Monday, January 31, 2011

A visit to Lola Maria's

Lola is a Tagalog word that means Grandmother. Thus the name Lola Maria Restaurant inside The Legend Villas evokes that warm homey feeling that we'd get whenever we visit the home of our grandmother. The smell of wonderful home-cooked meals that she would lovingly prepare as you wait while admiring the beautiful decors that adorns her home. The same home where either your mom or dad grew up in. You memorize every nook and cranny and know where lola's favorite part of the house is..most likely the kitchen.

Located just right across where I work, I was surprised that there's actually a hidden gem for me to discover. It is said that people normally tend to search far and wide when a beautiful thing is standing so close by that we fail to take notice of it. I've first visited Lola Maria last year for a business meeting. We were surprised that the buffet lunch was pretty extensive and delicious.

Fast forward to a couple of Fridays ago, we were invited to a food tasting dinner at Lola Maria Restaurant. For the first time, I was one of the first to arrive -- well there's no reason for me to be late as I literally just had to cross the street to get there. While waiting for the others, I had a good chat with Ginger Villavicencio, COO of The Legend Villas. She told me how the hotel started and the different plans they have for the restaurant. She also told me that they are open to party take-out platters which she later asked her team to display for us to see.

lola maria drink shooters

For this evening, we were to sample eight amazing dishes that were created by various personalities. To help me choose which drink to get, I had three shot glasses of the Dalandan Slush, Pomelo Slush and the Pandan Iced Tea. I slowly tried each and I chose the Pomelo Slush as I love the plup of the pomelo mixed with tangy pineapple juice. Very refreshing!

lola maria vegetable quiche

Dinner began the moment Jane, Richard, Rowena and Abet finally arrived. We began with the Vegetable Quiche (Php. 155 / 5 pieces) which was created by fashion designer Randy Ortiz. I love adding a drop of sour cream before taking a bite. It's filled with minced vegetables encased in a crunchy pasty crust. A light and healthy start to our meal.

lola maria shrimp cake

This was followed with a teeny-tiny Prawn Cake (Php. 225 / 6 pieces) sampler. I remember Rowena commenting that she liked this one as she can taste the shrimp bits instead of just biting into a mashed-up filling. I love the addition of Hoisin sauce giving it a very Oriental feel. Loved it so much, I went for seconds.


lola maria fish pinipig

I've mentioned a million times before how much I love potato chips and all the more I adore homemade potato chips. My eyes widen when the platter carrying the Fish Pinipig (Php. 210 / 6 pieces) with Lola Maria's homemade chips was placed in front of us. Huge crunchy potato chips that I love. How I wish I can bring a bag home. The Fish Pinipig which is the creation of acress Iza Calzado was pretty interesting. I love how light the aoili was and the fish was sprinkled with paprika giving it more attitude.

lola maria intermezzo

To cleanse our palate, we had Calamansi sherbet. Sour and cold, my taste buds are ready for the next dishes up ahead!

lola maria cocido

Up next was the favorite dish of fellow blogger Anton Diaz -- the Cocido (Php. 360) which is a bowl of beef ribs stewed in rich tomato sauce and cooked with chorizo and vegetables. It comes with a saucer of roast eggplant dip that I liked very much. The sauce was very rich and the ribs literally falling off the bone. No wonder Anton loves this dish! You should have it with rice to truly appreciate the thick sauce and filling.

lola maria rib eye steak

Following the rich Cocido was my personal favorite -- Garlic & Rosemary Rib Eye (Php650). To be honest, I prefer seafood and chicken over beef anyday. I'm not really a steak fan and I'd leave this persona to my dear husband who appreciate a good slice of beef.  However, this is probably one plate of steak I'd love to have every single day. Imagine a generous slice of beef marinated and grilled with fresh garlic and rosemary and served with your choice of mashed potato or garlic rice (I got both!). I love it that it has a small amount of fat adding more flavor to the meat. The lean portion was tender and can easily be sliced using a regular knife. We also couldn't decide where the garlic rice is better than the mashed potatoes or vice versa. Either sidings you choose, you'll surely enjoy it to the bone. Note also that its reasonably priced. Perfect for a quick steak dinner.

I can't believe we've gone through 6 courses already however since it was raining hard outside and we were having a great time sharing stories and giving more foodie tips to Ginger, none of us were ready to call it a night. It's a good thing, Lola Maria still has a lot to offer.

lola maria dessert trio

After our plate of steak, out came dessert. A trio of wonderful things consisting of the Ensaymada Pudding, Ube & Langka (Jackfruit) Panna Cotta and the Fried Suman (Sticky Rice) at Tsokolate (Chocolate). I tried the Fried Suman at Tsokolate (Php. 155) first and I was surprise to enjoy the soft sticky rice coated in crunchy deep-fried batter. After this, I had the Ube & Langka Panna Cotta (Php. 120) that reminds me of a glass of Halo-halo. True enough, Ginger told us that it's Lola Maria's way of interpreting our favorite local dessert. The highlight of the platter was the Ensaymada Pudding (Php. 80). Imagine this well-loved pastry on a ramekin baked with soft egg custard at the bottom and topped with shaved quezo de bola. You couldn't get more homey than that!

I'm glad that Lola Maria Restaurant is just a quick hop away. It's a perfect choice for a romantic date away from the hustle and bustle of Makati or Quezon City. It's a great destination for business meetings too -- perhaps you can seal the deal over a plate of juicy rib-eye.

Lola Maria Restaurant is located at The Legend Villas, Pioneer cor Madison streets in Mandaluyong City. Call them at 702-2793.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Seek Tranquility at Neo Day Spa

Wednesday last week was a very busy day for me. I woke up at exactly 4AM, my heart and mind racing ready to face the day's series of activities. It began with a trip down to Roxas Boulevard for my US Visa Interview then off I went to work as I literally struggled to stay awake and alert. Lunch was short but sweet with half of the Club at Pedeli Gourmet Kitchen followed by a brief seminar back at the office. I finally asked to be allowed to go home early as my head was literally throbbing and my eyes were getting heavy by the minute. Little by little, I knew sleep is catching up and my awake state is fast crashing. I still have dinner to attend that day and a two hour nap would truly help.

