Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oktoberfest ice cream

I have always been known to order dessert--some pie, pudding, even ice cream--with my beer, much to the astonishment of my drinking buddies. So I was not offended by the puzzled looks I received from passersby when I dropped by the Elfav Ice Creamery at Robinsons Galleria to treat myself to a cup of beer ice cream.

Ok, even I had my suspicions. But the idea isn't too difficult to imagine, really. Looking much like regular vanilla ice cream, the dessert releases the aroma of a freshly popped bottle of pale ale coupled with day old bread. Off-putting, I know, but I guess that's just how brewer's yeast smells like, too. And the taste? Just like dipping sour dough in a a deep puddle of cold condensed milk. Quite good, actually, though I'm not a fan of the crushed peanuts that top every scoop (the concoction doesn't need the bar nuts to stay true to the flavor). But most disarming is realizing that after a pint of the flavored ice, one gets a most faint buzz. After all, it's got 3% alc. vol.

Would I have a another serving (even after the Oktoberfest hoopla)? Why not? Ice cream and beer are impulse products for me, and my hyperactive impulses are certain to be triggered again sometime. Sure, I would probably prefer to store a tub of chocolate or strawberry in my freezer--not beer ice cream. But I wouldn't mind indulging in the flavor again when I need a unique lift after a hard day, or when serving it to guests at a party I want everyone talking about.

Meanwhile, I am mustering the strength to sample Elfav's wasabi, amapalaya, and kalabasa flavors.

Elfav is also available at the 2nd Floor, Pergola Mall, BF Homes Commercial Center, Paranaque City.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chicken eats gator

When it comes to sampling strange, exotic flavors, I am no chicken. I normally eat anything I'm fed (in high school, some sugarcane farmers in Tarlac served me a plate of field rats and I flinched not). But hey, everything tastes sweeter when you're in good company--or so I thought, until I nibbled on my first morsel of alligator at Tagaytay Highlands.

Taking advantage of the long weekend, my dad, two sisters, a brother-in-law and I trooped to Tagaytay last August 22 to have our fill of meat at the Highlands' famed steak house. And as we were ordering our surf n' turf, a waiter dared us to try some new protein--gator, which they apparently import now from the U.S. My sister Eileen, who has tasted alligator many times in the States where she lives, seemed vaguely interested. But my brother-in-law Louie and I jumped at the opportunity--we requested one plate to be shared by all five of us.

In fairness, the dish looked pretty, and the gator meat seemed it could fall off easily from the gator bone. But the piece I forked was dry and fibrous--not succulent at all. Worse, it emitted a gamey aroma that matched its gamey flavor. Major turn-off. Maybe the meat was stored too long in the freezer. Maybe it wasn't seasoned well enough. Maybe Filipino chefs aren't yet as skilled as they can be in preparing the strange meat.

Eileen insists that alligator tastes like chicken. It might take a trip to the U.S. for me to prove her right. Meanwhile, the plate we ordered remained half touched.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Belgian Chocolate Champorado

After enduring the sweltering heat at Bonifacio High Street yesterday, my sister Eileen and I rewarded ourselves with some ice-cold treats at the STOCK MARKET, which boasts of a well-stocked ice cream and yogurt bar plus a wide variety of scrumptious toppings. While Eileen ordered a helping of frozen yogurt with kiwi slices, preserved blueberries and almond slivers, I chose a more curious concoction: Belgian Chocolate Champorado.

A skeptic at first, I was delighted by what eventually greeted me: a steaming heap of short-grain rice flavored with deep, dark chocolate and topped with a scoop of luscious raspberry ice cream. My sister was quick to point out: it's much like a rich, moist fudge brownie a la mode. And right she was. Except the pudding had a much more interesting texture than any brownie can--suck on a spoonful and you'll know what I mean. Plus the contrast between the hot sticky rice and the frozen cream was a welcome sensation.

I would go back for a seconds. Even if a serving costs a hefty P195.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Asia's Titanic from NatGeo's first Filipino director

In 2004, advertising industry colleague and friend Yam Laranas survived a grueling screening process conducted by executives of the National Geographic Channel (NGC) to select an exclusive circle of filmmakers and producers who would create NGC's next batch of highly-acclaimed documentaries. More than 300 from all over Asia had competed for the NGC grant, with 29 being invited to pitch their stories at the NGC headquarters in Singapore. Of that number, only 15 including Laranas, were offered the spot to produce their work for the prestigious network.

