Friday, November 29, 2013

Be Under the Tuscan Sun and Go on a Foodie Retreat

Whenever my family and I pass by McKinley Hill every Sunday, going home from the church service, it stirs up fleeting nostalgia of my first and only trip to Italy (for the moment).  One particular aspect of that tour was our flight from Qatar to Milan which was agonizingly long but what kept me all pepped up was the movie Under the Tuscan Sun.  The movie was, well also long, the plot was not that captivating and I can't seem to recall any part of it, however what made mark on my mind was the beauty of Tuscany highlighted.

Tuscany evokes appealing images of a centuries-old civilization with a mixture of contemporary rural lifestyle. It's a place where nature itself appears tamed and enhanced by the presence of man.  Visitors travel along country roads that wind through prosperous villages with medieval centers, enticing shops and well-dressed women.  I'd always thought of going to Tuscany as my best dream ever!!!  (Hope my parents can read this!)

Going back to reality, it's been nine years since I saw that movie and here in Manila every corner seems to be changing drastically with the emergence of new villages and places of interests, and of course havens for foodies.  That being said let me give one such beautiful example- Tuscany in McKinley Hill.

And what great news I have for you, dear fellow food lovers!

Megaworld Lifestyle Malls have organized another food-coma inducing event that would really satiate the gourmand in you!  "An Awesome Secret Foodies Tour" is a degustation retreat at the newest dining destination, Tuscany at McKinley Hill.

With such images of Renaissance architecture given the contempo touch, sans terraced hills neatly planted with vines and olive trees, monasteries and villas surrounded by woods and enclosed gardens all come to mind at this side of Taguig, Saturday dining can never be the same again.

The degustation menu is a treasury of 20 sampling dishes from 7 restaurants plus wine pairing at Planet Grapes.  Let me give you a sneak preview of the trip and what the restaurants will be serving.

1. Planet Grapes 

As I have said, they will only be providing wines, "New World wines" that is.  

You have a choice of one red wine and one white wine from a plethora of wines from Merlot, Chardonnay, Shiraz, etc.

Planet Grapes has a wine connoisseur on standby to guide your way through learning about the art of  wine drinking. Adding a great new twist is their "wine meets street food" concept and a wine vending machine that I find fascinating.

Who knew that our humble street foods, like balut, siomai and the likes have found their way being partnered with imported wines.

2. Trattoria Poggio Antico

From my very reliable translator (my brother), Trattoria Poggio Antico in English means  old tavern in Poggio (comune di poggio).  It's a Filipino-owned restaurant inspired from the very street side cafes of rustic Italy.

On the plate:  From Top left clockwise, Prosciutto con Melone, Pomodoro e Mozzarella, Oyster Sur Pate di Fegato

3.  B &T Mexican Kitchen

So, is it turning to be like a food trip across the globe?  After Italy, have a taste now of the exotic flavors of Tex-Mex cuisine.   Let B & T blow you away with this humunguos  platter filled with what else of course, Burritos and Tacos, it's namesake.

On the Plate: Chipotle Chicken Pizza, Mango Glazed Habanero Chicken, Taquitos Especial with Barbacoa and Nacho Chips with Assorted Dips

4. L.E.S. Bagels

L.E.S. is an abbreviation for Lower East Side, the most "New Yorky" part of The City, so they say.  Now, a speck of that experience is in McKinley and we can sample bagels in all its glory just like how it is sold in Manhattan cafes.

It's also written that the best bagels are still found in New York, I don't know about that, all I know is I found my kind of bagel and a plethora of flavored cream cheese to fill it with.

Pastries are also served, so do grab your choice and make sure to try their sinful, kick-a** brownies!

5.  Sauceria

Sauceria believes in the art and science of preparing food, dishes rich in sauces made from scratch with ingredients locally farmed, low in carbon footprint and has minimal pesticide content possible.

And when science and passion in cooking collides an explosion of flavor that sparkle with personality yet all harmonize on the plate.  See how colorful the coca is on the photo?   It's one of dish that you will be sampling on the "secret foodie tour."   Feta Cilantro Tomato Coca is a Spanish-style flat bread pizza.

The Artisanal All-beef Burger is a tiny one yet packed with beefy-goodness with a spread made of tuyo blue cheese in a very soft sesame seed bun.

Then, there's Tuna Tataki, with the Zaru soba complementing the freshly slice raw tuna served with home-made wasabi sour cream dip.

6.   Marciano's
Care for another round of Italian dishes?

One of the famous Italian resto chain has opened a branch in Tuscany and they are very much ready for your modern take on Italian appetite.

