Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Loggia at Palacio De Memoria

The atmosphere at Palacio de Memoria should be enough to convince you to visit. Think towering century-old trees, expansive grounds that can accommodate two decommissioned airplanes, and a grand pre-war mansion beautifully restored to its former glory and turned into a museum. It really is quite a sight to behold. 

That there is also a restaurant run by Margarita Fores no less with al fresco tables to boot easily convinced me that it was where I needed to be on Mother’s Day. So I hauled my entire family from Quezon City to Paranaque. It took us just an hour’s drive to get there via the new Skyway.

My daughter behaved like a puppy unleashed as she chased after the sparrows that seemed to enjoy clustering on the grass. I can scarcely believe such a gem existed amidst the high-rise condominiums on Roxas Boulevard. 

We had a lovely table facing the fountain at The Loggia restaurant. The menu had enough variety but I belong to a family of carnivores so five of us opted for the 21-day Dry-aged Rib-eye while two went for the Australian Beef Tenderloin a la Scamorza. I ordered Seabass to add to the mix. 

The steak was perfectly seasoned but it was rather flimsy. The thinness was a disservice to the dry-aging process. Even the seabass was nothing to write home about. You’re better off with Chef Gaita’s established crowd-pleasers, the pizzas and pastas. 

Even the desserts, like the Lemon Olive Oil Torta that I enjoyed, were lackluster. Don’t get me wrong: the food was not bad at all but I suppose I was expecting the menu to be dialed up a bit, to a level equal to the ambience.

That said, expect to find me there again for two reasons. First, one of the airplanes was turned into a charming bar, which my family quite enjoyed. For another, the Loggia is a Gaita Fores restaurant, and Chef Gaita, a culinary royalty if we ever had one, is not the sort of chef we should give up on.   

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Hediu Grill Station: A Sichuan-style Grill for Your Next Barkada Gathering

There’s very little that fuels my greed as much as a good barbecue can. The mere thought of meat and fat kissing a hot grill, basted with the sweet and salty sauce that we FIlipinos so love, makes my mouth water. But Hediu Grill Station offers something different. It’s a Sichuan-style grill. If you’re not familiar with that style of cooking, I must say, prepare for some heat. 

Sichuan (alternatively spelled as Szechuan) cooking is immutably fiery. You would think this would come from the famous Sichuan peppers, which is one of the spices used in the well-known Chinese five-spice powder. Sichuan peppercorns are actually mild and leave a tingling sensation in the mouth rather than in-your-face spiciness. But they are often accompanied by dried red chillies, which can be tongue-numbing if used heavy-handedly. 

Hediu’s specialties are naturally heavy on the heat, which is a great excuse to go heavy on the fried rice, which I must say, is perfection. 

It would be a mistake to think that there’s nothing more to Sichuan cooking other than heart-racing heat. I was surprised that many of the dishes had the unmistakable smoky scent and flavor of cumin, which I was told by their marketing head Kim, is one of the hallmarks of Sichuan cooking. 

I am no spice hound so the dishes I enjoyed the most were those that had layered flavors with just the right amount of fire. This would be the fried fish head pot with crabsticks and lobster balls, a lovely beginning to our meal. The lemony garlic butter ulang shrimps were equally good. The three cup flavor tofu was flavorful and an ideal foil to the spiciness of the other dishes. If you dare and your medical results will allow, do order the roasted bone marrow, which is served with the most delicious grilled mantou bread. It was so good I ordered the bread to take home, only to discover that the one they gave me was spiced instead of plain. So should you decide to order some mantou, remember to specify your preference. 

Hediu Grill Station is the sort of place where you can hang out with friends for drinks until the wee hours. They are open until 3 a.m. A band plays every night to add to the fun. Should you opt to dine outdoors, there’s an al fresco area with a lovely view of the bay. 

Disclosure: Thank you to our friends from Hediu and SM for our lunch. All opinions and insights expressed here are entirely mine.

Follow me on Instagram @joangallares

Hediu Grill Station

SM by the Bay,

Seaside Blvd, Pasay, Metro Manila


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

A Weekend with Wacky Bee Honey


Under the unforgiving heat of an April sun, I donned a white long-sleeved button-down and a light-blue cotton jogger, with a pair of mid-calf socks and sneakers. I was steaming under my ensemble but I wasn't so hot about getting stung.

My husband Judd and I were attending a two-day workshop on apiculture led by Juaqui Gutierrez, the man behind Wacky Bee Honey, a small bee farm tucked in a forested village in Antipolo. Judd had been toying with the idea of raising bees. I, meanwhile, was interested in the honey. 

The workshop began at 8 a.m. when my body was still begging for coffee. The breeze and the tinkling of the bamboo wind chimes didn't help. But before I could fully drift off to a dreamy reverie, I was brought back to the present by Juaqui’s stories about his buzzing obsession. I didn’t realize bees were so interesting. 

I remember Juaqui explaining the hive caste system: “The queen is not the leader of the hive, nor the workers her servants.” Everyone plays a role: The queen lays eggs, the drones mate with her, and the workers gather pollen and nectar. They all play their part in allowing the hive to thrive. 

