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chiu

Sure, there are big specialty coffee chains like Starbucks, CBTL, Figaro, Seattles Best, UCC, and Toby's Estate in the Fort. They make decent coffee, provide free wi-fi and newspaper, and a nice place to lounge. On the other hand, they cannot offer something that true coffee artists have.

Coffee artists are people who love coffee madly and truly, and they invest their time and money on it. They brew each cup with great care. When you talk to them, it is like you are talking to surfers, because they will talk about the first, second and third wave of specialty coffee for a long, long time. They are bold, constantly creating new flavors to challenge our taste buds. You can feel their enthusiasm for their craft oozing from their pores. And THAT is their charm.

Where do you find them?

Rent is high in Bonifacio Global City, therefore, you will not find many of them occupying a retail space with tables. Most likely, you will find a coffee artist running his stall in an event. Take Lanz (Lorenzo Casteillo) of Candid Coffee, for example. I met him at a community event held recently in a condominium building in Forbestown Road. He manned a pop-up coffee cart and made simple espresso based coffee from a professional coffee maker. Because of the low overhead, he could sell a decent handcrafted cappuccino for P80. He can also put a roasted marshmallow topping on your coffee.

You can find someone like Lanz probably in a lot of weekend events in Fort Bonifacio, and when you do, do not miss the chance to talk to them. If they are the real deal, you can get a free lesson on coffee beans, a story of their entrepreneurial journey, and a share of their zeal.

El Union Coffee

Recently, a specialty coffee outfit found a way to introduce their coffee to the residents of Fort Bonifacio without incurring an expensive overhead. El Union Coffee from La Union has opened a coffee stall at the ground floor of Kensington Place, Burgos Circle. It shares the retail space with a bar that opens only at night. So coffee is served from 8am to 6pm. Since that place is in my neighborhood, I chanced upon it one morning while going to the supermarket.

Even though the space they occupy is small, they put in a lot of machines, and all of them are metallic, giving the place a surgical feel, as if they were saying that their beverages are precision-made. There are three industrial grade coffee grinders, a 3-head coffee tap (the first of its kind in the Fort), and a two-group automatic espresso machine. There is space left for only two chairs for the customers.

El Union Coffee has all metal gear

The unique coffee tap is actually used for dispensing cold milk and other cold liquid for the beverages that they make. For example, I ordered a cinnamon milk drink on the recommendation of one of the two baristas there. It was made of cinnamon powder, rice milk and cow milk. The rice and cow milk mixture came out of the tap. As for real coffee, even though they have a high grade espresso machine, their preferred way of making coffee is by hand pour.

Indeed, the coffee profession seems to have come full circle, by starting with pour-over coffee in the old days, then went nuts with espresso drinks in the 20th century, now going back to hand poured coffee, albeit with better equipment and technique.

Barista Sylvester standing next to the nitro coffee tap and the price list

While deciding what to order, I asked the baristas, Sylvester and Josh, about the business. Sylvester said that their company came from La Union, and they used coffee beans sourced ethically locally and aboard. He explained everything in so much details that I had to ask if he was an owner of the shop. He said he worked for the company, but the company had a very flat structure, so everyone took pride in being part of the company. I looked up the Facebook page of the company, and found that it does look like a very progressive establishment. An interesting discovery during a stroll in the neighborhood.

In between the specialty coffee big chains and the small new coffee artists on the block, there are semi-independents, such as Single Origin at Bonifacio High Street (BHS), Kuppa at Commercenter Building, 4th Avenue, Luna Coffee at BHS and NAC Tower, 32nd Street, Local Edition at Serendra Piazza, Travel Bean and Coffee Empire at Venice Piazza, McKinley Hill. They are local specialty coffee companies with only a handful of outlets, so they have to really use all the tricks in their book to get enough business to pay for the high overhead of a full size cafe. 

One popular way to attract more customers is to have alcohol on the menu. In the old, old days, of course cafes had booze and coffee. Then the first wave specialty coffee shops like Starbucks focus just on coffee. Now the coffee and alcohol combo is back. Single Origin and El Union use it, and also the newest specialty coffee shop in Fort Bonifacio, Slurp, for example.

Slurp Coffee

Slurp is located on the third floor of Venice Grand Canal Mall, next to the cineplex.

It has wine and cheese alongside the coffee offerings on its menu.

Apart from wine, another feature that Slurp highlights in the cafe is the quality of the water used in making the coffee. Serious coffee drinkers know that the taste of water used in making coffee has a big impact on the flavor of the coffee. So the owner of Slurp displays the filters used to make the coffee.