It's going to be one long afternoon of binge-eating so let me warn you to take it easy, get a few minutes of rest after every resto.  Let me assure you, the stroll along Tuscany can be beckoning and though 8 restaurants are featured in this secret familiarity tour, there are a couple more that will lure you to eventually pack your stuff and move in this side of town.

Take heart as the serving of another batch of Main dish is set here at Marciano's.

You get a sample of West Side Four Season Pizza, Woody Allen Linguine and Dow Jones.  Dow Jones is the T-bone steak with sausages, roasted vegetables, mashed potato and gravy.

The Panna Cota with berry coulis is just an added treat for us.  Don't worry there are desserts!

7.  Main Street

If you still feel the tour to be meager, what if I tell you that a piece of Canada have found its little spot here in the Italian-vibe community, that is soon to be home to many modern families.  Main Street is the breed based from the marriage of French and Canadian culture.  With old comfort favorites given new twists, which have delighted my blogger friends during our review.

An instant crowd favorite is the Poutine.  Their version of home-cut French fries drenched with dark brown, syrup-looking beef gravy and cheese curds.

Our second burger on the list is non-other than the Kitayama Wagyu Burger served with the usuals but has that tricky house sauce, leaving you wanting to eat more.

Our tour was steadily moving deep into the night and I started to feel being fattened up, heavy on my tummy, my brain cells are starting to tell me that food coma will start to kick in, in about...wait...I overheard Rj Ledesma our host saying you can not miss their home-made ice cream.  I thought I wasn't cognitive anymore, overhearing bacon on the ice cream.
Then, the Organic Maple and Candied Bacon Artisan Ice Cream was served to each of us camped on the dining tables at the ground floor.  The sound of bacon, maple, and artisan lulled me and I said to myself I must have been dreaming already.
Well, you'll know what I meant with these words of mine when you get face to face with the lovely cold dessert from Main Street.

Ahhh, makes me want to go back now!

8. Sophie's Mom

 And the perfect sweet ending...'nuf said...

I hope these photos of Ms. Tonette's pastry creation pay justice to the real deal.
It's every little girls ultimate happy place, check my blog when they had their soft opening at this link:

So, itching to get your very own "Awesome Secret Foodies Tour?"

Buy your tickets for only P1,000 at the Redemption Booth near the Tuscany Grand Villas' Gate. One ticket admits one (1) person and is sold on a first come, first served basis.  Tickets being sold for each Saturday are very limited.

Participating Tenants:
1. Sauceria
2. Planet Grapes
3. L.E.S. Bagels
4. Main Street
5. Sophie's Mom
6. B & T Mexican Kitchen
7. Marciano's
8. Trattoria Poggio Antico

For the full mechanics of An Awesome Secret Foodies Tour, kindly read below:

1. An Awesome Secret Foodies Tour will run on Nov 30, Dec 7, Dec 14 and Dec 21, 2013 from 2PM – 5PM in Tuscany at McKinley Hill.
2. Tickets for the tour are priced at P1, 000. One ticket admits one (1) person.
3. Tickets are sold at the Redemption Booth near the Tuscany Grand Villas Gate on November 26 & 27, 2013, 11AM - 6PM.
4. Participants may choose their preferred date for the tour on a first come first served basis.
5. No rebooking of tours.
6. No ticket reservations will be entertained over the phone.
7. Tickets must be claimed in person on a first come, first served basis.
8. Each participant will be given a tour kit including the tour ticket, tour pin, degustation menu and the McKinley Hill Gourmet Guide.

For ticket inquiries, please call 709-0888, 709-9888, 0917 838-0111

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Ssup Bro! Just Sayin'" - Bronuts

Come the season for hybrid pastries.
If you can't understand what hybrid pastries are then you are indeed being left out from the foodie trend, well if there really is one, hehe.    The infamous New York croissant + doughnut hidden in the name of croughnut,  have really hit this year's food craze, albeit the term Cronut  is trademarked for the baker Dominique Ansel,.  Also, that queuing seems to be a good exercise for your patience, just to be able to sink your teeth into those sugariffic, queen of oily flakiness that would have you running to the gym for indulging in one.
Hybrid pastries are two kinds of pastries meshed up in one delectable dessert treat.  Let me give you some semi-mathematical equations to further elaborate this.

