49-B Heirloom Kitchen’s holiday menu makes festive use of olive oil (GMA News Online)


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

Even when it was just a cozy little restaurant, 49-B Heirloom Kitchen impressed me with its food. Although it had no particular cuisine, its menu was well curated with a collection of family recipes passed on from one generation to the next. There are Filipino, Asian, and European dishes and some of its popular dishes were the paella, the beef lengua, and the chocolate chip cookies.

But during my last visit, I was surprised by its new location and look. It was more like a hole-in-the-wall before. Now, it’s a bigger, two-storey dining establishment where you can comfortably dine with a large group, which is just perfect for this holiday season.

Olive oil in the limelight

Instead of indulging in restaurant favorites, I was able to sample 49-B Heirloom Kitchen’s Festive Flavors Holiday Menu specifically made for Doña Elena. This limited edition menu highlighted the use of three olive oil variants: extra virgin, pure olive oil, and pomace. Executive chef Erica Aquino was able to combine her favorite international cuisines and recipes with a taste of home.

We started with some Grilled Shrimp on Patacones, a South American-inspired appetizer. The twice-fried plantain slices are topped with cooked shrimp, minced onions and tomatoes, and cilantro. It was served with a chilled cucumber yogurt soup drizzled with olive oil. I enjoyed the play of textures and flavors here—there’s the crunch from the patacones, the soft shrimp, and the cool chilled soup that neutralized my palate.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Special sweet treats you can only get this Christmas season (GMA News Online)

Photo from Starbucks

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last December 12, 2016)

December is when we usually say goodbye to our regular diet. Better not count calories so you won’t miss out on these special sweet treats that you can only get during the holiday season!

Krispy Kreme’s Holiday Doughnuts

There’s more to Krispy Kreme than its bestselling original glazed donuts. Be delighted with colorful holiday variants that include Dark Chocolate Holiday Tree, Snowflake, Snowman, White Chocolate Holiday Sprinkles, and Dark Chocolate Holiday Sprinkles. All are available until January 8, 2017.

Sebastian’s Frozen Cheesecakes

Sebastian’s Frozen Cheesecakes are actual cheesecakes (not ice cream) baked right into ice cream bar molds with a wooden popsicle stick and then frozen. Sink your teeth into luscious flavors like (above, from left) Dulce de Leche, Blueberry, and Ube Queso de Bola (baked ube cheesecake topped with oven-toasted queso de bola crisp).

There’s also the Chocolate Truffle (dusted in cocoa) and the Apple Pie (baked cheesecake topped with apple compote and baked spiced apples). Get these all throughout December at Sebastian’s in Mall of Asia, Podium, and Regis Center Katipunan.

Mrs. Graham’s Christmas macarons

Don’t confuse macaron with macaroon. The former is a delicate meringue-based confection while the latter is a coconut dessert. Mrs. Graham’s Macaron Café has given this French pastry a little twist by adding Christmas flavors like Eggnog, Queso de Bola, Peppermint Mocha (above), and Gingerbread. Good to give as gifts, too.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

6 Christmas shopping survival tips and tricks (GMA News Online)

`Tis the season for shopping

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last December 9, 2016)

If we were anything like Santa Claus, gift giving would be no challenge for us at all.

But in reality, we have to go through the whole process of gift selection. It’s perhaps an easy task for shopaholics, but for others, it may pose quite a challenge and take a bit more effort. Let us help you with these tips to ease your yuletide shopping.

Create a Christmas gift list
“One size fits all” doesn’t apply here. You can’t just buy the same thing for all your gift recipients, because they have different personalities and interests. You’d get more love and appreciation if you exert some effort in finding out what each person likes. Also, they’re more likely to use your gift if they are fond of it. Otherwise, it might get rewrapped and passed on to another. So, make a list of all the names and take time to think about the best that you can give.

Set a budget
If you have more than a dozen inaanaks like me, it would be wise to allocate your money before you go on a shopping spree. Ask yourself, “How much can I afford for each individual? What should be my total budget for Christmas shopping?”

Remember not to spend more than what you’re earning, so try to be practical as much as possible. I’m sure your mom wouldn’t mind a DIY present, instead of you splurging on a luxury bag that she knows would take you six months to pay for it in installment.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Guilty pleasures: Special holiday beverages to try (GMA News Online)

Photo from Infinitea

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last December 5, 2016)

It’s that time of the year again when we can’t help but indulge to our heart’s—and or stomachs’—content. It’s the holiday season, after all, so don’t count calories and take delight in these beverages that are sure to bring you some Christmas cheer!

