Search This Blog

Thursday, April 06, 2017

After El Rastro shopping, light brunch at Martina Cocina

During the visit of my friends, the Cobi sisters Lilliane and Girlie, I brought them to one of Madrid’s most fun Sunday activities- shopping (or window-shopping as the case may be) at the El Rastro flea market in La Latina.

After a morning of going through the stalls and buying little knickknacks, we were ready for some nourishment. The problem with looking for a place near El Rastro is that everything is packed, as eating and having a beer or two after shopping is the usual thing to do on Sundays as well.

Lilliane, ever the savvy traveler, used Foursquare to find a place near us where we could have some brunch. I didn’t even know you could use Foursquare for that purpose. I thought it was just an app for checking into a place to let people know where you’ve been. Apparently it’s now a city guide that helps you look for places to go. Always good to know about useful apps for finding places to eat.

Foursquare led us to Martina Cocina, a charming, homey place that was perfect for a morning meal. It was bright and had the perfect post-El Rastro ambience. Thankfully, we found an available table.

Martina Cocina
They had a few pescetarian options, and I chose the salmon bowl. It was perfect for my mood, it was light and tasty, and unique as well, owing to the crust and presentation.

Salmon bowl
After that healthy start, I decided to have a chocolate tart. It was a Sunday after all, and what are weekends for if not to indulge?

Chocolate tart
Martina Cocina was a delightful find. It’s worth another visit, and I do want to check out their Saturday brunch as well.

Martina Cocina
Plaza de Cazcorro, 11
28005 Madrid

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Disappointing experience with UberEats

I enjoy staying at home (too much at times), and once in a while, more often than I care to admit, I am too lazy to cook for myself or even to go out to eat. So, I've become rather a fan of food delivery. And in Madrid, there are many services to choose from.

Usually, I use the Deliveroo app on my phone for instant gratification for my cravings. But I saw that Uber had launched one too, called UberEats, so I downloaded it and after a few days, I decided to use it.

The app was easy enough to use, with a lot of options to choose from, so I placed an order for some pasta from an Italian restaurant. The app said that it would take around 35 minutes to deliver my order, so I eagerly awaited my lunch.

When the estimated time was almost up, I checked the app to track my food. It said that the driver was on the way, and that my order was about to arrive. Then the app said that my food had arrived. Well, not to my knowledge it hadn't.

I tried to call the driver, but the call wouldn't go through. I also sent a text message to ask where s/he was but got no reply. The app then asked me what I thought of the food and the delivery service. I then replied that I had not received it.

At this point, with an unsatisfied craving and growing hunger to deal with, what's a girl to do but use another service to have food delivered, right? So I used good ol' Deliveroo to order some Thai food as I'd lost my appetite for Italian at that point.

A week later, I got an email from UberEats saying that they would refund my money as my food didn't arrive. I appreciated the gesture, but I'm probably not going to try the service again. There are other many applications I can use, many other ways to satisfy my food cravings.

Maybe that experience was a sign that I should be cooking my own food much more often than I do anyway.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cheap, tasty Asian food at 9.Teishoku Restaurant, Madrid

It hasn’t been that easy to look for good Asian restaurants in Madrid. Some good ones I’ve come across are pretty pricey, probably because the ingredients are not all that easily available. I’m always on the lookout for good Japanese, Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese restaurants, or even Singaporean, Indonesian, or Malaysian ones, none of which I’ve seen so far.

Brooks and I were close to Plaza de Espana and as there is usually the smell of Chinese food wafting from the basement somewhere there I was suddenly in the mood for Asian fare. We were looking for a place to have lunch and as it was getting close to 4:00pm, we were trying to find one fast. Restaurants are usually eager to close after the lunch hours (that word is almost always plural in Spain).

We stumbled across this place called 9Teishoku, a little off the main thoroughfare (we were very close to Gran Via). We checked out the menu outside and the selections looked interesting, the prices very reasonable, so we made a quick decision to try it out.

We were pleasantly surprised when we got inside. The interiors of the place were nice, unexpected only because the prices on the menu seemed so cheap, thus lowering expectations of how the place would look. The menu was a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and Thai dishes, and this combination is something I’ve seen in several Asian restaurants.

We were famished so we ordered as quickly as we could. We had some dimsum to share, but unfortunately I couldn’t eat too much of it as most of it had meat. 

