Dessert Comes First 2017-09-23T02:55:13Z WordPress dessertcomesfirst_admin <![CDATA[Giddily Awaiting My Sushi Bullet Train at Genki Sushi]]> 2017-09-20T04:36:45Z 2017-09-20T04:36:45Z

Sushi and toys always excite me. Put them together in a restaurant concept–and count me in!
So when I received some Genki Sushi gift certificates for my birthday, I just had to redirect our college friends’ reunion to this restaurant.

Genki Sushi or kaiten sushi (conveyor belt) is a franchise from Japan with branches all over Asia. In this quirky Japanese establishment, orders are served via toy bullet trains to your respective table fresh from the kitchen. Watching my sushi arrive via toy train on a conveyor belt just triggered childhood memories of constructing toy train tracks.

Ordering is yet another game – this time with a touchscreen tablet per table with photos of the menu where you can select your order and input the quantity. Menu is divided into sushi, sashimi, appetizer, sides, rice and noodles, and desserts.

In between ordering and eating, we also thoroughly appreciated the readily available hot water on tap, and rich and bitter matcha powder per table. No need to call waiters for more hot tea!

Genki Sushi though is not all about gimmickry. The quality of their food speaks volumes of the long lines every lunch and dinner time.

clockwise: Norwegian Fresh Salmon, Genki Roll, Salmon Cucumber Roll

Genki Roll

Squid and Salmon Taberu Layu Combo

At the onset, we decided it was sushi and sashimi night, “accidentally” ending up ordering around 15 plates with some repeats of the bestsellers. The salmon lover in me could not resist ordering their Norwegian Fresh Salmon, Crispy Spicy Salmon Roll, Genki Roll (rolled with salmon – my favorite), Salmon Cucumber Roll, Squid and Salmon Taberu Layu Combo. The freshness of the salmon was just divine with that melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Aside from the freshness of the fish for both sushi and sashimi, what makes the sushi great here is the perfect balance of sourness of their vinegared rice. This is especially the case of the subtle taste of the Squid Sushi, where the rice takes the forefront in the flavor department. The rice also goes great with the innate sweetness of the Northern Shrimp Sushi and the Crab Salad Sushi and creaminess of the Tuna Salad Sushi.

tuna balls with teriyaki sauce

To have a play of textures, we also ordered their surprisingly crunchy vegetable kakiage and tuna balls with teriyaki sauce (which were not oily at all); and the tiny, beaded, playful flying fish roe sushi.

By the end of the night, we had a hovering tower of stacked plates and huge accomplished smiles on our faces, feeling like we just conquered Genki Sushi. The interaction of great food and play in Genki Sushi definitely made it a night to remember for our barkada’s mini reunion.

Genki Sushi
On FB: GenkiSushiPH

Lori Baltazar <![CDATA[Durian All Year Round at Or Tor Kor Market (2nd of 3 parts)]]> 2017-09-18T05:22:43Z 2017-09-18T05:22:43Z

Durian Days, When Excess Is Not Enough: Part 1

Or Tor Kor Market
The plan is to eat durian multiple times a day for each day that I’m in Bangkok, and I discover that Or Tor Kor (OTK) Market is a fabled place where durian is available year round. Right across the infinitely more well-known and crowded Chatuchak Market, OTK has expanded into a rather high-end food hall. Holding its own along with the other great markets of the world, CNN has dubbed OTK as the World’s 4th best Fresh Market. It’s certainly a far cry from the Klong Toey market that I visited last trip.

Or Tor Kor Market
nam prik at Or Tor Kor Market
Similar to Tsukiji in Japan and La Boqueria in Spain, the vast array of products sold at OTK are unrivaled, the absolute best of Thailand. More expensive, yes, but you can’t quibble on the quality.

durian at Or Tor Kor Market
Durian is abundant in Thailand from April to August but the supply of this king of fruits at OTK knows no season.

durian at Or Tor Kor Market
durian at Or Tor Kor Market
There are several stalls to choose from: the fruit beckons, begging to be fondled and then eaten. Surprisingly, there is no overwhelming durian odor, even my Bin seems to be unaffected. But perhaps he’s become immune to the odoriferous barrage.

durian at Or Tor Kor Market
At this stall, I watch as this petite woman slices the mighty durian husk with the greatest of ease…

durian at Or Tor Kor Market
…and then hands the whole lobe to another woman who gently wraps it in food grade paper. It’s mesmerizing to watch this process, it’s almost like a choreographed dance.

Ta Toy Durian at Or Tor Kor Market
…The most popular stall is this one, Ta-Toy (Grandpa Toy). A durian seller for more than 15 years, all of Ta-Toy’s durian are grown from plots of land that he rents to farmers. Note the durian surplus under the table.

durian at Or Tor Kor Market
I buy a few lobes of Monthong and Ganyao from Ta-Toy and am disappointed that they’re not as enchanting as the specimens I have yesterday. They’re a bit too unripe for me and I regret that I didn’t ask for softer fruit. Still, am happy to have tried and the astounding array of durian in OTK has me giddy.

food court at Or Tor Kor Market
If you come here, have a meal at the food court. You’ll be spoiled for choice and you can indulge in all of your Thai food favorites.

sticky rice and durian at Or Tor Kor Market
And what do I do with the sticky rice and coconut milk that I buy from a vendor? Why, top it with some of the Ta-Toy durian that I buy, of course! Killer combo.

Or Tor Kor Market
6:00 – 20:00 (daily)
Kamphaengphet Road, opposite Chatuchak Weekend Market
MRT: Kamphaeng Phet. Exit number three.

Lori Baltazar <![CDATA[Durian Days: When Excess Is Not Enough (1st in a short series)]]> 2017-09-14T11:46:13Z 2017-09-14T05:26:14Z

It all began with a pallid and tasteless pack of durian, a grossly off-season purchase made last June. The durian dud that it was thus ignited an insatiable craving for the spiky fruit but what followed was a series of well-intentioned but now horribly misguided purchases on my part. Let’s just say that from June to the end of August, I’ve never bought and tasted so many horrid durians in my life – from the durian bought in Quezon province which took 17 days (!) to ripen, to another durian  that tasted like wet newspapers. There are some things in life you can’t un-taste.

That was truly the last straw – I believe I shed tears of frustration at some point – so I ask my Bin to take me to Bangkok. Someone suggested Davao but I’m told that there aren’t many of the fruit this year. Let’s be clear that my husband abhors durian, absolutely canNOT stand it, but he’s married to me and has no choice but to love me in sickness and in health and in all things durian, so off we go.

Monthong + Ganyao durian
This is the first durian I buy in Bangkok, it’s from the Gourmet Market at the EmQuartier mall. The specimen on the left is Monthong, which translates to “golden pillow” in Thai. The most commonly found durian in Thailand but also its most important variety, it has a small seed surrounded by a large, thick, and velvety pulp. Fluffy in texture, almost like whipped crème brulee, it unites a subtle but seductive sweetness with captivating nuances of caramel and onion. The aroma of Monthong is also very faint but if you’re not a durian zealot like I am, then you’d probably not believe me; I know my Bin doesn’t.

Ganyao durian
The specimen on the right is Ganyao, also Kan Yao, Gaan Yaow, and Kan Yau. In Thai, this means “long stalk” because the fruit is characterized by a thick stem usually 4-5 inches long. Awash in an agreeable aroma (again, everything’s subjective here), the pulp is superlatively silky but firm, akin to eating chesa, that fire orange fruit with a sleek, cloying texture. Ganyao is also prohibitively priced. I paid THB 800 (approximately PHP 1,200) for those three little lobes you see above. I didn’t even look at the price quite frankly, I could barely wait to sink my teeth into bliss.

eating durian (1)
eating durian (2)

My Bin took these pictures of me while I was oblivious to everything (and everyone!) else.

