Monday, December 31, 2012

Afternoon delight

When Panciteria Lido opened a branch in our office neighborhood on Visayas Ave. in Quezon City last year (as I remember, I hope I'm right), I was pleased. A new food place to go to when I get tired of canteen food, I thought. However, it took me so long before I finally set foot inside it. Last November 30, as it was a holiday, I brought my youngest son with me to work (we in the news room don't have a holiday. Hehe!) and come merienda time, we went to Panciteria Lido. It was my first time ever at any branch of this Chinese restaurant which first opened its doors to the hungry in 1936. I know that it is famous for its Pugon-Roasted Asado so this, I ordered, tucked inside a pandesal, and paired with a cup of their Siphon-Brewed Coffee. I wanted to try their pansit, too, but since I ate creamy macaroni soup cooked by a co-worker (In our office, we are provided with lunch, snacks and dinner during holidays) just before my son and I headed out, I settled for just pandesal and coffee. And I was not disappointed about this best-seller of Panciteria Lido. Both the Pandesal Asado and Siphon-Brewed Coffee brought me to gastronomic heaven on that sunny afternoon. The pieces of Asado, which taste quite close to Chinese ham, were tender and tasty, with just the right tinge of saltiness and a bit of sweetness when you pour some of its sauce into it. And my coffee? It was so good! I knew at first sip that this cup of joe is worth coming back for. Meanwhile, my son also loved the Breakfast Chinese Longanisa (which is served all day long) so much that at first bite of the sausage, he proclaimed that he wanted to come back here soon. Haha! I definitely recommend this restaurant for your merienda cena and family gatherings. They do offer, aside from Pugon-Roasted Asado, Beef Broccoli, Drunken Lechon Macau (this I want to try!), Buttered Chicken and a lot more! And before I forget mentioning, service is good, too, at least in this 
branch on Visayas Ave.

Kape at Pandesal Asado, P125.
Breakfast Chinese Longanisa, P155.

Siphon-brewed coffee.

Iced Tea, P35.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Where coffee is on the house

Where there's coffee, I'm there. But where there's free coffee, expect me to always be there. Haha! After my first time to eat at Parvati last Monday, I knew I'd be going there again whenever I'd crave for cake and coffee. You see, at Parvati in Trinoma Mall, brewed coffee is on the house when you order any dessert worth at least P100. But before I tell you what my dessert was, let me share what my friends and I had for lunch at this specialty dessert shop. By the way, three of my girlfriends in the office were my company for lunch on that working day. Lunch out is a nice excuse from work, isn't it? Hehe! Well, these were our orders:

Smoked Salmon Sandwich with Mango Dill Dressing, P200.

Chicken Potpie Pasta, P240.

Shrimp Etoufee Pasta, P230.

Mini Mango Torte, P95.
Honey Apple Iced Tea, P90.

Hot Tea, P40.

Brewed coffee
Cake gallery

Death by dessert. Haha! Lots of choices here. You can sample cake varieties, too.

Our Smoked Salmon Sandwich with Mango Dill Dressing was delish but we complained (among ourselves. hehe.) that the salmon was too small, it was just single bite-sized. The Shrimp Etoufee Pasta was yummy but lacked spiciness. When we ordered it, the server warned that it was spicy, which was why I went for it. It was flavorful, though, a bit sour and a bit sweet, and we relished it. I didn't like the Chicken Potpie Pasta, however. To me, it was like soup that ran out of broth. I ended my meal with a sweet note - the Mini Mango Torte. The crust was good; a little tough for my teeth but delicious with just the right sweetness. The mango bits and cream topping were oh-so-yummy! The brewed coffee made my Parvati experience nearly perfect. And yes, it came free although my dessert was P5 short of the P100 needed to avail of free coffee. It was one lunch date worth remembering - good food in the company of good friends.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lunch with a bit of nostalgia

If there's one food place that reminds me so much of my happy salad days, it's Pancake House. When I was a blithe, gawky teen, my older sister, who worked at ADB where she was a champion bowler (our living room cabinet was full of her trophies), she would often tag me along to her practice at Ali Mall in Cubao, after which we would eat at Pancake House. My orders on those occasions were predictable - a taco, bacon waffle and a strawberry sundae. Yep, all those fit into my quite small a tummy (I was very thin as a child and teenager).  Haha! When I got older, however, I rarely got to eat at Pancake House. You know how it is when you always have a kid with you when you go out - you only get to eat either at McDonald's or Jollibee because that's what little rascals want. Sure, my six-year-old would sometimes agree to try new restaurants but a long negotiation would have to first test my patience. Thankfully, it was only hubby and me that went out recently and we agreed to have lunch at Pancake House in Trinoma. 
These were what we had:  