Fried dimsum
That was all right though, as I had a hefty bowl of fried rice and battered shrimp (their version of tempura).

Fried Rice (Arroz Tres Delicias)

Battered Shrimp (Shrimp Tempura)
I enjoyed everything I ate, except maybe the pineapple on which the shrimp were sitting. I’m used to eating super sweet pineapples so the blandness of it surprised me. It’s always good to lessen your sugar intake, of course, but I just couldn’t get myself to finish the pineapple that didn’t taste as how I think pineapple should.

Overall though, we were really happy to come across this place. We’ll probably be back, especially since the restaurant is not that far from where we both live.

9.Teishoku Restaurant
Calle Leganitos, 10
Madrid 28013
Tel: 911734190

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rushing though lunch in Prague, Czech Republic

I am a slow eater. All my friends know this, so they are very patient when I take more time than they do during meals. I hate being rushed to eat. In fact if I am told I am only given 15 minutes to eat (for example, during a break for a tour, a meeting, or anything similar), I prefer not to eat at all. I would rather suffer in hunger than rush through any kind of meal.

This afternoon though, I was left with no choice. Because I only had a few days in Prague, and for the most part I was busy with the conference I was there for, I had to make time for a meal that wasn’t part of the summit.

On my last day, before heading off to the airport, I went with Maribel (from ABS-CBN Middle East), to see some sights in Prague before our afternoon flights. Our sightseeing and souvenir-shopping took longer than we thought so we had little time left for lunch, which we both wanted to have before flying to our respective destinations.

Under time pressure, we chose whatever was already open for lunch and whatever had pescetarian options. We happened upon U Tri Zvonku (I’m not even sure if that’s the restaurant’s name!) which was open at 11 am. (We had to leave our hotel by 12:30pm.)

The waiter was very friendly. He asked which country we were from and proceeded to bring the Philippine flag to the table after we told him. Apparently they do this to all their customers. (Bring their respective flags to their tables, that is.)

We hurriedly ordered from the menu, where Maribel chose a porkchop with fries, and I opted to have some salmon with mashed potatoes.

Salmon with mashed potatoes
I was so anxious as the food took longer than I expected. It arrived around 11:45, so I only had 15 minutes or so to finish it, as we had to take a cab back to the hotel and I still had to finish packing.

The food was worth it though. The salmon was perfectly cooked, moist and tasty. The mashed potatoes were heavenly too. It was chunky and not overly mashed, just the way I like it.

I think though that it was the fastest meal I’d ever had in my life. It was a pity I couldn’t savor the flavors, as I only had 15 minutes to wolf down the whole thing. I managed to do it, but it further strengthened my belief that a meal rushed is a meal wasted.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

PH food takes the spotlight at Madrid food congress

(I'm copying and pasting here the story that I wrote for, and here is the link to the actual story.)

Michelin Chef Mario Sandoval and Celebrity Chef Tatung
MADRID, Spain -- Food experts from various parts of the world are predicting that Philippine cuisine will be the next big food trend and is set to conquer the world in 2017.
It’s still too early in the year to see if this will come to fruition, but Filipino food certainly got some international exposure and appreciation at the Madrid Fusion food congress held recently in Madrid, Spain.

