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cywong

In the past Christmas, we would get ingredients for our Christmas meals from the supermarkets, or just eat out. This Christmas, we had more time to think about better ingredients, and also to look for alternative suppliers of the ingredients, to make this pandemic-affected Christmas more positive, in the good sense (vs. the COVID-19 test result sense).

Greens with no pesticides

We chanced upon a company (CityGreens.PH) that grows hydroponic vegetables in Pasig City, and they offer free deliveries on certain days to BGC. We tried them a few times, and found that the quality of their greens are consistently good, so we ordered several of them for our Christmas and New Year meals.


We made salad with their sun flower shoots, by blanching them quickly and tossing them with a vinaigrette. Their kale is served in a similar way, while the baby tomatoes were eaten raw. Bokchoy was stir-fried with a little garlic.


Photo above : Sunflower shoots

Photo above: Cherry tomatoes

Clash of the Steaks

We wanted to get some quality red meat to make the meals special for the season's celebration. And since we have not been going out that much due to the restrictions made necessary by the pandemic, we were ready to splurge. But in the end, we did not. 

Honestly, we did not realize that finding a good steak is such a laborious process. Or educational. Before, a steak was just a big slab of red meat, and the only way to tell the quality was by checking the price. Well, this is still true, but at least now we know a little about the why. First, there is the cut. Rib eye, for example, is more tender than striploin, for example. Then there are the grades.


Photo above : USDA choice steak.

Almar of Legit Steak Company, a company that specializes in USDA prime ribs and Australian Meltique steaks advises me that USDA certified steaks have three major grades of rib eye steaks : Prime, Choice, and Select. Prime is the highest grade because it has the highest level of marbling (fat deposited between the muscle tissues), Choice has less marbling and is the most widely available, while Select grade steak is very lean and not very juicy. Marbling is good for steak because it makes it juicy, and more flavorful, as oil stores flavor.

This new knowledge made us look at stickers in a butcher shop or supermarkets with a new eye. We do not glaze over them, but zero in on a specific grade of meat, and compare the price across shops. We got a frozen USDA Prime Rib from Legit Steaks for our Christmas dinner.


Photo above: Prime rib eye from Legit Steak


Photo above: our USDA prime steak

Getting a high grade steak makes it easy to have a great Christmas dinner, as you do not have to be a chef to make it taste delicious!


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chiu

Yesterday morning, when driving to Venice Piazza for lunch, we saw a lot of banners promoting Asia Town in McKinley West. So we turned our car around and went there instead.

We parked our car at the open parking at McKinley West, and walked about 5 minutes to get to this place called Asia Town.


It is a small open space wedged between two office buildings located along La Grande Avenue, one of which is called Intelenet. The open space is decorated by a lot of greenery, and has three food truck-type stalls. The most eye-catching feature of this space is a series of four golden buddha that are scattered around the area.


One food truck is Madrone, a place that sells kebab and sandwiches, and it has a two-storey open structure with tables and chairs for customers. Another is Banh Mi Kitchen, a stall that sells Vietnamese style sandwiches.


Surrounding the open space are food establishments that are supposed to support the "Asia Town" theme. Some of them do, such as a Taiwanese milk tea and snack bar called Black Sugar, a Japanese/Korean restaurant called Kisoya, a Singaporean herbal pork rib soup place called Rong Hua Bak Kut Teh, a Korean barbecue restaurant, and a Chinese restaurant is under construction.

Photo above: Rong Hua Bak Kut Teh has a soft opening Buy-1-Get-1 free promo for selected items.

On the other hand, there are also two western coffee specialty shops, a Starbucks and a Malongo.

If you work in the McKinley West area, this is probably a nice and convenient place to chill. The developer of McKinley West is constructing a couple of footbridges to make it easier for people from the other side of La Grande Avenue to get there as well. So maybe in a few months' time, Asia Town will be a really bustling place in the evening.


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Food
tiffanyl

Most people living in Metro Manila and especially the Fort have heard of or tried Wild Flour Cafe & Bakery. Famous for its fresh bread and pastries and delicious food and drinks, it’s a popular choice all over Manila. While the group has opened many branches and Little Flour, they recently added a new branch with a twist, Wild Flour Italian. The restaurant is located on the ground floor in The Finance Centre here in BGC. 


The interior is styled with the classic Wild Flour features, with their wooden furniture and tile flooring. Yet this restaurant has a more modern ambience with an Italian touch with its brick walls and black accents. Staying true to Italian cooking, the restaurant also has a built-in pizza oven straight from Italy, ensuring its authenticity.


