Wednesday, May 16, 2007

So do you want to be one?

When my baby girl Micky grows up, I don’t want her to go corporate. I want her to be Top Chef!
That’s what a dose of nonstop viewing of Bravo TV’s Top Chef has made clear to me. Oh yeah. No spreadsheets, volume and forecast projections, marketing campaigns for my baby. She’s going to cook up a storm!

From the makers of Project Runway (“One day you’re eeeeen, the next day, you’re out!”) comes this wholly entertaining, amazing, I daresay addicting reality show on manic cooks who duke it out for the title of Top Chef. Chef Tom Colicchio (of Gramercy and Craft) is the resident judge, along with Gail Simmons of Food and Wine Magazine. They’re joined by different guest judges each episode: known chefs and food enthusiasts.

And the challenges! There are two per episode: quickfire for immunity, plus the elimination challenge. Consider these -

Create a sexy dessert for an S&M party. Someone came up with a cookie necklace that you have to bite off your partner’s neck, in the grand tradition of tequila body shots.

Create a gourmet dish out of ingredients you picked out. You have 10 minutes to shop – in a petrol station convenience store!

Choose a fastfood favorite and transform it completely: fyi, the winning entry was popcorn cake.

And that’s just a few of the fun tasks in Season One!

I am now in the middle of Season Two and the action is simmering quite nicely. They started the show with the Mystery Box challenge: 2 hours to cook a dish incorporating the flavors of all 5 mystery ingredients inside the box. One box had escargot, American cheese, peanuts, artichokes and one other ingredient I can’t recall. What I clearly remember though was the reaction of Yaya Michelle, our cook who is also my Top Chef viewing buddy. “Ma’am hindi ko ma-imagine… kuhol at keso?! Ang galing ng Top Chief!”

Email me at to know where to score dvd copies. Once you’ve seen one episode, you’ll likely want to see all – in one sitting!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sunday afternoons with Hubby

Every now and then hubby and I go on Sunday afternoon dates. Yes, that’s what happens when you’re married with child: night outs are a thing of the past. We squeeze in an hour or two of alone time. Sometimes less because we end up missing gorgeous little Micky.

Normally Christian and I bond over food. We're trying to avoid the dinner-movie-coffee routine so we schedule afternoon food haunts instead. Once, together with friend Jay, we drove all the way to Dong Bei Dumpling in the heart of Chinatown for some of their bolstering steamed dumplings. I love Dong Bei. It’s one of the stops in Ivan Man-Dy’s Wok Food Tour. On Sundays it’s awfully peaceful without the gaggle of tourists. They make your dumplings fresh – rolling the dough and shaping into pockets unto which pork or kinchay (your choice) is stuffed. Watch them prep this on top of an old office computer table. Charming, shabby chic. You can opt to have it fried or steamed. Any which way it is fabulous.

Just recently we stumbled into Balducci for some afternoon antipasto, wine and cheese. Balducci is in Serendra. The pace is a bit less hectic on Sundays, just before the dinner crowd descends on the little Italian trattoria. They have a fine selection of wines and their antipasto platter is simply tops (btw so is the bill). Christian had red wine and I had some limoncello. Friend Joe who flew in from KL for the weekend to attend God daughter Micky's birthday had latte. He’s trying to abstain from wine and ciggies for Lent. But here’s the funny part: he was digging into the cold cuts like it was nobody’s business. And then we all came across this awfully delicious white sliver of…what is this exactly??? Couldn’t quite tell but it was simply divine. “That’s Lardo Renzini,” the waiter offered with a smile. Lardo…as in Lard? Thin, pure, slivers of lard?! So while Joe tried to quit drinks and ciggies for Lent, he unwittingly stuffed himself with some pure Pork Fat instead. Hilarious.

Happy 1st Birthday Micky So!

Sharing with you some snaps taken from gorgeous Micky's Mickey Mouse themed shindig.