Starbucks’ Santa Hat Dark Mocha Frappuccino Blended Beverage

Starbucks always has something special for coffee-holics during the holiday season. This year’s must-not miss is this dark mocha drink (above, center) topped with a crafted Santa hat made with classic and strawberry whipped cream, strawberry drizzle and a dollop of snowy white whipped cream on top. It’s a handcrafted beverage that can be ordered either in hot or iced format. Other must-try flavors of the holidays are Toffee Nut Latte (above, right) and Peppermint Mocha (above, left), which are available in both iced and blended formats.

Sample these treats until January 8, 2017. Starbucks has branches all over the metro.

Serenitea’s Speculoos Coolers

One of the pioneers of the milk tea craze in the city, Serenitea continues to delight with its latest drinks for Christmas made with Lotus Biscoff. This spiced shortcrust biscuit adds oomph to three flavor variants (above, from left): Matcha Speculoos, Butter Rum Speculoos, and Taro Speculoos.

These are available in all 45 branches of Serenitea nationwide until January 15, 2017.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

What food means Christmas to you? (GMA News Online)

roasted chestnuts

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 28, 2016)

It’s no surprise to hear Christmas carols on the radio once the -ber months kick in. But we really feel that the holidays are near once we start craving nostalgic treats that remind us of that time of the year. You can feel the Christmas spirit once you get a whiff of the following yuletide goodies.

Castañas (roasted chestnuts)

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” This is the song that most likely popularized this nut variant, and associated it with the holiday season. There are different varieties of chestnuts, but the ones found in Manila mostly come from China.

Although these are small, they send out a strong aroma once cooked and you’ll be rewarded with its sweet and nutty flavor. You’ll see them being roasted in big woks with small stones at weekend markets and sometimes in supermarkets.

Puto bumbong
This native kakanin is named such for its steamed puto (glutinous rice) cooked in bumbong (bamboo). It’s a pretty tedious process to create this delicacy, which starts with soaking, grinding, and drying the galapong (rice dough) then steaming it through narrow bamboo tubes.
It’s traditionally made with black rice, which gives it its purplish hue, but many makers use malagkit with ube (purple yam) instead because of its availability. It is served with butter, muscovado sugar, and freshly grated coconut. Many folks take home this treat after going to simbang gabi (midnight mass), but it’s also available in some markets and Filipino restaurants.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Roast beef and other all-you-can-eat treats at The Round Table (GMA News Online)


(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 22, 2016)

It’s the holiday season once again: that time of the year the we celebrate by indulgent eating with family and friends. It’s also the time when we forget about our diets—until the New Year, anyway.

For sure, there will be a lot of get-togethers and reunions, and it would be easier to do it at a restaurant than at home. My recent discovery is a cozy establishment called The Round Table, an all-you-can-eat tasting room that has a different food theme every day.

Executive chef Mia K. Capay, who has worked as a caterer since the early 2000s, trained at the Professional Culinary Institute in California, and she showcases her skills through this innovative restaurant’s different cuisines. Her culinary creations are displayed on the focal point of the room: a round table that the establishment is named after.

Each dish is prepared in small batches to ensure its freshness and integrity. Don’t expect a large spread; The Round Table has more of a homey ambience that is just right for the modest food display that makes up in quality what it lacks in extravagance.

Read the rest of the article HERE.


A Mediterranean-inspired feast at Tapenade (GMA News Online)


(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 8, 2016)

Little by little, spoonful by spoonful, I try to make my way to the latest dining spots around the metro, even if it is a challenge to keep up with the bustling food scene.

It took a while, but I was finally able to eat at Restaurant Tapenade, an all-day dining restaurant in Discovery Primea, which just revamped its menu more than a year after it opened.

My hubby and I sampled its refreshed menu of Mediterranean favorites when we recently had lunch there. And the restaurant’s high ceilings, spacious interiors, and chic indoor garden-like atmosphere immediately impressed me.

The first thing I did was to check out The Tapenade Salad Room, which is said to be Makati’s most comprehensive selection of local and imported greens, composed salads, condiments, and homemade dressings. I spied a wide array of breads, premium deli meats and cheeses, as well as seafood such as shrimp, salmon gravlax, and freshly shucked oysters. I opted to skip this and save it for another day when I’m lunching with my girlfriends, as my hubby and I wanted to first check out the new dishes.

