The Allure of Sand and Sea at Pico de Loro (Illustrado magazine)

(This feature was published in Illustrado magazine last December 2013) 

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Pampering in the city: Best nail salons, some cause-worthy (GMA News Online)

The Nail Lounge Manila

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 30, 2013)

A common way to de-stress is to go to the spa. But instead of getting a massage, I prefer to head to a nail spa where I can indulge my hands and feet—after all, these are two of my most used body parts.

Treating myself to a decent mani-pedi while relishing some alone time is the best way for me to indulge and instantly feel relaxed and presentable. There are quite a number of nail salons in the metro; however, here are my top picks on where to get the ultimate nail pampering experience.

The Nail Lounge Manila

“We wanted to have a shop that visually men won’t find intimidating,” said Francis Chiu, a co-owner along with Ralph Jason Cobiaco. “I wanted to make sure that it reflects the aesthetic that me (sic) and my partner have.”

Chiu is in charge of the establishment’s day-to-day operations. Both were in their 30s when they conceptualized The Nail Lounge, their first business venture.

At the center of the room was a common table where guests could hang out. Some people go there both to get treatments and to work, as the place has a pretty fast Wi-Fi. Chiu mentioned that they boosted the Wi-Fi since he brings his laptop there to work as well.

I made my way to one of the plush black leather seats and availed of the Ultra-Luxe treatment, which includes spa manicure, spa pedicure, and hand and foot paraffin. I got lost in my own little world as soon as they offered me a refreshing beverage and a white fluffy blanket, which elevated my nail spa experience.

According to Chiu, “We really spend on things that we know the customers would appreciate—the finer details in the comfort level, equipment that we use, focus on cleanliness, overall service. That’s the core competency that we have for the nail salon.”

Two nail technicians catered to me and both were very meticulous in cleaning my fingernails, scrubbing my feet, what have you. It took a while for me to decide on the color of my nails, as they offered a plethora of nail brands. The classic line featured Seche; the premium line included Orly, O.P.I., and L’Oréal; while the luxe line has Butter London and Lancôme. I finally settled on getting the gel polish to see what the hype was all about.

“For the women, we wanted to make sure that we have a good variety of nail polish brands, but we also wanted to focus on the good ones,” shared Chiu.

At some point, I dozed off and didn’t notice that two hours passed by already. I vowed that I would come back and avail of the other services such as nail art, waxing, threading, and make-up, among others.

The spacious establishment also accommodates sparties, which is big enough for 21, depending on the event. The Nail Lounge offers different options and is also flexible enough to customize a package for you.

The Nail Lounge Manila is located at 3/F Makati Golf Club, Malugay St., Bel-Air, Makati City; telephone number: (02) 869-8521; mobile number: (0915) 805-3696; website:www.thenailloungemanila.com; email: [email protected].

Manos Nail Lounge

“We really emphasize that we’re Filipino. If you notice the design it’s modern Filipino, kind of reminds you of home. I think what we really wanted to build at the start (was) not just a nail salon that offered premium services, (but) one that really sort of connected to social work,” shared Felice Caringal, a co-owner along with Carissa Mangubat and Ynez Alcid.

The three ladies, all 20-something, were high school classmates who decided to go into their first business venture together.

“Manos means hands in Spanish. The main idea behind it is honoring the hands of the Filipinos, whether it’s the hands of our nail technicians, hands the people who built this place, and hands of the social enterprises that we work with,” according to Caringal. “[The] different stuff we have here, we source locally—the scrubs, for example, are organic and are made by a local social enterprise that helps empower women.”

The pillows were made in Gawad Kalinga Payatas, the chairs were from Pampanga, and the abaca blinds from Marinduque.

I gladly took a seat in one of the native long-back chairs and availed of the Spa Treatment that has the classic mani-pedi, plus extended massage. The nail technician let me choose from the four different scent selections and I got the one with the awakening combination of eucalyptus, peppermint, and barako coffee.

These two were the most precise nail technicians I ever encountered. I liked how they expertly trimmed my nails and colored them with the vegan nail polish brand, Zoya. Manos has other nail polish brands such as O.P.I., Essie, Channel, and Butter, and customers who visit this December will be happy to know that part of the proceeds go to Mano Amiga, a local school which the three young entrepreneurs support. They plan to help raise funds for the scholars of the institution.

