Wednesday, August 31, 2011

[Crumpler : Guess what's in the Bag!] ...and the winner is!!

In the span of 10 days, I got a total of 319 valid entries! Every single entry, I carefully logged them in an excel file to ensure that I got everyone's name in. The contest has come to an end and for the last time, I would like to ask you all....

crumpler bag

Guess what's in the bag? :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Specially dedicated to my readers....

Dear readers,

Nothing makes my day brighter than meeting you. Everyday, I still get thrilled over receiving an email notification that a comment has been left on my blog and yes, after four whole years, I still try my best to reply to all of them.

readers knorr2
Bumped into blog readers Jemai and Monica during the Yummy cooking demo.
You guys make my day. The times when I would get to meet readers who would tell me how my travel entries have helped them with their own itineraries. Really, nothing makes me feel more fulfilled as a blogger than knowing that I was able to help..in my own little way, I hope I have contributed in making your trips more fun and satisfying (for your eyes and tummy at least).

readers knorr
Knorr endorsers Annie and Frannywanny and Yummy lover Bajeng
Just recently, I met up with 4 college students who have been readers of my blog that they actually somehow have memorized a couple of restaurant reviews posted here. To say it's flattering is an understatement.

readers thesis
Paul and I with the amazing thesis team
Continue to make my days brighter, dear readers. Don't be afraid to come up and say hi. I promise that I won't bite (even if I'm hungry hehe).

Love, Frannywanny

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A new airline in town: AirAsia Philippines

Looks like we, Filipinos, will be able to travel more often come 4th quarter of this year as we welcomed AirAsia Philippines that flew all the way from Toulouse, France and landed at the Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark, Pampanga last August 15. I shall step aside and let Paul tell you about his experience as he was able to witness the arrival of the new low-cost carrier that will definitely add more excitement to the travel industry.

It's pretty obvious that Fran and I love to travel. In fact, we have been slowing down with our travel plans lately after a back-to-back vacation to the United States and to Taipei, Taiwan early this year. Traveling, despite how fun and enriching it may be, can really hurt your pocket if it wasn't planned and scheduled properly.

Thankfully, as travelers, we get to have more options nowadays to travel within a budget. There are a lot of low-cost carriers that can fly domestic and international at a very cheap rate. Of course, you just have to discount the fact that no meals will be served and luggage weight limit is significantly lower as oppose to flying with major airlines. I, for one, don't mind since going to Hong Kong would only take us a little more than an hour so I would just save my appetite for the numerous food items that I can indulge in the moment I touchdown at the Chek Lap Kok Airport.

air asia philippines

I joined the shuttle bus that took a couple of bloggers and media crew to Clark, Pampanga. It's funny that despite being a cabalen, myself, I've never been inside Diosdado Macapagal Airport as almost everyone flies out from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. Personally, I like the airport as it's clean and of course, has less foot traffic. Definitely less chaotic and since it's small, you can immediately check in and head to the boarding area in no

airasia philippines

We waited for a while and at exactly 11AM the new AirAsia Philippines landed and was given a water cannon salute which was a tradition done to new airplanes. This is the first of 4 AirAsia Philippines planes that will be sent to our country, the 2nd will arrive later this year and the last two to be delivered by 2012.

air asia philippines

Fran and I were able to try AirAsia last year as we flew to Malaysia from Singapore. I remembered that we both enjoyed the flight and were pretty please with the size of the legroom and seats despite it being a low-cost airline. Fran even wanted to order some Beef Rendang to try but the flight just took exactly an hour not allowing passengers to fully enjoy a hot meal.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why I love my Scottie

As I end this work week and am raring to start my long weekend, I came home to see my cute furry orange-brown pomeranian waiting for me. Scottie is a boy dog but instead of being fierce and scary, he's really sweet and adorable that he would wait for every single member of the family to get home before he finally sleeps at night. The moment we walk in, he would excitedly go around us turning around and around like a merry-go-round and he would sniff and lick our toes till we tell to stop.

scottie pomeranian

I love talking to Scottie, call me crazy but my little smart dog really do respond! Of course, he doesn't talk back (and I'm hoping he never will or that would freak me out) but check this video out on how he would react to my voice.



It's totally hilarious it drove me nuts laughing for one full hour. Please ignore my nasal voice. :P

I ♥ ♥ ♥ you, my dear Scottie.
Stay as sweet, cute and funny as you always are.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spanish Flair at Alba Restaurante Español in Tomas Morato

"Hi, I'm Frannywanny and I'm a group buying site addict. *hic*"

I have three favorite group buying sites that I frequent on a weekly basis. For me, they all have the best formula :

good choices of restaurants + irresistible discounts and promotions


All three sites offer the chance for me to either try a new restaurant or go back to an old favorite packaged with an amazing discount that helps me save and keep my wallet on a healthy state. How else can I say no?

Recently, I bought two coupons from Deal Grocer that will enable Paul and I to partake in the daily buffet of Alba Restaurante Español -- a favorite Spanish restaurant of ours which we used to frequent with our families to celebrate certain milestones such as Paul's college graduation a few years ago.