On the way home, I decided to check out our neighborhood day spa to see if I can possibly get a short full body massage. That would surely put me on a relaxing state...one that I truly needed that day.

ki neo day spa

Entering Neo Day Spa along Wilson street, I was warmly greeted by the receptionist who walked me through the different treatments available. I wanted it simple and chose the Swedish Aromatheraphy Massage (Php. 780). I was immediately led to my private room (luckily, no one was using the couple's room so I had it all to myself that day). I briefly showered and settled in for my message.

My massage therapist Aida entered and gave me a warm smile. I just told her that I want very light strokes. She nodded and told me to just lie down and relax. I really couldn't remember what happened next as I was quickly transported to la-la-land. Unlike other massages that I've had, despite telling the therapist that I wanted it light and soft, I would end up wincing in pain with every deep hard strokes. I could hardly relax or sleep as I constantly have to remind the therapist to lessen the intensity. Still, I'd end up feeling like a butchered meat at the end of the 60 minute massage.

ki neo day spa

Not with Aida, I slept like a baby the entire 60 minutes. I just woke up to turn as she worked on my head down to the tips of my toes. It was very relaxing. I made the right choice also in choosing the Wood Aromatherapy Oil which was not very strong.

After 60 minutes, Aida gently woke me up to tell me our session was over. How I wish we can go on forever. I groggily thanked her and realized that my headache was gone.

While the spa is smaller than other day spas around the area, I liked it because its clean, the burning oil was light and it doesn't sting my eyes and the room was pretty spacious. I'm surely going back for more this time with my mom and sister for our regular bonding session.

Visit Ki by Neo Day Spa at 35 Wilson Street, Greenhills West in San Juan City. Call them at 584-6789 / 584-6066.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pesto Break at Pedeli Gourmet Kitchen

Whenever I drive myself home from work, once in a while, I'd find myself craving for pasta. As always, my dilemma is where to get good pesto pasta. There used to be a stall at the food court of our office building that sells this..it was pretty oily, not the best quality but I stayed loyal to it for almost a year. At home, this has been my constant request, it used to just be every Monday where Mommy would ask our helper to prepare pesto spaghetti for dinner. However, now we would ask for this almost twice a week or more.

Back when I still had Bo (the Basil), I was planning on making my own pesto sauce. Bo, after all, was very cooperative. He grew to be a very healthy and fragrant basil plant with lots of leaves. However, I became very busy and didn't had the time to source for the other ingredients needed to make my own pesto sauce. Thus, I've resorted to stocking up on bottles of pesto sauces as home. Still, I know nothing beats enjoying a plate of piping hot al dente pasta noodles with freshly made pesto sauce. How I dream of being able to have the luxury of enjoying this dish at any given time.

pedeli pesto pasta

Fast forward to the present, I went to the Mercato Centrale early this month and chanced upon Pedeli Gourmet Kitchen. There I met Peter Sison, who introduced to me his sandwiches and pasta. I was immediately drawn towards his Pesto Pasta with Crabmeat (Php. 130). The serving was very generous and imagine I was able to finish it all up on my own. I love the texture of the chopped nuts and the wonderful aroma of the pesto. The noodles has just the right bite. After enjoying my pasta, I went back and asked Peter where he got his sauce and he said, they made it from scratch. I was impressed. The basil was not too overpowering and it wasn't oily at all. Indeed, this pesto spaghetti got my two thumbs up.

A couple of weeks after that, fellow bloggers and foodie club member, Abet invited us to lunch at a small resto-deli along Pioneer. Upon receiving his invite, I wondered where exactly in Pioneer is this resto-deli located as I haven't noticed any new restaurant opening in the past months. We were told that it's located in Cityland Pioneer and all the more I was curious where exactly can the restaurant be found. I even asked the help of my colleague who lives in the building to help me look for it but she couldn't find it as well.

On the day of our lunch date, I followed the instructions given and finally found Pedeli's Gourmet Kitchen at the lower ground level of the Cityland condominium. Admittedly, it's not that easy to locate but just ask the guard and he'll be able to give you instructions on how to get there.

pedeli

The place is very small, imagine entering a Chef's private kitchen with just a limited sitting area. It's a good thing we were the only ones there and so we were able to have a good chat with both Peter and Eboy the amazing duo behind Pedeli Gourmet Kitchen.

pedeli

The moment I entered, it was then I realized that I've met Peter before and I've tasted their pasta already. All the more, I was excited for lunch. While chatting, Peter and Eboy prepared our meal. They have a line-up of sandwiches from Supreme, Deluxe and Signature. The Deluxe line is the most basic with just a layer of sandwich filled with your choice of Bacon, Chicken, Hungarian, Meat or Tuna. You can choose if you want to get the Big or the Biggie size where it differs in the size of the bread.

pedeli hungarian supreme

We wanted something more and so we went for the Supreme which reminds me of my favorite Clubhouse Sandwich where you get a huge double-decker sandwich filled with the same choice of toppings as the Deluxe plus sliced boiled egg, cheese and ham. We got the Big Hungarian Supreme Sandwich (Php. 145). It was delicious! I love how crunchy the edges of the sausage was and everything just blended well -- the egg, cheese, ham, hungarian sausage, bread. It's a very big piece of sandwich that the four of us decided to share in order to try the other variants.

Jane's choice was the Crabsticks and Mangoes (Php. 110 / Php. 140) which is part of their Signature Sandwich Series. A very refreshing choice with sweet mangoes and kani. I wasn't able to try this but it's definitely on my list for my succeeding visits.

pedeli

Check out their line-up of sodas!! Blast from the past!! :)

I'm so happy that there's finally a new place to visit whenever the craving for pesto pasta comes around. They are also open to delivery this is good news for everyone living and working around Mandaluyong, San Juan, Pasig, Ortigas and Makati!