Micky's invite was a customized Gerber bottle stuffed with chocolates and marshmallows.

Here's Micky with Papa, framed in a cheesy pink balloon.

All babies at some point need to wail when faced with a roomful of strangers.

We're back on the blog circuit!

P.S. Thanks Jonats for sharing your pics. : )

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Word of Mouth

I love food shopping. Most weekends you’ll find me cruising supermarket aisles, checking out specialty food shops, perusing organic market offerings or braving the morning crush at Farmer’s Market in Cubao. There’s something strangely soothing and therapeutic about being surrounded by food – whether fresh or canned, poultry, meat or produce. I’m totally addicted.

I also love to keep company with people who have an honest appreciation for food. Not necessarily hardcore foodies, but people who just want to eat well. What’s not to like? They serve good food and I pick up food tips along the way. Perfect.

My favorite in-house food trip partner is hubby Christian. He’s infamous for having solid food aversions (mushrooms, monggo, chocolate…!). But he’s also adventurous when it comes to new food and I like that. Some food finds from hubby:

Oregon Fresh Wasabi-flavored potato chips
This is hubby’s discovery and I’ve grown to love it as well. Now we always have bags in store should visitors pop in. I’m not really into chips – simply because I can’t be trusted to go for portion control . Me + Beer Match Salt & Vinegar + The Buzz on Sundays = slow descent to Dante’s seventh circle of hell. But I must say that Oregon Fresh’s sharp tang of wasabi makes me want to park the whole transfat thing momentarily. Serve it together with BLT and some kani salad. Yumyumyum.

Bulla Yoghurt Delights
Christian likes yoghurt. He actively seeks yoghurt brands to try. And he introduced me to Bulla, which is like the queen of yoghurts in my book. I simply adore their yoghurt mini sticks in Strawberry and Mango. Super Sarap ng Over. Wherever you see a Dippin Dots kiosk, there’s usually some Bulla bars available too. Whole boxes available in Market, Market.

Good pal Jay is also a favorite source of food tips. He’s such a food whore – all I need to do is call him up and next thing I know, we’re headed to Chinatown for some dimsum and dumplings. Now that’s a winner of a friend, in my opinion. Here are some of Jay’s finds:

Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce
This was pal Jay’s Christmas gift (rebottled since you can only get it by the gallon in Market Market). Oh wow, what a joy. Fry up some chicken wings in clarified butter, pour the cayenne pepper sauce, stir it up and you’ve got some killer buffalo chicken wings. Chop some celery sticks, add sour cream and you’ve got the big delish.

Bakersfield Choco Fudge
Otherwise known as Anti-Sungit potion, this is exactly what you need after a crap day at work (or a disastrous arranged date). Pour a huge dollop on a banana and you’re set. Add a little bit of milk and it makes for an instant chocolate fondue. I get my stash from Jay (I think his cuz owns the company or something). It’s for export so not sure it’s available retail. But if you do find it in some random shelf, buy immediately.

Kewpie Sesame Dressing
I first encountered this during lunch at my sister-in-law’s. To begin with, Kewpie has a kitschy line, “for ages 1-100”. How cute is that?! But there’s nothing cute about the Kewpie Sesame Dressing. It is quite simply: The Bomb. Slather it on any ordinary salad for an instant boost. I like it with some salad greens, cherry tomatoes and mango slices. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t instantly fall in love with this dressing. Can be found in Japanese groceries along little Tokyo and Milelong makati (COOP, etc). A bit pricey but super worth it.

Got any food finds for me? : )

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Design Your Self

What a thoroughly intriguing idea.

Karim Rashid is an industrial designer whose clients include Prada, Nambe, Issey Miyake, Umbra and Alessi. He is perhaps better known for designing the widely popular Umbra wastebasket named Garbo (a play on Greta Garbo and Garbage). It's an elegant, fully functional piece with a sexy, rounded swooping shape. As one critic put it, "Karim built a better trash can and the world beat a path to his door."

