Coffee Bean Promo at Two E-Com Center Branch, MOA

For quiet moments with a cup of tea or coffee, I seek refuge inside a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Back when they still had electric outlets I could plug my laptop into, I would do most of my writing and blogging work there. Now that leeching off their electricity is no longer an option, I still go to CBTL just to hang out with my friends. I guess it’s because their interior design dampens any conversation noise, so it doesn’t sound like a McDonald’s.

Anyway I got a heads-up about a promo they’re running at their newest branch at Two E-Com Center in Mall of Asia (this is on the IMAX side). From February 18 to 24, 2012 from 12:30 to 1:30pm, customers can get their favorite drink for only P100.

Coffee Bean opens at Two E-Com Center, Mall of Asia Complex

Coffee Bean promo: P100 for signature drinks


I’m supposed to head to Mall of Asia sometime soon because I heard Mizuno put up a giant wall poster of me in their store. I think I’ll drop by the Coffee Bean then to get my favorite drink, a Tropical Passion Tea Latte.

The Hungry Diner at South Diner

Ever since my nine-year-old self sat down with my family to feast on burgers and fries at the 50’s Diner on Session Road in Baguio City, I’ve had a soft spot for diner food. A plate’s got all my favorite food groups (carbohydrates, protein, and fat), making it the ultimate comfort food. I’ve never met a diner I didn’t like, simply because I stick to the foods that diners excel at: burgers, fries, and milkshakes.

One of my friends from high school, Tin Isidro, opened a place called South Diner last December 5 with her husband Ginno and some business partners. Due to hectic schedules I wasn’t able to attend their soft opening, but tonight was the perfect time to bring together some of my friends for a girls’ dinner out.

South Diner, Aguirre Ave., BF Homes, Paranaque

South Diner

I arrived earlier than Julia and Chok, the other two girls I was having dinner with, which was funny since I came from Pasig and had traveled all the way down south (anything south of BGC Taguig seems really far to me), while they were just within the area.

Right from the get-go, the huge retro-style sign grabbed my attention. The interiors also did not disappoint, with the cheery red-and-white upholstery, checkerboard flooring, and waiters and waitresses in uniform. The only thing missing was a jukebox, but Tin explained that a genuine vintage jukebox cost around P150,000 (yikes!).

Anyway, what I was really after was some food. An hour’s drive (without traffic) makes me a hungry diner.

What this table needs is some food!

The menu has several sections,and depending on your food mood you could be ordering breakfast (available all day), sandwiches, steaks & ribs, kiddie meals, and the usual suspects burgers & fries. For sweets, there are dessert selections, and different flavors of milkshake with a choice between regular or extra-thick texture.

Paying no heed to the growing spare tire around my midsection, I ordered my favorite diner combo.

South Diner, Aguirre Ave., BF Homes, Paranaque

Strawberry Milkshake with Burger and Fries

South Diner, Aguirre Ave., BF Homes, Paranaque

Was I hungry, or was I hungry?

It may not look like much, but diner food has always tasted better than it looks. This burger is their Philly Bacon Jack (P145), with bacon and Monterey Jack cheese over a real beef patty. I gotta tell you, that burger was incredibly filling. The beef patty was heavy, without extenders. Fries weren’t very greasy since they’d just come out of the fryer. In combination with a strawberry milkshake (P95), I was in heaven!

The food arrived within 10 minutes of when my order was taken. Because I hate allowing food to get cold, I finished it in about the same amount of time. Well, I had to leave a morsel of the burger on the plate because I was just too full!

But I wasn’t done with eating yet. When Julia finally arrived two hours later, she ordered one of South Diner’s best-sellers: the Porky Pig (P140). It’s two pork chops encased in batter, fried, and topped with applesauce, served with two fried eggs, mango salsa, and your choice of garlic rice, plain rice, or mashed potatoes. Despite the diner being nearly full, Julia’s dish arrived quickly.

South Diner, Aguirre Ave., BF Homes, Paranaque

Porky Pig

Often I encounter pork chops that have been overcooked so that the meat inside is tough; the only thing that makes it palatable is the sauce. This pork chop dish, though, was unexpectedly moist and tender all the way through. The highlight for me though was the mashed potatoes, which were made with real potato and butter, slightly chunky. I’m drooling again now just thinking about it.

If you ever find yourself down in the BF Paranaque area, do check out South Diner for some great eats. Ü

South Diner is at 303 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Paranaque beside PureGold.

Trippin’ in KL

I’ve been traveling to the same place repeatedly for two years, so I was truly happy that Nuffnang Philippines tagged me along with other guest bloggers and the Philippine finalists to the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards. It was an amazing and exciting four days traveling with some of the country’s most interesting bloggers (in my honest opinion)!

