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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Happy Hour(s) at La Cabrera Manila

It is always such a pleasure joining Carlo Lorenzana for a meal because you know you’ll be in good company. So when I received his invitation to join him for lunch at his restaurant, La Cabrera, I immediately blocked off my calendar and arranged for my husband to take our daughter home from gym class so that I can go straight to 6750 Ayala Avenue for lunch. We were joined by Anton of ourawesomeplanet and his lovely wife Rachelle a.k.a. mrsawesomeplanet.

Carlo wanted us to try some of their new dishes as well as some old favorites, and also introduce us to their first proudly Filipino chef, John, who trained in Buenos Aires.

These are all the delicious goodness that we had for lunch. Actually, we ended up having more because Carlo wanted us to try some specialties not included on the list.

My old favorite provoleta can now be had with pancetta instead of ham. Even better, right? Bacon just makes EVERYTHING better. Bacon with jam? Yes. Chocolate? Yes. Monggo? Yes, yes, yes! But I digress.

Not surprisingly, their bestseller is the rib eye. It was a smart move to add it to the menu because I have yet to meet a Filipino who doesn’t love this cut.

When in La Cabrera, I prefer ordering the cuadril because what it gives up in fat, it makes up for in flavor, and the tenderness is still there. 

I also like the entraña, which is the leanest cut. It gives your jaw a little more workout than it’s probably used to, but again, flavor – and I suppose, less guilt.

The steaks are served with a wide selection of cold and warm sides, of which my favorite is the caramelized garlic.

For dessert, I am partial to the rogel (a consistent favorite) and the pavlova (a new discovery).

This is the perfect time to visit La Cabrera Manila because they’re now offering the signature Happy Hour promo of La Cabrera Buenos Aires. Enjoy 40% off on ALL items on weekdays (including Fridays) from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Want to know more about Argentinian steaks? Here’s my article that originally came out in Mabuhay Magazine about my first visit to La Cabrera Manila.

Note: This meal was courtesy of La Cabrera but all opinions are my own.

La Cabrera Manila: Steaks That Will Make the Argentinians Proud
By Joan C. Bulauitan

Dining at La Cabrera Grillado & Bar is not for the faint-hearted. The whole point to coming here is the steak, and the different cuts are often served in half a kilo hunks. Come ravenous, as I did, which allowed me to do justice to the feast that was served on our table.

Foodie as I am, I knew very little about Argentine steaks except by repute as one of the best in the world, thanks largely to beef from cows that graze freely on the endless pampas. Argentine beef, however, is very hard to come by outside of Argentina (see sidebar) so La Cabrera imports their grain-fed USDA Prime beef from the United States. The way they prepare them, however, is as Argentinian as Eva Perón, or, in this case, Juan Barcos, La Cabrera’s Argentinian chef, who watched over our steaks until they were cooked to perfection.

We had a fun, instructive chat with one of the owners, Carlo Calma Lorenzana of Cellar de Boca Argentinian Wine in Davao (not to be confused with his co-owner and namesake, Carlo Lorenzana, who also owns Shi Lin), at the main dining area of La Cabrera, which was charmingly decked out by Carlo’s mother-in-law with black and white images of Argentina, iron horseshoes (a subtle nod to the gauchos), custom chandeliers dangling with ladles and cooking implements, and a chalkboard menu. We talked mostly about Argentine beef and steaks.

To many Argentinians, eating steak is a birthright. They were, at several points in their history, ranked number one in terms of per capita consumption of beef. Their recent losses in this regard to Uruguay and Hong Kong have prompted a cry of national shame. So if an Argentinian talks to you about beef, you listen.

To begin, they have their own prime beef cuts, such as the vacío, flavorful flank that is lean but rimmed with a thin layer of fat; tira de asado, thin strips of tasty shortribs; and entraña, a gamier cut with outstanding depth of flavor.

There is a marked difference between Japanese steak and Argentinian steak. While the former is famous for its velvety richness due to marbling (which, simply put, is intramuscular fat), the latter is

known for the exquisite flavor of its meat, which is enhanced by smoking over hot coals in extremely high temperature until it reaches the ideal doneness, that is to say, a punto (medium), unless you specify otherwise.

Our meal that night was a carnivore’s dream come true, the type I could imagine having at the original La Cabrera in Buenos Aires, named one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America. It started out with provoleta con jamón crudo, provolone cheese bubbling on a hot plate topped with translucent prosciutto. It was a standout and a portent of things to come. It was followed by two crunchy treats, the mollejas crocantes con manteca (crispy sweetbreads) and chicharrones (beef chicharon).