"Facing the NGC panel was very intimidating, much tougher than facing the most demanding advertising clients," recounts Laranas. "My job was to convince the NGC panel that we had the best story and that we Filipinos have the ability to produce it and to meet the very high standards and hallmarks set by the NGC."

But when asked in 2004 what the winning story was about, Laranas shrugged apologetically with his reply, "NGC keeps its future programming confidential."

Yesterday, August 18, I was invited to the press viewing of the documentary produced by Laranas and his all-Filipino team. Dubbed, ASIA's TITANIC, the film recounts the story of the world's worst peacetime maritime disaster--the sinking of the MV Dona Paz just 5 days before Christmas in 1987, after the passenger ship had collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro island in the Philippines. About 4000 perished during the tragedy.

Laranas's film dissects the event through re-enactments, first hand accounts from survivors (there were only 24), transcripts from the Philippine congressional inquiry into the tragedy, and archival footage and photos. The director explains, "We were not tasked to do an investigative piece, and were made to ensure we remained true to the facts." As such, the Filipino team was mandated to corroborate the stories of the survivors with actual accounts published in newspapers, congressional transcripts and other printed documents. Andrew Roque, the documentary's producer, clarified saying, "We had no room to editorialize or politicize. NGC provided us with a thick bible on what we could and could not do while making this film."

In truth, a documentary is defined as a movie, television, or radio program using images or interviews of people involved in real events to provide a factual record or report. After the press viewing and during the Q&A, I was tempted to ask if Laranas, while fulfilling his mission of piecing together a factual story, had aimed to weave in his point of view surrounding the tragedy. But there was no need. A master at his craft, Laranas cleverly juxtaposes physical occurrences during the event with raw human emotions expressed by survivors to evoke a specific response from his viewers.

Those who catch the documentary will read between the lines.

ASIA'S TITANIC, the first NatGeo documentary produced by an an all-Filipino team, debuts on Tuesday, August 25, 8pm, on the National Geographic Channel. You can also catch it on these dates and times:

August 26, Wednesday, 4am/9am/1pm/9pm
August 30, Sunday, 9pm
August 31, Monday, 1am/5am
September 5, Saturday, 6pm
September 28, Monday, 8pm
September 29, Tuesday, 1pm

A scale model of the ill-fated vessel greets guests at the press preview in Rockwell.

Yam meets the press.

I and my sisters Eileen and Audrey hangout with an old friend.
Hmm, I even look taller than the event's big man.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nivea's ACTIVE 3: Shower Shampoo Shave

I am a fan of products that multi-task, so you can imagine my delight when I encountered on the grocery shelf, the latest item in Nivea's line for men--New ACTIVE3. Unlike Nivea's shower gels for body and hair (SPORT with mineral extract and ENERGY with mint extract), ACTIVE3 boasts of a third benefit: it is effective as a shaving gel.

Ok, you may argue that most Filipino men do not keep their razors in the shower (nor do many of us have much body hair to shave); nonetheless, the consumer promise of ACTIVE3 is a sound one, and I would not be surprised if some metrosexuals suddenly take on the habit of manscaping because of the product (however, that also means installing a mirror in the shower and investing in a razor like the Philips Norelco).

ACTIVE3 lathers bountifully, making full use of advanced microtechnology to ensure a smooth shave by lubricating the skin and minimizing painful nips. Some may be put off by the film of moisturizers that the product leaves (you will have to resist the urge to wash it off completely), but this is necessary to keep the skin supple after all that shaving. My only hesitation? Though ACTIVE3 has a most pleasant scent, the fragrance can afford to be less floral (come to think of it, women may benefit from the product too).

Nivea's ACTIVE3 for men retails at around P160.

To learn more about the product and how to use it, check out this link:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Viva la Visa

Ok, so maybe this doesn't count as "trying"; after all, I had no choice but to actually do this. I mean, how else was I to renew my U.S. visa but by going through the prescribed motions. Oh, but so many have dreaded these motions, and I was to find out recently how distressful they really are.

The verdict? Not dreadful at all.