Malaysia: NAPBAS

2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards

I’ll be writing more about the NAPBAS in my other blog KikayRunner.com, but I wanted to write separately about the traveling, sightseeing, and food tripping I did.  Read more

Drinking Up!

So many different drinks, so little time… I normally try to stay away from drinking my calories (hence I often just drink hot black tea with a little Splenda in the mix), but lately it’s been hard not to try out various milk tea, coffee, and even juice places. Here’s where I’ve gone in the past few months.

Chatime

The last time I drank a milk tea with pearls, it was at an Ersao branch on E. Rodriguez two years ago. I’d been craving that for some time and Happy Lemon didn’t do it for me (the pearls are so small!) so when I heard about this place called Chatime from my sister and her husband, I was so there. My drink is a pearl milk tea with 25% sugar and less ice. Being the milk tea place with plenty of branches, I can always count on a Chatime to satisfy my cravings.

Serenitea

This place is a favorite of some online friends, mentioned plenty on their Twitter accounts. The branch in Burgos Circle was the most accessible when I had a milk tea craving in the BGC area, so I went and got myself a milk tea with pearls (I figure it’s easier to compare between milk tea places when you order the same thing at each of them).
SereniteaThe milk tea mix itself tastes a little grassy, like it’s been infused with that smell the ground has when it’s been dampened by rain. The pearls were a little less firm than Chatime’s. I was already at 50% sugar but it still didn’t pack that zing I was looking for. Hmm. Wrong drink, maybe?

Gong Cha

My sister and I were at Megamall during their last 3-day sale when I spotted a red kiosk at the Atrium. They were on soft opening, but I could see plenty of people already lining up. This Gong Cha must be good, I thought.
Gong ChaThat was the first day my love affair with Gong Cha began. I even came up with a song about it. “Gong Cha wish your milk tea was strong like me, Gong Cha wish your milk tea was fun like me, Gong Chaaaaaaaa!” My drink here was their house special wintermelon tea with additional pearls. I really love the Gong Cha cream (which is like the Happy Lemon cream cheese, less the saltiness) which blends with my tea as I sip it, creating an ever-creamier drink until the last drop.

Drink Tea

I spotted this place at Podium a few weeks ago while binge-eating Indian food at New Bombay. We couldn’t try it out back then because we were so full, but I came back the other day and ordered my usual: a milk tea with the least amount of sugar possible.
Drink Tea
The pearls were red, a departure from the black pearls I’d been used to. They also had a different flavor, as if the sago mix contained a little cherry essence. Mmm! I’ll definitely be back.

Jamba Juice

I missed my invitation to the private launch event for Jamba Juice because it landed in my Spam folder, but it piqued my curiosity enough to warrant a visit.
Jamba JuiceAside from its imported name and imagery, nothing really makes Jamba Juice stand out from its local counterparts which have been here for some time (owners possibly inspired by a visit to a Jamba Juice in the US). Mondo Juice in Galleria has the same blended frozen fruit and juice concept, and at a cheaper price. I ordered here the Five Fruit Frenzy, managed to finish it all, but didn’t experience my tastebuds dancing in my mouth. I think I’ll just make fruit shakes at home.

Blenz Coffee

Like I said, I’m a hot tea drinker, but when Nuffnang invited a few bloggers and myself to a coffee break at Blenz Coffee in BGC where we would learn to do latte art, I jumped at it. I mean, where else do you have license to play with your food?

Apparently, when you pull your espresso shot correctly, and when the milk temperature is just right, you can create pretty pictures when pouring the milk into your latte, and the color swirls should hold. It’s supposed to be one of the hallmarks of a good latte. Here I am with my monkey-face latte.
Blenz Coffee
We also got to try out their Belgian chocolate drinks, which are made with Belgian chocolate bars melted in hot milk. So good! But what really stuck with me was their matcha latte. It’s real Japanese matcha (green tea leaves ground to a fine powder) blended with water using a bamboo whisk, which means it doesn’t clump up and look like pond scum. I’ve been on the hunt for a Blenz matcha latte fix since then.

Any other places I should try out? 🙂

Oceana: A World of Flavors

I have to admit, I’m not particularly adventurous when it comes to cuisine — my palate reacts too strongly to spices, and if I’m hungry I’d rather eat something I’m familiar with. Still, from time to time I can be persuaded to try something new.

Last Friday my family and I were invited to Oceana’s first anniversary-slash-restaurant launch at San Miguel by the Bay, Mall of Asia complex. Although Oceana itself has been there for a while now (it occupies one whole building near MOA’s IMAX wing), it was primarily a school kitchen for the Center for Culinary Arts, and an events place. This year, they decided to go full steam ahead with the restaurant, offering plated selections from around the world.

