Brewing my best food writing at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Food writing is definitely NOT one of my strengths. I love to eat good food of course, but eating and casually recommending restaurants to anyone who asks is miles away from actually writing about it. So when The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf teamed up with Writer’s Block Philippines to offer a food writing workshop featuring, of course, the pretty impressive menu of the 26th St. Bistro by the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, I knew I had to go. I’d already attended WBP’s travel writing workshop and I was sure that I was going to have a lot of fun with the food writing workshop, even if it meant being in BGC at 9am on a Saturday.

brew your best food feature poster

CBTL offered ten free slots to to those who submitted the best new articles for the Brew Your Best Year website. The articles had to be about career and finance, fulfillment, health and wellness, and discovery. Because work meant that I didn’t have much time to write, I submitted a modified version of this blog post on the non-academic things I learned in grad school. So happy it still got chosen <3

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Lenten treats at the 26th St. Bistro by The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Giving up coffee for Lent doesn’t mean that you stop going to the 26th St. Bistro by The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. After all, there’s more to the 26th St. Bistro than just their Original Ice Blended coffee. Can you really stay away from the Bistro’s high ceilings, warm lights, comfy chairs and tables (with power outlets!), and most importantly, OMG-that-looks-so-good-I’ll-order-that food offerings? This season is the perfect time to trawl through the 26th St. Bistro’s seafood selection!

If you want lighter fare, my favorite 26th St. Bistro-exclusive seafood fish is the herb-crusted salmon with lemon risotto and hollandaise sauce. The pan-seared Norwegian salmon is juicy yet flaky, easily separating into thin strips. It rests on a bed of saffron lemon risotto, with the lemon giving the fish an extra zing as you chew them together. The slight saltiness of the salmon’s crumbly herb crust also lightens the hollandaise sauce. While the plating is excellent, be sure to take pictures quickly as the fish is best eaten hot.

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If you want something heavier, the seafood marinara is going to fill your tummy right up. I love a good tomato-based sauce and CBTL’s passes muster. The tomato tang is very evident but not overwhelming. The cheese shavings also counter the tang with some saltiness. They were also pretty generous with the seafood, with seared scallops, squid rings, white fish, and prawns with every fork twirl.

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Aside from these exclusive menu items, the 26th St. Bistro also serves fare from the regular CBTL menu. The smoked salmon and dill cream cheese bagel is here – similar to the classic breakfast set but served with fries instead of coffee. There’s also the sardine and garlic linguine, which has shredded, salty, Spanish-style sardines and crispy roasted garlic. With seafood fare like these, who needs meat?

 

The 26th St. Bistro by The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is located at the Net Lima building, Bonifacio Global City and at the Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Ortigas.

*This post was written as the culminating exercise of the Brew Your Best Food Feature – a food writing workshop that The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf held in partnership with Writer’s Block Philippines. A separate post on the workshop coming soon!

brew your best food feature poster

Curious and caffeinated at the Coffee Science Center

I love coffee. Let me say that louder for those in the back: I LOVE COFFEE. Coffee is so essential to my daily existence that I have trouble functioning without it (I blame grad school for starting this habit BTW). But despite me loving coffee so much, I actually don’t know that much about it. My greatest coffee-related achievements so far are having my very own French press (thanks again Danes and Mikey!) and blade grinder (yay I can buy whole beans instead of ground!), and knowing that I should let the coffee brew for only 4-5 minutes. So you can imagine my joy when I found out about the Coffee Science Center (coffee and science! My two favorite things!) offered the Coffee Sensory Workshop for beginners.

The Coffee Science Center (CSC)is the result of SGD Coffee’s Coffee Heritage Project – a private initiative they started in 2009 to get Philippine coffee on the map as one of the best coffees in the world. True to its name, the CSC is a place of learning. Students get an in-depth look at coffee from plant to cup, with stops in between to discuss the importance (or not?) of origin, how to tell if a bean is good, how to grind the beans, and other fun stuff nerdy java junkies will love. It’s the kind of information that you can normally only get through years of experience as a coffee buyer, barista, cafe owner, and/or coffee roaster.

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The Five-0 Dream comes true, part 1: eating my way around Hawai’i

Remember this bucket list from 2014? I got to cross Hawai’i off the list last June and it was GLORIOUS.
I was in Hawaii last June because of 1) the International Coral Reef Symposium and because 2) Hawai’i. As I didn’t get any funding from official sources (e.g. the Philippine government, UP, NGOs, etc), I paid for everything out of pocket with a LOT of assistance from my parents, relatives, and friends (they’re even more awesome than I am). It was worth it thought because I learned a lot during the ICRS and Hawaii is love.
First up in the Hawai’i series: the food. The first things that I look for in a new place are the beach (if present), museums, and food. I love Hawai’i because it has all three! <3 I joined a food tour of the Pike Place Market when I was in Seattle in 2013, so I thought of doing it in Oahu and the Big Island as well. Unfortunately, I was on a tight budget and a tighter schedule (wanted to explore the sights in addition to the food) so I DIY-ed it this time.
OAHU:
Breakfast: pancakes from Wailana Coffee House. This was the easiest to get to because we stayed in the Ilikai Hotel and the Wailana is just down the road and across the street. Confession time: I’ve wanted to go here ever since Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) said that it had the “best pancakes on the island”. Yes, I’m a Hawaii Five-0 fan.
 five0 1

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Staple and Perk: fit for a hungry geek

