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Jul 9, 2014

Cocoa Room Kuwait

The name of this restaurant appears to be so intriguing. I was imagining a restaurant serving a lot of chocolate selections but when we went there I was surprised to know that it was really a breakfast place. More of as breakfast club I would presume, they offer a wide array of breakfast selections and combos that are truly unique. Most of the dishes are continental with some arabic selections as well. This place is normally full, so I would recommend that you place a reservation ahead of time. The best seats to occupy are in the al fresco area since you can smoke while enjoying the food. Techie people will really be delighted since their menus are stored in an ipad, well the ipad1 only, but nevertheless it was still cool.

Cocoa Room Eggs Benedict 4kd
This is a nice take on the tradition french classic - Eggs Benedict. The egg was poached just right, runny in the center and still creamy. The disappointment though was the poorly executed hollandaise sauce which was obviously overcooked as it was so thick and sweet. It was a nice idea that they serve this on a bed of very delicious ancho chili pulled short ribs that tasted so right. Next time, I hope that they can pull off a better hollandaise sauce.

BBQ Braised Brisket Hash 3kd

I love this dish. You can never go wrong with beef brisket cooked slowly in barbecue sauce. The perfectly fried potatoes and green peppers blended very well with the fried egg on top.

House Baked Beans 1kd

Their baked beans are served on this lovely staub pot that if it it was just allowed I would have brought them home instead. The beans were obviously store bought and really lacked seasoning. Perhaps, sauteing this beans with some paprika, onions, garlic and cayenne will make this more alive. It tasted so plain boring.

Overall, the food at Cocoa Room was just right. I would love to go back  to share some wonderful chat with friends on an early morning while trying out some of the dishes I have missed on my first visit and I certainly won't be expecting chocolate nextime.

Jul 8, 2014

Recipes on Food Magazine

Last 2013, Mr Ricky Manzano of Country Chicken Zamboanga introduced me to the editor-in-chief of Food Magazine Philippines, Ms. Nana Ozaeta. She, together with her team were doing a second feature on the culinary treasures of Zamboanga for their August issue. Well, we sat down and talked about how Zamboanga Cuisine evolved and how it continues to develop as time passes on. Zamboanga Cuisine is indeed complex, it is a mix of various influences largely from malay and spanish roots.

I invited them over to a Zamboanga feast degustation at Lantaka hotel which I will prepare myself which they just so happily obliged. The dinner was intended to introduce them to traditional zamboangueno cooking spiced up with a little modern touch. Since I was born and raised  in Zamboanga and coming from a family of traditional zamboanguenos, eating good food has been a way of life. We often put a criteria to set our cuisine apart from our regional neighbors making us truly distinct. Over the years, we have injected local flavors to traditional spanish classics since most of the ingredients are hard to source in our locality. With the influx of malay traders from our southeast asian neighbors, we have  also slowly embraced malay food and developed it to suit our palates.


The degustation meal I prepared for them consisted of a pigs trotter "pata" soup that was cooked sinigang style with some camansi and camias as souring agent. Camansi is similar to breadfruit is usually used by locals as ingredient for soups. For added flavor, I also added some cured pig fat that has been stored in bottles till they turn yellow, we call this "tocino" which is totally different from the typical sweetened tocino of Luzon. I also prepared Chicken Pianggang - a muslim delicacy of chicken cooked in blackened grated coconut. Instead of cooking it in coconut sauce, I marinated it otherwise in a spicy black coconut sauce and grilled it in charcoal. They also love the beef culma, which is our take on the malaysian rendang. Culma borrowed from the Indian word Corma which simply means curry. My version uses kaffir lime leaves thus making the culma very fragrant and 
delicious. They were also surprised to taste for the first time a camias sirguelas salsa that was paired with very fresh tuna grilled to perfection. I chose to makle camias sirguelas since they were in season that time. The higlight of the meal was my award winning recipe from Kumbira - The Marang Cake which is marang custard filled in a soft chiffon cake and some fluffy meringue wafer.  Marang is a tropical fruit that is largely found Mindanao and is so abundant in the hinterlands of the city. 

Indeed, the team enjoyed the very memorable dinner alongside jovial and educational conversations with some zamboangueno foodies that came over. I am truly delighted that they got  to feature some of the recipes I prepared for them during that evening. I believe that after that meal, the Philippines can now get a better glimpse and appreciation of  the very unique gastronomy of this rich Latin city called Zamboanga. Check out the recipes below or download the August 2013 issue instead.

