Casa Roces: the bright spots

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I was in the company of good people last weekend. We were treated to festive fare at Cafe Chino @ Casa Roces, a nice little cafe that’s nestled inside the Malacanang compound. Across the street you could already see a part of the presidential palace’s facade, and a part of the cafe itself is like a time capsule that harks back to a time of colonial aristocracy. What used to be a house owned by the Roces clan has been refurbished into a restaurant-cafe that serves an eclectic mix of Euro-Filipino cuisine.
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The interiors and furnishings, especially on the second floor are beautiful no matter how dated the atmosphere is. Kidding aside, at one point I was waiting for an old lady in white to wander/float around as well, just like the movies. Oh well, I can fantasize.
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Now onto the food. The spread was very generous. We had bread, salad, fabada, callos, ox tail, among other things. But there were three things that really stood out with superlatives.

Maybe eventually I’ll stop gushing about this simple plate of pork binagoongan, but right now I’m still floored.
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It’s a blissful moment, really. You eat a spoonful, close your eyes, utter a choice curse word and declare your undying love for it. Crispy skin, salty sauce, succulent meat. I’ll be the first to say the photo does not do it justice.

The Malacanang frozen souffle is another winner, and it’s really sexy to boot. It’s a very light lemon custard, studded with pistachios on the side. It almost melts in your mouth. The prominent, zesty lemon flavor brings it up a notch and the pistachios manage to keep it grounded. Behind me, cherubs are giggling.
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I’ve learned to develop a sweet tooth so I love a good dessert. I enjoy eating a dessert with contrasts in flavour and texture. It just speaks highly of how well the chef executes a work of art like this. It’s pretty obvious that I’m partial to pastries and desserts! But seriously, this was just stellar.

The surprise of the day came from the ensaymada con hamon y chocolate (ham and chocolate), with a little dollop of muscovado butter in top. This was very balanced.
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The obvious sweetness from the chocolate and creaminess of the brioche  plays well with the salty ham. But true to form, after I tried the souffle, this became just a good support to the main actor.  It’s still really good though!

Casa Roces is a beautiful piece of work. What I have are a few of the menu’s bright spots, but I didn’t get to try everything so there’s the open invitation to come back – probably to try new things, but mostly for the pork and frozen souffle. If it rains once again and I find myself pleasantly cloistered, this gem isn’t a bad place to wait it out.

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Ice Candy Duo: Lemonade & Milk Tea

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I had a lot of vivid memories growing up, spending lazy days at home, far far from the clutches of school – watching Dink The Little Dinosaur, flying kites with my dad, playing “tumbahang lata” with the neighbors’ kids, starting an aquarium more than once, all of which ended in massive extinction, and a particularly graphic scene of a little calamansi fruit, literally frying with the juice boiling on the concrete, under the scorching heat of the sun. Yes, summers are more fun in the Philippines.

My childhood summers are one of the sweetest moments of the life, particularly because I didn’t like going to school, and there was always something to do at home or outside. That was the good life. I didn’t care for anything else, except that I wanted to have fun. Going back to school  takes those golden moments away. It’s also a part of life (and a fact) that growing up pushes these memories aside, making room for new priorities, interests, and even friends.
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Moving on to happy thoughts…

Judging by the heat, the scorching  summer has definitely arrived. When I was growing up, summer also meant that ICE CANDY season has also arrived. Ice Candy, is basically any refreshing liquid of your choice, poured into thin, flimsy plastic ‘wrappers’ specifically made for ice candy, tied up and frozen. That’s it.
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How is it supposed to be eaten? You bite into and tear off a little piece of plastic from the bottom, then suck away. The heat from your hands will begin to melt the ice, and it’s a venerable treat to relish the liquid that’s slowly dancing in between liquid and solid. I can’t get any better than that.

Because I was a wee fledgling when the ice candy craze kicked in, making it involved teamwork. I would pour the liquid into the wrapper, and my Mama Eng would tie it all up and place it in the freezer. Sometimes, the neighborhood kids would help out as well. We’re tight like that. Then we would sell it for 1 peso a pop. One summer, the craze was so popular, every single household in our extension was selling ice candy! A classic ice candy flavor would have to be Milo. Fruits juices only ranked second.
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This month would mark my first attempt at joining Kulinarya Club’s monthly theme activity. I received confirmation of my membership around mid-February, and I’ve been looking forward to taking crack at the March theme: ice candy (thanks to Jun of Jun-Blog and Arnold of Inuyaki for this stroke of brilliance).

I put my own spin to this oldie-but-goodie by showcasing two flavors that I’ve fallen in love with recently: lemonade and milk tea.
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I’m not really a calamansi juice person, though I won’t mind if it’s liberally drizzled over a plate of palabok. There’s just something…cleaner and fresher about the smell and taste of lemons that takes me away from the humidity and unforgiving heat of the day. My mom’s lemonade ratio really hits the spot each and every time – the flavor of the tart lemons and the sweet sugar marries perfectly. I can finish a pitcher in one day.
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Milk tea has been a growing trend here in the Philippines and I’ve had my fair share of it over the past few months. But I’m proud to say that among the milk teas that I’ve tasted, Zamboanga’s own Zensonita (Zen-son-night-ta) is one of the best in my book. It shares the top spot with Gong Cha. That says a lot. Zensonita is unpretentious and serves it like it is, no gimmicks, no frills. Visit their store along Nunez extension and order all three bestsellers: original, tarik and strawberry. I tried to replicate their original flavor – basic black tea with a slurry of fresh and condensed milk.

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And as the song goes: “summertime, and the livin’ is easy”. Ice candy might as well be the songwriter’s muse, maybe even the perfect symbol.

Ice Candy Duo

Lemonade

  • 6 cups  cold water
  • 3 – 4 lemons
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar

Mix everything in a pitcher and allow to chill in the refrigerator.

Milk Tea

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 bag black tea
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh milk
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk, or more to taste
  1. Boil water in a pot over medium heat. Once boiled, remove from heat and add the tea bags. Allow to steep for 10 – 15 minutes or until a strong tea flavor is achieved. When done, remove tea bags. When cooled, transfer the tea to a pitcher.
  2. Mix the fresh and condensed milk together in a small bowl or cup. Add to the tea and mix well. Adjust the taste to your preference.

Make the ice candy:

  1. If you’re working alone, it’s best to have a mug/cup with you. Place the plastic tubes/wrappers inside the mug with prop it in such a way that it’s resting on the rim of the mug/cup.Photobucket
  2. Use a small funnel to pour the liquid in, filling the wrapper a little over halfway to 3/4ths full. Take the excess plastic and tightly twist it to compress the liquid inside. Use your fingers to roll the excess plastic until it’s toothpick-thin, so it will be easier to twist.Photobucket
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  3. Twist the excess plastic around your finger, and loop it around to make a knot. Repeat the process until you have your desired number. Freeze until firm and enjoy!Photobucket

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    The 3rd one from the left is what you'll get when you won't twist the excess plastic enough

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