Clutching the plastic bag that contains my darling durian purchases, I scurry to a small garden right outside EmQuartier mall. My Bin follows suit but he is clutching a bag of lansones instead. On a stone bench I sit, placing my precious cargo alongside and releasing them from their plastic prison. Immediately, a pungent smell invades the air: it simultaneously sends me into ecstasy and sends my Bin scrambling for something to cover his nose.

Carefully, oh so carefully cradling a durian lobe in one hand, I fondle its smoothness with my thumb. Raising the fruit to my nose, I inhale deeply, the perfumed air fills my lungs and makes me heady. My Bin is rolling his eyes but I know he’s amused.

Raising the durian to my lips, I take another deep breath, look up, and bite down. The flavors are a flurry, complex and sugary. I taste every element: viscous caramel, a smattering of garlic, an undercurrent of onion, and the caress of cream. It tastes like a prayer answered, and the bliss is exquisite. For a few fleeting moments, time stands still. I don’t mind the humidity, and the excited chatter of people exiting the train station is the soundtrack of this happy day.

So I continue to eat.

And eat some more.

But because I don’t know the meaning of moderation, I end up eating all the durian, too much durian. I bring myself way beyond the feeling of satiety until my stomach bloats like a ball. Afterwards, tottering into the train, I lean my flushed head onto the coolness of my Bin’s shirt; he strokes my hair reassuringly, never saying the dreaded “I told you so.”

As we walk back – slowly – to the hotel, I suddenly feel nauseous. As I bend over a pile of trash situated beside a busy highway, I’m frightened by the possibility of throwing up my beloved durian. “You abused me!” I can almost hear my stomach protesting. “But I flew all the way to Bangkok to eat durian!” I protest right back.

In the end, I get to keep the durian I’ve eaten but I spend the rest of the evening sitting up in bed drinking copious amounts of hot tea. Because you know, I need to have more stomach space for tomorrow’s durian.

Rizalee Ibarra <![CDATA[Is Café Lidia The Secret Cake Supplier To Manila’s Coffee Shops?]]> 2017-09-11T04:37:47Z 2017-09-11T04:37:47Z

Rumor has it that Café Lidia’s cakes are the same cakes that a popular coffee chain serves. It’s either they supply the coffee chain or they source their cakes from the same supplier. The latest iteration of this rumor is that they share a connection with a certain bakeshop whose name recalls a certain Alice Walker novel.

I must admit that I first ate at Café Lidia years ago because of these rumors. At the time, coffee-chain-that-shall-not-be-named had not reached the boondocks of Marikina yet. And sometimes, a girl just needs a quick cake fix.

Whether there is some truth to them or not, the rumors do Café Lidia a disservice. While cakes form a big part of the menu, they serve more than just cakes and their menu gives an extensive offering of salads, pizzas, pastas and entrees.

Cafe Lidia Exterior
Located in a nondescript street in an area of Marikina formerly known for its shoe factories and warehouses, Café Lidia is a welcoming oasis amidst the narrow one-way streets of Calumpang, Marikina. With its warm brick walls, it is spacious enough to accommodate hordes of lunch patrons from government offices near the area. I noticed that most of them had the heavier meat entrees like the grilled pork belly, porterhouse, and rib eye steak. The prices are very reasonable, too.

Cafe Lidia buffalo wings
My friend and I decided to have a light meal because we wanted to gorge on desserts after. We ordered the buffalo wings (P190.00) which was a perfect combination of sweet and spicy. While I missed the tangy flavor of blue cheese, the sour cream went well with the wings.

Cafe Lidia beef salpicao
My friend and I had a lot of catching up to do but we were distracted by the selections on the menu, there were just too many to choose from. And by sheer coincidence, my friend and I both decided on the salpicao – beef (P230.00) for me, and tuna (P195.00) for her. Both entrees were served with garlic rice and mesclun salad. The romaine lettuce leaves were lightly drizzled with a very refreshing dressing made of lemon juice and sugar.

Cafe Lidia tuna salpicao
My fork kept straying to my friend’s plate. Her tuna salpicao was tasty and tender and I thought she had the better meal. My beef salpicao was tender but I am not a big fan of the sweet chunky sauce. I like my salpicao garlicky and with more olive oil that I can mix into my garlic rice, but that’s just me. To be fair, I let my friend’s fork stray onto my plate and she liked the beef just fine.

Cafe Lidia cakes
For dessert, my friend and I eschewed the menu and we walked to the display counter to see the much-rumored cakes in all their glory, all the better to make the best choice. The mouthwatering selection included red velvet, chocolate, ube and sans rival, to name a few. My friend ordered the Swiss Choco Cappucino (P90.00) and the Caramel Cotton Cheesecake (P110.00). I love cheesecake but I was mostly intrigued by the name. Cotton – what did it mean? That the cheesecake will be light and fluffy like cotton balls?

Cafe Lidia cakes2

I wasn’t too far off. The cheesecake did not have the density I’m used to in cheesecakes. It felt more like a denser sponge cake in my mouth, not siksik. I loved how there was texture in every bite. The cheesecake itself was not overly sweet but the rich caramel topping more than made up for that. Of course, I also had a taste of my friend’s cake. The cake’s buttercream was smooth and silky but the butter cake itself was a bit dry. Good thing there was enough frosting to cover it.

I wasn’t able to determine the truth about the rumors, but true or not, Café Lidia’s cakes can stand on their own against those of more popular cafes.

Café Lidia
64 Calderon Street
Kalumpang, Marikina City
02 647 7606; 646 0401
Open daily, 10 AM – 11 PM

Edward Bugia <![CDATA[Back for Seconds]]> 2017-09-07T06:16:03Z 2017-09-07T05:07:30Z
I’m a fiercely private person so you can understand why I’d be hesitant to publish this piece. But Ed knows me well and his questions were thoughtful and perceptive, things only a close friend would know to ask. – Lori

Don’t call it a comeback because Lori Baltazar never left. Dessert Comes First (DCF) just celebrated its 12th anniversary this past May without a lot of noise or fanfare. Its founder, Lori Baltazar, was still in the midst of getting her groove back. The malady that put both her and DCF on hiatus was creeping towards becoming a distant memory. Blog posts were being put up slowly but surely. Public consciousness regarding the comeback was reaching its tipping point – the one and only Dessert Diva was back, and, to the surprise of almost everyone she brought a team!

Today, we sit down with Lori and ask her 11 intimate questions tackling everything her loyal fanbase would want to know – the recovery, the people behind the new DCF contributing team, and the future of the blog.

Lori Baltazar

Lori, could you talk about the hiatus and how has your recovery been both for you physically and the blog?

So I was sick in 2015, and 2016 was all about learning how to live again. I only had ten blog posts [last year] because I was re-learning everything, travelling, and honestly thinking about turning off the lights on DCF and just calling it a day. Then, last Christmas, Bal, (a good friend and DCF’s web management advisor) suggested opening DCF to contributors so that I could concentrate on the other topics I wanted to write about.

You’re currently working with a pool of writers, a strong group of blog post contributors. How is it different working with a team compared to writing everything on your own?

With some members of the DCF team

It’s true that I do a lot of my work by myself, but it’s been fun working with a group of like-minded people because it allows me a chance to interact. Believe it or not, I get lonely sometimes and I do enjoy the company! Working with contributors really gives me that chance to interact on a limited level and that’s just great! Plus the whole group is just SUPER; and, handpicked by me mostly! I’ve really chosen people who are friends and those who write really well.