Strawberry Shortcake

Talk about dense, fluffy and sweet desserts and I would fast include Strawberry shortcake among my list of favorites. Well, obviously strawberry is not a staple in a tropical country like the Philippines thus making it a must try among sweet tooth addicts like me. Strawberry grows abundantly in Baguio on a specific season yet it is now readily available to consumers all year round in the many special supermarkets in the country. The best strawberries to use are of course the imported ones since they are plump, juicy and sweet. In Zamboanga, it is very difficult to source fresh strawberries so I normally use the canned ones although I really find the canned ones better for my taste buds. Trust me when I say its better! 



Of course, you cannot make Strawberry Shortcake unless you can bake a very soft and velvety sponge base. Honestly, I really don't use sponge cake for my shortcake since I find it dry and tedious to prepare instead I use this vanilla chiffon cake base that I have mastered in  a decade of my baking life. Imagine soft sponge filled with cream and chopped strawberries and topped with large fresh strawberries.Well, that of course is heaven. check out the recipe below.

VANILLA CHIFFON BASE
Sift 2 cups of cake flour, 2/3 c white sugar, 1/2 sp salt, 1 tbsp baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda. set aside.
Make a well at the center of the sifted dry ingredients and add 1 c. fresh milk, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 6 eggyolks, 2/3 c corn oil. Mix very well using a wire whisk and set aside.

Prepare meringue by beating 6 pcs eggwhites and 1 tsp cream of tartar. Slowly add 1 c white sugar and continue mixing till stiff but not dry. Add the prepared batter to the eggwhites and fold in. Pour in a greased and lined round pan and bake for 40 minutes till center is done. Cool in a wire rack and prepare the cream frosting.

CREAM FROSTING

Just whip 2 cups of whipping cream together with 1/4 c icing sugar. Do not over whip so it wont deflate. 

Set aside and assemble cake by dividing the cooled cake in two. Fill with cream filling and some chopped strawberries. You may also fill it with strawberry jam if you wish. Frost again the whole cake and garnish with some fresh strawberries. You may also add some strawberry jam if desired. HAPPY BAKING!

Nov 23, 2013

Dean and Deluca Kuwait

Finally, I got the chance to try dining at the only Dean and Deluca Store here in Kuwait. Dean and Deluca Kuwait boasts of a plethora of various quality goods ranging from sweet confections to deli items, live kitchens and a posh bistro themed restaurant set up. Although the fake plants in the al fresco set-up is a disappointment, the overall ambiance makes up for its few criticisms. The server, who happened to be a fellow filipino, was so courteous and very accommodating. She presented me with three menus of different selections - arabic, italian and continental. I chose Italian instead and selected the very tempting duck ragu enveloped in layers of flat pasta which was similar to lasagna and topped with fresh buffalo mozarella.


The duck ragu was divine. It was singing a symphony of flavors in my mouth. The ragu was carefully cooked slowly rendering the duck tender and delicious. The pasta was a bit undercooked though. I presume that they skipped the preparation time and served it immediately. Nevertheless, it was still a happy dish. 

The meal was perfected with a refreshing  beverage called Obsession which is  made from fresh passion fruit, oranges and strawberry. The concoction was simply magical, thus the name. Overall, Dean and Deluca serves good and reasonably priced food. I wouldn't have any second thoughts of coming back again the next time.

Oct 8, 2013

Ode To Gaita Fores' Chicken Paprika Recipe

Margarita or Gaita Fores is one of the country’s top celebrated restaurateurs and chefs. She is known for introducing the Filipino palate to authentic Italian Cuisine that she has assimilated into our own, acquired through her extensive experience and study of the italian gastronomy. With Cibo, Lusso, Grace Park and her other restaurants making waves in the metro’s social circle, Gaita has truly carved a name for herself.
I am stunned by the simplicity of her dishes and how she managed to recreate authentic italian flavors without scrimping on quality ingredients. Since I really adore Gaita and her marvelous creations, I have searched the net for recipes of her. Not until I chanced upon her on youtube, teaching her favorite comfort food - Chicken Paprika with Sour Cream Sauce. I got so curious that I decided to make the dish the following day. Indeed, Gaita proved be a true talented chef. The dish turned to be really fantastic that my friend’s american boyfriend quipped that it was the best chicken dish he had tasted in his lifetime. It was indeed that good. Surprise your loved ones with this recipe below. I just did a few revisions to make this dish extra special.


