Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cheers to One-of-a-kind Paire-ing!

Considered to be one of the most significant discovery of  a self-proclaimed gastronomer.
‘Paire Cocktails and Pastries’ will let you experience a foodie outburst that's definitely one of a kind.  They have been serving a new after-meal experience by pairing sweet and savory pastries with a cocktail drink for a year already.   Thus, guests (Yay! That included me.) were treated to a parade for the palate.   Last November 26 at the function room of Cocoon Hotel, everyone anticipated an event where scrumptious  masterpieces were partnered with unforgettable drinks, cited as "Cheers to One, Paire's Anniversary Special."
It was one heck of a year for the sisters Kat and Abby Nantes.  The pair of sisters who are behind the wonder that is now known as Paire.   A French word for pair or match, is a fusion of ideas from the two sisters.  As Abby, works the kitchen, Kat concocts the perfect drink to match her sister's creation, and what came out are a menu of their 'les meilleures paires.'
At the event, guests were able to sample the revelry with the help of the wait staff in choreography, each pair was introduced by Kat herself and promenaded across the hall.
But before I  do present the pairings, let me share first the dinner that had me dreaming of coming  back to Paire Cocktails and Pastries.   If I heard it right, this was the first time they have had to set out the new addition to their menu.   Now, complete meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner are available, together with sandwiches, pairings and pastries samplers and of course mocktails and cocktails.
First to be presented on our table, the recipe perfected by the Chef Abby inspired by her Dad's love for Pumpkin Soup and Ceasear Salad.  The hearty bowl of pureed and creamed pumpkin won me over, without leaving a saltine mouth.   The salad is just so, but what I like in it is that the dressing didn't overpower the freshness of the greens.
We then were served with a plate of Fettuccine Carbonara.  I love that the fettuccine doesn't have that bitter after-bite.  I just need to note that I am the saucy type of pasta eater, thus, a few more of the white sauce might make it to our family's top Carbonara list.
Rice-lovers will go gaga over the Beef Salpicao.  I understand that the dishes chosen for their revamped menu was so inspired by their family's favorite and held in secrecy, they are heirloom recipes being handed over by the matriarchs  of the family.   When my plate topped with the Salpicao and rice came, I thought the meat would be dry and being a bit wary of not having some sauce to deal with it.   But when it reached my mouth, a burst of garlic infusion on tender pieces of meat.   Mind you no need for more sauce here!
With that plate is a glass of full-bodied red wine.
I thought I had enough meat for the night and it was just filling, till one of the best-selling  finger food from Paire came.   Ligid as it is called is yet another of their family's secret.   It is actually their take on chicharon but without being air puffed from over frying.  It has that mild crunch with a tender bite leaving you addicted to it especially if you dip it in their house-made vinegar.  And hey, no oil on my fingers!
And before we knew it we were being served with a palate -cleanser.  The chocolate syrup laden Calamansi sorbet will make you prepared for more.  Indeed, the night had just begun to really spruce up some heat, as the parings were then presented in all its glory.   Till finally all is well when my first 'paire' was sincerely delivered for y indulgence.   And ahh, they were amazingly right, the Class A, by namesake has  to be amongst A Class and should be on every gourmand's must-try list.   The almond wafer with whipped cream is not meant to be eaten on its own.   The drink that best complemented the pastry is non-other than a mix of Amaretto and some tangy fruit juices such as lemon and lime.
As I was still savoring the Class A sampler, another pairing landed on my table-space.

A savory one this time.  On my square plate is the aslice of Spinach and Cheese Tart with a shot of Sparkling Lemon.  As we were taught, you get to run the fork on your pastry, dump it in to your mouth and while you are munching on every bit of it, you sip a little of the cocktail and, Tadaah (!), a gastronomic experience will explode in your mouth.
Now, let this be a feast for your eyes.  Sorry if I might leave you dreaming of these pictures till it's your time to have the experience, which is what it's doing to me right now as I finish this blog off.
The Fruit Basket ala Mode.  Fruits on Mudpie and Coffee Crumble Cocktail.
The Fruits on Mudpie

The Fresh and Fiery.    Spicy Cheese Quiche and Frozen Mojito
The Spicy Cheese Quiche

And it's time for Sweet Summer, a match for those who love Filipino snacks such as Leche Flan and Halo-Halo.   With it is Creme Caramel and Halo-Halo Cocktail.
The Black Forest.  Choco Sandwich with spiked Vanilla Filling and Berry Blast Cocktail.  Oh yes, I'm a Black Forest kinda girl, and if I were to be a cake that is my choice.   This definitely serves to be one of my choice together with the Class A.  Any sucker for Chocolate cakes will not be turning s head away to this beauty.   The very berry flavor of the cocktail enhances the chocolatey goodness of the mini cake sandwiches.

