Last chance to sample Australian grassfed beef specials at Dean & Deluca, 22 Prime, and more

Last June, the Australian Embassy launched its Australian Grassfed on the Menu campaign. They partnered with several restaurants in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao to create special beef dishes that would only be available for the two-month period of the promotion. And it will end on Aug. 30.

What’s so special about these dishes?

Well, for one, they use only high-grade Australian grassfed beef, which is said to be “healthier” than other cattle meat. Ninety-seven percent of Australian cattle are grown, free range. This means that cows freely graze on fields and mainly eat grass. Some Australian farms even allot one hectare per cow.

This type of beef is not actually new to the Philippines because it holds the lion share of beef imports to the country. According to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), 40 percent of all imported beef are from Australia. These products mainly go to fast food chains, hotels, and restaurants.

The promo, however, would like to highlight the beef at its best form, serving it like what Filipinos are used to when it comes to premium meat. While most of us are likely to eat more Australian beef than others, it doesn’t have the same brand recall like USDA Prime or Japanese Wagyu.

The Aussie embassy started this promo two years ago. They held special food trails for the media to try out the different dishes. I attended the first one, which is probably the best food crawl I have ever participated in. Because you know, beef. Fast forward to 2017 to another food trail.

They held the food trail for more than a week, covering participating restaurants in Metro Manila. I attended the last trail that listed five restaurants—Dean & Deluca, 22 Prime, Papa Didi’s, Chef Jessie Grill, and Epicurious. It’s basically eating beef from morning to sundown. I mean, best day ever, right?

Like a food crawl veteran (LOL), I was able to power through the whole day of eating beef. I’ve learned how to pace myself and my limits. Like what we usually do at buffet restaurants. And I must say—again—that it was another amazing food crawl.

Here are the five restaurants and the dishes to try:

DEAN & DELUCA, Rockwell, Makati City

SB Roast beef marmalade on crostini topped with pickles (Dean & Deluca)

Roast Beef Marmalade (Sweet, pulled pork-like shredded roasted beef on crunchy crostini topped with pickles.)

SB Braised beef ragu (Dean & Deluca)

Braised Beef Ragu (Slow cooked beef shank ragu ala Milanese with papardelle pasta and tendon puff. Very hearty!)

SB Ribe eye steak with bonne marrow butter annd served with tabbouleh salad (Dean & Deluca)

Ribe Eye Steak (Cooked to your liking, of course, but topped with flaky sea salt, bone marrow butterm and served with tabbouleh salad to balance things out.)

SB Roasted beef short ribs

Roasted Beef Short Ribs (Super tender roasted beef short ribs served with red rice, green shallot kimchi, and jalapeño puree.)

SB Beef hash

Natural Beef Hash (Heirloom potatoes, bell peppers, onion, topped with two poached eggs, slowly braised beef chunks, chopped tomato, basil pesto, and Parmesan cheese.)

22 PRIME, Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

SB Steak and tomato salad (22 Prime)

Steak and Tomato Salad (Grilled sake marinated skirt steak with heirloom tomatoes, basil, feta cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. My kind of salad.)

SB Oven braised short ribs with seaweed potato puree and wilted garlic spinach (22 Prime)

Oven Braised Short Ribs (Another super tender slow cooked boneless short ribs with seaweed potato purée and wilted garlic spinach)

SB Sous vide striploin with mushroom ragout, asparagus, poached egg, and sambal hollandaise sauce (22 Prime)

Sous Vide Striploin (Served with roasted potatoes, mushroom ragout, asparagus, and sambal hollandaise sauce)

PAPA DIDDI’S, Sapphire Bloc, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

SB Pancit Batil Patung

Pancit Batil Patung (Fresh linguini noodles cooked in beef stock then topped with poached egg, cabbage, onions, and carrots, served with extra stoup, fresh onions, chili, and soy sauce on the side)

SB Pappa Diddi's fusion burger with ube buns

Papa Diddi’s Fusion Burger (Beef patty with banana blossom patty, pineapple ring, sunny side up egg, pickles, lettuce, kesong puti, and honey mustard sauce with your choice of ube, malunggay, or pandan bun)

