Good Vibes, Great Food at Providore

 

This all-in-one coffee shop, patisserie and bistro serves your favorite comfort food just the way you want it. And at all times of the day, too!

 

Sunday is devoutly sacred to my family. It’s a day for church, eating and bonding. After mass, my husband asks the all too familiar question, “Where do you want to eat?” Sometimes there’s a ready answer from the kids, but lately (after we’ve made regular rounds of all our preferred restaurants), we decided that Sunday should be a gastronomic adventure time as well.

Our latest dining discovery is Providore. Located at the Ground level of SM Aura, (right next to some of my favorite retail shops!) , this fun concept restaurant has been attracting diners since its opening late last year. Not a surprise at all, since its  façade with a bakery on the one side, coffee tables and tiffany blue iron chairs in the middle and mini store which sells local goods on the right, makes for one inviting mishmash. But wait there’s more. Take twenty steps inside and you enter the main dining hall which will give you cozy country club “feels.”  Just recently, the establishment also opened their al fresco dining cum beer garden (the wooden benches amidst green hedges inspired my words). Don’t be overwhelmed though. The main attraction of Providore is , rightfully so, its food.

Enjoy your favorite comfort food at Providore!

Enjoy your favorite comfort food at Providore!

 

A common dilemma when it comes to deciding where to dine is the individual members’ different taste preferences.  One is a vegan, another is a sworn carnivore while the kids will eat anything that’s battered and fried. Make that chicken and the young ones are guaranteed to have smiles on their faces. What I like most about Providore is that it lives up to its name.  It has everything from salads to steaks and everything in between.  Serving up authentic American and homestyle Filipino cuisine, its extensive menu is divided into 9 classifications. Choose from noshes and bites (cheese, dips and fries), freshly baked (soup, breads and pies), eggs and things (breakfast all day long), the greenhouse (salads), the deli (sandwiches), bistro plates (mains), the Filipino table (Pinoy cuisine elevated plus merienda plates), dessert plates and drinks (including wine and beer).

 

Our Favorites

You better have a good appetite as portions are hefty and good for sharing.  We liked the Providore Salad (P350) which has arugula, market greens, fresh avocado, bacon, walnuts, bleu cheese served with buttermilk ranch dressing. The Zuchinni Pecorino Fries (195) and  Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner (P350) which is  crispy fried chicken served with beans, sausage gravy on mashed potatoes and cheddar biscuit were both gone in minutes. I was very happy with my Salmon Grill Plate (595) which was accompanied with greek salad, mountain raice and dill lemon yogurt. The most sinful and delicious fare, however, was the Steel Plate Cooked Garlic Butter Salpicao Steak (P395). Quite a mouthful to say and even more so to eat! Imagine slices of tender US beef cooked in olive oil but swimming in butter. Delicious! It should be served with rice but is not so remember to ask for two cups when you order it.

Start your meal with these zucchini pecorino fries. Kids and adults will surely love this appetizer.

Start your meal with these zucchini pecorino fries. Kids and adults will surely love this appetizer.

 

Rich and creamy. The clam chowder will please any hungry customer!

Rich and creamy. The clam chowder will please any hungry customer!

 

 

Family Favorite! Winner Winner chicken dinner lives up to its name ... delicious and filling!

Family Favorite! Winner Winner chicken dinner lives up to its name … delicious and filling!

 

Looks good, tastes even better! Slices of beef swimming in butter... what more can you ask for?

Looks good, tastes even better! Slices of beef swimming in butter… what more can you ask for?

 

 

 

We were all satisfied customers after our big meal. The staff was helpful and courteous and the meals were served fast and hot.  So if you’re looking to eat healthy, feed your big appetite or just to have coffee with some cookies, cakes or pastries, make Providore your next stop.  Happy eating!

 

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Mad over Mighty Quinn’s!

New York’s most popular barbecue has found a new home in Manila.

Dining choices are becoming more varied and numerous by the day.  Filipinos are hearty eaters and are always looking for something new to try. Enter Mighty Quinn’s (MQ)! From its humble beginnings as a small stall at Smorgasburg, a popular weekend market by the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn, Hugh Mangnum  took his barbecue recipe to great heights after word of his slow-cooked masterpiece spread like wildfire among New Yorkers. With his partners Micha Magid and Christos Gourmos, Hugh set up shop in the East Village in 2012.  The flagship store soon started serving 500 barbecues daily and its success did not stop there. The New York Times gave it 2 and a half stars, effectively bestowing MQ the highest rank among its competitors.  The dining establishment was also awarded as one of the Top 10 Best Restaurants in 2013. Now,  Manila foodies can now have a taste of this famous wood-smoked feast.