Madrid Fusion is one of the most important gastronomic events in the world, held every year in Madrid since 2003. It brings together top chefs from all over Spain and the rest of the world. Representatives of different countries and companies set up booths for people to sample their wares.
This is the third year that the Philippines has sent a team to participate in the congress. The Department of Tourism, in cooperation with Philippine chefs, set up a booth where participants could sample and learn about Filipino food. 
During the festival, chefs gave presentations on a wide variety of topics, such as using seawater in the kitchen, cooking gluten-free dishes, and the process of making chocolate from cacao. 
Chef Myke Tatung Sarthou gave the presentation on behalf of the Philippine contingent, as he talked about the different ways that the Philippines uses salt in its cuisine. 
He also discussed food dating back from before the Spanish colonized the Philippines, particularly, Muslim cuisine. He demonstrated the process of cooking one of these dishes -- fish with burnt coconut as part of its sauce, which he said is unique to Filipino Muslims.
As part of Sarthou’s participation in Madrid Fusion, he was invited to cook in Michelin-starred restaurants in collaboration with famous and highly respected chefs. He said the experience showed him that Filipinos can hold their own alongside them, no matter how sophisticated their techniques are. 
“It’s empowering to know that you can interact and work together and face off with any foreign chef without having to imitate them. You can be a Filipino and present quality cuisine at par with other recipes of the world, without apologizing for what we have to offer,” he said.
Sarthou, who owns Agos restaurant at the SM Mall of Asia, said the chefs were intrigued by the ingredients and techniques that he used in his dishes. 
He believes that original Philippine recipes should be prepared as they are. In one of the meals he prepared, he made a simple cassava cake.
“Everyone was amazed by the flavor, the texture, and it really shows you don’t have to overdo things. You just have to do things that we Filipinos have learned to love because they are classics. They are already good on their own. You don’t have to ruin what makes it great to be accepted internationally.” 
The Department of Tourism has brought Madrid Fusion to the Philippines through Madrid Fusion Manila, which will have its third run this year in April. As in the past two years, Madrid Fusion Manila will bring world-class chefs from all over the world to the Philippines. 
Tourism director Verna Buensuceso said the DOT is holding the event because they want the Philippines to be considered as a center of gastronomy. 
“Before this, Philippine cuisine was one of our best-kept secrets. Not many people knew about how good the food that we have is,” she said.
She believes that bringing the foreign chefs to Manila helps in promoting Philippine food to the rest of the world. “These chefs are opinion leaders, and as they discover our ingredients and by using it in their own cuisine, this brings Philippine cuisine and our ingredients to the fore and gets known worldwide,” said Buensuceso. 
Madrid Fusion Manila (MFM) will be held from April 6 to 8 at the SMX Convention Center of the SM Mall of Asia, and will have a theme of “Towards a Sustainable Gastronomic Planet.”
The festival has three components: the first is a gastronomy congress, where top chefs from all over the world will share their innovations and projections about the future of food. There’s also an international gastronomy expo with exhibitors from different parts of the world showing new products, ingredients, and technologies in food and gastronomy. 
Finally, there is the Flavors of the Philippines calendar of activities from March until the end of April where there will be festivals, gastronomic and gourmet markets happening all over the country.
Madrid Fusion Manila organizer Mielle Esteban, meanwhile, said the event has also made Filipinos look more closely at their own culinary tradition. 
“It makes us look inward. People ask us about our cuisine and we have to answer. We begin to educate ourselves, to ask ourselves questions about our own cuisine and it deepens our understanding of who we are. As we reach out to the world, we are also taking a step back and trying to understand the origins of our cuisine. We discover the ingredients in our own country that are not utilized by our own chefs and seek our full potential,” she said. 
Esteban added that Madrid Fusion Manila helps Philippine products as well. “We have been able to put our heritage ingredients in the limelight. With events like these, we can protect these products for the use of future generations,” according to Esteban.
Sarthou is confident the world will soon appreciate what makes Philippine cuisine unique. “It’s one of the most sophisticated in the world because of the range it has to offer. We have the simplest and most elegant dishes, such as the kinilaw, the tinola, but we also have dishes like the kare-kare which are very complex.”
He also believes that the country’s culinary history is one of its strengths. “Each dish has a story to tell, which makes Philippine cuisine more interesting than other cuisines in the world,” he explained.
Buensuceso is also optimistic about prospects for the year. “In the New York Times and Bloomberg, Philippine cuisine has been mentioned as the next big food trend that’s coming up, so we’re really very excited about all these developments,” she said.
This enthusiasm is not limited to Filipinos, either. A Madrid Fusion regular who has also visited the Philippines, Spanish journalist Alberto Fernandez has recognized the potential of Filipino food to be a rising star.
“The Philippines is like a melting pot. You have the Asian influence, then you have the Spanish and American influence. You have all the ingredients and the biggest biodiversity in the world. All these make Filipino food full of surprises that change in each island,” he said.
Fernandez added that Philippine cuisine is the last frontier for foodies. “They have everything to be one of the best in the world, like Peruvian, like Japanese, Mexican, or Spanish. It’s only a question of time that everybody knows that Philippine cuisine is one of the best in the world,” he said.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A dinner to remember by chefs Mario Sandoval and Tatung Sarthou

One highlight of covering Madrid Fusion for me was that I got invited to a meal to be jointly prepared by Spanish chef Mario Sandoval, who runs two-Michelin-starred restaurant Coque and who earned his first Michelin star at the tender age of 26, and the Philippines’ very own Chef Tatung.

