NEW YORK MINUTE: Freshly Made Home-Cooked Paninis (OAP)

(This feature was published in OurAwesomePlanet.com and Mercato Centrale last May 2, 2013; Photo from New York Minute Panini)

If I had a minute to go and grab something to eat, it would be some sort of all-in-one meal—like a sandwich. A more fun alternative would be the panini, Italy’s version of stuffed bread or sandwich, which typically uses ciabatta that is horizontally cut in half and filled with all kinds of meat and/or veggies and cheese.

I recently discovered a panini place in Cucina Andare, New York Minute Paninis, which offers eight different variants and creates them upon order. A must-try is the Empire Steak, a bestseller that has sautéed beef, bell peppers, onions and mozzarella cheese. Their version of the classic Philly cheese steak is spot on with the delicious combination of the beef, veggies and the melted cheese. This is a panini that would satisfy even those with big appetites!

Another specialty is the Brooklyn Bird that combines grilled chicken, mozzarella, pesto and tomato slices in its filling. I like the traditional chicken-pesto combo where the basil gives a fresh flavor to the sandwich. Vegetarians may opt for the Veggie Delight panini that is totally meat-free, or the Fantastic 4, which features four kinds of cheeses. I found out that the names of all the variants are based on places in New York or movies that feature the Big Apple. It was actually the idea of Maxine Marcelino, the young entrepreneur who conceptualized the business at 18 years of age.

“I’m in college right now and I wanted to do something else on the side. So I told my parents that I wanted to do it and they told me to make a concept.” The parents of Maxine are in the catering business and are already serving two kinds of paninis. “I was looking for a concept and I wanted to make the name creative. Last year, I went to New York with my family and the place was so fresh on my mind. When I was conceptualizing I thought maybe New York theme na lang.”

It was in September 2012 when Maxine was able to finalize her business concept, and after a month or two, she joined Mezza Norte. She launched her first solo food business venture while still in school. Although it was difficult to balance school and work, she was able to do so with the help of her supportive parents. Her mother trained her cooks to prepare everything, and Maxine takes charge of the selling, although she can assemble her own paninis as well.

This 18-year-old mans the stall and makes it a point to talk to customers. “I find myself drawn to booths when I see the owners there so I make it a point to be always there.” She would sometimes go around the weekend market—with her small signage in tow—and offer her products to potential customers. That’s how she believes in her products, and it’s also a way for her to help customers decide what they want.

New York Minute Paninis are reasonably priced at P100 each, and it also offers Quesadillas that are jam-packed with choice toppings such as chicken, beef or vegetables. These are also made on the spot so you’ll be assured of its freshness.

 

 

CUISINIERS: Have you tried the Best BBQ Pork Skewers in Manila? (OAP)

(This feature was published in OurAwesomePlanet.com and Mercato Centrale last March 21, 2013)

In Filipino food language, barbecue or BBQ refers to grilled meat on a stick—usually pork or chicken. It is a popular fare in the streets, in malls, in parties and other occasions. It’s convenient, tasty, and has become a favorite of many. With all the different kinds of barbecue out there, the one brand that you must try is Cuisiniers.

Chef RAYMUND C. FABRE of Cuisiniers has perfected his family’s barbecue recipe and developed his grilling technique to create the best barbecue in town. No bull. His recipe has actually garnered an award in Food Magazine’s Food Backyard Barbecue Cook-Off where he won “Best BBQ Pork Skewers Category” in 2012.

The chef comes from a family who is really fond of food, particularly barbecues and roasts. Plus, he honed his cooking skills in the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management, and took up short courses from established local chefs such as Gene Gonzales, Heny Sison, Jill Sandique and Dennis Hipolito.

With the flavorful and tender barbecue of Cuisiniers, I found it surprising that being a chef was only Raymund C. Fabre’s “parallel career”. Before he pursued his passion for cooking, he was—and still is—an economist and consultant for a number of government agencies and donor agencies such as ADB and World Bank. For most of his life, he has been working in the corporate world, but I must say that he wears his chef’s hat well.

For the bestselling pork barbecue, the chef uses pork loin, a premium cut that is very soft and tender. The meat is marinated for a couple of days for it to absorb all the flavors. The serving size for each stick is far from the average street barbecue; it’s enough to satisfy a grown man’s appetite. Another must-try is the chicken barbecue, which is tender, juicy, and grilled to perfection as well.

