Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Chocolate Kiss Cafe and Why I Love It!

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hickory smoked baby back ribs

hickory smoked baby back ribs

The UP campus isn’t exactly the place to go to when your stomach starts to whine for gastronomic delights. It’s definitely home to the best fishballs in the metro but you kinda won’t go out of your way to eat there. Or so I thought… Roughly about ten years ago, I heard from a classmate in UP graduate school that there was this quaint reastaurant called The Chocolate Kiss Cafe right in the heart of the campus that served really good food.  She continued to say that people from all over the town drove all the way to the resto just to taste their food. And hey, that was enough reason for me to jump into the bandwagon!

chicken ala kiev with creamy mashed potatoes

chicken ala kiev with creamy mashed potatoes

The day I tasted their chicken hainanese, I never stopped craving for more of their food choices. I swear by it, really.  Actually, every viand on their menu simply just literally melted in my mouth! Their topsellers  include chicken ala kiev and the hickory smoked baby back ribs. The ala kiev is served with creamy mashed potatoes. It’s the most savory ala kiev I know. The butter filling inside  the chicken log has the right consistency enough to keep the meat moist while you’re sampling it. Just a tip–I think the technique there is to freeze the butter first before you fill it in to the chicken log. So when you fry the chicken, the butter does not melt away long before the meat is cooked. The mashed potato is definitely the perfect partner for this dish, hands down.

The hickory smoked baby back ribs is another to die for specialty of The Chocolate kiss cafe. It’s the fall-off-the-bones kind with the hickory smoked flavor. The rich, succulent, sweet n spicy hickory sauce just coats the ribs so perfectly. The charred texture is reminiscent of a typical texan bbq, backyard-grilled-style. It simply blows me away!

The other must try dishes would be their chicken in the basket, hungarian sausage penne pasta and of course their chicken hainanese!

Save the best for last.  You can’t leave the place without trying their famous cakes. I highly recommend the dayap cake and the sansrival! Expect to savor on your palate the bursting sweet taste of these cakes long before you have left the cafe. Two thumbs up for you, guys!

** The Chocolate Kiss Cafe is located at the UP Campus in Diliman, Quezon City (2nd flr Bahay ng Alumni) with another branch at #91 A. Roces Avenue Corner Sct. Tobias Street Quezon City, Quezon City, tel #4127876.

Quick Pasta Meals

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Most of the time, we don’t know how to find the middleground for good food and easy time preparing it. Here goes some quick pasta combinations that might ease your stress in planning your menu:

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Quick pasta combinations:

1. Olive oil, garlic and pamesan cheese

2. Bechamel sauce (flour, cheese, butter and milk, whisk together then simmer) and choice of:

Pesto

Smoked bangus in olive oil

Sun Dried tomatoes

Bacon

Shitake mushrooms

Diced chicken

Note: You may even toss up any of these two or more combinations to the bechamel. Experiment!

3. Tinapa and pesto

4. Olive oil and adobo flakes

5. Stewed tomatoes, basil and feta cheese

6. Left-over cream of pumpkin soup and sliced black mushrooms (best with bow-tie noodle pasta)

7. Diced roast chicken (left-over again) , olive oil, chopped fresh basil and cheese (drippings of the roast is a good flavor enhancer too)

8. Shrimps, squid and dory fillet, olive oil, cheese and lots of roasted garlic

These are just some of my favorite quick-fix pasta dishes. I will publish more as soon as I get the time (and energy!). Btw, please take note that there are a lot of excellent bottled fish in good oils available in the supermarkets. You can just toss them over to your favorite pasta and you’re ready to eat. My personal favorites are: Santwaryo’s smoked bangus in olive oil (wow, this one is so versatile, it can be palaman for pandesal, can be made as ulam, can be pulutan, so yummy!), Zaragoza’s tuyo in olive oil and  bangus in corn oil.

A World of Eaters

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View image detail“I only eat because it’s necessary!”. I almost fell off my chair hearing this from a new acquaintance, Sheila. I was too naive to deny the existence of  some who may regard eating as a mere ’obligation’ in this food-loving universe! No wonder she’s able to keep her weight fabulously low. Did I say she’s 27 years old with three kids to boot? Man, life can be so unfair!

My previous impression was that everybody was born a foodie (someone  who is keenly interested in food especially in eating or cooking). Sheila, all too suddenly, gave me the rude awakening. I just realized that, yes, there are some who aren’t really smelling the roasted garlic the way that a foodie does. Sad, I think.

