait Burger, P185.
This was good but the beef patty was small and thin, making this burger a bit too pricey for its price. Thankfully, the fries is included in every order of it. We were also given a glass of soda but I'm not sure if it came with the burger or the lasagna roll.
Lasagna Roll, P165.
This one I really liked. The lasagna was packed with just the right flavors from the meat and tomato and cream sauce. By that I meant taste that is more subtle than screaming because between the two, I choose the first. I dislike my taste buds being flooded and "shocked" by too strong a taste, so this is perfect for me. And the toasted bread was really crunchy, which 
I loved! Two thumbs up for Empire's Lasagna Roll.
Ham and Cheese Maki Rolls, P90.
These pieces of deep fried rolled bread with fillings are good munchees, 
I imagined, while watching a movie or reading a book. I cringed, though, 
at the thought of grease.
Matcha Frappe, P145.
Because this was matcha, I loved it! Would have downright healthy without the cream and chocolate, however, but of course, this wouldn't be called a "frappe" without them.

After eating, shopping! Nearly everyone could find something at Empire, we learned. There are clothes for men, women and kids. There are shoes, bags, knick knacks, toys, and make-up. We found some nice buys, and went home happy with them. Prices of the merchandise were very affordable and they're surprisingly of good quality. I just think having a boutique and a cafe in a single store is one good idea. Kudos to the owner/s! Did I mention they have another store in Marikina? Yes, they do, and I think it opened first. 
Check out Empire Fashion Cafe, folks! 
Happy eating!...and shopping!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Maginhawa St. Gastronomic Walk #12: Angus Tapa Centrale

Tapsilog or tapa (cured beef), sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (fried egg) is my top favorite all-day breakfast, and I was amazed when I saw on TV last year that there's a restaurant serving it using Angus beef. I'm talkin' about Angus Tapa Centrale in Kamuning, Quezon City, which was featured then on Taste Buddies (and in a few other TV shows). It's just a hole-in-the-wall, non-descript eatery but mind you, it's patronized by big-name personalities in the likes of 
Willie Revillame and Vice Ganda. 
Meanwhile, Angus beef is the meat of a breed of cattle called Angus, imported mostly from the US but could also come from other countries such as Germany and Australia. The beef is said to be of superior quality and here in the Philippines, dishes that use this type of meat are exquisite and pricey. 
For this reason, I was excited about the thought of having a taste of my favorite tapsilog, now leveled up. I couldn't wait to be at Angus Tapa Centrale but unfortunately, could not find the time to go to Kamuning just for it. But months later, I learned that they'd opened a new branch on Malingap St. that's part of the famous Maginhawa restaurant loop. Oh, how excited it got me because this area is my favorite part of the earth. He he he... Fortunately, my food buddy in the office shared my keen interest and one lunchtime, we hied off to the place which is just near where we go to work. 
Here's what we ordered:

US Angus Beef Tapa Original, P165.
Baby Back Ribs, half slab, P295.
Almond Mocha Sansrival, P185.
Grape fruit shake, P135.
Cappuccino, P85.

Inside Angus Tapa Centrale-Malingap

The tapa did not disappoint, it was really good! The beef - tender, succulent and flavorful - was cut into small pieces so it was easy to eat and delicious - just as I expected! The fried rice was a nice complement to the tapa - not soft the way some restaurants serve theirs, and garlicky. The fried egg could have been perfect 
if it had toasted edges, though. Tee-hee. 
As for my buddy, she loved her Baby Back Ribs, too - smoky, mildly saccharine, and tangy. Yup, I tasted it and liked it, too. We had the Almond Mocha Sansrival, yes, but we decided to forego dessert this time, and my friend decided to just take it home. The cappuccino gave the perfect ending to my meal, which I immensely enjoyed. 
Angus Tapa Centrale is one great place for carnivores, I kid you not, and I am so wanting to be back as they have a rather long list of drool-worthy offers to try. And by the way, I read on food authority site that Angus Tapa Centrale made it to No. 1 of their Top 10 Tapsilog for this year 2016 (not sure about the year, though, it could be 2015). Wow, it made me feel good to have eaten it! Hehe..
Don't waste your time imagining how Angus beef tapa tastes like, folks, 
and haul yourself off to Angus Tapa Centrale now. 
Happy eating! 

P.S. Angus Tapa Centrale is at #22 Malingap St., Teachers Village, Quezon City

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Of coffee and fond memories

Do you have that one foodie place that you keep coming back to not just because you love their food but also because of the memories it evokes? I do. It's Cafe France at Robinson's Place in Ermita, Manila. This coffee shop reminds me of the times I spend with my US-based sister whenever she comes vacationing. She would stay at the Adriatico Tower condo on Adriatico St. yearly when she's here, the reason we frequent restaurants at the said mall. Among our favorites is Cafe France for several reasons: 
it's near the entrance to the condo, the coffee and food are good, 
and there's free and reliable wifi. Sometimes, we wouldn't just be twosome when 
our eldest sibling would decide to join us.
These are what we order and love at Cafe France: 

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, regular, P180 

Seafood Soup, P130.

                                                                   CF Premiere Clubhouse, half, P110. 

Pizza Baguette Vegetarian, P120.

Pierre Tray Couture, P290.

Marguerite Tray Couture, P290.

 Espresso Chocolate Cheesecake, P145.

Red Velvet Bites, P50.

Café Latte, P110; Cappuccino, P110; Mocha Frappe, P155.

Fresh Lemonade, P95; Four Seasons, P95.

Everything is love, love, love! The salad, sandwiches, pizza, pasta--all are fresh, delicious and crave-worthy! One more thing I love at Cafe France is their 
Espresso Chocolate Cheesecake which is heavenly with its robust coffee flavor 
and just faint sweetness. My two sisters love the Tray Couture sets which 
are a complete meal (with a sandwich, pasta, soup, dessert and a drink) and were really filling and satisfying, they say.
Meanwhile, coffee, whether hot or cold, is pure bliss and is just the perfect 
drink to have with bread or dessert. The coffee, food and those 
conversations and the laughter I share with my sisters are 
among my treasure trove of memories from Cafe France, which I visit even 
when my sisters are not around. It's my go-to place
 for a quiet afternoon coffee.
By the way, Cafe France has recently opened a new branch at the Times Plaza at 
the corner of UN Ave. and Taft Ave. in Manila. This is just downstairs from the 
clinic where I consult with my doctors and also just a stone's 
throw away from our church. 
Happiness indeed!