Hello, Teddy’s! Hawaii’s best burger joint is finally in the PHL (GMA News Online)

Burgers and fries--the perfect combination

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last August 29, 2014)

The burger has always been on my list of top food cravings. It’s easy to satisfy my hankering for it since one can find it practically anywhere—from food stalls to fast-food restaurants, and even some fine-dining establishments.
Not all burgers are created equal, though. Some are far superior to the rest, especially in terms of quality and taste.
Teddy’s Bigger Burgers was established in Hawaii in 1998 by Ted Tsakiris and Rich Stula, who are both burger lovers. Their concept was born during their backyard cookouts in Hawaii, which inspired them to establish their first restaurant right on the side of Diamond Head—where they flipped burgers for five years and never took a day off.
New burger joint on the block
The years of hard work have paid off and now Teddy’s has 11 branches in Hawaii and the mainland. It opened its first international location in Japan, and its second one opened in the Philippines this August.
“This is a landmark store for us,” said Stula. “We’re all so excited to be a part of this grand opening. To let you guys know what sets us apart—we have the anatomy of a burger sign over here, the quality of the ground chuck of the burgers that we make, the special sauce, the seasoning… It all fits together for a great burger. We have won best burger in Hawaii since 2001.”

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

A taste of Indian-inspired cuisine by the Spice Goddess, Bal Arneson (GMA News Online)

Sweet potato and yam samosas

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last August 22, 2014)

A slender lady dressed in a chef’s coat brought a plate of fries over to a young boy seated beside his older sister from across our table. It seemed such a casual act that I didn’t think the lady was a celebrity chef. It was, in fact, cookbook author and television host, Bal Arneson who stars in both the “Spice of Life with Bal Arneson” and “Spice Goddess” in the Asian Food Channel.
I love watching all kinds of cooking shows and I’d seen this particular chef create delicious-looking Indian cuisine in her shows. In some episodes, I saw her two kids, 20-year-old daughter Anoop, and 10-year-old son Aaron, help her in the kitchen. It was obvious how their close family ties played a big role in the program.
The chef and her children were recently in Manila for the “Bal Arneson Spice Adventure” tour. Based in Vancouver, Canada, they traveled a thousand miles across the world for their Asian tour, which included stops in Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Of mangoes and kare-kare
It was their first time to step foot in the urban jungle of Metro Manila and their eyes were glistening with excitement. While in Manila, they explored the streets to sample local fare.
“We’ve been checking out the street markets. So we’ve been eating just street market food because I’m like, ‘don’t take me to fancy places, just take me to the streets where locals eat,’” disclosed the down-to-earth chef.

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

Restaurant review Kessaku’s symphony of Japanese flavors (GMA News Online)

Salmon sashimi

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last August 8, 2014)

My eyes were drawn to the slices of pink-hued raw fish that were beautifully garnished with lettuce leaves, green sprouts, a lemon wedge and a dollop of wasabi. It was my ultimate favorite sashimi. I just had to grab a pair of chopsticks and get a bite of the fresh salmon sashimi offered by Kessaku.
“This is one of our bestsellers,” according to Yums Aggabao, one of the owners of this Japanese restaurant in Alabang. “People really come here for this.”
I now know why. Its vibrant color alone was a giveaway of the freshness of the fish. It was juicy, it had a creamy texture, and a clean taste—like it was just caught from the sea. Aggabao mentioned that they get it from a supplier who ships it from Norway chilled in an ice chest. My taste buds could tell that the sake sashimi was truly superior grade salmon.
I was actually happy with the sashimi alone but I just had to sample the other specialties of the restaurant, which opened late October 2013. It has been almost a year since its opening and it continues to dish up delicious Japanese cuisine to the south crowd.

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

Different degrees of spice at Just Thai (GMA News Online)

Yam Neua (beef salad)

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last July 24, 2014)

My fondest memory of sampling true Thai food was in the streets of Bangkok where I had my first taste of authentic pad Thai. I didn’t speak the local dialect so I just communicated with the vendor through sign language, and I ended up eating the spiciest stir-fried noodles I have ever tasted — so hot that my eyes teared up at my first bite.
As much as I would want to replicate that food experience, I find it challenging to do so as there aren’t a lot of good Thai restaurants here in Metro Manila. I encountered one that closely resembles the real thing although it has been around for four years already.

Just Thai may not be new in the restaurant scene but I was only able to eat there recently after I overcame my feeling of intimidation. You see, I associate Thai food with street food, not with swanky dining destinations. When I finally had the opportunity to dine there, I realized that I was wrong not to try it earlier. But, like they say, it’s better late than never.