View image detailHow do you spot a foodie? Easy. Interestingly, foodies easily get jolted to excitement by the mere sight of a succulent Twice-Baked Chicken Roast. They worship and sanctify the union of salt and pepper! They bask in the glory of that warm Sausage Gumbo or that Sizzling Teppanyaki. And, they make blogs like this!

Allow me to share with you the types of “eaters” based on my observations over this lifetime that I have been into FOOD. Here goes:

The Picky Eater– She refuses to eat a great number of food types either because her palate never got used to it or she’s been  living under a rock for a century now to know what’s good or bad.

View image detailThe Binge Eater– To her, It doesn’t matter whether she’s munching the most expensive wagyu beef  or the shoe of her boyfriend. It’s quantity, not really taste or quality!

The Genuine Foodie– She drops the world to taste the latest food find. She knows every herb by heart including dahon ng sili and dahon na kutsai!

The Takaw Mata Type– As if a camera personified, her eyes pan from left to right then back at a buffet table to ogle at the  food before her. Two seconds after the gaze, she’s feeling stuffed already!

The Deppressed Eater– They find immediate gratification in gobbling up their favorite Lechon.  They release tension and deppression through excessive eating.

The Sheila Type– She eats only beacuse it’s “necessary”. 

There. Have to go. Dinner is ready.

A (Supposedly)World Class Pinoy Food

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It’s a  big puzzle to me why Pinoy food hasn’t really made a mark in the global culinary scene. Never in the mold of, say, cuisines of Japan, China and Thailand among others. It’s barely up there. Nor anywhere, tsk.

I would totally undersatnd if pinoy cuisine lacked the gastronomic attributes  worthy of a universal accolade. But it is not the case, really. Pinoy cuisine is exploding with succulence, character and potential. There’s got to be a way to shake up the global cuisine with the introduction of our mouth-watering adobo, kare-kare and lechon!

Sometime last year, I had the chance to visit a pinoy restaurant in New York City. The person who talked me into it raved about the food there which were  mainly adobo and pinoy barbecue as the staple ones. My palate at that time was just  pleading for pinoy dishes since it’s been weeks already last a pinoy dish landed in my intestines. I even thought to myself, good thing a coupla pinoy restos are in NYC in case some pinoys got homesick and wanted some of our local fares. Sadly, the moment I laid my eyes on their pinoy buffet, I knew right away I was not going to like what I would be tasting. True enough, I heard the music bed on my head that went “Kweng, kweng, kwwwweng!”. Food was a major letdown. The point of the matter is, if that was the kind of pinoy food we are showing the world, then we can’t expect the universe to praise our local fares.

 We scoured NYC some more for pinoy food but we saw nothing better than the previous yucky one.

Luckily back here at home, there’s come about the burgeoning of pinoy grilleries. I love it! Good food are everywhere. My personal favorite pinoy food restos include, Abe (Serendra), Recipes (Grenbelt 3), Aristocrat (Roxas Blvd), Conti’s (Serendra), Pociana’s (Timog Ave.) and my all time favorite chicken at Max’. Lately, I have been addicted to Reyes babecue. Their bbq is so tender, juicy and moderately sweet. It’s so perfect with java rice, yum-o!

We have loads of great local restos serving authentic pinoy food here. It’s just a matter of being able to have the good taste for EXCELLENT pinoy food.  

Here goes some of the photos of some pinoy dishes I have been crazy about. These are the viands I grew up knowing and loving.

Classic Beef Caldereta

Adobo Flakes

Pesto Chicken with Gingered Rice Stuffing

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Lately, I have been dishing out food cooked from either my bamboo steamer or oven. I found a sudden renewed wave of excitement in foods cooked in these two chambers. They release a certain kind of aroma that awaken my idle, sleepy palate!

I had the time to bake chicken tonight. I decided to do a pesto based chicken rub. I always keep a jar of pesto handy in my ref so that everytime I need it, I don’t have to belabour myself in doing it. Pesto may well go with your favorite pasta, crackers, rice (pesto rice), pizza or bread. In this case, I used it as my chicken rub. Pesto may be basil, spinach or parsley based. The most common is basil. Basil pesto may be hand pounded or processed. It really depends on your preference. To make it, chop about four cups of basil. Mix in a cup of extra virgin olive oil, one and a half cups of parmesan cheese, 3 cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of pine nuts (optional), salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Consistency of this mixture well depends on your taste, really.

Okay, let’s backtrack a bit and do step one of this Pesto Chicken with Gingered Rice Stuffing:

Rice stuffing is made from white rice (enough to fill the cavity of the chicken), pesto, some few slices of ginger, salt and pepper. Fuse all ingredients together to blend flavors in perfect harmony.

Stuff the chicken with basil rice. You might want to mix in some shitake mushrooms into your rice or throw in some scallions for added flavor.