Manos also showcases some social enterprises like Human Nature and Theo & Philo. “We try to be an outlet also for social enterprises—for their products to reach the market,” said Caringal.

Aside from the social aspect, what makes Manos stand out is its beverage selection, which includes cocktails and beers—perfect for the men who accompany their partners to an appointment. The impressive list of drinks could also be served during sparties. The venue can accommodate 11 people at the same time.

Besides the usual mani-pedi, Manos also offers other services like paraffin, nail art, massage, and hair removal.

Manos Nail Lounge is located at Unit 2-I Crescent Park Residences, 30th St. corner 2nd Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; telephone number: (02) 478-4057; mobile number (0917) 315-6627; website: www.manosnaillounge.com.

St. Nails Nail Spa

My other nail salon discovery is situated at a surprising location—a gas station. I was amused to find one in the heart of the metro, but I never guessed I would be in for a surprise.

My eyes wandered around the area and its elegant interiors—from the onyx stone counter, to the wooden wall panels, the black-and-white Machuca floor tiles, and the plush purple seats. Indeed, this seems like a nice place to feel pampered.

As I sank down one of the customized seats, one of the staff offered me a warm herbal pillow to put on my neck and a drink to go along with it, while they prepared for my selected treatment called Pamper Me Now, which involves the usual mani-pedi, plus hand and foot spa.

I appreciated the service more when I heard that a portion of the sales goes to the establishment’s partner community, Gawad Kalinga (GK) Silver Heights. St. Nails helps the organization build homes and employ GK residents so they would have a sustainable income.

Those who want to get their nails done—for a cause—should visit St. Nails, which carries an array of polishes like Sally Hansen, Orly, O.P.I., Misa, and Butter London. It offers paraffin, waxing, and sparty packages, too. St. Nails gives the client the liberty of decorating the space for sparties, which could comfortably accommodate around seven at a time.

St. Nails is located at G/F NFB Building (Petron Gas Station), EDSA corner Arnaiz Avenue, Brgy. Dasmariñas Village, Makati City; telephone number: (02) 586-0985; mobile number (0917) 86-NAILS (62457). 

Food safety tips: Keep out of the temperature danger zone (GMA News Online)

Chef Pipo Aluning in action

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 18, 2013)

Did you know that it is not safe to leave cooked food out in the open for more than four hours? I admit, I have been guilty of this when my husband and I moved into our new home and had no helper in the kitchen. We would use the rice cooker, for instance, and leave the cooked rice there overnight. The next morning, we would make some garlic rice with it and eat it with gusto.

I didn’t know that there is such a thing as time and temperature abuse, which could lead to food contamination. The moisture inside the cooker provides the ideal condition where bacteria would have a chance to grow. We were fortunate that we did not get any foodborne illness or something, but we stopped that habit and learned to practice food safety, especially since we now have a helper to manage the kitchen.

Preparing to prepare food

Knowing about food safety should be everyone’s responsibility, especially those who work in the food industry. Although culinary schools have food safety classes in their curriculum, most food workers do not undergo any formal culinary training—a lot of them rise through the ranks, learning as they go.

For those who want additional learning, Unilever Food Solutions’ Chefmanship Academy offers 12 modules, including one on food safety launched just this year—and the only one in the country so far. It tackles various topics ranging from personal hygiene, personal safety, foodborne illnesses and food safety hazards, among others.

“Chefmanship Academy is a program that we’ve been running since 2009,” said Chef Joanne Limoanco-Gendrano, a ServSafe-certified chef who has been working with Unilever since 2007. “We made sure that it’s applicable to the market. Basically, our target is local restaurants. We feel that a lot of the chefs or cooks working there—they’re the ones who have been requesting for extra learning.”

 

<Read the rest of the article HERE.>

Manila Hotel’s Cowrie Grill re-launches in Greenhills (GMA News Online)

Cowrie Grill

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 11, 2013)

One of Enrique Yap’s most memorable dining experiences as a young boy growing up in the 1980s was eating at the Cowrie Grill with his family. “Back then, there weren’t a lot of places to go to eat and experience fine service,” he said. “My parents would tell us we have to dress up for the occasion and put our best behavior forward. When we get there, I would be astounded by the feel of the place and ambience. What really mattered to me, as a kid then, was the tableside service.”

