Going Gluten Free in La Nuova

One of my favorite Italian restaurants in town is La Nuova. Situated across the San Antonio church in Mckinely, it is perfect for a post mass dinner. It is also right beside Mercury Drug, Rustan’s Supermarket, BPI, National Bookstore and many other establishments, which makes it the perfect lunch stop for busy mommies out to run errands.

When there, I have to resist taking home tubs of the wide range of Antipasto from their chiller. Marinated olives, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes in one end and salamis, chorizos and cheeses in the other. They also have many delicious desserts and cakes. If you are a first timer, you must grab their Sansrival chips that come with a butter dipping sauce. Yum!

My staples when dining in are usually a pizza (I love the Margherita and Quatro Stagione), a pasta (Vongole Al Vino Bianco or Agli Olio Con Gamberi) and of course dessert – the Tartuffo.

Today, we decided to go gluten free with our orders, but as always, I could not resist their crisp flat bread served with Marinated Tomatoes and Pate.

Complimentary Spreads, served with Flatbread

Our appetizer was Carpaccio di Manzo alla Toscana, another Italian restaurant staple on my list. This is yummy and well marinated, I just don’t care for the black olives.

Carpaccio di Manzo alla Toscana

Our mains were simple: the clams from the Vongole (no pasta today) and Creamed Spinach and Mushrooms.

Vongole Clams

Creamy Spinach and Mushrooms

My dear best friend and constant companion Ines.

La Nuova San Antonio Plaza, Mckinely Road, Forbes Park

Pancake House or IHOP?

I was quite surprised to see that IHOP opened its doors to Manila several months ago, partly because Pancake House (pretty much our own local version) is such a big part of our culture and partly because I was never drawn to try it during my trips to the U.S. Food being a matter of preference,  IHOP’s launch was quite well received and months later, there is still a line to get a seating. I had to see what the fuss was about and decided to do a direct comparison to my Pancake House favorites.

PANCAKE HOUSE CLASSIC PANCAKES 2 for 140Php or 3 for 169Php vs. IHOP ORIGINAL BUTTERMILK PANCAKE 2 for 195Php

I must say, both establishments offer really good pancakes, but that is what is to be expected. What I like about Pancake House is that you can choose whether you get 2 pieces or 3 and they have mini pancakes for kids. Also, it is less expensive than IHOP. What I do like about IHOP on the other hand is the selection of syrups – maple, strawberry, blueberry and butter pecan – and all are excellent! For this one, it is a real toss up!

Pancake House Mini Pancakes

IHOP Original Buttermilk Pancakes

PANCAKE HOUSE COUNTRY BREAKFAST 227Php vs. IHOP SPLIT DECISION BREAKFAST 325Php

These 2 dishes have to be broken down to compare. The eggs were better in IHOP, but not by much. Both establishment’s scrambled eggs could use a little help. As for the sausage, Pancake House has a really yummy country sausage while IHOP’s was underwhelming. I was glad to have the bacon on the plate. The hash brown of Pancake House hands down was better. The IHOP ones were really soggy. I also liked that Pancake House serves this with 2 pieces of toast rather than IHOP’s French toast, which too, was quite soggy. What saves IHOP’s dish is that it comes with 2 pancakes so it is value for your money in the sense that if you finish all of it, you will definitely get full.

Pancake House Country Breakfast

IHOP Split Decision Breakfast

PANCAKE HOUSE FILIPINO OPTIONS 202Php-284Php vs. IHOP QUICK 2-EGG BREAKFAST 295Php

I’m not going to lie, I am a sucker for Filipino breakfast anywhere, and Pancake House, does it really well. From their indulgent longganisa, tocino and tapa to the lighter daing na bangus and smoked tinapa, each and option is awesome! I compare this to the IHOP quick egg breakfast because it is the epitome of the stereotypical American breakfast that we all know and love, bacon and eggs. Sadly, the plate was really greasy so I did not get that craving satisfied.

Pancake House Pork Tocino

Pancake House Daing na Bangus

IHOP Quick 2-Egg Breakfast

PANCAKE HOUSE GRILLED CHEESE 142Php vs. IHOP GRILLED CHEESE 175Php

This will be a biased opinion… the Pancake House grilled cheese is the ultimate comfort food. I could eat this everyday… and I would if the calories wouldn’t come to bite me (or should I say linger) in the a*s. But I will give it to IHOP, theirs is alright too. And even if I just love the potato salad and canned pineapple chunks that come with Pancake House’s, I really did enjoy the fruit cup in IHOP’s because it was very fresh.

Pancake House Grilled Cheese

IHOP Grilled Cheese

Other Favorites

Pancake House definitely has a few other favorites that I had to include in this post.