Will your health dictate the articles that you will write?

chia parfait
chia parfait with coconut yogurt topped with pomegranate seeds and goji berries

Yes. I am not the same person that I was before I got sick. That reality informs who I am health-wise and personally. While I still love to go out and eat, I would rather have the contributors do the food reviews and I would rather concentrate on my travel pieces and long-form stories – both food and personal. I’d also like to focus on my “80-20”, 80% healthy and 20% devilishly delicious recipes!

How different is the food scene now from a couple of years ago during the height/peak of DCF?

I would say there’s a lot more competition now. The variety is immense; however, the attention span of the eating public is shorter than ever before. So, if restaurants want to have even a hope of being able to survive, they need a gimmick, something to give them the edge.

What things will you do now that the industry has changed, especially when social media sites are preferred over blogs?

I do agree that social media sites are now more preferred over blogs because it takes less effort to go to them, but DCF, and other sites like it are there for people who would want to consume content that matters; content that provokes thought and conversation. Blogs are there for the intelligent food lover. Blogs such as DCF are now considered “long-form” because anything over 500 words is categorized as such.

Your family has been really supportive of you. But who are the other key people behind the scenes who have been helpful to you during your recovery?

Marge Alcordo-Carlson (above), a treasured friend, who accompanied me to almost all of my 16 chemo sessions. We’ve known each other since the 4th grade. Couldn’t have done it without her. Anna, (DCF’s head editor) of course, and Bal. They both visited me in the hospital and they were the ones whom I celebrated DCF’s tenth anniversary (May 2, 2015) with (photo below).

With Bal and Anna.

I had just finished my first chemo session and we had lunch at Azuthai. Of course you (the author), were there along with Kirt and Him (Uy de Baron). Remember when you all came over and cooked lamb chops for me? I still had a head-wrap on then and everything. So yeah, definitely all of you and some other key friends.

Boo used to be a constant guest in your posts. Now that she’s a teenager, is she still open to appear in your next articles?

lemon-olive oil cake

NO! Noooo. First of all, she would not want to be in a photo in any of my posts, although she will allow her hands to be seen in my food photos.

Rocky Mountain chocolate

I have to say though that she doesn’t figure in my blog posts anymore because she’s so private as a teenager – she’s already 15 – and I have to respect that.

In London last June 2016.

But Boo is a part of my food life and I am still there on the side watching her bloom into a full-fledged food lover.

Bindoy, your “Bin”, has seen your progress over the years. You have written about him and he has even contributed from time to time. What are the milestones you both have hit along the way and would want to reach in the immediate future?

bald Bin and Lori
May 2015 – matching bald heads.

Bin and Lori
This was taken just this month, September 2017. Goofing around in an optical shop. I loved the grey frames but my Bin hated them on me.

I don’t think that any husband should have to see his wife go through cancer. Cancer really strips you down and brings you close to death, in all senses of the word. There’s the suffering of the patient, and the suffering of the one taking care of the patient, so that’s definitely a milestone because that was a very, very difficult time in our marriage and just for us individually. There have been many milestones but Bin taking me through cancer was huge. The next milestone that I’m really looking forward to is celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary this coming December 26th! We’re going to New York. We’re celebrating Christmas with Boo in New York! Also, getting older has presented new challenges for my Bin and I, and I’ll leave it at that — because this is a wholesome site!

Now that you have a renewed lease on life, what’s the one non-food thing that you want to try? Care to talk about the new ear piercing you just got?

Lori cartilage pierce
I don’t have many pictures of my piercings, I realize, but this gives you an idea.

I got my (ear) cartilage pierced earlier this year. You would think that having been previously pierced and poked at least 50 times in 2015, that I’d be absolutely done with needles. You know what though, I don’t know. I guess it’s true what they say that when you hit mid-life, it’s like a rebellious part of you comes out! And I have always been sort of rebellious! So after I recovered, I just had this sudden urge to have my cartilage pierced. I almost got it done when I was in Germany last year. I was outside a tattoo and piercing studio, and I went in, and I waited for five minutes in the studio surrounded by all these pictures of tattoos and pictures of people with multiple piercings — but no one came out! So I guess that was a sign by God that I shouldn’t have it done… yet!

I don’t know if I told you this, but when I got sick, I was surprised to realize that I had ticked off everything on my bucket list. So by the time that I got sick, I would have been okay to die because I had done everything that I had wanted to do. As far as I’m concerned, everything that I have now is bonus. This is now how I live my life — one day at a time, and very grateful. But I’m not done with the ear piercings!

What would you want to see in the Manila food scene now?

I would want to see more bakery cafés. It’s really just because for people like myself, who are morning or day people, I would want to see more places that serve quality food and coffee. Most places open at 10am while I have breakfast at 7 or 8am so that’s really what I want to see more of.

If dessert comes first for Lori, what comes next?

Lori Baltazar
Lori Baltazar cupcake

Bindoy. I don’t even have to think about that. (laughs) Frankly though, and not for me anymore, but I’m surrounded by really great people and I would really love for my contributors to feel that they have found a creative home at Dessert Comes First. I would like more contributors. The platform is really for them. I’m really there to guide and to mentor because I’ve already done everything that I want to do creatively.

Faith Santiago Paz <![CDATA[A Slice Of Key Lime Heaven]]> 2017-09-04T04:32:08Z 2017-09-04T04:32:08Z
Here at DCF, we live (and love!) to travel for food. This piece is about one of the desserts that enthralled one of our contributors during her recent travels. It’s so good that this sweet is also on a list of Top Ten Desserts in America. – Lori

A recent trip to Key West in Florida led us to a most wondrous introduction: say hi to Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe’s Key Lime Pie on a Stick. (Woooh, that was a mouthful…and so was the pie!)

Kermit's Key Lime Pie1

Although they did have the traditional key lime pie (there’s even a gluten-free version), it was this lip-smacking-looking treat that had us all agog. We’d never come across anything like it. On that stick sat this triangular wedge of frozen pie enrobed in smooth, dark chocolate. One bite, and we were hooked. The wonderfully bright and tart flavors of the key lime pie shone through even when frozen and then coated in luscious Belgian chocolate. It wasn’t all sour though as the graham cracker crust and condensed milk in the filling wove their sweet magic into the pie. No wonder Alton Brown (of Food Network fame) included it in his list of Top Ten Desserts in America.

Kermit's_Kermit Carpenter 1

If you’re lucky, you might even spot its creator Kermit Carpenter on the nearby sidewalk, waving at passersby.

Kermit's Pies

Did you know that the ever-famous and now almost-ubiquitous Key Lime Pie has its origins in Key West (hence, the name)? There are a number of competing theories about it, particularly the who and the how, but all point to this southernmost part of continental USA as its birthplace. Thing is, it’s been said that many shops selling “key lime” pies actually use Persian limes, but Kermit’s Shoppe prides itself on using only authentic key limes.

Kermit's Key Lime Pie shop
Kermit's Key Lime Pie shop

Take note: there’s a lot more on offer here than just Key Lime Pie. They’ve ingeniously used key lime in many varied states and forms—from cookies, cakes, fudge, and pretzels to marmalades, salsas, and chutneys, to marinades, dips, and salad dressings, and even as flavoring for peanuts! (It’s a good thing they allow free nibbles as some treats go overboard with the lime levels, but it all depends on your preference, really.) They’ve even gone to non-edible territory, selling key lime-infused soaps, shampoos, lotions, and lip balms. For us Filipinos, it’s a haven for pasalubong-worthy items.

If all those delectable goods make you hungry for something more substantial, worry not. The original location is also home to Kermit’s Kitchen Cafe, where you can have your fill of snacks (e.g. salads, wraps, sandwiches, soup, chili, and fries), full entrees (e.g. BBQ ribs, fish and chips, pasta, and crab cakes), and all-day breakfasts in their cozy patio.