Carlo was considerate enough to serve a salad for the less indulgent members of our party, a course I decided to skip because I needed all the room for the steaks and desserts that were to come.

The first steak to arrive was the entraña (skirt steak), two lean cuts of beef that were surprisingly tender even sans fat. I expected it to be chewy but it gave way to my knife without resistance, and the meat absorbed all the smokiness from the hot grill.

The bife de chorizo is a steak with substance, conceived for those who love meat and make no excuses about it. This sirloin cut was big and bursting with juice, the way steaks should be. I picked the choicest bite by cutting from the side that had a layer of beautifully toasted fat.

I was convinced this would be my favorite for the night but I quickly switched allegiance when I tasted the cuadril, known in English as the tri-tip, which is cut from the sirloin. It had a nice brown crust and each bite was a flavor kick. Carlo said it is Pope Francis’s favorite type of steak, and I wasn’t surprised, wise man that the pope is.

This was followed by the ojo de bife madurado, a succulent rib eye steak wet-aged for 12 days. Rib eye is my favorite cut and my default choice at any steakhouse. I am happy to note that it has achieved a transcendent incarnation at La Cabrera.

At that point in our meal, my steak of choice was a toss-up between the cuadril and the ojo de bife. I was on the verge of making up my mind when out came the asado del centro, bone-in beef shortribs, which packed so much flavor that it almost stole the thunder from the ojo de bife in terms of umami.

Each order of steak comes with ramekins of accompaniments, such as chimichurri, sweet garlic confit, tapenade, and mushrooms. Truth be told, I scarcely touched the sides and dipping sauces as my attention was fully on the meat.

While steak is La Cabrera’s main reason for being, it has a solid lineup of postres or desserts. My favorite from a previous visit was the rogel de dulce de leche (layers of biscuit and Argentine dulce de leche topped with meringue). This second visit simply reinforced my choice. But what earned the raves that night from our group was the chocotorta, Argentinian birthday cake made of creamed dulce de leche layered between a chocolate cookie crust. Carlo’s personal favorite is the alfajores. For a darker chocolate flavor, opt for the pot de crème.

Having an intolerance to red wine (the tannins give me migraine), I enjoyed my meats with a glass of Torrontes, a white that was light and easy to drink. But if you can manage the reds, order your carne along with an inky Malbec and your palate might just tango with the pairing.

About Argentine Beef Exports

Barely 10 years ago, Argentina was the world’s third largest beef exporter. This despite the United States government’s ban on imports from 2001 onwards due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in South America. Global demand drove prices up, even locally. While this pleased the farmers, the locals were upset. They wanted to have their beef and eat it too.

In 2006, former President Nestor Kirchner did something about it. He raised the tax on beef exports from 5% to 15% and banned exports for 180 days. Exports fell dramatically. Even after it was reopened, it has been difficult for Argentina to recover the confidence of the global market.

Recently, the U.S. announced it is lifting its ban on Argentine beef. Perhaps this will raise the outlook on this prized commodity.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Resort Feature: Balesin Island Club (Why It's The Perfect Family Getaway) - Part III

The next day was glorious so I took Jia to the beach. Her Dada joined us later for a swim in the pool.    

Since Mykonos was the only village we haven't visited, we decided to go there for lunch. 

I dressed Jia to match the white and blue of the village. She was so tired from swimming that she nodded off even before she had her lunch.

She's awake! She was so rapt listening to the kumbancheros because she loves music.

Since day one, I was telling my husband we should go watch the sun set at Nusa Dua bar in Bali Village but our schedule did not permit. This was again recommended to me by Kathy Solis, VP for marketing of Alphaland. We finally got there the day before our departure and it was perfect. The bar stood on stilts with bridgeways that connected to a water villa on either side and to Warung restaurant. 

For our last dinner on the island, we picked Costa del Sol, acclaimed as the best restaurant in Balesin, to which we heartily agreed.

This paella negra was simply delectable. We definitely scraped the bottom of the pan for the soccarat. I ended the night so full but I wished I could eat more.

My husband remarked how well thought of and well executed the dishes are, not only in this meal, but also in our previous ones. He said he'd love to bring more friends and family there next time we visit. I guess it's safe to assume that he loved our little getaway. 


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