Devouring Mediterranean-inspired dishes

For starters, we just had to get the Stone-Baked Feta Cheese, one of the popular items from the original menu. I heard it would cause an uprising if the restaurant were to take it off the list.

Read the rest of the article HERE

9 mouthwatering ube desserts to try in Manila now (WayToGo)

eng-bee-tin_ube-mochi-and-hopia-ube(This feature was published in WayToGo last November 4, 2016)

The purple yam has been a staple ingredient in pantries across the Philippines for eons, but now it looks all set to be a “ube-quitous” global food trend

Move over, matcha: there’s a new food craze that’s taking the world by storm. Ube (pronounced as “oo-beh”) or purple yam is a stem tuber just like potato and taro, and is a staple in local households and town fiestas. It is commonly served in desserts. Here are some of our favorite ube treats across the Metro.

Ube macapuno cake

Some things just go perfectly together — like bread and butter, coffee and cream, and ube andmacapuno (soft and sweet coconut meat). This ube macapuno cake highlights the classic combination brilliantly. The ube-flavored sponge cake is layered with macapuno strips and mousseline cream; the green color you see between the layers is a natural chemical reaction between the two ingredients. Topped with ube ice cream and yet more macapuno, it’s an incredibly moreish treat.

Restaurante Pia y Damaso, 2/F Greenbelt 5, Makati City; +63 729 5511; facebook.com/PiaYDamaso

Purple yam cheesecake

Aside from its eponymous ingredient, this silky-smooth and light cheesecake also contains red mung beans and macapuno. Even non-ube fans will be converted after taking a bite of this heavenly indulgence.

Starbucks, various locations; starbucks.ph

Ube mille crêpe

Mille crêpe is a classic French cake, but this version has been reinvented with local flair. It’s an impressive cake with layers upon layers of home-made ube and fresh cream, finished with a delicate macapuno glaze and dusted with the lightest ube chiffon crumbs. This purple masterpiece is almost too pretty to eat!

Paper Moon, various locations; facebook.com/papermooncafeph

Ubae 22 cookie

Home-based bakeshop Bald Baker specializes in inventive desserts. Its soft and chewy Ubae 22 cookies are studded with tiny white chocolate chips and topped with a thin layer of vanilla-bean cheesecake; they’re also hand-baked in small batches for maximum freshness. We bet that Cookie Monster would be pleased!

Bald Baker; thebaldbakerph.com

Ube leche flan cake

Ube is delish enough on its own, but combining it with rich caramel custard takes it to the next level. This ube chiffon cake topped with a thick, silky leche flan of caramel custard is the brainchild of chef Anne M. Atanacio. Its light cake base and creamy topping make for a delectable contrast of flavors and textures.

Anghelica’s Desserts; facebook.com/anghelicas.desserts

Ube hopia, tikoy roll and mochi

An innovative recipe in the form of ube hopia helped revive the flagging fortunes of Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli, a traditional food establishment. Traditionally, this thin, flaky pastry is filled with mung bean paste, but the deli experimented with purple yam instead — and the ensuing creation proved to be a huge hit. Since then, the deli has gone on to make ube-flavored tikoy and mochi (both glutinous rice desserts). These treats are available locally and also exported all over the world — throughout Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the USA.

Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli, various locations; engbeetin.com

Ubelicious frozen yogurt

Pinkie’s Farm is known for its dairy products, such as frozen yogurt. Go for the Ubelicious flavor, which comes swirled with mouthwatering ube halaya (purple yam jam). Plus, this delicious treat is both additive- and preservative-free — as if you needed another reason to take one more bite!

Pinkie’s Farm; pinkiesfarm.com

Tittos ube churros

How about a local take on the popular Spanish treat that is churros? These ube-infused fried dough sticks come in a regal purple hue, which contrasts beautifully with their white-chocolate frosting, caramel and chocolate drizzle. It’s a sinful treat, but each bite is worth every calorie.

Tittos Latin BBQ & Brew, 16 Easy Capitol Dr, Brgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig City; +63 2 535 9212;facebook.com/TittosMNL

Purple yam cake

The humble fruit once again takes pride of place in this fresh, home-made purple yam mousseline blanketing crunchy layers of cashew meringue. The sweetness of the ube cake balances out the crunchy, nutty flavor of the meringue perfectly.

Kitchen’s Best, Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City; facebook.com/KitchensBest

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.)