The first time someone greeted me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” was five years ago when I was pregnant with Boo. It startled me because I didn’t think I was a mother just yet ”“ I still had five months to go after all — but if your stomach was pooching as far out as mine was back then, then I guess that made me a mother. According to the US National Restaurant Association, Mother’s Day is the most popular holiday or occasion for eating out, followed closely by Valentine’s Day. I’m sure the stats apply to the Philippine situation, and I don’t know about others, but I’m always with my family on those two holidays (and it just wouldn’t be the same without my Mom).
My mom and I now exchange Happy Mother’s Day greetings every second Sunday in May along with my sister who’s got two rambunctious sons. It’s a fine day for eating and whether we go out to a restaurant or cook up a gourmet meal at home, it’s always special. Here, my choices for the mom or special woman in your life. (Of course there’s always breakfast in bed but I can’t vouch for it since my Bin and Boo have yet to surprise me with that.)
1. Caviar pie
Caviar is the diamond of the food world. Brimming in elegance and expense, the lightly salted fish roe — what caviar is — are tiny jewels gleaming in their opulence. In terms of the “ooh! factor,” a caviar pie is way up there. Think of it as a savory cheesecake, which it is really. Premium cream cheese, Philly no doubt, is lightened by a dash of gelatin powder. The ethereal custard is then set on a mixture of diced onions and eggs bound by mayonnaise, a glorified egg salad, if you will. The sides of this most magnificent of savory pies is then pressed ever so lightly with chopped parsley. Finally, the crowing glory of this masterpiece, the caviar, is spooned out and laid on its royal bed.
The silky-sleek texture of the cream cheese unbroken in its fineness is punctuated with little pops of saltiness from the caviar. It’s an indescribable taste of cheese and brine with a bit of tang injected by the onions. I’m not a great fan of egg salad and I think that the onions could afford to be minced more finely but that’s just a slight quibble of mine. Whatever you do, serve this simply in order to best appreciate its exquisite character. Just a few toast points, wedges of lemon, and the classic caviar accompaniments of iced vodka and champagne will do.
A note: The caviar pie you see in the photos is garnished with salmon (red) caviar that my mom had in her refrigerator. It’s not included. What you will get when you order this pie is a small pack of lumpfish caviar that you’ll spoon onto the appetizer before serving. (Any sooner, and you’ll run the risk of staining the pie’s pristine whiteness.)
Caviar pie by Susie Quiroz
632.8440772 / 632.8446191
In Japanese, “ramen,” refers to hand pulled noodles. Even in hot, hot Manila, I still find myself craving for a steaming bowl of noodles. My all-time favorite is Shinjuku along Makati Avenue, but recently I’ve discovered Ajisen Ramen along Libis.
Started in Japan in 1968, the franchise has been in Manila the past seven years. While the proliferation of restaurants along Libis has affected Ajisen Ramen’s sales, noodle lovers will find reason to keep on coming back here.
The restaurant menu has about 20 different kinds of ramen, both those stewed with soup and stir-fried. The specialty is the pork stock used for the soup that I’m told has more than 40 different kinds of Japanese herbs and is made through a “unique and secret method.”
The noodles are surprisingly “bitey,” (al dente) and are great fun to chew on while slurping down the soup. Changes you can make to your soup include a miso soup base (add P20), a curry soup base (add P45) that I highly recommend ”“ it’s got a spiciness that tickles the throat, making me think that this would be a terrific dish to banish a cold; or change your egg noodles to udon (add P45). You can also opt to add half a hardboiled egg, a half corn on the cob, spicy pork, or more soup stock.
I usually order the Ajisen Ramen (P185) a conglomeration of leeks, boiled egg, barbecued pork, cabbage, and what the menu has listed down as ”˜fungus,’ more appetizingly known as wood ear or cloud ear mushrooms (tengang daga). I also like the Ebi Ramen (P245) which is topped with prawns in a sweet sauce. Whichever ramen you choose, don’t forget to dribble it with some of the chili oil for extra kick.
Other dishes worth trying are the shiitake ebi (P105), stuffed Japanese shiitakes with a special sauce and the chizu maki (P95), their version of a cheesy roll. Dessert here is actually good, quite surprisingly. The restaurant had run out of the banana tempura (P115) so we settled for the azuki mochi ice cream (P95) which is crushed ice, lots of milk, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and red beans. I’m thinking that Maria’s mochi balls would do a lot to up this dessert.
184-B E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave
Libis, Quezon City
(beside Starbucks going towards Ateneo)
3. Swiss Deli
Standing where Morita’s once held court is Swiss Deli, the restaurant of Swiss Deli Foods, a leading food processing company in the Philippines. Before I can even scan the menu, my attention is arrested by the various Swiss food both packaged and in the chillers, as well as kitchenware for sale supplied by Gourdo’s. This is a place where any kitchenware lusting, food-loving fiend comes to shop and eat.
