Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King

Unpretty Food

posted by in Home Bakers, Restaurants

Celebrating unphotogenic but absolutely delicious food.

The word itself looks so unpretty when typed out that my spell-checker rejects it as incorrect, a quick look at Webster confirms it’s a valid word, however. This post isn’t meant as an insult, so please don’t take it as such, my affection for these foods is unwavering. But in these snap-happy times we live in, everything’s got to be picture pretty, and as you’ll soon see, that’s not always the case. Despite the title of my post, I think that each of the following dishes offer their own brand of beauty; after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all.

iphone photos~March 001

Ravioli Verdi at La Nuova de Pasteleria
This is the House Specialty at what I call the little neighborhood restaurant, only because I’ve been coming here since I was in college, but the place has been around for much longer than that. For some reason, I’m always alone when I end up eating here, but I never mind and I enjoy myself every time. I just don’t eat the desserts because they always seem to taste old.

Sometimes I have the antipasti or the chicken liver pâté, partnered always with a good glass of wine. When my hunger has more of an edge to it, then I order the Ravioli Verdi. Though the pasta squares are normally green (‘verdi’), sometimes they run out so the squares are made with regular wheat flour. No matter, because the pillows – all six, sometimes seven of them, are completely blanketed in tomato sauce. Luridly orange like the orange color of appetite, the sauce is just sour enough before being tamed with a touch of sweet and cream. It’s also pleasantly chunky, mimicking the al dente texture of the pasta pillows hiding a cache of soft spinach and ricotta.

iphone photos~March 129

Risotto in Squid Ink at The Black Pig
My first time at The Black Pig (TBP) was very upsetting. I was eating with six other people, two of whom were chef-restaurateurs. We must’ve ordered nine dishes and we were unhappy with the majority of them. The egg in my Poached Egg & Mushroom Puree dish was beyond overcooked – twice! So I didn’t bother asking for a third. Then we all wondered why the bone marrow that came with the Oven-Baked Local Pork Belly looked like it had been scooped out, fried, then returned to the bone. (Months later, the chef tells me why and though I can’t agree with his method, I respect his creativity).

So when my friend from San Francisco comes over for a visit and asks me to take her to TBP, I have my apprehensions. Turns out I’m the one in for a surprise.

The Risotto in Squid Ink is a stunner, and the inspiration for this article. A moat of moist, black rice holds aloft angulas (baby eels) and delicate rings of crisp calamari. The stark darkness is surrounded by a ring of caper jus and so every spoonful is a synergy of crunch on soft on salty and briny, then at the very end, a zing of citrus to prepare the palate for more pleasure.

Draft-pb crumble (3)

Peanut Butter, Banana, and Apple Crumble at Draft
This gastropub always pleases me and its desserts especially, never disappoint. There aren’t many places in Manila where I can get “spoonable” desserts – those lapped up and loved with a spoon – and now Draft has three of them.

This latest dessert has a mouthful of a name: Peanut Butter, Banana, and Apple Crumble. Its components are undecipherable, deluged as they are in that – dare I say it again – devastatingly delicious caramel sauce. Reams of peanut butter run rings around a mash of apple and banana amidst bites of a powdery crumble, then a breath of cinnamon. The dessert itself is warm, a blissful counterpoint to the creamy coolness of the ice cream melting away atop. I love this dessert so much, I can’t care less how it looks.

Wall Street Baker 021-2

Cookies from The Wall St. Baker
Lara Martirez tells me that she named her home-based artisan cookie bakery, The Wall St. Baker, because her favorite place in the world is New York, and her day job is “banking/trading in a well-known investment bank in the Philippines.” She adds that, “I don’t know of many traders who have a baking sideline.” I reply that she’d be surprised, she’s not the first trader to have contacted me. I assume that the pressure cooker environment of such a job does indeed merit a stress release activity. Ah, if only cookies were currency!

Lara’s cookies are what I look for in this sweet: moist, chewy, lots of flavor. I’ve already told her that I think she needs to work on consistency since most of her cookies are unevenly shaped, and there’s much that can be done to improve their appearance. Still, these cookies are a terrific alternative and the options she offers are so creative.

In photo from top to bottom: s’mores, s’mores on “steroids”, cookie butter chocolate chip, salted caramel double dark chocolate chip, and “once you go black”.


Addresses of establishments mentioned in this post:

La Nuova de Pasteleria
San Antonio Plaza, McKinley Rd., Forbes Park, Makati
02 867.2370

The Black Pig Charcuterie, Bar & Restaurant
2/F The Commercenter Alabang, Commerce Avenue. Corner East Asia Drive., Filinvest, Muntinlupa City.
02 808.1406

Draft Gastropub
Various locations.

The Wall St. Baker
For orders: 0917 623.6323
On Instagram: wallstreetbaker

10 Responses to “Unpretty Food”

  • I also have a hard time finding a pretty presentation for ravioli photos, what I do is use a fork to pick/elevate a ravioli and create a bokeh effect for the plate behind it. Haha, sorry if I couldn’t get my thought across clearly.

    Regardless of how plain looking ravioli is, I still love it to bits.


    Lori Reply:

    Wow, that’s some involved ravioli “maneuvering”! I do get what you’re trying to say though. And yes, ravioli is love.


  • I love the ravioli at la Nuova! :) And i do agree- some of the yummiest dishes really don’t translate in photos, but I take them anyway, just to retain the memory :)


  • In this world of facebook and instagram and whatnot, everything seems to be edited. And “perfect”. Including reality. Prettified to a point that it’s sometimes unreal. The proof will always be in the pudding. We also did a more harshly titled series called “ugly food” a while back.

    On another note, I can vouch for those Wall Street Baker s’mores. Too good.


    Lori Reply:

    anonymous paul-
    I think perfection is boring, realness fascinates more. I’ll have a look at your “Ugly Food” series.


  • Hi Lori, this is my first time to comment in your blog. But just to share, my husband and I are here at The Black Pig. I have been looking forward since I read your post in April, to ordering the risotto in black ink with squid and angulas, and I did, tonight. The dish came minus the crispy squid and angulas. I showed your post to the head waiter who promptly brought my phone to the kitchen to show the chef the posted photo and article. Said head waiter came back after several minutes saying “Ay ma’am, blogger naman pala ito. Wala naman talaga kaming baby eel sa ganyang dish. Napagkamalan lang niya ang squid na eel.” I am truly annoyed with this restaurant. The Bad Pig.


    Lori Reply:

    Hi Christine,
    Thanks for your comment. I will ask TBP’s PR person about it and email you directly. I had no idea they’d changed the dish, probably because angulas are expensive. And yes, those are angulas in my photo.


    Jeremy Slagle Reply:

    It seems you made a mistake here. Here are a couple links that show that this was only a squid dish as far back as February.

    We all make mistakes but it’s not very cool to accuse the restaurant of lying because you don’t want to admit you were wrong. Fact checking please.


    Lori Reply:

    Jeremy Slagle (aka MR Delicious)- point taken. We all make mistakes and nobody is accusing a restaurant of lying.

  • Oh, to clarify – I do not think you made a mistake about the angulas.


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