Here are some food gifts that I receive and greatly enjoy. Use them as gift suggestions for the food lovers on your Christmas list, including yourself.
Fruitcakes by Ju.D
No one is more surprised than me that I’ve fallen for fruitcake. But it was just last year that I began hankering for this fruit and nut-filled Christmas confection and so I tasted as many as I came across. A seemingly arbitrary tweet of mine about said sweet brings about a surprise gift earlier this year from no other than the Fruitcake Lady herself, Ju.D Lao. It comes with a note:
I’ve been following your blog for many years and was so thrilled when you mentioned if there’s any other fruitcake aside from ours. I really take this as a compliment and am sending all 4 flavors of our fruitcake for you to try them out. Take care and enjoy the fruitcakes.
Each of Ju.D’s fruitcakes come in a gleaming box, the color of each representing the cake it carries. The Red is for the Classic Fruitcake (cover photo), sticky sweet with honey, molasses, brandy, and the characteristic candied fruit and nuts. The Coffee Prune Cake is presented in a Purple box and is defined as the cake with the least amount of fruit and nuts. I call this the “starter fruitcake” because it further beguiles with the perfume of Blue Mountain Coffee from Australia and is moistened with plenty of prunes. The Golden Fruitcake (below) is rightfully gilded in a Gold box. Light colored throughout, it mimics champagne, evoked here by the cranberries and apricots. A hit of ginger, and a merry mix of white wine, brandy, and rum makes this unforgettable.
My favorite of all is the Ju.D Blue, bound in the Blue box of course. On the opposite spectrum of the Golden Fruitcake, this is the darkest of all four cakes and perhaps the most “spirited.” Anointed with Kahlua, the liqueur’s notes are pointed up with Blue Mountain Coffee, its smoky complexity heightened with molasses.
Ju.D’s Fruitcakes & Cookies
(02) 633.0260 / 633.1188
Products from PB&J
PB&J is an import company that brings in products from Trader Joe’s, the US-based specialty retail grocery store. Made up of Tina Antonio, Gia Narciso, and Mica Cancio, the acronym does stand for that classic sandwich that the trio gives to those in need during their outreach programs. “Another coined meaning which came later is Pagkaing Biyaya ni Jesus,” Gia adds.
The group’s banner product is the Cookie Butter which is the foodie gift of choice this Christmas. But they have so much more. I’m serving the Roasted Gorgonzola Crackers for Christmas dinner this year smeared with the Fig Butter and some wedges of sheep’s milk cheese. And the Lemon Curd is luscious when lavished on scones.
Gia tells me that PB&J aims to offer Manila new products that aren’t widely available, the selection of which will continue to evolve as new items are introduced every quarter.
For more information, retail outlets, and customized gift baskets, visit their Facebook page.
Duo of Chocolate Cakes from Frank & Carol
Frank Acosta is the one-man show behind baking business Frank & Carol, which he named after his parents. He’s been messaging me on Facebook for over a year, his emails a thread of verbal musings on whether he should send me his cakes or not and the various improvements he’s done to them. I’m all for encouragement but there comes a time when you’ve just got to go for broke, no?
There’s a Milk Chocolate Cake and there’s a Dark Chocolate Cake. No fancy names and the difference between the two is evident. The lighter colored cake is covered by a mantle of milk chocolate, its flavor a smooth stroking of smoke and milk. The swarthier cake is that of the Dark Chocolate, swaggering and full of bravado. Whichever one you choose, the cake is the same, moist but dense and substantial, as opposed to sponge-soft.
I’ve told Frank that he might want to consider increasing the icing and filling on both cakes, they seem a bit scant. But I’ve got no problem with these cakes otherwise. They fulfill an intense chocolate cake craving on all fronts.
Frank Acosta of Frank & Carol
Available at Parvati in Trinoma
0917 808 9884
Cookies from Kooky Pam
Pam Chua (aka Kooky Pam) has one of the best packagings of any cookie baker I’ve come across. Cookies are celestial when they’re just out of the oven but quickly begin to lose their glory after the first day. Pam has cleverly averted or at least delayed that. Each cookie comes in an intelligently designed and labeled plastic wrapper with a “nick” for quick tearing. Should you not finish the entire cookie – and why wouldn’t you? – the wrapper conveniently acts as a receptacle. I also like how this kind of packaging makes for easy sharing.
The variants I’ve tried include the Mocha Walnut, White Chocolate Macadamia (above), and the Dark Belgian Choco Chip. They’re all admirable in their moistness and uniformity of size but I like the White Chocolate Macadamia the most just because I’m a sucker for that combination but it could do with more nuts. The Dark Belgian Choco Chip is good too but this cookie could shine with more texture if larger chocolate chips were used. Still, I happen to have some people over when these cookies are around and by the time everyone goes home, I’m left with nothing but those cleverly designed wrappers.
Christmas Bliss From Bizu
Bizu harks back to the wonderland of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite this holiday, and every one of its stores is stunning with its assembly of dolls, toy soldiers, and of course, sweets! I’m especially enchanted with the store at One Rockwell, the newest and most beautiful, I think.
I always celebrate Christmas with at least one dip or spread and this year, I choose Bizu’s Tomato & Chorizo Spread. It’s got that deep smokiness from the cured sausage, scents of paprika, and the essence of roasted tomatoes. There’s a warmth of spice and oregano on the finish and if the bottle wasn’t so small, I’d want to use this spread as a pasta sauce. The Vanilla Tuiles are what my Bin describes as “souped-up lengua [de gato].” Buttery and thin, they’re a textural delight with scatterings of sliced almonds and grains of salt upping the give-me-more factor.
Pretzel Joie are pretzel pieces lacquered in chocolate. I wish that better quality chocolate was used as this is slightly waxy but I can’t deny that these are addictive. Each crunchy cluster is salty-sweet, with the container holding just a few pieces for sharing. Or not. These Pretzel Joies come in milk, dark and white chocolate so all you have to do is choose. But that’s actually more difficult than it sounds.
Other Bizu posts.