How my Birthday started at Tsokolateria

menu tsokolateria

It’s been almost a month now…

Just when the celebratory mood for my birthday started to go down the drain with the seemingly unending shower in Baguio City last July, I began to see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Actually, it’s more of a pot of chocolates!

Tsokolateria is a small al fresco dining on the famed Igorot Stairs along Leonard Wood Road. The artisanal cafe is part of the bigger chain of restaurants from Happy Concepts where Barrio Fiesta belongs.

The nipping cold woke my rather lethargic self. I was feeling cold and rolled in a ball on my bed staring at the door thinking “happy birthday!…what now?” And as always, when my mind was about to escape reality, you come barging in with that unwavering smile. You asked if I wanna have some breakfast. And there I was, bedazzled. I asked for a couple of minutes to wash away the stains of the cold evening.

Surprise! You took me upstairs. Just a couple of steps up where we were staying. It’s almost mid-day yet the sun refused to smile. Then we were in for another surprise! Tsokolateria doesn’t open until 10 AM! It didn’t dampen the already sour birthday morning…so we wait. I don’t smoke…you don’t either, and that little nook we were sitting on was way too perfect for a morning puff!

menu tsokolateria

The al fresco nook was just perfect! Artisanal Cafe it was called because they only serve hand-made kitchen creations of high quality ingredients. Eveything in that quaint cafe is, for the lack of a better word, cute…from the space it occupies down to the serving trays! One thing to note when you ask for the menu is that it is heavy! It’s a compilation of laminated sheets where the menu is printed. What made it heavy yet adorable was the woodworks! It is held by a wood block with that instrument you typically use to make/stir the perfect hot choco!

The menu has chocolates written all over you’d think it’s a dessert haven. It was a surprise that they actually serve real meals. The catch? Savory as they were, all meals did not escape the cacao invasion!  Since we were the first customer of the day (we literally opened shop), savory brekky had to wait.

For starters we had an interesting irony – The Frozen Hot Tsoko.

Tsokolateria - frozen hot tsoko

Frozen Hot Tsoko is a pot of hot hand-crafted cocoa and vanilla ice cream. So how do you consume an irony? Well, you take that scoop of cold vanilla ice cream in that small cup and pour over the hot cocoa, then you use that cute stirrer that comes along with the cups! The smoothness of the cold vanilla ice cream complements the bitter-sweet bite of that hot cocoa. Deliciously interesting for the irony of a couple that we were. The damage for this morning potion was P 200.

While we were savoring the ironic starter, they were prepping our breakfast…err…brunch.

bacon pork belly - tsokolateria - baguio

So you can’t really escape the cacao fever here. Our breakfast was one of their “all time fave” – Bacon Lechon Kawali Cebu Style & Cacao Nibs. The Menu described it as “Tanglad (lemon grass) marinated, bacon cut liempo (pork loin) cooked in peppercorns, bay leaf and cacao nibs”(and there’s that nagging bit that say’s I may be savory but I can be chocolatey)

The dish was served with native garlic mountain rice, Pinoy salsa, native orange yolk omelet and sinamak and cacao nibs.

Dissecting breakfast was what we did. We devoured whatever the pots, pans and plates have to offer while having some candid convo on the merits and demerits of our chosen meal. The native garlic mountain rice was served in a terracotta pot. It was native and therefore it has that unrefined taste. It was grainy yet flavorful and filling. The earthy flavor was teased by the mix of savory lechon kawali, spicy sinamak and the freshness of tomatoes and greens. So much for the famed mountain rice! The star of the meal was the bacon cut pork loin that was pan fried to perfection! It was as crispy as pork crackling minus the oozing fats. Crispy made tender by the mild kick from the sinamak with cocoa nibs. The total damage for this satisfying breakfast was P 250.