Admittedly, it has been a while since we've been back and when I bought the coupon, I wasn't even planning to make reservations as I thought the restaurant won't be full anyway. I'm glad my OC-self pushed me to call a few hours before dinner last Saturday because despite arriving at exactly 7PM we were surprised to see that the restaurant was already filled with diners which normally isn't the case with most restaurants. I guess Alba hasn't lost its charm.

I noticed though that the restaurant seemed to have undergone a renovation as the dining area became smaller and there were no more full dividers unlike before. The buffet table occupied one huge area near the counter and Paul and I were seated quite near it.

alba's spanish buffet

To be honest, I find the ambiance a bit to dark, old and quite run-down. There were no more pretty centerpieces on the table and all you'll get are the basic utensils which totally removes the formal dining feel. Growing up, I saw Alba as a great dating place where it used to have warm lights, pretty interiors and romantic Spanish songs played all night long. Here, I imagine having a good chat with my date while sharing their delicious paella. Somehow, the dark and old ambiance of the restaurant doesn't make Alba a desirable dating place anymore.

Ironically, Paul and I went there on a date. It has been a while since we've been out that's just the two of us thus we were both excited to eat at Alba and enjoy their famous paella that evening.

The selections on the buffet table was pretty limited but one reason why people would still go back for it is probably because they give out their best-selling dishes and that's what matters. This is truly an example when quality definitely beats quantity.

We started with the appetizer table where Paul tried the fresh greens while I enjoyed the three types of pates. My personal favorite was the Quezo Pate (cheese pate) which was literally a bowl filled with melted cheese. It was delicious and comforting at the same time.

alba's spanish buffet
Baked Oysters that Paul said was delicious. I tried the Fish Spring Rolls which was pretty good provided you should have this with the garlic dip and some spicy Mushroom al Ajillo too.

If there's one dish that I make sure to to order whenever I'm at Alba is definitely their Paella. I love their Paella Valenciana where it has practically everything! A good mix of meat, seafood and veggies. I also love the Paella Marinara if I'm not in the mood to have meat and of course the black Paella Negra that has the best tutong (burnt bottom layer) among all three.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hyphy's at the Veranda of Robinsons Galleria

I love having afternoon merienda (snack) with my sister. This is because, being a food lover like myself, a simple pack of saltine crackers is definitely not enough for her to qualify this as an afternoon snack. For us, our merienda may be in the form of a plate of fresh sashimi or sushi, a bowl of Tortilla chips complete with a wide-array of dips and a lot more. This habit we got while growing up with my Kongkong who would go the extra mile to cook a bowl of bihon soup or take us all out for a dimsum feast for merienda.

One afternoon, we found ourselves strolling around Robinsons Galleria after one of my cooking demos (note: I organize cooking demos and am not the chef of the demo :P). Since I was feeling a bit stressed out and tired from standing for hours and managing the crowd, she suggested that we grab something to eat. I just love my sister for giving amazing suggestions!

Off we went to the new Veranda section of the mall. We've tried almost all of the restaurants in the strip except for Hyphy's and La Creperie. We agreed to try Hyphy's first.

Hyphy's is the brainchild of Chef Bruce Lim, who also owns Chef's Table. The line-up in Hyphy's presents a mix of San Francisco-Pinoy dishes that Chef Bruce grew up to.

hyphy galleria chef bruce lim

My sister has forever been craving for fries thus she zeroed in on the Garlic Fries (Php. 120). The serving was pretty ok but I was initially expecting each potato strip to be fully coated with garlic bits and fried to perfection. What we got were pale-looking fries which were pretty crunchy but if you miss out on the chopped herb garlic sprinkled on top, then you'll find yourself munching on plain salted fries.

hyphy galleria chef bruce lim

A few weeks prior to our visit, I was chatting with friends Richard and Irene who told me that Hyphy's Calamansi Tuyo Pasta (Php. 130) was pretty good. I made a mental note to try that and I'm glad my sister was game to have pasta too. The noodles were pretty al dente and I love how fragrant the tuyo has made the entire dish to be. Well, I guess this depends whether or not you like the smell of tuyo (salted fish). There's a piece of calamansi (lime) at the side allowing you to control the amount of calamansi juice that you'd like to add into your pasta dish. Will definitely bring Paul to try this next time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chihuahua Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar

Ay Chihuahua

When I think of Mexican food, I think of crunchy taco, delicious burrito and huge glasses of margarita. In my mind, I paint a fun colorful picture of people eating, drinking and dancing. This was exactly the vibe that I got the moment I set foot inside Chihuahua, a new Mexican restaurant along busy Makati avenue.

chihuahua makati

I was warmly greeted by owners Ines Cabarrus, Elian Habayeb and my dear friend Spanky who have arranged this fun get-together with fellow bloggers. We walked up towards the counter and the first thing I've noticed was that one wall was filled with bottles of hot sauce. These are all from the collection of the owners! I love staring at the colorful bottles, some even have a funny name.  I wonder how my collections of Donald Duck and Hello Kitty items as well as my Starbucks City Mugs would look like if I display them up as well? :P

chihuahua makati

Truly a gracious host, Ines offered some drinks the moment we arrived -- I got a cup of Kool-Aid while Paul got some Lemonade. Taking a sip of the Kool-Aid juice brought back wonderful childhood memories but sadly, I find it a tad too sweet for my taste. Luckily, Paul was happy to swap drinks with me where in I enjoyed his Lemonade more.