Pan Chicken Special Set, P246. (hubby's order)

Roast Beef Special Set, P273. (my order)
Strawberry ice cream, around P60. (I forgot exactly how much) per scoop

Iced tea that came with our set orders

But while I enjoyed my food, hubby didn't. His chicken was undercooked, with blood oozing from within (gross!). He called the attention of a server, who promptly retrieved his plate, and returned it after a few minutes. Now, the two chicken pieces looked smaller from being refried (not changed!) . Adding to the not-so-nice lunch was the warmth of the place. I told the server about it and he said their airconditioning wasn't functioning well. Well, obviously, it wasn't.Still, I haven't changed heart about Pancake House. I love the food there and definitely, I'll be back to have another taste of the tacos and bacon waffle that I once loved.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Late bloomer

The beauty of having grown-up kids is that once they finish school and start earning, they can treat mom to a nice meal. The downside, of course, is that it means mom is already old. Haha! Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed dinner one recent Saturday without having to pay for it myself, thanks to my eldest child. It was at Sbarro in Trinoma Mall. I know it's quite strange, even somewhat funny, but it was my first time at this Italian restaurant, even though it's been in existence in the Philippines for 20 years! I don't quite know, it just didn't appeal to me before. Truth to tell, it was Figaro that we wanted to have dinner at, but sadly, we were informed by the guard that their Trinoma store had closed last year. So second choice it was for Sbarro. However, our dinner there proved to be satisfying that I realized I was missing out on something all these years. You could say I'm a late bloomer for Sbarro but hey, better late than never. 
Anyway, my daughter and I had: 

Roasted Chicken with Spaghetti and Garlic Roll, P169.
Baked Ziti, half order, P96.

Hawaiin New York Style Pizza, P110./slice
Cheesecake, P76.

Raspberry Iced Tea, P41. and Soda, P28. 

While I didn't like the spaghetti (I'm a true-blue Filipino, I like sweet spaghetti. Haha!) and the Cheesecake very much, I loved the Baked Ziti, pizza, roasted chicken and even the garlic roll (quite oily but delish!) . My only complaint about the chicken was that it was too small a serving. One more thing I liked was that you could go for half an order of pasta here so that even if you have company, you can try different kinds of pasta and not be forced to share a full order. Sadly, however, there's no coffee here. (Why???) But I'll definitely be back to Sbarro for the yummy food that's reasonably priced. Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The chicken that didn't chicken out

I'm always awed by success stories. In the food business, there's a lot of these to hear. But there's a particular story which to me is as lovely as it is interesting - the story of a family cook fondly called "Manang" (an Ilocano term for an older sister), whose fried chicken she once cooked only for the family she served, is now also eaten and enjoyed by thousands of other people in the Philippines. Such is the story behind Manang's Chicken. This fast-growing fast food chain started out joining the weekend food market at Mercato Central in 2010. It proved to be such a hit that the owner decided to open their first restaurant in the Ortigas area. Today, two years later, Manang's Chicken has 10 branches around Metro Manila and more I believe, are about to open. Many foodies have sung the praises of Manang's twice-fried soy garlic chicken that I felt I shouldn't be left behind. 
And so, last week, I tagged along my youngest son to work and come merienda time, we headed to the new Wilcon City Center in Quezon City, where a Manang's Chicken branch had just opened. There, we had:
2 pcs. Chicken Cuts Meal (with drink), P149.

Fried Pancit Meal (with drink), P85.

Chips with Dip, P58.

Velvet Sundae Triple Fudge, P45.

Lemonade and Iced Tea that came with our meals.

The fried chicken was yummy and crispy; there's truth in the reviews that I've read. I have one thing to add, though. The marriage of soy and garlic was favorable but the sweetness, to us, was over-empowering that both my son and I were not able to finish one piece each. There's the sawa factor for us. For a minute there, I even wished I was having  Chickenjoy instead :). I guess sweet fried chicken is just not for us.   
As for the Fried Pancit, it was good! Crunchy noodles topped with crisp slices of carrots and cabbage plus black wood ear mushroom (tenga ng daga) and just the right amount of sauce to avoid drowning the pancit. If you want to try this, make sure to eat it immediately because the noodles loose their crispiness if bathed in sauce for a long time. This happened to most of my noodles - they turned limp because it took me so long to eat as I still had to take pictures (the downside of food blogging :))Fortunately, the strands on top were still crispy and these ones I thoroughly enjoyed. 
Meanwhile, the potato chips were delicious, especially when dipped in the cheese sauce. The slices were not thin (okay, somewhat thick) but were still crunchy. Hmmm..potatoes that are better than french fries, I should say.
However, the best thing came at the end of our meal - the dessert, you may have guessed. The Velvet Sundae Triple Fudge was a pleasant surprise. It's a two-in-one dessert - sundae on top, chocolate cake (or brownie?)  at the bottom. There are chocolate chips on top as well, adding interest and yum factor. My son couldn't agree more. He loved it too! For this dessert and to try other items on their menu, I'm likely going back to Manang's Chicken.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bonus food!

