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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bread and Kitchy Art - Pan de Amerikana Marikina

The heavy rains had us scurrying towards the thatched roof of Pan de Amerikana Bakery one day for an afternoon snack and a respite from all that driving we did that day.  Thus, I was unable to take a picture of its famous landmark - the windmill.  Despite the gloomy weather, we were greeted with artsy delights - from a bridge and a pond to assorted and mismatched bric a bracs, from antique musical instruments and radios to movie stars of LVN or Sampaguita pictures fame. 
And of course, who would miss the giant chess set against the backdrop of Roman pillars?  My husband and daughter made a beeline towards it.  The game is afoot - literally.
Our large group settled near the giant aquarium and there were orders for pasta carbonara, pancit palabok (rice vermicelli in seafood aioli), halo-halo (assorted sweetened beans and fruit in crushed ice, milk and sugar), and of course their 1950s style large wheat pan de sal (bread of salt), which can be served either with corned beef, butter or Cheez Whiz and accompanied by coffee (instant 3-in-1!). 
The bread is the reason why one goes there - baked fresh daily, chewy on the inside, crusty and crumbly on the outside, and totally healthy since they only make it with whole wheat flour.
I didn't take pictures of the plates we ordered since, frankly, it wasn't that worth it.  It was bland all around.  But do go there for the bread, and maybe rest a little on the hammock, or tinker with their assorted and interesting decorative pieces as props.  I hear that they serve flavorful Pinaputok na Tilapia (Tilapia fried in banana leaves) and even steaks.  But will have to go back there and try it out when the weather is better.  
Besides good bread and art, they also sponsor tai chi and art lessons, and from time to time, conduct chess clinics.  Thus, there are a million reasons to go and spend some time in this charming pocket of Marikina.  It makes one curiouser and curiouser.

Pan de Amerikana
92 Gen. Ordonez cor. Maroon Streets
Marikina Heights, 1800 Marikina City
Metro Manila
+63 2 4752398

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Street Food Sampling - Songkran

This was during one of my visits to my mother's house in Las Pinas, within southern Metro Manila.  When I was growing up here, the town (now a city) used to be just made up of several residential subdivisions or villages - quiet and suburban.  It no longer can be called suburbia, certainly.  It hasn't been for quite some time actually.  The same thing can be said about BF Homes in Paranaque, even though it has been a self-sustaining subdivision since the late 1970s. 

The hub of commercial activity there used to be just the President's Avenue, but over the years, residences along Aguirre Avenue have little by little been converted to varying business establishments, and the most attractive of them all are the different cafes and restaurants which offer in itself a buffet of cuisines - from Japanese, to Irish, to Italian, 
Spanish, Chinese and of course Filipino along with the sturdy standby Tropical Hut Hamburger.  BF Paranaque can be said to have it all.

For our part (me, my mom and brother), we sought out Songkran, a restaurant that specializes in Thai street food.  The exterior of the restaurant itself elicits tranquility.  A terrace with outdoor tables and chairs surrounds the structure giving the diner a choice of whether to stay outdoors or indoors.

Inside was cooler though on that particular day, with ceiling fans and a hint of airconditioning with sturdy wooden tables and comfortable chairs.  Floor to ceiling windows make you enjoy the greenery outside.

The menu presented a wide variety of dishes which you would normally see offered for sale on a typical busy Bangkok street.  But for now, we settled ourselves with just a few of them.  The lemongrass and mint tea came highly recommended, and they really weren't kidding.  It was thirst-quenching and the subtle sweetness will not make you gag.  There were other cool Thai drinks on offer but will probably try them some other time.  I was definitely hooked on this one.
Thereafter, we asked for the Catfish Salad which one should always get whenever you're in a Thai restaurant.  The fish was delectably crunchy, never oily and balanced with the fish sauce and vinegar dressing that was cradled within the folds of salad greens and peanuts.
The green chicken curry was a welcome onslaught of flavors.  More subtle than the red curry, but leaves you with a clean savory taste, especially when paired with aromatic Jasmine rice that help set off the spices.
We also tried out the Fish Fillet with Caramel Sauce.  It took some time, but it was worth the wait.  The fish was crispy and reminiscent of toasted fishballs, and the caramel sauce was oozing liquid gold. An upscale salute to our very own "tusok-tusok" fishball which our very own manongs sell at every street corner here.
Thai food always seeks balance and every dish we tried woke our taste buds to every nuance of flavors.  For three dishes and 3 cups of rice with drinks, the Php938.00 bill was reasonable.  We left sated but not gluttoned.  With this experience, we were certainly coaxed to come back and try the other dishes.

249 Aguirre Avenue
BF Homes Paranaque
+63 2 8292963

Monday, September 2, 2013

Milk Teas and Sashimi - Bubble Tea BGC

The milk tea craze is still going strong in the Philippines, or at least in Metro Manila, that is.  One of my favorites would be the Japanese brand Bubble Tea.  I have been to their Bonifacio Global City branch many times and liked the cheery pastel ambiance, and thought that I would write about it in my next visit.

This particular visit though had a few flies in their ointment.  We were still greeted by pleasant smiles and prompt assistance with our menu choices, but we noticed that the furniture now showed some wear and tear.  A shame too, because they really had comfortable seats and this was coupled by what should have been a well-thought of motif.  Then the rest rooms were a nightmare.  It has not been cleaned and it reeked of overuse.  Indeed, while they do open until 4am, this is not an excuse not to ensure optimum sanitation standards.

I ordered the mixed sashimi and it came, yes, well arranged, but was warm (!) and garnished with tired-looking radish strings (take note too, of the old stock of tamago [egg] sashimi pieces).  When I asked about this with the waitstaff, they only apologized and said that it was prepared near the stove.  But wouldn't the cook know that sashimi should maintain a certain cool temperature and thus, should avoid preparing it near a hot plate/stove?  They only graciously took note of this and will just tell the cook.  But my point is, the damage has been done.
Nevertheless, they came through with their Katsudon and the Pork Curry Rice.  Very colorful, well-cooked, and the balance of flavors and textures were evident. 

In fact, we noticed that the Japanese expats who came in, all had the Pork Curry Rice.  I suppose, in order to avoid any surprises, they tend to choose this dish which one cannot go wrong in preparing it.
Of course, their milk teas were still wonderfully silky sweet.  I prefer the old-fashioned Royal Milk Tea, but their Chocolate and Buco Pandan flavors satisfy as well.  Maybe if they do a little re-upholstering and are minded to clean their toilets, I will probably come back. For now, I'll have to contend with trying out their other branches instead.