I love this guy. I love his designs. I love the fact that he thought that hey, just as I can design furniture, so can I design and shape a better, more enlightened world.

Most of Karim's ideas are not rocket science. They're actually quite simple and doable, if you care enough to sit still and think for a minute.

Here's his take on food and eating. Personally I think it's all one needs to know:

Think before you eat.
Your body is a temple.
Don't starve.
Common sense + moderation.
Be an educated consumer.
Quality vs. Quantity.
Eat locally.
Set the table.
Sit down.

I'm still not finished with the book but already very excited to put some ideas into practice. Perhaps gradually and not in the manner of the Take No Prisoners New Year's Resolution.

Rethinking the way you live, love, work and play. It's never too late. So how about it?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Skin Food

Our heater’s been on the fritz lately and it’s really killing me. In the height of December-January, the coldest months of the year – the heater decides to go on sick leave. Good grief!

So for now it’s all about quick showers, preferably 8 minutes or less. I really hate it since I consider bathing a de-stressing ritual. Nowadays it’s more distressing than anything.

Laugh all you want but I have my quirks when it comes to bath and body care. After a long, hectic day I take refuge in the bathroom and go for a long, hot shower. Hopefully if I’m not too tired, I can run a bath. Have you tried soaking and reading in the bath tub? Luxurious and indulgent. Absolutely fantastic. And here’s my little secret: I like bath products that are inspired by food.

I’m a massive fan of Bath and Body Works and hoard their stuff like there’s no tomorrow. I adore their bath gels, lotions, body washes, scrubs, etcetera. I’m currently loving the rich, silky lather of the Coconut Lime Verbena bath gel and plan to move on to White Tea and Ginger. Mostly I crave Bath and Body Work’s Tutti Dolci line. Wouldn’t you? They have the yummiest food concoctions for the skin. Top picks include Mango Sorbetto and Sugar Wafer. Seductive sweet scents you almost want to eat.

Another big favorite is the store Fruits and Passion. I first encountered this in Hongkong and was so excited for the opening of the Manila store that I was front and center on their first day in Greenbelt 3. Fruits and Passion carries the killer Cucina line featuring heady scents from the kitchen (you don’t say…). I love their Ginger and Sicilian Lemon hand lotion and dig this… they have scented candles that are inspired by chocolate, cappuccino, fresh milk, strawberries. I can’t really tell if this is good for the diet brigade or it will leave them wanting more (preferably the real kind too).

Gal pal Ines gave me lotion called Skin Food. It elicited a smile. How food surrounds me, in the table and out.
Meanwhile I can’t wait for the Jett Heater guys to get the crazy thing to work again…

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas from Blair Mitch, Hubby Christian and Baby Micky!

Tsumura Sushi Bar

The first thing you should know about Tsumura is that it is NOT mura. The prices are high-high-high. Consider the Wagyu, 180g at a whopping Php 4,250. Or the Hamachi at Php 550. A piece of O-Toro is Php 450 (yes, you read it right – per piece).

Now that we got the price issue out of the way, Tsumura is Good Stuff. It’s authentic Japanese, down to the chef owner and the endless parade of Japanese patrons. You will feel transported to Tokyo with everyone hammering in Japanese. A slice of Tokyo in the middle of bustling Salcedo Village.

Tsumura is the favorite dining venue for people out to impress. You’ll find headhunters, first time daters, etc. I really just like the food. The seafood is as fresh as it gets and the beef is perfection. It’s a crime to pass up on the Hamachi (although indeed, the price is bordering on absolutely criminal). Imagine premium yellow tail tuna sashimi- firm, sweet flesh (with the consistency of gummy bears!). If the ala carte dishes intimidate you, go for the bento boxes. Great bang for the buck with the Saba plate (grilled Mackarel). Christian had the Una Ju and loved it. But then again, how can you go wrong with grilled eel in teriyaki sauce atop fluffy Jap rice? Oh and btw, this is the only place where you can eat, savor and enjoy an Uni Don without fear of a stomach upset just around the corner.