chihuahua makati

For starters, we had a bowl of Nacho Grande (Php. 245), I was surprised that it came in a big stainless bowl filled with crunchy tortilla chips, topped with chili con carne, tomatoes, guacamole, cheese, special cheese sauce, jalapeño and sour cream. It's fully loaded and perfect to share with friends. Paul and I shared this with our favorite double date couple Richard and Irene. We noticed that the cheese sauce was a bit spicy that it's pretty tolerable when taken with the crunchy chips but as it hits the soggy ones, the spicy level intensifies. Still, the chips were delicious and perhaps next time I'll order the Chips and Queso with additional order of Guacamole and Sour Cream to make sure no chips gets soggy throughout the meal. Definitely a must-try!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Milk Tea Love at TeaTap Cafe in P. Guevarra, San Juan

I truly appreciate restaurants and coffee shops that dedicates a sufficient amount of time and effort to details. For me details is just as important as making sure you get the word out there, it's just as crucial as ensuring that your products are of top quality. Details creates the best ambiance and by giving your customers a good feeling every time they step into your store will surely bring back bigger rewards.

Tonight, Paul and I went out on a date. Yes, after killing ourselves with months filled with busy weekends, we decided to just relax and go out tonight. Let me tell you more about our *ahem* romantic dinner date in the next few days. What I'm excited to share is where we ended up hanging out for our night cap before heading back home.

After dinner, I decided to text my two girl friends J1 and J2 to ask what were their Saturday night plans. J1 told me she's spending time with her family while J2 immediately called me and invited us to join her and boyfriend K for dinner. Since we were so full from our dinner date, we then agreed to just meet up for milk tea (yes, milk tea is the new coffee, kids) and J2 suggested that we go to TeaTap Cafe.


teatap san juan

I first heard about TeaTap from my colleagues but quickly brushed this info aside thinking that it is just another new player in the milk tea industry. After all, there's Serenitea leading the pack and ChaTime quickly closing the gap. Exactly how many players can there be? It's pretty convenient too that the two leading players are located really close to home making it easy to satisfy my milk tea craving at any time of the day.

TeaTap Cafe is located at the Ongpauco Sisters building taking the place of where Barrio Fiesta used to be. First thing we noticed was that they have more parking spaces compared to the two milk tea cafes. I love the fact that we didn't have to go out of busy Wilson street to get to TeaTap Cafe.

teatap san juan

I love the cozy looking design of the store. It has a "porch" where people can hang out should they prefer the outdoor sitting. Inside, they have cozy looking chairs and lighting perfect to just relax, surf the net or bond with friends. As we entered the cafe, I admired the cute white toy cat sitting beside the Welcome banner. What a cutie!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

[CONTEST ALERT!!!] Crumpler : Guess what's in the Bag?

Lately, I've been feeling quite restless. Despite trying my best to relax every weekend, I feel that there's something missing...

Today I woke up and realized that it has been 5 whole months since we've last traveled and that's when I got my answer. I miss traveling and that's what's missing in my life right now. Paul and I have been so busy that we haven't been out of Metro Manila since April for our Taiwan trip. For someone who used to travel at least once a month before, five months of no traveling activity is truly hazardous to my health.

crumpler

Well, we're taking it step by step. First, we've booked a couple of short trips scheduled in the next few months. Next, here I am again reading up on our next target destinations, soon will be working on our itineraries. Lastly, we were gifted with this amazing bag that we will surely be bringing with us on our next trip.

It's a pretty Crumpler Spring Peeper with Wheels (Php. 9,850)! The perfect answer to our never-ending luggage problem!

I admit I am not a light packer. Much to Paul's frustrations, I have the tendency to bring the entire closet with me when I pack. Be it for a 3 day weekend or a 2 weeks vacation, I manage to max out the weight limit of our luggages and I'm sure glad I get to check in with Paul as I can take advantage of his luggage weight too. :P

What I need is a good hand carry where I can store my jacket, magazine/s and at times, a laptop which I bring with me inside the plane. I hate lugging around heavy and bulky eco bags that makes my back and shoulder hurt after a few hours of carrying it around.

What we love about the Crumpler Spring Peeper bag is how lightweight it is. Since it's built-in with wheels, it will be easy for us to just pull the bag around while we wait for our plane to arrive or even while shopping around in Hong Kong where we can conveniently put our shopping bags inside. I also love luggages with lots of pockets and this one has zippered pockets inside and outside the bag. It even has one rubberized pocket where we can dump all our wet items should we be using this on a swimming trip.

Safety is a big factor for us and the Spring Peeper has a provision to put a padlock between two zippers to discourage nasty thieves from opening our bag. The luggage is water-resistant and is made of the best materials to avoid wheels to jam and to allow the bag to stand vertically without support.


crumpler

Lastly, this is perfect for all OC travelers like me. While the bag looks like a duffel bag from the outside, it works like a luggage inside complete with straps to keep your items tidy and neat despite being passed on from cargo to cargo during transit. No jumbled mess here!