Visit Pedeli Gourmet Kitchen at LG66 Cityland Pioneer, 128 Pioneer street, Brgy. Highway Hills, Mandaluyong City. For deliveries, call them at 570-9708.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Favorite Things : Matahari Indonesian Deli

Aside from pasta and fried rice, one thing I don't think I can live without are chips! Not the healthiest food in the planet but they do give us the comfort that we need after a long hard day at work. It surely hits the right spot, I must say.

Luckily, my husband Paul loves chips as much as I do. The funny thing is he favors potato chips while I truly adore corn chips. Nonetheless, we share the same passion for finding different types of chips here and abroad. Thus, it's not a surprise that for all of our trips, our hand carry luggage is always filled to the brim with ... chips.

matahari

Here in Metro Manila, a trip to SM Megamall will not be complete without passing by Matahari. It's an Indonesian kiosk that sells the best tasting Baked BBQ Cassava Chips and Vegetable Crackers. Initially we would share a 100 grams bag but eventually we realized that this was not enough for sharing thus we both would get our own 100 grams bag each! I love the sweet salty taste of this yummy snack.

matahari cassave chips

Imagine how excited we were upon finding out that Matahari now has a new kiosk in Greenhills! Located within the V-Mall Foodcourt, we can now easily get our fill of cassava chips, cheese sticks and nuts anytime!

matahari rainbow drops

I love how simple Matahari's snack foods are but it surely can be very addicting. They also have Rainbow Drops (Php. 50/100 grams) which are tiny bite-size cookies with hard colorful icing on top. It surely brings back wonderful memories of our childhood.

matahari
Crunchy Chicharon (Crackers) in all types and sizes! 
Make mine the flavorful Onion and Garlic Chicharon (Php. 60/100grams)!


It's also here where I first learned about the Martabak, an Indonesian pancake-like snack. Thanks to the franchise owner of Matahari V-Mall, who made us try his best-selling variant -- the Chocolate and Cheese Martabak (Php 120).

matahari

It was fun watching the sales clerk preparing our Martabak, it has almost the same cooking procedure of a crepe or pancake only it takes the batter longer to cook.

matahari martabak

A word of advise: as soon as the Martabak is ready, I highly recommend that you eat it right away. We enjoyed our first few pieces while we were hanging out at V-Mall but the ones we took home were a bit harder to chew. I'm curious also to just get the Cheese or Chocolate Martabak next time. The mix of sweet chocolate and salty cheese has quite an acquired taste.

Now, no trip to Greenhills would ever be complete without grabbing a bag of chips at Matahari!

We obviously love Matahari. ♥

Check the Matahari kiosk out at the 3rd floor of V-Mall (inside the food court).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to apply for a US Non-Immigrant (Tourist) Visa

I woke up really early today, actually I hardly had a good night sleep as I was so afraid that I might not wake up in time for my US Visa Interview.


US flag

Yes, dear readers, I am finally heading outward Asia and will soon explore the beauty of the West. :) I learned about the trip last month and given that I am scheduled to travel by next month, I basically have two months preparation time. However, thanks to the power of the internet, applying for your US Visa can be pretty easy and quick.

First things first : Check your passport

Be sure to have the brown covered Philippine passport and not the green one. If ever you still carry the green passport, have this renewed ASAP. Visit this website to schedule an interview and read this first in case you're wearing contact lens.

Step two: DS-160

Next step is to visit the Official website of the US Embassy here in Manila to go through the rules and procedure on how to secure a US Visa.

After this, fill up the online DS-160 form. This is the most important form that you'll need as they will be asking you for this in almost every step. Note that you have limited time to fill up the form. Better to have your passport and other documents (past US Visas) on hand.

As soon as you have completed your DS-160, you will be led towards your confirmation page and the same form will be emailed to you. Print it out preferably in colored or laser printer as the barcode will also be included in this form.

Step three: Visa payment

In order to secure your interview appointment, you have to pay the visa fee first. The current amount is $140 (that's depending on the current peso-dollar exchange rate). Head to any BPI outlet and state that you will be paying for your US Visa Application. Present your DS-160 Confirmation Page. Keep the deposit slip at all times.

Step four: Schedule for your interview

Go back online and visit the US Visa Appointment Website, have the following ready:
- Passport
- DS-160 confirmation form
- BPI deposit slip

You will be led to a calendar where you can choose your date and time. You will also be asked for the delivery address of the place where you want your passport/visa to be delivered.

As soon as you have made a reservation, print the interview form.


us visa

Step five: THE BIG DAY

Be sure to go early. By this I mean 45 minutes to and hour before your schedule appointment. Head to the US Embassy in Manila (Roxas Boulevard, across Bayview Hotel/Starbucks Coffee/Yellow Cab/Emerald). Ask the guard on duty where you should stay, most likely he will lead you towards the open waiting area.

Be sure to bring the following:
- Passport
- Visa ID picture
- DS-160 Confirmation Form / Application Form
- Proof of employment (if employed), School documents (for students)
- Proof of income (eg: bank certificate, ITR, other investments)
- NSO certified Birth Certificate / Marriage Certificate
- Photocopy of the first page of your passport
- Other assets (eg: land titles, car registration, etc)

Reminder: Cellular phones, all electronic devices, iPod/iPad, laptops, USB, lighter, weapons and food/drinks are NOT allowed inside the embassy. Better to leave them with your companion or in the car.

Exactly thirty minutes before your schedule time, you will be called in towards the tent area for inspection. This happens in two steps:

- Outside inspection : show your passport, DS-160 confirmation form, receipt and interview form

- Inside inspection : bag check

After which you will be asked to line up in the first counter where the officer will check your essential documents. She/he will be asking you basic questions which was pretty easy (eg: reason for going, your mom's maiden name, etc). At the end of the inspection, the officer will attach a number slip on your form. This will be your guide for the next two steps.

Heading towards the air-conditioned room, take notice of the digital board on the wall. It will flash your number and will direct you to which counter you should go to. It will flash twice, the first is for you to have your fingerprint scanned and the second is for your final interview.

Fingerprint Scanning

Upon arriving at the counter, give the officer your documents (passport, DS-160, number slip) and clearly state your full name and birthday. He/she will then guide you through the scanning process. First put the first four fingers of your left hand on the scanner followed by the first four fingers of your right hand and lastly to scan your two thumbs together. Easy peasy! :) Now, head back to your seat to wait for your number to be called again.