In addition to filters to remove sediments and odor, there is even a filter to reduce scale in the water used to make your coffee

Other than water quality and wine, the owner also emphasizes the gold filter used in making the pour over coffee.

Instead of paper filter, a gold filter will be placed in the filter holder when making pour-over coffee.

A haven for coffee lovers

For coffee lovers, they should be able to celebrate everyday in Fort Bonifacio, as there are so many coffee specialists strutting their expertise to make you a cup of satisfying coffee.





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JPDL

In my relatively new job, I was tasked to cover the book launch of Kevin Kwan's third and final installment of the 'Crazy Rich' series, 'Rich People Problems', last August 18. Although I have attended several press cons back in high school and college, they were relatively small compared to the one I attended in Fully Booked last week. 

I assume that you're aware that Fully Booked is a three-story book store between Serendra and High Street. But have you been inside? If yes, then good for you because I haven't yet. Aside from my first time attending a book launch with a press con, it was also my first time to explore the Fully Booked in BHS. The first thing that caught my eyes inside the book lovers' paradise was a sort of art installation situated in the main atrium of the book store. It was made of stacks of books whose colored spines formed a big picture of a woman cladded in black and striking a Lady Tremaine-like posture while holding her own Lucifer.

The store wasn't open until 11 AM, that's why when I went there at 10AM on August 18, the interior felt much bigger since all of the media people and staff were in the press con room on the third floor waiting for Kevin Kwan, and hardly anybody was around the book shelves. I must confess that I'm not really that of a bookworm, heck, I didn't even bother to read the novel before going to the book launch. As I walked through its empty halls towards the press con room, I heard whispers and as I moved even closer, the whispers turned into murmurs, and the murmurs turned into words of welcome that came from the staff. They greeted me with a big smile before asking for my name and company to verify that I was really on the list. After I signed up, they handed me a press kit, a biscuit (with icing shaped like the book cover), and a copy of the 'Rich People Problems' by Kevin Kwan.


I searched for the closest possible seat to Kevin Kwan, and I found myself on the second row just right behind the reserved seats for the VIPs. The air was filled with excitement, and I felt that these media people are also big fans of Kwan. Not long after, the MC from Fully Booked grabbed the mic and announced the arrival of the sun-kissed Kevin Kwan who visited Palawan prior to his book tour. As the Singaporean writer passed through the aisle, the murmurs and whispers that were coming from the crowd were replaced by the sound of camera shutters and pen scratching on their notepads. 


The program opened with Kwan giving a 'what to expect' speech from his new book. It was followed by the open forum where the media were given the chance to ask questions about Kwan's new book, the book-to-movie adaptation, and future plans. A reporter asked Kwan if he already knew that his book was going to be a trilogy, and Kwan said he already knew the characters' stories inside his head even before he finished publishing the trilogy. Another asked what would be Kris Aquino's role in the upcoming book-to-movie adaptation of the 'Crazy Rich Asians' and he said it's a 'state secret', which made the media people roaring with laughter. It was already half past 11 when the press con ended to give way for the book signing, but I could not stay any longer because I still have a lot of things to do in the office.

As I walked back to the office, I took the time to contemplate on the words of Kevin Kwan, 'Whenever I write, I always keep in mind the historical accuracy', because I think this is very relevant today where historical revisionism seems like a popular thing to do. So before you go imagining yourself living the life of these fictional crazy rich Asians, dust off first your history books and study how the real rich people became who they are.

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AJ

When I decided to go to the ASEAN Pop Concert in Bonifacio High Street, I admit that I only intended to watch Franco, one of my favorite OPM bands. But I was in for a treat because at the end of the night, I was filled with a deeper purpose. 

Held last night was a music event that marked the culmination of Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN's) 50th Year Celebration. The concert had already started when my officemates and I arrived at the Amphitheater in Bonifacio High Street Central.



The Juans.


The Juans, “not your typical boy band,” they say, were already in the middle of their set. I’m aware that these newcomers to the music industry are talented in their own right as each of them plays their own instrument and everyone sings as well, a supposed step ahead of their contemporaries. But my respect for them increased ten times over when I saw and heard them perform live because they sounded as good as they are on record. These guys are not to be underestimated. Given how young they are, they’re sure to make bigger waves in the music industry. 

Next in line were pop stars representing each ASEAN country, such as Afiq Wafi from Brunei Darussalam, Kong Sothearith from Cambodia and Aizyah Aziz from Singapore. I wasn’t all that interested at first because I didn’t know any of the performers, except for our own Christian Bautista.



ASEAN Pop Artists.