Now, can you feel my excitement for our next trip? I surely can't wait to take this cool Spring Peeper luggage on a test drive!! :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Selamat Menikmati : An Indonesian Feast at the Diamond Hotel

My best friend T recently left for a month-long business trip to Indonesia. I still remembered that time when she told me about it and the first thing I said was, "Wow you're going to Bali? no? Bandah Aceh?" This made her laugh out loud and told me she's actually going to Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. I can't believe I actually forgot about Jakarta! Silly me...

Looking at the map, I realized how close Indonesia is to our Mindanao region. In fact, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world and is one of the highly populated countries too. However, Indonesia is also blessed with a lot of natural resources making it a valuable trading partner for coffee, spices and a lot more.

To be honest, when I think of Indonesia there are two main things that come to mind. First, their chips-- remember my entry about Matahari, my favorite snack kiosk that sells the best cassava chips? I love Indonesian chips and this is why I've been bugging T to bring home a few bags of chips for me.

Second, their coffee. Working for the Green Siren, my taste buds have been oriented to drinking coffee from all over the world -- from Europe, Asia, Latin America and a lot more. Two coffee blends that I greatly remember are those from Sumatra and Sulawesi, both from Indonesia. Both has an earthy flavor that takes some getting used to but nonetheless, a great way to experience coffee from the Asia/Pacific region.

diamond hotel indonesian buffet manila

Thankfully, my knowledge about Indonesia, most particularly on its cuisine, has widen after being invited to dinner at Diamond Hotel's Corniche. It has been a while since Paul and I have visit Diamond Hotel and we were surprised to see how spacious the lobby has become as we remembered that there used to be a lounge at the right side and all the buffet tables are located at the left. This time, Corniche surely looks so inviting that I felt my tummy growling the moment we arrived.

From August 16 to 28, 2011, Corniche will feature a number of Indonesian specialties where diners can enjoy together with their well-loved international buffet. These are specialties created by 3 renowned Indonesian chefs who flew in just to be able to share their local dishes with the diner of Corniche. Now you can have some Gado-Gado (mixed vegetables with peanut sauce) and a serving of spicy Beef Rendang together with some Japanese sushi and a slice of Roast Beef.

diamond hotel indonesian buffet manila

To celebrate the Indonesian festival at Corniche, most of the servers were in traditional Indonesian attire. One particular server caught our attention though as he was in full Indonesian groom get-up complete with pointy gold shoes and intricately designed blouse and sarong. On the tables are candle holders showing Indonesian art drawn on thin white paper. Talk about giving attention to the tiniest details.

I began my dinner with some Indonesian salads such as the Karedok (mixed veggies with chips and peanut sauce) and some Gado Gado. I love both cold salads and I have to credit the yummy peanut sauce for this. I had this together with a thick slice of soft cheese and cracker.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gardenia Bakery Factory Tour in Laguna

 Meet my first ever guest blogger. A man of few words yet his name is often times mentioned here in my blog. He would rather work behind his camera than to write up a storm like what I normally do. Between the two of us, our word ratio is probably around 5:1 but that doesn't make him a lousy story-teller. In fact, our days are filled with non-stop conversations with one another and I believe this has made our relationship grow and be more stronger.

Meet my husband Paul as this is his blog debut here in Frannywanny.com and expect to hear more from him in the coming days, months and years!


gardenia bread factory tour

When Fran asked me if I want to join a group of bloggers to a trip to visit the Gardenia Plant, my first question was "who will be there?" While my wife is truly an extrovert where you can just let her go anywhere and expect that she'll make friends in a snap of a finger, I am rather shy and can stay quiet the entire day. I guess despite our differences, this is also where we somehow complement one another. Fran assured me that our friends Richard, Irene, Rowena and Jane will be there so I immediately agreed for her to confirm my attendance.

gardenia bread factory

I am very much aware of Gardenia as this is what my mom would buy for us before. Personally, I like the Black Forest flavor as it satisfies my chocoholic taste buds alternating with the Ube-Cheese variant too. I've always been curious how they make their breads and the speed it takes knowing that they have to supply a huge quantity everyday. Well, this trip is a perfect opportunity for me to learn more about Gardenia.

Allow me to take you through a short photo tour around the Gardenia plant:

gardenia bread factory tour

This is the first stop of our tour, we saw how this machine can divide and mix the flour and other ingredients.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

VISA Debit Card: Set yourself free….from CASH

*SPONSORED POST*

Ok, after all that dining out and food shopping, let us talk about MONEY. Not wanting to sound like Scrooge McDuck otherwise known as Uncle Scrooge to Donald Duck’s nephews, but let’s face it. Money is important and it indeed makes the world go ‘round.

When I was younger, I thought money can easily be accessed from a wall where you just press a few digits and out comes cold hard cash. That was after watching my mom withdraw from the ATM. However, my parents did an amazing job at educating us about the value of money and it’s not as easy as pressing a few numbers to access money at any given time.

At age 8, I learned how to budget my money. It was during our first out of the country trip when my dad gave me a small allowance. I can buy anything I want provided I have to keep it within budget. As impulsive a shopper that I may want to be, I had to think twice, thrice, a million times before finally picking up that Forever Friends stuffed toy from the shelf and straight to the counter. It was a simple exercise but the practice of spending within my means and making sure I spend wisely has been stuck deep within me since then.

visa debit card

I first learned about debit cards a few years back when my sister and I started an online retail business when we were both still in college. My parents warned us against giving our personal bank details out to buyers who are required to deposit their payment prior to us shipping out their items. Thus, we were both given our own debit cards which works just like an ATM card and where we can deposit and withdraw money from. What I later found out was I can actually purchase items using my debit card very much like a credit card. Cool huh?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Impressions at the Maxims Tower, Resorts World

Not all meals are created equal.