Cuisiniers has another specialty, the Slow Roast Beef where the fork-tender meat is smothered in wine gravy. If you want to indulge, this dish should be it. The beef just melts in your mouth as the savory sauce permeates with every bite. I thought that it would be a nice dish to bring to dinner parties and impress the guests. Good thing, Cuisiniers accepts orders for take-out.

Cuisiniers has been in the food scene ever since they opened a restaurant in the Makati Central Business District area in 2010. They would serve various dishes and even baked goods there, but in Mercato Centrale, they are focusing on their barbecues and roasts. According to the chef, they want to grow along with Mercato Centrale, although eventually, they would like to open a stand-alone ihaw-ihaw place where they can expand and keep on cooking—and grilling.

CUISINIERS
Telephone number: (+632) 984-4763
Mobile number: (+63 939) 911-3077
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: www.facebook.com/CuisiniersByRapheray

Available at Midnight Mercato and Cucina Andare.

MIDNIGHT MERCATO
Address: Corner of 34th & 8th avenue (near MC Home Depot), BGC Taguig
Mobile number: (+63 917) 840-1152
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
Operating hours: Every Friday and Saturday, 10pm-3am

CUCINA ANDARE
Address: Glorietta 3 Park, Makati (in front of Makati Shangri-La)
Mobile number: (+63 917) 840-1152
Email: [email protected]
Operating hours: Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 4pm-3am

CARLO’S KITCHEN: It’s Crunchy Belly Time! (OAP)

(This feature was published in OurAwesomePlanet.com and Mercato Centrale last March 20, 2013)

Singapore has its Hainanese chicken, Thailand has its Pad Thai, Vietnam has its Pho, and the Philippines has its… Well, how about some Crunchy Belly?

Carnivores would crave for this unique creation by Carlo’s Kitchen. It’s a pork concoction that’s a cross between chicharon and lechon kawali, except it’s not made out of pork rind but the belly part of the pig. The only thing that it has in common with chicharon is the way it looks, and maybe the way it sounds once you get a bite of it. The crunchy belly is actually more of a bagnet—a finger food version of it.

Initially, I was hesitant of tasting this sinful treat because I know that just one bite wouldn’t be enough. And when I sampled it, I proved myself right. I just had to take another piece, and another, and another. After a while, I realized I was eating it like potato chips out of a bag. I know I went overboard the daily calorie allowance but it was worth it. (In Mercato Centrale, the crunchy belly may be ordered by itself or with a cup of rice.)

I had a chance to chat with Kat Reantazo, one of the creators of crunchy belly. She mentioned that she and her husband, Carlo, got inspired to do this business from their travels abroad. In their trips, they would always go to hawker places since they love to eat. They realized that the stalls with the longest lines are those that sell unique creations. Since they’re pork eaters, they thought of a product that would suit them best, and thus, the birth of crunchy belly.

Although they don’t have culinary degrees, both of them are simply passionate about food. Carlo, for instance, was exposed to his family’s restaurant business at an early age. He also worked his way up in restaurants—starting from a dishwasher to a kitchen helper, and finally being a head cook.

The duo joined Mercato Centrale in 2011, and has since then, been feeding foodies with their bestselling crunchy belly, as well as other specialties such as Rib-Eye Steak ,T-bone Steak, Chicken Cordon Bleu, and Hungarian Sausage. They husband-and-wife team dreams of eventually opening up their own restaurant and reaching more people. In the meantime, they are happy to serve their newest creation, Chocobelly, which is chocolate-covered crunchy belly.

CARLO’S KITCHEN
Telephone number
: (+632) 399-2715
Mobile number: (+63 916) 403-3495
Email: [email protected]
Facebookwww.facebook.com/crunchybelly
Twitter@crunchybelly

Available at Midnight Mercato and Cucina Andare Market

MIDNIGHT MERCATO
Address: Corner of 34th & 8th avenue (near MC Home Depot), BGC Taguig
Mobile number: (+63 917) 840-1152
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
Operating hours: Every Friday and Saturday, 10pm-3am

CUCINA ANDARE
Address: Glorietta 3 Park, Makati (in front of Makati Shangri-La)
Mobile number: (+63 917) 840-1152
Email: [email protected]
Operating hours: Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 4pm-3am