Pieces Of A Wunderkind's Mind

Snippets of Life, Love, Food, Travels, Discoveries, and Whatnot

Ten Things That Made My Sunday Brunch Extra Special

Last Sunday, I went back to Mercato Centrale. This time, with Francis in tow. We arrived before 10am and we have been munching ever since. We were just supposed to buy a couple of things, drop by to say HI to some concessionaire-friends I made over the past weekend, and have a simple lunch. Eventually, our Mercato visit turned into an unplanned binge session. But no one’s complaining. Unforseen or otherwise, we enjoyed our food trip A LOT. Besides, who wouldn’t take pleasure in eating, right?

Let me share the top ten things that made a mark during last Sunday’s food adventure. I would love to write about all the stuff we’ve seen and tried but I won’t right now. Maybe next time. Meanwhile, here are the ones that made our [Sun]day.

1. Bale Datung’s Pan de Bagnet [P150]

Chef Claude Tayag shares with everyone his take on the popular Italian Porcheta. Pan de Bagnet is a generous serving of crisp bagnet on toasted authentic Ciabatta bread with the Ilocano KBL [Kamatis, Bagoong, and Lasuna (a.k.a. garlic)]. If you want to have a taste of this heavenly treat [which, at the same time, is evil], make sure to come early as this crowd favorite is usually sold out by 11am.

Also available is the famous Bale Dutung Lechon Tortilla which comes at P100.

2. Bap Chi’s Chicken Que’dilla [P165]

Bap Chi offers classic comfort food with an Asian twist. Drop by to sample the delicious Que’dilla — fried, crispy quesadilla stuffed with your choice of meat and loads of cheese [Monterey Jack. :D], onions, red [& green] peppers, and cabbage slaw drizzled with their secret spicy sauce. Don’t forget to say hello to owner Pria Chiongbian Solon, who is sure to greet you with her infectious jolliness. You may also want to try Bap Chi’s equally yummy S’piggy [P175], an Asian version of Sloppy Joe and/or the Baprito [P150], a huge Asian burrito with a distinct Korean flavor. Don’t just drool there. Try it!

3. Stuffed Temptations by February Sweets and Savories [P75 each/P275 for 4/P525 for 8]

It doesn’t seem like it but a stuffed temptation is a stuffed tomato. I was quite surprised to learn what these are in the beginning. I was doubly surprised with how it tasted. The combination of spinach, Parmesan cheese and red, juicy tomato makes this the “Holy Trinity” of appetizers. Whether eaten as a side dish or on its own, anyone will surely be tempted. By the way, these goodies are always freshly made.

4. Eggs Benny by Flamed [got this for free for being their first client the previous weekend]

The newest addition to the roster of Flamed is their eggs benedict sandwich. It is basically ham, poached eggs, mustard, and Hollandaise sauce sandwiched between English muffins.

Flamed is all about bringing the family Sunday backyard barbecue experience to Mercato Centrale. The chefs behind Flamed aim to share good food, the love of family and friends and the joy of life to everyone they’ll meet. So don’t fail to drop a “Hello” when you visit them this weekend. Also try their signature Baby Back Ribs, Triple Beef Burger, Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Sausages, Chicken Boracay, Roasted Potatoes and other mouthwatering sides.

*In the middle of our pig-out, Francis and I bumped into John Ray, a former classmate of mine in college who happens to be a food-loving being like us. We persuaded him to join us and he agreed. And so the foodventure continues…

5. Lola Maria Restaurant’s Cocido and Tinapaté Pan de Sal [got both for P150 only <— sale price since there was only a little of it left.]

Cocido is a traditional Spanish stew of meat [Lola Maria Restaurant used beef], cabbage, and potatoes, which is a hearty and substantial fare. I was expecting its taste to be similar with that of Pochero but oddly, I was just like eating Menudo… a rich, filling Menudo. It came with an eggplant caviar and, when eaten together, produces an even better taste. We enjoyed it.