If you ever find yourself on this side of Florida, make sure your trip includes a stop at this Key West institution (it’s been around for more than 20 years!), Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe is something you should certainly not pass up on.

Kermit’s Original Key West Key Lime Shoppe
200 Elizabeth Street
Key West, Florida 33040
Hours: 9 A.M. to 9:30 P.M.

Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe (second location)
802 Duval Street
Key West, Florida 33040
Hours: 10 A.M. to 10 P.M.

Anson Yu <![CDATA[China, By Way Of Yokohama]]> 2017-08-24T05:48:55Z 2017-08-24T05:46:54Z

Chukagai Gate
Chukagai Gate, the main gateway in to Yokohama’s Chinatown.

It’s always exciting when two different cuisines come together. We’ve seen this in our own country when Chinese and Filipino cuisine came together, resulting in food items like hopia, lumpia and pancit. But what about in other cultures? In Yokahama, which boasts of having Japan’s largest Chinatown, I wanted to see the interaction of Japanese and Chinese cultures. What would be their culinary offspring?

Yokohama’s Chinatown
Even when it is rainy, Yokohama’s Chinatown glows with colorful lights.

An hour by rail from Tokyo, Yokohama’s Chinatown was founded just as Japan was emerging from 220 years of isolation policy. This port city was among the first in Japan to be opened to world trade. But as more Western traders came to Yokohama, so did the need for translators. The Chinese then found that they were suited for that job, as they communicated with the Japanese through writing. As more and more Chinese settled, this led to the establishment of a Chinatown in Yokohama in 1859.

Chinese bakery in Yokohama’s Chinatown
The lavish interior of a Chinese bakery in Yokohama’s Chinatown.

Cooks and chefs were among the Chinese that came to Yokohama, and it was around this time that more and more Japanese people were able to taste Chinese dishes such as noodles, steamed buns and dim sum. Similar to the Binondo phenomenon, Japanese cooks and restaurant owners adapted the recipes to suit local tastes and cooking styles–leading to the creation of dishes such as ramen and yakisoba.

Butaman no Edosei
A branch of the Butaman no Edosei near one of Yokohama’s Chinatown temple.

Despite the presence of a ramen museum in Yokohama, I wanted to focus more on how Chinese cuisine is prepared in Yokohama’s Chinatown. Not that I wanted to compare them with our brand of Chinese food and see who does a better job. Neither was my intention to seek the best examples there were. My aim was to understand how Chinese food was adapted to Japanese taste, and what it says about Japanese preferences in food.

Chinatown archway in Yokohama
With this street arch you can definitely say that Yokohama’s Chinatown came straight out of a theme park.

It was late in the afternoon already when I arrived at Motomachi Station, the nearest subway station to Chinatown. Just across it is the main archway to Chinatown. Compared to Binondo, Yokohama’s Chinatown seems like it was designed by a manga artist. Even under a cloudy sky, it glows with colorful pagoda style roofs, red paper lanterns and bright signages in gold and red. But I also noticed the blending of Japanese influences, like the practice of having wax or plastic representation of their dishes on display to attract customers.

Butaman no Edosei
Butaman no Edosei, one of the oldest sellers of butaman or siopao in Yokohama since the 1890s.

Butaman no Edosei
The sales ladies manning the counter at Butaman no Edosei.

As the rain poured, I decided to keep warm by looking for food. On Chukagai-Odori, one of the area’s main roads, I spotted a dimsum shop with a tour group outside. Named Butaman no Edosei, the shop is famous for their butaman (or what we called siopao) since 1894, according to CNN Travellers’ website, The plastic models on the counter showed a variety of steamed buns with different fillings, including chili shrimp, and beef with a simmered egg. Expensive by Manila standards, as a bun costs Y500 or P250, I still tried a beef bun.

beef and simmered egg siopao
Taking a bite of the beef and simmered egg siopao.

At the small seating area where the shop was thoughtful enough to provide an urn that dispensed free tea for customers, I halved the large bun and felt its warmth envelop me. Taking a bite and another, I could taste the soft bun and the texture of the beef, but discerned its flavor was light to my Filipino palate. While the simmered egg was interesting, it didn’t add to the flavor of the siopao. Maybe I was missing out on some sort of condiment or sauce. But I was not given any when I was handed the steamed bun, neither were there any additional sauces available in the seating area.

Japanese siomai
This is what a box of Y 680 (P 340) siomai looks like. The ceramic container holds the soy sauce.

As I was munching on the siopao, I chatted with a couple from Taiwan, who brought out a paper wrapped box of six steamed siomai from a shop called Kiyoken. Instead of just dumping the siomai in a Styrofoam box, they understood that the Japanese place a premium on packaging, and I wasn’t surprised when I found it cost Y680 or P340. An 80-year-old institution, Kiyoken grew from selling siomai or shumai to become a catering empire that offers everything from bento lunches to hosting wedding events. They’ve become so huge that they even offer tours to their siomai factory. Their dumplings look like they’re from Masuki and Lingnam, but have the same firm-to-the-bite texture and mild sweet flavor. Kiyoken’s luxe dimsum packaging includes a small blue-and-white ceramic soy sauce bottle and a packet of mustard.

For my next stop, I scouted around for the best food deal, something l learned growing up in Chinatown. I switched on my thrifty food radar, and it led me to a small restaurant on Suzhou Alley called Kyakumando. What made it such a good find? There was a poster on the door advertising a meal set menu at Y 490 or around P 245. That already includes rice, soup, an extra side dish, pickles and dessert. Definitely a great deal!

Chili shrimp dinner at Kyakumando
Chili shrimp dinner at Kyakumando.

Choosing their chili shrimp, a Japanese adaptation of an iconic Sichuan dish first introduced in the 1950s, Kyakumando served each of the courses kaiseki style, on individual plates. From my experience dining in China and Hong Kong, plating for meals for solo diners tends to be simpler. Except when I order dimsum, different courses are usually served on the same plate such as the entrée and the rice. But the Japanese value plating and presentation more than we do. While the restaurant I chose was not high end, the food models displayed in the window of the more expensive restaurants does indicate plating in those places is indeed more refined and elegant.

While I liked the texture of the chili shrimp, which was firm to the bite, the sauce – which I expected to be spicy – was actually mild, perhaps to avoid overwhelming the briny flavor and sweetness of the shrimp. Had I wanted to tweak the flavor, there was an available condiment tray with chili oil and soy sauce. I was pretty full at the end of that meal–you would be too if you also had the egg corn soup, the slice of roast pork and the almond jelly that went with that set meal.

If I still had enough stomach space, I’d continue exploring the sweet shops selling panda-themed desserts, as well their mooncakes. But as I reflect on my Yokohama Chinatown trip, I gained an understanding about how a culture adapts or borrows the food culture of another country, and makes it their own. It’s not only in changing the taste of the dish and using local ingredients, but also understanding the eating habits of the locals and the manner by which the food is served.

Connecting with the Japanese as diners, Yokohama’s Chinatown still holds culinary adventures for Pinoys who think they’ve seen or tasted it all in Binondo.

Butaman no Edosei
192 Yamashita cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Tel.# 0120-047-290
9am to 8pm (Mon to Fri) 9am to 9pm (Sat, Sun and holiday)

Kiyoken Chukagai Higamoshiten
147 Yamashita cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama (Across from Motomachi Station, next to the Chinatown Gate)
Tel# +81-45-212-5570


106-18, Yamashitacho, Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa, 231-0023
11am to 11pm (Mon to Sun)

Kirt Uy de Baron <![CDATA[Beyond Barako: Cafés Serving Up Pinoy Specialty Coffee]]> 2017-08-22T03:39:01Z 2017-08-22T03:39:01Z

With the rise of third wave specialty coffee shops here in Manila, it’s not unlikely to encounter beans flown in from all over the world like Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Brazil, Costa Rica or even Panama. These are some of the leading producers of the best quality coffee on the planet. The more you know about specialty coffee, the more you realize there’s just so much more to it than just planting coffee seeds and waiting for them to grow and be harvested then roasted. It takes a meticulous and painstaking process to produce crops that will exude the most flavor and aroma, from planting to harvesting to sorting, roasting, grinding and then finally to brewing the perfect cup.