Some 30 years down the road, the young boy has become part of the management team that is involved in the revival of the establishment. The Cowrie Grill has been an institution in the Manila Hotel ever since it opened in 1977, but it had to give way to the expansion and renovation of Café Ilang-Ilang in 2011. “We realized that Cowrie Grill had a strong equity and following so we decided to re-launch it and bring it closer to our clients,” said Yap, who is now Manila Hotel’s executive vice president.

Unlike him, I didn’t have any childhood story starring the iconic grill house, but I thought that it wasn’t too late to create new memories since Manila Hotel’s signature restaurant re-opened recently. Although it’s not located within the hotel premises, the establishment has retained the Grand Dame’s iconic cowrie shell in its interior décor, which also added drama to its lighting fixtures. I thought it provided a nice backdrop for an unforgettable dining experience.

Tableside service like no other

There were private booths in the posh restaurant, but I decided to get a comfortable seat under the cowrie-shell chandelier. With the dramatic lighting, I whet my appetite with some sesame-crusted bread and herbed butter. I veered away from getting another serving of bread, as I know that I was in for a rich meal.

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

 

How Not To Be A Starving Artist (Homegrown.ph)

(This feature was published in Homegrown.ph last November 4, 2013)

The myth of the starving artist is not farfetched, as plenty of artists are driven by mere passion for their craft. Although this is essential, people cannot live on passion alone.

As a full-time freelance writer, I consider myself an artist. But I was determined to debunk the myth and stick to my craft while earning a living.

Yes, Virginia, it is possible to sustain a living as an artist.

I confess that it took a while before I was able to find stability in this field, as I had to familiarize myself with the business side of it as well. Here are some tips on how not to be a starving artist.

 

Professionalize your brand

According to Pia Mendoza, a painter, “It is important to treat your brand as a professional business instead of just creating art or seeking art projects on a whim. The term ‘starving artist’ only becomes a reality for some artists because they refuse to think out of the box. As a creative person, one has to be fueled by his or her passion for life 24/7.”

Pia is married to Alfred Mendoza, a professional photographer, and they have collaborated on a business called Team Mendoza. “Alfred and I have decided to merge our passion for the arts into one brand to make a solid statement that we are committed to our craft. We want to use our talents to give jobs to other people, and to express our creativity. It’s really about striking a balance,” Pia shares. They provide artwork and photography services to clients from various industries.

In general, artists who have strengthened their name or brand have a better chance of collaborating with others and gaining more followers.

 

Learn to diversify

Unlike regular employees, creative freelancers do not necessarily have a fixed income source. Since the money doesn’t come in every 15th or 30th of the month, you will have to find a way to get a regular source of income.

For Steph Palallos, a visual artist, she does a number of different things to earn a living. “I teach/tutor Spanish to kids (I have at least one class every day), and I teach art to kids and adults. As a graphic designer, I design logos, brochures and books. As an illustrator, I draw for magazines, annual reports and project proposals. As a painter and sculptor, I make watercolor paintings for exhibitions and get commissioned to make paintings and sculptures. I also sell my MEOW shirts (cat-themed tees) online.”

Steph went to art school in 2003, and since then, she has been a practicing painter, sculptor, graphic designer and illustrator. “I think I would have a bigger fixed income if I were employed in a traditional set-up, but as a freelancer, there would be times when I would have the opportunity to earn double or triple the amount of a monthly salary.”

Artists should identify their set of skills so they can better maximize their money-making opportunities.

 

Know your value

The tricky thing about being an artist is selling yourself and your work. Before you do so, you have to establish some sort of rate card where you can include a list of services, descriptions and respective prices. It would be best to ask fellow artists about it so you can come up with competitive rates.

Once you have standardized everything, it is easier to start “selling” your services. I have created a rate card for myself, which I could refer to whenever I get inquiries about my writing services.

 

Make it work

It is always best to live within your means, especially if you are an artist who doesn’t know how much money you will make in a month. Consider the adage, “Save for a rainy day.”

