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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.


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chiu

When you have tried all the burgers in the neighborhood, there is nothing else to look forward than meal time, right? That was what we felt when we decided to start the Off-Menu Gourmand Club in the Fort.  We wanted to get the excitement from expecting a dish.

However, finding a restaurant willing to offer an off-menu item is not that easy. Restaurant chains are big bureaucracies. They do not offer anything without going through a lot of procedures. For independent restaurants, the chef has to be confident enough to offer something not tested before.

We were lucky that the chef of Grind Bistro and Cafe at The Net Park was up to the challenge. 


Photo: Mystery burger number one is a brioche burger with gorgonzola cheese, shiitake mushroom, and soy ketchup

We contacted a few restaurants that are known for their burgers ahead of time and gave an all-in budget of P500 per head. We were very happy that Grind Bistro and Cafe accepted our challenge so that the Off Menu Gourmand Club could have our first gathering,

There were only three of us at the restaurant on November 28, 2017, but that did not take away the excitement of trying something new and unique, as in no one else who had walked into that restaurant had ever tried it!

That night, Chef Steven Carl offered us two burgers, a brioche burger with gorgonzola cheese and shiitake mushroom, seasoned with soy ketchup. The other was an open-faced rye bread sandwich that has pastrami slices on a beef patty, with sauteed onion, melted gouda cheese, and mustard aioli. We ordered both for sharing and never looked back.

The brioche, which is a sweet and buttery bread, was firm but not hard, and not too sweet. All the ingredients inside the burger had the flavor that they were supposed to have, and yet they worked very well together. The beef patty was succulent, the mushroom slices were umami, and the gorgonzola cheese was mild yet had the distinct flavor of blue cheese. It was blue cheese without the aggressiveness of ordinary blue cheese that often turn some people off. The soy ketchup was not too salty. It added just the right amount of saltiness to the whole burger.

It was a satisfying burger that had tons of flavor, all balanced and worked well together. For those of us who liked to keep our hands dry after eating a burger, we were even happier since this fantastic beast was juicy but not drippy.


Photo above: Open-faced rye bread pastrami sandwich; inset: Chef Steven Carl

The star of the open-faced rye bread pastrami sandwich had to be the pastrami. It was slices of well-cooked high-grade beef that piled on top of a thick beef patty. In a hurry to try it, unfortunately, we did not take a very good photo of the sandwich. Just believe us when we say that it was the best pastrami burger that we ever had. 

Someone asked me, isn't pastrami the same as corned beef? Lucky for us who live in the era of the internet. We googled and found the answer right away. Both pastrami and corned beef were beef marinated in brine, but corned beef is cooked by boiling the meat while pastrami is made by smoking the beef after brining. This pastrami cooked by Chef Steven must have used very high-quality beef since it was very tender and succulent and with the right amount of saltiness and smoky flavor.

The smokiness of the pastrami went well with the beef patty. The melt gouda was very mild, probably to give way to the beef flavor in the sandwich. But when we looked up the internet for Gouda cheese, we learned that this cheese had an advantage over other cheeses, even though it is very subdued in the taste department. Gouda contains Vitamin K2, which has anti-aging properties. So while we were eating a burger, we were slowing down aging!

Our bill for the three burgers came to P1,650, a little bit above our budget, but we were super happy with the food and service we got from Grind Bistro. Bravo, Chef Steven!

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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

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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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. 

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TheHungryEmployee

It was all about love and grandeur at that moment. No spooky surprises whatsoever. Just pure great food and ambiance at Kitchen’s Best.

The place is somewhat decked with the color red. Crystal chandeliers, white regal chairs, and gold details make this place grand and fit for a royalty. Amidst all those Halloween decors, their desserts and pastries still stay as the centerpiece. Now on to their sumptuous dishes!
My meal of choice was their Baked Salmon Florentine which came with this very flavorful rice. I don’t know if it was just me but the rice was smooth. Lying on a bed of spinach, the baked salmon was creamy topped with some herbs that paired well with the rice. It was a good thing that the spinach was there to balance out the dish’s creaminess. Overall, this was one good creamy dish!

Hungry for more of this article? I am! Check out the full article HERE on my blog. Go and get ready, set, CHOMP! :) 


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TheHungryEmployee

Really hungry and craving for some sumptuous meals? The Hungry Hound might just be the answer. Their dishes are really luscious that will fill one’s starving tummy.

Upon entering the place, it does feel like a pub but a very well-lit and classy one. They have these interesting light fixtures over by the bar, and eclectic pieces on their wall cabinets.

It really was a “oh-my-goodness-this-is-so-friggin-good” moment for me when I bit into one of the fries. Aside from the duck fat, their Duck Fat Fries had pimenton dulce, rosemary, garlic confit, and parmesan shavings. After having one bite, I’m sure that you’ll be back for more once you’ve tasted this. It’s quite tangy which was probably because of the paprika.


Hungry for more of this article? I am! Check out the full article HERE on my blog. Go and get ready, set, CHOMP! :)