So where does Philippine coffee stand? Filipinos have finally taken to the serious business of growing and producing specialty coffee that passes international standards, with flying colors. My mission this month: find cafes and establishments that boast of this fine brew. Here are some of the places I discovered:

Hineleban Café

Hinelaban Cafe

Hinelaban Cafe

Serving up some great coffee for an even greater cause is Hineleban Café. Using beans grown by local farmers from Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur, they promote sustainable livelihood and promote the restoration of mountain rainforests in that area. With their gorgeous space along Arnaiz Avenue in Makati, customers are treated to a relaxed and somewhat unique coffee shop vibe. The piccolo or short latte I had here was intense and full-bodied, which I enjoyed. Fruity and bright, it made for a very well-balanced cup. Every purchase you make from Hineleban Café helps support the livelihood of Bukidnon’s indigenous people, now isn’t that more than enough reason to enjoy your caffeine fix?

SGD Coffee

SGD Coffee
I have to give credit to my fellow DCF contributor Kris Alcantara for recommending this place. I love getting coffee shop recos! As their name suggests, their coffee is sourced from the Cordillera mountain ranges or Sagada. Each area of this region has its own unique microclimate, producing its one-of-a-kind coffee cherries. Their café looks and feels like an old house maybe from the 70s or 80s, spacious and homey, with beautiful locally-made furniture and a striking coffee bar.

SGD Coffee
SGD Coffee

When you enter the premises, you’ll immediately notice an intriguing sign that says Coffee Science Center, denoting how serious they are about their business. The Flat White I had here was chocolatey and robust, with low acidity and a smooth mouthfeel, definitely worth a trip to Maginhawa.

The Wander Space
Since I was in Maginhawa territory, I decided to explore the neighboring cafes and chanced upon The Wander Space. A retail store and café that bursts of locally-made, artfully done and inspired products that just beg you to linger and browse through every single thing they have on their shelves. You enter the store and at the end is the coziest little café with throw pillows and bean bags where you can kick off your shoes, relax and have some coffee and pastries. I was very much fascinated by the brand they used, called Steep Coffee Bags. Philippine coffee from Batangas, Sagada, Mt. Apo, and even Sultan Kudarat is ground and placed into little pyramid-like tea bags, complete with some twine to help you plop it down into hot water.

Wander Space
Wander Space

I’ve never seen this kind of brewing technique before. I go for the Iced Coffee, and although it was on the sweet side (I forgot to tell the barista to remove the sugar syrup), I thought it was a clever way to have your cup of joe in the morning or whenever and heck, wherever. Super convenient, fast and easy, and proudly 100% local.

Bo’s Coffee Primo

Bo's Coffee
Bo's Coffee

Now I know what you may be thinking, hasn’t Bo’s Coffee been around for ages? And the answer is, yes! Actually one of the pioneers in serving up Philippine coffee to the masses, Bo’s has been a staple in the café scene in Manila and around the country. But just recently, I noticed a sleek, new rebranding with some of their shops. Their Shangri-La Plaza Mall café is now called Bo’s Coffee Primo, offering coffee from Sagada, Benguet, Mt. Kitanglad, Mt. Apo and Mt. Matutum–and serving them up using different brewing methods. They even have Cold Brew on the menu, which brings me to their Cold White Brew. I have to confess, this turned out to be an obsession for me for quite a while, I just had to have it all the time.

Bo's Coffee
Local coffee is steeped to make their Cold Brew coffee, poured over ice, and finished off with rich and indulgent cream that forms mesmerizing white ribbons as you swirl your coffee around with your straw. It’s just so dang delicious, and what a spectacular way to reinvent local coffee. It’s no wonder why Bo’s has been a formidable force to reckon with.

If you think about it, this list is really just scratching the surface of Philippine coffee’s resurgence and metamorphosis not only in the local, but global coffee scene. I’m excited to go on with my search for more proudly-Pinoy, 100% homegrown, specialty coffee, and to go forth and caffeinate!

Establishment addresses

Hineleban Café
830 Arnaiz Ave. (formerly Pasay Road) Makati
Open weekdays 7am-9pm, weekends 9am-7pm
IG: @hinelebancafe

SGD Coffee
45 Maalalahanin St. Teacher’s Village East, QC
Open everyday 8am-10pm
IG: @sgd_coffee

The Wander Space
80 Maginhawa Street, Diliman, QC
Open Tuesday to Sunday 1-10pm
IG: @thewanderspaceph

Steep Coffee Bags
Roots Katipunan, Unit 106 FBR Bldg. Katipunan Ave, Brgy. Loyola Heights QC
IG: @steepcoffeebags

Bo’s Coffee Primo
3F, Main Wing, Shangri-La Plaza, Shaw Blvd. corner EDSA, Ortigas, Mandaluyong
Open mall hours
IG: @boscoffee

Spanky Enriquez <![CDATA[The Age Of Entitlement: Bloggers vs. Blaggers]]> 2017-09-07T06:17:27Z 2017-08-16T03:53:52Z
This article came to life when a long-time DCF reader asked me recently what I thought about the so-called “Tupperware bloggers” so prevalent now on the blogging scene. Spanky, who is one of this website’s most prolific and professional contributors, has written an incisive piece, musing on this recent controversy and giving intelligent perspective on the matter. This is one of those long stories that reads like an indulgent, devilish delight, and yes, every word is true. – Lori

Part 1: Starbucks Dawdlers, Tupperware Bloggers, and a Defense of Blogging’s Old Guard

I see them all the time in Starbucks, especially in the branches beside institutions of higher learning.
A table for three, occupied by a single student, selfishly cocooned in a space meant for sharing.

The kids sit solo, buds or Beats shutting off the sounds of the world around them; their lips moving silently, memorizing an assignment or talking to themselves? I can’t tell. But I can tell that they studiously avoid the stares of other customers looking for somewhere to sit. They affect a thousand yard stare or a resting bitch face, tiny facial tics hardening into scowls when they see a potential challenge to their thrones: another Starbucks guest who might have the audacity to approach them and dare ask if they can borrow one of their unoccupied chairs. There are two extra, sure – their stony, heavy-lidded gazes seem to say — but sorry, I need one for my backpack, another for the essential ephemera of my existence, or sometimes, I will really need the chair for my poor Stan Smith-clad feet that have fallen asleep.

It boggles the mind. The deep, misplaced sense of entitlement of some of these students. Entitlement. It used to be an honorable word: a reward, a right. These days, it’s just another dirty word, another way to describe an abuse of privileges. I’m not certain if this demeanor is simply an affectation of this generation of college students whose allowances include a daily budget for fraps, or a symptom of a deeper malaise, the slow demise of delicadeza. Perhaps it is both. Perhaps it’s been a slow burn, but brighter and more obvious now, thanks to the spotlight that social media shines on everyone.

Social media is a boon and a bane. A boon, because it gives everyone a voice; a bane, because most use it to shout, rather than speak. For many, it doesn’t matter if anyone is listening. What matters more is that “I’m talking here!!!”. From there, it’s a short hop to popularity or notoriety. It all depends on the number of followers. Few casual observers pay attention to the quality of followers, or even their veracity. What counts most? The quantity. And if you have a Facebook or Instagram following in the tens of thousands, it’s instant fame, even if one is as relevant to the real world as a Kardashian. That’s ground zero for the so-called “influencers”, GenX-ers and Millennials alike. Their absurd sense of entitlement arises directly from their skill in getting attention. They’re famous simply for being famous. Period. Full stop. Nothing follows.