“I divide the money I earn from my art into this: 10% goes to my savings and 10% to my emergency fund and the rest goes back into my art or business—I replenish my art supplies, I buy a new external drive, etc.,” Steph reveals. “To ensure financial security, I have to follow my budget and make sure that I put in the right amount in the right place each month.”

Pia of Team Mendoza, meanwhile, says, “We save and we try to invest wisely. We believe that discipline plays an important role in managing one’s finances. Learn to differentiate between needs and wants. Balance is key.”

Raising the Roof (Ayala Land)

ALI

(This feature was published in the website of Ayala Land last October 25, 2013)

Thirty years ago, housewife Linda Sustiguer was happily managing a large home that includes a brood of 10.

A couple of decades ago, Cathy Chua, a fresh college graduate, was contentedly doing administrative work for a realty firm.

Little did both women know that they would eventually travel the long and winding road to real estate success.

The untimely passing of Linda’s lawyer husband in 1982 instantly made her into the family’s breadwinner and provider. She had to sell many of their belongings until she found other sources of income. This determined mother tried everything—from being a dealer of beauty products to peddling wares on the sidewalks—until she found her calling and became a real estate agent seven years later.

Meanwhile, Cathy’s job as assistant to the vice-president of a real estate firm had suddenly included sales during the economic crisis in 1998, when the company had to undertake measures, like cutting down the number of employees, to survive.

Both were determined to succeed. Linda’s source of inspiration was her children, while Cathy wanted “to retire luxuriously with whatever money I have” by the age of 40.

Like the real estate industry, their road to success was sometimes rough.

Linda recalls her experience with an interested buyer during her first open house. She was just new in the industry and didn’t know a thing about the selling process so she passed on the buyer to a colleague. Seeing that same colleague drive a brand new car the next month became an eye-opener for her.

Without feeling regret or resentment, she pushed herself to attend real estate seminars and learn more about the field. She heeded her elderly neighbor’s advice to explore all the properties and concentrate on the one that she likes best. “Ibig sabihin ng matanda, kung ano’ng gusto mo, ‘yun ang ibebenta mo. Mahalin mo kung ano’ng binebenta mo.” Once Linda focused, she scheduled “trippings” or site visits and asked for referrals, which led to her first sale. With newfound confidence, Linda created a company along with other partners, where they averaged 20 to 25 sales a month.

But when the financial market crashed in 1998, she felt how hard it was to sell even one property. Despite the bleak situation, she never gave up. “Kapag ‘yung time na marami akong pera, iniipon ko ‘yun kasi nasa isip ko umaga ngayon, darating ang gabi. Kapag walang-wala ako, iniisip ko, gabi ngayon eh, darating din ‘yung umaga,” she muses. Linda has managed to put her children through college, and even graduate school, with her earnings in real estate.

Cathy, on the other hand, was encouraged by her former boss to try her hand in sales, as they discovered her skill in relating to people when she was tasked to collect back rentals and overdue accounts. In time, she was earning six figures a month and did it consistently for almost a decade.

As a career move, Cathy left her very comfortable job to move to Ayala Land. Although she knew that she could not bring any of her old clients or inform them about her new job post, she still took the big leap.

At the start, she experienced a kind of culture shock and found it hard to adjust to the new working conditions. From having her own office space, she had to share the limited resources in Alveo, which was barely a year old then. Agents had to take turns in making calls and using the tables and chairs. Even her selling methods have changed. From doing cold calls, she had to sell from the booths at the malls.

Cathy actually thought of leaving after a week but considered her father’s words of wisdom: “Don’t look back. If you keep on looking back at what you have before, you’ll never be successful. [Just] maximize whatever resources you have and make yourself stand out.” She decided to turn challenges into opportunities, staying at the booths until past closing time, for example, to reach potential clients from the cinemas’ last full shows.

The year after she moved to Ayala Land, Cathy was named as one of the Top Three Sellers in Verdana Homes. “Siguro God helped me because I tried to do the best I can,” she shares. In 2010, she was chosen as the Best Seller of the Year for Alveo in the Residential Business Group Awards. She gushes over sitting beside Fernando Zobel de Ayala, and getting a congratulatory hug from him, too.

Linda has also garnered a Top Broker award from BPI in 2009, and is most proud of the Model Broker award from Avida in 2005, which recognizes her company’s excellent production and code of ethics, among others. She was the first to receive that award—and the only one up to now.