Ice Cream Chip.  Chocolate Chip Cookie with Spiked Ice cream and Chocolate Cinnamon Martini.

Bittersweet Melody.  Opera Cake and Classic Margarita
Opera Cake
Classic Margarita
The Class A.  Almond Slice and Amaretto Sour
Drop dead gorgeous piece of cake! 
Refreshing yet not striking in the head, the Amaretto Sour!

The Nantes family as they toast with all of the guests hollering "Cheers to One!"

Cheers to One from Gastonomy by Joy!  
More wonderful years of Paire-ings ahead!

Address:  Gr. Floor Cocoon Hotel, Sct. Tobias cor. Sct Rallos, Q.C.
Landline: (02) 5791554
Mobile Phone: (0917) 62PAIRE, (0923) 7411800
Official Email Address:

A Brighter Christmas for a Brighter Tomorrow with Kipling and World Vision

What could be a more perfect excuse to buy a Kipling bag this Christmas?  

Aside from the Holiday Collection that Kipling had put out in the fashion arena, the collection boasts of sporty and glam bags called Basic Elevated; another would be being one of the most durable bags in the market, which really and honestly lasts a long long time (my daughter still uses her cross beige bag for five years now); the best bag for everyday wear (hmm probably not with your dressy evenings though); and of course being light and water-proof; lastly and probably the best reason would be this, a parcel of the sales from these fashionably-sensible collection goes to a cause.

Quite timely for the nearing Christmas season is Kipling joining  hands with World Vision, on a mission to sponsor children make their dreams a reality.   As the famed Belgian brand, Kipling celebrated its 25 years, with its iconic monkey bag tag and logo, and with it is to share the fortune to the less privileged children of our country.   With the program dubbed as "A Brighter Christmas For A Brighter Tomorrow."

According to the Benjamin Go, President of Greyhound Marketing Corporation, exclusive distributor of Kipling in the Philippines, the partnership is a timely effort to spread the fun and happiness that’s instilled in every Kipling bag. “There is no greater joy this Christmas than knowing we have brought smiles to others, especially children. Through “A Brighter Christmas For A Brighter Tomorrow” program, we can make not only the holidays, but also the future, brighter for the children of World Vision.”

The event was held at the Society Lounge and was hosted by Ms. Miriam Quiambao who herself has been supporting World Vision through sponsorship.

“We are very delighted to have this partnership with Kipling, which is known globally for bringing fun and joy through its fashionable bags. Were happy that this time, Kipling has decided to reach out and bring the same kind of goodwill to ensure the education of children sponsored by World Vision,” says National Resource Development Associate Director Jun Godornes.

This works easily like shopping for a cause.   For every Kipling bag or luggage bought at any participating stores and online shopping sites  from December 1 to 31, 2012, Kipling will donate Php 500 to World Vision.   Isn't that what Christmas is all about?  Sharing.   You don't only benefit from the functionality of the bags and luggage,  or if you will be buying for a special someone, you don't end up making just one person happy, but a child being helped by World Vision above all will also get  that happy badge.

The Basic Elevated Collection by the way includes New Elise that has a tablet-ready interior and can be worn 3 ways; Teagan S, a travel-savvy trolley with 2 compartments that are accessible from the topside; Weekend bag that can accommodate all your travel tidbits with its expandable bottom; and Creativity X a totally essential-ready cross-over bag.

“Kipling’s Holiday Collection is a line eagerly awaited by our loyal customers, but this time, we’d like to enjoin them to share the blessings of the season by participating in this program. This is because with every purchase of any Kipling bag, our customers get to enjoy cutting-edge designs and fashion- forward pieces as well as help build a brighter tomorrow for the less privileged children,” adds Millet Antonio, brand manager of Kipling in the Philippines.

Also helping raise awareness about Kipling’s A Brighter Christmas For A Brighter Tomorrow With World Vision program are our ad agency The Sven Group and talent agency Vidanes Marketing.