The Tinapaté Pan de Sal is a pairing of tinapa paté [spread] and mini pan de sal. It’s a uniquely interesting concept that actually works!

6. Dulcelin Gourmet’s US Angus Beef Short Ribs [P250]

Dulcelin has been a mainstay in the past Ultimate Taste Tests and a consistent winner. Having them as part of Mercato Centrale gives loyal patrons nothing but delight. We initially wanted their Wagyu Tri-Tip but it was sold out by the time we asked for it. We settled for this instead and boy was it a good move. Slow cooked for 2 days, this is an incredibly tender beef dish that is sure to please.

7. Balamban Liempo [P150 for dine-in serving / P220 for take-out serving (500 grams)]

Cebu’s original lechon liempo is now in Manila, thanks to Jojo Chua. He is the first franchiser of this chain carrying unforgettable roasted slabs of sin aptly described to be “tastier than lechon”. I say it really is, compared to all the non-Cebu lechon(s) out there. It was remarkably good that we had to buy some more for take-out. The green stuff you’ll see upon chopping are herbs and their “special filling” stuffed in the pork belly. Think Cebu lechon [having the same herbs & spices inside to make the pork a whole lot tastier], only Balamban offers liempo instead. They were sold out even before the market’s closing.

8. La Cuisine Francaise’s Fruit Tarte [170]

Famous for their quiches and pies, La Cuisine Francaise creates the perfect tart using sweet strawberries, kiwi, and peaches. It was not cloying; sweetness was subdued. Visit their booth, right beside Dulcelin, for more from their extensive array of offerings.

10. Mochiko [P70 each]

The latest dessert item from FIC [Fruits in Ice Cream], Mochiko is an ice-cream filled mochi ball. Yes, two glorious layers: a soft, dough-like outer mochi shell, and inner ice cream core. Mochi is a Japanese confection made of glutinous rice flour, which is usually filled with a sweet center such as anko or red bean paste and eaten as a snack. We tried the two bestselling flavors, Black Sesame and Azuki [red bean]. Yes, black sesame. Now that’s a flavor you won’t find everyday in the supermarket. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen it sold anywhere but here. Though pleasantly sweet and nutty, I think that the flavor is too mild for my taste. I would prefer a bolder flavor of toasted black sesame in my mochiko. Azuki, however, was hands-down a winner! The matcha junkie that I am intentionally ditched the green tea flavor for this one. [Well, I am familiar with FIC’s green tea and it’s not quite the matcha that I prefer. IMHO, it lacks that strong bitter aftertaste that is always present in Japanese brands of green tea ice cream.] The azuki ice cream was rich and creamy, plus, it was just like eating the real thing. Red bean na red bean talaga! I got instantly hooked. Now I am proud to announce that this azuki Mochiko is my current addiction.

John Ray, I, and Francis in our pre-parting picture

We left by 12pm and I was home 20 minutes later. That same day at 4pm, when I usually take a snack, I was still so full from my brunch that I only had a glass of water. Hehe. I say there’s nothing better than luxuriating in great food finds and sharing them with equally great friends/people. Now, I’m wondering what I’ll have in Mercato this weekend. What to eat, what to eat?

Note: Mercato Centrale is extending its market operations from 6am to 2pm starting this weekend, December 18 and 19, 2010. That’ll be the last weekend market for the year, though. Mercato Centrale will resume on January 8, 2011.



My Sweetest Downfall

How can you not drool over the mere thought of cherry-flavored ice cream with luscious chunks of Bing cherries and nuggets of rich dark chocolate all swirled with fudge?

Let me introduce to you what/who I consider the sweetest taboo. Meet Cherry Garcia.

“Oh Cherry Garcia, you could be the death of me, for all I care, but knowing that I got my hands on you gives me the highest form of satisfaction and joy!”

Ben & Jerry’s euphorically edible tribute to guitarist Jerry Garcia & Grateful Dead fans, Cherry Garcia is the first ice cream named after a rock legend, which also happens to be the most famous in the line of fan-suggested flavors.