The grand finale: Interview

As soon as your number flashes on the screen, head to the counter to meet your interviewer. Present the same essential documents and wait for him to ask you questions. It's important to just simply answer what is being asked and to be truthful at all times. Have your supporting documents ready just in case he/she asked for it.

At the end of the interview, the officer will then tell you if you will be granted with a Visa or not.

Should you be granted with a US Visa, your passport will be delivered to your mailing address a week or so. Click here to track where your passport is already.

For those who were denied visa to the US, here's some guidelines to take note of:
If an applicant is refused under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and is requested to provide additional information or supporting documents, s/he will receive a 221(g) letter with instructions on how to proceed. S/he will not need to make another appointment or pay another application fee. S/he has one year within which to comply with the requirement of the 221(g) letter.

If an applicant is refused under Section 214(b) or any other section, s/he may reapply as soon as s/he can pay the application fee an appointment through the call center or the online appointment system. While on a second interview s/he will meet with a different officer, please be aware that s/he must still demonstrate strong ties to his/her country. In most cases, it is better to wait until his/her personal circumstances have changed significantly before reapplying. Quick re-applications based largely on the hope of finding a consul more inclined to issue may result in a second refusal.
*source: http://manila.usembassy.gov/wwwhniv5.html
There you go folks! :) 5 easy steps on how to apply for a US Visa! :) Thank God for the power of the internet as everything is literally just a click away! Best of luck to all! :)

*US VISA UPDATE: I got a call from 2Go last Saturday, 3 days after my US Visa Interview informing me that my passport is ready for delivery. Thus, no need to wait for a week or so! Thanks to their new courier service, you'll get your visa/passport in no time! :)

photo credits:
http://stockwatch.in/files/Non-Immigrant-Visa.jpg
http://gkitch.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grab a Slab at Chuck's Deli

Most of the time, I would bring lunch to work. This is mainly due to three reasons :
#1 I am very lazy to go down and look for food...
#2 It doesn't hurt to save a few bucks to give me more reason to splurge during the weekends and...
#3 I find bringing my own lunch to work healthier as my mom makes sure we eat well everyday.

Once in a while, I would request that I will just have a sandwich for lunch. It's when I want to cut back on my fat and calorie intake and when I know I have a busy day ahead.

The only problem I get though is that our new cook is no gourmet chef and her sandwiches pretty much consist of bread + filling. At times, I find myself very hungry and all I got was a piece of tasty with a thin slice of ham. No dressings, no greens, nothing. I almost wanted to cry out of hunger. Oh how I miss our old cook M, who would create superb sandwiches that would truly make my day. No matter how hard my mom would teach her to be more creative, we'd still end up getting sad looking sandwiches. *sigh*

One evening, Paul and I joined the Club for dinner at Chuck's Deli. This is not your usual deli that's filled with sausages, frozen meats and wine. Here, you can just unwind and enjoy a huge slab of your preferred deli sandwich. Since there were 11 of us that evening, we were able to try a whole lot! Muchos gracias also to Chuck Deli's very own Katrina Kuhn-Alcantara who was game enough to let us try her best-sellers.

Let me share with you four of the most amazing sandwiches that I've tasted that evening:


chuck's deli philly cheesesteak

First off was the Philly Cheese Steak (Php. 295) -- whenever given a choice whether to have meat or seafood, I would immediately choose the latter. Thus, it takes a really good piece of tender meat to make me fall in love with it. One bite into the Philly Cheese Steak and I appreciated the tender strips of beef topped with oozing American cheese, onions, mushrooms and bell pepper. This is a manly man's type of sandwich and one look at my husband proved just my point. He was completely in a trance, while sipping his soda, he happily chomped on his sandwich.

What I love was the potato chips (Php. 75). Alone I think I can finish off two full bowls of Chuck Deli's homemade chips. I even asked Katrina if she sells them in a bag which sadly she don't. It's so good most especially when dipped into their garlic sauce.


chuck's deli shepherd

Next was The Shepherd (Php. 355). Upon hearing that it has lamb sausage, I didn't pass up the chance to try this. I love lamb but I can be pretty particular especially with the odor that some lamb can give. No need to worry about that in this sandwich as no smell was detected and I love the simplicity of this sandwich wherein the sausage came on a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber slices and drizzled with Chuck Deli's homemade garlic sauce, nothing can get more simple than this.

From the subwiches, there are two particular slabwiches that I love. You see, Chuck's Deli bakes their own bread so expect to enjoy warm soft bread in every order.


chuck's deli california waki

While subwiches uses hoagie, the flatwiches comes in herbed focaccia bread, while the slabwiches are served in my favorite bread type of all -- Ciabatta. We started off with the California Waki (Php. 225/445) which was my favorite for that evening. I enjoyed the generous serving of kani sticks with mangoes, boiled egg slices, lettuce and wasabi mayo. I'm not sure but it seems like they have also added something crunchy inside which felt like corn flakes or potato chips. It gave this slabwich a whole new character. I'm definitely going back to enjoy my own half slab of California Waki with tons of Potato Chips!


chuck's deli faking duck

Another slabwich worth trying was the Faking Duck (Php. 185 / 335) I told Katrina that I find the names of her sandwiches very cleverly thought of. I shows the effort that they put in every single menu item from the creation of the sandwich down to the name. The Faking Duck is peking-duck inspired sandwich with melt-in-your-mouth roast pork, lettuce, leeks, crispy noodles and hoisin sauce. I love the very tender meat and how it reminds me of our very own cuapao that makes use of hong ma (which is slow-cooked pork) slices with leeks and hoisin sauce too.

To open a purely sandwich-only restaurant in a rice-eating country and still get a full house almost every night, I guess Filipinos have grown to be more flexible when it comes to adding more variety to their dinner options other than rice with a lot of viands. Thus, more and more patrons are ready to head to Chuck's Deli for a slab of good ol' sandwich. Like yours truly for instance. :)

I can't wait to go back to Chuck's Deli and try their other specialties such as The Buffy, Reuben and Off the Hook!