 

Brisket, Brontosaurus and Banana Bread

 The words “Cooked the old school way with wood and time” painted on a brick white wall greeted us as we entered MQ. Wooden long tables paired with metal chairs complement the industrial look of the place. Menus will only be handed to you if you ask for it. As a first time customer, that’s just what I did because there were no pictures in the menu board. The head waiter was very patient in explaining to me what the cuts were and which are the bestsellers. Then off we went to the counter to order our food.  For our mains we ordered the Brisket, the Brontosaurus and a half serving of the BBQ chicken.  Our mouths watered as the slabs of meat were taken out and cut before our eyes. The meat was literally falling off the bones! (The brontosaurus ribs can serve a party of three to four).  We also ordered fries and tall glasses of iced tea. Do get the bottomless beverage because you can ask for a different flavor upon refill.

MIghty Quinn's Beef Brisket

Slow cooked and D!licious! the beef brisket is a crowd drawer!

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Mouthwatering choices! Meet the Brontosaurus and BBQ Chicken of Mighty Quinn’s.

 

My carnivorous boys went through the brisket and brontosaurus ribs with gusto! The resident manager told me that all the meat are imported and slow cooked on wood for a good 16 to 24 hours. I liked the brisket best. It’s a tough part of the beef but because of the unhurried process and secret spices used, the end result is a dish that’s oh-so-delicious.  The chicken, although tasty, was not in the same category as the beef platters. To finish off our meal, we each had banana pudding with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. My kids loved it!

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Dessert time. Hefty servings of banana pudding topped with vanilla ice cream to finish your big meal.

 

MQ is also a  great place for  family gatherings and celebrations. Be sure to come early because they do not accept reservations. You’ll spend an average of P500 -700 per head but the serving is big and the food is good for sharing.  Everything is made to order and served quick. I also appreciate the very attentive and friendly restaurant crew.

Looking forward to our next big meal this weekend at Mighty Quinn’s!

Try authentic NYC barbecue at Mighty Quinn's!

Try authentic NYC barbecue at Mighty Quinn’s!

 

MQ opened its first branch in Manila December of last year at the 3rd level of the Mega Fashion Hall.

The BQP CONTEST

LIKE the BQP FB Page, SHARE this post and TAG 2 friends! Lastly, TELL ME why you want to try Mighty Quinn’s BBQ here on the comment section of the blog and get the chance to win P500 !!!

 

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Healthy Sweets

 

Give in to your cravings without the guilt. Well, almost.

 You read it correctly.  The oxymoron title may sound too good to be true but not after you try the products I recently discovered. Lately, I’ve been looking for new food to serve to the family. Our daily fare has become predictable so I thought it’s time for a more exciting spread. Here are three delicious additions to my pantry which became instant hits with the husband and the kids. The best part is that these sweet treats are healthy options, too!

 

Sugar, ahhh… honey, honey!

Langnese Honey boasts of Germany’s Honey Ordinance and European Standard Basic Principles seal of approval. This guarantees the product’s highest standard of safety and unadulterated quality and ensures that the honey is raw, unfiltered and residue free.

The first thing that caught my attention when I found the product in the supermarket shelves was its packaging. Featuring a honey dispenser technology known as “Bee Easy,” the convenient and trés chic bottle guarantees a no drip and no sticky after use experience with each serving.  There are five mouthwatering, rich but well-balanced flavors to choose from.  Acacia just elevates the taste of pancakes and waffles. Just a drizzle of honey and a dollop of soft butter resulted to breakfast gone in minutes. My kids even asked for seconds and used a combination of honey flavors! Black Forest is good for toast and afternoon tea. Golden Clear (my favorite!) lends a sweet note to dips, salads and cocktails. I added crushed almonds, walnuts and cashew to some romaine greens, tossed it with a bit of honey and had a most enjoyable meal. So easy to prepare, too! Lavender, as it name suggests, makes a delicious spread on breads while Wild Flower is suited for all kinds of food and hot/cold beverages.

All the goodness of honey in easy-open no-spill bottles.

All the goodness of honey in easy-open no-spill bottles.

 

Why is it good for you? Honey has antibacterial and antifungal properties which help in healing wounds. It likewise strengthens your immune system, is an effective cough suppressant and  improves the quality of your sleep.  Honey can also help regulate your glycemic index with its exact levels of fructose and glucose. Although it’s not calorie free, it’s definitely the better alternative to table sugar.

Sweet salad made all the more nutritious with Langnese honey.

Sweet salad made all the more nutritious with Langnese honey.

 

Bite those bars

Hotdogs are the Filipinos’ staple breakfast food. Add spam, bacon and other processed food to that and we have the perfect recipe for future health disasters. Sadly, I am guilty of this (mal)practice and am now making a conscious effort to scratch the aforementioned from my grocery list.