PMSing and slobbering over the sight of B&J’s ice cream on the newspaper led me to call Francis and coerce him to accompany me to the nearest Rustan’s supermarket. In 15 minutes, he appeared at our front door and we were ready to go.

The nearest would’ve been Rustan’s Fresh! in Paseo de Magallanes but since Francis was in the mood for some gyudon and gyoza before having dessert, he decided on Rustan’s Supermarket in Ayala Center, instead. I, on the other hand, couldn’t care less. I was just all for my B&J’s.

Such a sight to behold!

Ben & Jerry’s has more than a hundred eclectic flavors to suffice every craving but unfortunately Rustan’s carries only a limited number. The minute I saw that THE flavor was available, I was suddenly filled with ecstasy I cannot seem to contain. I was so caught up in my rapture that I wanted to cry. Seriously. That’s how much my beloved Cherry Garcia affects me.

Since there was no place in the supermarket where we can stay to eat, we just asked for wooden ice cream spoons and hurried to the car. We spent the entire drive home eating and cursing. Note: No matter how many times you have this and how many ways you tackle a pint, the same reactions prevail.

Had the Greek gods sampled this Ben and Jerry favorite, there would have been no talk of ambrosia nor nectar on Mount Olympus. Instead, an ice cream parlor would have been opened. It is that good! To describe the ice cream itself and/or the whole experience [of reveling in it] would be comparable to seeing Atlantis… or a unicorn. It is plainly impossible. Well, you’ll think you probably can but you actually cannot. You need to experience it yourself to know. Cherry Garcia, in general, is just too beautiful for words to express. Smiley

It’s saddening to see that, in a flash, all that heavenly goodness could slip away. 😦


The B&J pints were on sale at the time so we got it for P341. A pint is originally priced at P380. Steep, yes, but don’t you think you deserve such indulgence from time to time? Well, I do.




Yes, I was… but don’t worry. It was not the type of mugging you’re thinking of. I’m talking about the pleasant type. [There is, in truth, such a type. ;-)]

[image grabbed from Ana]

A couple of days ago, I received a package wherein a number of awesome stuff is enclosed. The package included a bottle containing what appeared to be sand and salt and other grainy things arranged in layers. There was a cork stopper plugged into the bottle’s mouth and slim gold-trimmed silk ribbons tied around the bottle’s neck. A few seconds of wondering and inspecting led me to the label plastered on the bottle’s body.

“Mugshots”, it said. SmileyOh so it’s a premix for cake, er, cupcake [or, mug-cake?!]! That explains the grainy layer… brown sugar, flour, leavening agents, coffee [mine came in this flavor], and chocolate chips. How brilliant!!! Now all I need is an egg, some oil and milk, a microwave, and, of course, a mug where I can bake my cake in.

The brains behind this unique idea is Ana of Cupcake Conspiracy. Aside from the wide selection of luscious cupcakes and cookies, Mugshots, a recent addition to her creations, is becoming her bestseller.

I wasted no time in preparing my Mugshot. Anyone can do it and you’ll have your cake in a matter of minutes! Talk about instant gratification. Smiley

As per package [or bottle] directions, I poured the contents in a mug.

I, then, added the egg and tried beating it together with the rest of the ingredients.

When I thought that the egg was well-incorporated already, I added 2 tablespoons of oil and 3 of milk.

After mixing thoroughly, I jammed my mug in the microwave, adjusted the settings [two minutes on high], and waited.

Viola! There’s my coffee-flavored [mug] cake. You could always eat it straight from your mug or choose to turn it over on a plate, like I did. I wanted to add some flair so I topped my Mugshot with a scoop of my favorite Mantecado ice cream.

Mugshots come in six flavors: chocolate, coffee, orange, cinnamon, strawberry, and choco-peppermint. You can get a bottle of Mugshots for P90 only or opt for a Solo Pack consisting of a bottle of Mugshots of your preferred flavor and a coffee mug. Additionally, Cupcake Conspiracy has this timely offering — Mugshots Christmas Gift Pack — comprised of four bottles of Mugshots and a coffee mug bundled in a lovely Christmas-themed box.

