My Foodgasm Top 5

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From the good people of the UP Economics Society comes Foodgasm 2, an annual event that brings together up-and-coming food businesses under one roof to battle it out and win mass approval and bragging rights. All those who bought tickets to the event were all given a score sheet so they could rate each and every food item they sample. At the end of the night a winner via vox populi is chosen. Props to those who managed to sample everything, because braving the lines and the crowds was a challenge.
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I appreciated how diverse and vibrant Foodgasm was. It played to the vibe of their venue (Mercato Centrale) really well. It was casual, energetic and a little spartan in its own right.

Frankly, a lot of the samples, although creative (unusual, out of the box), weren’t “spectacular”. Some fell short in their execution while some fielded items that simply paled in comparison to its competition.

With that being said, I decided to just name Foodgasm’s five highlights – three singular businesses made my cut, three food items deserve one citation, and at one point, it became the battle of the cupcakes. Let the degustation begin.

1. Ping Gu mushroom fries

This was my personal favorite. Organic oyster mushrooms are coated with breading and deep-fried in canola oil. This may not sound like something special but it really was. The crunch of the breading gave way to perfectly cooked meaty mushrooms. Garlic mayo was the dipping sauce of choice, and it was obviously a crowd favorite. “Ping Gu” is Chinese for oyster mushrooms and Ping is also the name of one of the owners. It’s destiny I tell you.
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2. Chocobelly by Carlo‘s Kitchen

The universal love of crunchy pork belly is what probably drew the throngs of people to their stall. You might say it’s pushing the envelope, slathering melted chocolate over crispy fried pork but in the advent of bacon jam, bacon macarons, bacon ice cream and all sorts of crazy concoctions, I’m not really surprised to see and taste the combination.
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With that being said, I liked what I tasted although I think it might be more of an acquired taste, since I’ve met a few people during the event who didn’t get it.

3. Paire’s Ligid (crispy pork appetizer) and Class A (Almond slice followed by a shot of Amaretto Sour)

With the intention of standing out, Paire went the extra mile and introduced two food items during the event. They had an appetizer, the Ligid, which was slightly similar to Carlo’s crunchy belly in taste and texture. And for “dessert” they had the Class A. You’re supposed to eat the almond slice first and while you’re chewing it, down the Amaretto Sour. It was a pleasantly refreshing combination.
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4. “Out-Of-The-Box Effort”: Sophia School Cafe’s Vegetarian Dinuguan & Sweet Baum Cafe’s Baumkuchen

I was perplexed to find out vegetarian dinuguan would be part of the event. Those two words essentially don’t go together but I kept an open mind, and was clearly intrigued. And true enough, it tasted like real dinuguan (blood stew) minus the pork fat, entrails and innards (I’m not a fan of the last two so it’s all good).
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It didn’t stand out as a contender, but the fact that it tasted like honest-to-goodness dinuguan was already a feat in itself. Of course they kept mum about the ingredients but I’m not complaining.

The baumkuchen, introduced by Sweet Baum cafe is intriguing in its own right. Baumkutchen is actually a common dessert in Europe and Japan. German for “tree cake”, slicing a piece reveals visible rings like that of a tree. It’s interesting to know that it’s cooked on a spit (think lechon), and the rings are achieved by brushing a layer of batter on the spit, allowing it to cook and turn golden, and then brushing another layer.
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That in itself is pretty stellar technique. However, the nice people behind Sweet Baum Cafe should have added more variety to their available samples (green tea!) since the one they fielded was a bit dry, and reminded me of a run-of-the-mill chiffon cake you could easily score from your corner bakery.

5. The Peculiar Battle of the Cupcake Cousins

There were three businesses that offered samples of their chocolate cupcakes: Sweet Confections (Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake), Sugar Rush (Chocolate Kiss Cupcake) and The Cupcake Dealer (Black Velvet).