While their old restaurants also served some pasta dishes, customers can have the same handmade pasta and more, along with Italian appetizers, pizza, mains, and desserts. With this menu, customers will surely get a taste of Italy. 



But what's good food without good drinks? The restaurant has that covered with a fully stocked bar and an extensive drink menu with drinks that are the perfect pairing for their delicious food.  



To start, servers offer customers a grissini, or breadstick, which like all other Wild Flour bread was delightful. This was the perfect bread to excite customers for the rest of their food because I surely was. I personally tried their crostini to start and their rigatoni as a main. The crostini was a nice twist on the traditional Wild Flour bread with rich and fresh toppings. The pasta was cooked to the perfect al dente with a sauce and toppings that complimented the pasta without overpowering it. With this balance, customers can truly appreciate the star of the dish, the handmade pasta. Unfortunately, I was unable to try their pizza this time, but I’m determined to return to see whether with their Italian oven they can compete with other pizzerias in BGC. 



If you're looking for a new restaurant to try or a new edition of Wild Flour, I definitely recommend this place. While they only have one menu served during lunch and dinner, they are releasing a new brunch menu soon so stay tuned!


Wild Flour Italian is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 11am to 3pm for lunch and 4pm to 11pm for dinner. 

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newbie

A new place has opened at 5th Avenue on the ground floor of One Bonifacio High Street mall to serve you coffee. But it is not a coffee shop. It is a coffee pick up point that looks like a shop, and occupies possibly the most expensive retail space in Fort Bonifacio.


It is a pick up point because you are supposed to order the coffee online from its mobile app, and then go to the shop to just pick it up. 

There are simple tables and chairs, but no power outlet. You are not supposed to linger.

Your payment online is cashless, and so is the payment if you buy at the shop. Either credit card or mobile payment app like Paymaya or GCash. No old school here.

Since the parent company is an apparel shop, do not expect everything to make ordinary sense. It makes style. So please, do not ask why the door is placed at an angle. 

Nor question the need for an enclosed tall plant in the middle of the shop. It is not a canteen that needs to squeeze as many tables inside as possible.

What about its raison d'être, the reason to exist, coffee? You can customize it any way you want, more than you can do so with the McDo ordering machines. Except you can not make it more sweet. Or less hot.


Apart from the usual espresso drinks, you can order a brown sugar latte!! Any drink with brown sugar pre-mixed nowadays will instantly put you in the hip crowd. Ordinary people have to scoop brown sugar with a spoon, put it in the cup and stir it by themselves in the old, uncool way.


The brown sugar latte was good, and it was made by a barista with latte art. See, not everything there is automated! so you are not really buying coffee from inside a giant vending machine.

I guess this is the coffee version of iPhone. "We give you a quality product with minimalist design, served our way."


Because Coffee opens Mon to Fri 7am to 8pm, Sat to Sun 9am to 8pm at GF of One Bonifacio High Street mall.




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jdgzmn

Last December 21, Tiger Sugar, a milk tea shop from Taiwan, opened its first branch in BGC, Philippines. Although I wanted to try it out and find what all the fuss is about, I did not possess the patience to brave the long lines just to order a cup of milk tea. That’s why I have not tried it since, despite the store being just a 10-15 minute walk from my office.

On February 2019, I went to Taiwan with my boyfriend who is eager to try Tiger Sugar since his office mates have been lining up for it in BGC. At the Ximending branch, we did not see a long line, thus we did not have to suffer the heat of the sun or the ache in our knees from all the waiting. In fact, we were sixth when we got there. It was popular, but not as popular as in the Philippines. We couldn’t understand the cashier lady since she wasn’t fluent in English, nor could we understand what was written in their menu, so we just pointed at the poster of Tiger Sugar and said “two” with a matching hand gesture.

Tiger Sugar branch in Ximending, Taipei, Taiwan

Finally, after two months of withheld curiosity, I was holding the drink so many in BGC would work so hard for just to have a taste. I felt excited to taste it despite not knowing if I ordered the correct drink. After a sip, my boyfriend and I, in a moment of amazement, looked at each other in satisfaction. OMG it’s sooo good! Now I actually understand why people love it so much. Imagine “taho” (soya milk drink with glazed sugar), but instead of the soya, you get authentic full cream milk with an undiluted brown sugar syrup. Its sweet and rich taste of cream, milk, and sugar complements with the right amount of caramel and softness of boba and pearls. The quality of the milk plays a huge part in enriching the drink. It tastes so good that it would be absurd to ruin it by shaming yourself for not counting calories.

My Tiger Sugar drink in Taipei.