Choose your veggie combi. I choose potatoes, red peppers and a head of garlic (upper head,chopped). Roasted garlic is best as rubs for breads like focaccia, ciabata or your regular wheat toast. You may opt to throw in eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, white onion and other veggies you might want to have. Season all veggies with salt and pepper and baste with olive oil or butter for extra gloss.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and smother  with some more pesto. Squeeze in a swig of lemon or calamansi. Meantime, grease potatoes with olive butter and wrap individually in foil wraps (the foil makes sure the potatoes won’t dry out).

Bake with temp of 350 degrees for an hour.

Rice stuffing has all the juicy drippings of the chicken! The ginger component in the rice stuffing is crucial. It adds extra zing to the Pesto flavor.

The baked potatoes that went with the chicken is best with melted cheese, sour cream or just butter on top. Sprinkle in some chives for garnish.

I don’t normally give out exact measurements because everything is just based on my personal taste. Feel free to do adjustments. Let the flavors burst in your palate. Cooking is all about fun and adventure. Had this one-pot-wonder with matching Red Wine and a fantastic chat with Jake to boot.

My Kitchen, My World!

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my kitchen at home

I don’t recall exactly when my love for cooking began. At the most, I remember helping my mom in the kitchen in between commercial breaks of sesame street. Yes, my love for food and the culinary arts started a long time ago.

As a kid, mom taught me a world of techniques in cooking. Among other things, she taught me stuff as basic as knowing the proper way to slice every ingredient. She recommended quartered-cut onions for any meat dish that’s  stewed or boiled or say sliced ginger as opposed to chopped when whippping up a sotanghon soup.

Taught me tips like ginger gets ahead of the garlic in the pan when you saute anything with ginger on it. Relayed to me then like  I was in a culinary school. To me, my mom is the original kitchen godess! She taught me the best way to present and plate dishes, etc. All that makes what I am in the kitchen today.

my classic fried chicken

My life at present revolves around the kitchen. I start the day preparing Jake’s Baon that’s usually labor intensive because he needs to have more than one viand. He usually eats anything but pork and beef.

a ten-minute dish

He loves pasta and soups. Rachael is famous for her 30-minute meals, well do I have good news for you, I can make mine in under ten minutes! Haha! Bragging rights because it’s true. Over the three years that I’ve been married to both Jake and my kitchen, I’ve developed dishes that can be made in all of ten minutes. Well, let’s save those recipes for another blog.

a pamana recipe from my lola

When I’m in the mood, I dish out something more complicated as this classic embotido. It’s actually easy because it’s just fusing together all the ingredients and getting the right mix. However,  it can be very labor intensive (with all the chopping, slicing and grating of the ingredients!).

I don’t know why I feel one with  my pots and pans. I just love basking in the glory of my salt and pepper! Maybe it’s passion. Or obssession. Or I just wanna eat. Whatever!

*Food Photography by the Author

The Real Paella?

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One of the most interesting aspects of travelling is definitely all about FOOD. In a recent trip to Spain, I put on my ‘hitlist’ the must-go-to restos that served Spain’s best. Best Paella, best Callos, best Iberico Hams, etc.  And, inspite of the language barrier, we searched high and low for the best but reasonably priced restos that served those ‘bests’. Luckily, the hotel where we stayed in (Silkens Hotel Puerta America), had the best breakfast buffet. Atkin’s fanatics will have their heyday sampling the vast array of Spanish dishes served to us every waking up hour. The food choices were predominantly ones that were protein packed. The chorizo platter was something else! If you don’t limit yourself, your blood pressure might just rumble up and do you in. The platter had their native chorizo, iberico hams and other native hams which I forget now the names. The cheese platter had brie, emental, roquefort, sharp cheddar and cottage cheese. Those were just a few viands among the many choices. We were so stuffed everyday!

Then, we scoured Madrid some more for the Paella. We found one near the Gran Via area. I was so shocked learning that the ‘real’ Paella MIGHT not be the Paella that I know. Not the usual Paella served in Manila. Theirs was the soggy, sticky version. Very similar to the consistency of our native “bico”. Okay, I was exaggerating. More similar to a risotto, I guess. Tsk, was a bit upset there. Sigh.  My saliva suddenly just dried out.

Off we went to a coupla more restos that served Paella in the succeeding days but, alas, same experience took place. Then, I started deducing that the ‘real’ Paella might just be that. Anyway, I can’t totally say I liked it nor I detested it. The “‘awakening” or the  learning experience was enough reason for me to be grateful that I got enlightened on this trivia at least straight from the “Paella Country”, no less. Gracias!