My first (but certainly not last) visit to Staple and Perk Bakery came courtesy of GeekFight! Trivia Night. After a successful trip to Ludo Boardgame Bar, I finally convinced my officemates Jem and MJ to join me for a night of even more hardcore geekery. My friend Kris told me that Staple and Perk served “the best bread in Metro Manila”. As I tend to believe what Kris says when it comes to food, I looked up their restaurant details on Facebook. The photos made me even more determined to make it to September GeekFight, despite Staple being in Pasong Tamo and us starting off in Diliman (*cries*).

staple and perk - busy

We lost Geekfight but Staple and Perk more than made up for it. First off, I love their ambiance. The high ceiling, bright lighting, and glass walls made the space look and feel bigger than its floor space. I really liked their counter design too (lots of pastries and breads on display!). And giraffe customer numbers! Although we did wonder why every giraffe had the number 1 pinned to them.

staple and perk - counter

But of course, the real star is Staple and Perk’s food. We split a tomato, pesto, ham, and kesong puti sandwich with chips and it was DELICIOUS. Seriously. I’m not the biggest fan of pesto but this sandwich mixed it just right. The kesong puti added slight saltiness to the sandwich too. Plus thick slices of ham! Most ham sandwiches have sad-looking thin slices. Not this one! I wanted to order another sandwich but huhu wedding diet.

staple and perk - pesto with ham and kesong puti

We also ordered their bacon and cheese fries. Finally, fries with legitimate bacon chopped into bits! None of those tiny sprinkles that come from a bottle. And the cheese was cheesy without being overwhelming.

staple and perk - french fries

Look at those apple squares. I don’t even know how I managed to resist them but I did.

staple and perk - apple squares

Rating: 9.5/10 (I look half a star off because the food’s on the expensive side. A visit to Staple and Perk will set you back at least Php 400 to 500, especially if you order drinks. The food is worth it of course, but if you’re on a budget, Staple and Perk is a place you’ll visit once a week at the most.)

Staple and Perk Bakery
Address: Ecoplaza Bldg., 2306 Pasong Tamo Extension, Pasay City
Tel: +6329251122

Chubby Chicken is making me chubby!

Contrary to popular belief, delicious and satisfying eats can still be had along Katipunan Avenue for less than Php 100 to Php 150. And no, I’m not talking about McDonald’s or Jollibee. Whenever I’m too tired to even think about cooking rice and reheating leftovers or just because I want to, my go-to place for dinner is Chubby Chicken.

Chubby Chicken, as the name implies, primarily serves chicken. But those who want other meats and fish will still find something on their menu. My standard order is the chicken taco with fries because a) the one-piece taco is only Php 70+, and b) it’s so damn good. You cannot go wrong with their chicken tacos, I swear. I also always get the cheese on the side because IMHO the cheese tastes funny with their secret garlic mayo sauce but goes well with the fries.

chubby1_nowatermark

If you prefer bigger servings, their chicken strips are the way to go. You can get them in either sweet or spicy (I prefer the spicy) and they come with rice and garlic mayo sauce. The chicken strips are more expensive compared to their standard one-piece chicken meal but you get more chicken with the strips so it balances out.

chubby2

For dessert, their fried Oreos with vanilla ice cream are delicious. Perfect blend of hot and cold.

Chubby Chicken is pretty small, with only seven tables inside and another two outside. Combine good food, decent prices, and free Wi-Fi and you’ve got a place that gets crowded easily. It’s popular with students (for obvious reasons) so best to arrive a bit early if you want to have lunch here on a weekday. There are fewer people at night and on the weekends so there’s always an available table whenever I come in.

chubby3

Overall rating: 10/10

 

How do I choose a new restaurant to try?

This blog post was inspired by the upcoming Restaurant Digital Marketing Conference this October 23, 2013 at Enderun Colleges. I love food. I grew up surrounded by food. My grandmother owned a bakery and whenever she wasn’t looking, my cousins and I snitched meringues from the trays and hid them in our hats (sorry Lola!). I will swear up and down that my uncle makes the best batchoy ever. Once my brother and I graduated from college, my mother quit working in Makati and focused on her butterscotch and cookie business. People who taste my mom’s cooking for the first time often ask my Dad how he stays so thin.

butterbeer No promotions necessary for this drink!

As a result of all this, my standards with regards to food are pretty high. Sure, I’ll eat most things but to get me to rave about a certain restaurant, dish, or (gasp!) dessert? You have to be something special. Trying out a new place is always risky, but good research online helps increase the chances of picking a winner. What influences me to give a new restaurant a chance?

1. Friends. In this context, posts and photos from friends. If a friend took the time to actually write and post a blog entry about how much she loved (or hated!) a restaurant, then I take note.

2. Food blogs I like. Pepper.ph is personal favorite because of their excellent writing, excellent taste in restaurants, transparency (sponsored posts are clearly labeled as such), and their mouth-watering photos. The photos! The photos! And hey, their food giveaways are pretty sweet too.

3. Good reviews from traditional media outlets. They’re not my primary consideration but they do help in tipping the scales if the first two criteria are met.

4. A well-maintained, attractive, and informative website. Like good reviews from other people, a restaurant’s website isn’t my main influence but it does help. Once I finally decide to try a new place, I’ll Google for the restaurant’s official website and/or social media accounts to get more information – operating hours, branches (if any), sample menu, and the like. If your website doesn’t have these information or is hard to navigate, that’s an automatic point against you.

What doesn’t influence me?
1. Online deals. This may seem counterintuitive but giving a huge discount is unlikely to get me to visit a new place unless I know someone who’s been there and liked it. I do buy deal vouchers but only for established restaurants that I already know that I like.

2. Ads. I find ads annoying *shrug*

 

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