Sweet Confections offered simple chocolate cupcakes frosted in yellow and pink. It was inspired by the show 2 Broke Girls. The main problem with this fact is not everybody watches the show. And that may be a point of confusion for some. Do they use the same recipe? What do the cupcakes have to do with the show in the first place?
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Sugar Rush gave out their version of a chocolate cupcake, studded with chocolate chips and topped with a Hershey’s Kiss. Plain Jane she ain’t. I have to give them props for the detail that went into each cupcake.
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The Cupcake Dealer’s Black Velvet came with a white chocolate frosting. It obviously doesn’t have red food coloring. I was told, not by the ones manning the stall but by my classmate who attended the event that they used carob powder in their mix. Carob is a healthier alternative to chocolate, although I could not verify if it’s actually true that it was used for the cupcakes.
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Strip away the frosting, the frills and the fancy names and what you get are actually three cupcakes that are really quite similar in taste, as if they were cut from the same cloth, er, recipe book. They didn’t taste bad – in fact they were actually moist, and very chocolate-y which is always a good thing. But the point is, it just wasn’t the night of the chocolate cupcake.

There you have it, Foodgasm through the eyes of the HG. It was a night of good food by all means. Some soared more than others. For a full list of participants and their contact information, click here

Parting shot: It was also a nice night to meet other bloggers who share the same crazy obsession with food. A big shout-out to Yedy and Eugene for keeping this little child company!
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Having my cake and eating it too

Like a good dessert, FOOD Magazine’s annual Presents Perfect Food Bazaar impressed without being monotonous, cloying and too overwhelming. Considering that FOOD usually devotes a few pages in their November issue to feature the best pastries and  desserts around the Metro, there was a lot to take in (and buy).

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I’ve been reading Food Magazine since I was a fat(ter) child, and it would be such a shame to miss an event like this considering that I’m already here (Manila). The perfect picture would be me buying something from every single stand that day, but that didn’t happen but I’m pretty happy with the things that I did buy. But before that, here are more than a few photos to overload your senses.
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And now with much ado…(and I think some of you might have seen this photo on my facebook page a few days ago)…my haul:
Photobucket Some of you might think I went overboard…but no. In the name of good desserts, it’s my duty, nay, right to be merry. All of these, I would recommend in a heartbeat. I’d like to believe these spell something special when the holidays are upon us. Place your orders before the rush starts, if it hasn’t started yet.
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Dulce de Leche Cheesecake
Delicious from the cream down to the biscuit base.
Forget Me Not Specialty Cakes
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Cassava Egg Tarts
YOU SERIOUSLY NEED TO TRY THIS ONE. PLEASE. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.
Joan and Jane Cake Bites
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White Chocolate Macadamia Brittle Cheesecake
Cheesecake – smooth as silk, the brittle – the perfect topping. Side note: they should sell the brittle separately as well.
Kitchen’s Best
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Red Velvet Cupcakes, blurred in the background: Chocotella
Both moist and rich. I prefer the Red Velvet over the Chocotella but the latter is more indulgent with its chocolate (or was it nutella?) center.
Cupcakes by Klar Joseph
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Assorted French Macarons
Who doesn’t love macarons? Come on.
Forget Me Not Specialty Cakes

Also in the photo: Bailey’s Cream Cheese Bites
A brownie made even better!
Secret Passion (can’t seem to find their facebook page)
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Dark Chocolate with Siling Labuyo (Finger Chili) and Regular Dark Chocolate
Yes, chocolate with chili. It just makes sense. I’ll always be a fan of dark chocolate, enough said.
Theo and Philo Artisan Chocolates

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Polvoron Cupcakes
It’s the classic Filipino polvoron in cupcake form, topped with what I’ll assume is white chocolate, decked out in holiday designs. Fact: my mom is in love with this.
Double Delights Food Products

So there you have it, a sampling of what’s good to taste, give and receive this Christmas. Congratulations to FOOD magazine for bringing together a great assortment of treats!

The Midnight Market

Of course when you’re somebody who goes the extra mile for food, you’re no stranger to the weekend market culture. Weekend markets, more than anything else, are like big food festivals where local, up and coming and established purveyors of good food meet. Recently, I anointed myself with my first taste of what it truly means to hold off sleep and dinner  just so I can visit a weekend market at midnight. Just to eat. Here are a few photos of what to see (and taste) at Mercato Centrale at Bonifacio Global when we visited last weekend. And as I’m writing this we’re set to visit another food bazaar tomorrow – fingers crossed that I can sample at least, well, everything.