Hard work, honesty, and faith in God transformed this homemaker into one of Avida’s top agents and it seems like she will be one until she is old and gray. “Hanggang kaya. Magtratrabaho pa rin,” she declares. But she plans to eventually pass the torch, as seven of her children, all professionals in their own right, are now licensed brokers, and her grandchild is showing interest in real estate as well.

Unwavering belief in the properties they sell has kept the two women working for Ayala Land for decades already. They have even invested in some of the properties on their own. Cathy, who is currently the Regional Sales Director of Alveo’s Gold Dragons Division, says, “If you don’t love [your product], you will not be able to sell [it].” Linda agrees. Her company, Land and Building Sales Specialist, exclusively deals with Avida for 21 years now. “Nu’ng nasimulan namin ang real estate, parang minahal na namin ‘yung career na ‘yun. Basta nandoon ‘yung isip at puso mo sa isang bagay, lahat ng hirap, lahat ng mga mararanasan mo, kaya mong i-sustain.”

Manila to say bonjour to Michelin-awarded Chef Nicolas Isnard in November

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last October 26, 2013)

 

There are only a handful of restaurants that have been recognized by certain culinary standards–one of the most prestigious being the Michelin Guide, which has been around since the 1900s. Garnering recognition from this group of gastronomy gods would be the ultimate dream of any chef or restaurateur.

 

Though the Philippines hasn’t produced any restaurant or chef with that award, we are fortunate to have a chance to meet a Michelin-awarded chef, Chef Nicolas Isnard, who will be visiting from France.

 

“I’m born in the south of France but my grandfather and grandmother are Italian,” shared the chef, who is in his mid-30s.

 

The recipe for success

 

But the journey to being an award-winning chef was not a walk in the park, as he had to pursue formal culinary training in France and work his way as an apprentice from one restaurant to another.

 

All his hard work was not for naught though. At the age of 22, he became the Chef de Partie for Relais & Chateau in its one-star Michelin restaurant called Le Prieure.

 

A year after, he became the second chef at another one-star Michelin restaurant, Le Vieux Logis. The next year, he joined the two-star restaurant, La Rotonde, where he played the part of Chef de Partie for a 25-member team of Philippe Gauvreau.

 

Eventually, he transferred to Auberge du Vieux Puits, a three-star establishment where he was made the Head Chef. Here, he also he met his future wife, Cécile, and business partner, David le Comte. Before opening their own restaurant, the chef was able to experience working in Le Chateau de Curzay,  the owner of which also opened an Italian restaurant in Switzerland and sometimes assigned him there. While alternating between the two kitchens, Isnard led the Italian restaurant to its first Michelin star.

 

He eventually opened his own establishment, Auberge de la Charme á Prenois–which specializes in French cuisine prepared with modern techniques–with  partners Cécile Sagory, David le Comte and Jessica Jean. They received one Michelin star within a year’s time.

 

Isnard said he will never forget the day he got the call about the award. While in the car with one of his partners, they had to stop at the roadside as they heard the news, and cried joyful tears.

 

Since then, he has traveled around the globe as a culinary consultant to cities such as Beijing, Singapore, Dubai, Moscow, Abu Dhabi, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh, Casablanca, and Macau.

 

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

Learning by Doing (Ayala Land)

Picture 4

(This feature was published in the website of Ayala Land last September 27, 2013)

At first glance, one would think that the youthful Sherika Tanmantiong, Anne King, Donna Tan, and Diana Tan are a group of university students. Little would he or she guess that these young women manage their respective businesses.

All four graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University and went to China to learn the language. They also share other interests such as travel and food, which play a big part in their lives as young entrepreneurs.

What brings these ladies together is the bond that they share as cousins. They belong to the second generation of the group that built Jollibee Foods Corporation. Although they have the option to join the company, they decided to explore the industry and go into business on their own.

It was Sherika who first had the courage to go on her own by bringing in the Red Mango franchise from Korea, along with her other partners. At 24, she left her job in Greenwich as assistant brand manager when she decided to go full-time into business. Red Mango became one of the pioneers of the frozen yogurt trend in the Philippines when it opened in 2009 in Trinoma. Today, Red Mango has eleven branches all over the country, including one in Greenbelt and another in Ayala Center Cebu.