This special dinner was part of Gastrofestival, which was another set of events that is associated with Madrid Fusion. Gastrofestival is organized by the government of Madrid to invite people to enjoy different aspects of Madrid gastronomy.

Because of Chef Tatung’s role as presenter for the Philippines in Madrid Fusion, he was invited to prepare the special “four-hands dinner” with Chef Mario Sandoval. Some Filipinos were invited to be part of the meal as guests of Madrid Fusion Manila, and I was lucky enough to be one of them

The dinner was held at Hotel Orfila. There were 60 guests in total, and one table was reserved for our group.

They gave us the menu for the meal, and after I told them that I was pescetarian, they graciously told me that alternatives would be given so I would not miss a course.

The first course was a stew of crab, mollusks, shrimp, and octopus. (Caldereta de cangrejo real con moluscos, tartar de gamba roja y pulpitos a la brasa)

Seafood stew
 Next up was squid and prawn ceviche. (Ceviche de calamari y langostinos con leche de tigre, jugo de citricos y cilantro)

Squid and prawn ceviche
My favorite course was the tartar de salmon with guacamole. (Tartar de salmon con guacamole, mango y salsa de soja, lima y jarabe de arce)

Salmon tartar

They gave me vegetarian substitutes- mushroom risotto and a vegetable salad-
for the meat dishes (Chicken sisig and beef with coconut sauce).

Mushroom risotto

Vegetable salad
Of course, no dinner is complete without dessert, and this was obviously made by Chef Tatung- Cheese Bibingka.

Cheese bibingka
It was a heavenly meal and I really was very grateful to be part of it.

The Philippine table with Chef Mario Sandoval and Chef Tatung
It was amazing to see two talented chefs working together to create this dinner. It also did us proud that Chef Tatung could hold his own as he worked with such a renowned chef. Madrid Fusion, along with Gastrofestival, is certainly a great way to show to the world that Philippine culinary talent is world-class.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Reunited with Red Lobster's lobster pizza

It’s been three years since my last visit to the US. I did miss a lot of food that can be had here, but one of the things that I wanted to eat first when I returned was nothing fancy, merely a sentimental favorite- lobster pizza from Red Lobster.

I remember having this when I was still studying in Mizzou, and I wanted to eat something that would surely cheer me up. It would consistently taste the way it always had, and this reliability was a draw for me.

And so, soon after I landed in Chicago, off to Red Lobster I went. Not the most original of places, but as I said, it’s more of a comfort food kind of place for me. As planned, I ordered the lobster pizza, which tasted pretty much like I remembered it. 

Lobster pizza
But… I also over-ordered as per usual, especially as there were many things on the menu that I hadn’t seen before. I also asked for the lobster roll (to start!), which was supposed to be merely a bite to whet your appetite. (But since this is the US, the bite was more like a mini-meal.) I liked the bread, it was soft and sweetish and a nice complement to the lobster.

Lobster roll
After the pizza and roll, it was time for the main event. I ordered a seafood trio that was supposed to have lobster tails, shrimp, and lobster mac and cheese. When it arrived, it had crabmeat instead of the mac and cheese. I was disappointed, but being the non-complaining-restaurant-goer that I am, I grinned and bore it.

Seafood trio
The crab wasn’t bad, but I did have my heart set on that mac and cheese. It was totally my fault of course for wimping out and not asking that they correct the error, but, well, maybe I'll learn to make complaints in restaurants in my next life. 

All that food left me bursting at the seams but when I saw on the menu that they had key lime pie, I couldn't resist having dessert. This pie is on my list of "things to eat" during this holiday, so I thought it was good to start my food tour with a slice of it.

Key lime pie
Sad to say I was disappointed by the pie, it tasted like it had extenders and it wasn't as fine and creamy as I would want it to be. In fact, I didn't finish it, which is a bad sign, as I think wasting dessert is one of the cardinal sins.

Still, going to Red Lobster was still a nice trip down memory lane (including memories of a fully distended stomach after a meal here). But I’ve had my lobster pizza fix for the trip so I don’t think I’ll be coming back to this restaurant during this trip.