Despite the steep prices, I always find myself coming back to Tsumura. Over lunch, my friend Rizzo and I had Beef Usuyaki, rolled beef slices with garlic and mushroom. Just the sort of dish you want to have on a particularly rough workday. Tsumura is just the sweet spot to head to if (a) you’ve had a killer week and feel like rewarding yourself or (b) need to have some quality dining time with real special people (after all, if you’re shelling out this much cash, might as well with company you love). I’m going back with hubby Christian and perhaps this time, I might just be persuaded to spring for that O-toro!

"I like!" says Hubby Christian.

*Tsumura Sushi Bar and Restaurant, 2nd floor 88 Corporate Plaza, Sedeno corner Valero Street, Salcedo Village Makati. Ring them for reservations: 887-4849, 887-4850

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Where Good Friends Dine

I was drawn to Abe not for the promise of Kapampangan cuisine but by its rather cheesy signage: “Abe, Where Good Friends Dine”. Hello? Smells like a copywriter on sideline. Apparently “Abe” is Kapampangan for friend, companion and getting together. Anyway: Good buddy Jay espied Lamb Adobo in the menu and so we decided to give the place a try, cheesy line notwithstanding.

We didn’t get the Adobo but ordered excellent dishes just the same. Starting with Sinuteng Baby Squid. Let me tell you that they don’t call it Baby Squid for nothing. The squid was as big as my pinkie and when it arrived in a tiny, tiny plate we were quite taken aback. Jay actually started laughing hysterically! Gently sauteed in olive oil, garlic and seasonings, the uber tender squid packed in so much flavor that it became a fast favorite. Clearly size does not always matter.

Starter number 2 was Kinilaw of Fresh Tanigue. Kinilaw is the local term for ceviche and the tanigue belly swam in savory palm vinaigrette, coconut milk and spices.

The main course quickly followed and we had Crispy Tadyang and two other dishes that were totally removed from Pampanga: Cassoulet (French) and Spareribs Habanera with Guava Salsa (Cuban). Before you start smirking, this was the “foreign travel” part of the menu.

Abe is run by the LJC Group which is why you get the original Crispy Tadyang recipe of Bistro Remedios, one of LJC’s more popular restaurants. It’s a classic: marinated beef ribs deep fried to a perfect crisp. Deadly and delicious. Btw I also spotted the Bistro Remedios Cocido on the menu so I'm plotting to have that sometime soon!

I’m not big on beans so the Fabada-like Cassoulet (French Style duck stew) didn’t really appeal as much. Moving on, the Spareribs in Guava Salsa was surprising and inventive. It’s been so long since I last encountered Guava that on a return trip to Abe (this time with my boss) I promptly placed an order for Sinigang na Bangus Belly in Guava. The luxurious, silky texture of Guava is just too seductive for words.

Abe forms part of Serendra’s new restaurant row. I would liken it to a quaint little town square. A nice, quiet sprinkling of people strolling about like they have all the time in the world. Definitely nothing like Greenbelt 2 with its requisite array of poseurs and clackers. Quick - enjoy it while it lasts! With Krispy Kreme just around the corner, Serendra will cease to be the quiet little oasis that it is now.

There are a bunch of restaurants surrounding the main square. There’s Duo (a steakhouse where you can split the portions into two…definitely not for me and hubby since we’re big meat eaters), Thai Silk, Portico, Mezzaluna, Fez (purportedly Moroccan although they have wontons in their menu, hahaha) and Abe…don’t forget the line, “where good friends dine”.

Abe is at the ground floor of Serendra, The Fort. Ring 8560526 for reservations. Btw watch out for The Loo with Zero Headroom. You’ll know it when you see it.