For kids who struggle with eating a full breakfast and prefer to take their meal on the go, Nestle cereal bars are a must-try.  The bars are made using whole grain wheat and comes in three flavors for a different petit déjeuner experience every day.

Breakfast bars to go!

Breakfast bars to go!

 

My kids love the Koko Crunch bars (100 k cal)! Think of your favorite childhood chocolatey cereals now transformed into a bar, nestled in a bed of white chocolate. Delicious! The Fitnesse Chocolate bar  is even healthier at 90 k cal per serving. It’s made from wholegrain wheat flakes, and is drizzled with chocolate on a bed of chocolate. Talk about chocolate overdose without (so much) consequence. It only gets better with Fitnesse Strawberry bar. Enjoy this fruity treat at only 86 k cal! All three are perfect for kids and the kids at heart.  And for only Php25 a bar, there’s no reason for you not to try it!

 

Ice Cream All You Want

Get ready to feast on Coco De Lite Wholesome Ice Cream! That’s right.  G Stuff, the company built by Gina Lopez, to promote and sell all things good and healthy, has just come up with  ice cream that’s made from all natural ingredientsMade with real coconut milk, coconut sugar and coconut cream, this iced delight is dairy free, gluten-free and non-fattening.  And as if all that goodness is not enough, it’s loaded with therapeutic essential oils too!

G-Stuff Ice Cream

 

Smooth, delectable and calorie friendly (250 cal/serving), this artisanal creation is perfect as a dessert or a light snack. I was afraid my kids would not like the slight coco taste but they did not mention anything of the sort. In fact, they’ve been eating it after dinner for three straight nights now. Our favorite flavors are Coco Milk Choco and Coco Mocha Jam.  I’m dying to try the Capuccino flavor! This ice cream is sold exclusively in the G Stuff stores in the Loop Store, ELJ Bldg., Mother Ignacia St., QC, Power Plant Mall and Alabang Town Center.

 

Happy healthy eating everyone!

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Love, Exclusively at The Grande Dame

 

Woo her with fine wine, Ecuadorian flowers and a helicopter ride over Manila bay before sunset

Emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal for his third wife 300 years ago. In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the English throne to prove his love for two-time divorcee, American socialite Wallis Simpson. In Indecent Proposal, David Murphy (Woody Harrelson) agreed to his wife Diana (Demi Moore) spending a night with business mogul John Gage (Robert Redford) in exchange for one million dollars only to give it all up for a save-the-hippos charity fund in the end. In real or reel life, men have done the noble and the foolish in the name of love. What about you? What have you planned for your special someone in this month of hearts?

All That Romance

The Manila Hotel has everything planned out for you! This February, you can surprise your fiancée, wife or family with packages all tailor made to fit your budget. If you’re a Prestige member, your party can stay in the Grande Dame’s Sunset, Sunrise, Tower, Veranda or Intramuros suites (Php14,500 nett) and avail of the hotel’s “Nostalgia with Love” promotion. This includes breakfast for two at Café Ilang-Ilang, massage for one at the Spa, a bouquet of  flowers and pralines. The  “Grande Dame’s Heart” package (Php20,000 nett) offers, in addition, an evening of love songs with David Pomeranz as you enjoy a sumptuous dinner at the Tent City. Thereafter relax in a Superior Deluxe room and enjoy the hotel’s various amenities.

Love is in full bloom at The Manila Hotel

Love is in full bloom at The Manila Hotel

 

The Ultimate Valentine’s Gift

 For that “wow” factor, you can choose from two high end room packages. The gentleman who avails of the “Say I Do” package (Php500,000 nett) opts for class and an enthusiastic display of affection. Imagine an overnight stay in the newly refurbished Mac Arthur suite complete with his and hers butlers to wait on you while you enjoy your three-course private in-room dining as you converse over a harpist’s strings or a flutists’ notes. Surprise her with Ecuadorian roses at dinner’s end and a water color portrait,too! Romantic turn down amenities from the hotel’s skilled chocolatiers and personalized wine glasses are also available. Arrive and leave the hotel in style on board a chauffeur-driven luxury car for that extra “oomph” and you’ll surely get a resounding “yes” to your proposal.

Saccharine Surprises! Decadent chocolates and cuddly bears are available at the lobby.

Saccharine Surprises! Decadent chocolates and cuddly bears are available at the lobby.

 

Serenade your special someone with sweet music from a harpist.

Serenade your special someone with sweet music from a harpist.