However, there are still so many wonderful, hardworking, passionate people who blog, and whose content is substantial. Unfortunately, whenever news about blogging becomes viral, it’s almost always a negative portrayal, and a condemnation of bloggers in general, no thanks to the bad apples in our midst. Take the case of the “Take Out” bloggers, who give reusable plastic containers a bad name. Apparently, it’s been going on for a while now: gatecrashing bloggers who attend events, ostensibly for a coverage, but in reality, attend in order to get a loot bag or a free meal. It’s nothing new, really. One of the older online magazines used to send out emails with this irresistible entreaty: “Hello! We would like to cover your restaurant for __________ . In order to write a comprehensive feature, we usually arrive as a group of six, so we can try ALL your specials, and include them in our article”. Wow. Seriously? They said this with a straight face. And it worked, again and again. It was like a weekly fiesta. Family and friends eat for free!!! Restaurant owners have gotten much smarter since, but I’m certain that some restaurateurs are still smarting from similar schemes. My favorite horror story is of a “blogger” who managed to wiggle his way into an exclusive launch party by asking to use the restroom. The person of interest took some time inside, and when no one was looking, snuck out and simply lost himself among the guests, eventually, even getting a photo op with the guest of honor. Amazing.

The Tupperware Bloggers have a much simpler modus operandi. Thanks to amateurish PR practitioners who don’t vet or update their lists of legit bloggers, these literal bottom feeders of the blogging community still find themselves treated as valued guests in many product launches, hotel events, and the like. In all fairness, they do bring their cameras, take pictures and video, and publish the corresponding articles in their blogs. No complaints there. The problems begin when privileges are abused. “Extra food please! Can I have more drinks? May I order some more items to bring home?” The bemused young interns assigned to take care of these Rated PG bloggers (PG for “Patay Gutom”) often have no recourse but to reluctantly say yes, afraid that their bosses and their clients might berate them if, God forbid, a negative article is published by a blogger whose every whim was not granted. Sad to say, this happens every single day.

But more than the insatiable appetite for freebies and food, what I really don’t get is this: “May I bring a plus one?” In my decade plus of blogging, it’s never even crossed my mind to bring a date to a coverage. I’ve never even asked. I can count, on the fingers of one hand, the number of times I’ve brought a companion, and it was only because it was the express wish of my hosts. My thinking is this: every invitation is a tacit request. Either to spread the word, or to provide constructive criticism. I’ve always felt that restaurant owners would benefit more if I invited one more blogger, obviously, rather than if I invited a lady friend. Blogging is blogging. Dating is dating. One is business, one is personal. Parallel lines and all that. Compartmentalization. And again, delicadeza.

We bloggers have tried to regulate ourselves, but admittedly, to little or no avail. Many have tried to establish some sort of self-policing body with a set of blogging standards. All have failed. There are just too many different personalities, too many unique characters, too many divergent opinions. The word blog, after all, was coined in the ‘90s as contraction of “web log”, a fancy term for an online diary. So obviously, making blogs conform to one set of rules would be as impossible as ensuring that all handwritten diaries follow only one format. Blogs are deeply personal publications. At least, they used to be. Oh well, most still are. But you know and I know that there are so many so-called “blogs” now that were put up to get free stuff. So yes, I would like to apologize for the existence of those miscreants. We pioneers opened the doors for them, after all. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I can confess to these things because I have intimate knowledge of the various goings on in the blogging community. I’ve been a blogger for almost a dozen years now, and I’m very proud to be one. I know of what I speak of, and I can speak on behalf of my peers, and discuss the good, as well as the bad.

What really rankles me, however, is the fact that many of the articles that are critical of bloggers are not written by bloggers. There’s always a whiff of condescension, an arched eyebrow, a Cherie Gil tone: “I’m a writer, excuse me. I’m not a blogger!” As if blogging were something to look down upon. The critics may not admit to it, but it’s certainly there if you read between the lines. Sometimes, you don’t even have to. There’s outright snark. I’ve confirmed that a hip publication’s writers are given specific instructions to never write in the style of certain bloggers. Oh excuse me. Pardon our syntax. Excuse our vocabulary. News Flash, hotshots: the first generation of bloggers never had any intention, or pretensions, for that matter, to be considered as great writers. They just wanted to share their stories. Their blogs, souvenirs of an epic meal or a memorable trip. But along the way, many of them have become good writers. Very good, actually. The result of a thousand hours hunched over a keyboard, pecking away over the past fifteen years or so.

I don’t think any of us who started blogging in the early to mid-2000s ever expected to get freebies, invitations, or even monetize our blogs. We were all very pleasantly surprised when our little hobbies evolved into major endeavors. Many of us have been fortunate enough to leave the drudgery of our corporate day jobs, and become our own bosses. A new kind of entrepreneurship, a barrier-breaking business model: revenue generating home-based personal publications that allowed us to reboot our careers, and continue to provide for our families. Quite a few of my blogging peers are now published authors, and many more have contributed to the country’s most respected broadsheets and magazines.

Manila Boy PLAGIARIZED Pilipinas Kay Ganda LOGO -
So don’t dis the original bloggers, kids. Many of them have become proficient writers and photographers, and they probably can teach you a lesson or two. Seven years ago, I broke the news about a plagiarized Department of Tourism logo on my blog, Manila Boy. That led directly to President Aquino scrapping the logo, and paved the way for Mon Jimenez to take over the department, and the result? More Fun!

side by side logo
The difference between new and old? We never needed to resort to sarcasm and snark to get clicks or stay relevant. Stay classy, kids. Take a page from the old guard. We continue to do what we’ve always done. Blog about what we love and what makes us happy. Blog with dedication. Blog with passion. And above all, blog with good intentions.

PS: There’s a storybook ending to my DOT saga. I submitted a More Fun meme to Secretary Jimenez’s crowdsourcing campaign, and it was subsequently filmed and included as part of the international launch TV commercial of the global ad campaign.

Part 2: Pseudo IG Influencers and a Tale of Two Bloggers

Hot take: Instagram is overrated. Hashtags are cheats.

It’s a proven fact that IG followers, both human and robots, are available for purchase, and also a proven fact that every so often, Instagram culls fake accounts from its ranks. Add the propensity of people to add a proliferation of hashtags — some regularly copy-paste 20 or more hashtags per post — and you have the conditions to game the app. In theory, like-minded folks will use these hashtags to search for posts of common interest. In practice, ‘bots use these hashtags for various nefarious purposes. Simply put, it’s possible to attain 10,000 followers in one day if you know what to do; a quick Google search will provide a plethora of options. The current algorithm of Instagram, which replaced the previous chronological display of posts, doesn’t help. IG now “chooses” which “popular” posts it feels you will want to see, and as a result, you can go for days or weeks without seeing anything from a friend’s page, and then suddenly be inundated with a multitude of posts from that particular friend, one after the other, overwhelming your feed. Think of it in 1980s terms: a friend leaves for a vacation, and you don’t hear from him or her for weeks; and then suddenly, two dozen postcards land in your mailbox. So who benefits most from the new algorithm? The accounts with the most followers. Of course. Let’s not even discuss the dissipating effect of sponsored Instagram posts on genuine, organic engagement.

