Scrumptious: Pollo, paella and croquettas at Alqueria (GMA News Online)


(This feature was published in GMA News Online last October 24, 2016)

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Spanish food is paella: white, short-grain rice, cooked al dente until there’s a caramelized crust on the bottom, and then topped with a myriad of meats, seafood, and vegetables.

It’s heaven on a plate—and Alqueria doesn’t disappoint, especially since it offers seven varieties of the dish.

A fusion of Spanish and Asian flavors

The restaurant has been around for a while (it used to be called Boqueria) but it expanded its menu when Chef Sonny Mariano of the Sumo Sam Restaurant Concepts Group took charge of the kitchen.

“We felt that we needed to add more options but the bestsellers are still there,” he says, adding that the menu now offers traditional Spanish, Hispanic, and Asian and Spanish fusion dishes.

This casual but chic dining place is located inside the trendy area of one of the biggest malls in the metro. My husband and I braved the traffic and parking challenge to get there, but the trip was worth it because of the good food.

I liked the traditional Spanish offerings like the Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup), a rustic soup with garlic-flavored broth that is served tableside at Alqueria. They first serve you a bowl filled with organic egg, sautéed mushrooms, garlic gelee, and Manchego crisp, then pour in hot stock.

(Read the rest of the article HERE.)

Discovering the benefits of Funny Face Yoga (GMA News Online)

Fully Face Yoga photo by Snow Caps

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last September 27, 2016)

The plank, the downward facing dog, the cobra pose: I’m familiar with these common body poses since I’ve done yoga, but Funny Face Yoga is something new to me.

I thought it was just child’s play, since you’re basically making yourself look silly by doing funny facial expressions, but apparently there’s a science behind it, just like the traditional yoga.

The first time I encountered Funny Face Yoga was at demonstration of basic techniques by Vivien Tan, a former model who is now a Kundalini Yoga teacher.

Tan shared three basic exercises to get us started: breathing exercises, kissing exercises, and eye exercises. I found all easy to perform and very doable. I could even imagine myself doing such exercises while at my work desk. “It’s an opportunity for people who have not had any exposure to yoga to at least try and have a tip of the iceberg,” said Tan, who added that anyone can do funny face yoga because it is easy to research online.

“The fact that it’s funny and crazy and a little bit kooky kind of makes you smile and you might even laugh out loud. [It’s] a good thing when you feel good about yourself and you’re able to laugh. You actually are already radiating a more positive beauty. When you see somebody with a smile on their face, they’re already instantly beautiful,” said Tan.

Those who live sedentary lifestyles like me—always in front of the computer and not spending enough time in the gym—might find this a good starting point to get in the habit of exercise.

However, “Funny Face Yoga is not the be-all, end-all,” said Tan. She suggests doing it in conjunction with other activities that complement a healthy lifestyle such as eating more nutritious foods, drinking plenty of fluids, working out, and other related activities.

“Having said that, Funny Face Yoga can give you immediate effects. You’re smiling,” she said.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Grind Bistro: Burgers, black chicken, and rainy-day cheese on rye (GMA News Online)

Don't miss Grind Bistro's specialty burgers made with USDA beef

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last July 21, 2016)

From hole-in-the-wall establishments to chef-driven restaurants, Metro Manila’s food scene is brimming with excitement. I could hardly keep up with the new dining places popping up around town, but I do try to visit recently opened restos whenever I have time. My latest discovery serves burgers and classic American cuisine: Grind Bistro.

Opened last May, this trendy full-service restaurant was originally conceptualized as a casual American diner bordering on fastfood, but evolved into something a little more upscale than just a burger joint.

Restaurateur couple

Steven Carl and Cristina Imperial Carl are the husband-and-wife team behind Grind Bistro. The couple had formal culinary training, and Steven used to be a hotel executive chef and food and beverage director. “During our recent trips to the Philippines, we’ve seen how the food scene has grown so much. There were a lot of chefs who were focusing on local produce, local ingredients, and that’s what Steven’s food is really about,” says Cristina.

Grind Bistro is the second food venture they put up within a year, after their original burger concept. “But this is our showpiece. We get to have fun and experiment with the food and do a little more upscale dining and service,” says Steven. Another restaurant is in the works and its set to open before the year ends.

This food-loving couple enjoys setting up elaborate dinner parties at home, and most of the dishes in their restaurant menu came from those events. Way before they opened the restaurant, they did a lot of food tasting with family and friends to fine-tune recipes. The result is a relatively small menu that features select dishes.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Savoring paella cochinillo and other colonial Spanish dishes at Café Enye (GMA News Online)

The pork bits give some fatty goodness to the Paella Cochinillo

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last July 15, 2016)

Many Filipinos are familiar with Spanish cuisine. How could we not be, given that the Philippines was colonized by Spain for over 300 years? Some aspects of their culture, especially the food, have been ingrained in ours.
I have developed a liking for its flavors because of my sense of familiarity with it, and I consider it one of my favorite world cuisines, so I wouldn’t pass up a chance at dining in a new Spanish restaurant like Café Enye.