CHEF JESSIE GRILL, The Grove by Rockwell, Brgy. Ugong, Pasig City

SB Charcoal grilled oyster blade with fries and mesclun greens (Chef Jessie Grill)

Oyster Blade Steak (Cooked in a charcoal grill oven, it is served in mustard sauce with mesclun greens and french fries on the side)

SB Charcoal grilled beef striploin with grilled leeks and potato wedges (Chef Jessie Grill)

Striploin Steak (Served with grilled leeks, potatoes, and gravy)

SB Slow roast beef cheeks served with poutine and sauteed spinach (Chef Jessie Grill)

Slow Roast Beef Cheeks (Served with poutine and sautéed spinach)

EPICURIOUS, Shangri-la Plaza, Mandaluyong City

SB Beef fajitas with salsa and sour cream (Epicurious)

Beef Fajitas (Beef strips sautéed with bell peppers, onions, and young corn served with soft tortillas, salsa, and sour cream)

SB Fettuccine beef stroganoff (Epicurious)

Fettucine Stroganoff (Fettucine pasta in creamy beef and mushroom sauce served with garlic bread)

SB Roast beef with mushroom sauce

Roast Beef with Mushroom Sauce (Roast beef served with roasted vegetables and enoki mushroom, rice, and mushroom gravy)

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Find the complete list of restaurants on Facebook/Australia in the Philippines / Twitter @AusAmbPH / #TrueAussieBeefPH


All-seafood feast

After watching chef Gordon Ramsay decry the use of frozen food on television so many times, I came to a conclusion that frozen food is bad, especially frozen meat. But not after cooking premium frozen seafood that I realized that it’s not bad at all.

While it is true that fresh is still the best thing to use, frozen is a good alternative nonetheless. That is if the brand you’re buying has done the process right.

The right process means that the meat is frozen immediately after slaughtering or harvesting the animal. Freezing the meat at its freshest is the best way to do it. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, freezing “does not destroy the nutrients,” the meat actually retains it in the freezing process. Also, the packaging helps, too, in maintaining quality.

SB King crab with hollandaise sauce on a crunchy brioche bread
King crab flakes with hollandaise sauce on a cr

Recently, Mida Food, one of the country’s top distributors of frozen premium seafood celebrated its 20th anniversary in a delicious fashion. It held an all-seafood lunch for a select group of guests at Gallery Vask, which is also a client.

Mida Food started as a trading company but eventually delved into frozen seafood distribution, starting with tuna off cuts like tuna jaw and tail. Today, the ISO-certified company, has more than 300 store keeping units (SKUs) in its line from fresh Norwegian salmon to pre-cooked New Zealand mussels to frozen Indonesian soft shell crab.

SB Aromatic tuna tartare with avocado and cilantro
Aromatic tuna tartare with avocado and cilantro

According to Mida Food president and CEO Enrique Valles, they have 1,000 base customers and delivers to 150 clients daily, moving eight to 10 tons of products every day. Their clients range from hotels to high end restaurants to fast food chains. Some of its customers include Tokyo Tokyo, Shakley’s, North Park, andWendy’s, just to name a few.

During the luncheon, chef Chele Gonzalez prepared a five-course meal using Mida’s products.

Before the lunch started, two types canapes were passed around. First was the simple pan seared hamachi on bread. The second one was king crab flakes with hollandaise sauce on a crunchy brioche bread. These were accompanied by Spanish Cava and sparkling rosé wine.

SB Grilled tiger prawns with starberry and watermelon gazpacho
Grilled tiger prawns with strawberry and watermelon gazpacho

Beginning the lunch proper is a small bowl of aromatic tuna tartare with avocado and cilantro. The tuna was finely diced and mixed with onions and cilantro topped with a dollop of creamy mashed avocado.

The next course was the beautiful plate of grilled tiger prawns with strawberry and watermelon gazpacho. The refreshing cold soup was complemented by different textures of chicharon-like crumbs and crispy iberico ham chips.

This was followed by the pan fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy iberico ham. The fish was flaky and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

SB Pan fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy iberico ham chips
Pan fried halibut with pork ragout and crispy Iberico ham

Then the last main course was my favorite. It was a seafood risotto with squid ink topped with lobster meat, seared scallops, Parmesan cheese tuiles, and asparagus ribbons (top photo). A spoonful with all components was a play on texture and flavors—the creamy and buttery risotto, tender seafood meat, and salty cheese tuiles.

