Latte lowdown: Must-know facts about coffee (GMA News Online)

Source coffee beans from different countries

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last March 7, 2017)

Whether it’s 3-in-1, brewed, blended, or iced, coffee remains the staple drink of Filipinos. It’s hard to resist this aromatic beverage that puts the “ooh” in good morning. So don’t just get your quick fix of caffeine, learn more fun facts about our local brew.

Did you know that the Philippines was one of the world’s top producers of coffee sometime in the late 1800s? It was the Spanish who first brought coffee to the country.

The Philippines is one of the few countries that produces the four varieties of coffee: Arabica, Liberica, Robusta, and Excelsa. Barako belongs to the species Coffea Liberica, which accounts for less than one percent of the country’s commercially grown coffee. Robusta was the top-produced variety in 2016, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Coffee is a good wake-up call since it contains caffeine, which is legally addicting. But the caffeine content actually depends on factors like the roasting of coffee beans and the coffee-making process. “The darker the roast, the less caffeine. The lighter the roast, the more caffeine. The more you burn, the higher the temperature—the caffeine gets converted to sugars or carbon,” said Vie C. Reyes, a coffee farmer advocate who is the director of the Philippine Coffee Alliance and CEO of Bote Central Inc. “The longer you extract coffee, the more caffeine you’re getting.” She said that espresso has less caffeine because of the shorter extraction time. Drip coffee, therefore, has more caffeine.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Osaka food guide: Eat until you drop! (GMA News Online)

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake that has a variety of flavors

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last February 21, 2017)

Have you ever heard of “kuiadore”? It’s a Japanese term that translates to “eating yourself bankrupt,” which is pretty doable in Osaka, the food capital of Japan.

It’s the second largest city in the country, following Tokyo, and it has all sorts of gustatory pleasures, from street food to Michelin-starred restaurants. It’s fun and easy to eat your way around town—but your belly can only take so much, so curb your cravings and focus on the following:


It’s easy to find a takoyaki stall on every street. Just look for a sign with the image of an octopus and you’ll see some guy cooking this popular snack in round molded griddle pans. My hubby and I found many in the Dotonbori area and chose the stalls with the long lines. (If people don’t mind standing in line for several minutes, the food must be good.) Watching the cook systematically make the octopus balls was riveting and made the waiting time more bearable. We shared one boat-shaped container that had around eight to ten pieces, all of which were doused in takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, topped with dried bonito flakes and green onions, and served with a side of pink pickled ginger.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Japanese ‘beauty hot pot’ Bijin Nabe now in Manila (GMA News Online)

Servers help prepare the hotpot to best enjoy the Bijin Nabe

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last January 24, 2017)

The first thing that comes to my mind when someone mentions hot pot is a soup dish that you cook at the center of the dining table. I’ve eaten my share of this popular Asian comfort food, but I just recently realized that not all hot pots are created equal.

My latest restaurant discovery was this Japanese establishment that offers its signature beauty collagen hot pot. Yes, there is such a thing, and Bijin Nabe by Tsukada Nojo has finally brought this farm-to-table concept to Philippine shores.

It was my first time to encounter this unique dish that was already famous in both Japan and Singapore. Apparently, it all begins with the broth that features the Golden Collagen Stock, which uses Jidori chicken from Miyazaki Prefecture. This type of poultry is considered “the Kobe beef of chicken.” The restaurant directly imports the broth and I was extremely intrigued by it, but I patiently waited for my moment to taste this renowned dish.

Tasting golden collagen chicken stock for the first time

Come with an appetite but exercise patience, as it takes a while to prepare the hot pot—after all, good things take time. The restaurant event I attended allowed me to sample some of its appetizers while my palate waited for the star of the show.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

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.

You’ll Be Dreaming About This Private Lagoon Sanctuary for Days (

Guests staying in the villas have exclusive use of the private lagoons

(This feature was published in last December 2, 2017)

Having a dinner meal with a stunning pool view as your background doesn’t seem out of the ordinary, especially if you’re staying at a resort. But when you’re doing it while seated on the edge and your feet submerged in its shallow waters, then that can be an experience for the books.

That is what’s unique about The Food Hall, an all-day dining area at the lower lobby of BE Grand Resort Bohol located in the quieter part of Panglao Island. Aside from the wet dining area, the restaurant has an air-conditioned section for those hot days, and al fresco area where you can get a good view of the greenery surrounding the pool as you breathe in the fresh sea breeze.

The establishment recently launched their new menu that offers a good mix of Asian specialties and Western dishes. “The dishes that we offer here are dynamic and continuously evolving to cater to what our guests are looking for,” says Executive Chef Mike Mandigma. Many of the produce and herbs that he cooks with are fresh and organic since these come from the resort’s farms.

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.