The bill came as a surprise (err…how many times have I used this word!)! How can you resist paying. I even asked if I can keep it!

tsokolateria bill tray

Everything became interesting that morning…even the rain! It was a bit forgiving that allowed me to wander a bit on Session Road.

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Eating Session Road Series: Oh My Gulay

oh my gulay omelet pansit gulay

Your words are my food, your breath my wine.  You are everything to me. – Sarah Bernhardt

The monsoon affair was nourished by the eternal rain, shared umbrella, gastronomic adventures and a bucket of light beer along Session Road. This mini series took us down Session Road in search for food – the one that nourishes the flesh only because the heart was somewhat sated…

It started with that thoughtful offer to share lunch on an unfamiliar place with a stranger. We were thrilled by the thought of discovering something new, someplace we both have never been to. So there! Armed with a folding umbrella to keep us dry, jackets to keep us warm and flip-flops we head out on the rain to look for La Azotea where Oh My Gulay is supposed to be found. I have the faintest idea what’s in store for us.

oh my gulay

Oh My Gulay sits on the 5th level of La Azotea Building. Who would have thought that this place exists?! The place lived up to it’s name! Oh My Gulay (OMG) is some catchy phrase you’d definitely say when you reach the top of the stairs! By the way, La Azotea doesn’t have a lift, so it’s a hike to the 5th level…but the hike is definitely worth it!

Like the place’s name implies, they only serve veggies! Oh My Gulay is a vegetarian restaurant. We were quite aware of it so we asked for the menu to check what ‘veggies’ they offer.

vegetarian pansit

They offer pasta dishes, however, with the cold weather and the eternal downpour from the heaven up close, we felt that traditional pansit was more appropriate. And so we asked for their Pansit Gulay.  It is your traditional egg noodles, tofu (to replace any sort of meat), 10 assorted veggies that were in season, all tossed in their spicy pansit sauce. We were told that the serving was only good for one person. Surprisingly, the bowl priced at P 135 was good enough to two hungry adults.

 

omelet

Because we were not aware of the serving portions, we decided to have a go at their Sibuyas at Kabute Omelet also good for sharing. It was filled with caramelized onion rings and mushrooms and cheese! I just did not appreciate how the oil adorned the omelet’s surface (arte lang!). But overall, it was tasty and filling. Aside from my issue with the cooking oil, another let down was the “basil cheese toast”. My ever critical tastebuds hardly recognized the presence of basil or cheese on the barely toasted bread.

After the meal, we wandered around to see the art exhibit.  They’re celebrating the art pieces of Benjie Mallari, the Art Director of Insurance Manila. He was known through his powerful editorial cartoons and sketches for the newspaper Malaya during the Marcos dictatorship.

nervin_ohmygulay

Oh My Gulay, apart from serving vegetarian dishes is a VOCAS (Victor Oteyza Community Art Space). This explains the novelty of the place screaming A-R-T. I could consider the entire space as a work of art, from the stairwell going up leading to the unexpected warmth of the dining space. Every little piece says something…

ship-wreck-omg

A piece of a ship-wreck above the kitchen

omg_view2

The kitchen’s somewhere there!

omy_view1

There’s the garden I so like.  It was raining cats and dogs for eternity and here we were, comfortably sitting on that ship-wreck sipping on bottomless cups of brewed coffee (for P 65).

I’ve read a few blogs mentioning their experiences at Oh My Gulay but everything came unexpected the moment we stepped in. I can easily find a comfortable nook and read a book. I already posted a sticky note reminding me to come back and enjoy a little piece of peace to renew my broken spirit.

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Oh My Gulay
5 Level, La Azotea Building
Upper Session Road, Baguio City

Manokan Country! Where you can never be wrong on chicken

Manokan Country

The first thing that crosses my mind about Bacolod is “chicken inasal” or better known as “inato” in the local language. All the stuff I read, all the recommendations I collected pointed to one direction… Manokan Country.

