Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mixing It Up

I've never been a big fan of halo-halo; I've always thought of myself as a mais-con-yelo type of gal, but I've found halo-halo that I actually enjoy eating: Razon's.

For those who aren't in the know, halo-halo is a Filipino dessert or merienda (snack)--"halo" means "mix," and the repetition makes the name even more Pinoy (think "anu-ano," "libo-libo," and names like "Jing-jing" and "Jun-jun"). It normally has sweet preserved beans, macapuno, langka, pinipig, ube, sweetened saba, and leche flan, all mixed with crushed ice and milk. "Special" versions come with a scoop of ice cream on top.

I had tried the Razon's halo-halo before (there's one in City Golf along Julia Vargas, one at the food court in Galleria, and I'm sure a bunch of others in other malls all over the metropolis), but it seemed like the thing to do in Pampanga--to visit the place where it all started. So on our way back to Manila from Bataan, the barkada stopped over at Razon's in Gua-gua where, according to Claud, the halo-halo is P15 cheaper than in Manila.

Strictly speaking, the Razon's version isn't really halo-halo. It's stripped down to the bare minimum--the good stuff, in my opinion--and doesn't have that festive mix of color, seen through the tall clear glass. All it's got are the macapuno, sweetened saba, and two slices of leche flan on top of all that crushed ice and milk. (It was too late when I learned that you could actually order extra leche flan.) A lot of people rave about this version and, although I'm not obsessed with it like some are ("Oooh! Razon's!"), I could understand why--I guess many others like me prefer not to confuse their tastebuds with an overload of flavors and textures. So while I usually politely decline offers of halo-halo, I wouldn't say no to a serving of Razon's.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Damn, baby, all I need is just a li'l bit..."

Mumsy and I stopped by Paseo de Sta. Rosa on our way home from Tagaytay. Were walking towards Pancake House when we spotted Poquito Mas (which, I guess means "a little bit more"). We figured we might as well eat in a place that we couldn't find in Manila. (Note: Found out recently that Poquito Mas has a branch in Alabang.)

The Splatino (Spanish, Latin, Filipino) restaurant closely resembles the kind of house (or, at least one of 'em!) that I would someday like to have. It's all decked out in Mediterranean style--just when I thought I could live with something minimalist, I was suddenly reminded of how much I love those colorful Spanish tiles and wrought-iron railings. Oh well.

There were so many things that seemed yummy on the menu, and the prices were pretty reasonable--not cheap, but since I was dining with mumsy, it was no object! (Shame on working girl me.) We ordered the blue bacon salad and the starter sampler. Portion-wise, they were perfect for the two of us, with enough room left over for dessert. More on that later.

The starter sampler was a platter full of their appetizers: onion rings, fried Mexican wonton-type things (sorry, didn't get the exact name), and buffalo wings. It comes with three sauces: what seemed like a subtle mayonnaise for the onion rings, salsa for the wontons, and something that tasted a lot like blue cheese for the buffalo wings. The onion rings weren't as crunchy as I'd hoped, but tasty nonetheless. The Mexican wontons were stuffed with ground beef and were good enough. I'm a sucker for buffalo wings--these were perfectly spicy, although it could've had a tad less sauce.

The blue bacon salad was different from the salads that I've been having lately. It had the usual greens, tender bacon (not the crunchy bottled version!), and onion rings! More accurately, onion strips cooked like onion rings--coated in batter and fried--and sprinkled on top of the salad. There was just enough blue cheese dressing to lightly coat--not overwhelm--the greens. That salad gets an A in my book!

Afterwards, I checked out their cake display. They had a bunch of tempting tiny cakes (if they had pies, "cutie pie" would've been so accurate!)--each good enough for one. Mumsy got one of the bestsellers, the chocolate cheesecake. Didn't get to try it though. I had the blueberry cheesecake. Pretty normal, but it definitely hit the spot!

And the best part of the evening? The conversation.

The next time I'm in the area, I'll be sure to drag whoever I'm with to this resto. I'm actually raring to go to Alabang just so I could sample the other stuff on their menu.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

CPK's New Stuff

As if I didn't have enough reasons to love this job, was invited to lunch (together with the other magazines) by California Pizza Kitchen to try out their new stuff. A rundown of their "new palate-teasers":
  • Clam Chowder - It's their current bestselling soup. Didn't get to try it though.
  • Thai Crunch Salad - To start things off: shredded Napa cabbage, chilled grilled chicken breast, julienne cucumbers, edamame (I think these are those little Japanese snacks that resemble peas), crispy wontons, peanuts, cilantro, julienne carrots, red cabbage, and scallions tossed together with a lime-cilantro dressing, crispy rice sticks, and Thai peanut dressing.
  • Chipotle Chicken Pizza - It's got fire-roasted mild chilies, chipotle sauce, and Mozzarella and Enchilado cheeses. In the center, it's got a mound of roasted corn and black bean salsa, cilantro, and lime cream sauce.
Fast fact: Chipotles are smoke-dried chile/jalapeno peppers used in Mexican cooking.
  • Milan Pizza - Dee-lish! It's a Neopolitan pizza (if I'm not mistaken, meaning it's got a thin, crunchy crust) topped with grilled Italian sausage, sweet wild mushrooms (I think they're Portabello. Or maybe I'm inventing!), caramelized onions, and Fontina and Mozzarella cheeses. It's also got fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. It's a bit pricey though (supposedly because of the mushrooms)--around P700 for about 14 inches.
  • Shanghai Garlic Noodles - Didn't get to try it, but the QA officer says it's sort of like their version of the Pancit Canton. It's Chinese noodles wok-stirred in a garlic-ginger saice with snow peas, Shitake mushrooms, mild onions, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, and scallions. I think there's a bit of shrimp in there too.
  • Szechuan Orange Chicken Lettuce Wraps - If you've got a thing for spicy food, you might want to try this: crispy chicken wok seared with Shitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, carrots, and green onions, served on a bed of crispy rice noodles and some Szechuan orange sauce. The lettuce is served on a separate plate, so you have to put it together yourself. Warning: not to be eaten on first dates, kinda messy!
  • Avocado Club Eggrolls - A winner! This was my favorite among the bunch. Crispy wontons stuffed with fresh avocado, chicken, tomato, Monterey Jack Cheese, applewood smoked bacon. It's served with ranchito sauce and herb ranch dressing. Mmmm. If you were to try just one thing, let this be it! Well, this or the Milan Pizza.
CPK's got branches at Glorietta 3, Alabang Town Center, Shangri-La Mall, Tomas Morato, and Promenade.

(Left) My favorite! The Avocado Club Eggrolls. (Right) The very Mexican
Chipotle Chicken Pizza. Photos courtesy of CPK.