 

 What would you give in the name of love? A box of chocolates, a piece of jewelry, a love letter, perhaps? For some these gestures will suffice but for a select few, there is no limit. Aptly called “Sky’s the Limit”, Manila Hotel’s ultimate romantic package includes a piece of heaven and then some. Whether it’s for a proposal, a romantic stay or a renewal of vows, this is the perfect package for you. An overnight stay at the luxuriously appointed Presidential Suite awaits the special guests who will have his and hers butlers on 24 hour duty. Amaze her with a 15-minute romantic helicopter ride over Manila Bay before sunset while your five-course dinner is being set up in the room. Drink champagne in your personalized wine glasses by Calligraffi as a harpist plays sweet music. Receive his and hers cufflinks and stud earrings from Jewelmer, a floral bouquet arrangement by renowned florist Rachy Cuna, bespoke perfume from Dior, made-to-measure modern barong from Jo Rubio, Ecuadorian roses, a valentine gift from Victoria’s secret, his and hers massage and a host of other extravagantly beautiful things including a Rolls Royce ride. A priest and pastor will also be present for a renewal of vows ceremony, should you wish. The price? A cool million.

Enjoy a ride over Manila Bay on board this copter provided by Air Taxi Ph.

Enjoy a ride over Manila Bay on board this copter provided by Air Taxi Ph.

If you’ve got literary or musical inclinations, you may want to join the hotel’s love letter and song writing competitions. Know more about the mechanics and the prizes in http://bit.ly/TMHLoveInPenAndPaper  and http://bit.ly/TMHLoveAndRhythm .

No matter the cost or lack thereof, the most important thing is to have love that is pure and true. Have a meaningful Valentine’s Day everyone!

 

Experience a one-of-a-kind month of hearts only at The Manila Hotel. Stay period is from February 1 to 28, 2017. For more information call +632 527 0011 or visit www.manila-hotel.com.ph

With a pocketful of glitter,

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Whip up New Dishes for the New Year!

 As a homemaker, I already have my favorite brands of ingredients. Admittedly, I’m quite skeptical about trying other products because those that I normally buy are tried and tested in making my pasta specialties like spaghetti Bolognese and carbonara. However, I’m also frustrated that I serve almost the same dishes every time there’s a gathering at my house. It’s really time to expand my culinary repertoire.

Food for Thought

And who better to take a cue from than the domestic goddess herself Nigella Lawson? In her recent visit to the Manila, she was all too eager to share her recipes and the array of ingredients used to make them.  “Maximum flavor for minimum effort,” is something she would say repeatedly in her shows. This encourages women (those who cook and those that do not) to try her no-fail kitchen blueprints.  There is also no secret to great cooking according to her. One thing is non-negotiable though.  You must always have the best ingredients.

Nigella’s favorite brand, at the moment, is Contadina. Distributed by Del Monte Philippines, the brand means “women of the field” in Italian. Its line of products include olive oils (extra virgin and pure)from Andalucia, Spain, pasta from Canada , pasta sauces (formaggio, napoletana, arrabiata, aglio arrostito, pesto ala genovese) from Italy  and canned tomatoes (crushed, diced and stewed) from California.

 

The Challenge

A few weeks ago, I took part in a grocery supermarket raid sponsored by Del Monte at Robinsons Selections at the Venice Grand Canal Mall in McKinley Hill. The goal was to have a recipe in mind and buy the necessary ingredients with gift certificates from Robinsons Selections (including Contadina products, of course!) within a specified period. Guests were also asked to take and post creative photos while shopping. While I did not win the fastest shopper prize (I had heels on and took my time in reading labels and inspecting all the products in the Contadina booth), I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  And I was surprised to know that all the products are very affordable. Good news for homemakers talaga!

Cartful of Contadina

All ready to cook up new dishes for 2017!

 

The very next day I bought fresh bread from the neighborhood bakery and prepared dinner for the family. I did not want to make anything too fancy. First off, I cut the bruschetta  diagonally and lightly drizzled it with Contadina extra virgin oilive oil. I then topped it with diced tomatoes, basil and feta cheese. (Put this in the oven for five minutes to lightly brown the bread.) Then I decided to pair this with creamy chicken pesto. In cooking pasta remember to prepare your sauce and other ingredients first. This way when your pasta is cooked, you can immediately put it in the sauce and finish cooking it there. So first, I used Contadina pure olive oil to sauté garlic before I browned the chicken breasts on both sides. Then I boiled a big pot of salted water and cooked the Contadina  linguine pasta for about 9 minutes to achieve that al dente bite. To finish the dish, I combined  the pasta, chicken (do slice it for easy sharing), Contadina pesto sauce and some sundried tomatoes,  tossed to coat all the ingredients evenly and grated parmesan generously on top. My family’s verdict ? Delicious! And I made everything in just 45 minutes!