I guess  the ease comes from the fact that one can accomplish much online. To find out about the process and all the requirements of renewing my U.S. visa, all I had was to visit this site:

A quick trip to the BDO bank downstairs in our office building to pay for the application fee (USD 131) gave me the DS-157 form which I was to fill out manually. Next was to fill out the DS-156 form electronically through this site:

Then schedule an interview at the U.S. embassy through this portal:

The hardest part of the process came next--compiling all that paper work showing evidence of ties and financial status in the Philippines. Luckily for me, I had all the documents close at hand.

Wednesday last week, I arrived at the embassy by 6am for my 7am appointment. Although there was much waiting, everything was organized and the staff, quite efficient. Even as we were queuing up (and there were herds of us despite typhoon signal no. 2 in Manila that day), videos announced the step-by-step procedures to be followed by all. By 7:15 I was up for my interview. In perfect Filipino, the American simply asked me about how many times I had been to the U.S., and what work I had in Manila. I was done in about a minute.

The last step was to fill out a form for Air 21 so they could deliver my passport and visa to the office. The U.S. embassy website estimates a week for processing and 3-5 days for delivery, so I was surprised when I received a text from Air 21 the day after my interview to tell me that they were ready to deliver my package. A second text reminded me to prepare an authorization letter in case I would not be available to personally receive my stuff. 

The next morning, I received a last text telling me that my passport and visa were already in transit, and that I could track my package by visiting the Air 21 site: 

I had no time to do that though as the package had just arrived at our office.

I wouldn't say renewing one's U.S. visa is a delightful experience, but it isn't as difficult as some people make it out to be. It is precise and easy to follow. In my opinion, whatever negative thoughts people have about the process is influenced by their own anxiety on the possibility of being denied a visa.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cheers to My Chimay!

The first time I took a sip of this Belgian brew was last year in Vietnam, upon the recommendation of friend and fellow adman, Barok Gutierrez, who was then based in Ho Chi Minh. It was a long but pleasurable day of sampling Saigon's gastronomical delights; but since I had already indulged in the local 333 (pronounced "ba-ba-ba") beer, I was up for a new experience. And so at Pham Ngu Lao where we spent after-dinner hours one sweaty November night, I had my first taste of Chimay.

There are 3 beers being produced by the brewery run by Trappist monks in the Belgian municipality of Chimay:

CHIMAY RED. This was the variant I tried in Vietnam. Neither blonde nor dark, this 7% alcohol beer has a rich copper color that's tantalizing in a frosted glass chalice. Bearing the flavors of dried fruit and pepper, I can so drink this with a platter of strong cheeses and spicy sausages. It's mild bitterness seems to be a welcome addition to a robust meal.

CHIMAY TRIPLE. Also called Chimay Blanche, it is labeled a Triple because the brewster starts with 3 times the regular amount of malt, producing more sugar in the process, and ending up with more alcohol. Thus at 8%, Chimay Triple is a potent drink with a deceivingly light, golden caramel hue. The beer echoes the flavor of raisins with a distinct bittersweet aftertaste that seems to complement bold, savory foods.

CHIMAY BLUE (Grand Reserve). This top fermented beer from the monks of Chimay carries a rich, pleasant taste of roast malt and 9% alcohol to boot. The darkest of the three, it is also the thickest, boldest and sweetest, with a curiously light flowery fragrance. This is my favorite of all. I could nurse a chilled bottle all night with a rich, hearty, spicy stew. Or as I am known to do, with a dense but moist turtle pie, or squares of the deepest, darkest chocolate available.

It is worthy to note that Chimay beers may be aged for a couple of years, with the Blue kind maybe even up to 5. Storing bottles is an art in itself, but experts swear that when cellared at the proper temperature, the flavor profile of Chimay beers mellows magically.

But the real mojo is that the three variants of Chimay are now available in the Philippines--I've seen them in some Robinsons Supermarkets. And while they come at a rather steep price (from P175 to P200), it might help to know that Chimay is sold only to financially support the monastic community and its charitable causes.

At least that's my thought as I write this and consume the 3 bottles on my desk right now...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The so-called vegetarian chicharon

Great promise, poor execution. Who wouldn't jump at the idea of healthy pork rinds? I did, and in so doing treated myself to 2 small sacks of OISHI's latest creation, MARTY'S CRACKLIN'.