But I listened to all of them and although I didn’t understand the words in their songs (they all sang in their native languages), I found a deeper appreciation for the performers, the countries they represent and music in general. I realized how rhythm, tone and emotions of songs could bridge people of different nations even though words are incomprehensible. It even made more sense that all the ASEAN pop stars sang the official ASEAN Song of Unity together. 

Then finally, Franco came on. Just like every live performance that I watched of them, it was electric. Of course, I’m speaking from a fangirl’s point of view. But more than the joy of watching Franco live onstage, I was happier with the fact that a lot of people in the crowd were singing and jamming along.



Franco.


Just when I thought that Filipinos are too pre-occupied with foreign acts, here I see a crowd of people bobbing their heads to the beat and applauding after every song. OPM is still alive after all, I whispered to myself. 

Other sought-after and rising local bands also performed that night, including Up Dharma Down, Itchyworms, 6 Cyclemind, The Nightingales, Thyro and Yumi, Baihana and the cast of Rak of Aegis.

The organizers of the ASEAN 50 Celebration did good. My appreciation for music has taken deeper root. I slept happy last night. 


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JPDL

I know that many people love dogs, but how about hot dogs? If you ain't fond of this beautifully-encased clumps of meat, maybe you just haven't found 'the one' yet. Worry no more, because I am the top dog to help you find the best hot dog in town!

Yesterday I visited two of the most well-known hotdog places in Fort Bonifacio: Pink's Hot Dogs at Shangri-La the Fort and Harry's at Uptown Mall.

PINK'S HOT DOGS: A BURST OF FLAVORS IN YOUR MOUTH

This restaurant has been around for more than seven decades already. They started out as a diner in the United States and last year opened their first branch here in Manila. Once you enter their branch at the G/F of Shangri-La, the ambiance will give you a feel of Hollywood. Their dining area is quite spacious and you'll love the neon signs! It almost reminded me of Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe in Archie's fictitious world of #Riverdale!

Their staff gave me a warm welcome.  I ordered one of their best-sellers called The Hollywood Legend a la carte at P280.00. It's a mixture of hot dog in a bun topped with chili con carne, minced white onions, and a generous amount of CHEESE!

I like how this sandwich gives you that tangy-salty-sweet flavor in every bite. I'm not really a fan of chili so thank God that the cheese on top somehow neutralizes the spiciness of the chili. The onion also does its magic by adding more flavor to the sandwich. Notably, the bun they used was fresh because the crust still gives that crackling sound when you press it. The let down is the tough casing of the sausage.

HARRY'S: SPICIER THAN THE SPICE GIRLS

Hailed from the land down under, this Aussie restaurant started out as a diner on wheels. Known as Harry's Cafe de Wheels in Australia, they have been serving piping hot pies and mouth-watering sausages for almost seven decades already. If you want to try out their world-famous menu, you don't have to book a flight to Australia because there's already a branch here in Uptown Mall at the Fort.


I ordered their best-seller, Chili Dog a la carte priced at P270.00. The service took quite a while since it was 12 o'clock already and there were many people having their lunch breaks. When the sandwich arrived, I immediately grabbed a bite because I was really excited to taste and compare it with Pink's.


At Harry's, a 2-piece chicken and waffle costs P160, while a hotdog is P280 and more

Overall, the sausage was well-seasoned and flavorful and the bun also tasted good because it was soft and it complemented the sausage. The chili con carne was meaty and I loved it. The only thing I hated was there was too much HOT SAUCE! I barely even tasted the flavor of the chili because I was literally holding my tears back because of the spiciness. The game "the floor is lava" has nothing on me, as MY MOUTH WAS LAVA! Though the staff gave me a glass of water, it wasn't enough so I asked for a refill. I believe they were understaffed because nobody refilled my glass for the next five minutes.

This should serve as a warning for those who are not that tolerant of spicy food: STAY AWAY FROM HARRY'S CHILI DOG! 

THE VERDICT

In my honest opinion, the hot dog sandwich that tasted better was The Hollywood Legend of Pink's - FOR NOW. But this dog ain't stopping the search for the best hot dog in town. That is my purpose of existence. And the hot dogs? Well, their purpose is to satisfy my empty stomach.

What is your hot dog experience? Share them below in the comments!

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eclara

As I write this, I’m listening to Elton John’s Tiny Dancer. An inappropriate song considering it’s fame when I just watched Stages Session’s Independent show with musicians who are still under the mainstream music radar. But if you’ve seen Almost Famous, you most likely know where this is coming from.