The place is a strip of joints offering the same thing…Bacolod’s famous chicken inasal.  Manokan Country is not a place for squeamish  people. Why? They don’t offer utensils! But they have enough stations where you can wash your hands before and after dining! Yup! Kamayan style…the best way to enjoy grilled chicken.

chicken inasal

Chicken Inasal. Marinated chicken and cooked over charcoal grill.  What made Bacolod’s grilled chicken different? You’ve got to taste it to know the difference. It’s not an overstatement. Nothing beats the authentic inasal right off one of the grills in Manokan Country.

I’ve read a number of posts talking about which joint is the best. In the end, when I dropped by Manokan Country, I was starving so I went to the first one I came about, Aida’s.

…and there was the traditional LOST IN TRANSLATION 🙂

I came in (wala pa kasing masyadong tao)…

Looked around…(walang pumapansin)…

I asked…”San umoorder?” (there was no counter nor stand where you can identify where to place your order)

Sabi ni ate: Ano yun?
I replied: San pwede umorder? (ate pointed me to middle-aged woman so I came and asked)

Ate offered me a seat and I waited…(It did not occur to me that she was waiting for me to state what I’d like to have). Wala palang Menu. hahaha

And since I am literally a foreigner in this side of the country…I asked “anong pwedeng kainin?” (now that was a stupid question).

Ate politely smiled with her one-time hiritmanok“. (Then I realized how stupid my questions was).

What else could I possibly eat from a joint in MANOKAN COUNTRY? Syempre MANOK! (I silently laughed out). Your only choices are the parts.

I got myself the usual…

Well what do you know! The meat is tender, soft and moist! pero luto down to the bones! The meat was tasty. It has that flavor in every bite. Samahan mo pa ng chicken oil over a hot steaming rice ball and the spicy toyo-mansi!

Now even before I came I knew that they’re not serving utensils so before the chicken gets cooked I have washed my hands clean and ready.  I came out full and satisfied…

Where is Manokan Country?

You can easily spot it because it has a huge inflatable chicken on the roof. It’s pink and facing SM City Bacolod.

 

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A taste of Iloilo

sicilian pasta by afriques

I travel not only to see the sight but to taste the local cuisine and the culture.  When I went to Iloilo my tastebuds were programed to to savor the famous Lapaz Batchoy and biscotcho. Did I get to do it?  I wouldn’t miss it!

I arrived in Iloilo with a grumbling stomach.  I did not have anything but a cup of coffee in the airport with my uncle a couple of hours before they left Manila and before my own flight. When the shuttle service went to a halt in front of the  travelers’ lounge in SM Iloilo, I was dying to find a place to eat! I was famished!

What’s for lunch?

I’ve posted lunch here in my earlier post.  I had lunch at Green Mango.

This is lunch.  Hindi naman halata na gutom ako…

Before the 53 km road trip to San Joaquin!

Batchoy, I first tasted batchoy in a paper noodle cup. Yup! I’ve been eating it for quite some time and have not had any clue what the real thing tastes like. So before I took off the road to San Joaquin, I dropped by Ted’s.  The famous restaurant serving the authentic soup!.

Authentic Lapaz Batchoy from Ted’s

The term batchoy is derived from the Chinese ba chui. The founder of batchoy was a chinese business man who started it in the 50’s. The business originated in the market place of La Paz, IloIlo, Philippines.

The signature Ingredients of batchoy are rich pork and beef based broth filled with yellow noodles and topped with cut-up roast pork, chicharron, fried garlic, and scallions. The original recipe would have included pork  innards such as spleen and liver. 



The soup served hot is topped with shreds of pork cracklings and fresh egg. It goes well with white puto. An extra supreme bowl in Ted’s would cost you 65 or 80+. I’m not so sure anymore. hehehe 🙂 I think I paid P 120 for the entire meal [the batchoy, a pack of puto and a can of Pepsi).