I love to eat, that's true. However, in my many years of food tripping and blogging, there are just a handful of meals that really blew me away from start to end. No mistakes, no so-so dish, everything was simply delicious from appetizer down to dessert.

impressions maxims tower

Just recently, I had one of the best dinners that I've ever had so far. It was an intimate gathering with a few fellow food bloggers at the one-week-old restaurant called Impressions at the Maxims Tower and dinner was prepared by Chef Cyrille Soenen, former hotel executive chef and current owner of the French restaurant Cicou.

impressions maxims tower

Dinner began with a basket of freshly baked bread. I love warm bread especially when paired with an array of delicious spreads. I also noticed that the bread had a hole in the middle and it was because it was hanged like a kebab thus causing the metal rod to puncture a hole at the center of the soft dough. I was told that they don't fully bake the bread and only complete the cooking before it gets served. This way, they can maintain the softness and freshness of the bread. Yum!

I know the rule is to just eat a little of everything but that evening I ended up consuming almost the entire bread basket.

impressions maxims tower
Meet the culprits 
Lightly salted Beurre D'Isigny from France and the best spread that I've ever tasted -- Bagna Cauda.

I normally do not like putting butter on my bread and if ever I do, I would just consume a very small piece. However, I couldn't resist the soft, lightly salted butter that instantly perked up the taste of the freshly baked bread. It gave a very comforting feeling in fact.

However, it was the Bagna Cauda (bahn-yah kaw-da), a spread that I initially could not pronounce properly, that won my heart (and tastebuds). I even had to ask the server to repeat it twice and sensing my confusion, he just told me it's made of four things -- garlic, olive oil, butter and anchovies. Woah! To have both butter and olive oil in one recipe? This was truly deadly.

impressions maxims hotel

Still, I carefully took a small serving and spread it over my bread. What happened next was love at first taste. The marriage of both the garlic and anchovies created a wonderful flavor that I can only describe as perfect. I love how well it complemented the warm bread. It was very delicious that I couldn't stop till I clean out my little saucer.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Maxims Tower in Resorts World Manila

When I first heard that Manila will soon have a 6-star hotel, my initial impression was "who can actually afford to stay there?" Months passed and after the opening of the very impressive Marriott Hotel followed by the Newport Mall, the doors of the 6-star hotel named Maxims Tower formally opened to the public.

Who would have thought that Paul and I would get invited to have a private dinner at Impressions and to check out the rooms in this all-suites hotel? Thanking our lucky stars, we headed to Maxims Tower one evening excited for the dinner and tour ahead.

maxims hotel

I will tell you more about the dinner in my next entry but let me give you a brief tour around the new Maxims Tower first.

maxims hotel manila

First and foremost, what makes Maxims Tower different from all the high-end hotels in Manila is that it's the only one that gives you your personal butler at any given time of the day. Yes, that's personalized butler service 24/7! Next, it's the only all-suites hotel in town, expect that you room is extra bigger compared to any other hotel room of the same level. While chatting with the butlers, I realized that they can basically make all your wishes come true! Be it a hard-to-find fruit, milk and cookies at the middle of the night, assistance in getting a transportation to take you around town, you name it, they'll do it! Imagine having someone ready to attend to you whenever you need it.

maxims hotel

Our tour began at the lobby at the 4th level of the hotel where we were told that this is actually just temporary and they will soon transfer to the ground floor. Makes a lot of sense, right? We then proceeded to the restaurant-bar located at the same level where hotel guests can take their breakfast in the morning.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

[WARNING] On stealing photos and so much more

Today, Paul was supposed to make his very first blog debut here at Frannywanny.com. He was supposed to share with you his experience when he joined a couple of bloggers to visit the Gardenia plant. He has been extremely excited about it that he would bug me every night when will I finally publish his entry. I promised him that I'll have it up today. However, I have to break my promise due to some unfortunate incident that I stumbled upon this morning.

For some reason, I woke this morning thinking about the photos that I've posted here in my blog. I've been blogging for almost 4 years and have published a little more than 800 entries already. In every entry, I have an average of 4 photos. Majority were beautifully taken by Paul, some were shot by yours truly. Still I can say that we exert a lot of time and effort to create really good photos to match my story. At times, I have to borrow photos from brands or other websites and I can proudly say that all those have been credited for.

At a very young age, I was taught the importance of owning your work. Plagiarism and stealing is a very grave offense in my school and once violated, expect to face heavy consequences.

Let me go back to my thoughts this morning, I suddenly wondered if there's a way for us, bloggers, to check if someone else is using our photos without our permission. You may have noticed that my photos do not have watermarks on them and I know I am running a big risk of having my photos lifted by some nasty "blogger" that's why the thought bothered me even more. I really don't know what pushed me to log on to google and started to randomly search the net for possible photo-stealing activity going on. Thanks also to fellow blogger Aileen De Jesus for giving me the link to this amazing Google search engine that will allow us to easily track if our photos have been re-used without our permission.