My knowledge about music is actually limited to all of the 213 songs by the Beatles, movie soundtracks, and also a couple from Les Misérables. Sure, I listen to indie music especially during ten-hour road trips when my playlist has been exhausted but other than that, I have zero knowledge about independent musicians. I almost never stray from the kind of music I listen to nor plan on writing about music reviews anytime soon, that is except when I re-watch Almost Famous. I wanted to know what it would feel like to get behind the scenes during performances (or is it technically behind the stage?).

I arrived in Maybank’s Theater Globe Auditorium during the bands’ rehearsals and sound checks. Being there, sitting on an empty row of seats with an almost completely empty stadium save for the crew and performers, I was able to witness the process of last-minute fine-tuning of the program. For the first few minutes, I stayed in my seat and figured out the lineup and tried to identify the people I listened on YouTube prior to arriving at the venue. Gio Levy and the rest of his crew were practicing when I arrived. His cool and charismatic voice was reverberating through the auditorium with pauses in between to set up the acoustics. Around me, the rest of the Stages team were also hustling to prepare for the show.

The next person on the rehearsal was Curtismith. The music coming from his mouth is fast and lyrical, but you can still hear and understand every word in the rap. The crew had to cut Curtismith’s rehearsal short due to some technical problem and then Tom’s Story was up on stage, lost in his own guitar rifts and taking the small audience with him.

I was going around the auditorium by now. Taking photos and observing the dynamics of the band and crew, how they seamlessly work in small auditorium in the dark with minimal noise, in fact, aside from orders in the microphone to adjust the light and sound, you won’t even notice that the performance was only a rehearsal. These people know what they are doing and are in sync with each other that no words need to be exchanged, music was the only constant “noise” in the room.


I sat once again when I heard Bullet Dumas in the microphone. He was serenading the audience-empty hall with his folk song-like music. I noticed his music was something that's new to the ears, something unusual to hear these days but surprisingly familiar and nostalgic. In my years of listening to auto-tuned pop songs, the country-born and bred lass in me was brought out. His music had me longing to go home in the province while I was seated in a dark auditorium in the middle of the city.

I now know Coeli’s voice. It’s not something you would forget easily. Her voice, accompanied by her cello playing is something that haunts you. In a good way of course. Her voice has this hauntingly beautiful quality. Her lyrics are true and raw, and it gives you this unexplainable sadness and sentimental feeling when listened to. Different from Keiko Necesario’s cold and thick voice. Keiko’s voice is something that would perfectly accompany you when it’s raining. Oddly enough, reminding me of Norah Jones.

By the time the rehearsals wrapped up and the musicians getting ready to take the stage, people were filling in for the event. The Manila String Machine and the Ateneo Blue Symphony were opening the show with their instrumental rendition of Rivermaya’s Elesi. I was silently mouthing the lyrics thinking what should I write home about.

 

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clarisays

Every first Saturday of May is Free Comic Book Day. If you're a comic geek, you know that you need to wake up early and line up because stores like Fully Booked give out a free comic book per person. But if you want to experience the best Free Comic Book Day, don't hesitate to visit their store at B6, Bonifacio High Street where they give away three free comics!

Besides that, Fully Booked – Bonifacio Global City (BGC) offer discounts on selected graphic novels, manga and pre-owned vinyl records. Visitors also get to receive some special treats and meet local artists.

For a “North girl” (and homebody), traveling from Quezon City to BGC is a challenge. But with research, patience and motivation (also Google Maps) that won't be a problem.

I triple checked TheFortCity.com's Parking Lot Map and Google Maps before leaving and saw that there's a parking area (BHS – B6 Car Park) nearby. Parking fees during weekends (and holidays) is P40 for the first 4 hours plus P10 for every succeeding hour. After finding a spot and parking, it only took us a minute to walk towards Fully Booked.

Free Comic Book Day 2017 at Fully Booked BGC


Yes, this is a normal scene during Free Comic Book Day. But what I love besides the freebies is the blue sky and fresh air making the long line the least of my worries. After an hour, we were able to enter the store. Since I brought someone, we were able to choose six different comic books and received a special treat from ESSENSO Philippines.


Indeed, it was a fun and productive Free Comic Book Day at Fully Booked BGC. We got some free comics and treats, bought some graphic novels and met local artists like Mervin Malonzo, the author and artist behind the National Book Award-winning comic TABI PO. I must say that this is definitely the best Fully Booked branch. 

For more stories like this visit clarisays.com.

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chiu

Security guards who worked night shift there must be wondering why any one would choose to sleep on the street as a reward, especially if these people can afford to shop at Bonifacio High Street (BHS). But there we were, nearly 200 people happily sleeping in the middle of this high-end retail street under the stars, our shelters being made of thin fabrics that were strung together by metal rods.