*photo credit: Paul Ang

Chuck's Deli is located at Serendra Piazza, Bonifacio Global City. Call them at 576-4210.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shopping Finds : Muji 3-layer Bookshelf

I've always been a fan of MUJI, a Japanese retail store that carries a wide (and I really mean, WIDE) array of items from house wares to apparels, from bathroom accessories to office and school supplies. As a kid, my dad would bring my sister and I to Sogo in Hong Kong and allow us to choose our new set of school supplies from their beautiful brown notebooks to a set of colorful pens. I guess this was where my love for paper and pen began.

bangkok muji
Muji Central World, Bangkok


Since then, we would make it a point to visit a Muji branch whenever we go out of the country. From Bangkok to Singapore, we enjoyed joining through the different trinkets and food products that I love to bring home with me.

muji

Last year, Muji finally opened its door in Manila! Located at the Bonifacio High Street, Muji is located at the 2nd level of Gap. Paul and I wasted no time and off we went to check Muji Manila out. It was perfect timing that we were fixing up our new rooms and we surely have a lot of furnishings to do.

Paul, the forever handyman, headed straight towards the rows of bookshelves and stand-alone shelves. We are always on a look out for additional storage spaces as we both agreed to keep our room tidy and definitely clutter-free. With the help of the sales clerk, he carefully got the measurements of the available shelves and called me over to make our choice. We both love the clean, sleek look of the bookshelf yet we decided to give it more time and to think it over.

Yesterday, we found ourselves back in Muji with the entire family. Once again, we headed towards the bookshelf and this time we both made the final choice to buy it. Showing it to my parents, they both agreed that it was a good choice and the best part was it was definitely a great deal!

muji

We got the three layer slim bookcase for only Php. 1,550! That is very reasonable given that it's made in Japan somehow assuring us of top quality, light weight material. It was also very easy to assemble as it only took Paul thirty minutes to open the box, arrange the pieces inside and to successfully assemble our beautiful slim bookcase.

muji
Sleek edges, don't you think?


Will definitely be back for more Muji great finds! I'm particularly eyeing the pretty black boots that I can wear on my upcoming trip!

Up next, a comfy TV couch. :)

Muji can be found at the Bonifacio Highstreet, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Afternoon Merienda at Via Mare

Today's my dear Mommy's birthday and to celebrate her special day, I shall talk about one of her favorite restaurant -- Via Mare. It's here where she introduced us to real good Pancit Luglug where we would happily share on one order. This is on top of her other must-orders such as the Bibingka, Puto Bumbong and their wide array of AlTangHap.

A couple of days ago, wanting to have a slight change in environment for our regular meeting, I invited my colleague ML for an afternoon snack at Via Mare. I was, in fact, craving for a plate of Pancit Luglug and I'm glad that she was game enough to go with my choice.

We were quickly ushered to our seats as the restaurant was not that full at that hour of the day. Via Mare has been around for as long as I can remember. We would even frequent their branch in Greenbelt 1 whenever Mommy and Papa would allow us to tag along as they go to the office during our summer break. My favorite was the AlTangHap it stands for the three meals of the day: Almusal (breakfast) - Tanghalian (lunch) - Hapunan (dinner). In other words, the choices under this category can be eaten at any time of the day.

via mare pancit luglug

Aside from that, I also love their Pancit Luglug (Php. 195) which was what I got that day. I love the plump clear noodles with thick orange sauce cooked with shrimp, meat broth, pork rind (chicharon) and topped with slices of hard-boiled egg and shrimps. It's very similar to Pancit Palabok which uses a thinner type of clear noodles.

I love how well Via Mare can cook the Pancit Luglug keeping the noodles al dente and the sauce thick and delicious.

via mare puto maya

ML, on the other hand, loves the Puto Maya (Php. 135). This is something new for me. Upon hearing the name, it reminds me of a local childhood phrase that is commonly used to describe a copycat (gaya gaya puto maya). This dish is no copycat as Via Mare has created a beautiful medley of sweet mangoes, sticky flavorful rice and thick coconut sauce. No duplications there, all original!

My dad is a huge sticky-rice fan and I'm sure he'd appreciate this dish. Will make a mental note to take him to Via Mare to try the Puto Maya soon. I love how delicious the sticky rice was. It has a flavor on its own whereas most local delicasies would have bland sticky rice that have to be dipped into coconut sauce, chocolate, sugar or anything that would help perk up the flavor. This one can be eaten as is but I still highly recommend that you take a piece of sweet mango, take a slice of the sticky rice and drop a dollop of coconut sauce on top. As ML would say, it's make your own suman! I'm glad she introduce me to a new must-order on my succeeding visits.

The food was great but I just have to say that the service needs a bit of improvement. Most of the waiters were really snooty that it can take them a while to get you an extra piece of fork or whenever asked for additional paper napkins, some would even frown before actually complying to your request. We were there at 4PM and there were only 5 tables being serviced, majority of the wait-staff were just standing around trying hard to avoid your waves and calls as much as they can. At first, I kept this comment to myself but eventually I told ML that the service was unsatisfactory to which she admitted that she felt the same way.

Via Mare has been around for a long time and while the food was still consistent good, I hope they would improve on their service to keep their loyal patrons in. I think the only time our waiter was extra attentive was when I asked for the bill. Could he be a teeny-weeny glad that we're finally leaving? I hope not..

Via Mare is located at the Ground Floor, Edsa Shangrila Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City. Call them at 631-1506 / 632-0350.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kampai! Enjoying a Sake Degustation Menu at Umu

Ever since our stay last December 2009, I've grown very fond of Dusit Thani Manila due to its beautiful grand lobby, accessibility to two major shopping malls (Ayala Center and SM), beautiful guest rooms and most of all, the food as dining at any of its restaurants has always been a delightful experience.

umu dusit thani manila

I was back at the hotel again as I was invited to join a special Japanese dinner at Umu. I immediately confirmed my attendance and made sure I won't be late for my dinner date. At the start of the program, the head chef performed the Kagami-biraki which is the traditional way usually done in celebratory events where the chef used a wooden mallet to signal the start of the party and all guests will be served with a cup of sake.

