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Monday, December 29, 2014

Roast Chicken of Christmas Past

And so the highlight of the Christmas season has passed us by. Quite thankfully, it was spent with more consciousness of what the holiday was all about in the first place. It was a pleasant surprise, too, that most of the people I know felt the same way, the motivation being that friends and acquaintances started comparing Christmases of the recent past with that of the distant ones.



One that sparked my memory train was that time we celebrated Christmas in Rome (what better place than in the official seat of the Heavenly Host). The city itself was very much into the spirit of things - concerts here and there, churches were open well into the evening for tourists and faithful members, and the streets well-decorated which eventually led you to the festive lights of the Piazza Navona Christmas market. Regardless of the decor and commercialisation, however, the ordinary people there were still able to keep things simple.



And the one thing that further stood out from this reminiscent train was this roast chicken we thoroughly enjoyed when we were there. Actually, neither one of our party prepared it since it was just a ready-to-eat roast that we purchased in Ipermercato Panorama located at Via Aurelia. 


It was perfectly roasted as it maintained the crispiness of the skin with a minimum of seasonings, and yet the meat stayed succulent and very juicy. At €5 (around Php300 at the exchange rate of that time), it was well worth it.

In the pursuit of such simplicity, I thought of roasting 2 chickens of my own at exactly 1 kilo each. I prepped it by giving the chickens a sea salt rub, washing them off with water and patting them dry.

In a separate bowl, I poured a 1/8-cup of good quality olive oil, then mixed it with some salt, dried thyme, 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, fresh ground pepper and half a teaspoon of lemon zest to make it into a paste. I rubbed this all over and inside the chickens, including in between the skin and breast meat and thigh to let the flavours seep through.  Afterwards, I cut a lemon in half and put one of the halves each inside the hollow of the chicken and secured the legs together by inserting the ends into the chicken's extra skin, and tucked the wing tips under the shoulders.

I used a halogen light-powered portable oven (a.k.a. turbo broiler in Philippine parlance) and set it at 250 degrees Celsius for 55 minutes. The low temperature  contributes to the crispiness of the skin. I also basted it with additional olive oil every 15 minutes. Halfway through cooking, I inverted the birds to receive equal browning from the heat source.

At the end of cooking time, I let the chickens rest for a couple of minutes, then removed the half lemons from each of the chickens before serving them on a platter. The drippings can be placed in a separate bowl for those who like to have them as a light sauce. No additional thickening or cooking needed.



What came out were delicately-crispy birds worthy not only of the holidays, but anytime you feel like celebrating or sharing with friends.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

In Your Comfort Zone - Filio Bistro

A new kid on the Antipolo block has opened. Rather than the beer garden or watering hole (with or without a videoke system) that usually characterizes the joints in this thriving mountain city, a place serving familiar and fillingly good food is set up.  We were greeted by a courteous staff amid a decidedly Filipino industrial interior.  

Despite the wooden furnishings, some with simple ornate carvings, the bistro looked spacious.
  

Filio is located along the M.L Quezon Memorial Circle past the Liwasang Jose Lico monument, or the intersection of the Manila East Road going to the town of Teresa, and actually took over the space of a cafe which was operating there before.  A big plus is that the location affords ample parking space and a bit of quiet from the roaring tricycles and jeeps.


Filio's bestsellers are its American comfort food specialties like the Barbecue Ribs, the Grilled Barbeque Chicken, and the Jumbo Cheeseburger.  


The Barbecue Ribs were off-the-bone tender and mouth-wateringly juicy from its secret marinade and sauce.  Best paired with any of the 2 choices of sides they offer.  For our part, the Java Rice and corn-on-the-cob was requested, with an additional order of a bowl of crispy onion rings.  These went really well with our porcine morsel.


The Cheeseburger was indeed hefty, with complete garnishings and melting savory cheese.  This was served with Steak Fries and our choice of dip (Garlic Mayo - really good!)  


But aside from these boasted specialties, Filio serves savory Filipino dishes as well.  Their Oxtail Kare Kare is rich and silky, fully supplemented by their own brand of sweet-salty shrimp fry (bagoong).  


Their Lengua Sevillana is served in a creamy stew, with a twist of flavor from the use of shiitake mushrooms instead of the traditional button.  (No picture to show this though, since we had it at another time that we dined in.)  There is also the Beef Caldereta (which we plan to try out next time), and a host of pasta dishes to choose from.