The packs read: VEGETARIAN CHICHARON. I get that. What I don't get is the second line: OLD FASHIONED STYLE. Now I'm intrigued. I tug at the seams of the first sack, PLAIN SALTED. The pieces resemble flat, thin strips of toasted bread, more than they do pork rinds. I pop one into my mouth and become more perplexed than ever. Perhaps the bold letters spelling out CHICHARON are there to condition my mind that that's the flavor OISHI is gunning for. Without the label, I would never have guessed it. The SALT & VINEGAR variant, meanwhile, is more successful only because the salt and vinegar cleverly mask the absence of pork.

But hey, MARTY'S CRACKLIN' is a decent snack. It tastes just fine. Although its flavor profile merely resembles chicharon vaguely, I would buy it again (P4 per sack). But if you're craving for the taste of pork rinds, go for the real thing. This doesn't hack it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The new grilled sandwiches of Kenny Rogers Roasters

Anyone with a job like mine where mere moments away from the computer could mean missed deadlines and extra hours of overtime can easily relate to eating on the job--more specifically, on the desk. That's why I take note of new food offerings at the nearby mall, make quick trips and order TO GO before heading back to the office to eat and type. My latest meal, two of the four new grilled sandwiches at Kenny Rogers Roasters--Tomato Pesto & Mozzarella and Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese.

I must admit, the billboard on Edsa and the posters at the store premise seduced my senses. So you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that each sandwich was like 6" x 2.5" x 1.5" (luckily I had two--though I was was hoping to save the second one for the next morning), and seemed flattened beyond recognition (obviously a lot of food styling went into the ads). Even sadder were the wilted lettuce leaves of my salmon panino, with their brown edges.

But whatever the sandwiches lacked in appearance, they made up for in taste and texture. The toasted bread added a delightful crunch to my tomato sandwich which did not scrimp on pesto--perhaps a touch too salty for some, but just right for me (ooh, my blood pressure). And the mozzarella gave that stringy stretch we look for in most cheese dishes. The salmon and cream cheese was equally tasty (though at one point my tongue was hoping for some brine--maybe capers would have done the trick) with enough of the smokey fish and rich cheese to embrace the slices of bread. Flavor-wise, both made for a satisfying dinner.

My only real displeasure? That each sandwich is in truth no dinner fare; just a snack--and a pricey one at that.

New Grilled Sandwiches:

Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese (P159)
Ham & Cheese (P109)
Tomato, Pesto & Mozzarella (P99)
Four-Cheese (P99)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nestle's Limited Edition All-Purpose Cream in Mixed Berries and Chocolate Flavors

Imagine the possibilities--all the sumptuous treats you could whip up with Nestle's flavored creams. Dollop spoonfuls onto a tall ice cream sundae. Sandwich them between layers of moist loaf cake. Blend them into rich, frosty milkshakes. Infuse them into a ganache or some hand rolled truffles. Toss them up with slices of cold, fresh fruit. Build them into a rich and flavorful mousse. Mind the calories though.

Nestle's Mixed Berries and Chocolate Cream retails for around P49.50 for a 250ml tetra brick. Who knows how long this limited edition product will be selling? I suggest you try it soon, this summer.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Selecta Gold Series

I am no longer the ice cream junkie I was as a kid. But these days, when the air conditioner just can't douse anymore the searing heat that streaks through my parched window, I find myself visualizing scoops of those creamy frozen delights I enjoyed as a child.

Today, I sampled heaping spoonfuls of Selecta's Gold Series--yes, all three flavors. Perhaps I was badgered by the endless TV ads over the weekend. Or maybe I was intrigued by what chefs J Gamboa (Cirkulo), Sau del Rosario (Chelsea Market), and my former high school student Lando Laudico (Bistro Filipino) had to offer to all of us evading a heatstroke. Here's what I thought...

I started off with Chef Lando's CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES, which according to the merchandiser at the supermarket, was the most purchased flavor in the series. The cloud of ice cream in my spoon was dense, with a ribbon of dark fudge syrup and a chunk of chewy truffle embedded within. In my mouth, the texture was silky smooth (it must be all that butterfat) and the flavor, intensely chocolate, kicked up a notch by the richness of the truffle. Chocoholics beware.

Chef J's BERRY STRAWBERRY came next. Sucking on a spoonful, I was immediately awakened by a burst of fruit. This ice cream scrimps not on berry goodness--so unlike many others that taste more like milk with a hint of strawberry. The fruit pieces here add a textural contrast and a delightful tanginess that cuts through the thick vanilla cream. Yum.