The fairly large space with a second floor holds an extensive wine selection. The dining area is at back and the feel of the place is comfortable-rustic, the kind of place you can stay in all day without worrying about getting kicked out.
Felix Guggenheim, the Swiss national who owns Swiss Deli, has been in the Philippines for 17 years. “The food in the restaurant is cooked the way it is in my home,” he says. Thus, the Caesar Salad (P150) is full of crisp vegetables and is generously tossed in salad dressing. The assorted cheese plate (P330) comes with whatever selection is available that day garnished with sun dried tomatoes and pickled vegetables. There’s also a Cervelat and Cheese plate (approx P250) that pairs well with wines if you’re so inclined, as well as a cold cut platter (P230) and an Italian Antipasti plate (P260).
I order Pork Knuckles (P350) in any Swiss restaurant I’m in and this is no exception. Deep-fried (though I prefer it boiled, speak up if that’s how you prefer it too), it’s overwhelming when served with huge potato chunks and boiled carrots. Cooked carrots are not my thing except in carrot cake, so I heartily dig into the potatoes that my carb-fearing companions push aside like the plague.
The steaks are recommended (rib-eye P350; tenderloin P440) but go for the corned beef (P290), de rigueur in any Swiss restaurant as well as the meatloaf, which is juicy and oh so succulent. It’s the oddest meatloaf I’ve ever had in my life, certainly the softest, and probably the most delicious. I’m willing to bet that even meatloaf haters will like this one.
Desserts (all P90) are typical Swiss favorites, including the oddly named Half a Pear which comes with Nutella and ice cream. Felix tells me that when it was called by its original Swiss name, Coupe Belle Helene, it hardly sold. A change of name was all that was needed to make it a bestseller. Try the Quarkkuchen, Swiss cheesecake baked with low-fat Swiss quark and grenadine. Much lighter than the cheesecake we all know and love, it’s cotton-y in texture at first and then the more familiar cream cheese flavor sets in. Also photographed above are the Sweet Ricotta with Cashews and Strawberry Jam and the Hot Raspberries with Ice Cream.
Pioneer corner Sheridan Street, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila
Sunday brunch buffet 11am-3pm
P490/person; diners 8 years old and below are 50% off.
4. Napoleon’s Donuts
The Al Fresco Strip in Silver City Mall in Ortigas is filled with restaurant transplants from the provinces. I spy Forest House from Baguio and Al Dente from Iloilo. There may be others but on this trip I’m zeroing in on Napoleon’s Donuts. Although speculation arises as to whether it’s named after the great military commander, this newest donut shop is more correctly named after its owner, Napoleon De los Reyes, an ophthalmologist by profession. The first Napoleon’s Donuts is a stall on the 2nd floor of the Medical City, which explains this shop’s proximity to it.
Napoleon, ahem, Mr. Bonaparte has a famous quote attributed to him: “Ambition is never content, even on the summit of greatness.” Perhaps it’s this saying that the other Napoleon, Dr. De los Reyes, bases his store’s tagline, ““Greatness with every bite” ”“ it’s not easily understandable and can be open to many interpretations but let’s not get too cerebral about it ”“ it is after all, just a donut.
Fun flavors include jelly donuts with Smucker’s fillings; Splendid Cream Cheese; Banana Caramel Bliss; Chips Ahoy Craving; and the ever-popular Outstanding Oreo, the requisite hole replaced with half an Oreo, filling side up. The doughnuts are P25 each and are a visual treat especially for Boo who wants all the pink donuts she can set her sights on.
Fluffy and cake-like, Napoleon’s Donuts are not as light as Krispy Kreme (whose is anyway?), with a texture somewhere between cakey and airy; definitely much, much lighter than say, Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s a good alternative when you want to feel like you’re eating something more substantial than air. And it’s not too sweet either.
2nd Floor Food Court, Medical City, Pasig
Al Fresco Strip
Silver City Mall,
Ortigas (behind SM Hypermart), right before Shell along C-5.
5. Karen Young’s Banana Cream Pie
I love Karen Young and everything she makes. Masterfully crafted, every dessert is a work of art that begs to be eaten. I have photos of all of her sweet treats, and her latest one is this, a banana cream pie. Perhaps her simplest creation to date, she debuts this dessert in time for Mother’s Day. Sizable chunks of banana are awash in swirls of chocolate resting on a graham cracker crust that’s been laced with caramel and finished with tufts of whipped cream. If you order the pie within the month of May, you’ll get it for only P510. Next month it goes back to its regular price of P560. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
Karen’s Kitchen (KEY Specialty Foods)
428 Adalla St. Palm Village, Makati