My Foodgasm Top 5

 photo file_zpsd7d5a994.jpg

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.
 photo file_zps9eddc64b.jpg
 photo file_zps3e0d095e.jpg
 photo file_zps3e7f663a.jpg
 photo file_zps3f58bb2c.jpg

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.
 photo file_zps24f536c5.jpg
 photo file_zps25512dd4.jpg
 photo file_zpsb050594b.jpg
 photo file_zps3bfc9c94.jpg
 photo file_zps2f631461.jpg

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.
 photo file_zpsc5433992.jpg
 photo file_zps7e6bfbea.jpg
 photo file_zpsc106cf0c.jpg

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.
 photo file_zpsdcac77eb.jpg
 photo file_zps29e3bf99.jpg
 photo file_zps66895452.jpg

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).
 photo file_zps2baa5370.jpg
 photo file_zpsbafd3388.jpg
 photo file_zps1a532349.jpg

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.
 photo file_zps5cc783dd.jpg
 photo file_zps11480798.jpg
 photo file_zps89a6e66b.jpg

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?
 photo file_zps80d40948.jpg
 photo file_zps2dbe7ba2.jpg

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.
 photo file_zps5dad59d9.jpg
 photo file_zps0592758e.jpg

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.
 photo file_zps1b356c77.jpg
 photo file_zps3b7eeae4.jpg

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!
 photo file_zps942105bc.jpg

Ahhhhh, good food.

This is also an open letter to March, the month. What I want March to do is to dispense a few extra hours, even days – whatever it takes just to delay April’s arrival. The days seem too short for comfort, and as much as typing this surprises me, I just want to put it out there that I don’t want cooking school to end. I’m just having too much fun! Too much, it seems, that I’ve been lounging under the radar for a while now.

A change of pace is great. One of the perks of being a student is that once in a blue moon you get to go on a field trip! And how many people can say that their field trip itinerary involves eating at a really great fine dining restaurant? Like I said, I’m having too much fun.
 photo file_zps3652f9d1.jpg

So I’m just going to devote the rest of this space to the photos, and the little stories along the way because it’s already 1am and I have midterms in a few hours. But still, I’m here!

The Goose Station is tucked in a building and nestled in an area of Bonifacio that is more quiet, and doesn’t get a lot of action 24/7. In fact I would have had difficulty finding it if I went by my lonesome. It’s owned by the same chefs that run the school I go to and most of the staff are graduates of said school. I wouldn’t mind working at The Goose in the future, just so you know. (fingers crossed)

 photo file_zps45b4a8af.jpg
 photo file_zps16150d10.jpg
 photo file_zps60052e8c.jpg

Now the butter. Then the bread. That’s a mini baguette.
 photo file_zps83d51b4b.jpg
 photo file_zps0edd9b26.jpg

For the snack we were served foie gras mousse in a flaky cone. It was followed by a lumpiang hubad served on a prawn cracker and a tuna tartare. I wish I could have had a second (and third) helping of the tartare, because it was delicious. It had a little kick of wasabi to it, which was simply perfect. I also keep on remembering how good the velvety foie was, served out of the box and in a nice cone.
 photo file_zpsd19e5926.jpg
 photo file_zpsa659681f.jpg

I don’t have much to say about the roasted tomato soup with parmesan foam, except that it hit the spot really well. It’s nothing spectacular…it’s just really good simple soup.
 photo file_zps27a4a68f.jpg

The salad could be a meal in itself…and here lies its complexity. It’s made up of sweet potato sticks, little cubes of cured bagnet, watercress puree, salad greens, and drumroll…a piece of crisp chicken skin, a perfectly seared scallop AND an egg yolk that has been cooked sous vide (under a vacuum). Mix all of these components together – the smooth velvet liquid from the egg yolk, the crunch and salinity of the chicken skin and pork, the crisp taste of the greens and the juicy scallop… and you get a rich orchestra of flavors in your mouth. I was amazed.

 photo file_zps0a675a15.jpg

At this point the main course was well worth the wait: we were served a chicken roulade stuffed with Italian sausage and pistachio, adobo jus, green beans, smoked onion and a squash puree. All the components made sense. A big shout out to the roulade itself, which was made with (and I hope I’m right) chicken thigh, which I hold in high regard. I was a happy camper.

 photo file_zps68e0aa20.jpg

To cap off our lunch, from Gourmandise patisserie, eclairs and spiked chocolate truffles. I made a mess with the truffles, and my personal favorite among the eclairs was the salted caramel.
 photo file_zpsff74bb3a.jpg
 photo file_zps74742bc7.jpg

Here’s a parting shot of Gustare, which I didn’t expect to find just beside The Goose. It’s basically a low-profile food and pastry takeaway/commissary + kitchen lab, owned by Ginny Roces De Guzman the author of Bake Me A Cake, one of my favorite cookbooks. I didn’t get a chance to buy anything from the shop, but with products like santol bagoong…I’ll definitely be back.

In more ways than one.
 photo file_zps8852a787.jpg

Foodgasm is upon us!

Hey y’all! It’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything new. I can’t think of an excuse other than I’ve lost the gumption to maintain this as frequently as possible. I need to soak myself in a tub of inspiration, preferably with a shot of gin and tonic while I’m reading a good book. Will this be a chronic illness? I hope not. As much as I think I’ve neglected this space beyond what is reasonable, I still believe THG can make a glorious, delicious comeback. How and when that’ll happen, I’m not sure yet. But true to form I’m just making it up as I go along because I thrive that way.

Anyway, I’d like to take this time to spread the word that on Saturday, March 9, 2012 at Mercate Centrale, Bonifacio Global City, the good people from The University of the Philippines Economics Society will be spreading some cheer with the return of FOODGASM. It’s essentially a food fair/competition that puts (up and coming) food businesses out there for public consumption. They had me at Foodgasm. This nice image says it all. For more information, visit their facebook page.

 photo Foodgasm_zps210da1f3.jpg

That’s it for now. This isn’t really that much of an update but hey, it’s for a good cause. Later!

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.

PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

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.
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

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.
Photobucket
Photobucket

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.
Photobucket
Photobucket
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.
Photobucket

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.
Photobucket

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:

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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.
Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

Photobucket

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.
Photobucket
Photobucket

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.
Photobucket

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!
Photobucket
Photobucket

Photobucket

Chef Stephanie Zubiri with host Patricia Hizon

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket
Photobucket

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

Like ‘The Hungry Giant’ on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thehungrygiantblog

Follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/giooraay

A Shot of Espresso

Photobucket

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.
Photobucket

Photobucket

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.

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

And true to form, the food from the cafe needs to be given a special mention:
Photobucket

Photobucket

this pizza was really tasty. I’ll definitely come back for another slice. or two

Photobucket
Photobucket

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.
Photobucket
Photobucket

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.
Photobucket

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.
Photobucket
Photobucket

Photobucket

thickening/foaming the milk

Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

This and that:
Photobucket

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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.