Bruschetta

Flavorful Bites! Bruschetta with tomatoes, basil and feta cheese is so easy to make.

 

Easy peasy delicious recipe. This creamy chicken pesto chicken is a crowd pleaser.

Easy peasy delicious recipe. This creamy chicken pesto chicken is a crowd pleaser.

After the festivities of the holidays, it’s now time to prepare for  the new year. Ladies, it’s time to whip up new dishes to serve to the family. Surprise your crew with a Mediterranean inspired spread like I did and watch them eat with gusto!

All Contadina products are now available in leading groceries.

Here’s wishing everybody a blessed and most bountiful 2017. Cheers!

 

With a pocketful of glitter,

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Choose Healthy for the Holidays

 

Everybody is busy, busy, busy! Our social calendars are filled with Christmas parties, reunions and annual meet-ups with friends and family. For the ladies who are hosting festive soireés in their homes, the challenge is to come up with a menu that guests will enjoy. Unfortunately, this is the time of the year when indulging in sweets, meats and all kinds of treats is encouraged and calorie counting is frowned upon. The new year (as years that came before) is the time to make that all too familiar resolution to lose the weight gained over the holidays. But you don’t have to tip the scale unnecessarily because healthy dishes can be made without having to sacrifice taste.

 

The Outstanding Olive Tree

 

The olive tree traces back its roots way back in 3500 BC.  It’s fruit, which grows abundantly in the Mediterranean region, has high levels of naturally occurring anti oxidants and vitamins. Research shows that oil extracted from this fruit is the healthiest of all.

Locally, homemakers can avail of Dońa Elena olive oil from Fly Ace Corporation which is made from a combination of two kinds of olives, hojiblanca and piqual.  Since each of the bottle is made from 80% monounsaturated oleic acids, the powerful olive duo makes each bottle a powerful and healthy concoction. Moreover, these fruits are grown in the Andalucia region which is known worldwide as a superior olive producer assuring the consumers of the highest quality and taste.

Choose healthy oils for everyday cooking.

Choose healthy oils for everyday cooking.

 

Recently, members of the media were invited to 49-B Heirloom to sample delightful dishes especially  created by  Executive Chef Erica Aquino. The hearty five course meal were all cooked using Doña Elena olive oil and will be served as part of the restaurant’s holiday menu.  But before we started eating, Doña Elena senior product manager, Zen Prudentino, candidly shared with us the many uses of olive oil. I was amused to learn that olive oil can be used to add lustre to the hair, clear pimples and is quite a handy make-up remover, too! “We want to impart t our discerning customers that food cooked with our healthy oil is just as pleasing to the palette. Taste is never compromised,” Zen added.

 

Cuban Beef Stew

Surprise your guests with this savory Cuban beef stew with yellow rice.

 

For cooking, one has to know the three different kinds of olive oil to make the recipes come out at its most flavorful. There’s Extra Virgin olive oil for salad dressing, bread dips and drizzle for food; Pure olive oil for sauté and frying and Pomace for deep frying.

 

Of the healthy spread served that day, my favorites are the Cuban Beef Stew with Yellow Rice and that decadent dessert Cheese Panna Cotta, both of which I finished with much gusto! The other dishes were also quite impressive like the grilled shrimp on patacones which is  a South-American appetizer served with chilled cucumber yogurt soup. I also tried considerable portions of the olive and chorizo stuffed roast chicken as well as the tilapia fillet with red onions and relish. Recipes for all featured dishes are available at the @donaelenacuiseneraclub both on instagram and facebook.

Cheese panna cotta with lemon infused olive oil is the perfect dessert to any meal!

Cheese panna cotta with lemon infused olive oil is the perfect dessert to any meal!

 

Is olive oil expensive? Not at all! For all the health benefits it gives, the price is quite reasonable. Doña Elena also offers the most comprehensive sizes. It comes in 250 ml, 500ml, 1L and 5 L bottles so you have all the options for every need and purpose.

 

So go ahead and indulge your cravings this Christmas with meals that are delicious but healthy as well.  Do check out those healthy recipes. Happy cooking!

 

With a pocketful of glitter,

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Take Me Back to Mario’s

An old favorite attracts a new generation of diners.

I remember Mario’s back in the 80’s.  Situated at the very heart of Tomas Morato, it was the citadel of all celebrations.  My most unforgettable memory, however, was waiting for almost an hour for a table on Valentine’s Day.  My boyfriend then (husband now)I agreed it was worth the wait.