What is "bonus food"? As far as my friend Leslie and I are concerned, it's what we traditionally eat whenever we receive a bonus at work, about twice a year (sometimes more :)). We started this "tradition" eight years ago when we became friends upon my entry to the company. And there's only one restaurant we traditionally go to for our ceremonial lunch or afternoon meal (I can't say snacks because we have a heavy, hearty meal each time. :)). It's A Veneto Pizzeria Ristorante, which has a branch that is walking distance from our office in Quezon City. All these years, we've had the same things on our plates - pizza and pasta. Not that A Veneto serves only these, no, they also have hot and cold hero sandwiches, chicken, mussels, calzone, salads,  and desserts. If my memory serves me right, we've been having the same pizza and pasta variety, too - Plain Nut-Pesto which we share and a slice of New York-style pizza for me and Vegetarian for my friend. 
I've dined at A Veneto in the company of other friends and also some of my kids and tried other food there but the pesto pasta and New York pizza are my absolute favorites. What I really like about A Veneto is that they don't scrimp on ingredients to give their patrons great-tasting food. This, however, once served as a downside for me. I was with my other co-worker/friend Chie and we shared an order of A Veneto's Oil and Garlic with Shrimps Pasta. One thing that solicited "wow" from me was the abundance of shrimps with which our pasta came. Talk about shrimp galore! Hours after indulging, however, there I was with a headache caused by an elevated blood pressure! I've shied away from
Oil and Garlic with Shrimps Pasta from then on. 
Now let's talk about my favorites - first, the Pesto Pasta. At A Veneto, it's soo delicious you'll forget it's healthy too! Lots of basil - which I love for its flavor and load of Vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and magnesium - and olive oil, which is one of the healthiest oils on earth, so every strand of noodle is moist and savory. As for the New York Pizza, it's got lots of ham, pepperoni, beef, onions and bell pepper. Whew! Describing these makes me crave! Darn! :)
Anyway, on our latest gastronomic outing at A Veneto earlier this week, my friend and I had dessert, too (why hadn't we for years?) aside from Plain Nut-Pesto and pizza - Blueberry Cheesecake which we shared. We both loved that a serving of it was quite big and could be contently shared by two persons. It was yummy, with the just the right sweetness to end a perfect meal. One thing, though. I didn't like that it was served on a disposable tub. Methinks they should have put in on a shallow ceramic bowl for better presentation. By the way, my perennial favorite drink at A Veneto is lemonade and I had it again this time. On other times, I had a cup of brewed coffee. 
Aside from the food, ambiance and service at A Veneto are good, too. Need I say A Veneto is one of my favorite restaurants? Till the next bonus!

New York Pizza, P100 per slice/P580, 16"; P420, 14"; P260, 10"
Vegetarian Pizza, P100 per slice/P580, 16"; P420, 14"; P260, 10"

Plain Nut-Pesto Pasta, P200, good for sharing.
My plate.
Blueberry Cheesecake, P90. It's big enough for sharing!
My half of the Blueberry Cheesecake.

Lemonade, P65.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Adobo: Unity in diversity