Cronut = Croissant + Doughnut (of Dominique Ansel origin)
Crodough = Doughnut + Croissant + Filling (custard, raspberry coulis or toffee apple crumble)
                   (UK Cronut version)
Dosant = Fried Croissant + Chantilly lemon custard + sprinkle of chocolate
Duffin =  Muffin + Doughnut + Fresh jam filling +  dipped in butter and coated in sugar
Doughscuit = Doughnut + Biscuit

I have also learned to make one hybrid, which I still have to write about...
Brookie = Brownies + Chocolate Chip Cookie

Oh yes, and there are a whole bunch of them coming out in the coming days.

For now, let me just zero in on the newest brand that is flying off the shelves like  proverbial hot cakes, since it occupied a spot in Powerplant Mall's Baker's Dozen.  Thanks to Instagram, I was able to come across Bronuts from a friend's account.  Having to follow it for weeks already, this is what's  always on their post.

Baffled by this, I said to myself "What is the fuss about these croughuts anyway?"  I had to admit, this kind of pastry mash up did not really win me over.  The fact that I have always loved croissant in its simplicity yet laboriously done feature, I've thought of the idea as a ridicule to the traditional French pastry.

Moving on, I got too curious, that I have been planning a trip to Rockwell, till finally one great excuse for me not just to drop by.  So after visiting and doing an early Christmas shopping with my girls at the Global Pinoy Bazaar at the Tent, we head on over to the lower ground level of Powerplant Mall and verify the truth behind what everyone's been raving about.

Photo on the side by the way is from Hodge Podge bottle crown accessories.

All the four girls I'm with brought pop necklaces from them.

Again, going back to Bronuts and croughnuts and what nots...

The thing is, when I'm challenged to try out something, I most of the times, tend to disprove myself.   Many have been looking for that XYZ-factors to be tagged us the best in something.  For hybrid pastries, it has become indeed difficult.  It may take most foodies a lifetime to try all the varieties from different brands or bakeries but I guess no need to venture anymore and waste time.  For I have discovered the best to end all kind of the croissant and doughnut hybrid.   Yep, it's Bronuts.

I'll tell you why.  But let me first introduce their flavors.  The ones they have available last Sunday, that is.
Blueberry and Cream 
Pylones flavor as in Pylones gift center which sells cutesy designer items to give to those hard to buy for friends and family members who seems to have it all.  A croughnut that is filled with strawberry jam, and topped with buttercream and bits of dark chocolate
Pylones Logo.

Belgian Chocolate with Salted Caramel
Iho de Leche aka Ensaymada
Spicy Floss
Cream Cheese with Bacon 

Here now are the reasons why I said it is the best croughnut by far.

The Scent test:
A baker knows how a good pastry smells.  What led me to their booth is the sight of a crowd ganging up on a lady with a wooden board filled with different chunks, I mean, big cuts of their different varieties, and of course the aroma of their pastries which filled the east wing of Powerplant mall.   You can just smell the freshness of each baked product.  Also, by smelling every piece you know that the ingredients are not scrimped and are of good quality.

The Picture-Perfect Test:
Need I say more?  I guess we can easily judge by just looking at each picture above.  Even the stacks of  these Bronuts loaded on trays were that enticing.  As if the baker had intentionally perfected it's look always ready for that photo op.  

The Bench test/ Taste Test:
The first thing you notice is the fantastic texture on the crust. The fried croissant dough is perfectly crisp, which makes for a satisfying bite. Aside fro the pastry being huge and tall, you get plenty of layers in each mouthful.
The first one I got to try was Ijo de Leche from the generous sampling girl.  It was very buttery and oozing with slightly sharp cheddar cheese.  What intrigued me the most was what was in between such layers.  Till I get to sample on the whole croughnut.   
I knew the batch I bought won't make it at home.  On our way to church service at New Life the Fort, I got giddy reaching for one as my kiddos were staring at them.  Pardon the photos, I was on a moving car when I took the photos, because I wasn't able to contain myself with its scent overpowering the car perfume.
First to get my hands on was the Belgian Chocolate with Salted Caramel.
I love that it's not oily like the others.   You'd never know that it was fried at all.
Another lasting surprise is when you bite into it, it has a creamy custard filling! Every bite was bursting with chocolate, flaky puff, and  its custard.

Another favorite is the savory version- Cream Cheese Bacon.
I'm a cream cheese lover and every food that has it is an instant fave of mine, thus this made a remarkable mark.  After a few bites I realized it was like eating a croissant sans the circular shape, with a dollop of garlic infused cream cheese and a generous sprinkling of crispy bacon bits.

I used to shun the idea after trying a few from different brands, not only is it loaded with carbs, it didn't really make me try more.   But then again, this time I'm more determined to try out more Bronuts varieties.  