Sherika’s parents provided her with sound advice when she decided to become an entrepreneur, such as working more hours or doing store visits even on weekends. She also realized the value of having the “humility to listen and to learn” even while still in Greenwich. It is important for her not to stop asking or getting advice, and listening to customers to keep on learning and growing. “That’s what my dad always says—you just ask and they’ll help you. You won’t know what could happen unless you ask.”

The youngest in the batch, Anne King, agrees. Before she opened her own store, Anne used to work as a management trainee for operations of Red Ribbon. During her first day there, she didn’t tell the other employees who she was so they would treat her as they would other employees. That experience allowed her to learn how to relate with people—not just those in the manager level, but more importantly, with the crew. “One thing I learned from my dad, who specializes in operations, is really relating to your people at store level,” reveals Anne. “They’re the ones who are really going to serve your store and interact with your customers.” Anne realizes that a storeowner cannot do everything alone. She knows that no matter how good the back office, systems, or policies are, it is the crew who will implement what the owner planned.

At only 26 years old, Anne was able to bring into the country the master franchise of Mr. Bean, the number one leading soy food chain in Singapore. The first Philippine branch of Mr. Bean opened in Alabang Town Center in 2012. Anne instantly liked the atmosphere and the community and felt that the mall was a perfect fit for Mr. Bean because the clientele are familiar with the brand that serves fresh soya milk and all kinds of taho, among others.

It was during a trip to Seoul when siblings Donna and Diana Tan chanced upon Sariwon Korean Barbecue, a restaurant that started in 1938 in Korea. The authentic cuisine pleased their palates so much that brought the franchise to the Philippines. They launched their first branch in Bonifacio High Street, the first international franchise outside Korea, last April 2012. The business flourished as the mall captured their ideal audience.

However, it wasn’t easy getting the last of the highly sought-after spots in the mall. The sisters were very upfront with their landlord. “We told them that we didn’t have any experience in running a restaurant, but we had knowledge of marketing. We were very honest with them. They still gave us a chance.” According to Donna, “Our dad is the vice president of real estate. He really stressed the importance of working well with the landlords—having integrity, so that’s what we practice in Sariwon. With our partners, our people, customers, we want to be sure that what we say we follow, that we walk the talk.”

The cousins give credit to their parents who encouraged them to explore having their own businesses. Diana shares, “They said that while we can learn a lot by working in a company, we are more or less stuck in a department, in a position. Whereas if you start your own business, you’ll learn everything about human resources, construction, legal—all the things we couldn’t learn in those departments because we were in the marketing department, for example. That was the main challenge also in having a business. We had to learn on the way.”

“I think we were confident to start the business because of the mother company, because our parents were also very active there,” says Donna. “The company will be there to go back to, but now is the time to explore and learn more.”

“Hopefully when we come back [to the company],” adds Diana, “we’ll have a lot of knowledge to share with them.”

Catering for connoisseurs: New events place opens in BGC (GMA News Online)

A plateful of appetizers

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last September 23, 2013)

Coming from a big family is fun, although it poses a challenge whenever we dine out or celebrate special occasions. I have five sisters, brothers-in-law, and six pamangkins, so just imagine our entourage whenever we decide to eat out.

We find hotels too formal and stuffy so we would usually look for spacious restaurants that could accommodate large groups. Another option for us is an events place that could provide catering. My most recent discovery is thefunctionrooms in the booming Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

I attended the launch of the newest events place in this side of the metro and found out that it has seven different function rooms that could accommodate different-sized groups—from a private party of 12 to bigger conferences of 260.

The rooms and set-ups are flexible, and I saw arrangements for cocktails, corporate meetings, and even for weddings. They have facilities to ensure hassle-free events, with clients not having to worry about sound systems, television monitors, white boards, projectors, and even internet connections.

Thefunctionrooms is run by the owners of ActiveFun. “We thought there was a big opportunity in BGC for a lot of corporate functions, people who are looking for alternative venues,” said co-owner Laura Lim Rodrigo. Her sisters, Lorlyn and Lorraine, are also co-owners of thefunctionrooms and Connoisseur Catering, which is the official caterer of the venue.