Another favorite was the dessert and the only non-seafood dish (duh). The “different textures of calamansi” was the perfect ending to the seafood lunch. Different calamansi flavored desserts in a messy but beautiful pile—mousse, crumbled cake, cookie crumbs, and creamy ice cream.

Mida has attributed its success to the growing food industry, with the numerous restaurants opening shop and with Filipinos looking for more seafood options. Enrique said that they plan to put up their own retail store in the future but meanwhile, its retail brand Pacific Bay frozen seafood is available at supermarkets and its salmon bar is open at Markeplace by Rustan’s.

SB Different textures of calamansi
Different textures of calamansi

“Pacific Bay is a very important part of Mida Food, which is our retail brand available at all supermarkets. At some point we want to explore a brick and mortar retail store sort of like Santi’s but for seafood, like a high end fishmonger,” Enrique said.

Beautiful Japan and its colorful food

Colorful in the literal sense but also colorful in terms of flavor, presentation, and texture. Japan has one of the best cuisines in the world and the best way to try this is by visiting the country itself.

I was lucky enough to visit the Land of the Rising Sun last month with a group of bloggers and journalists. It was my first time in Japan. And as I said it in previous posts, it is a dream destination for me.

Sakura in Magome
Sakura in Magome

So when my editor texted me (almost two months ago) if I was available to cover a familiarization tour (FAM tour) to Japan, to say that I was excited was an understatement. I was excited to see this beautiful country, which is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. I was excited to experience the country’s world-famous culture, both past and present. I was excited to taste the food—sushi, ramen, sashimi, tempura, udon, katsu, etc.

The destination was Central Japan, yes we toured not just one city but an entire region. Nagoya was our entry point via Jetstar, the organizer of the trip. The Japanese low cost airline started its flights to the Philippines last year and MNL-NGO (Nagoya) is one of its routes.

Nagoya TV Tower and Central Park from Oasis 21 all viewing platform
Nagoya TV Tower and Central Park from Oasis 21 mall viewing platform

Nagoya is home to around 30,000 Filipino residents. It is also the entry point to Japan’s heartland.

Before we get to the food, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the highlights of the trip.

Matsumoto Castle, the oldest castle in Japan
Matsumoto Castle, Japan’s oldest castle

Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, is the oldest castle in Japan, built between 1593 and 1594. Made of wood, stone, and clay, it’s one of Japan’s best symbols of building skill and design. It’s one of the most beautiful castles to photographs, because the Japanese Alps play as its stunning backdrop.

World Heritage site Shirakawa-go
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO world heritage site located in Gifu Prefecture. The small village is famous for its gassho-zukuri-style thatched roof houses. Situated in a valley up in the mountains, the village is surrounded by hills with lush forests, that is why one of the best seasons to visit is autumn. Wintertime is also best, when snow beautifully covers the thatched roofs.

The famous road of Alpine Route with snow walls on both sides
The famous highland road of Tateyama Alpine Route, flanked by snow walls on both sides

Alpine Route on Tateyama mountain (part of the Japanese Alps) in Toyama Prefecture is one of the most visited spots in Japan and now I can see why. It is famous for the mountain road that is sandwiched between towering snow walls. Located at 2,450 meters above sea level, Tateyama experiences some of the heaviest snowfalls in the world. Workers clear up the highland road of snow every winter but snow still accumulates on each side of the road. Parts of the wall can even reach up to 20 meters high! Best part of the visit was the travel route because of the stunning views left and right like the picture perfect Kurobe Dam. This attraction opens every spring.

Different varieties of begonias
One of several pavilions at Nabana no Sato that houses different varieties of South American begonias.

Nabano no Sato is a garden park at Nagashima Resort. Located in Kuwana in Mie Prefecture, less than an hour away from Nagoya City, the park displays indigenous and imported flora and fauna. The current displays include an exhibition of beautiful begonias of South America; field of tulips; and the Winter Illumination light installation.

Now to the important stuff—the food. As you guys already know, I love Japanese food. So to go the place where it originated was such an amazing experience.

For most of the trip, we were treated to traditional Japanese meals, except on the last day. This means no bowls of ramen or tendon or curry or fluffy cheesecakes or strawberry shortcakes.