Lastly, Chef Sau's HAZELNUT BROWNIE. Ok, another choco treat, but quite different from the first. More than nutty, the flavor is extremely buttery--a result of course of the hazelnut, which adds a charming twist to the already satisfying chocolate flavor (if only there were actual nuts in the concoction). The moist pieces of fudgey cake are a pleasant surprise too.

The ads on TV describe the Gold Series as the most decadent flavors of Selecta.  Hmm, I'm on the fence with this one. I guess I'm not certain these flavors are so luxuriously self-indulgent. Don't get me wrong--these are among the more luscious chocolate and strawberry ice creams available in the market today; I'd buy a tub of any in the series as soon as the mercury touches 37 degrees. But hey--though great, it's just chocolate and strawberry.

I guess my idea of decadent involves the exotic and brave flavors my tongue has yet to taste--a curious concoction that excites my fancy, urges me to dare, and ultimately gratifies.  Maybe white chocolate raspberry truffle, or espresso and sesame brittle, or passion fruit and ginger spice. I don't know; maybe I'll be more certain when that flavor greets me from the supermarket freezers.

What is certain is that Selecta has been a tad careful here, selecting flavors that are guaranteed to sell (how can one go wrong with chocolate or strawberry) but making sure these flavors are the best they can be while keeping prices competitive and affordable. Would I recommend the Selecta Gold Series to friends? Why, yes--ice cream is all good, and these are better than most (kudos to the chefs). But as soon as I consume the three unfinished tubs in my freezer, I'll be on the hunt for a new flavor.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hub in Progress

Lamppost banners along Carlos P. Garcia Avenue in Diliman have been nagging me every day to find out what's out there at the U.P. AyalaLand Techno Hub, and so finally last Sunday, I gave in. I had nothing to lose; the place along Commonwealth Avenue, after all, is just a stone's throw from where I live. 

Five months ago, PGMA inaugurated the 20 hectares of land, which the government hopes will help ignite a tech revolution that would upgrade the country's science and technological capability and propel us to the threshold of the First World in 20 years. Fine. But while that's happening, folks at Quezon City can lounge around and enjoy the establishments that have sprouted recently at the hub's circular cove.
The following, in no particular order, are the shops and restos already open for business:
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
The Old Spaghetti House
Red Kimono
Yellow Cab
National Book Store
Time Zone
Switch (an Apple Reseller)
China Bank
Bank of the Philippine Islands
Globe Telecoms
Establishments yet to open include:
Le Ching
Kanin Club
Pizza Hut
Mister Kebab
Seafood Island
Gerry's Grill
Tokyo Tokyo
Bench Fix
Mercury Drug Store
Mini Stop
In all fairness, the U.P. AyalaLand Techno Hub, despite its industrial-sounding name, is spacious, cozy and quiet (unlike nearby Trinoma). But is it because, there are hardly any people here yet--mostly students buried in their medical books? In any case, I can totally see myself hanging out on a Sunday afternoon, toting a book, nursing a latte, and glancing occasionally at the kids weaving through the streams of water gushing upward at the fountain area (like fireworks at dusk).

Too bad that WIFI isn't available yet in most of the establishments; otherwise, my laptop would be a frequent visitor, too. Strange though--one would expect internet connection throughout  a technological hub. First World, indeed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Finetti versus Nutella

Why is it that anything slathered with Nutella seems so insanely delicious? Spread it on crusty bread or in folded tortillas cut into triangles. Try it on grilled pineapples or baked bananas. Build it into cookies, muffins and even smoothies--that rich hazelnut creme with a hint of cocoa is the sweet tooth's ultimate friend.  Well, it was mine until I discovered Finetti.

Admittedly, Nutella has become a luxurious snack at P130.10 for a 400g bottle. Maybe because hazelnuts are costly. Or because Italian products are expensive to import. Maybe it's because Nutella is from the mighty confectionery manufacturer, Ferrero.

Whatever the case may be, a trip to the grocery (in this case, Robinsons Supermarket) will reveal alternatives. Compare...

Finetti is a little known brand from Romania. But hey, who says Romanians can't make a tasty product? At 56% the price of the leading brand, you won't know the difference when you bite into that slice of bread. Yum, yum.