And before I forget, they serve really delectable soups.  A great way to start your meal here, make sure you try their Soup of the Day.  At another time, I thoroughly enjoyed the filling Cream of Pumpkin Soup, and this time, I find the Cream of Chicken equals it in giving the diner a nurturing experience.


We also tried out one kind of dessert (we were already bursting) from their selection of cakes.  The S'mores Cake hit the spot just right.  And compared to other cafes in the area, I like their coffee best.  Plus, they serve perfect espresso, not the burned ones that you get from over-brewing.


It was also a delight to talk to the owner, Diana Lee, who is a lawyer like me. (This is what I call kindred spirit rhyming (-:). She was very engaging and welcomed questions and was very happy to tell her journey from the legal field to the food business, and her hopes for the bistro.  


We were quite glad to know that they will be offering a breakfast menu soon, like starting September soon.  This got my family excited.  With Filio, we're hoping that people won't go to Antipolo and think that it is only Tanduay Rhum or Zombie Tower (the drink) country, but that they will think of staying for breakfast and even lunch after visiting the famous cathedral (of Nuestra Senora De La Paz).  After all, Antipolo's culinary scenery is emerging.  

What an exciting time for foodies and restaurateurs!

Monday, August 25, 2014

French Snacking

It has been quite a busy few months!  Nevertheless, there came an afternoon wherein mother (that would be me) and daughter were left to their own devices during a long weekend. As we waited to get our car get its annual check up, we felt peckish.  After all, its been a few hours since our early lunch.

Thus, we headed to this new boulangerie (well, at least to us who rarely go out to Metro Manila these days) at SM Aura called "Paul".  The Philippine store opened last December 2013, but it was only now that we were able to set foot and experience its black and white aesthetics, which has been its hallmark (except the black livery which was changed only in 1993). 


But really, Paul was founded as early as 1889 in Croix, Northern France, and has been setting up its bakery cafe in malls all over France, providing its clients with the freshest breads and pastries from their headquarters in Marc-en-Baroeul, in Greater Lille. Paul is also a member of the company Groupe Holder, which also owns the luxury brand Laduree.  So you'll quite know you're in good hands.



And indeed we were.  The Croque Monsieur was perfect, the bechamel sauce just right and uplifts the ham and ementhal cheese, then served with a side of salad greens to cut through the richness and give you balance.



The crepes (we requested for the simple one: butter and sugar) were a delight.



And a real treat for me was that they serve Petit Creme - espresso with a dash of cream, the Frenchiness of which I truly miss.


For a more comprehensive view of the menu and price, check it out here.

C'est ce bon!

Paul Boulangerie et Pattiserie
Ground Floor SM Aura Premiere
C5 Road cor. 26th Street Bonifacio Global City
Landline: +63 2 8085324

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Chilling - Monte Cafe

Even before the typhoon (Glenda), its been probably months since we had a decent cafe-made coffee.  So that after things have normalized and we have already tidied up in the wake that the storm left behind, a barista-concocted drink sounds about right.

We headed to Monte Cafe, the newest addition to Antipolo's cafe scene (open for business since last year) and basically just settled ourselves in its industrial but homey atmosphere.  We were the first ones there (which is always a delight), and got myself a cappuccino while my daughter had a chocolate milkshake, and my husband a double espresso.  


Monte Cafe has a good selection of appetizers, sandwiches, pasta and rice meals, and from the ones we chose, they are all quite competently made. Good enough for brunch, if you ask me.  For one, we enjoyed the Cheese Pockets


Then the Fish and Chips had a rich-tasting beer batter and served with their own brand of tartar sauce.  The potato chips were home-made as well.


The Lengua was served estofado style (even though the menu labeled it as Pastel de Lengua - but no crust in sight) and slow-cooked towards savory and tender.


All in all, quite a great place to spend a lazy Sunday in.

Monte Cafe
2nd Floor Citywalk Bldg.
Lot 2 D-1 ML Quezon Extension
Antipolo City
Tel. No. +63 2 9569148


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Historic Filipino - Elias

What better way to commemorate the Philippines' independence day celebration than to dine at a place that pays homage to our cuisine at the time it happened?