Since we were in the countryside, the food were very traditional. I will only mention meals and restaurants that stood out for me, after all, there was a lot of food during the five-day trip.

Magomeya restaurant in Magome
Magomeya’s dining space

First eatery is Magomeya in Magome, Gifu Prefecture. The restaurant is located behind the bus parking space at the foot of the famous Nakasendo Route in Magome. It has a simple and traditional dining space but has an amazing view of the mountains.

The food here are set meals that comes with a bento box of starters, soup, soba noodles, rice, and dessert. In our bento box was a variety of proteins like karaage (Japanese fried chicken), braised fish, and egg omelet. It also has a mix of vegetable pickles and seaweed. The miso soup is like no other miso soup I ever had. It’s filled with ingredients like daikon, carrot, thinly sliced pork, and green onions. The broth is very flavorful and perfectly seasoned (this was so good!).

Magomeya set meal
Magomeya’s delicious set meal

The soba noodles was also a meal on its own. The perfectly cooked buckwheat noodles (chewy but still has a bite) was swimming in a warm dashi broth with a mix of mushrooms and green onions. To finish, a simple not-so-sweet jelly dessert with fresh fruits is the perfect light ending to a delicious meal.

Irori hida beef
Irori’s Hida beef cooked on a ho leaf

Another must-try restaurant is Irori in Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture. The eatery in this heritage village serves Japanese meals in its most traditional form. This includes slices of beef cooked on a ho (local tree) leaf with miso paste, tofu, bean sprouts, and green onions. This was, for me, the best beef dish during the trip! What’s even better is the restaurant uses Hida beef, one of Japan’s high grade cattle meats (in the level of Kobe beef). The set meals also comes with the usual starters like vegetables, smoked fish, tofu, and a bowl of rice.

Dinner setup at Bizenya restaurant in Gujo
Bizenya’s traditional dining setup

Then there’s Bizenya in Gujo City in Gifu Prefecture. The restaurant has a beautiful traditional garden and has a traditional dining setup. The restaurant’s setup lets its diners sit on cushioned legless chairs on the floor, covered with the very comfortable tatami mat. The beautifully presented meal has the usual starters. Note that appetizers vary per restaurant.

Fresh sashimi
Uber fresh sashimi
Traditional tempura is served with plain or flavored fine salt

Bizenya served us a variety of starters including extremely fresh sashimi (tuna, salmon, etc.) and steamed sea snail. The restaurant also served mixed tempura. At this point I discovered that tempura is originally served with plain or flavored fine salt and not the sweet ginger-soy dipping sauce we Filipinos are familiar with. The main dish is the beef (Hida, no less) sukiyaki, which we had to cook on the table by ourselves.

Hitsumabushi unagi
Hitsumabushi Bincho’s grilled unagi

The last memorable meal for me was the bowl of unagi at Hitsumabushi Bincho at La Chic mall in Sakae area in Nagoya City. Nagoya is famous for its unagi or freshwater eel. The restaurant chain serves the grilled unagi on a bed of rice and different condiments including dashi broth. This dish can be eaten in three ways—as it is; with nori, green onions, and wasabi; and with dashi broth. Diners can divide the big bowl of unagi and eat it however they like. Personally, I like the nori-green onionswasabi combination.

Traditional Japanese food is what I expected it to be—clean, beautiful, and flavorful. Some dishes may be for an acquired taste but most are overflowing with umami goodness. I will detail what to expect from traditional Japanese meals on my next post. And also watch out for what food souvenirs to buy in Japan.

You can also read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Jetstar offers low fares to Nagoya and flies four times weekly to Manila /

Belgian whiskey, anyone?

Belgium, like its neighbor Germany, is famous for brewing some of the world’s best beers. In recent years, however, some Belgians are going in a different direction—distilling. In fact, according Belgian Femke van der Vorst, some breweries are shifting to distilling, making whiskeys specifically.

It’s not like these breweries are losing money, it’s about showcasing quality Belgian ingredients like barley. The Western European country also wants to prove that it can make whiskeys, too.