Pancake House Original Golden Brown Waffle 189Php

Though I did not sample the waffle of IHOP, I knew it would be difficult to live up to the perfect Pancake House waffle. It is the best waffle in town, maybe even that I have ever tried! Even their other variants like the bacon waffle, the cheese waffle or the caramel banana are all delicious. A favorite for sure!

Pancake House Golden Brown Waffle

Pancake House Classic Spaghetti 175Php and Pancake House Best Taco In Town 107Php

Other classics from the brand are the spaghetti with meat sauce and the taco. I crave for both which makes it difficult to order when I am there because I just want so many things!

Pancake House Classic Spaghetti

IHOP too, presented me with options that I believe deserve a specal mention.

IHOP Cinn-A-Stack Pancakes 235Php

These were sinfully delicious! Perfectly fluffy pancakes elevated with a cinnamon spread and cream cheese. I would return just to have this sweet indulgence!

IHOP Cinn-A-Stack Pancakes

IHOP Milkshakes 175Php

Yummy and thick, IHOP knows how to make a yummy milkshake!

Chocolate Milkshakes

 

IHOP is at the W Global Center, 30th st. corner 9th ave., Fort Bonifacio, Taguig

Pancake House is everywhere

 

My New Favorite

I was back in Cebu for a quick over night trip to judge a beauty pageant when I tried for the first time Kouign-amann. Hours after, I can think of nothing else. This bread was sweet and buttery, flaky and soft and truly one of the yummiest things I have ever eaten. I got home and googled this delectable pastry and here is how the ever reliable Wikipedia defines it:

Kouign-amann (pronounced [,kwiɲaˈmɑ̃nː] (kwee nwa-man), Breton pl. kouignoù-amann) is a Breton cake. It is a round crusty cake, made with bread dough containing layers of butter and sugar folded in, similar in fashion to puff pastry albeit with fewer layers. The resulting cake is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough (resulting in the layered aspect of it) and the sugar caramelizes. The name derives from the Breton words for cake (“kouign”) and butter (“amann”). Kouign-amann is a speciality of the town Douarnenez in Finistère, in the west of France, where it originated in around 1860.

 

Look at how beautifully crusty and sugary it is the outside is…

Flaky with a really soft inside…YUM!

It was fellow judge and top fashion designer Jojie Lloren who introduced me to this crazy deliciousness. It is available in the Tymad Bistro in Maria Luisa. Now I am on a hunt to find a good one in Manila.

Until then… Dreaming of my next encounter with the sinful treat!

Tymad Bistro Maria Luisa Road, Banilad, Cebu City

Hongkong

This entry is LONG overdue. Though I have written notes along the way, this trip was taken over a year ago. It was mid-December in 2012 when my husband and I decided to take a few days off (from work, from the holiday stress and from being parents). It was one of the best trips we had ever gone on for many reasons. One of which was that we were meeting a couple which had just moved there that we had formed a great friendship with. Another reason was because it was our own special holiday, just the 2 of us – something we try to go back to being at least once a year.

If you are wondering why it has taken me this long to do this entry it is because what started out as the perfect mini vacation did not end well. Somewhere in the last stretch of our trip we received the sad news that our family driver had suffered a stroke and was rushed to the ICU.  Some may not understand, but in our home, our staff is considered family. Manny (or Handy Many according to my 3 year old at the time) was a really spirited individual. He was great as drivers go… He knew his way around, was awake early and never complained. But what I really remember was that he had quite the happy aura and seemed to never have a problem. He was kind to my children, always joking around and making them laugh. My husband and I both knew how lucky we were to have him. Every moment remaining of that trip was a silent prayer that he would pull through.

Upon returning home we realized that the situation was worse than we expected. After surgery and several days of medication, he lost his life.

I guess looking back there is a part of me that still lives with guilt. How frivolous it seemed to spend our hard earned money on a trip while someone who was so good to our family was suffering back home. Many have told me not to feel this way… that these emotions are unfounded in a situation that was beyond our control. But somehow I could never get myself to write this post, even looking at the photos was a constant reminder of loss.

On his one-year death anniversary, my husband and children lit a candle for him in the chapel. It was their little way of remembering him. This is my way… facing what happened head on and accepting that there is always a reason for things, decided on by a greater power. I begin this year by choosing to let the past go, and this is my way of honoring him.

Day 1

Lunch – Nha Trang

Vietnamese is one of my favorite Asian cuisines. This place boasted of authenticity and came highly recommended by one of my best friends, Tanya, who is a HK resident.

Simple setting

We started with rolls – Deep-Fried Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls that came with lettuce leaves, basil and cucumber for rolling, and a sweet vinegar dipping sauce. It was crunchy on the outside and tasty on the inside but I definitely preferred our second choice, the Fresh Red Perilla Soft Shell Crab Rolls. These were excellent. The crab was fresh and very meaty and the glass noodle picked up the refreshing dipping sauce. I could not stop.