So I finished my first cup of Tiger Sugar drink with a beam, but I realized that I have to fall in line if I want to buy one in the Philippines, and last time I checked, even if I’m willing to pay, as of this writing, I can’t order it using delivery services like Grab, Lalamove, or Zomato. So when we went home to Manila, I debated with myself if I should try out the branch in BGC to compare if the quality and taste are the same as the one in Taipei.

The milk tea lover in me won. I decided to brave the long line in BGC last Tuesday, February 12 at exactly 10:49 AM. There was already a line of nearly 20 people, even though the shop opens at 11:00 AM. At around 11:25 AM (yes, I lined up for almost 40 minutes), I was able to order. I realized that the drink is cheaper by Php10.00 in Taipei. By 11:40 AM I got my drinks!

Tiger Sugar branch in Bonifacio Global City, The Fort

So this is it! Does it have the same quality as the one in Taipei? Will I be braving the lines again and again? These were the thoughts that were running through my mind. So I push out the straw from its plastic wrapper, punch it into the drinks cover, and I take a long sip just enough to fill my mouth. I slowly take in the contents and feel relieved that they are in fact the same quality. It means that I can enjoy the drink as much as I enjoyed it overseas! However, it made me contemplate what I had to go through to buy it here. Does lining up for an hour for a cup of milk tea really worth it?

Our order in Tiger Sugar BGC

As good as the drink is, the hassle you have to go through does not make up for it. Since I am employed, I don’t have the luxury to line up for almost an hour every time I crave it. Maybe, if Grab or Lalamove offers it on their platforms the long lines will give justice to their delivery charges. Less hassle, less effort, more time for other matters and more Tiger Sugar.

 Line in Tiger Sugar BGC around 11:30 AM, February 12, 2019

I still recommend people to try Tiger Sugar. It has a distinct taste from all milk tea shops in the Philippines. If the line was not that long, I’ll probably buy at least thrice a week. For now, I will just have to wait for the hype to die down, wait until their crew’s service quality improves, or for more branches of Tiger Sugar to open so the lines will shorten and I can enjoy my drink in peace, which to be honest is the only proper way to enjoy anything.

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Food
newbie

Last Friday evening, I was amongst a group of local residents invited by Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation to dine at one of the newly opened food establishment at the One Bonifacio High Street mall.

We are members of a local community group called E.Q.U.I.P@BGC, and we usually just share views and resources via a social messenger app. We were invited by FBDC to visit their newly opened mall located across Shangri-La at the Fort hotel. Some of us met for the first time in person in this event.


Ms Joanne Balawan-Magno (wearing green) of FBDC, introduces Ms Iza Galego (center), who invites residents to support the BGC Passionfest to be held in December 2018, which will have a theme of "Festival of the World". As in previous years, there will be a parade of various community groups on the first day of the Passionfest, which will be on December 1. Many activities will be held in the following two days as well.


After dinner, Ms Magno took us to the balcony area on the fourth floor of the mall, which provided a great view of the park below, as well as that of Shangri-La at the Fort. Ms Magno said that One BHS mall was the first indoor mall built by FBDC. But similar to the one-mile long outdoor built by FBDC, visitors to One BHS can enjoy a spacious shopping environment.

For those of us living near the mall, we were relieved to learn that there will be underground parking space (400 slots) to meet the needs of shoppers. 

The food at this ramen shop located on the 3rd floor of the mall was great. As we toured the mall, we saw a few more eating establishments. One even had a big covered outdoor dining area. We are sure the mall will be a new destination for foodies in and around the Fort in the near future.

Over dinner and afterwards, members of the community group got to know more about each other. Through participation over the years, members of this community group have learned the benefits of being in a neighborhood group like E.Q.U.I.P@BGC. We share valuable information like where to get services such as home maintenance, or references for medical services; disseminate information like local traffic matters, and other resources. We are grateful that neighborhood groups like E.Q.U.I.P@BGC exist, and that the local estate management company FBDC shows its support to these groups from time to time.


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newbie

I only take a cup of coffee once every few days, but when I do buy a cup of coffee, I need to know that I am getting the good stuff, since a cup of specialty coffee can cost as much as a meal for many people.

Today, I had a meeting in a new specialty coffee place that does not seem to bother to attract customers with its signage. It is located at the ground floor of W City Tower, 7th Avenue, the building that has a series of balconies on its external wall, lined up to form a crescent shape.


With a sign that is so cryptic (they can't even put a "%" sign in the company's url, but have to use this: https://arabica.coffee/), % Arabica must be doing something right, because the cafe had a line at its cashier on a weekday at around 10am. 