Femke works as the sales manager of Belgian Owl, a Belgian whiskey brand that was founded by Etienne Bouillon in 2004. She recently visited the country to introduce the single malt whiskey to local connoisseurs. They are also expanding their reach with plans of bringing the spirit to China and Japan.

Belgian Owl’s distillery is located in Hesbaye, eastern Belgium. They grow their own barley and uses 1898 Caperdonich stills from Scotland. What’s unique about the brand is it is one of only a few distilleries that sells its non-aged single malt or the spirit before it becomes proper whiskey.

The achingly good glazed duck liver with Peking duck consomme
The achingly good glazed duck liver with Peking duck consomme.

“There are a few distilleries that sell new made spirit but it’s very rare. We grow our barley ourselves. During tour at distilleries, the guides usually talk about the new made spirit, that it is very harsh and it’s something that you would drink. But, why not? That drink is something we love to drink because it’s a high quality product. You can only bottle this product if you conduct your whiskey making process in a very, very precise process. This is our pride, although it’s not even a whiskey,” Femke explains.

The brand is currently being imported by Les Deux Belges, a local company owned by two Belgians who aim to bring in quality Belgian drinks here like beer and now whiskey.

“For the moment, we have 300 bottles (of Belgian Owl) available locally. We plan to import thousands of bottles in the future. The whiskey’s quality is extremely good that’s why it’s not a whiskey that we want to sell at the supermarket, we would love to see it at high end bars. What we do is we import quality over quantity,” says Les Deux Berges president Gregory Tutt.

During a special night at Impressions, Resorts World Manila, Femke and Gregory introduced Filipinos to Belgian owl by pairing the spirit with chef Cyrille Soenen‘s delicious food.

According to Femke, the non-aged spirit with 46 percent alcohol volume, is perfect for cocktails and can also be consumed neat. The brand’s three-year-old artisinal whiskey, on the other hand, was aged in bourbon casks. It has fruity notes as well as spice like ginger and finishes smoothly.

The Privale Angels Limited Edition paired with beef short ribs confit
The Privale Angels Limited Edition paired with beef short ribs confit.

They also served The Private Angels Limited Edition, a three-year-old whiskey with a higher 70.3 percent alcohol volume. It’s very strong on the nose and very spicy with hints of chocolate. Mixing the spirit with drops of water is recommended for this variant but it depends on who is drinking.

For the brand, while aging is important, it’s pride is on its non-aged spirit drink because you can’t have good whiskey if you don’t produce a quality spirit drink.

“We are very proud of this product (Spirit Drink), this is where it all starts. This is our pride. Anyway, aging is not that difficult, but the art of whiskey making is not in the aging, it is about making this spirit. The flavor coming from the wood is useless if the distilling is not done right. You can age it whenever you want you will never have a high quality product,” Femke ends.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here. / +63998 9999509 / Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @lesdeuxbelges /

What’s it like to drink liquid gold

Okay, it’s not actually molten gold because that would be dangerous. It’s actually whiskey. This spirit brand was named “liquid gold” because it holds the record for selling the most expensive bottle of whiskey in the world.

In 2013, The Dalmore sold its 1951 Constellation Vintage for $350,000 (P17.5M). That’s worth roughly about four condominium units or 17 cars or 87 engagement rings or a Ferrari or 50,000 tubs of ice cream or 35,000 boxes of pizza. A bit excessive, yes, but the Scottish whiskey brand is very proud of its tradition of making the world’s most pricey single malt whiskeys.

The Dalmore Constellation Collection
The Constellation Collection consists of 21 vintage whiskeys and is worth P18M.

Recently, the luxury whiskey opened its first flagship store in the Philippines at Uptown Parade in Bonifacio Global City. It houses some of the brand’s most expensive blends including The Dalmore 50, a 50-year-old scotch dedicated to its master distiller Richard Paterson. It’s worth P3.5M and it already has an owner. The store also houses the Constellation Collection a 21-piece set composed of vintage whiskeys including a 1992, 1980, and a vintage 1964. The collection costs a whopping P18M!

But how do The Dalmore make its single malt whiskey and what makes it so luxurious? Do they have stills made of pure gold? Do they use barrels made from 100-year-old trees? Do they transport barley on the backs of legendary unicorns?

