5.40 pm, an office somewhere in Mandaluyong
We’re just about to wrap up the tasting for Ippudo’s first store in Manila slated to open in late July in Megamall’s new Fashion Hall. The Japanese principals are here as are the chefs and the local group responsible for bringing in the famed ramen brand. This is a serious tasting of the 34 proposed dishes, complete with PDF presentations and a detailed comment and ranking card.
“Take small bites, only one bite,” the boss urges us as the Japanese chefs hustle in the dishes. It’s easy advice to follow, at least for me. But of course when the desserts come marching in, my restraint flies out the window. I quickly hide the three empty dessert goblets under a paper napkin.
Weekends mean cocktails and glasses of good wine with friends who appreciate such. Of all the local sangrias I try, I like the ones at Barcino the best because they’re not too sweet. Tonight I try the white sangria while Brian has the red.
I’ve always admired women who sport manicured nails for days on end. Mine always seem to chip after just a few hours. Even though our stomachs are expanded from the tasting and the wine, there’s always room for dessert. Sonja’s new milkshakes are super thick but the equally thick cake slices kill the coldness of the drink. Still, I have to admire how beautifully the Birthday Cake milkshake contrasts with Andrea’s manicure, of which she’s never without.
8.30am, Coffee Empire
Coffee Empire is a third wave coffee shop in Quezon City. It’s a huge place, about 800 square meters, with large glass ceilings and monstrous roasters off to the side. There’s a long counter up front littered with various coffee paraphernalia and a serious-looking barista.
I always have the same things every time I come here. I start off with a pour-over (P150) of whatever quality bean they’re pushing for the day; usually it’s an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe which people seem to love but which is just too fruity and blueberry’ish for me, and then a Cortado (P110), a latte-macchiato love child, my weekly milky-coffee treat.
Cookie butter and orange get along fabulously, as I discover in the Speculous [sic] Crunchy Cookie Butter Pancakes (P140). The pancakes are somewhat too thick for my taste and not as fluffy as they should be, but perhaps they’re just pillowy vessels for the cookie butter laced with orange. Excellent combination. There’s other food here at Coffee Empire ranging from salads to salpicao but I’ve not tried them.
Make no mistake about it, this is where you find one of – if not the best – Buttermilk Fried Chicken (P520) in all of Manila. Resoundingly crunchy, boneless (how do they do that??!), and obviously juicy because of a long brine. It’s difficult to share just one order among my family of three, so I have just a few bites. The corn bread is lousy, hard and overbaked and way too sweet. The much-talked about mountain of Pork & Potato Strips (P340) is impressive but not worth it. It’s like eating Pik-Nik, which I don’t happen to like. The Clam Chowder (P230) is just wonderful though, it’s not too cloying and pairs perfectly well with the bread bowl it sits in. For dessert, I like the Checkered Cake (P210) here, a clever chessboard representation of red velvet and chocolate cake. The Pistachio Cake (P230) is alright too, save for the hugely artificial flavoring.
When you eat here, try to come at an off-hour or ask to be seated inside. I sit outside right next to the server listing down names, and it’s downright impossible to ignore the pointed stares of patrons waiting to nab my table. A guaranteed appetite killer.
Every Sunday like clockwork, my Bin takes me out for our coffee run. Today, it’s at the Refinery, which is immensely popular with the expat crowd, so don’t attempt to come here for brunch, make it breakfast instead. The general consensus about this new neighborhood joint is this: beverages are outstanding, food is so-so. I can’t agree wholeheartedly just yet since I’ve only ever come here for drinks. But of course, given that they use La Mill coffee, I’m not surprised at the level of quality.
We sit outside amidst weekend warriors sporting spandex and sneakers. My Bin and I are discussing our upcoming trip and he’s talking me through a decision I have to make. My Bin, my best friend. He sips his Hong Kong Milk Tea (P160) while I ponder possibilities in the shallow depths of my Macchiato (P120). Our Sunday stretches before us, teeming with delicious possibilities.
2pm, Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza
I have lost my love for the pizza here. Compared to how it was two years ago, the pizzas have become thin and cracker-crunchy. Sadness! I’m a thick-crust person through and through. So I find solace in the outstanding house-made Burrata (P335). Almost painfully smooth, it’s a tasting melody of acid from the tomatoes, a licorice and clove song from the basil, and then the caress of cream. Mmm. Oh Jutes, what exceptional burrata you make but please bring back your thicker crusted pizzas!
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Cupcakes by Sonja
74 West Ave., West Triangle, QC.
Open daily from 6am.
5/F Shangri-la Plaza Mall, East Wing
G/F Joya Building, Joya Drive, Rockwell Makati
02 781 0344
Open daily from 7am -12midnight
Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza
On Facebook: Ginosbrickovenpizza