So photo thieves out there...be afraid..be VERY VERY afraid.

stolen 01

Lo and behold, I came upon this blog: http://iteateverywhere.blogspot.com/2011/07/its-not-yucky-its-yakimix.html

At first glance, I know that the first few photos were definitely his/hers. Then I came to the last three photos where I felt my heart stopped. The quality of the photo suddenly shifted from grainy to clear and that photo with the chandelier and buffet table looked uncomfortably familiar to me.

I quickly referred back to my own YakiMIX entry: http://www.frannywanny.com/2011/07/yakimix-eat-all-you-can-at-podium-mall.html and truly enough, he/she have copied three of my photos.

Here's a clearer comparison:

SAME

Original photos in my blog vs. the photo thief

STOLEN 02

I was busy getting upset over the photos when another fellow blogger also pointed out that the author seems to have also copied my entry. I really do not want to create a list of the similarities of our entries but seriously, the thief also used the term "happy camper" in the same entry? How coincidental.

I've left a message on her comment board and I hope he/she'd be ashamed enough to remove ALL of MY photos from the blog.

Really, no dignified blogger would ever be guilty of lifting/stealing someone else's photos and content. Come on...have some self-respect please.

Dear readers, I ask you to help us fight against acts of photo/content stealing like this. Feel free to let us know when you happen to come across another blog that gives you that "hey-i've-read/seen-that-before" feeling. Be it a copied photo or content we would gladly appreciate the heads up.

That photo thief surely ruined my morning... I will definitely devote a lot of my time this weekend to watermark my photos from now on. Beware!

Recent update: The blogger who got 3 of my photos have removed it from her site. While the content still sounds the same, I'm glad the photos are gone. Thank you for your support! ♥ (08/12/2011)

Case closed: The blogger has closed her previous blog (iteateverywhere) and has transferred to a new URL. Still no word from her via email yet I hope she has learned the importance of using her OWN photos and content in the future so as not to victimized other bloggers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cyma Greek Taverna at Shangri-la Plaza Mall

It has been a while since I've last visited Cyma, it has been 3 whole years in fact. Still, the memory of the delicious Roka Salata, the salty Lamb Chops and the to-die-for Skolatina still remains clear and vivid in my mind.

Remember, I mentioned that I had a heavy lunch prior to visiting Sweet Pea last week? This was because I joined my colleagues for lunch at Cyma Greek Taverna located at the nearby Shangri-la Plaza Mall and boy, we had a feast!

Our lunch started with an order of Saganaki otherwise known as Flaming Cheese. Normally, the entire crew will shout OPA! as this was being served to you but I guess everyone was busy attending to the customers that the dramatic entrance of the flaming cheese somehow disappeared. Still, we enjoyed the crunchy buttery garlic bread and the delicious melted cheese.

cyma greek taverna

My only request was an order of Roka Salata. I can't have enough of this mix of fresh arugula and lettuce with candied walnuts, sundried tomatoes and parmesan cheese tossed in light Greek vinaigrette. I love this particular salad and it was only then that I found out there's actually an option to add bleu cheese! Let me try that next time.

cyma greek taverna

I'm so glad that my colleagues share my love for lamb! Thus we had two lamb dishes that day. First was the Paidakia -- charcoal-grilled lamb ribs coated with black pepper and basil. I love how the oil oozes out at the bottom of the plate tempting me to take a small scoop to add to my garlic noodles for more flavor. I'm glad I was able to resist the tempation thus I'd like to give myself a pat on the back. :) The meat was tender making it a breeze to take it out from the bone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sweet Pea at the Venice Piazza, McKinley Hill

As I entered the corporate world, I got to realize how much my mom and I tend to be so alike. The way we think, how we push ourselves to do our best, how we strive to achieve perfection...thus it's no secret that she has been my idol despite the many times we tend to argue and disagree.

Someday I dream to be just like her.

A successful and well-loved professional in her continuously growing career and a doting mom who has always been there for us 24/7. What a super woman, huh?


Despite my mom's hectic schedule, she still makes time to bond with us once in a while. Take last week for example, while waiting for my sister to get off work, Mommy invited me to have merienda with her at Venice Piazza in McKinley Hill. I was excited because there's actually a couple more restaurants there that I've been wanting to check out and this includes Sweet Pea. I've seen photos from fellow bloggers about the cute country-like interiors and knowing that this is the brainchild of Chef Florabel Co, I was excited to give this a try.

sweet pea venice piazza
Don't you just loveeeee the wall decors?


Unlike my sister whom I would normally end up pigging out with, my mom is a very light eater. It was a good thing I had a heavy lunch that day that I didn't arrive at Venice Piazza famished and ready to devour a feast. I can't believe I simply nodded in agreement when Mommy suggested that we share an order of Spinach, Bacon and Mushroom Quesadilla (Php. 250). Just that. No pasta, no sandwich, no heavy appetizer. I was, in fact, pretty surprised at myself. :)

We chatted while waiting for our food to arrive and I just love bonding with my mom. She always finds the right words to make me feel alright after a challenging day at work. We talked about our careers, being married and a lot more. Talking to my mom is like talking to my bestest friend. I can pour out my thoughts without fear or hesitations as she basically is very much updated with my life anyway. With her, my life is pretty much an open book.

sweet pea venice piazza

Finally our Quesadilla platter arrived and I noticed that it was daintily placed on top of a wooden board shaped as a pig. How cute!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ukkokei Ramen Ron, The Best Ramen in Town!