I suspect the real reason for this new algorithm is to make the app even stickier, since IG users now have to stay on Instagam for a longer period of time to actively search for a particular account if it fails to show up on their feed. From a digital marketing standpoint, I see the value. In theory, at least. But as to actual effectivity, I’m still on the fence. I’m not a fan of bandwagons, and that seems to be the instinct of many marketers these days. Count the followers, without analyzing if they really comprise one’s target market. Wait. Are majority of the followers even from the same demographic, or even from the same country??? Quantity over quality. Again. And that’s what’s given rise to the “Influencers”.

Let me confess, I think that’s the corniest, cheesiest new marketing jargon of the past couple of years. I imagine wannabe marketing experts bandying that word about during client meetings, and everyone nodding sagely, as they oooh and ahhh over the thousands of followers: “Ohhh, she’s an… Influencer!” In the practice of law, there’s a doctrine called “the fruit of the poisonous tree”; it states that evidence gathered illegally is not valid. There should be a similar edict in marketing: influencers with dubious followers should not be credible. It’s amusing how the “Instagrammers” who try hardest, if you know what I mean, are the most adamant about being identified as “Influencers”. I’ve even met a few with that title on their business cards. Okay, you can roll your eyes now. The way I see it, calling yourself an influencer is the same as calling yourself a hipster. If you have to make an effort to market yourself as such? Sorry, dear. You’re not.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of fine folks on Instagram, who stay true to the app’s first and purest vision: to share beautiful photographs. Allow me to recommend my three favorite IG accounts. These are the ones I religiously follow, and I promise, they’re well worth your precious time. Excellent photography, humorous and personal engagement, and the most mouthwatering food in Metro Manila:
1. The Bald Baker : @thebaldbakerph
2. Eatsplorations : @eatsplorations
3. Your Foodtographer : @yourfoodtographer
All of the three above have day jobs. The first, a former advertising professional, now spends his time baking bespoke cookies and gorgeous banana bread. The second, a teacher, and the third is a banker. They’re all successful in their respective fields, and the acclaim they receive as microbloggers is essentially a bonus, and the respect from their fan base, icing on the cake. Their hobbies have turned them into popular online personalities, and they are the ones I consider to be genuinely influential.

They remind me of a couple of old friends who started blogging at around the same time I did, in the mid-2000s. They’re two of the bloggers who literally blew the lid off the Tupperware Bloggers scandal. Our blogging culture has changed so much since we started, and to a certain extent, it’s been damaged. But with veterans like Jeman Villanueva and Enrico Dee as guardians of the gate, I’m confident that blogs, the good ones, will continue to prosper, and remain very relevant. There’s a certain noblesse oblige I observe with the old guard. I love the fact that a decade and half later, they continue to be as dedicated to their passions as they were at the beginning, and more importantly, they’ve taken it upon themselves, through the examples they set, to mentor the young and the ambitious. By doing so, they’ve uplifted and professionalized our blogging industry.

Jeman Villanueva

Jeman Villanueva is the man behind Orange, an online magazine that focuses on pop culture, lifestyle, entertainment, travel, and restaurant news, in addition to the advocacies of its founder. A BS Journalism graduate, he started his career as a researcher/writer for ABS-CBN and ABC 5 (now TV5). He eventually got hired as Sen. Gringo Honasan’s media officer, and when he established his own events company, he landed Playboy Philippines as his first major client. Jeman began blogging in 2005, and recalls how fresh and innovative everything seemed back then. Social Media was in its infancy in the Friendster Era, and blogs’ promotional usefulness was still being questioned. PR firms began their first tentative steps in organizing events for bloggers, but they were few and far between, compared to the daily deluge at present. Back then, everyone took the time to get to know one another, and since there was only a small group of established bloggers, it was easy to separate the chaff from the grain. But by 2012, the influx of the pseudo-bloggers started; virtual vultures who began blogging with only one mission: to get as many loot bags, meet as many celebrities, and yes, enjoy as much free food as possible. These days, they are legion. Jeman’s long experience and intrinsic adherence to journalistic discipline and ethics has made him the logical point person for investigating, and as needed, exposing the darker side of blogging.

Enrico “Eric” Dee launched one of the country’s legendary travel blogs, Byahilo, back in 2004. His reason for doing so was simple: to talk about his travel experiences through his words and pictures. There were no metrics or analytics 13 years ago. Bloggers didn’t waste their time chasing stats; they blogged for the sheer satisfaction of sharing their adventures. In Eric’s case, it didn’t take too long for his blog to skyrocket in popularity, as local and foreign tourists began using Byahilo as a travel reference, a homegrown Lonely Planet, in their trips around the Philippines. Four years after he started blogging, the hotels, resorts, and even airlines started noticing how influential the eponyomous Byahilo had become. Eric, along with a few other trailblazers – Nina Fuentes, Ivan Henares, Ferdz Decena, Melo Villareal, and Anton Diaz – were invited to an all-expenses paid Boracay familiarization tour. He still remembers how awestruck, and how lucky he felt to be selected to join the group. Flash forward to present day, and he rues how so many ersatz travel bloggers are lured only by the perks, and ignore the essence of blogging. But Eric, forever the optimist, believes that by guarding and policing the ranks of travel bloggers, coordinating with and advising hotel, resort, and hostel owners, and by providing invaluable advice to both backpackers and luxe travel aficionados alike, he can continue to elevate the state of Philippine travel blogging, and make them an essential component of our country’s tourism promotion efforts.

Part 3 : Sunrise Opportunities in Online Media

Do blogs still matter? I believe Jeman and Eric provided me with some of the information necessary to answer that question. And I’d like to add, that while it can be debated that people are reading less now compared to ten years ago, they are actually reading more – on their computers, tablets, and their smartphones. It’s amazing to consider that the smartphone revolution only began in 2007, when Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPhone, and forever changed the way we lead our daily lives. There must be a direct correlation between the rise of the smartphone and the demise of print. And while it depresses me to no end as an editor and a writer, to see three beloved F&B magazines cease publication this year, it gives me a measure of relief that they will continue to live on and create new content – but on the web. So yes, more than ever, blogs still matter. Lines have been blurred. The stalwarts of print are finding new homes online. Writers are bloggers and bloggers are writers. Everyone in media, in effect is now a blogger. The world is a-changing, and so is the world of blogging. It’s not enough for a blogger to simply spin words into a tapestry. Video is taking over, to ignore it is to be left behind. In a world dominated by Millennials’ insatiable desire for information, the blog with the best content is king.

This was confirmed by GetCRAFT, one of South East Asia’s most forward thinking Digital Marketing and Media firms. It was established to accomplish exactly that: to source, create, and distribute the most premium content by the region’s most highly-regarded writers, journalists, photographers, and videographers. Last month, GetCRAFT released a comprehensive report on Philippine Digital Content and Marketing. I spoke with Kate De Los Reyes, Managing Director for the Philippines, and she provided me with an overview of the current digital landscape.

Total Philippine population is 104 million, 69 million of whom are Internet users, while active mobile social users are 59 million. On device usage: 88 percent use any type of mobile phone; 61 percent utilize smart phone; 39 percent and 25 percent avail of laptop or computer and tablet respectively. Average daily use: 9 hours on the Internet via personal computer or tablet; 3 hours and 36 minutes on the Internet via mobile phone; 4 hours and 17 minutes on social media using any device; and 2 hours and 30 minutes on television.

“Social media continues to dominate, but content marketing, influencer marketing, and sponsored content are on the rise. Brands view social media—both paid and organic— as the most effective digital channel for marketing, due to the high number of active users, the enormous amount of time users spend using the channel, and cost efficiency. Social media in the Philippines is used for searching and purchasing products or services by nearly a third of the population, with Facebook as the priority medium.