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The fact that you have before you a plethora of everything that’s either good, delicious, or expletive-ly mind-blowing, all under one roof is a good enough reason to wander, take in the sights, aromas, and dole out a few hundreds.

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No self-respecting market would ever be complete without ubiquitous barbecue stalls. True to form, people gravitated toward these stalls the most, probably because comfort and happiness is simply a stick (or five) of delicious charred pork, among other things.
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As luck would have it, I got the chance to sample the last stick of Cuisiniers’ Peppery Pork Barbecue, which won first place in the pork category of Food Magazine’s Backyard Barbecue Cook Off that happened in May. It was obviously a crowd favorite with good reason: it was perfectly grilled, and had a great sweet and savory flavor. I only wish there was more where it came from, because one stick just wasn’t enough.
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I’m starting to crave and appreciate Middle Eastern cuisine lately, so it was only natural for me to sample what Meshwe had to offer. I enjoy a good beef shawarma, so maybe because they only serve chicken shawarmas (no picture), I missed a little bit of that kick. It was tasty, but the chicken could have been more juicy.
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Their Muhallabia/Rose-flavored Milk Pudding was a pleasant surprise. At first I couldn’t taste the rose, but after two spoonfuls of the silky smooth dessert, there it was like a flower in the dessert, if I’m being so poetic. The pistachios were a nice touch.
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I ended the night with green tea and cookie dough mochis from mochiko. They were absolutely delicious. I was grinning from ear to ear like some doofus the whole time.
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Something tells me this is only the tip of the iceberg. We only stayed for two hours and we felt that we could have sampled more. One item which I regret not to have tried:

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Succulent roast pork. Did I really pass up the chance to raise my cholesterol levels with something as amazing as this? Oh well, at least I have one more reason to go back.

Spreading some goodness with McCormick

I love herbs. In fact, I have an herb garden growing a thousand miles away back home. I just hope that as of writing this, they haven’t died yet. Fingers crossed that my instructions haven’t fallen on deaf ears.

Before I dove into the practice of using fresh herbs, McCormick has always provided me with a good supply of dried ones to use in everyday cooking. My go-to selection would have to be basil, rosemary, paprika and thyme. It’s amazing that this company can do so much to introduce the world to a variety of flavors neatly packed with convenience, made available in your everyday go-to supermarket at reasonable prices. This time, they take it a notch higher by introducing their new line of…….wait for it…….SUNSCREEN LOTIONS.

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spf 30 anyone?

I kid. McCormick, please forgive me, I just had to say it. But seriously though, who would’ve thought sandwich spreads could taste even better? Apparently they did. And here they are with their new line of Bread Spreads, which were launched at Fully Booked Top Shelf to a crowd of bloggers and media representatives.
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rosemary lemonade (!)

Every table was provided with a generous serving of breads and crackers, together with the three Bread Spread variants: Pesto, Herb Parmesan and Garlic.
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On bread, herb parmesan and pesto work best. Both have natural textures in the spread: parmesan and basil bits, respectively. The garlic wasn’t bad, on the contrary, it does taste pretty darn good, but we were impressed with the first two more.
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Even if I was not impressed with the garlic on bread, I can imagine the garlic to work with meals like barbecue, fish and chips, even tempura-style vegetables. And just to prove how versatile these spreads can be, McCormick also invited Chef Stephanie Zubiri to demonstrate three dishes flavored with the bread spread line. Even if these 75-gram 0-trans fat squeeze bottles are geared particularly as an in-between for sandwiches, they can do wonders to flavor other dishes as well – think pasta, stuffed chicken breast, and naturally, salads!
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Chef Stephanie Zubiri with host Patricia Hizon

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Clockwise from right: Garlic Herb Lemon Zest Carbonara, Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Veggie Millefeuille and Pesto Orange Salad with Balsamic Dressing

After the demo, a few lucky members of the audience were also treated to two games. The first one was a 20-minute team challenge to whip up three dishes using the spreads. The next one was easier – a sandwich tasting game where you had to guess what bread spread was used. All in all, people had a jolly good time.