Actually, the distillation process they employ is pretty much the same as other distillers but the similarities end there. First, they use fine quality barley that comes from one supplier. In fact The Dalmore got its name from the fields near the distillery. When founder Alexander Matheson discovered the location of the distillery in Cromarty Firth, the farmlands was so extensive and impressive he named the brand Dalmore which means “big meadow” in old Scots.

The water the distillery uses comes from a loch (lake) located in the highlands of Scotland. Loch Morie’s water comes from the melting ice of nearby mountains. According to resident whiskey expert of The Dalmore for Asia Adam Knox, the rugged terrain of the highlands is what gives their whiskey that distinct character.

The Dalmore 12
The Dalmore 12 is a versatile single malt that can be paired with all sorts of food and can also be used in cocktails.

“The very rugged terrain reflects the character of our whiskey. Compared to the lowlands with a flat landscape, the whiskey produced there has a more light-bodied character. Ours is robust and full-bodied, just like our landscape,” the British expert says.

The whiskey company also uses a flat top copper stills, which is extraordinary considering that most distilleries use swan neck stills or stills with elongated necks. Knox says that this also gives their whiskey a full-bodied character.

Now, when it comes to the casks, The Dalmore probably owns some of the best in the world. And unlike other distilleries that blend together spirit aged in different casks, the process it practices is the transfer method. This means that they first age the spirit in fine oak barrels for a number of years and transfers the spirit and finish the aging process into a different cask. Its finishing casks, the Spanish Matusalem Oloroso Sherry are 30-year-old casks from Spanish sherry house Gonzales Byass. The house exclusively gives the mature casks to The Dalmore.

“We are the only distillery permitted to source this cask so it can’t be replicated,” Knox explains.

The flagship store also carries the brand’s principal collection that includes its youngest whiskey, The Dalmore 12 (P3,200). This was the whiskey we were able to sample at the special dinner pairing. This whiskey has fruity notes like mandarin and a very smooth finish with hints of chocolate. According to Knox, The Dalmore 12 is the most versatile, which can be paired with food or be used in a cocktail.

We were also able to sample the King Alexander III (P11,800), which has a darker color with citrus and caramel notes and has a spicy finish of cinnamon and ginger.

The Dalmore 12 best paired with chocolate
The Dalmore 12 is best paired with chocolate, specifically, dark chocolate

So is it worth it? Personally speaking, I will not spend that insane amount of money on whiskey alone. The Dalmore, however, proves that it does not only produces the most expensive whiskeys, it also makes the best whiskeys in the world. One thing’s for sure, they make damn good single malt whiskeys.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

The Dalmore flagship store, Uptown Parade, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

Tim Hortons opens in Manila

From the north to the tropics, popular Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons finally opens in Manila.

I always thought that Tim Hortons was a restaurant rather than a coffee shop. So my expectations were crushed when I learned otherwise. I thought that by having the Canadian brand here, I would be able to sample authentic poutine!

I was not disappointed, however, because I was surprised how it has more choices than regular coffee shops, has unique doughnut flavors, and coffee prices that are super affordable.

Tim Hortons uses 100 percent Arabica beans
Regular brewed coffee starts at P70

Tim Hortons was founded by hockey player Tim Horton in 1964. It first opened in Hamilton, Canada and now has more than 4,000 branches worldwide. The Philippine branch is the first in Southeast Asia and was brought here by TH Coffee Services Philippines Corp., headed by its president and CEO Enrique Yap.

“Filipinos love coffee and doughnuts. We feel confident we’re going to succeed in the Philippines. Also, Filipinos like to try something new as well. We believe we got an excellent product and service. We make things fresh in the store, which is another key advantage that we have,” he says.

The modern interiors
Tim Hortons’ modern interior

Mr. Yap says that about 90 percent of the menu is originally Canadian. Ice blended drinks are something unique in the local menu because Filipinos love their cool drinks. The hot drinks are a must try, too. The “double-double” is a Canadian coffee standard popularized by Tim Hortons. It’s a cup of coffee with double cream and double sugar. The blend is perfect for the Filipino palate.

Drinking coffee here will not break the bank. Regular brewed coffee starts at P70 for a small and goes to P95 for a large (venti size) while cappuccino starts at P95. The priciest hot drink on the menu is a large café mocha at P130.