Fast forward to 2016.  I return with my family of four in tow. Live music from an electric organ greeted us as we were ushered to our table in the main dining hall. Right next to our seats was the carving station for the roast beef and the cochinillo (slow roasted crispy pig).  The kids immediately scouted the rectangular Sunday buffet. My daughter R made a beeline for the dessert corner. She stared at the two cascading chocolate (dark and white) fountains surrounded by bowls of marshamallows and fruits on sticks and with an impish grin promptly asked, “Mom, can I have dessert first ?”  On the other side of the set-up, my son M was already busy filling his plate. Hungry guests, mostly families, started arriving.  It was a full house.

Mario's chocolate fountains

Mario’s chocolate fountains

 

I loved the Paella Valenciana (Seafood, rice, shicken, bacon slab and chorizo cooked in saffron)! Everything else tasted better with it. And the Baked Salmon (fresh salmon baked with maple bourbon sauce) was heavenly! With crispy skin  on the outside and tender, melt-in-your-mouth flesh on the inside, the fish was cooked to perfection. Of course, I had to have a taste of the cochinillo!  It was amusing to see the diners ask for their preferred portions of the suckling pig. I, however, just requested for “more skin” which the server readily obliged. Very, very flavorful, indeed! Please pardon my overuse of exclamation points.  A good meal (and its memory) gets me all excited.

Oh so delicious!

Oh so delicious! Cochiillo

 

Aside from the usual Spanish dishes of  Mario’s, the Sunday spreads also offers a wide variety of sushi rolls, Pinoy fare (my husband A had two servings of pancit bihon) and fresh greens with a selection of sauces at the salad bar.  They still serve the iconic “Mario’s Famous Caesar Salad “ (fresh romaine lettuce, crunchy croutons, tossed in a secret sauce and topped with parmesan cheese and bacon bits) which is prepared table side. Don’t forget to ask for bread before you start your meal.  Mario’s serves freshly baked bread straight from the oven.

Caesar's Salad prepared table side.

Caesar’s Salad prepared table side.

 

Still the best paella in the metro!

Still the best paella in the metro!

“Mario’s restaurant stands for classic, sustainable and flavorful food.  From the very first branch my parents put up along Session Road, Baguio in 1971 to the establishment that it is today, we aim to serve dishes only of the highest quality.  Every plate that comes out of our kitchen is subjected to quality control,” said Anton Benitez, operations manager.  “My 82 year old mother ConsueloNenuca” Benitez is still very much at the helm of the kitchen.  Her recipes remain to be the cornerstones of this place.”   How does it compete with the myriad of new concept restaurants? “We have been around for 45 years! People know our food. We have to innovate to keep up with the times but we always serve the classics that our diners have come to love.  Our bestsellers from the regular menu are Salpicado (tenderloin cubes sautéed in olive oil and served on a bed of garlic rice), Callos Madrilena (Spanish casserole of ox meat. chorizo, bacon, chickpeas, bellpepper ikn rich tomato sauce) and Bacalao ala Vizcania (salted codfish werved with rice or bread). But who can forget our steaks? Once tried, always liked!”

Come on over and enjoy the sumptuous feast at MARIO'S!

Come on over and enjoy the sumptuous feast at MARIO’S!

 

Mario’s continues to be a neighborhood gem.  It’s still a popular choice for celebrations like birthdays, engagements, wedding and baptismal receptions. It has six function rooms upstairs for small or big parties.  Not too shabby for a restaurant that has been around for almost half a century. Judging from the weekend crowd, it looks like it has gained second and third generation customers, too. Now that’s what you call a success story.

 

Happy 45th Anniversary, Mario’s! We’ll be back soon!

 

Mario’s is located at 191 Tomas Morato corner Scout Gandia, QC with tel nos. 372 0360 and 415 3887.

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A Feast of the Islands’ Flavors

 

If there’s one thing that majority of Pinoys can’t live without –it’s Filipino food.  It’s a common practice for our kababayans to stuff their luggage with tuyo (dried fish), bagoong (shrimp paste) and taba ng talangka (crab fat) when they visit their relatives abroad.  Some hand carry polvoron, chocnut, dried mangoes and other delicacies which have been specifically ordered by (again) relatives and friends who pray that their all-time favorite goodies from home won’t be confiscated by immigration authorities.  Similarly, balikbayans look forward to returning to the country to eat Filipino food.  And no celebration or reunion is ever complete without the main fare — the mighty lechon!

Every year, we are treated by The Manila Hotel to a culinary showcase of the best of the Philippine Islands. This month at Café Ilang-ilang, the spread at the Filipino station (there are seven other stations serving  different international cuisines which are open to be enjoyed by guests) takes center stage.  From August 25 to September 16, 2016, the Café will host the much anticipated Filipino Food Festival.  Those who were able to experience last year’s sumptuous offerings will be glad to know that Dedet Dela Fuente Santos, more popularly known as “Lechon Diva”,  is once again at the helm of the festivities. True to her moniker, kitchen sensation Dedet brings to the forefront her unparalleled lechon truffle along with her modern and unexpected rendition of local dishes.