The spacious establishment, which opened in January 2016, feels more like a casual family restaurant than a typical café. When my husband and I recently had dinner there, we saw large groups having a complete meal together. We got a table by one of the colored couches, and I appreciated the eclectic décor of the place.

There were accent walls adorned with framed paintings, mirrors, and other knickknacks that make for good conversation pieces. Unlike traditional Spanish restaurants, this one didn’t feel formal or stiff because of its warm wooden furnishings with intentionally mismatched chairs. The flooring also had portions made with Spanish tiles for some accent.
Among these elements though, the one I couldn’t get my eyes off was the wall decorated with colored teacups shaped like the letter “ñ”.

Beyond the usual Spanish flavors
“Our dishes are inspired from where the Spaniards have settled, specifically Northern Morocco, Argentina, Central America, and the Philippines. We aim to offer a unique blend of new flavors, innovative ingredient pairings, infused with local flair,” says Chef Ungco who manages the kitchen along with Chef Cris Dytuco.


Read the rest of the article HERE.

Flame Restaurant brings theater kitchen to the dining room (GMA News Online)

A cheese dessert called Taleggio

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last June 30, 2016)

Unlike other fancy hotel restaurants that are formal and stiff, the new Flame Restaurant in Discovery Primea is more trendy and interactive, but still upscale.

Opened in June, this dining establishment welcomes its diners with a floor-to-ceiling “living chandelier” accented with Spanish moss, locally known as Buhok ni Ester. New World décor is showcased throughout the space, which can accommodate around 80 diners. Located on the 16th floor, it offers a good vantage point where you can see the Makati skyline, and the view is even more spectacular at night.

A theater kitchen and cheese program

Flame has also introduced a unique hotel-dining concept where patrons can get a seat at the hub by the marble-top open kitchen and interact with the chefs as they prepare the food. Make sure to do so, so you can ask the chefs about the dishes and get to appreciate them some more.

“We feature modern European cuisine but with an Asian comfort twist. There will be flavors, presentations, concepts that will have an Asian flavor to it, but at its core is modern European,” said David Pardo de Ayala, general manager and “chef-at-heart,” who added that some people might think, incorrectly, that Flame is a steakhouse because of its name. “No. ‘Flame’ is for passion. Our passion—my team and I—for creating memorable, new, and world-class experiences through food.”

Along with Pardo de Ayala, executive chef Luis Chikiamco helped craft the menu. They know that people are very well-traveled and informed, and want to see something new and exciting but still recognizable on their plates.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Japaella, unagi chocolate sushi, and other bold flavors at John & Yoko (GMA News Online)

Uni & truffle on a pizza, oh my!

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last June 23, 2016)

I’m far from being a food purist, as I enjoy bizarre food combinations as much as traditional recipes. My palate gets excited when I’m presented with flavors beyond the typical. That’s exactly what happened during my recent dining experience at the newly renovated John & Yoko.

Creative, cosmopolitan Japanese cuisine

Gone are the restaurant’s dark interiors with purple and red motif. In its place is a lighter look and feel, with a hint of industrial vibe. Instead of upholstered seats with caricature faces, you’ll see warm wooden furnishings accented by modern lighting fixtures. Aside from the change in décor, there were major menu changes as well.

According to Chef Sonny Mariano of the Sumo Sam Restaurant Concepts Group, “It’s the same favorites, but we just innovated it and made it bolder. We just made it more exciting.” He collaborated with the other chefs from the group to revamp the menu of the restaurant, which has been around for the past eight years. “My contribution are all of the desserts and some savory items.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Go for healthy breakfast options at Green Pastures (GMA News Online)

Enjoy healthier alternatives at Green Pastures BGC branch

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last June 16, 2016)

A typical Filipino breakfast would include stir-fried beef tapa (or some other viand), sunny-side-up egg, and garlic rice. I used to think that the first meal of the day would not be complete without these three components. We are rice-loving folk—however, many of us cannot afford to eat too much carbs.

Good thing there’s a health trend going on right now and Green Pastures, an advocate of organic food, has started to offer more wholesome breakfast fare in its Bonifacio Global City (BGC) branch, which opened just last February. So far, it’s the only branch that serves breakfast, but restaurateur Chef Robby Goco plans to launch it in his other outlets as well.

Going green

“Who are we as Filipinos and what do we eat for breakfast? You can’t impose Eggs Benedict or Croque Monsieur… We love our breakfast—our tapsilog, our pandesal,” the robust chef said. However, he added, “We need to stay healthy, stay fit.”

In his effort to do so, Goco has made lifestyle changes and has lost around 50 pounds already. Instead of ordering his favorite morning muffin sandwich from a fastfood joint, he now makes his own version: the Sausage, Egg, Ham and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich. The flavors are still there, but the ingredients he uses are more natural. In between the brioche buns, you’ll find some farmer’s ham, custard egg, cheddar cheese, onion jam, and sriracha mayo.

Read the rest of the article HERE.