Videos lead the way in content marketing. As Filipinos spend more time on social media than in watching television, they are also increasingly watching videos from mobile screens. Global Webb index reports YouTube as the second most active media platform at 56 percent, topped only by Facebook. Of all Filipino netizens, 28 percent watch videos online daily; 21 percent weekly and 19 percent monthly. A clear factor driving online video consumption growth is the rise of mobile in the Philippines with 57 percent of the population watching videos online using mobile phones.”

See? It’s still Facebook. Not Instagram. I rest my case. But in all seriousness, it behooves every blogger—and everyone involved in social media and digital content and online marketing, actually — to seriously study the full report. Thanks again, Karen!

Full report here: Philippines Digital Content Marketing Report 2017

It’s clear that the road ahead will be dominated by online content. But let me reiterate that more so than quantity, quality will be of the utmost value. I consulted with one of the country’s top Digital Public Relations and Engagement experts, Cat Triviño, and asked her about the criteria she uses for selecting the bloggers and publishing partners she works with.

1. Content Quality – Review the output quality such as grammar, image quality, ability to make sound captions / recommendations for both their original and sponsored content.
2. The (more important) Numbers – Look into the numbers that drive page traffic and ranking, Engagement Rate, and ultimately interest for a campaign or product (through inquiries, share of voice, etc.) and not just Followers and Likes. See how their sponsored content also performs and compare alongside their original content.
3. The Audience – Who do they communicate with, who do they influence?

Ahhhhh. Grammar. Never underestimate the core component of great content. Proper writing. Ideas will never be executed properly if the basic structure is unsound. I promised Cat that I wouldn’t mention the company she works for, but I’m a big fan of her campaigns. I’m certain that you are too. Cat completely disrupted the traditional channels of advertising not too long ago with a series of short films that gained prominence, and massive popularity, even among non-Filipino speakers… all over the world.

Thanks for reading this far. And if you’re still here, let me just say how grateful I am for taking the time to read all three chapters of my George RR Martin saga on blogging. Here’s my advice to my new peers in blogging and online publications; my Lyanna Mormont to your Jon Snow:

1. Don’t rush, don’t take shortcuts. Build up your brand slowly, and find your unique voice
2. Avoid controversies; don’t stir the pot just to get quick hits
3. Keep your promises; respect, honor, and dignify our profession
4. Be wary of too many paid or sponsored posts; protect your equity
5. Work with people you can trust; find them, and keep them. Remember, it’s not a competition
6. Master your craft: write as often as you can and practice taking more photos and videos
7. Be prudent; not everything is worth blogging about. Content doesn’t mean classified ads.

And finally, I’ll let one of my blogging idols, a good man I deeply respect, close this out:
“Forget the freebies forget the loot bags. Just write. Because that’s how we have survived years of blogging: by not expecting any return or reward. It’s all about our love and passion for writing that keeps the flame burning.”

Amen. Thanks again, Mr. Byahilo.

Faith Santiago Paz <![CDATA[Deliriously Delicious!]]> 2017-08-14T04:33:07Z 2017-08-14T23:00:57Z
This website was built on featuring home bakers, and I’ve featured hundreds. It gives me great pleasure then to have DCF’s contributors share their home baker finds. This one’s easy to love because really, who couldn’t do without another chocolate chip cookie? – Lori


For the true dessert lover, there’s only one way to react when presented with a sugar-laden treat (or sometimes even with just the prospect of it): DELIRIOUSLY.

The Oxford Dictionary defines delirious as being “In a state of wild excitement or ecstasy,” which fully captures the emotions experienced by those with an affinity for all things sweet. (There is another definition, but this specific one is more applicable.) And that’s the feeling we had when we were given a plastic tub of cookies at a small group meeting for church one Friday night. Upon raising the lid, we were met with the heady, heavenly scent of baked goods—a pleasant portent of things to come.

We had to open our mouths wide to sink our teeth into the huge cookie we had each grabbed (scared to be left with none). In that bed of soft-baked cookie dough, crunchy walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips galore greeted us. Our eyes widened with wonder as we all agreed that this was one of the most indulgent cookies we’d ever come across.

With our curiosity piqued by our first encounter, we decided to order a tub of mixed flavored cookies from that delicious cookie’s creator—the aptly named Delirious Cookie Co.

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Delirious Cookie Co. is a home-based venture run by the cheerful and charming husband-and-wife team Rhed and Chiko Sandico. Although the business has only been around since January of this year, the two are long-time baking hobbyists with a shared passion for desserts, particularly cookies.

“As I got older, I found I really liked baking cookies, and that’s what I did really well. I did one or two cakes, but cookies are super rewarding and quick. (There’s) not so much of a waste—have a bite, keep the rest,” Chiko shares.

Inspired by Levain Bakery, their favorite cookie place in New York, the couple keeps their flavors to a minimum, focusing on the ones they do best. At present, there are only five flavors, with four on rotation and a special one to be offered from time to time. And like the enthusiastic parents that they are in real life, they’ve even given names to their cookies, which are based on moods or emotional states. The staples are: Chocolate Chip (‘Serious’), Chocolate Chip Walnut (‘Nutty’), Fudgy Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie (‘Naughty’), and Fudgy Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip (‘Intense’). Yes, ‘chocolate’ appears twice in the last one’s name—imagine how much more in the cookie!

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If we were giddy the first time around, we were beside ourselves with excitement as we opened our tub of assorted flavors.

Delirious Choco Chip Walnut cookie

It was like saying hello to an old friend as we beheld the Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie, which we had very fond memories of. We were delighted to discover that it was just as good as the first time—soft and chewy, semi-sweet, and generously dotted with a good ratio of walnuts to chocolate chips. Although the palm-sized treat was soft-baked, it had a slightly crisp underside, which made it even more delectable. It’s the type of cookie you’d want right by your side as you settle in for a quiet afternoon with a good book and maybe some creamy, ice-cold milk.

Delirious Fudgy Dark Choco Peanut Butter cookie

Next up, we had the Fudgy Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie. Interestingly, with this one, we didn’t feel like we were eating a cookie. It was utterly moist and felt velvety to the tongue, much like a fudge brownie. Even its deep and dark chocolatey flavors gave us that impression, punctuated only by the creamy peanut butter chips that were interspersed in the batter. We’re hoping they can offer more variants with the Fudgy Dark Chocolate Cookie as the base because it’s too good to keep to just two flavors (the other being the Fudgy Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip)!

Delirious Oatmeal Peanut Butter cookie

Part of our tub was the Special flavor: Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M Chocolate Chip Cookie (nicknamed ‘Crazy’). True enough, it looked crazy in an odd, well, cookie way. Unlike the other two, this one had a rougher, crisp-looking exterior with M&Ms sticking out here and there. As we found out, it’s not just a mouthful to say, it’s also a mouthful to eat. Between the gritty texture of the oatmeal and the saccharine combination of the peanut butter and M&Ms, we could only nibble at it. We usually think of oatmeal cookies as healthier alternatives in the cookie spectrum, but it felt quite sinful with its overload of sweetness (highlighted even more by the fact that we had just finished off the well-balanced Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies).

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You might notice that the three cookies we got from Delirious have different heights and sizes. We asked the home bakers about it and were told that they actually use the same scooper in measuring out the batter on the cookie sheet. How much it falls or spreads during baking contributes to the differences.

If we were to evaluate the three, top marks would go to the Chocolate Chip Walnut (no wonder it’s Delirious Cookie Co.’s signature cookie!), followed by the Fudgy Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip, and then the Oatmeal Peanut Butter M&M Chocolate Chip (which we think would be a hit with the kids; we adults are just too sugar-sensitive).

It’s too bad we didn’t get to try ‘Intense’ in this batch, but at least we’ve got something to look forward to when we order next time!

Delirious Cookie Co.
On Instagram: deliriouscookieco