Back in high school, I had a very nasty teacher who made the class believe that I do nothing but daydream. She would continue to torment me making her 60-minute Algebra class feel like the longest hour of my high school life. Boy, I'm so glad I only had her for a year and we never crossed path since. *phew*

Even how often I look back, I know in my heart that I wasn't daydreaming, dozing off maybe but not daydreaming. I think the only time one gets to daydream are during times when we have experienced something truly amazing, agree? I daydream about shopping in Hong Kong, enjoying the waters of Boracay, getting a massage, sinking my teeth in my friend Irene's Quezo de Bola cheesecake and the list goes on and on. Now tell me, why on earth would I daydream during an Algebra class?

ukkokei ramen ron

Yesterday, Paul and I met up with half of The Foodie Club for lunch. I was extra excited for this as we headed to Ukkokei Ramen Ron along Pasay Road in Makati which has been on my list for a really long time. I did my research and drooled over photos of their famous Tan Tan Men, Pork Gyoza, and the Miso Chashu Ramen.

So excited were we that we arrived before everyone else did. It was good thing too as reservation was not allowed so I had to give my name to the receptionist to get a table. The restaurant opened at 1130AM and imagine we were already part of the waiting list as we arrived at 12NN.

The wait was quite long but we didn't mind. I was dead set on dining at Ukkokei Ramen Ron and I'm glad my friends share the same sentiments too. Turnover was pretty quick thus we were called in after 30 minutes.

There are three types of ramen soup to choose from: Shio (salt), Shoyu (soy) and Miso (fermented soy). Since we both wanted to have a taste of everything, we got the lunch set which is a good deal given it costs just about the same as a bowl of ramen.

ukkokei ramen ron

I got Set A (Php. 380) which consists of a full bowl of ramen, chahan (fried rice), gyoza and salad. I chose the Ukkokei Miso Chashu and an additional order of butter and corn.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mercato Centrale Weekend Market : Top 7 Picks!

Aside from being busy with my professional career (a.k.a. day job) and being a food and travel blogger, I am also an amateur entrepreneur where I wake up early every Saturday morning to head to Mercato Centrale at the Bonifacio Global City to assist Paul in manning our stall. Despite the never-ending yawns and the struggle to keep my heavy eyelids open, I enjoy each market day as I get to interact with our customers who are simply amazing.

In addition to this, what makes us enjoy being part of Mercato Centrale is the fact that we have been lucky with a lot of great food finds from our neighboring stalls. Let me share with some of my Mercato Centrale favorites:

1) Mochiko Ice Cream

mercato centrale mochiko

Owned and operated by one of the coolest couples I know, Mochiko has been in business for more than a year and they still continue to come out with amazing flavors that never fails to tickle your taste buds. I stay loyal to two particular flavors -- Caramel (which has my favorite FIC Caramello Con Pastillas ice cream) and Black Sesame. I love the soft mochi covering and how the ice cream doesn't quickly melt as I leisurely take one bite after the other. I'll wait for the day that Mochiko will finally give in to my request and come out with a Durian mochi flavor! Come on Mochiko, let all durian lovers rejoice! :)

2) Muncheez

muncheez

Marla's Muncheez was my first neighbor when we started selling in Mercato Centrale 5 months ago. I instantly felt very comfortable chatting with Marla who was very friendly and a fun neighbor to bond with. Just as sweet as I find Marla to be, I quickly fell in love with her delicious cereal bars that I never seem to get tired of. It has just the right amount of sweetness and I enjoy getting my fingers sticky as I would have a piece of cereal bars after every meal. It's truly a great snack (or dessert on my case) perfect for all ages.

3) Vegan Macrobiotics

mercato centrale vegan

When Mercato Centrale had two tents, Paul and I were lucky to be placed together with the organic vendors and all those selling the healthy stuff. One stall that had caught my attention was the Vegan Macrobiotics owned by fellow ICAn Chef Alice Ty. I first tried her Sate Tofu on a Stick and she had also created a vegan-version peanut sauce too. It was delicious! Quite crumbly but just the way I liked it.

Lately, I'm addicted to her Vegan Kare Kare meal which comes with Organic Red Rice and Vegan Bagoong. It's amazing! This just goes to show that being healthy doesn't mean you have to lack in flavor and compromise the over-all taste of the food. I enjoy having this for lunch as it makes me feel light despite the full cup of rice and generous serving of veggies that I would get per serving.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Retox : Ice Cream with an Attitude

I remember saying once before that I'm getting drunk with dessert. What I really meant then was I was experiencing sheer dessert overload leaving me in such a happy, drunken state.