Deep Fried Pork & Shrimp Spring Roll

Fresh Red Perilla Soft Shell Crab Rolls

We also sampled their suckling pig, much like our local crispy pata. The pork is pre marinated for several hours in an herb infused wine stock then slow roasted. It was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. A great main course option!

Suckling Pig

I skipped dessert while my husband sipped on a refreshing Vietnamese Iced Coffee.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Grocery Run

Whenever I travel, I always set aside time on my first day to hit the supermarket… I absolutely love grocery shopping!  And when in Hongkong, City Super is definitely a super treat!

Dinner

We spent the evening at home, where we have a great view of the city lights. We enjoyed Salami Milano, Port Salut, Crackers and some of our favorite beers – my husband can’t resist an ice-cold Tsingtao!

Gorgeous skyline

Day 2

Lunch – Butao Ramen

Back then there was still no Ramen Nagi (or SM Aura for that matter) in Manila so Butao Ramen was a real delight. Highly recommended by a co-parent in my daughter’s class, who said I had to brave the wait. Small and always packed, go there early, way before the 11am lunch crowd and expect to still have to stand in line. But always worth the time and the energy, Butao is truly authentic ramen. Known to serve up an awesome black broth, this bowl is an explosion of familiar yet elevated flavors in your mouth.

Tiny space and always packed

Chopsticks and condiments

Butao King

Black King

Green King

Dinner – The Globe

This place was perfect for Hongkong’s bustling yuppie crowd. Because the city is truly a melting pot of cultures, this sports bar has a wide array of craft beers and authentic pub favorites to satisfy both locals and foreigners alike.

I went simple, opting to sample the Caesar salad, which came with a soft-boiled egg and smoked salmon. Though the elements on the plate were fresh, the dressing had a very processed taste, which made the dish seem overpriced.

Caesar Salad

The other orders at the table were the Meat Pie and the Organic Steak Sandwich. The pie was delicious with a nice pastry crust while the sandwich was underwhelming.

Meat Pie with Baked Beans and Mashed Potatoes

Organic Steak Sandwich

Day 3 MACAU

Lunch – A Lorcha

I was told that you cannot visit Macau and not sample their Portuguese cuisine. A Lorcha, which is a few steps away from the A-Ma Temple, is said to be one of the best. This restaurant also came highly recommended by another HK resident, my husband’s cousin Martin. The food was wonderful but what I still remember to this very day is the staff. Made up of mostly Filipinos, they were warm and welcoming and really happy to be serving fellow ‘kababayans.’ It was great to share stories from home and learn about the lives of the OFWs residing in Macau.

Warm, freshly baked Bread

We started with the Grilled Pork Chorizo. It was that salty-sweet mix, much like chorizo Macau and served with giant black olives. I love that it was grilled because that enhanced the flavor.  We followed that with Garlic Shrimp because I was in the mood for gambas. This was also a tasty dish but I prefer the way the Spanish prepare it.

Grilled Pork Chorizo

Garlic Shrimp

Our mains were the African Chicken – this was a really delicious thick stew flavored with chicken and pimientos. It was such a hearty dish that I wish I ordered a cup of plain rice to enjoy it with! Instead we opted for the Portuguese Seafood Stewed Rice. Though it was heavy, it tasted so good and had that fresh seafood flavor. I enjoyed both dishes very much but felt like I had to be rolled out of there!

African Chicken

Seafood Stewed Rice

Dinner – Imperial House Dim Sum

After a wonderful day of gambling and a show, we took it easy and had our favorite dim sum at the Venetian Hotel.

Condiments

Baked Pork Buns

Truly one of my favorite things in the world…

Hakaw

Siomai

Sweet & Sour Pork

Day 4 was all about Chinese food…

Lunch – Maxims Palace

We ordered up more dim sum for today’s lunch, this time in Maxim’s Palace at City Hall. This is said to be one of the more popular places in the city, proven by how full it always is.

Steamed Pork Bun

Xiao Long Bao

Pork and Mushroom Spring Rolls

Hakaw

Siomai

Zongzi

Crispy Noodle with Beef in Oyster Sauce

Rice Cakes

Dinner – Under Bridge Spicy Crab

Tonight we were meeting with another HK resident friend, Stacey, and she recommended we try a well-known seafood place, Under Bridge Spicy Crab. This restaurant was quite good and all the seafood was fresh. We started with clams – the first Sautéed with Chili and Garlic and the second was Razor Clams with Vermicelli and Garlic. Yummy! My favorite of the night though was the Steamed Scallops on Shells with Vermicelli, Green Onions and Garlic. It was smooth and buttery, really more than you would expect from a steamed scallop dish.