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Personally I’m excited to see how far I can stretch the Bread Spread’s versatility. You get the convenience of not having to worry about digging deep into a jar just to get most of the spread, the versatility of having another flavoring element in your mix of ingredient arsenals, and of course, the great flavor that the brand always promises.

McCormick Bread Spreads are now available nationwide and priced at 75php per tube.

Like their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/friendsandflavor

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A Shot of Espresso

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Ever since I realized that coffee makes my palms sweat even more than the usual, I tried to stay away from it as much as possible. A matcha latte (sadly, exorbitantly priced) from a coffee shop would do the trick any time. But strangely enough I’ve been having daydreams about affogato, a coffee-based drink that simply involves the marriage of really good vanilla ice cream and Italian espresso. The taste of which would probably be (because I’ve never tried it before) pure bliss.

It’s a shame that I didn’t get to my have my share affogato, but I did get to understand more about espresso as the base element, thanks to the great people of Segafredo Zanetti Espresso.

The company with Italian roots has branched out all over the world through coffee shops, machines, plantations and roasting plants. They pride themselves by being a “fully integrated coffee company” – the meticulous coffee-making process from bean to cup is 100% theirs.  That is a feat in itself because a stamp of authenticity means nothing is watered down and compromised. With a mission to “spread the taste, the culture and preparation method of the true Italian Espresso”, these people mean business and yes, take their coffee very seriously.
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these remind of me of printer ink cartridges

Bloggers and some people from different online publications were treated to a presentation about the company and their products.

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Ms. Xenia Germino, the operations manager, together with (from L-R): Andrea Borghesan, export manager and Ilija Naumovski, grand chef barista

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And true to form, the food from the cafe needs to be given a special mention:
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this pizza was really tasty. I’ll definitely come back for another slice. or two

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As a cafe, they can serve up rocking finger food. The best of the best would have to be the deconstructed lasagna (pictured above, deceptively like a fat lumpia). Dipping it into the rich tomato sauce is a home run for lasagnas all over the world. I kid you not, it’s really good.

Tessa Prieto-Valdes, social butterfly and wearer of many hats (literally and figuratively) was a special guest. She can’t stop gushing about how good the espresso was. True enough, their signature blend is thick just how espresso should be. It was strong and had a kick, but the bitterness was not off-putting.
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My friend, who is not (and probably will never be) a coffee drinker was impressed. My other friend, who has the love for coffee in her veins, was blown away. The realization that espresso isn’t your run-of-the-mill coffee hits you with every shot.
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Afterwards we were treated to an espresso-making demonstration, done by Slovenian master, Ilija Naumovski, the grand chef barista for Asian operations. Baristas can geek out over this because he’s kind of a big deal.
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thickening/foaming the milk

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This and that:
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How did I pass up the chance to have slice of this? Next time. Next time.

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If and when I’m in Bonifacio Global City, I’ll definitely stop by to get to know the espresso shop a bit more: more pizzas, cakes and hopefully an affogato if the fates allow it. Like any other coffee shop, the feel is definitely casual, with free WiFi to boot. Naturally their name isn’t the first to pop up when you think of a popular coffee shop, but the fact is, this little coffee shop has branches all over the world, and carries with it the promise of an authentic Italian espresso experience. It’s a good enough reason to stop and give it try.

Segafredo Zanetti Café

G/F Net Plaza Building, 31st Street

E. Square Zone, Crescent Parkwest

Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

The funny thing is most of us invited to the event got lost on the way. My sage advice would be to just look for the JPMorgan building. The cafe is located at the ground floor.

A Year of Food, Food and more Food!

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memory lane

I remember it pretty well – the day I decided to “give birth” to my food blog and name it “The Hungry Giant”. It was during research class, and instead of listening to whatever it is happens in research, I did wrote down possible names at the back of my notebook, as if I was trying to name a newborn baby.

I was a senior in college then, and my food blog dreams took a backseat when I reviewed for my board exams. But there was no stopping me when I did finally have the time to carve a niche for myself in the ever expanding world of food blogs. It was like I opened a window to let in a gust of cold fresh air. Since then, I never dared to close it ever again.

What you see before you right now is The Hungry Giant, 365 days and 131 posts later!