Elias is another concept restaurant brought to us by one of the country's foremost chefs, Florabel Co-Yatco.  With other restaurants she has successfully created up her sleeve such as the fine-dining establishment that is her namesake "Florabel", "Felix" and Filipino restaurants such as "Crisostomo" and "Sisa's Secret", why not set up another one that showcases turn-of-the-20th-century cuisine?


With some foresight, I was able to snag a discounted dining voucher at Elias through cashcashpinoy two months previously.  Thus, for a meal that would usually cost Php1,500 (USD36), I get to pay only Php750 (USD18).  Great deal.  If you're also interested in getting similar dining, beauty or travel (and a whole lot more of other) deals, just go to their website (as highlighted) and register.  Purchases can be made via credit card or cash.  So far, my experience with the website has been safe, so I hope you'll have fun getting some savings with your purchases.


So for our own little celebration, we went to the Bonifacio High Street venue in Makati, and stepped into a high-ceilinged space highlighted in muted rose and cream with splashes of tiffany blue.  The interiors, however, had much the same feel as that of Crisostomo's so there is a sense of the familiar.  I would have preferred that Chef Florabel envisioned another "look" for this restaurant, or else, it would beg the question of how different would the dining experience be from her other Filipino-themed restaurants?

The dining attendants were all courteous as they first served our appetizer of choice called "Tiago's Triumph" (Php335/USD8)or a plateful of baked oysters in spinach and cheese.  Creamy, briny and fresh all at the same time.


For our main dishes, my husband, daughter and I shared the Lengua Laruja (Php395/USD9), or stewed ox tongue in mushroom sauce served hot on a sizzling plate,


The Crispy Pata Don Rafael (Php625/USD15), which is simply crisp-fried pork front leg.  (They also serve it Don Sebastian style which is served with chilis and garlic),


And one of Chef Florabel's pride, the Paella Negra (Php300/USD7) or paella cooked in squid ink.  I have to agree that this dish should indeed take center stage:  rich, flavorful, perfect.  I loved how the garlic aioli adds another dimension to the dish. 


This lunch was truly a feast, best shared with friends and/or family, as is usual with Filipino cuisine.  So was the price at Php2,050 (around USD50 with drinks and additional steamed rice for my daughter).  But it was a great way to commemorate an independence hard-fought.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shabby Chic Dining - Designer Blooms Cafe

Taking a break from my unofficial designation as family driver.  

Oh, the heat wave that's scorching the country right now!  So what a welcome sight it was when, during a visit to my Mother, we stepped into this very charming little place at the Molito Complex in Alabang.

People in Metro Manila may well know Designer Blooms, the flower shop of 20 years, but this time, they set up this cafe that serves an organic menu of comfort food favorites.  


As we stepped inside its cool interiors, we were at once enthralled with eclectic dining arrangements and high ceilings.  There is a loft to accommodate more diners.  It was like stepping into one of Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic design books, what with the polished cement floors, wooden fixtures, and mix-and-match furnishings.  It's a sure magnet for women diners, as evidenced by the demographic present when we arrived here.


A wall of mirrors on the left and floor-to-ceiling shelves of potted plants for sale on the right.  


We also noticed the walk-in chiller with a selection of flowers for one to choose from.


Take note of their offer of business lunch that is available between 11am to 2pm, Mondays to Fridays.


Ours, however, was a really late lunch.  So we sat down with a bowl of their home-made potato chips (Php155/USD3.69) with a generous serving of their own aioli dip, and a pitcher of passion berry iced tea (Php235/USD5.60) to start with, although my daughter opted for their equally refreshing mango smoothie (Php196/USD4.67).





The seafood pesto mare (Php235/USD5.60) was highly recommended, and rightly so.  The kitchen staff makes their own basil pesto, with ingredients coming from their garden no less, and likewise with the fettuccini pasta.  A good reason why we had to wait a little for this dish to be served.


The four-cheese pizza (Php235/USD5.60) came in with a freshly-prepared dough, a crunchy exterior yet with a chewy interior, with a generous serving of different cheeses.


The vegeterian panini (Php215/USD5.12) I preferred to be served with a side salad (although you can also have it with potato chips as an alternative).  


Then to cap the meal off, the homey goodness of apple pie ala mode (Php285/USD6.79) says it well.  