As we await our first dish, we were given a glass of cold Zipang (Sparkling Sake) which was very smooth and light. Sake is to Japan as wine is to France. This can normally be seen in dinner tables as Japanese would have this while enjoying their meals or as they unwind after a busy day at work.

umu dusit thani manila

First on the table was a tall champagne glass with Ebi Siso and Soft Shell Crab Furai beside it. The ebi siso is not your typical tempura as it's wrapped with obba leaf before coating it with breading and deep frying. The soft shelled crabs was very delicious too. I love crabs and I enjoy the convenience of just biting into the tiny piece of crab complete with meat and shell. No need to fear of hurting your gums as the crab shell is very soft and chewable. The soft shelled crab furai was prepared like a prawn fritter on a soup spoon. I enjoyed this very much while sipping on my Zipang.

photos 029

Up next was a saucer filled with thinly sliced Sashimi -- Lapu-lapu and Salmon. To be honest, I proceeded with caution as it has been two months since I had something raw after recovering from that nasty amoebiasis that I had last November. Well, I assured myself that definitely Umu follows the highest standards when it comes to food sanitation but for extra measures, I requested for some wasabi to add into my soy sauce. One taste and I suddenly miss eating sashimi. I was reminded of how delicious a slice of fresh fish is. I know it will take me some time to really get over the amobiasis trauma but I'm glad to be able to have a small dose of raw sashimi that evening.

photos 030

Third dish on the table was the salad. We had Kaisou Sarada with Onion Dressing. This time, the server gave us a small Japanese shot glass and poured Gekkeikan (hot sake) into it. With just one sip, I could strongly taste the alcohol in this sake. Too strong for my taste. I really do prefer the Zipang over the Gekkeikan.

umu dusit thani manila

Meanwhile, I loveeee the salad! I love seaweeds but I've never had it purely in a salad. I found it so refreshing and the onion dressing was very yummy too. It actually reminds me of my favorite potato chips dip.

At this point, I was starting to feel very full already. Who would have thought that the appetizer, sashimi and salad can be very filling. It's a good thing Umu slowly paced our dinner giving us enough time to chat with our dinner companions and to allow the food to slowly digest itself while we wait for the next course. Of course, I was very excited for what was up ahead.

teppanyaki umu dusit thani manila

Just right in time, out came the highlight of our meal -- Suzuki Teppanyaki (Iron-grilled Seabass) and Saikoro Steak (Beef cubes steak with grilled vegetables). It was arranged daintily in a long white platter and I had to pause for a while to decide which one to try first.

umu dusit thani manila

I went for the veggies. They have provided us with three different sauces, one for each piece -- vegetable, steak and fish. Slowly, I picked one piece at a time and sliced it up. I got one piece without the sauce and another dipped into it. With or without the sauce, each piece was heavenly. I love the seabass the most, the tender meat that melts into my mouth, it was delicious as it is and all I needed was a bowl of fragrant Japanese rice and that would make a wonderful meal for me.

Makimono umu dusit thani manila

It has been a wonderful dinner but wait, Umu's not yet done. After the trio of teppanyaki items out came a trio of rolled sushi -- Umu Maki, Ebi Furai on Rice Paper and Tekkamaki.  I love how the presentation made on these rolls as it shows the creativity of the sushi chef. The tekkamaki has fresh tuna sashimi inside, once again another piece of fresh raw meat that I enjoyed very much. The Ebi Furai has hot sauce poured on top, I took a careful bite and enjoyed the crunchy shrimp inside an equally crispy rice paper. What I loved the most was the Umu Maki, fresh salmon sashimi with avocado and cream cheese rolled on vinegared rice and piled up with crunchy orange ebiko. It's very similar to my favorite Philadephia Roll yet the ebiko gave a very interesting crunch to every bite.

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Last but definitely not the least was dessert. Of course, every meal should have a sweet ending and with that we were serve with a glass of Plum Wine and a bowl of homemade Coconut Ice Cream. This is one that somehow deviated from the over-all Japanese feel but I was surprise that the Coconut Ice Cream goes pretty well with the sweet Plum Wine. "It grows on you", I told my dinner date Minette as I scoop up more coconut ice cream from my bowl .

It was a lovely dinner and I truly enjoyed sampling Umu's specialty dishes. I can't wait to head back for my special dinner date with Paul as we'll surely head straight to the teppanyaki table and stuff ourselves silly with the most tender cuts of meat and freshest seafood.


*photo credit: Dusit Thani Manila / Umu (Makimoto photo)

Visit Umu at the ground level of the Dusit Thani Manila Hotel, Ayala Center corner EDSA in Makati City. Call 8673333 for reservations.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The APPLE of my eye

Call it impulse buy..it's actually the best type of purchase ever done when you just instantly fall deeply in love with a particular item the moment you lay your eyes on it. It's the new age way of love at first sight.

Thanks to my dear husband who gives in to my occasional impulsive shopping behavior and who sits through my lengthy speeches of justifying "why I needed that particular object of desire"..and mind you, I will not stop still he says YES. I am indeed a lucky girl.

ipod touch

Today was a happy day as I came home and was greeted with a small rectangular plastic case that contains my newest baby! It's my new 32GB iPod Touch and it's finally home!!

This will be my newest travel buddy as it will not only save me from boredom but will be our guide as we navigate our way around town.

ipod touch
Truly, the APPLE of my eye

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bubblegum and everything nice at Krispy Kreme!

Krispy Kreme brightened up our Tuesday morning by sending over a box of their newest product that's bright green and has a very familiar scent. It was perfect time as Paul and I were actually on our way out for work and he was still feeling a bit hungry from breakfast so this special donut was like heaven's answer to his hunger pleas.

krispy kreme green hornet

He took a quite bite and commented that the icing tastes like Coney Island's Bubblegum Ice Cream. He offered me a bite to which I took and it actually reminded me of my favorite childhood bubblegum brand -- Bazooka. Personally though, I am not a fan of overly sweet nor minty donuts so the Original Glazed Donuts are still my #1 favorite.