Sauteed Clams

Razor Clams

Steamed Scallops

For our mains we had Deep Fried Tofu (which was excellent), Lemon Chicken (good, but something you could get in most Chinese restaurants here), Steamed Fish, and the Under Bridge Spicy Crab. You will see from the photo that it is LOADED with crisp garlic and chili. It was as fantastic as it looks in the photo. I’m sure you’re imaginations can take your taste buds there… Worth every HK$ and calorie!

Fried Tofu

Lemon Chicken

Steamed Fish

Under Bridge Spicy Crab

Meaty Claw

My beautiful plate

Day 5 A date with myself on Stanley Beach

I decided to take the day for myself to check out Stanley Beach. This place quickly became a favorite of mine. The bus drive over was comfortable and the scenery was beautiful. Upon arrival, I found it easy to navigate through the attractions, the market and the restaurants.

I began with breakfast, and opted to have something easy and quick in Classified, a quaint little shop that had a great wine and cheese selection. The Eggs Benedict I ordered was one of the best I have ever had. It was a small portion but packed with flavor, starting off with a perfectly toasted English muffin, topped with fresh prosciutto and a beautifully poached egg, then generously topped with hollandaise.

Pretty wine display

Table setting

Eggs Benedict

Ooooooze!

After a couple of hours of shopping, I had a light snack of Chilli Wings from Quick & Fresh. This was a really tiny portion, a little too small for my appetite. Though it was tasty, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

Chilli Wings

My last food stop was the Chez Patrick Deli. I was drawn to it by a mini display outside of their featured wines, specialty oils and salts, cheeses and smoked meat. I decided to dine in and relax my tired feet over a sweet tea and their Warm Salted Chocolate Tart. The sweet ending was rich and delicious.

Iced Tea

Salted Chocolate Tart

Day 6

Lunch – BRAT

My husband and I grabbed a quick hotdog sandwich in Brat, which was voted best hotdog in HK by a local magazine. It was in deed quite the sinful lunch option. As always, I got a plain dog.

Dinner – Sahara

This was our last double date with our friends Lex and Cooper so they wanted to take us to one of their favorite spots. Serving up awesome Middle Eastern dishes, Sahara definitely did not disappoint. This was one of the best meals of the trip. And the hookah at the end of the meal was quite nice too!

We started with the Zaaluk, which is roasted eggplant, generously seasoned with garlic, coriander and extra virgin olive oil and served with homemade Sahara bread. We also sampled their Hommos with Grilled Chicken, which was to die for good. I usually don’t go for chicken when I’m dining out but this was probably the most tender and flavorful chicken I have ever had.

Zaaluk

‘Hommos’ with Grilled Chicken

Next, we moved on to the Sahara Salad with fried halloumi cheese and later to our meat courses, the Lamb Stew (really yummy and falling off the bone, served with couscous and grilled vegetables) and more grilled meats, a combo of beef and chicken. Again, the chicken was the clear winner of the two.

Sahara Salad with Fried Halloumi Cheese

Lamb Stew with Cous Cous

Day 7

Brunch – The Press Room

We enjoyed a lovely last brunch in The Press Room before heading to the airport. This all-day bar and dining hub offers French-European cuisine. Upon browsing through the menu, I saw many interesting dishes that sounded great such as the Lobster and Avocado Sandwich or the Hanger Steak Frites. But since they are known for their weekend brunch, I opted to have my all-time favorite sandwich, the Croque Madame. My husband decided on the Press Room Breakfast, which was made of Toulouse sausage, bacon, mushrooms, eggs, hash browns, home-baked beans and a stone baked baguette. This was definitely a breakfast for a big appetite! Lastly, we had some of the freshly bake scones, served with clotted cream and homemade jam. I could have thought of no better meal to end the trip.

Croque Madame with Fries and Chocolate Milk

Yum!

The Press Room Breakfast

Scones

A big shout out to our dearest Lex and Cooper, who showed us around the most and really helped us through a difficult situation. Until our next food trip! We love you!

Blackbook

Nha Trang 88-90 Wellington Street, Central, Hongkong

Butao G/F 40 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay, Hongkong

The Globe 45-53 Graham Street, Central, Hongkong

A Lorcha 289A Rua do Almirante Sergio, Macau Peninsula, Macau

Imperial House Dim Sum The Venetian Hotel, Macau

Maxims 2/F City Hall, Low Block, Central, Hongkong

Under Bridge Spicy Crab G/F-3/F, Ascot Mansion, 421-425 Lockhart Road Wan Chai, Hongkong

Classified, Quick&Fresh and Chez Patrick Deli are all located in the Stanley Plaza, Hongkong

Brat Staunton Street, Soho, Central, Hongkong

Sahara G/F 11 Elgin Street, Soho, Central, Hongkong

The Press Room 108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hongkong