Had I known that I would be handling hives myself during the workshop, I might have bailed out. But by the time I held a frame heavy with bees and honey, I was already too enamored by the inner workings of the hive. I felt safe enough in my outfit, paired with a bee-keeping hat and veil and the leather gloves that were provided. Each participant was also given a smoker that was fed with scorched coconut husks. When the bees became aggressive, we smoked them to temporarily disorient them. 

We were assigned two hives each and given a checklist of items to look for. We checked the hive, frame by frame, on the lookout for eggs, larvae, pollen, mites, drones, queen cells, etc. Most hives have 10 frames. Everyone went agog when a queen was spotted. The frame was carefully returned to make sure that she did not get separated from her hive. 

Juaqui concluded day 1 by letting us taste pollen and allowing us to harvest honey straight from the hive! What a treat to enjoy hive to table honey! He also showed us how honey is extracted from each frame. He sang praises to the narra trees that were bountiful with blooms during the summer months and apparently a favorite among his bees. 

Day 2 began eventfully with a taste test. Juaqui marked seven small jars with letters and let us taste the syrup from each to determine the real honey from the decoys. I aced the test but not without difficulty. When real honey is augmented with sugar syrup mixed with bee enzymes, it is difficult to tell it apart from pure honey. 

You’d think the bees won’t run out of food in an area where there’s an abundance of nature to forage. But when the trees aren’t in bloom, usually in the winter* months, beekeepers need to help the bees by providing them with food in the form of sugar syrup mixed with pollen substitute. We were given another hands-on exercise on feeding, this time with a new checklist of things to look out for. I squealed with delight when I finally saw the queen in my hive, marked with a bright yellowing sticker with the number 8 on its thorax.

It was hard work to check two hives. Juaqui has over a hundred. During major honey flow in June and minor honey flow in November, he dons a suit during harvest so that he can work fast and be insulated from stings. During his first year, he managed to harvest 36 kilos of honey from a single hive, a generous harvest by most standards. He does all the work with the bees, but his wife Anne helps with the bottling and marketing. Anne attended to all the food in the workshop and did a superb job at it. We enjoyed eating our home-cooked lunch and snacks at Tungtong shed, overlooking the thick forest and with the sound of the running river down below. The longer I spent in their place, the more convinced I was that I needed to live closer to nature, attuned to its rhythms, lulled by the buzzing of bees. 

Monday, April 6, 2020

Winning The Online Shopping (and Delivery!) Game In The Time Of Covid-19: Hunting Down Essentials During Quarantine (Part II)

Believe it or not, we went five days without bread in our household. I was about to bake one but my daughter asked me to make pizza instead. Then one night as I was checking my IG I saw Prologue.ph's post for pre-orders! I had my order picked via Lalamove.

Two weeks into the ECQ, we were running low on butter and cheese. I was desperate. Someone in my Viber group shared a link to Gourmet Direct where I found some cheese, plain cheddar for my daughter and some fancy ones for me and my husband. 

I also found some canned crab meat to add to my pantry and more whole milk. Later in the day, after I had already checked out, they posted that they have Kerrygold butter on hand. It was an easy decision. I ordered a couple.

To my surprise, Gourmet Direct delivered two days after my purchase, even ahead of Feta, which delivered the next day. I was so happy with my Feta purchase though because of the variety of items. I bought several cartons of Emborg full cream milk (my first time to try this brand since we usually buy Organic Valley), cooking cream, cooking wine, pasta, canned tomatoes, chicken breast, and Guimaras mangoes! I also got a copper cup for myself because I read somewhere that copper has anti-microbial properties. 

I and my friends were ecstatic when Healthy Options launched their online store. I filled up my cart right away but items were in such high demand that I was losing items from my cart (two jars of Cadia mayonnaise, different types of flour) during checkout because people were beating me to the payment queue! I only managed to buy a few pantry items, my favorite macaroons, and the organic cocoa sticks that Jennie Epperson has got me craving. I went back to the online store the next day but the site was down, probably due to high traffic. I checked it out again the next day and managed to buy my supplements and the mayo that I wanted. 

My husband has been reminding me to buy ice cream since we're almost out and the ones he bought from 7-11 were stopgap. I was overjoyed when my friend Kat launched Growcery, which carries the Arce brand. The site also carries Saranggani Bay frozen seafood where I bought seabass. My items were delivered in two days. 

Since we won't be receiving binalay from my mom's family in Isabela this Holy Week, I wanted to make chicken macaroni salad instead. I make macaroni salad whenever the craving arises, but it also reminds me of Christmas, and a taste of normal if you will. I saw a Viber post from Platinum Food Service (09656052840) saying they were selling mayonnaise, Eden cheese, Coke Zero, peanut butter, and other grocery items. I filled up a form. They got back to me two days later with instructions on how to pay. Another two days after payment, my items were delivered. A caveat here though. Their products are packed in big tubs, probably for restaurant use. 