Solo Pack [P140]

Christmas Gift Pack [P390]

[last two images c/o Cupcake Conspiracy]

These bottled treats make the perfect gifts for Christmas or any occasion. Not only are they delightfully different and far-from-ordinary but also toothsome and fun to make. Mugshots are convenient to have at home for sudden dessert cravings, or for serving to your unannounced visitors.

Isn’t Mugshots a work of genius? Thoughts?

Mugshots by Cupcake Conspiracy
Website: http://cupcakeconspiracy.multiply.com/
Contact Number: 0917-5362711



A Weekend Fete of Food and Organic Goods


Last Saturday, I was able to shop and dine at Mercato Centrale, the newest weekend market in town. Inspired by the outdoor markets of Mercato Centrale in Florence and the Boroughs Market in London, Mercato Centrale at Bonifacio Global City is an innovative weekend lifestyle market that offers unique food finds [bagnet sandwich, vegetarian sausages, etc], fresh and organic produce [fruits, herbs, vegetables, etc], a myriad of irresistible sweet treats [frozen merengue pies, ice-cream filled mochi, etc], and a whole lot more.

I arrived a little too early. [My parents went jogging around 6:30.] Most of the concessionaires were just setting up. So I took up this chance to take photos of the booths and stalls that are already open. Note: Mercato Centrale @ BGC is divided into four tents, two of which are air-conditioned.

organic produce by Herbana Farms

more fresh goods

Messy Bessy — clean and green line of household cleaning products

Tent 1 is where the organic fresh produce, healthy vegetarian choices, and other organic products can be found.

bags of organic brown/mountain rice

Don’t you just love its name? 😉

Spring’s chilled taho can be topped with your choice of fruits

artisanal chocolates that are proudly Pinoy-made [my favorite is the chocolate & siling labuyo variant]

Leyende is an emerging Filipino brand of handmade, natural and organic bath and body products

Ritual Shop is a natural store that carries different brands of organic household items, skin care products, and clothing

I loved the tomato-flavored baby food by Oh Baby! [yes, I ate baby food! it’s surprisingly good.]

here’s a fun way to let your kids take in fruits and veggies c/o The Honest Juice

Concessionaires of dessert items such as cakes/cupcakes, cookies, pies, breads, and other pastries are gathered in Tent 2. There are others selling jams, dips, dressings, and drinks as well.

The Russian Cookie House’s unique selection of cookies

PvZ cupcakes at P100 each by Little Miss OC’s Kitchen

the return of the much-loved macaron cake by Empire Macarons

Chile Vitas for dipping & dunking

Gold Leaf chilled tea can be enjoyed even before it hits the supermarkets

various homemade dips and spreads

decadent chocolate macadamia cake by Pothole

I was ecstatic to learn that my favorite apple pie shop [which I thought was gone] is still in operation. The Apple Tree Company [now called Tres Amores] used to be in Glorietta 4.

unforgettable, indeed! I’ma get some more of these.

molten brownie bites, chocolate crunchies, and cinnamon-apple tarts from Park Avenue Desserts

Baked by Anita — this line of mini cupcakes is reason enough to visit Mercato [come early to get some of those saffron w/ black salt and/or the bacon flavored ones]

gourmet jams that are homemade and all-natural courtesy of The Fruit Garden

these yummies will keep you giddy the whole day… rich, creamy ice-cream wrapped in sticky, chewy rice paste

Tent 3, non-airconditioned, is situated beside Tent 2. Under this tent are stalls and booths offering home-cooked meals, pasta, snacks, and deli items.

Inn Café’s creamy cheesy beef & eggplant lasagna comes at P95/slice only

scrumptious Euro-Mediterranean fare [Isn’t that lamb navarin simply drool-worthy?]

choose from original, spicy, cheesy, and hot&cheesy — Z’s sausages

baked beef lasagna and garlic parsley potatoes, anyone?