Chicken Paprika with Sour Cream Sauce
Chicken Legs and thighs
Season with:
Salt
Pepper
Dried oregano
Smoked spanish paprika
Sauce:
Sour cream
Cooking cream
Dredging mixture:
Flour
Salt
Pepper
Paprika
Melted salted butter
Season the chicken legs and thighs generously with the seasoning ingredients. Marinate for at least an hour. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour paprika mixture and transfer into a baking pan. Pour melted butter generously over the chicken and bake it for 40 minutes in the oven at 250 degrees till crispy.
When the chicken is done, transfer all the pan drippings in a saucepan and combine the sour cream and cooking cream. Simmer and pour over the  chicken. You may sprinkle some paprika on top if you wish and garnish with a sprig of parsley.

Smoked Salmon with Caper Mango Salsa on Rye Bread

Smoked Salmon and Caper Mango Salsa is a gourmand’s dream. A medley of flavors - tangy, salty, sour and sweet bursting into your mouthfeel that will keep you craving for more. I got the inspiration to create this dish, from a friend of mine who was so insistent that I make her a delicious smoked salmon sandwich. Be it fresh, marinated into gravlax or smoked in oakwood, Salmon is indeed her favorite. So we spent one day in the grocery and decided to treat ourselves over a nice gourmet sandwich at the Rustan’s deli. Unfortunately, they don’t serve Smoked Salmon sandwich so we just decided to order the sardine sandwich instead. To our dismay, it tasted like stale bread filled with store bought Spanish Sardines, Montano perhaps, and a few leaves of lettuce and tomato slices.
To dwindle the situation, we just took it upon ourselves to shop at the grocery and make our own smoked salmon sandwich at home instead. I was trying to picture out what flavors go well with smoked salmon since I am not an avid fan of this delicacy. Alas, the result of the finished product is simply unforgettable that I find it so hard  not to share the recipe with you.


Smoked Salmon with Caper Mango Salsa
Rye bread
Smoked salmon slices
Spread and topping:
Whipping Cream
Chopped dill leaves
Lemon juice
Salt

Caper-Mango Salsa
Mango, diced
Tomatoes, diced
Salt/Pepper
Lemon juice
Capers
Sugar
For the salsa, just combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and chill for a few minutes.
This is a cold sandwich so all you need is to spread the sour cream on the bread and arrange the smoked salmon slices. Top it with the salsa and spread more cream and garnish with some dill leaves.

Something Fishy

Here is a recipe that’s so easy to prepare. A lot of my friends would normally be lost for words whenever I serve them this dish.  Its so simple that anybody can make it.. Selecting the freshest quality of fish for this dish is very essential. The place where I came from is known for its wonderful seafood, so getting the freshest catch of day is easy. Here, I am using Mackerel or Tanigue in Filipino. You may also use Tuna or Salmon as long as it is an oily type of fish. You can never go wrong with fresh fish cooked properly. The zesty scent of lemon and garlic fried to a light brown plus copious amounts of really good butter blends perfectly with the juicy fish. This recipe speaks volumes of how a simple dish can transcend from ordinary to magical.



Fish Steak with Garlic Dill Butter Sauce
Mackerel steaks
Marinade:
Fish sauce
Chopped dill leaves
Fresh lemon juice
Crushed black pepper
Olive oil
Dill-Lemon Butter Sauce
Chopped dill leaves
Crushed garlic
Lemon juice
Unsalted butter
Sugar
Remaining marinade
Water
Cherry tomato confit for garnish and fresh dill leave sprigs
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Add the fish and allow to marinate for 2 minutes. Prepare a skillet and pan fry the fish at 2 minutes per side. Take note not to overcook your fish otherwise it will turn dry and bland.
For the sauce, melt the butter in a pan and saute garlic. Add the remaining marinade, water and chopped dill leaves. Pour over the fish and garnish with the cherry tomato confit.