If you still would want to do more adventurous things, trying out some of the metro's trending pastry hybrid can be a tough challenge.  If ever you do want to, you may want to check out the list and some reviews here:

To get updates on where Bronuts will be popping out (aside from the Baker's Dozen which happens during weekends at the Powerplant Mall in Rockwell) visit and like their FACEBOOK page.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hotel Review: Seda Centrio: A Stellar Hotel for Northern Mindanao Travelers

   Smack-dab in the midst of the business district of Cagayan de Oro, Seda Centrio have rolled out the red carpet for their sophisticated clients.  During my familiarity tour at Cagayan de Oro with other media personalities, hosted by the Northern Mindanao Department of Tourism, I had the most amazing escape from my regular mom-duties at one of the finest hotel CDO is boasting of.

   Despite its major Philippine trading hub with the second busiest airport in Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro in Misamis Oriental embraced its first hotel designed to tap global travelers just last December 2012.  I just realized that they are turning 1 this December.  On that note, let me be the first to say Happy 1st Anniversary.

   Owned by AyalaLand Hotels and Resorts and the Anflo Group of the Florendo family, is set to upgrade hospitality standards in this city of family-owned accommodations, the biggest in Region 10 and the gateway to Mindanao from the rest of the country.  This boutique-hotel offers 150 guest rooms and is an easy access to Centrio Mall.

   The modern-looking hotel building is seated beside a mall actually is considered a plus value by the guests.   The fourth floor lobby connects to a smaller receiving area in the ground floor which is the easiest access to the mall and its spectrum of dining and retail outlets.
   Also, it is where all the hotel's facilities are located, such us the pools...

   And the gym...
   Misto, their all-day dining buffet restaurant offers a medley of international dishes, is also on that floor.
   Aside from that, 4 function rooms await an unforgettable event with a 24-hour parking for every guests.
   If the E-lounge in Misto is not for you and you needed a more private location for your business deals, you may opt to use the Executive Lounge, however, you need to become a premier hotel club member to enjoy this privilege.
   One innovative feature in every rooms are the media panel with HDMI, USB, and A/V connectivity and the 40-inch LED HDTV with the locale cable TV.  Making your stay still connected to the 21st century work load.  Can you see the huge business phone on the table, it has an IPod dock and FM stereo features.

   Yet, there is the "buts and the ifs."   The Wifi's strength isn't that stable.  You can however get a better signal if you avail of the faster connection by registering to their customer service for an expensive fee.  So I suggest to get that relentless relaxation  without the internet holding you down your much needed rest.
   A closer look at the media panel attached to the wall.

   Now be ready to be whisked away by the comfort Seda is offering in every guest rooms.

   Each rooms are tailored-fit according to your liking, as if they are designed for your needs with luxury as priority.  Whether you are a couple needing separate beds or love-birds who just needed to cuddle the whole time, whatever room you choose  guarantees that your relaxation has been well-thought off and might I say all the travelers' needs are well kept and organized.
Every rooms have access to the a magnificent view of the city.

With hues that exudes homey ambiance that is not striking to the eyes.  Everything, even the sitting fixtures just spell comfort.
    Every rooms are equipped with mini-bars and coffee and tea-making facilities.  My room was very homey, I didn't actually missed my own bedroom, just that I missed my kids so badly that they were not with me to get indulged the same way I had.  A personal touch have been added as well.  They have welcomed me with a few fruits and cookies to enjoy with my tea bags or coffee mixes.
   Some rooms also have a mini kitchen facility if you want to buy and prepare your own food, with a sink, a microwave oven and bigger fridge, I guess this would be great for those who intend to stay longer.

   To be honest, my two nights stay was so "bitin", the ephemeral wasn't enough to enjoy the stellar room and facilities given by Seda.  I wished to have stayed inside the hotel longer, but then I still would not exchange all the adventures I had with Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon.  It's definitely the go to hotel to complete that ultimate dare-deviling in this side of the region.

   According to Al Legaspi, the chief operating officer of AyalaLand Hotels and Resorts (AHRC) which operates Seda Centrio, the brand was developed "to prime opportunities in the country's dynamic growth centers."  In addition to Seda Centrio, AHRC has opened the 179-room Seda BGC in Taguig and Seda Abreeza in Davao City, while Seda Nuvali will open in the first quarter of 2014.

   These words are not enough to express my gratitude to Seda Centrio for the lux relaxation provided and hoping to experience the other top-notched hospitality service in the other venues.


Address:  Centrio, C.M. Recto cor. Corrales Ave,
                Cagayan de Oro City
Tel:   6388 3238888
Fax:  6388 3238891