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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Vegetarian eats at The Black Pig, Alabang

I don’t often get a chance to try restaurants in Alabang or even just go there in general, mostly because heading there always feels like an out-of-town trip. The distance and traffic from Quezon City and having to pay toll contribute to this aversion to heading south. So when I knew I was going to be in the area for the day, I was excited to have a chance to finally visit The Black Pig, which I’d already heard about as a destination for people who like both food and drink. They are said to offer European-inspired food and their own craft beers.

The name of the restaurant would put off a vegetarian, but I looked up the menu and knew I had a few dishes to choose from. At the very least, I could try the items on their drinks list.

When I arrived there for lunch, I saw their specials for the day on the blackboard, and was happy to see that they had a vegetarian offering, called Autumn Black Truffle Risotto. Although there were some other dishes I could try from their menu, this was my choice. (I'm a sucker for specials.) They also had a lot of things I could eat from their list of sides, snack and bites. I chose their chickpea beignet with a mustard dip to accompany my main course.

Autumn Black Truffle Risotto
Chickpea Beignet with Mustard Dip
It was such a heavy lunch that I decided against having any wine or beer to go with it. I really enjoyed the risotto, and I also like the chickpea beignet, particularly the mustard dip. But I was not able to finish the beignet, (which looks like French fries) because the risotto was very rich and dense.

Aside from the food, I also liked the ambience of the place. It was cozy for lunch, and you can see how it would easily transform into a watering hole in the evening, where you can have a drink or two with friends. Known for its meat (they stated this very clearly in their name after all), it’s nice to know they still have something for vegetarians and pescetarians.

If and when I find myself in the area, The Black Pig is a place I would like to visit again. I’d like to try their drink list, particularly their craft beers. These would probably go very well with items on their list of sides.

Going to The Black Pig is worth the long drive, and even the toll.

The Black Pig
Second floor, The Commerce Center Alabang
1780 Commerce Center Filinvest Avenue
Filinvest City, Muntinlupa


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A rich and satisfying breakfast at Maple Restaurant in Makati

It’s often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that it jumpstarts your metabolism, that it fuels you for the day, that it makes you more alert, and that there’s a host of other reasons why the day’s first meal is good for you. For me, breakfast is the best meal of the day mostly because breakfast menus offer more to me as a vegetarian than any other meal, as eggs are usually offered at this time of day. (Omelette stations at breakfast buffets are the best!)

Recently, I’ve been having to wake up very early for a particular workout that I’ve been doing with some friends, and the thing I really look forward to and think about a lot while exercising is where we’re going to eat afterwards. One place that we’ve been going to, also because it’s near the gym we go to, is Maple.

One nice thing about a lot of my friends is that they go out of their way to order dishes that I can eat. Or if there is meat in them, they just ask the servers to put it on the side. In this way, we just order a number of dishes and just share the calories (almost) equally.

On this particular visit, we ordered the Huevos Rancheros, described by the menu as “a classical Mexican breakfast made with tortillas, refried beans, grilled chicken and a sunny-side up egg topped with cheese and ranchero sauce.”

Huevos Rancheros

We also ordered the Eggs Benedict, “a Maple signature topped with Canadian bacon, poached eggs, and Hollandaise sauce served with crunchy Bistro fries.”
Eggs Benedict

Lastly, we had the truffle omelette soufflé thus described: “with a rich and creamy truffle taste this is the lightest fluffiest soufflé style omelette you will ever find to melt in your mouth. “

Truffle Omelette Souffle

After the food arrived, we realized there was too much food for just the three of us. The servings were generous and satisfying. We had a unanimous favorite- the huevos rancheros. This was relatively unique for a morning dish in Manila, as you do not find it often in breakfast menus here. The taste of it was a refreshing break from the richness of the other two dishes.

The eggs benedict did not particularly stand out, and tasted pretty much the same as a lot of other restaurants’ versions. The fries that went with it though were another matter. They were crunchy and tasty and done just right. Not a very healthy way to start the day, but at least the calories were worth it.

The truffle omelette soufflé was a bit too rich for my friends. I thought the bread that went with it could offset the richness. There was not enough bread to go with it though, as the omelette was a bit huge. It was really too rich to eat on its own.

