What if…

kitchen Life moves forward, change being the only constant. Where would we be other than from where we have been? Each sunrise should mark a new step in the right direction. As if we were propelled to strive to be better, to go farther, to take the bull by the horns and all those new age crap that pervade us each and every morning when we spread open the broadsheet and humor ourselves on the comics section, eventually ending up on what does our birth sign say now.

It is Saturday morning, and after a week of more than usual activity in the kitchen, peace has allowed me to write and reflect on what creeps up on us once in a while when we find ourselves alone. You may be sipping your coffee, or massaging the LV bags under your eyes after a long night, or just sitting still watching the cat gazing into space. When your mind stops wandering, and starts wondering, what if…

…the mobile phone was never invented – half the time the little gadget is acting like a leash, keeping us connected, wagging our tails the moment it beckons. Although today smartphones have proved invaluable, some of us wonder how we survived without it in the first place. But we did. The powers that be survived without it.
…one became a doctor, instead of a professional cook – I would be charging astronomical fees for consultation and procedures. I would be paying off the loan for medical school. By my age today I would strutting around in a lab coat or scrubs, pulling 48 hours of duty in the emergency ward. I would also be surrounded by sick and dying people.
…I wrote a cookbook – one that would change the way the world cooks. Julia Child made that remarkable milestone. Then just recently the ground breaking ‘Modernist Cuisine’ (which is on my ‘must have’ wish list) is making amuse-douche (pretentious chefs) cringe and the foodie population shiver in anticipation. I would write a cookbook that would do just a bit more than that. Not for self glorification, but to change the world. What if we did hunker down and typed out that novel that has been festering in the back of our minds?
…Zuckerburg was beaten up by the twins – maiming him in the process? Facebook as we know it exists in two very distinct forms, depending on which part of the fence you are looking into. One as an essential tool that you have full control of, that actually gives you the results you need, when you need it. On the other side of the tarnished coin, FB exists to rule your life. Like everything about your life is dictated by Facebook. Would life have been simpler without Facebook?
…Gottlieb Daimler came across a concept for solar powered energy - instead of the internal combustion engine. Would we have the energy problems we are currently experiencing now? Would the oil countries be as powerful? Would war and senseless killing be averted?
…among the millions who were killed in the 20th century, one turned out to be the genius that had the cure for cancer or AIDS? – Medicine as we know it can can take care of most fatal diseases. A controversial argument is saying that cures, especially for the ailments that have plagued society and decimated millions, are being suppressed by money hungry pharmaceutical companies. On the other hand, had a cure been discovered, would it not be pleasant that it be introduced to the world just for the sake of the Hippocratic oath, and not for economics?
…free energy was actually ‘free’ – the Philippines was recently rated as the country with electricity rates higher than that of Japan, considering Japan has a much, much higher cost of living. Why is that? Is electricity that expensive? Does it really cost that much to power a home? Or there too many hands in the pot along the way?

I don’t know. I am just rambling. The Saturday morning has progressed into lunch service. I do know either if I should act on these ruminations. Like all points to ponder, crossing the line to make something out of it is just another step forward into one direction. At least it’s a step.

The summer season will be here soon. And soon it will be too hot to move. We are in the midst of preparing meez for lunch and dinner and for tomorrow’s brunch buffet. We will be making shrimp bisque, a rich soup that is a meal in itself. It was never before served in this restaurant, but like the logic of moving forward, there is a first time for everything.

What do you think of when you are alone?


10 great places to have breakfast in Manila

Cafe d’Asie at the Bellevue Hotel – Located in the south, the hotel is situated in the breezy Alabang area. If you are one of the few lucky enough to jog through the parks and wide open spaces, a short detour to this hotel will be most rewarding. A full breakfast buffet with continental and Asian influences that will start your day right. For directions, just follow this map.

The Bellevue Hotel Manila
North Bridgeway, Filinvest Corporate City
Alabang Muntinlupa City
Spiral at the Sofitel Hotel – Breakfast by the bay has never been better at this hotel. Served everyday from 6:30AM to 10:30AM, it is the most extensive of all hotel buffets. So vast is the selection that 90% of the time guests are not able to enjoy dessert. With live cooking stations, delicious Asian cooking, cheeses, wine, coffee, and desserts that you really can’t miss, it will be extremely difficult to stay on the current diet regimen.
Sofitel Philippine Plaza
Pancake House – Their signature dish has never been equaled not imitated. Fluffy pancakes, rich whipped butter, delicious maple syrup. Located almost everywhere, it is a convenient place to have breakfast, although a favorite branch is the Salcedo branch. Casual dining. Modern take. Also serves Filipino breakfasts.
Pancake House
189 Salcedo Street Legaspi Village, Makati
UCC Cafe at the Mall of Asia – An extensive coffee menu is the plus side. Crepes for breakfast? And honest to goodness milkshakes. They make great French toasts, with fresh fruits and waffles. Although not the greatest, but the outside dining area is a nice place to enjoy the early part of your day.

SM Central Business Park
Bay City, Pasay
Sinangag Express – locally referred to as SEX, their facebook page is an interesting hodgepodge of innuendos, but breakfast reigns here. Tapang Tapat, Sizzling Boneless bangus, Lucban Longganisa, La Paz Batchoy…sigh. hearty Filipino favorite. not high class cuisine, but it hits the spot.
Sinangag Express
70 Presidents Avenue, BF Homes
Apartment 1b – some friends say they swear by their menu. And after a run at the Ayala triangle, a properly done three egg omelet and some good coffee is just the right thing to order before heading out to the showers before work. Pancakes and waffles of course, is a pleasant expectation. i would go for the meusli, with shaved fruit…yum!
Apartment 1B
One Lafayette Square
G/F Unit 1B 132 LP Leviste corner Sedeno Street
Salcedo Village
Makati City
Floating Island – the few and rare times I go to Makati Medical Center (I hate hospitals) finds me in the dead of night looking something good to eat. And absolute favorite is the corned beef with fried egg and garlic rice. The breakfast menu is pretty limited, but it’s homestyle. If you find yourself in the hospital and you don’t want to go mainstream with Burger king and wish for a hot meal, head on to the 3rd floor.