MH-w Dedet

Lechon Diva with The Busy Queen P

Mouthwatering dishes you should not miss

Top right (clockwise) – Enjoy these mouthwatering dishes at the Filipino Food Festival in Café Ilang-ilang! HIPLOG, a shrimp dish with salted egg sauce, LECHON stuffed with truffle rice, PEPITA’s FILIPINO PAELLA, a Spanish specialty done with a Pinoy twist, CRAB CLAWS with GULONG- GULONG SAUCE.

 

At the media launch last August 2, guests were treated to a feast of sights, sounds and, of course, Filipino food!  The Manila Hotel’s Resident Manager Gerhard Doll was present to welcome the select crowd.  To the delight of everyone, Mr. Doll gamely hit the palayok (clay pot) to signal the start of the festival.  Philippine flags adorned the dining tables alongside a serving of local appetizers which consisted of manggang hilaw, singkamas and bagoong dip (green mangoes, turnip and shrimp paste dip).  The San Sebastian Manila Rondalla provided the music for the afternoon affair while various folk and ethnic dances were performed by the Children of Mother Earth dance troupe.

MH- FilFood Fest

(L-R) Gerhard Doll, Resident Manager, Dedet Dele Fuente Santos, Nian Rigor, AVP for PR and Corporate Communications, Christoph Kuch, Food and Beverage Director

“The positive response from our diners last year made us decide to invite the “Lechon Diva” again as our featured culinary personality.   Her dishes  are familiar but innovative.  Rich but tempered with flavors.  Our mouthwatering spread is guaranteed to satisfy,”  said Nian Liwanag-Rigor, AVP for Public Relations and Corporate Communications.  For her part, Dedet shared, “I always try to bring something new to the table. An unexpected twist to the old recipes.  You should try the adobo or palabok pizza. However, I can’t do without the winning staples which people have come to love.  The bestseller truffle rice stuffed lechon must be the star of the show.  There’s also the hiplog (shrimp swimming in salted egg sauce) and the super suman (a heapful serving of sticky rice combined with different local treats).”

Having tried the lechon truffle before, I made it my business to be one of the first to line up for it.  Think of melt-in-your-mouth crispy skin.  Only those who have tasted  this sinful delight will understand  my oxymoron.  It’s simply the best I’ve ever tasted.  The dessert table also never fails to impress.  The hotel’s french macarons are simply divine! For the Filipino Festival, however, I tried the various servings of local sweets.  I love the sapin-sapin (multilayer, multicolored rice delicacy)! Ang sarap (It’s delicious) !

Calorie counting is strictly not allowed.  An openness to taste the wonderful local flavors is all you need to enjoy this season’s Filipino Food Festival.  See you all at Café Ilang-ilang!

 

For more information, call The Manila Hotel’s Food and Beverage Team at 527 0011 local1260 and 1261

With a pocketful of glitter,

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Ready… Sushi…Go!

From the playful branding to its exciting fusion sushi rolls, this proudly Filipino developed concept store will have Pinoys turning Japanese!

Sushi, noun, a Japanese dish consisting of rolls of vinegar-flavored  cold cooked rice served with a garnish of raw fish, vegetables or egg.  This definition of the popular pop-in-your-mouth appetizer (or entreé, if you prefer) has been elevated to an entirely new level by Sushi Nori. Manila’s first to-go sushi bar recently opened its flagship store at the SM Mega Fashion Hall with media movers, online influencers and celebrities from local tinseltown in attendance.

Celebrities Dingdong Dantes and Derek Ramsay were present at the opening of Sushi Nori

Celebrities Dingdong Dantes and Derek Ramsay were present at the opening of Sushi Nori

Sushi Nori is the newest concept store created by the mother-daughter team of Sheila and Milka Romero , owners of ROKU Sushi + Ramen.  “I first got the idea for the store in my travels abroad.  Sushi on the go is a staple for take-out food in New York and London.   I noticed how convenient it was to eat my favorite Japanese food. Knowing that the Filipinos love Japanese food, too , I brought the idea to my mom of  creating an extensive sushi menu via a quick order and go concept, “ said 24 year old Managing Director Milka.  The plan came to fruition last year when the partners opened Sushi Nori in SM Aura Premier.  “As a start up, we needed a catchy but simple name that customers would remember.  “Nori” means seaweed and is the basic ingredient in all our products, hence, Sushi Nori was born!”