When it comes to doughnuts, there’s a lot to choose from. Recommended flavors are the classic honey cruller, vanilla dip (peppered with colorful sprinkles), and maple glaze. Present during the launch, Miss Universe Canada 2016 Siera Bearchell recommended the sour cream glazed doughnut. Classic doughnuts cost P40 each and P380 for a dozen while the signature doughnuts cost P50 each and P500 for a dozen.

Tim Hortons Philippines offers iced and iced blended drinks, items the original Canadian menu doesn't have
Ice Capp (cappuccino) P135

But probably the most popular are the Timbits or doughnut holes. The Timbits cost P10 each and P350 for 50 pieces.

The menu also extends to lunch meals. No rice meals, however. The lunch menu is composed of sandwiches and wraps. Must try is the steak and cheese panini, chicken bacon ranch wrap, and crispy chicken sandwich. Combo meals include a small iced coffee and potato wedges.

Tim Hortons also serve fresh salads (Caesar and garden) and homestyle soups (chicken and vegetable).

The coffee shop is set to open eight more branches in Metro Manila by June of this year.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

The first Tim Hortons branch is now open at the upper ground level, Uptown Place Mall, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City / Facebook/TimHortonsPhilippines

Cognac tasting with Martell

Like every ordinary Joe, I’m still confused with wine and spirit tasting. I just couldn’t find the “coffee notes” or “hint of plum.” Maybe because I’m not an expert or my palate isn’t sophisticated enough for detecting those subtle flavors. Truth be told, I’m not very well versed in this department.

Although I enjoy a glass of chardonnay or sauvignon blanc and an occasional whiskey rocks, I’m still relatively clueless about it all. But I do have my favorites, leaning towards white over red and I love sparkling wines like sweet Spanish Cava. And when it comes to whiskey, I’m only aware of like four brands, and two names for cognac.

Martell Cordon Bleu

Cognac is a variety of brandy, which means it is also made with grapes. This spirit, however, is only produced in a specific region in France—Cognac. It is the only spirit named after the region where it comes from. It is a double distilled eau-de-vie (colorless brandy) aged in fine grain oak barrels.

One of the oldest Cognac houses in the region is Martell. Founded in 1715 by Jean Martell, it is one of, if not, the biggest cognac brand today. The brand is very popular in its home turf and in Asia, specifically in China.

Considering that Martell was first exported to the Philippines in 1894, cognac remains to be the lesser known spirit. Filipinos love their beer and brandy while whiskey is for special occasions. Then there’s vodka, gin, and rum, liquors that are perfect for cocktails.

According to Martell brand ambassador Pierre Boyer, the Philippines is an important market mainly because we like to drink and our economy is still performing very well. He also says that cognac consumption is shifting from the West to the East with China leading the way. Cognac is also big in Malaysia, where Pierre is based.

Martell brand ambassador Pierre Boyer

Born in Cognac, France, Pierre says that drinking cognac in France is not what it is used to. “France is drinking less and less spirits. In France after a meal no one is going to have a glass of cognac, before it was the case during the generation of my grandparents. This culture doesn’t exist anymore. Young people are experimenting more on cocktails and lounge drinks,” he says.

Martell has a long history and its expertise in the cognac business is undeniable. It uses a fine process that results into an exquisite product. The brand has several blends but during the tasting, we were able to try the VSOP, Cordon Bleu, and XO.

Cognac is made of ugni blanc, a variety of grape that exclusively grows in the Cognac region. Martell looks for “style” when it comes to producing cognac. It has to have three important qualities—elegance, complexity, and balance.

VSOP is the youngest among the three blends. It’s a very smooth and mellow cognac and has subtle candied fruit notes. This particular blend is perfect for cocktails. Two of the most popular cognac cocktails are the cognac tonic and cognac ginger (cognac with ginger ale).

The Cordon Bleu is the most elegant because of its legendary reputation. When Edouard Martell created this blend in 1912, it single-handedly defined the “Martell style.” This blend with a deep golden copper color has fruity notes of plum and spicy notes of cinnamon. When paired with food, it is perfect with white meat and dark chocolate.

This pan-seared sea bass is perfect with a glass of

XO on the other hand is the oldest among the three. It is very complex and has this distinct spicy lingering finish. It has a variety of aromas including almonds, black pepper, and pink berries.