It's a bit pricey for lunch.  Our total bill (including an additional order of soda at Php85/USD2.02) with a senior citizen's discount came to about Php1,656.68 (USD39.44). But a homey yet stylish ambiance, and organic meals made from scratch make up for it.

Designer Blooms Cafe
Molito Complex
Madrigal Avenue, Alabang, Muntinlupa
Contact No. +63 2 512 0353
email: designerblooms@molito.com.ph 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Light Mother's Day Menu

Yup, the official recognition of your and my Mom is just around the corner.  I'm sure though that many will opt to go treat one's Mom out for that day, but in case you prefer a simpler, laid back celebration, why not prepare a brunch for her?  

I am sharing my recipe for crustless quiche with leek and gruyere cheese.  I had this on offer for my friends and former officemates when I prepared their diet lunches before.  Without the crust, that would mean you get to enjoy a filling meal that will cost you only 260 calories, instead of 460.  

And for dessert, a recipe for cream puffs filled with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.  This, however, is a regular recipe so it'll give one a whopping 335 calories for each medium-sized puff.  But you can lessen the guilt by using sugar-free vanilla ice cream for the filling, and there you have a compromise.  :-) Serve with a bottle of prosecco or your choice of bubbly, and you have quite an elegant spread that will make you and your Mom pampered.  

Profitez!


Crustless Quiche

3 medium stalks leeks
1 Tbsp. olive oil
   salt and pepper
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk 
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350 deg. F/180 deg. C. Grease 10-inch quiche dish, if you have one, or a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.  Cut off roots and trim dark green tops from leeks.  Discard any tough outer leaves.  Cut each leek lengthwise in half, then cross-wise into 1/4-inch-wide slices.  Rinse leeks thoroughly in large bowl of cold water, making sure sand is removed.  Transfer leeks to colander to drain, leaving sand in the bottom of the bowl.  Repeat this process of cleaning the leeks until vegetable is completely free of sand.  Shake colander to remove excess water.

2.  In a large non-stick skillet, heat oil on medium heat for 1 minute.  Add leeks and 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook 12-14 minutes or until leeks are tender and browned, stirring frequently.  Transfer leeks to prepared quiche dish or pie plate and spread evenly.

3.  Meanwhile, in a bowl using wire whisk, beat eggs, milk, cornstarch, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper until well-blended.

4.  Pour egg mixture over leeks in dish carefully so as not to displace the arrangement of leeks.  Sprinkle gruyere cheese.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes.  Good for 6 to 8 people.

Serve with a salad of mixed greens, apple slices, walnuts and sliced parmesan cheese using a dressing made from a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey to taste.


Cream Puffs

For the choux pastry:
1 cup butter
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs

1 container vanilla ice cream

1.  In a medium-sized sauce pan, melt butter in water.

2.  Add salt and flour, and stir until a sticky batter is formed.

3.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until batter is smooth.

4.  Preheat oven to 400 deg. F/230 deg. C.  Grease two baking sheets.

5.  Spoon the prepared choux dough into 24 small rounds on each baking sheet, or 12 medium rounds for bigger puffs.  Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes until each pastry puffs up and turns golden brown.

6.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on wire rack (around 20 minutes) before filling in with the vanilla ice cream.

7.  To fill the pastry, cut the puffs in half crosswise.  Place a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom half secure the top half of the pastry on top of the ice cream.  Repeat with remaining pastry puffs.

8.  Place filled pastry in freezer for at least 3 hours.

For chocolate sauce:
3 squares or 1 oz. or less than 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup all-purpose cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted to free from lumps

1.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, stir the chocolate pieces and the butter until they are completely melted.  

2. Remove from heat and, stirring constantly, add the all-purpose cream in a thin steady stream.  

3. When mixture is smooth, stir in the confectioners' sugar and beat vigorously. Stir in vanilla and let cool slightly to thicken a little.  Take out the cream puffs and pour the icing over each pastry.  Serve. 