Italian Job retox

That was before I was introduced to Retox Ice Cream which is definitely NOT your regular wholesome ice cream. For one thing, this is off-limits for the kids (sorry kiddos!) as it's mixed with various liquors that complements the ice cream flavor. This is perfect for people like me who simply do not appreciate the taste of beer, wine or any other alcoholic drink at all as the ice cream somehow covers the bitter taste of the alcohol.

retox

I got to try all 6 flavors of Retox and each have varying alcoholic content. To guide you further, their menu has martini glass labels to show the alcohol strength. For instance, the one flavor that will surely get you tipsy could probably be the Whiskey Hangover while the The Ex-Lover is just right for alcoholic newbies like me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Va Bene Pasta Deli

Va Bene when translated in Italian means "ok", "alright", or "just right". Given the very positive sounding name, Paul and I drove all the way to Makati to meet up with our friends L and T in this little pasta deli within the same compound of the Petron Gas Station.

Their big day is fast approaching and we can feel the excitement (more of it coming from us) and the tension (more from them). However, knowing how organized my friend L is I'm sure everything will go as planned and I can't wait to witness their special day. It's amazing, we began double-dating just around the same time T was courting L and Paul was courting yours truly. Later on, we became a couple two years before they did (obviously, my friend L was really hard to get! haha) and imagine our excitement when L told me that they're engaged just a few months after Paul and I tied the knot! We really are soul sisters as we seem to be celebrating the same milestones in life almost one after the other. Now, why do I have a very strong feeling that L and I might even get pregnant and enjoy motherhood probably at the same time? :) Crossing our fingers!

It took us one whole hour to get to Makati from Mandaluyong. Blame it on the rain, the slippery dark road and the chaotic EDSA traffic. Add to the fact that Paul decided to just be a passenger and to rest thus forcing me to go behind the wheel.

Luckily, the restaurant was not full where we found L and T already waiting inside. The menu was quite simple as it had just a short list of pasta dishes, soup, salad and some appetizers. Should you be craving for some meat feel free to ask the server and they might have this available for you.

We started off with a platter of complimentary toasted crostinis with homemade salsa. I loved it! It was not very sour and the addition of Parmesan cheese gave it a nice touch. The crostinis were bigger than normal and should you want more, you can order for just a minimum price.

vabene makati pasta

I love how the restaurant was able to fill one side of the wall with bottled sauces, dips and Italian ingredients. It truly was a mini deli. What caught my attention though was the glass chiller containing trays of handmade pasta noodles. This made me more excited to try their pasta as I loveeee handmade noodles.

vabene makati pasta

Since it was raining that evening, we had a half an order of Mushroom Soup (Php. 290) each. From the moment the server placed our bowls in front of us, I can immediately smell the aromatic scent of truffles. Peering at my bowl, you can see how generous they have added the truffle oil in. Mmmm... I happily slurped my soup and loved the chunky texture brought by the chopped up mushrooms. This was really delicious although I'm glad we decided to share to make space for our filling dishes ahead.

vabene makati pasta

We took the server's recommendation by ordering our first pasta dish -- Black Ink Home Made Spaghetti with Seafood Marinara (Php. 390). He told us this was one of their best-sellers and so we just have to give it a try. I love the light marinara sauce that had around 4 medium-sized shrimps, a few squid and fish fillet. Though, I was a bit too engrossed with something else that I failed to notice if they have added clams or mussels in. The noodles didn't leave any stain on our teeth unlike how the Spaghetti al Nero would. However, it was not very al dente for me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ba Noi's Vietnamese Restaurant - - A Taste of Vietnam in Manila

After enjoying a couple of Thai specialties at Nav with my colleagues last Friday, Paul and I joined our dear friends Richard, Irene and adorable Lauren for lunch one rainy Sunday. This time we headed to Makati excited for our Vietnamese feast.

Shameless plugging alert: I've been craving for Asian dishes lately, I guess this is after going through the August issue of Yummy Magazine that features a LOT of yummy Asian recipes *drool*. So..grab your copy NOW!

A couple of months ago, Richard and I purchased a coupon each from Metro Deal Philippines. This coupon will allow us to have a four-course Vietnamese meal for two for only Php. 445 at Ba Noi's. What a steal! Since it will be our first time to try Ba Noi's we figured out that given how reasonable the price of the coupon is, it won't be too painful on the pocket should our meal fails to meet our expectations.

Let me share with you the dishes that were served to us by Ba Noi's:

ba noi's vietnamese makati

From the moment we sat down and handed our coupons to the server, we were given a glass of Watermelon Fruit Shake (Php. 90) each. Unfortunately, we were not given the chance to choose what type of fruit shake we'd like to get. Personally, I was hoping to get the Mango Fruit Shake. I guess this was the inclusion in the package.

The shake was not too sweet and good thing it was not very icy too. I enjoyed the drink together with the food that were served to us.

ba noi's vietnamese makati

For starters, each couple gets a plate of Cha Gio (Php. 190) or better known as Fried Spring Rolls. To be honest, I always order the fresh version when dining at a Vietnamese restaurant. I just prefer the cold vermicelli filling and plump shrimp together with the delicious peanut sauce. Despite my initial impression towards fried spring rolls, I tried a piece as I wrapped this with lettuce and basil and surprisingly I enjoyed it very much! I guess I love the sudden burst of flavor from the basil and the spring roll wasn't too oily as I was expecting it to be. Yum! While I highly recommend this, I will still schedule another visit to try the fresh spring rolls this time.

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