As always, the original recipe beats everything including the cup noodles that I usually have. The broth is warm and flavorful while the noodle is tender and cooked to perfection.  A bowl of batchoy is so filling that you wouldn’t ask for any other meal after (at least for a couple of hours).  Grebeh! Busog na ako at half pa lang ung nauubos ko! 


Dinner after the long road trip


The road trip to San Joaquin was long and tiring. When I reached Ong Bun, I took a cold shower and headed out for dinner. This time I tried Uncle Tom’s. It’s a steak house right across Days Hotel near Sain Paul.

 

I had a baby back rib for dinner. A rib only (LOL) because I’m eating alone.  Initially, I though it was pricey since the place looks posh. When I came in, I learned that it is a self service, pay-as-you-order diner.

My meal was a baby back rib in a really good sauce, a cup of rice and coleslaw. The meal was great although I couldn’t help but compare it with the superb rib steak I had in Casa Verde in Cebu.

Oh they have free wifi pala

I was the last customer which explains the vacant seats across the entire room.

After a sumptuous dinner a brisk walking was needed. I took a stroll along Valeria street and passed by Coffee Break.  I thought I wanted something sweet.

And before leaving Iloilo, I did not pass the chance to dine in Afrique’s on  a Valentine’s day.

The place was small yet cozy. It is pretty good for a date I must say. But I came alone so some guests must have some thoughts…LOL.  I’m dating myself! Anyway, the staff was accommodating and nice.  What did I have?

Afrique’s Sicilian Pasta

I ordered their Sicilian Pasta.  I was curious so I asked for something I haven’t tried. It’s not an Ilonggo dish but certainly worth to try.  I must say I loved everything in this dish. The pasta was cooked to perfection while the sauce was rich and flavorful!.  It was perfect! I love the chucks of tomatoes and black olives as well as the perfectly cooked aubergines!  And if I may add, the serving was enough for two to be satisfied.  And since I have a date with myself that day, it was perfect for me and my other self…:)

So much flavor for my tastebuds? I had a few for culture I guess…

I went to Iloilo without any knowledge of their dialect. Hence, I got lost in translation.

If there are two things I can proudly use whenever I am in Iloilo, these are:

PALIHUG – it means asking for favor. As in when asking someone to pass on the fare to the jeepney driver or if you are to excuse yourself. They normally  say “palihug ko”

SA LUGAR LANG – We normally say “PARA” when we want to get off the bus or a jeep or any similar means of public transportation.  I don’t exactly know where it came from.  It doesn’t make sense but we use it.  In Iloilo, they say “sa lugar lang” or “lugar lang” to ask the driver to stop.  It’s equivalent to a more logical phrase “sa tabi lang” or “please stop on that spot(lugar).

There are so much to see, feel and taste but time was limited. I wanted to visit more churches, taste more local food and learn the dialect.  What I did was just a dent on the rich culture and flavor that is Iloilo…

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Ted’s Oldtimer Lapaz Batchoy
Robinson’s Place, Iloilo City, Iloilo

Afrique’s
Valeria St., Iloilo City, Iloilo
http://afriquespizza.com/

Flashback: The Spaghetti Factory, a walk away from work

I work in Makati and I find it odd that I am not able to even see the city.  My usual day would start at night (how ironic: what you get for working in a contact center) and would end up on a nauseating morning with the intention of hitting the sack before I hit the ground unconscious. Anyway, there are times when I am really stressed that I super duper need some rest and relaxation.  Once in a while my friends from The Poor Club would gather and find a place to unwind and get away from work even for just a number of meters…
It was supposed to be an drinking session with the team.  Unfortunately we had a bit of miscommunication that it ended with just Vinci and I walking along the Dela Rosa Walkway.  We had an early lunch at the Spaghetti Factory. We had a bit of Australian red wine and a plate of puttanesca.  We capped the lunch with a cup of latte.
My puttanesca
A view from the Veranda of The Spaghetti Factory – Glorieta 5