Floating Island Restaurant
3/F Makati Medical Center
2 Amorsolo Street, Legaspi Village
Makati City
Somethin’ Fishy – It’s in the quiet part of the city, right smack in the middle of residential condominiums and office buildings. Extensive seafood menu, of course, in addition to the breakfast buffet that ever local seems to be raving about. After a jog, have a seat by the veranda. Very affordable breakfast buffet, it’s a wonder how they make money. Someone said it’s not exactly a date place, but then again, if you spent the night somewhere, this is a good morning after.

Somethin’ Fishy
Eastwood City Walk
Eastwood City Cyberpark
E Rodriguez Avenue
Bagumbayan, Libis
Quezon City
Heat at the Shangri-La – Excellent service, excellent food. what more can you ask. The menu changes frequently. It’s an international breakfast buffet that will cater to every taste bud. Sushi and dimsum, grilled salmon, the lechon is to die for. Cooking off the menu is not published, but ask the chef at the cooking station anyway. Chances are, you can get the breakfast you want. Vegetarian menu also available.

Heat, EDSA Shangri-La hotel
Lobby, 1 Garden Way Ortigas Center
Mandaluyong City
+63.2.633.88.88 local 2740
Howzat Sports Bar – off the beaten track. well at least off mainstream. Expats frequent this place for breakfast and the soccer matches. Tables groan under the load of British and Filipino Breakfasts, English bangers, baked beans, longganisa and omelets. heavy on the portions, light on the wallet.

Howzat Sports Bar
Kalayaan Avenue corner Fermina Street
Poblacion, Makati

If you have eaten at any of these places, please leave a review for other readers. You can suggest a place as well.

But do it after breakfast ;)


Dining by music and lanterns

On a drizzly evening in March, we ventured out to attend an event that promised to be an enlightening experience.

Let me give you the premise: This is an excerpt from Walk This Way, a blog intended to ‘change the way you look at Manila’

In February of 1945, the City of Manila was completely destroyed in a battle between the United States Armed Forces and the Japanese Imperial Army. An estimated 120,000 people were lost and our beloved City of Manila was never the same again.’

Days before the experience, after having made reservations, we were encouraged to bring picnic baskets as we would be dining under the stars and eventually lighting lanterns.

So we trudged on to Manila, the old Manila, the center of Manila, where cobble-stone roads and quaint houses  reminiscent of the early part of the 20th century brought us back in time, if only in spirit.

After a few wrong turns and a detour, because the rains were not helping, we found the gates to La Castellana, a beautiful venue were countless dinners, wedding receptions and events such as the Transitio were held.

Transitio 1945 (18)

We dined to big band music, sampled a great spread as you can see below, with a cool bottle of red wine and great company. Carlos Celdran, of course, could do no better as the perfect host, doing a tour of Manila at the start of the program just before sundown, and making sure everybody was having a good time.

Transitio 1945 (9)

Transitio 1945 (13)

Transitio 1945 (14)

The night ended magically with the lighting of the lanterns. This in itself would have been great, it turned more exciting since the rains were dampening the fun. As soon as the stars came out, we ran to the courtyard of the Manila Cathedral like little school girls and lit up.

Transitio 1945 (20)

At first it was a struggle, but one by one the lanterns were taking flight, bring our wishes, prayers and dreams into the cool night sky.


Recipe Cost Excel Sheet

Whether we create at home or cook professionally, at one time or another, we would want to know how much does it cost to produce a dish from a base recipe. Or on the other hand, how to optimize recipe cost so that we can create a profitable standard recipe. We can crunch the numbers, keep shopping receipts, and calculate yield. But it’s a headache to do it manually. Even us professionals would not rather do it sometimes.

There are automated recipe costing software out there, and they cost in the hundreds of dollars. 75% of the features you don’t understand, much less use. How about a simple recipe cost sheet that you can use over and over again?. One that is user friendly, fully automated, and easy to maintain? Best of all, at a very reasonable price. (Hey, I gotta eat my cake, too).

I am offering a simple recipe cost sheet solution at a price of $4.99. It’s an MS Excel Spreadsheet solution that works. It does all the calculation for you. All you have to do is put in the ingredients, their base costs and yield, and it will give you calculated portion, serving or batch cost. It even automates when you last revised the recipe. It also has a simple ingredients database. A recipe could be calculated within a matter of minutes as compared to manually tearing up paper and going the full 8 rounds with a calculator.

The file is a zip file with the Excel spread sheet and ReadMe file for simple instructions. Just click on the Paypal Button and it will be sent to you schnell.

So, digitize all your recipes. Have it automatically costed out. Compile it. Print it when you need to. In the long run, you will know exactly how much you should sell your cake at the next bake-off.


Student Cooking Competition puts pros to shame

The Grand Culinary Challenge National Championships held at the World Trade Center in Manila showcased the skills of culinary students during a three day event. It is humbling that most of these kids are far better than a lot of professionals I know who have been in the industry long before the kids were even born. Here are some scenes…
GCC 2011 (5)