For the uninitiated, Pierre suggests this if you want to discover the elegance of cognac: “To me the best thing when you are trying to discover cognac, to reveal all the aromas and the secret then you should drink it neat. But then if you’re coming back from a stressful day, and you would like it with a bit of ice, why not? When the cocktail culture started in the US and Europe, at the end of the 19th century, all of the famous cocktails were made with cognac. Whiskey sour for example would have not existed if not for brandy or cognac sour. Same goes with many cocktails that were created with brandy. In the end, it’s the way you like it.”

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

8 Romantic restaurants for that perfect date

New restaurants opening in the metro tend to keep their interiors simple and practically the same—concrete floors, mural walls, wood tables, steel chairs, and bulb light fixtures. The industrial and minimalist look is pleasing enough but quite frankly unromantic. Only a handful of restaurants go the extra mile to make its space unique and beautiful. But it’s not only the interiors that matter, it’s the location, too.

I list down eight of the most beautiful and romantic restaurants in Metro Manila for your date this Valentine’s Day. And these restaurants have good food to boot.

Photo credit: Facebook/RusticMornings

1. Rustic Mornings by Isabelo, Marikina

Weathered furniture and country-style knick-knack make this one of the most Instagrammable restaurants in the metro. The shabby chic interiors and al fresco dining area are so charming they are perfect for a romantic brunch or lunch. The restaurant serves delicious breakfast food

No. 11 I. Mendoza St. San Roque, Marikina City / +632 425 8610 / Facebook/RusticMornings

2. Harbor View, Manila

This restaurant may not have the most beautiful interior on the list but it has the most beautiful view. Located at the breakwater of Manila Bay, giving its diners front seats to the world-famous sunset. It serves fresh seafood and Filipino cuisine.

South Dr. Ermita, Manila (beside Manila Ocean Park) / +632 710 0060

Photo credit: Facebook/

3. Cafe Juanita, Pasig

I’m not a real Pasigueño if this iconic restaurant did not make the list. Its eclectic decors and interiors are what make this restaurant stand out from the rest. The atmosphere it creates is undeniably romantic. Its delicious Filipino and Asian food is the main reason why it lasted for so many years.

No. 19 West Capito Dr., Kapitolyo, Pasig City / +632 632 0357 / Facebook/

Photo credit: Facebook/casarocesphils

4. Casa Roces, Manila

This old house-turned restaurant has a lot of history. Located in San Miguel or Malacañan compound, the restaurant’s old interior and history are what make dining here much more interesting. Enjoy the Spanish-Filipino fare that do not disappoint.

1153 JP Laurel cor Aguado St. San Miguel, Manila / +632 708 4020 / Facebook/casarocesphils

Photo credit: Facebook/NinyoFusionCuisine&WineLounge

5. Ninyo Fusion Cuisine & Wine Lounge, Quezon City

Dine in your own cabana with flowy white fabric curtains and by candle light. Enjoy its modern international cuisine and selection of wine. What can be more romantic than that?

66 Esteban Abada St. Loyola Heights, Quezon City / +632 426 0301 ? / Facebook


6. Flame, Makati

Dine 16 floors up with the Makati skyline as your backdrop. The beautiful interiors, delicious fusion European-Asian cuisine, and the breathtaking views are the perfect ingredients for a romantic date.

16th floor, Discovery Primea, 6749 Ayala Ave., Makati City / +632 955 8888 / Website

Photo credit: Facebook/BlackbirdAtTheNielsonTower

7. Blackbird, Makati

This fine-dining restaurant has been making waves since it opened. It is housed at the beautiful art deco Nielson Tower building that used to be an airport terminal and control tower. Its history is already romantic, augmented by the beautiful greenery around the building creating an illusion of a rural setting. Its European and Asian menu is also top notch.

Ayala Triangle Walkways, Makati / +632 828 4888 / Facebook

Photo credit:

8. Champagne Room, Manila

Speaking about iconic, this restaurant is probably the most iconic romantic spot in the metro. Its French-inspired interior—those beautiful crystal palm trees—is what made this restaurant a symbol of romantic Manila.

The Manila Hotel, One Rizal Park, Manila / +632 527 0011 / Website

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.