I learned that Laura handles finance and marketing, Lorraine focuses on sales and operations, and Lorlyn takes care of the purchasing. “We work well together, we complement each other,” shares Laura. “This is our passion. You need to be full-time in the food service industry. We’ve been in the restaurant business for almost 12 years. When you’re in food, you need to be very hands-on because it’s a personalized business, especially catering.”

The best thing about thefunctionrooms is that the room use is free when you avail of a package from Connoisseur Catering. I would say this is reasonable, considering the quality of the food and the strategic location of the venue.

The catering provides personalized service from the venue set-up to the menu planning to the styling, and offers flexible packages to fit anyone’s budget. I could picture our family having a private event there in one of the smaller function rooms. Instead of getting lost in a sea of diners in a restaurant, it would be more enjoyable for us to have a private party.

Connoisseur Catering has menu options that include salads, hot dishes, vegetables, pasta, and dessert, which are all beautifully presented like works of art.

I was impressed by the myriad of appetizers at the event, as the waiters offered us bite-sized finger foods such as scallops with caviar. I whetted my appetite with the scrumptious hors d’oeuvres and eagerly waited for the sit-down lunch to begin.

<Read the rest of the article HERE.>

Beyond brunch in Cafe 1771 (GMA News Online)

Walnut chicken salad

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last September 20, 2013)

Bonding over food is one of my favorite pastimes with my hubby. We especially like to try new restaurants and would even explore the metro for good eats.

In one of our food trips, we went out of our comfort zone and headed out of the suburbs and into the city center of Pasig to dine in Café 1771. Although the restaurant has been around for three years already, it is more popularly known as a breakfast destination. I discovered though that it also gives its diners an option to go for healthy eats.

My husband and I decided to pamper our palates with a nutritious lunch when we visited Café 1771, a more casual and upbeat version of Chateau 1771, which both belong to the 1771 Group of Restaurants.

Upon entering the establishment, I felt a light and cheerful vibe as the spacious dining room was decorated by modern pieces of furniture. The chairs were not necessarily matching but they all looked well together because they were upholstered in uniform hues of fuchsia and turquoise. They called it the Whimsy area and it was peppered with conversation pieces like the floor mosaic near the entrance door, decorative plates on display, and paintings at the counter.

There is an open doorway on the side that leads to the Lounge, which comprises of two library-themed function rooms. Its walls had shelves that were stacked with books, picture frames, and other knick-knacks. The area had a formal feel and seemed ideal for business functions or private parties. The Whimsy area, on the other hand, has a younger and happier vibe so we decided to get a table there.

I discovered that the establishment’s interior designer was Ivy Almario, but 1771 Group CEO and restaurateur, Ricky Gutierrez, was very hands-on with it as well. The design was inspired by both the owner and chef’s European travels. The two love to travel abroad because that is where they get inspiration for new restaurant concepts and how they keep up to date with international trends and standards.

From farm to fork

“The cuisine is from a base of European comfort food with American and Asian touches,” according to Chef Vicky Pacheco. “Café 1771 prides itself on using the freshest ingredients, and as much as possible, making everything from scratch a laminute.”
Since we decided to become more health-conscious, my hubby and I thought we would start with some soup and salad. We ordered the soup of the day, which happened to be tomato soup. The orange-colored creamy goodness was topped with croutons and cherry tomato. It didn’t look or taste like something out of a can! It had a smooth and thick texture and it tasted mostly tangy with a hint of sweetness. I found it very rich and filling.
We also got a plate of mixed greens called Walnut Chicken Salad, which was drizzled with green apple vinaigrette. It had a good balance of flavors and textures—the lettuce was crisp, the candied walnuts were sweet and crunchy, the arugula leaves were bitter, the grapes were tart, the chicken slices were bland and tender, and the dressing made everything come together. The serving size was big and more than enough for the two of us.

When our main courses arrived, I almost salivated over the mouthwatering presentation of the food. We shared the Vegetable Lasagna, which had a medley of veggies between the layers of baked noodles. I bit into some eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper, which were smothered with garlic-Parmesan-flavored béchamel and Napolitano sauce. I enjoyed every cheesy bite of it. My husband, a meat lover, didn’t even miss the meat because it was really delicious and satisfying.

 

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