Kipling is available online at and at SM Mall of Asia, SM North EDSA The Block, SM Megamall, SM Bacolod, SM Iloilo, SM Davao, SM Cebu, SM Lanang Premier, Robinsons Place Ermita, Rustan’s Alabang Town Center, Rustan’s Shangri-La, Rustan’s Gateway, Rustan’s Makati, Landmark Makati, Landmark TriNoma and soon-to-open Centrio Mall in Cagayan De Oro.  To know more, visit Kipling Philippines on Facebook and get to find out more exciting news and promos from the lovable monkey.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mochi Sweets: Authentic Japanese Mochi

Who could have thought that a fist-sized  ball of glutinous confection  can thrive on  the local food scene.   It is a fact that Filipinos are always game for new and exciting products, even so from culinary billeted outside our regions.    Boy, if it is sweet, then nothing to argue about it.  
Mochi's have started to storm bazaars and malls, bringing in Japanese traditions on redolent and rainbow-variant chilled  balls,  wildly popular as MOCHI SWEETS, and yes, it has made its way into the local food scene and is sure to create a "mochi craze" as seen in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China.

“Mochi” is a well-loved Japanese rice cake made from glutinous rice flour pounded into shape. Mochi Sweets has taken this traditional dessert further by creating small balls of luxurious and flavorful cream and wrapping it in chewy mochi skin.  Think dessert dumplings with frozen cream or mousse in the center and a mochi covering made with just the right thickness, moistness and stickiness.

Business partners Jason Yap and Samatha Paz chanced upon Mochi Sweets in their trips to Malaysia and Vietnam and saw the store drawing huge crowds. Both only in their early 20s but with entrepreneurial exposure from their parents, they decided to write to J Sweets in Hong Kong and were soon awarded the official franchise for Mochi Sweets in the Philippines.

Garry Cheng, President of J Sweets was in Manila to grace the unveiling of the first Mochi Sweets store in the SM Mall of Asia. He was very excited for Filipinos to try Mochi Sweets. He says their dessert is superior to other desserts which loosely uses mochi but don’t produce the right texture and experience. Cheng offers a clue on how premium their product and standards are: “We learned from Japan. We had a Japanese chef who creates these delectable concoctions for us and we use only 100% Japanese mochi.”

Just looking at the cute and colorful balls of Mochi Sweets neatly placed in its classic gift box and you understand why it has earned raves abroad. “First impression counts,” says Jason Yap, president of Mochi Sweets Philippines. “Mochi Sweets first tempts you with how it appeals to the eyes. But the real pleasure is the taste and experience once you bite into it. This is because Mochi Sweets is made from the best ingredients. There is meticulous control to ensure consistency of quality. We do not short-change our customers. We aim to satisfy each customer and make them enjoy life’s simple indulgent treats.”
Hence, the real test is resisting the urge to sink your teeth into these decadent sweets. Mochi Sweets comes frozen and you have to wait 10-15 minutes for it to thaw before you can bite into its gummy goodness. But unlike those with ice cream filling, Mochi Sweets is not prone to messy meltdowns as you eat it. It is also a perfect to-go or bring-home treat since it does not melt all the way through and will be thawed and just-ready by the time you meet your family and friends.

In my case, giddy as girl could possibly be with a unique take on cold desserts on one hand and a cup of coffee taken out from a nearby coffee shop on the other hand, putting the mochi on top of the covered coffee  melted away minutes for that icy goodness to be savored in less than the time required for one to indulge in it.
Mochi Sweets indeed has a wide array of flavors – from the classic favorites to inspired special concoctions. Clear winners for chocolate lovers are the wickedly good Chocolate Mousse, Cream Chocolate and Dark Chocolate. Coffee aficionados will find delicious comfort in Caramel Macchiato. Kids and kids-at-heart looking for something wholesome will enjoy the fruity confections: Strawberry Mousse, Mango Yoghurt and Honey Lemon Cream. Those who want something different and exotic can try Sakura (or cherry blossom, which is very popular in Japan), Green Tea and Durian Mousse. Currently, Mochi Sweets offers 17 flavors and will continue to dish out cool and yum variants that will make customers think Mochi Sweets when they crave for desserts and comfort food.
Amongst all the flavors right before my eyes I have chosen Sakura to be the one who had my teeth sink in to it first.   With its soft pink shell covering, the cherry blossom scene is captured in it.   Cherry blossoms are actually edible, from the fruit to the flowers down to its leaves.   AS from reading write-ups about sakura, it has been mentioned that they pickle the tree parts, before it goes to the market.  It's hard to really get the taste of the sakura but the subtle tart and salty flavoring to the mochi blended so well with the red bean paste flavoring of the inside part, which is not too sweet.   You won't go wrong with this one!