Vongole Pasta

A very delicious yet simple clam pasta dish. There are many versions of Vongole online and in many cookbooks. So don’t get yourself confused. The best Vongole Ive’d tasted was at Mamou at the Rockwell Powerplant in Makati. The pasta was cooked to an al dente perfection with very minimal ingredients but executed with flair and finesse. The taste was so clean that you can really savor the freshness of the clams. Pepperoncino is served on the side for those who desire a spicy kick. My version is very similar to that of Mamou’s but if cooked with love would be a league better! Check out the recipe below.



Vongole Pasta
Ingredients:
Linguine pasta, cooked as per package directions
Olive oil
Chopped garlic
Anchovies
Pepperoncino
Tomatoes that have been blanched, peeled and diced
Lemon juice
Lemon zest
Salt and black pepper
White wine
Chopped basil and parsley
Fresh manila clams
First, you must choose a good quality brand of pasta. For my preference, I choose between Barilla and San Remo. Cooking the sauce and the pasta must come at the perfect timing. So ideally, having two burners working at the same time is an advantage.
Boil the pasta in water that has been seasoned with a piece of fish bouillon. This will make the pasta more flavorful. Never put on oil on your pasta while boiling!
Get a pan and heat up some extra virgin olive oil. Saute the chopped garlic and the anchovies. Add the clams and allow the juices to settle then add the tomatoes and white wine. When the pasta is done, add it to the sauce and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, chopped basil and the parsley. The lemon zest will give a totally different flavor profile to this dish. You may season as desired. Pepperoncino (chili flakes)may be served on the side and used as desired.

Starting Over

Two years have gone by since I have last updated my blog, this particular blog chronicles my adventures of working overseas and the many memorable moments when I would pour out my emotions through writing when home sickness strikes. For me, writing has been a form of release. I find it a very effective medium to aid me in keeping track of lost time that could have been spent on sensible ideas and exchange of thoughts with pleasant people.

A good friend of mine once impressed on me the importance of writing in the life of the mind and the soul. It is a powerful tool that when unleashed has a great potential to change a person’s life exponentially. It is a gift that needs to be honed and crafted through constant practice. It is an innate talent that not all people possess therefore it needs to be recognized.
It is for those reasons that I have finally taken upon myself to begin blogging again. I hope that I can still deliver well just the way I did before when I was just an amateur writer. I remember a favorite teacher of mine telling us that what we are is the product of what our talent has done for us. We write the story and we end up the chapter in an unprecedented ending only to realize that we are not in control. Someone mightier is. So just enjoy every page. You may never know what’s next!

Dec 21, 2011

Applebees Abu Dhabi

Lastweek me and my friends decided to dine out. A friend of mine working for an airline company was so good enough to give me a few coupons that will avail us discounts in the different restaurants in Abu Dhabi. I had three coupons for Applebees Abu Dhabi so we decided to go there since the place was just a stone throw away from where I stay.

The branch we went was the second branch here in Abu Dhabi and it is located at the very new and huge Mushrif Mall. The good thing with Mushrif Mall is that you have all the good shops and restaurants under one roof. It houses a lot of American food brands like Wendy's, Fridays and Tim Hortons.

 It was dimly lit and with a typical american steakhouse ambiance with the usual flatscreen TV showing the latest football matches on ESPN. The waitress was kind enough to show us the menu, indeed most of the items are pricey so we decided to choose from the main course items since we have our vouchers. Not being so hungry enough, we ordered a total of three steaks and one Salmon. 



 The beef baby back ribs was perfectly executed. It was so soft and juicy that I was imagining pork baby back ribs.The char on the beef was just right. I just hoped I changed the siding to mash potato and more coleslaw since the fries where just so pale and soggy. The barbecue baste on the ribs was just right not to sweet nor salty.


This T-bone steak was 400grms but it came to us like it was just 250 grams though the mushrooms were sauteed and seasoned properly that it made up for the difference in the weight of the steak. The mashed potato was just average.It was under seasoned and dry.


This third steak which was ribeye and prawn surf and turf was a let down.It looked like more of a chinese inspired steak because it was bathing literally in soy sauce. The beef came to us rare yet they were kind enough to have it cooked again since we preferred it medium well. 


The salmon dish was unforgivable. I would suggest that you don't order this when you come here. the salmon tasted like it was just taken out straight from the freezer and thawed in the microwave and grilled. the rice was too salty and the vegetables mushy. 

Overall the dining experience at Applebees Abu Dhabi was good enough. There were good and not so good dishes but what mattered was that we left with our stomachs full and wanting to taste more of what they have to offer. Till next time!