Filipino spicy or Thai spicy?
I felt a comfortable vibe upon entering the establishment. Just Thai was a cozy restaurant that was neither too casual nor too upscale. The wooden furnishing and muted red tones of the interiors made me feel relaxed. I immediately checked out the menu that listed a variety of Thai offerings and I was grateful for the English translations with matching dish descriptions.
Of course, I wanted to sample one of Thailand’s most iconic dishes, tom yum, a hot and sour soup with prawns. But before our server placed our order, he asked how spicy we wanted it. I discovered that the restaurant could customize the spice levels of all the dishes. Typically, Filipinos go for mildly spicy only but my lunch mates and I went for the truly hot and spicy. Indeed, it was so.
With every spoonful, I tasted the combination of complex flavors — sour, spicy, and the strong taste of cilantro. It was actually like any other tom yum I tasted.

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

Restaurant Review: Choose your own toppings at Mad for Pizza (GMA News Online)

My personal pizza order

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last July 2014)

Bonding over food is a common activity for family and friends, and it becomes even more fun when you are trying out a new restaurant. That’s what my college buddies and I did recently when we met up for lunch at this new restaurant concept called Mad for Pizza. Like what the name suggests, the establishment serves the Italian favorite — but this one is better because you can actually customize pizzas to your preference.
The casual dining place had a fun atmosphere with its diner-like interiors and loud music blaring in the background. My guy friend Aeus immediately noticed the glam rock sounds and asked the server if it’s the type of music that they normally play in the restaurant. He nodded and grinned when he got a positive answer. I guess lunch was off to a good start.
<Read the rest of the article HERE>

Here’s the scoop: Baskin-Robbins finally in the Philippines (GMA News Online)

Choose from the 31 flavors of Baskin Robbins

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last July 4, 2014)

When I was growing up, I remember my mom would get me an ice cream cone after each visit to the dentist. That was my earliest memory of this cool treat, which I have grown fond of until now. For me, like many others, ice cream has become a comfort food and not just a delicious treat.
There’s a plethora of ice cream choices in the market but nothing can compare to Baskin-Robbins, which is the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops. The brand has been dishing up delicious frozen treats since 1945 when it was founded in Glendale, California by two brothers-in-law and ice cream aficionados. Since then, it has branched out to nearly 50 countries with around 7,300 shops as of 2013.
<Read the rest of the article HERE>

4 Weekend Markets In Metro Manila You Shouldn’t Miss (Looloo)

Photo from Mercato Centrale

(This feature was published in Looloo was July 4, 2014; photo from Mercato Centrale)

Workweek ending? Why not skip the malls, go outdoors and support local farmers and vendors instead? Head to one (or more) of the following weekend markets that have sprouted all over the metro!

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

Appreciating the culinary art of teppanyaki at Akira (GMA News Online)

A chef displays his teppanyaki cooking skills

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last July 3, 2014)

I have eaten in restaurants with open kitchens where I saw chefs cook through a glass window, but I have never experienced sitting in a counter across an iron griddle and having a front row seat to the culinary art of teppanyaki. Though not a new concept, it was my first time to go through this kind of dining experience where not only the food matters, but its preparation as well.

Teppanyaki used to be exclusive to luxury hotels and hole-in-the-wall Japanese establishments, but it has now gone mainstream, as diners can simply go to the malls to see how this personal dining experience could turn into an art form. One Japanese restaurant that specializes in such is Akira, which has a number of branches around the metro.

The one in Shangri-La Plaza Mall had a minimalist and postmodern design with its interesting lighting fixtures and wooden furnishings that were accented with touches of Japanese culture through prominent Japanese icons and prints. The dining area had a pretty decent size but I highly suggest you get a space in one of the counters where you can get a nice view of the chef showcasing his mastery of the flame in his teppan or iron griddle.

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

Paint, drink and be merry at Sip & Gogh (Rappler)

Sip & Gogh

(This feature was published in Rappler last July 1, 2014)

I have always been fascinated by art ever since I could remember. I grew up watching my architect dad draft his designs and seeing his masterpieces come to life. Although I dabbled in drawing and painting during my art electives in high school, I never really pursued that path. Now, I’m just happy appreciating art and not necessarily creating it.

My inner artist though, was awakened when I attended a children’s party at Sip & Gogh, a paint and sip studio in the Philippines. It was the first time I stepped into an establishment that allows its guests to create works of art while enjoying some vino.

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

Bathing in Luxury at the Bellevue Resort (Illustrado)

(This feature was published in Illustrado magazine’s September 2013 issue)