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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Going vegetarian with Planet Vegis

As far as I know, there are only two strictly vegetarian restaurants here in the city: VG Queen, and a new player in the game: Planet Vegis. The former is old-world, rustic, while the latter (why it’s spelled ‘Vegis’, I have no clue)  is definitely more contemporary.

VG Queen is really a house with the ground floor converted to a simple eatery, with the food served buffet-style and priced per gram, owing to their philosophy that you “should only eat what you can, so nothing goes to waste”. Newspaper clippings about vegetarianism are plastered all over the wall. The most imposing, if i remember right, was the one which said, “Jesus was a Vegetarian!”. The old lady manning the counter is slightly eccentric and she also removes unlucky moles on your face and body for free! If the descriptions are still a bit subtle and you didn’t get the hint yet….the place is a Chinese family run business.

After years of guiltless consumption of meat and meat products, I finally stepped into another vegetarian restaurant. As soon as my friends and I visited the herb and vegetable garden, we went to the garden’s cafe/restaurant, Planet Vegis , conveniently located along Pasonanca’s main road. It actually occupies the first two floors of the building. Though not exactly sprawling, the space is just enough for diners to enjoy a cozy casual meal without feeling claustrophobic.
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this is probably what they used for the barbecue

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of course it makes sense that they sell ghee!

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they have a corner chock full of canned goods

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they also sell seeds for the amateur vegetable gardener!

I’m raving about three things right now:
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1. The Beef Biryani rice tastes so great. If doesn’t have real beef in it, of course. I was sold with the first spoonful. The strong aroma of spices whets the appetite, and I began to salivate as soon as I opened the container. (We bought everything for take-out)
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The spaghetti with meatballs, though filling, didn’t really impress. I felt that they were stingy with the sauce, although the meatballs looked authentic enough that I couldn’t really tell it was meat-less just by looking at it.

2. I don’t believe that you can ever go wrong with faux-cue. Wait, that doesn’t sound right! I mean: gluten barbecue. There, much better. I don’t understand why my friend didn’t like it. It was sweet, savory, smoky and basically what a good barbecue should be! It reminds me of VG Queen’s barbecue, which is good. I prefer eating it without the sauce, which was too spicy and makes eating it a challenge with sweat dripping down your face from time to time.

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3. The salad greens are cheap! The deli where we usually go to sells around 250 grams for 140 pesos. The resto/farm sells the same amount for 65 pesos! It was a shame that they only had loose-leaf lettuce. The romaine, lollo rosso and iceberg lettuce can’t be harvested in bulk yet.
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I would definitely go back to Planet Vegis again, to enjoy the food while soaking in the ambiance. The location could be closer to the city, but it’s understandable given that the concept of mainstream vegetarian cuisine can be quite pricey and sometimes people aren’t willing to dole out that much for a platter of vegetables they can otherwise cook at home. But Planet Vegis does offer more than that. Aside from the usual salad, perusing the menu will also give you choices of burgers, “meat balls”, “beef nuggets”, “sweet and sour fish”, noodles, and….well, chicharon (!), among other things.

I’m curious to find out whether they can impress me some more with their other selections next time, but right now, I’m adamant that Planet Vegis is worth a second visit.

Guest Post: Golden Mushrooms with Broccoli and Dried Shrimps

For the first time in THG history, I’ve invited a blogger to guest post on my blog.With their shared passion for food and cooking, guest bloggers bring in a blast of fresh air to any blog.

Because Catholics all over are observing the Holy Week, this recipe is a welcome addition to your tables come Good Friday. 

Everybody, meet Raymund

Wow! This is my second time to guest post and I am really honoured that I was invited by Gio to do this for his food blog, I’ve been reading his blog posts for roughly 3 months now and I am always thrilled to see his new post and sometimes feel home sick especially when I see local Filipino dishes that I like which is impossible to make here.  Anyway, before we start with our post let me introduce myself first.

Well my name is Raymund and I am the person behind the blog called AngSarap (A Tagalog word for “It’s Delicious”) , I am a Software Developer / Architect by profession and my passion is to cook, travel and take photographs (isn’t that the best combination).  I’ve been cooking since I was 7 years old and since then I have been cooking my family dinners. I’ve travelled a bit and lived in different countries due to my profession hence I have a good grasp of local the different cuisines which is very evident on my blog.

The blog is nearly two years now and it has a good reception in the food blog circle as well as Filipino communities around the world.  It showcases dishes basically from everywhere but with Filipino, Spanish and Chinese twist which are the primary influence in the Philippine cuisine.  The goal of my blog is to educate people with what Philippines have to offer in terms of culinary arts and like I said in my past posts why Philippines is the only Asian country without an identity or even representation, what I mean by that is you have the Malaysian, Singaporean, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese and Thai but where is the Philippines? Is it even known? That’s what I want to change, and I hope I can start with this blog.  Now I guess that’s enough about me and if you want to know further please follow my blog and start learning about what you are missing if you haven’t tried Filipino dishes yet.

For this guest post I was initially requested to post any of the three options; something that I miss from the Philippines, a specialty food from where I live now or a vegetable dish, I had chosen the latter due to several reasons.  First, while I do miss a lot from the Philippines I guess Gio has a lot of very good Filipino food posts already, just look at his story on this adobo it’s the most authentic preparation of adobo you can get.  Next is some specialty where I came from, I guess this would be hard to make as what I consider a local specialty in New Zealand is what they call Hangi, a dish where pork cooked in an underground pit so it will involve digging a pit in the ground, then heating stones in the pit with a fire, placing baskets of food on top and finally covering everything with soil trapping the heat for several hours cooking what’s beneath.  I want to do this sometime though.  So it left me with the only option which is a vegetable dish which suits well with the Lenten season.  So for today we will be making some Broccoli and Golden Mushroom with Dried Shrimp’s a creation by yours truly.

This dish is a dish made out of broccoli florets mixed with some Golden Mushrooms, it is then flavoured with mixed Asian sauces and dried shrimps. The result is a good combination of different textures and flavours – just imagine the soft and earthy mushrooms, crunchy broccoli, salty crispy dried shrimps and the sweet and savoury sauce.  Words can’t just explain it further so I just leave you to try it and find out.

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Golden Mushrooms with Broccoli and Dried Shrimps

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup dried shrimps (hibe)
  • 1 bunch golden needle mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
  • 1/2 cup seafood stock
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • oil

Method

  1.  In a pot add water and bring it to a boil, once boiling drop the broccoli and cook for 1 minute. Remove from pot, drain then run in cold water. Set it aside.
  2. In a small bowl mix together oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, seafood stock and tapioca starch. Set it aside
  3. In a wok add oil then sauté garlic and shallots.
  4. Add dried shrimps and stir fry for a minute or until fragrant and crunchy.
  5. Add golden mushrooms and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  6.  Pour in the mixed sauce then bring it to a boil, once boiling add the broccoli and stir fry for 1 minute.
  7. Add sesame oil then turn heat off, serve while hot.