Tinapate [mini pandesal with tinapa paté spread], spoonfuls of Cocido and Beef Steak from Lola Maria’s restaurant in Mandaluyong

pad thai, bagoong rice, and ginataan

seafood paella Smiley

a cute gingerbread house and some gingerbread men

If you want grilled dishes, ribs, burgers, and hotdogs then Tent 4 is your best bet. This is the other open-air tent which accommodates most of the diners for arranged in its centermost area are tables and chairs.

[image grabbed from Anton]

Tent 4 aka “the grillery”

[image grabbed from Anton]

gourmet burgers Smiley

baked potatoes, whole chicken, slab of baby back ribs, all beef burger patties, bacon-wrapped stuffed sausages c/o of Flamed Smiley

franks + pies

More dining space can be located behind the tents. There is also a colonnade connecting Tents 1 and 2 where cooking demonstrations are held and live bands play. Around this area, more stalls selling food, drinks, and other goods are stationed.

If you are tired of the conventional fare in weekend markets, Mercato Centrale can be a breath of fresh air. It’s a one-stop shop where you can enjoy notable meals with family, friends, and fellow foodies, with constant celebrity sightings to boot. 😛 It’s also a place for discovering unique food finds at bargain prices and re-discovering old loves that you thought were gone [take my re-acquaintance with the Apple Tree Company, for instance]. Note: Most of the concessionaires were participants in previous Ultimate Taste Tests [organized by Our Awesome Planet author Anton Diaz and his team], which are regularly held foodie events where brand new recipes and one-of-a-kind food items by emerging culinary masters around the Philippines are showcased.

This market is open every Saturday and Sunday, from 6am till 12pm. It’s overwhelming, at the same time, exciting to see a good many of the brands/businesses I’ve previously encountered in the UTTs. Though, I personally think that it’s impossible to purchase something from every booth, the free samples/taste are of great help as they provide the shoppers the chance to gauge if what they’re about to purchase are worth buying. There are certain concessionaires that join only on Sundays, so I kind of missed several. But to look at it at a bright note, it means I’ve to go back… and yes, definitely on a Sunday this time! I have yet to sample those that weren’t around last time. [Tina Raines, if you’re reading this, I have been yearning for your strawberries and chocolate chips frozen pie since UTT4.0!!! I’ll make sure to get some on Sunday.] 😉

Mercato Centrale at the Bonifacio Global City is a joint venture of Our Awesome Planet, Mommy Mundo, and RJ and Vanessa Ledesma.

Care to join me this Sunday? 😀

Mercato Centale at BGC
30th Street corner 9th Street
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig



Sweet Surrender

Early last month, I got two invites for Sweet Surrender, a dessert expo organized by Goodfellas Production. Most of the event’s participants were food bloggers, photographers, media, and dessert enthusiasts. There were even some VIP guests. [Chef Jackie Laudico of Bistro Filipino, just to name one, was present to judge the dessert creations.] It was actually an intimate event as there were less than ten exhibitors who joined. These ten showcased their decadent treats and shared them through the unlimited bite-sized pieces made available to everyone.

The Sweet Surrender Dessert Expo was held last November 13, at the Sitio Elena Events Place in Taytay, Rizal, a few meters past Valley Golf and Country Club. [Yes, a rather long drive from Parañaque.] The invites I got [for free] included a buffet dinner and free-flowing drinks [alcoholic and non-alcoholic] courtesy of Bardeli’s Deli-Liquor Mart plus all access to the sweets. For those without invites, regular tickets were sold at P1,200 complete with buffet dinner and drinks.

The venue was lovely. The music, lighting, and entire arrangement made the elegant garden setting even more beautiful. The hosts started the program by welcoming everyone. Immediately after, the exhibitors were introduced and recognized. A band named Coffee Club serenaded us with jazzy hits from the 80s and 90s as we all roam the place for dinner, drinks, and, of course, desserts. Photographers were the first ones to flock the infinity table where the desserts were displayed.

Here’s a peek into the buffet scene. Notice that Sunrise Buckets also took part in the event by providing mouth-watering Buffalo wings. Were you able to see the liquor station at the far corner?