 

Roll Two Ways

At the opening , guests were served what else – sushi smorgasboard! Customers chose between two sizes : fusion temaki (think Japanese sushi-burritos) or sushi roll (rice and ingredients rolled in a nori log and cut into six pieces.)  What I liked about the menu is its wide variety of flavors which are sold at affordable prices.  In fact, the restaurant boasts of 26 innovative and mouthwatering  dishes. To make ordering easy, the exciting offerings are grouped into five categories based on taste preference and budget.  There’s Basic,  Deluxe, Super, Special and Premium.  My tastebuds can only take low levels of heat, so  I opted to try one of the store’s original creations – the Sushi Dreams (P259). Made from salmon, kani, cream cheese and topped with teriyaki sauce and  tempura flakes, it  was the perfect  blend of savory and sweet.  Delicious!  The splurge worthy Super Cali (well, not really at P329) is also a must-try for sushi lovers. Made from premium ingredients like blow-torched salmon, unagi teriyaki and special aburi sauce, the dish is sure to satisfy.  My family, who are fans of Japanese cuisine, will definitely like this place.

Get your sushi fix NOW!

Get your sushi fix NOW!

 

“Even if we are a fast food service store, quality is never compromised.  Each sushi is made from the freshest ingredients and hand-rolled as you order,” said Sheila Romero.  “We aim to make sushi eating more fun, fuss-free and highly satisfying.”   A quick look around the enthusiastic party happily enjoying their choice of Japanese fare tells me that they have achieved just that. Kampai! Congratulations Sushi Nori!

Catch your favorite celebrity at Sushi Nori Fashion Hall of Mega Mall.

Catch your favorite celebrity at Sushi Nori Fashion Hall of Mega Mall.

 

With owner Sheila Romero and Derek Ramsay.

With owner Sheila Romero and Derek Ramsay.

Sushi Nori is located at Level 4, Food on Four, Sm Aura Premier (cel no. 09362617016) and Level 5, Mega Food Hall, SM Mega Fashion Hall (cel no. 09362616991). Future stores will open by October in UP Town Centre, Katipunan and Power Plant Mall, Rockwell.

 

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Novel Delights at Mabuhay Palace

In search of  new flavors to try?  Mabuhay Palace at the Grande Dame currently has a month long offering of novel gustatory delights that are guaranteed to  whet your appetite.  Sharing their culinary innovations, the people behind the famous Chefs Gallery of Sydney are now in town as  Manila Hotel’s featured guest chefs.  Gourmet masters Executive Chef Wing who specializes in Szechuan, Yangtse and Shandong cuisine and Head Chef Sam Du, known for his native Chinese and Pan-Asian dishes will head the team.

 

At the media launch,  select diners were treated to a masterful display of noodle making.  I’ve seen noodles made from scratch and pasta guitars (known as chitarra in Italy) from random cooking shows at the Lifestyle Network.  It was, however, the first time I’ve watched dough transformed by the chef’s bare hands to thin pasta strings.  The whole process took barely  five minutes!  He even  set fire to a few strands to prove how thin they really were.  Patrons of the Mabuhay Palace should expect just a bit of waiting time when they order the handmade noodles from the promotional menu.  “Our noodles are à la minute.  All noodles are freshly prepared, being twisted, pulled, split, and folded in minute and cooked specifically to your order.  The flour dough is transformed to the finished twists of delicate noodles, in a blur of ambidextrous hand movements by the master noodle chef”  shared  Nian Liwanag-Rigor, Asst. Vice President for PR & Corporate Communication.

Chef Wing demonstrates how to make noodles.

Chef Wing demonstrates how to make noodles.

 

In my previous dining reviews and recommendations, I always give points to places where I can bring the whole family.  The minute I sank my teeth into the juicy Macanese style mini burgers, I knew my kids would love it!  The mini buns had a creamy crunchy taste to it that reminded me of  slightly overdone french toasts.  Filled with  pork fillet, pork floss, lettuce and a sweet chili mayo dressing, these burgers are delicious!  I also liked the Tataki Wagyu Beef with Sichuan style spicy dressing, Prawn and Pork wonton and the Shredded Pecking Duck served with cucumber, hoisin sauce rolled inside  flu-y Chinese Roti. Moutwatering! You have to park your diet-obsessed twin self by the door before partaking of the sumptuous fare.  Enjoy the spread as you appreciate the imperial Neo-classical interior and handcrafted panels made of jade and precious stones.

Must-try mini burgers

Must-try mini burgers

 

Spinach Seafood Pasta

Spinach Seafood Pasta

Shredded Peking duck that tastes even better than it looks.

Shredded Peking duck that tastes even better than it looks.

 

There’s always something new to try at the good ole Grande Dame.

This promotion will run  at the Mabuhay Palace until April 17, 2016. For more information, please call the Food and Beverage Team at  527 0011 local 1260 to 1261.

With a pocketful of glitter,

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