This is a limited time offering as it is Krispy Kreme's way of welcoming the launch of the first ever blockbuster movie this year -- The Green Hornet. A show, we're both very familiar with as we grew up catching certain episodes of the TV Series. Paul remembers Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher by day and who is the Green Hornet at night. He has an Asian side kick named Kato who accompanies him in his missions. It sure is exciting to watch The Green Hornet as it hits the big screens pretty soon.

Meanwhile, be sure to try Krispy Kreme's special The Green Hornet donuts that has a sweet bubble gum taste that kids will surely love. It's only available in stores until February 13, 2011.

Thank you KK for the donuts!! :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

[PROMO ALERT!] It's time for RENT

It has been a while since Paul and I went to watch a stage play. The last was the 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee which happened more than a year ago. Oh I can't wait to go and watch another stage play again in order for us to enrich ourselves culturally and musically!

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and one good way to spend this red-letter day is by watching one of the multi-awarded theater productions that's coming back to Manila this February!

RENT

Presenting RENT -- a musical production that is based on Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. The story revolves around a group of impoverished young artists and musicians living in New York's Lower East Side while dealing with their personal issues and for three of them, as they battle HIV/AIDS.

While I have not watched the play myself, but I am familiar with one famous song that I truly love -- Seasons of Love
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?
It's talks a lot about what love can do. Truly, love can really make the world go round!

Check out RENT on February 12,2011 (Saturday), 8PM at the RCBC Plaza.

Tickets rates are as follows:
800 - Balcony
1,200 - Loge Last Row
1,700 - Loge Sides & Center
1,700 - Orchestra Sides
2,000 - Orchestra Center

Click here to check for available seats.

For reservations & inquiries, you can contact Minnie Fong at amillionmiracles@gmail.com or 0917-8676332.

PROMO ALERT!!!

Here's my Valentine's Day gift to ALL of my dear readers!

From today (January 19, 2011) up until January 31, 2011; all readers of Frannywanny.com will get a special 10% discount in EVERY ticket purchase. All you have to do is to mention "Frannywanny RENT" to Minnie Fong within this promo duration and she will immediately grant you the 10% discount!

Thus, the special ticket price for ALL readers* are:
Orchestra Center - Php 1,800
Orchestra Sides - Php 1,530
Loge Center - Php 1,530
Loge Sides - Php 1,080
Balcony - Php 720

* you have to buy the tickets within the promo period

Note:
1. This is not valid for purchases made before and after the promo period.
2. All sales are final.
3. Not valid in conjunction with other promos.
4. Not valid for refund for previous purchases made.


Want to win a pair of tickets? Join the Official Frannywanny.com Facebook Page and watch out for upcoming announcements! :)

It's a date, dear readers!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

[RANT] Philippine Passport Renewal : Have Contact Lens? Proceed with Caution

Dear Readers,

Allow me to interrupt my regular food blogging to share something that left a really bad taste on the mouth or shall I say a truly traumatizing experience for my sister as she renewed her Philippine Passport yesterday afternoon.


A month ago, I personally logged in to the new DFA Passport Appointment System, which I honestly think was pretty cool and modern for our government to have, and took care of scheduling my sister's passport renewal which was set yesterday, January 17 at 130PM.

Last night, I repeatedly reminded her to go early as I had a feeling that there might be a line which might cause her some delay for about 30 minutes to an hour. I've read up on the experience of a fellow blogger which made me confident that things over at the DFA has tremendously improved and my sister will be able to have her passport renewed in no time....

...boy was I WRONG.

My sister only took a short break from work to have her passport renewed. She arrived at the DFA at exactly 1PM, 30 minutes before her scheduled time. There was already a line and by the time she got in, it was already 230PM. The procedure was supposed to be easy.

Step 1: Go to the Appointment Center to present all required documents

Step 2: Fill up the remaining blanks on your application form

Step 3: Go to the cashier to pay your passport fee

Step 4: Proceed to the Encoding counter

Step 5: Have your picture taken

Step 6: Choose your delivery option

Then you're done! Sounds pretty simple right?

Well my sister was there up until past 6PM (that's a total of 6 hours worth of waiting time!) but that's not where things got ugly. She followed the steps and patiently lined up with all the hundred applicants inside who also had to skip work to wait for their passports to be renewed. At this point, you can just see that with the length of time you have to spend in just renewing your passport, it kinda speaks a lot about the speed and efficiency of our friends over at the DFA center.

When it was my sister's turn for the picture taking, she went straight to counter 24 and the "photographer/encoder/whateveryouallhim" asked her if she's wearing contact lens. She said yes and he told her that this was not allowed. She needs to take it out prior to having her photo taken. This shocked my sister as it was not stated ANYWHERE in their website about wearing contact lens. The guy continued to threaten her that if she continues to have her photo taken, the QA department won't allow this and she needs to do it all over again.

After waiting for 6 long hours, the last thing my sister wanted was to stay longer at the DFA. Unfortunately, she didn't have her case with her nor did she bring a solution for her contact lens. Come on, who would bring those things knowing you will be wearing your contact lens the entire day?

The smart aleck DFA guy then told her to just take it off and wash it with water before returning it back to her eye. Obviously he knows nothing about contact lens and how you have to be careful in keeping it clean or face the risk of getting your eyes infected. My sister refused and he then offered her a case which he said no one owns and she will be the first to use it. She opened the case and she saw dust and residue at the bottom of the case... I guess he's right, she will definitely be the first to use it...THAT DAY.

Thus, her idea was to just get the case and pay for it. For those who are knowledgeable about contact lens and basic hygiene, I apologize if you are already cringing by now.

Left with no choice, my sister place her lens on the case and had her photo taken. After this was done, the guy asked for the case back, she explained again to him that she can't wear her contact lens again as she do not have the solution with her and she even tried to put it back after running it under water but to no avail. Her eyes were starting to get red at this point. My sister just insisted that she will pay for the owner-less case but finally the guy slipped up and said someone owns the case. This is starting to sound disgusting right?

After a long argument and still the DFA encoders just couldn't get the logic of wearing contact lens, they finally let my sister go..yes with the dirty case and her lens inside.