All told, we were satisfied with the food, and stuffed to the brim with it. We came to the conclusion that the workout we did that morning whetted our appetites but did not burn enough to compensate for all that we ate.

I like Maple, not just because of the food, but also because of the way the place seems to be perfect for having a relaxing breakfast with your friends. The sun shines through the big windows just enough to give you the feel of early morning, and you have a good view of other people in the area having breakfast and starting the day right.

Maple Restaurant
2nd floor San Antonio Plaza Arcade
50 McKinley Road, Forbes Park
Makati, Philippines

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Trying out the queso chiffon cake at Chocolate Kiss

Yeng gave me a call late this morning to ask if I wanted to have late breakfast (though it was already close to lunch). Apparently she was craving breakfast food, so I suggested that we go to Chocolate Kiss along Roces Avenue. I knew that they carried Filipino breakfast items on their menu all day.

She ordered the tapsilog. After a few bites, she said she wasn't too happy with the tapa (too chewy), so she had it changed to adobo flakes. I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich. I wasn't too happy either, because the sandwich was noticeably smaller than the last time I had it.

Grilled cheese sandwich
For dessert, we split a slice of their queso chiffon cake. It was my first time to try it, but I still prefer their dayap cake.

Queso chiffon cake

I often go to Chocolate Kiss, but this was not one of my best visits. I think it's because the grilled cheese sandwich didn't fill me up, and I regretted not having the dayap cake.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's not easy being green... (or, giving vegetarianism a go)

I’ve been pescetarian for the past 16 years, and in all those years I’d always wondered if I could ever become vegetarian. The term that some people use to be more precise as to what “vegetarian” means is ovo-lacto-vegetarian, meaning one would still eat eggs and consume dairy products. (Vegans eat neither.) I’ve long wanted to try it, but never really thought I could do without seafood. 

Last month, I went on a short trip to Mexico. The city I went to, Puebla, was way above sea level, so my friends who had gone there previously told me there was hardly any seafood there, and if that there was fish to be had, it was not the greatest.  I started to wonder what I would end up eating in Mexico. 

The beautiful cathedral of Puebla
While I was in that city, I only had seafood once (my friend told me that the octopus in Puebla was a must-try), and the rest of the time I had in essence, a vegetarian diet. A lot of beans, cheese, greens, other vegetables, and tortillas, fried or otherwise. I didn’t even notice that I was not really eating seafood until my ten-day trip was nearly over. There were so many vegetarian choices, even when it came to street food.

Molotes- fried tortilla stuffed with cheese and mushrooms
When 2014 rolled around, I decided that I was going to give vegetarianism my best shot. I figured that if I could do it for ten days without noticing, I could probably last a bit longer with some effort.

When I got back to the Philippines, I realized that being vegetarian is not that easy, because ours is a meat-eating culture. Of course I already knew this even when I was pescetarian, but I saw exactly how non-friendly our diet is to those who do not eat meat. 

I often eat out, and I discovered that the wait-staff are often not aware of what the word “vegetarian” really means. When I ask them what vegetarian items they had, they would just point out that they had salads, even if the salads were “grilled chicken salad”, “seared tuna salad”, or other salads that had meat. They would not refer me to their spinach lasagna or truffle mushroom pasta, which are actually the right dishes to offer someone who is vegetarian.

Some restaurants would not have anything at all for vegetarians, except for maybe one soup on the menu. Because of this, I’ve learned to be more diligent in researching menus of restaurants prior to visiting them, especially when I’m meeting up with friends who may have chosen the place. I’ve also learned that I sometimes have to eat before leaving my house, because sometimes, there’s practically nothing to be had from the menu.

The best way to be vegetarian here is to prepare your own food. However, I also noticed that it can be more expensive if you don’t eat meat. Vegetables are so expensive, and so is good cheese, which has been a staple for me since giving up seafood.

I’ve been vegetarian for a few weeks now, and I continue to adjust to this lifestyle that I’ve chosen. I have to be more creative in preparing meals for myself, and I have to find out how I can get enough protein aside from what I get from eggs and dairy products.

It’s been a learning process for me, and I totally have more respect for vegetarians and vegans who have managed to maintain their lifestyle. I hope I will have the patience to continually think of ways to keep my meals balanced, healthy, affordable, and tasty. It might take me a while, but I’ll probably get the hang of it, eventually.