My daughter and I were among this group of funny people who eagerly lined up to register to get into our tents on a hot Saturday afternoon. The tents were part of an event called "Glamping in the City" organized by the body that manages Bonifacio Global City, namely, Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation. One had to meet certain spending requirements in shops in BHS before being qualified to participate in the event, which started on a Saturday afternoon (April 29, 2017) and finished the next day.

"Glamping" is glamorous camping, which means one gets to enjoy all the benefits of camping like staying in a place that allows us to be close to nature (or our surrounding) and take part in outdoor recreational activities, without having to deal with chores such as pitching a tent and cooking, or forego the convenience of modern living such as the use of a toilet.

Security at the well-cordoned tent area was tight. Only those with the event wristband were allowed inside. This was important, as this was a busy shopping area and campers would not want to have strangers wandering into their tent.  We got our tent at around 4pm. It was pitched near the large book store at 11th Avenue. There was an air bed inside, and a table and chair outside. We were to be joined by another mother and daughter family, so the tent was intended to fit up to four persons. It looked like we would be set for the night, as soon as we brought back some pillows, blankets, and lights, and took a shower at home.

(Photo above: As part of the program, participants have to perform a chant for the group that they were assigned to)

To give us their version of the full flavor of camping, the organizers decided that we needed to be given a busy program of activities. At 6pm we were gathered under a covered area to play team games.  We were organized into teams, and played games such as passing quail eggs, charade, and so on. My daughter and I were joined by my husband and a friend. Our team did dismally in the games, but we were still rewarded with goodies, so everyone was happy.

At 8pm after a torrent but brief shower, the camp ground began to be occupied by campers returning from the boodle dinner. 


Food was aplenty and fresh. Nobody complained also because it was provided free by the restaurant Kabisera.

Apart from games organized by the event organizers, campers got entertained by the activities going on around the tent area. Where else could you stay in a tent, and when you walk outside of it, you are within a few yards from nice shops and restaurants? There was melodic singing from a regular busker on Bonifacio High Street who sang and strummed on his guitar, in place of the guitar player that usually sits next to a camp fire in a real camping night. 

(Photo above: a movie was shown at around 10pm.)

Kids really enjoyed this new experience of being allowed to play in the public area late at night. They visited other kids' tents, and played whatever game they could come up with, as long as they were in each other's company.

Simple breakfast was provided the next morning courtesy of another restaurant located on BHS, Italianni's. After breakfast, a gym instructor took participants through some morning exercises. More freebies were given away.

So why did we join? It is about our desire to experience things unfamiliar. For folks like us who do not enjoy roughing it any more, our kid rarely gets the chance to feel what is it like to sleep inside a tent in a place outside our home.

The "glam" part: we didn't have to pitch our tent. It was done for us. We had an airbed. The camp is in the middle of the city. We had easy access to flushed toilets. No need to cook or fish or hunt our own food.

The less glam: The tents were not air conditioned. Lacked privacy. We didn't open all covers of the tent because we didn't want anyone to see inside. It got a bit too hot inside at night, but my kid had no trouble sleeping, because she was exhausted.

Nature? There were birds chirping in the morning. And a street cat came into our tent at night. So that is glamping in the city.


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newbie

Where else can you eat lobster from a street stall but in Fort Bonifacio? A new food stall opened in Fort Strip two weeks ago (mid April) and its name is "Lobster Station". Is it just a name, like 'rocket room', or it really sells lobster? That was the question that I wanted answered when I approached the stall this evening.


Lobster Station is located in the Fort Strip, facing a parking lot. It has three tables outside the box-shaped kitchen.

When I was there at around 6pm. I was the only customer. I checked out the simple menu, and found out that indeed, it had lobster on its menu! The top billed item was lobster roll, at P590 per order. Other lobster named dishes are: lobster fried/pried rice P150 per order, and lobster grilled panini P550.


I ordered the lobster roll, because it showed  a big lobster claw. I wanted to find out if indeed I would get a lobster claw, in case I could not tell how a lobster tastes like.


The kitchen is very simple. It was run by its owner and an assistant. He heated up a bread roll, put some butter on it, and then stuffed the bun with lobster meat. The order was served with coleslaw and potato chips.


The million peso question: how does it taste? It tasted lobstery, Very yummy. You may not want to spend nearly P600 on a sandwich, but it tastes so good that once you have tried it, you are hooked. According to the owner, the lobster was from Boston. I did not expect to get imported lobster, but then again, I did not think there would be really a street stall that sells lobster.