[To view and control the photo slideshows you need to have Flash Player 9 or newer installed.]

Now let’s move on to the stars of the show! 🙂 First ones on display were from Dragonfly Desserts. I was particularly delighted with their Chocodamia [chocolate + macadamia] Cookies and Almond-Cappuccino Bars, which I practically “taste-tested” 5 times. Haha! Their specialty, however, was the Wicked Bites — mini chocolate-chili cupcakes. Upon learning what those were, Francis and I grabbed two ‘bites’ each. It was super moist and rich. The only thing was, I found it a tad spicy. Francis, on the other hand, loved it. Dragonfly Desserts sells them at P265 for a box of 18. Other interesting creations were the Tomato Kesong Puti Tart and the Apple-Cheese Tart.

Chef Laudico also shared some of her dessert offerings.

Flourless Belgian Chocolate Cake [P98]

Gigi Gaerlan of Gigi’s Custaroons was more than willing to let every participant have a taste of her creations. A custaroon [custard + macaroon] is a deliciously unique combination of smooth and creamy flan topped with a chewy, buttery crust. The sweet scent of her goodies wafted through the air she opened a boxful and handed some to us. She also makes poppers. These are balls of the same coconut-y flan coated with cocoa powder. On first sight, you might think they’re truffles. Gigi’s poppers come in various flavors which include cheese and green tea.

Desserts Avenue owns the booth next to Gigi’s. It prides itself in producing quality customized cakes and other pastries. I really thought that the Spongebob burger cake was too cute! 🙂 What do you think? The revel bars and the blueberry cheesecake satisfied my sweet tooth. Francis was partial to the choco-chip cookies and the cupcakes.

Next is a stall of boxed-goodies-for-a-cause. The High School Cook Book aims to generate funds in order to provide education opportunities to the youth who cannot afford to pay for school. For sale were macaroons, tarts, pastillas, and other homemade treats.

Ernaline’s Food Haven is a venture of Chef Ernaline Go after having been inspired to create the diverse dessert favorites of her family. Included in the expo were her crinkles, fudge brownies, leche flan, and revel bars.

Muffins by Doris presented its cakes, custards, rolls, and special cookies like the lengua de gato. Since Francis and I weren’t able to sample the items, there’s no way I could describe how they tasted like. The packaging was well thought out, though, making the sweets seemingly enticing.

Last, but not the least, was MedChef by Chef Hasset Go. His creations, for me, were the most interesting among the bunch. The mere sight of the Banana Cream Pie and Flourless White Chocolate Mango Torte tugged at my tummy, simultaneously putting my salivary glands to work mode all of a sudden. We were given plastic spoons and the freedom to scoop out chunks from all his goodies. I especially adored the Bread Pudding Creme Brulee, freshly torched by the chef. Francis favored the Coffee Kahlua Gateau more. There were lots of others that we didn’t get to try like the Cream Puffs, the Molten Chocolate Decadence, the White Chocolate Fondue Cheesecake with Snickers, and those cupcakes. People crowded in as soon as he started giving out his baked goods. We didn’t want to worm through the throng so we just settled on taking pictures.

I’m hoping for a similar event that could be made better by featuring more exhibitors and treats. It would also be a plus if foodie events such as this would be held somewhere in the Metro. From what I heard, a number of people missed the expo because of the venue. Taytay is just too far. 😦

the boxes that said, “Thank you for coming!”

The desserts featured in the expo may be the perfect Yuletide gifts. For inquiries and orders, just please click on the exhibitors’ names above and you will be directed to their official sites/online stores.

The whole trip to Taytay all the way from the South was, in all honesty, a major hassle. [I forgot to state that the event required a dress code and we were in semi-formal. :-|] But what I had was a night of saccharine overload, free food, and overflowing booze spent with my better half so I have to say it was all worth it in the end. Smiley I want to wrap-up this post with a quote from Erma Bombeck, one of my favorite American humorists: “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”