If you’ve put up with this blog since the very beginning, you might still remember the first recipe post I made (Garlic and Sardines Pasta). I just had it for lunch today, it’s still a winner.

Or how about the post that was good enough to make it to WordPress’ freshly pressed? Yeah, apparently the people at WordPress are pork lovers. And the whole world sent love to my grandmother as well. Back at you, world! (Chinese-style Crispy Pork Belly)

The day my dad and I made adobo together (with the chickens) was also a golden day. The first time I potted my herbs deserves recognition as well.

This blog also pushed me to try a lot of things in the kitchen: siopao, my first focaccia, cinnamon rolls, homemade garam masala (!), and let’s not forget, beef bourguignon version 1 and 2! 

Sometimes cringe-worthy, sometimes heartwarming – either way, my salad and  I were also on TV at one point!

Another proud moment? Well, when Ginny Roces De Guzman (the author of Bake Me A Cake) left a personal comment on my blog, thanking me for making her (really great) red velvet cupcakes. Julie Ruble of Willow Bird Baking, and her own red velvet cheesecake recipe (the first thing I ever baked, EVER!) is equally a winner.

And if you’ve noticed, I finally bought a domain! It’s now thehungrygiant.net although I think if you type in thehungrygiant.wordpress.com, it will still redirect you to the new one. A big whoop to the marvels of technology and whatnot!

Today, for THG’s anniversary, I was coincidentally invited by the good people from The Maya Kitchen to a cooking demo with Chef Hasset Go! One of the (if not the) youngest pastry chefs in the Philippines demonstrated a few of his recipes that will probably be part of his first book, out in August. His career story is one for the books – really inspiring!
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Chef Hasset’s 15-minute Energy Mug Cake

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Probably the highlight of the demo – Custard Spring Rolls. It had a great gentle crunch on the outside, and a perfectly sweet custard filling on the inside. I wouldn’t mind having it everyday.

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Banana Jubilee Crepe

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Low-Sugar Citrus Cupcake Creme Brulee. The secret: coconut sugar!

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A thing of beauty – Pandan White Chocolate Mango Cake

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Upper Left: Coconut – Calamansi Squares. Lower right: One Block Away Easy Pastel Tres Leches

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After the demo, and since I was in the vicinity already, I had a late lunch with two of my friends at Cibo. I decided to treat myself with a plate of lamb and bruschetta.
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Costolette D’ Agnello – Grilled Lamb Chop, Red Wine Mint Sauce, Parsley, Rice Pilaf (430php) – if only I can have lamb everyday

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Funghi Trifolati – Mushrooms, Fontina, Stewed Tomato (225php) – perfect

To cap off my night, together with my high school classmates working/residing in Manila, there was a get-together at Fish and Co. at Trinoma. There were no pictures because at that point we were all incredibly hungry, but let me just put it on record that Fish and Co.’s selections are delicious and the portions are generous. Must try: fish and chips, salmon, and the seafood curry.

There you have it, a day in the life of The Hungry Giant. Well, I wish that was true. No, I don’t get to eat out all the time but today just had to be something special. What you’re reading right now are ramblings of a guy with commitment issues, so the fact that I managed to hold on to this blog for a year is legendary. And just in case you haven’t been put up to speed, I recently left my hometown to pursue whatever’s waiting for me here in the big city of Manila. The fact that I could take this blog with me excites me because this is a new chapter for myself and for the blog: more perspectives, depth and definitely more food!

So, let me take this opportunity to NOT apologize to you reading this right now. I won’t apologize for making you hungry because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But seriously though, thank you. Thank you for dedicating a few minutes of your life to ogle at my photos and read what I have to say. I try my best not to waste your time.

Thank you, thank you and tha—*burp*—nk you.

The Maya Kitchen is conducting a series of cooking demonstrations and lifestyle courses throughout July. For more information, contact them through email: contactus@themayakitchen.com   or call 8921185 / 892-5011 local 108. The Maya Kitchen Culinary Center is on the 8F Liberty Building, 835 A. Arnaiz Avenue (Pasay Road), Makati City. 

Cibo is located at the 2nd level Glorietta IV, Ayala Center, Makati City or  903.6327 or 729.2426.