** You can serve the extra chocolate sauce on the side, or use it for other confections later, just heat it up a little.  The sauce can last up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

   

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Classic Filipino - Marison's


Fishballs, pig's ears, and intestines aside, Filipino cuisine is first known for its classic soulful dishes. There's the Kare-Kare or oxtail and tripe stewed in peanut sauce usually served with bagoong (sauteed shrimp fry) on the side.  There is also the smoky, comforting aroma of Chicken Binakol, or chicken stewed in coconut water.  Of course, no one is to leave out our Adobo, arguably said to be our national dish.  All worthy restaurants serving traditional Filipino dishes cook these viands according to a well-kept ancestral secret, and all of them really good.  But it is in Marison's that, I think, and to borrow Dean Martin's phrase, I truly have a party in my mouth.


Marison's is one of the newest restaurants that have sprouted up in this city.  But unlike the newest restaurants, it did not plant itself along the main roads of Antipolo, but tucked itself away on the second floor of Mille Luce Village Center, or better known as where the second Pure Gold supermarket here can be found.  It's a quiet place during the lunch hour, but we've noticed that they are usually crowded during dinner time.


As of this writing, it is the only commercial establishment on the second floor, still waiting for its neighbors, but you get a simple welcome as you go through its doors.  Marison's has sturdy wooden dining tables and comfortable chairs, accented by overhead lamps with wooden shades.


The kitchen counter is backed by cabinets with cathedral windows to give it a colorful character.  Service is attentive to details - paper placemats inspired by how Paris bistros would do it, proper and complete utensils to the side, napkins, and goblets of water served without being asked.

We started with Fried Kesong Puti (Php260/USD5.78) as our appetizer which came to us as triangles of the local soft cheese wrapped in lumpia (or riceflour) wrapper and garnished with sprinklings of parmesan cheese and parsley.  The sauce that was served with it hit me with just the right savory, tangy note.  A welcome change from the heaviness of the mayo-ketchup combo (of which I am guilty of serving as well).


Marison's boasts of its Kare-Kare, and so we had that (Php330/USD7.33 good for 2-3 persons).  Instead of the usual bowl of oxtail and tripe swimming in the peanut sauce and then topped by a mound of vegetables, the oxtail portions were deboned and placed in the center and the slices of eggplant, pechay (swamp cabbage), knotted sitaw (snake beans), and tomato wedges (a surprise mix in this stew) fanned around the plate.  And the tripe?  Oh, it was cut as you would a shoestring potato and cooked crisp on top of the whole shindig. With the fried tripe, another dimension was opened.  It was a simple twist on the classic that is worthy of a smack on the forehead (of the Why-didn't-I-think-of-that? variety).  


And the peanut sauce.  If you are a Filipino, you would know what I mean when I say that it was made from scratch.  (a.k.a. No peanut butter in sight)
 
To balance this meat dish, we tried the Miso-Glazed Salmon served with a slice of roast peach at Php330/USD7.33.  The fish was perfectly cooked and the miso could do no other than be a beautiful complement to it.  Worth every grain of the steamed rice (Php30/USD0.67/cup) we got.


Marison's does not have a fixed dessert on their menu, as they serve different ones each week.  For this visit, we had a slice of Gateau Sans Rival, a Filipino dessert with a French name and is thus called because it simply means that it is a dessert without rival in sweetness.  This version is mild, however, and garnished with macadamia nuts.  The layers of meringue wafers, sandwiched the equal layers of vanilla buttercream that had the right amount of sweetness.  Come to think of it, consider it as a French macaron served cake-style.  Perfect with their excellent coffee.  And when I say excellent, it means that the senior citizens out there may need to dilute their cup with enough hot water and share it around. 


Our bill, with a glass of Mango Juice (Php80/USD1.78) and soda (Php50/USD1.11) totaled Php1300 (around USD29).  This may be a wallet-full but when you think about it, its the going price for its equivalent snazzy Filipino restaurants in Metro Manila.

Nevertheless, Marison's menu will require you to come back for more.  Well, there are many reasons.  One of them is the Chicken Binakol (Php330).  Let the earthy, smoky coconut-flavored soup coax your soul and lull you to nourishment, or the homey Pork and Lamb Adobo, another specialty.  Next reason would be their bowls of salads (Php160/USD3.56) that have varieties of texture and is good for sharing, and then the other items on the appetizer list such as the Sisig Tacos (Php280/USD6.22).

Proudly Philippine-made.

Marison's
2nd Floor Mille Luce Village Center
M.L.Quezon Avenue Brgy. San Roque, Antipolo