Oceana Anniversary: Tasting Manila
a dish called “Tasting Manila”

The CCA is also behind restaurant concepts such as Cravings and C2 Classic Cuisine. However, Oceana restaurant’s focus is on offering tastes from cities ranging from Sao Paolo to Hanoi. It’s world cuisine with a twist, just like the bibingka souffle we ordered to cap off our dinner. Wait, a bibingka souffle?!

Oceana Anniversary: Bibingka Souffle
cheesy, salted-eggy, custardy goodness topped with a fluffy souffle

Although the plated dishes range around 500 pesos or more each, the servings are for sharing. There are also some more affordable selections on the menu. I would actually want to be taken to Oceana on a date; but of course, the gentleman always pays. *wink*

I have a number of gift certificates from Oceana I’d like to give away, but of course I’d rather have a contest. So, here are the rules. Leave a comment below answering the following question: “What is your favorite cuisine and why?” I will use a randomizer to pick three winners, who will get a bundle of five (5) gift certificates each from Oceana. I will shoulder postage, so all you have to do is comment away!

Oceana Anniversary: Taste the World
Taste the World

UPDATE (05/17/10): Contest winners!

Ice Blended Love

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf the past few years, but there has always been one thing that keeps me coming back: their ice blended drinks. I’ve always considered the CBTL Ice Blended drink the perfect blend of sweetness, creaminess, and variety of flavors. I don’t know, maybe I’m biased.

So one afternoon last month, when I used a Belle de Jour coupon to get a freebie with a drink, the nice staff from CBTL Galleria handed me an invitation to their Open House the next day at any CBTL branch. They would be launching new Ice Blended flavors: Banana Caramel and Banana Mocha. Me being the loyal customer I am, I tried the Banana Caramel.

Coffee Bean Banana Caramel Ice Blended
It cost me ZERO pesos!

It was lovely. I consider banana one of my favorite fruits, and the blend of banana, cream, and caramel was a flavor and texture explosion in my mouth. I did find it a bit too sweet, but then again you’re not supposed to have ice blended drinks everyday now, right?

This month brought even better news for my taste buds. When I first started drinking CBTL Ice Blended drinks, I had a favorite variant: Berrie’d Treasure. They pulled this flavor three years ago, and I’d lost all hope they’d ever bring it back. BUT THEY DID!!!

It’s a good thing for my waistline I haven’t gotten near a Coffee Bean in a few weeks. But writing this post just reminded me of what I’ve been missing, and now I feel a craving. Hmm…

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Keso de Gallo in Pampanga

Yesterday (Christmas Eve), I had an opportunity to travel to Pampanga, the province of my birth. Kraft (through the GeiserMaclang PR agency) had invited a group of bloggers to witness the last leg of their project called “Keso de Gallo“. So I, along with Juned, Hannah, Vince, Coy, Fritz and other blogger friends left Manila at the insanely early hour of 2am so we could be in Pampanga by 4am.

Catholic Filipinos typically attend mass (misa de gallo) in the wee hours of the morning during the nine days before Christmas. Kraft provided hot chocolate and cheesy squash puto to the parishioners of San Guillermo Church in Bacolor as a way to promote creating dishes using affordable local ingredients (in this case, squash) and Eden Cheese.

Keso de Gallo: San Guillermo Church

San Guillermo Church at 4am

I was asleep in the van and hadn’t been briefed on exactly which church we were heading to in Pampanga, so when I opened my eyes I was pleasantly surprised that I was revisiting a church I’d been to during a Living Asia trip in 2007. Since that trip, the church has become the filming site for ABS-CBN soap “May Bukas Pa”.

The church looked respendent, decked out in Christmas lights in the pre-dawn darkness. As I listened to the priest intone a homily in both Kapampangan and Filipino, TV crews from ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda set up their lights and cameras. Winnie Cordero was even on site to cover the event for UKG.

Keso de Gallo: Lantern

a different kind of Green Lantern’s light

As the sun rose, we were packed back into our van for the short trip to Angeles City. We were about to breakfast at Chef Claude Tayag’s house, Bale Datung. Meals at the gracious chef’s place are only available through registration, so it was a real treat to sample some traditional Kapampangan dishes. Each bite was a flavor explosion in my mouth, while Bale Datung itself was a feast for the eyes because Chef Claude is also an artist who creates sculpture and paintings by commission. (Check out the Multiply album about my Christmas Eve trip to Pampanga.)

Keso de Gallo: Chef Claude Tayag

Chef Claude Tayag

Before we left Bale Datung, the team from Kraft and GeiserMaclang gave out awards for the best photos taken at Keso de Gallo. For third place, Juned won with a lovingly photographed multiple-exposure of San Guillermo Church’s steeple. Hannah ran away with the contest though, taking both second and first place with an angled shot of the steeple, and a close-up of a Christmas lantern.