Which makes me wonder:
1) How come there was no mention about contact lens being prohibited during your passport renewal in the website, onsite, in whatever form of communication that they could probably have released for the public to know (note that my sister's contact lens are clear and not colored) and..
2) Do they really know nothing about hygiene and do they really subject every single applicant with clear contact lens to the same ordeal?

What was supposed to be at least a two hour process turned into a six hour ordeal for my sister who was forever traumatize by renewing her Philippine passport. Not only did she lost 6 productive hours at work, she had to have to contact lens professionally cleaned tomorrow and she left DFA angry, tired and frustrated at the system.

Dear DFA, what you did was not cool..sure you have an online scheduling system but I think you really have to train your staff on following the time schedule, being efficient and knowing a little thing or two about hygiene.

*photo credit: http://alxjm.com/2010/02/23/passport-application-requirements/

Monday, January 17, 2011

Uno, Dos, TRES!

I guess I can say that I am very lucky to be blessed with a handful of great friends. They are the kind of friends whom I can definitely trust and count on in good times and bad. These friends are those whom I've grown up with and have spent countless memories of fun school years together. It's funny though that I find myself part of a number of trios, which clearly shows that Three is NOT a Crowd.

Here's one trio that has been together for more than five years -- it all began in our university, UA&P, where we were all active members of the student council. E was the finance officer that school year where I was part of her office that launched the first ever UA&P discount card. C was the one who took over this big project and brought it to new heights the following year. I really couldn't remember the nitty-gritty details of how our trio was born but I can probably say that it was simply because we all got along really well and the rest was history.

There's a running joke that we only get to meet up every six months, it's funny because even how hard we try, we really do end up meeting six months after. Nonetheless, this does not, in any way, weaken our bond and it surely makes every lunch or dinner interesting as there are a million and one stories to be shared.

tres cuisine

It has been six months since our last meeting and the trio met up for lunch at Tres Cuisine. C has been inviting us to try it out since last year but due to our busy schedules it was pushed back to just last Saturday. I did my research before heading out for lunch and boy, was I excited. I read about their delicious Filipino dishes and even on our way there, C was telling me about her personal favorites. Thus, we left the ordering up to her.

We arrived a little past one and feeling a bit hungry, I guess we ordered a little bit too much for our party of three. Here's what we got:

tres cuisine crispy hito

Crispy Ginataang Hito (Php. 273)
A true WINNER! I love every bite of the crunchy catfish (hito) fillet topped with creamy coconut sauce and garlic bits. I also enjoyed munching on the kamote chips that came with it and dipping it into the same sauce as well. This immediately became our favorite as it was our first time to enjoy catfish prepared this way.

tres cuisine lamb adobo

Lamb Adobo (Php. 353)
This was my request after reading about it in reviews online. While I love the tender lamb chunks, I find the sauce a bit too salty for my taste. I guess my taste buds have become extra sensitive particularly to salty and sweet flavors. It goes perfectly well with rice though and I'm glad that the lamb was well-prepared so you should not fear of any awful smell from the meat.

tres cuisine gising gising

Gising Gising (Php. 133)
To balance off our very meaty line-up, C ordered her favorite Gising-gising. When translated to English, the name literally means Wake-up Wake-up. I guess there must be some reason for naming this dish so as one bite of the Gising-gising will surely...wake you up! It's a spicy mix of Baguio beans, ground meat, coconut milk and chilli. It's spicy and delicious, it will make you want more rice with it.

tres cuisine kalkag rice

Kalkag Rice (Php. 133)
Speaking of rice, C also recommended the Kalkag Rice which a notch above our typical garlic rice as they have added a generous amount of kalkag (dried shrimps) on top. I love the slight crunch that I get in every spoonful and the rice goes perfectly well with all the other dishes that we had on the table that day. I'm definitely going back for more Kalkag Rice on my next visit.

tres cuisine ampalaya ensalada

Ensaladang Ampalaya (Php. 93)
When enjoying Filipino food, it's best to pair this with salad, be it with green mangoes, tomatoes and salted egg or in Tres Cuisine's case -- the Ensaladang Ampalaya. A platter of chopped bitter gourd (that's not bitter, trust me) and dried baby shrimps on top. I've grown fond of eating ampalaya (bitter gourd) just last year and I haven't stopped since. In fact, my family and in-laws know how much I love it that I ended up having ampalaya for four consecutive days just last week! This is my favorite ampalaya dish as the sour vinegar as dressing that miraculously takes away the bitterness of the vegetable.

tres cuisine crispy pata

Crispy Pata (Php. 393 --> Php 33!!)
Tres Cuisine has an amazing promo! For a minimum bill of P1,000, you can have their Crispy Pata for only P33! That's a great deal! Since we qualify for this promo, it was hard to say no and even knowing that our table will definitely be filled with food, we said yes to the 33 Peso Crispy Pata! How I wish Paul was with us that lunch as he would have probably enjoyed this dish tremendously. The skin was crackling in every bite and the meat was pretty tender. Just like the Crispy Ginataang Hito, it came with more Kamote Chips which we happily munch on while swapping stories.

tres cuisine ube langka dessert

Banana Ube Turon with Langka Sauce (Php. 73)
For dessert, C highly recommended the Banana Ube Turon with Langka Sauce. The moment the server placed the plate down, I can smell the jackfruit (langka) sauce and it surely smelled delicious. We each got a piece of turon and generously spread the jackfruit cream on top. I love the filling with banana and ube halaya, it has just the right amount of sweetness that highly complements the creamy langka sauce. This is definitely a must-try!

How I wish Tres Cuisine would open more branches near the Ortigas area. I'm sure residents of San Juan, Mandaluyong and Pasig would truly appreciate this new player in the Filipino cuisine in this part of town. I'm glad though that SM North EDSA is just an an easy twenty minute drive and on a light day perhaps we can get there faster. I love the location as it is at the Ground Floor facing a parking lot. For those who are too hungry to wait (like us), valet parking is available for Php. 90 for the entire day.

Tres Cuisine is located at SM City North Edsa The Block. Contact them at 352-7030 / 0908 -8937786.
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