Understandably, drugstore deliveries these days are highly unreliable. I've tried both Watsons and Mercury even before the quarantine was formalized. I haven't received anything so far. But I've managed to address the problem through Grab and Lalamove Pabili. Even those are hard to book but tipping generously has worked for me.

For small items, I've also purchased from Grab Mart and Laz Mart. Grab Mart delivers right away but the items available are very limited and not replenished quickly enough. Laz Mart, meanwhile, takes weeks to ship so it's a good idea to already anticipate what you'll be needing a month from now and order ahead. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Winning The Online Shopping (and Delivery!) Game In The Time Of Covid-19: Hunting Down Essentials During Quarantine (Part I)

My old reliables--Metromart app and Landers--have failed me. I've managed (with great difficulty) to put my orders through but deliveries are always late and incomplete (maybe a fourth of what I ordered). So, I've had to find ways. I decided to try specialty stores and ordered just enough from each of them so that if one fails I have a back up.

Pacific Bay is popular. They ran out of plenty of items early into the quarantine but I managed to buy some mussels, shrimps, Dory fillet, and chicken leg quarters from them. Now they've temporarily closed shop to cater to pending orders.

I ordered some vegetables as well as chicken and pork through The Green Grocer. They also carry my favorite Kerrygold Butter (I ordered the salted one but they ran out so I made do with the unsalted). They texted me a few days later that the chicken cuts I chose were not available. They asked me if I was willing to replace them with a whole chicken instead. I said yes. Unfortunately now, the available delivery dates are in May.

I think I had to wait a week or so for my items which felt like forever so I had to have some contingency. I ordered from The Rare Food Shop. I bought some caldereta cuts and samgyupsal as well as pork liempo and laman, and Chilean mussels. They delivered promptly, in a day or two.

Kitayama Beef (Viber 09178899635) is available in Rare Food but I couldn't deal with another failed delivery so I messaged Kitayama directly and ordered additional beef cuts. They delivered the day after I finalized my order. We coordinated everything through Viber. In this time of crisis, I really prefer some kind of human interaction instead of relying on the machine to do its work. It's a tedious process to talk to every source but at least I am guaranteed that someone is working on my order and my expectations are managed.

I understand that price-wise these specialty stores are not the most practical options (though prices were surprisingly not prohibitive) but they met my needs given that I refused to go out.

One of our partners in the farm, Marco Escudero, messaged me that her mom is selling vegetables. He sent me a list and delivered the day after I sent in my order. He's my most reliable source of vegetables and he also sells fresh and frozen prawns (much bigger than I had expected!). You may get in touch with him at 09988668422.

Pasta is a big deal in our home. They are always out of stock in the big grocery chains so I procured my stash from Bacchus Epicerie. They carry my favorite De Cecco brand and delivered promptly. I also bought some bottled sauces from them.

My Viber has been buzzing regularly since I discovered different marketplaces in groups. It's a great way to source stuff but can also drive you nuts. I have since left and deleted many of them and maintained just the groups within our village and the New Manila area where we live.

Through Viber groups, I discovered Christine Joy Sy-Sison (who promptly delivered my coconut cooking oil (a friend recommended that I switch to coconut oil for now for its antimicrobial properties, according to an Ateneo study). She sells MCT oil too. I took my chance and asked if she can also deliver gata (coconut milk) and she did! Her mobile no. is 09098991218.

I discovered Prime Pacific through Viber. I was desperate to buy Coke Zero or Coke Light, our once-a-day pleasure after a good meal. They sell a variety of products including canned tomatoes, which I ran out of. They don't carry my usual brand but it will have to do for now. They also delivered promptly but I wasn't told before they delivered that they ran out of Coke Zero (boo!). They apologized and said they'll refund me immediately. 

Through Viber Groups, I found my favorite supplier of baking needs, Lyn Melitante aka Cooking Mama (09173108223). I initially ordered just bread flour and all-purpose flour from her, then took a chance and asked her if I can buy yeast too. Not only was she able to do so; she also gave me three good brands to choose from! Following that, I asked her to procure salted butter, which I can't find anywhere. What she had available was a butter margarine mix but upon my insistence she said she was able to get me some Magnolia Gold. She's in the process of consolidating all my orders so that I don't spend too much on shipping fee. Thanks to her, we were able to make pizza and I was able to make my own lumpia wrappers for the first time!

Now, for some milk. Dairy is big in our family. Landers was able to deliver two Elle & Vire bottles but I knew we'll be needing more. My Viber group shared a link to Feta, a restaurant deli that I used to see on my way home when I was living in Greenhills. I went to their website and lo behold I saw the full cream milk brands I've always wanted, and more specialty items to add variety to my pantry. They said they'll deliver on April 4 or 5. Abangan.

For our laundry, we use Human Nature, which is impossible to get hold of these days so I went straight to the source. I sent the company an email inquiring if they can process my order despite the quarantine. They did.

For Nature to Nurture cleaning stuff, I ordered through Echostore. I was happy with their service. Plus, I was able to get my hands on Laurin MCT oil through their site.

In the next update: Where I Got My Prized Kerrygold Butter (fingers crossed!), and my experience with Grab Mart, LazMart, etc.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...