The rest of us walked away with heavy, heavy gift packs of Kraft Eden cheese. (I ended up handing them out to my friends later that night at the Christmas Eve service I attended in Victory Ortigas.)

Even though I was half-dead from lack of sleep by the time we got back to Manila at noontime, the Keso de Gallo and our festive breakfast afterward had me in a wonderful mood to celebrate Christmas Eve with my family. ?

(Thanks to Ms. Amor of GeiserMaclang and Sir Alex from Kraft who made our trip possible. Merry Christmas!)

Parvati Dessert Soiree

I’m not a dessert person, but I won’t refuse a free meal (hehe). So when I got an invitation to attend a taste-testing event, I didn’t say no.

Parvati Dessert Soiree
Parvati Dessert Soiree at 55 Events Place

Parvati is an upcoming shop concept; their tagline is “where home bakers and dessert lovers meet”. While there will be a physical mortar-and-bricks shop, home bakers will be able to offer their made-to-order dessets through Parvati. Through this taste test, the collected comments and ratings on each dessert will help determine whether or not it will be offered at a Parvati shop in the future.

Parvati Dessert Soiree: the spread
Got a sweet tooth?

It turns out that 500 people registered for the event, which was dubbed a “dessert soiree”. At the entrance, I registered and was given a comment sheet to review four desserts of my choice. (You can only get four desserts at a time.) I chose a slice of chocolate decadent cake, some kind of muffin, a slice of banana loaf, and a lemon square. I had some friends with me, so I probably tasted twelve desserts just by nibbling off their plates.

Parvati Dessert Soiree: my thinking cap
I’ve got my thinking cap on.

The wide array of choices overwhelmed my palate and my belly, so I ended up rating just the four desserts I had taken. The decadent cake was the best, with its moist chocolate crumb and gooey caramel sauce just melting onto the tongue. The muffin was the worst — I could only describe it as feeling and tasting like bits of cardboard. The banana loaf could have used a bit more sugar, and the lemon square a bit more moisture.

Overall, I’m excited for the day when a Parvati shop opens near me. More of that decadent cake please!

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Propel Vitamin Water: Not Calorie-Free

Back two years ago when Gatorade launched Propel in the Philippine market, I wondered if they were going to come out with a low-calorie version. Then they released Propel Vitamin Water, with big “CALORIE FREE” markings on the label.

Propel is not calorie-free, even if it says so on the label.

Yesterday, though, was the first time I actually examined the contents as listed on the label.

According to Food & Drug regulations worldwide, a product has to contain less than 1 calorie to be allowed to call itself low-calorie, and should have no caloric content at all to be considered zero-calorie.

Propel is not calorie-free, even if it says so on the label.

Most people don’t read the Nutritional Information, which is the mistake I’ve been making for some time. But there’s 10 calories per serving, and each bottle contains more than 1 serving. That is definitely not low-calorie at all.

When I saw this, I wondered why the product could have any calories. After all, it was just supposed to be flavored water fortified with vitamins, right? Checking the ingredient list, I saw the second ingredient: sucrose.

Photobucket

It was totally disingenuous for Gatorade to mark a product as “calorie-free” when it’s not, but that’s a lesson learned not to trust claims of a product unless it’s backed up by the nutritional information and ingredients.

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The Accident-Prone Tourist: Blow-Up Doll

Vacations are only postcard-perfect on, well, postcards. While most times they can be snag-free, one must always allow that shit happens. When it does, all one can do really is laugh at it and hang on for the ride.

I am allergic to food that appears on most gourmet menus: shrimp, crab, and lobster. Quite unfortunate because I used to love eating that kind of food. Now I just try to avoid ingesting such because I swell up like an inflatable doll and have breathing problems, but watch out for hidden secret ingredients!

When we were in Macau, we had a delicious noodle soup at Wong Chi Kei, a famous shop in San Ma Lo. The menu said it was just chicken noodle, but this actually meant they ladled a basic soup stock over whatever noodles and meat you’d selected. We should have known that soup had shrimp. Thirty minutes later I was scratching my neck and ears and clearing my throat. My dad had to find a Watson’s and buy a corticosteroid to halt the histamine attack.

I told myself I’d be prepared next time with medicines — but the next time still threw me for a loop. On my trip to Laoag with Living Asia, I had studiously avoided all foods prepared with the aforementioned seafood. Then I decided to give ant eggs a whirl, and whaddya know, I’m allergic to them as well! I loaded up on the corticosteroid, but in the end had to hie off to a hospital to get a shot of Benadryl.

Would you still travel with me if you know I was this accident-prone? =)