% Arabica has a very small menu. You will not find cafe mocha on it. Instead, they have Spanish coffee, which has a sweetener addeded to its expresso.

How does its coffee measure up against other specialty coffee shops in BGC?

The contenders are:

- Single Origin at BHS

- Kuppa Coffee at Ecommercenter

- Luna Coffee at BHS and NAC Tower

as well as coffee chains like:

- Toby's Estate (SM Aura, Ecotower, Shangri-La, to name a few branches in the Fort)

- Starbucks' (everywhere)

- UCC (Burgo's Circle, Forbestown Road, Uptown Mall, Venice Grand Canal Mall)

- Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (at least 8 branches in the Fort)

- a few branches in the Fort : Seattle's Best, Figaro Coffee, San Francisco Coffee.


Our % Experience

We bought a cup of their short hot caffe latte (P150). It has a very mellow taste, and no harsh acidity that you will often find in a small specialty coffee brand. We did not ask, but suspect that their beans are not those commonly found in other coffee shops. They display samples of Ethiopian coffee beans in the shop. They have a unique coffee roaster in the store. And the owner of the % Arabica brand claims that he owns a coffee farm in Hawaii, according to the website of % Arabica.

It is therefore fair to say that % Arabica can make a good cup of coffee, and that the experience is very unique and reflects the Japanese heritage of the brand's owner.

Photo above : Coffee art from a cafe in Bonifacio High Street.

Coffee Quiz

Instead of asking you which coffee brand tastes best, which is very subjective, let us test your knowledge of the brands.

Which coffee brand is best associated with each statement below?

1. The only home grown specialty coffee chain that has branches in China.

2. The Philippines was the brand's third market to open outside its home country.

3. It has the smallest espresso coffee menu among the brands that exist in the Fort.

4. It offers Chemex and Hario brewed coffee.

5. It has a hazelnut flavored coffee on its menu.

6. The first coffee shop with a coffee roaster in a store in the Fort.

Answer all these questions correctly, and you win the title of the most knowledgeable coffee drinker in the Fort. You can then tell us which brand serves the best coffee in the Fort in your view.


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chiu

Manila House is a members-only club opened in early 2017, and it currently has a membership of about 1,000. Since only members or guests accompanied by members are allowed in, it means not many people have seen the inside of this club, known for its artsy interior decorations. 

We were invited there for lunch two days ago, and got a tour of this exclusive club. If we are asked to sum up the club in a utilitarian way, one would say that Manila House is a place that houses five restaurants and several function rooms. But Manila House is much more than a 5-Star hotel minus the accommodation. It is exclusive, so that you will only mingle with people with significance. It has taste in design, food offering, and the activities that it organizes for its members. 


To get to Manila House, you can either enter the lobby located to the left of a restaurant called Green Pastures on the ground floor of the Net Park building along 5th Avenue, or go to a lift accessed through a guarded corridor that is situated across Caravan Black, a cafe also on the ground floor of the Net Park building. Take either lift to the 8th floor. 

When you get out of the lift, you will find yourself in a hallway that is painted red. Turn left, and you will see what is shown in the featured photo. It is a place for members to lounge before going to the main restaurant, which has a tropical feel to it (a lot of greenery and wooden parrots) and serves 'continental' food.

The largest restaurant of Manila House serves 'continental food', which, to common people, means western food.

Japanese restaurant in Manila House. You can get a lot of privacy there, since it is quite empty.

Photo above: This restaurant serves Filipino food.

Other than these restaurants, there is a bar for drinks, and a grill room for meat lovers.

Manila House has several hallways that can be rented for events. We were told that the furniture arrangement in the club is changed every month. All artworks there are for sale.

Having taken a look at the place, I bet you want to know about the food we had. There were nine of us, so we had a chance to sample many dishes. The menu in the continental restaurant was actually quite extensive. Prices and quality are similar to a 5-star hotel, but some dishes are a tad less pricey than in 5-star hotels.

A salad with fresh greens, fruits, pine nuts and beetroot.


The House burger was nothing to write home about.


The Poke Bowl had salmon, tuna, blue crab, edamame, and seaweeds. All very fresh and tasty. About right at P650.


Sea bass at P1,400 was definitely not the best value-for-money dish.


The title of best-value-for-money dish for that meal went to..... Fried Chicken. At P380, it had two huge pieces of chicken, a slice of bacon and mashed potato. The chicken was super crispy, moist and flavorful.

So if you have a couple of hundred thousand pesos to spare, and want to be in the same room with people of significance, this could be your place. For that amount of dough, you can get a life time membership in this prestigious club.