From the first Mochi Sweets kiosk in SM Mall of Asia (beside the Skating Rink), the team of Jason Yap and Samatha Paz will open three more Mochi Sweets stores this quarter. The next two stores will be at Robinsons Galleria and Eastwood Mall. They promise rapid expansion in 2013 with the biggest Mochi Sweets shop already slated at SM Aura which will open at BGC.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Merna's Banana Con Panocha Cake

Banana Con Panocha Cake.
Banana cake sweetened and enhanced with panocha to simply put it.
Banana bread or cakes bring back treasured memories from my childhood.   This is the first cake my mother baked, the one which eventually won my heart, above chocolate varieties.  One of the cake I'm fond of  baking as well, which eventually gave me bucks to feed my baking habituation.
But this one above all is uniquely different (forgive me for the redundancy, but just to give  the right spotlight).  I used to make and sell tons of this for Christmas along with boxes of brownies.
Imagine a sticky caramel syrup enveloping a ripe banana.   The burnt sugary odor tantalizing your senses and will definitely give you an immediate escape from our busy world to the elemental rural life.  
When my friend was doing this at her home, I imagined my grandma, making snack for the whole clan, the hot sticky panocha slowly melting as water was poured sizzled as the saba bananas were loaded up in the pan.    

Now see it and taste that memory with this sumptuous offering in a cake.

My friend Merna had the best mentor which I could not reveal yet.   Fired up with a passion to introduce a local yet rare produce in the Manila market and eventually nationwide and coupled with the excitement of rebuilding a new life back here in Manila, she was able to come up with something which is a genuinely Filipino dessert.

Okay, maybe you know Banana cake, but you might be wondering what Panocha is.   Maybe some of you could have plugged into my story, somehow.    For those who have heard this term for the first time or have read or heard this but have no idea, below is a sample of it. 
Beware, before you click Google for more information about the word, some derogatory info might appear, for according to Wikipedia, in Spanish slang, it is a taboo word for the vulva, a fact that has led to many deliberate and accidental puns. Lol.
But what it is actually, is a pride of some of the Philippines' regions. To distinguish its proud provenance, the term panutsa can more likely be used, which is a Visayan word for this product.  
Merna Brazil hailed from Leyte and one thing that really captured her heart when she went back to their town is to help her "kababayans" by buying their local products such as the fruits,"walis" and panocha, and find reputable market for these.
Decades past since I last had my fingers on this sweet.  As you can see, panocha is bought whole in the form of a coconut shell.  One sphere can go a long, long way.  Accordingly, 150 grams of it equals 1 cup of brown sugar.
The ones coming from Leyte comes from a labory task of producing such product.   The liquid is manually extracted from a crude mill which is run with  a carabao pulling the cord that maneuvers the stone mill.
Once the juice are taken it is now placed on a huge cookery, where the it will be caramelized until it thickens and become dense, which then will be transferred to molds made out of coconut shells.   After they harden and cooled down they will be wrapped in plastic and sold on markets.

It’s not as sweet as refined sugar nor brown sugar. It has that deep molasses texture, more than that of muscovado, which is technically its refined form. They’re like chewy candy.  Hard as may seem, you have to stick a knife to cut a portion.   This one has that subtle texture that doesn't make your teeth gnash with  uber sucrosey.   Ahhh, sweet heaven.
An epic formula for a good taho syrup should be the one made from this not the store bought sugar.  Out of this sweet dark caramel is what makes each taho unique, starts with the melting of panocha, a brown palm sugar. Mixed with the right proportion of water, this sugary solid turns into deep amber syrup.
To divulge how this cake is produced would be a mortal sin though.  But what I can assure you is that your coffee would have found a perfect compliment with a slice of this.   The sweetness given by panocha is incomparable to any sugary granules measured in cups.   Blended with the banana it gives out that earthy caramel flavor nothing any banana cakes in the market yet has to offer.
There are endless possibilities on how to enjoy it.   Like at the top, One can opt to cook banana slices with liquefied panocha then slather some vanilla ice cream.
Soon loaves of these will be rocking Christmas bazaars so do check my site out for updates.   In the mean while, if you want to try this out for yourself call Merna and order.   Let me tell you, these are good for give-aways and if you are still thinking of giving to friends and relatives who seem to have everything already, then this is the best gift for them.   The contact number is posted at the end of this post.
I experimented a bit and tried to mizzle salted caramel on it.
Oh I'm sure your kids would love chocolate syrup on it for a variety.

Banana Con Panocha Cake (Pedozos de Panocha)
Call or SMS Merna Brazil at +639215728404
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