What is the National Dish of the Philippines? If your answer is Adobo, you are right in all probability. Although there is no such official declaration, it is the one dish that unites Filipinos, cooked by us for centuries, even before the Spaniards came. It is served on the table of every Pinoy household whether here or abroad. There is, however, diversity in how Adobo is cooked and in the main ingredients used. One can make Chicken Adobo, Pork Adobo or a mixture of the two. There's Adobong Pusit (squid), Adobong Kangkong (water spinach), Adobong Kamaru (crickets) and even Adobong Palaka (frogs) and Adobong Sawa (snake) . Some provinces around the Philippines have their own version of Adobo. In Laguna and Batangas, for instance, there is Adobong Dilaw, where the spice turmeric is added to give the dish a vibrant yellow hue. In Bicol Region, Quezon Province and in the Muslim-inhabited southern region of the country, Adobo sa Gata is a favorite - chicken or beef cooked adobo-style and mixed with coconut milk. In all these variations, however, the basic marinade is present made of vinegar, soy sauce and garlic. However, there is a somewhat rare version of the dish, known as Adobong Puti, wherein soy sauce is absent. 
The Adobo is indeed an interesting dish, one that is loved by most Filipinos and even foreigners who get to taste it. This is probably the reason (plus the pocket-friendly prices!) for the success of a fairly new fast food chain that built its name around this dish - the Adobo Connection. Truth is told in its slogan - "Adobo connects us all."
According to its website, Adobo Connection was established by two Harvard Business School graduates in 2010, when its first store opened in Makati. Today or two years later, there are more or less 30 branches not only in Metro Manila but also in the nearby province of Laguna and farther north in Baguio City. When the SM City Sta. Mesa branch opened last year, its cute logo and sleek interiors immediately caught my eye. However, I wasn't drawn to dine at once as I thought: "We always have adobo at home. Why must I have it at the mall?"  
But then, my mind's resistance gave way to my tummy's reasoning last week (that there are other things on the menu. hehe.). It was a Sunday. I was at the mall with my husband, buying some things needed at home and groceries to fill the pantry. Naturally, we went hungry after more than an hour of going around, up and down the mall. As we checked out the grocery counter, I made a spur-of-the-moment suggestion to the hubby: "Let's eat at Adobo Connection"  which was not met by any violent reaction. Haha! 
So there, my husband ordered Pork/Mix Adobo sa Gata and Fried Adobo Paos (three pieces per order), while I went for Arroz Caldo (my comfort food! glad they have it here) and shared the hubby's Adobo Paos. I was delighted to see brewed coffee on the menu and instinctively got myself a cup. (Well, where there's coffee, I'm there!) . My cup of joe was not exactly fantastic but good enough to satisfy. I would have loved it more if it was stronger and with a deeper flavor. I loved the Arroz Caldo, though, and wished it was served in a bigger bowl. Haha! I loved that it had chicharon bits, aside from the usual toasted garlic and spring onion on top. Meanwhile, eating the Fried Adobo Paos was like having fried asado siopao. The shredded pork adobo filling filled the toasted bun to the walls and I liked its rightly-seasoned adobo taste. I asked my husband how his Adobo sa Gata was and his answer was that the meat didn't come very tender. As if to justify his comment, he asked the waiter for a knife, which was readily handed to him. I took a bite of his chicken and I thought, with a bit of disappointment: "This isn't the adobo sa gata that I'm used to having in my beloved hometown in Quezon". It's not bad, really, it's just that I so love our version of this dish and anything that diverts from it would have to be really good (hint: we don't put soy sauce). 
Nostalgia then set in. I remember when I was young, my aunt who we call Ate Remedios would often cook adobong native chicken (authentically free range!) for us and I would affirm it was the yummiest chicken dish in my life. Sigh..that was many full moons ago. Now, Ate Remedios is weakened by stroke and alas, can't cook anymore. When we came to visit her last year, she tearfully told us she would cook adobo sa gata for us if she weren't in that situation. :(
Anyway, here are the pictures of what hubby and I ordered at Adobo Connection that Sunday. If they're not very pleasing, it's because I just used my camera phone.

Pork/Mix Adobo sa Gata, P135. (with drink)

Fried Adobo Paos, P49.
Arroz Caldo, P49.
Brewed Coffee, P29.

Oh well, Adobo Connection indeed connected with me, so much so that I was there again after six days with two of my kids.  This time, I purposely brought my DSLR camera so I could take better pictures. 
My daughter cared for some spaghetti so she ordered Adobo Spaghetti for herself while I settled for Chicken Sopas and Fried Adobo Paos (again!). Of course, I had to have my elixir - the quintessential cup of brewed coffee. My little boy initially didn't like anything at Adobo Connection so I asked her Ate to buy him a Happy Meal at McDonald's. Thus, hamburger was what the little rascal had. But within a minute of finishing his sandwich, he declared having more space that had to be filled in his tummy and asked for an adobo meal. So I ordered Lola's Classic Chicken Adobo plus Pandan Jelly for dessert. After his first bite of the chicken, my son said, "Mommy, kain uli tayo dito (Let's eat here again)!". Haha! The little boy was smitten by adobo. But well, I'm not protesting. There are other things I'd love to try at Adobo Connection. Fish and Tofu Adobo and Sizzling Sisig on my mind. Haha!
By the way, service is friendly here, too.  I love that they always readily give what you want with a smile. In my case, it's brown sugar for my coffee.

Adobo Spaghetti, P49.
Have a closer look at adobo flakes.

Fried Adobo Paos.

Chicken Sopas, P19.

Lola's Classic Chicken Adobo, P119.
Brewed Coffee

Pandan Jelly, P39.

A lovely and indigenous way to serve the utensils.

I love this nook, makes me feel at home.

I love the solid wood chairs and tables, too.
The counter. Cute logo, isn't it?