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. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...