Friday, July 31, 2015

Read. Sip. Dine. at Book and Borders Cafe (Tomas Morato, Q.C.)

My Facebook post for my sister, dated 17 June 2015

The very first time I heard about Book & Borders Café was thru a Facebook group I am part of. That very moment, I messaged my sister thru Facebook as well, because I am such a big bookworm and both my sister and I love to eat as well. We, including my bookish friends have wanted to check this cafe, but I guess fate has its own way of rewarding me.

Book & Borders Cafe
Book & Borders Cafe Grand Opening

Last Tuesday, I was one of the blessed attendees to the grand opening celebration of Book and Borders Café, located at 281 Tomas Morato, Quezon City.

Book and Borders Cafe Book and Borders Cafe
Book and Borders Cafe
Book & Borders Cafe Book and Borders Cafe

Entering the cafe, I was in awe at how beautiful it looked inside - definitely a bookworm's dream. There are lounge seats for comfortable seating, as well as a long table for big groups who are about to review or just enjoy a time together reading their own books.

I wasn't able to fully browse Book and Borders Cafe's book selection, but those I have browsed, I am pleased to see that they grouped together books based on their genres and authors. They have a wide selection of YA fiction, which will definitely attract more high school and college students, but they also have a good selection of adult fiction, as well as some children's books, to satisfy people of all ages. Aside from letting customers enjoy a good read while having snacks, they also provide book stands to those who need it, making reading and eating easier to do at the same time.

{More after the jump...}

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Minions McDonald's Happy Meal Toys

This was a very late post, I know... but in the "Thursday Throwback" tradition, allow me to just post this. I just need to finish my current read (so I can include it on my July list), so this post will be heavier on pictures than words.

This was an Instagram post I had June 2013, while my British friend K and I were spending a short holiday in Boracay. I was away from home for nearly two weeks that time, and when my siblings learned about the McDonald's Happy Meal that features the Minions as part of the promotion for the Despicable Me 2 movie, they quickly messaged me their proposal -- that we would pitch in to complete all ten toys. They gave me three toys to hunt, sister had to hunt the other three, while brother volunteered to hunt the last four. I was in Boracay the time they messaged me, and I was so thankful that there is a McDonald's branch in Boracay, and was able to buy this toy. Days after, I got to buy the remaining two toys at McDonald's SM Mall of Asia and McDonald's Robinson's Place Ermita.

Two years after, the Minions were given their own movie, and my sister and I were so happy that McDonald's will once again offer Minion toys on their Happy Meal. When we heard that McDonald's are offering the toys on pre-order, my sister took note of the start of the pre-order period and went to McDonald's near her workplace as early as 8AM to pre-order.

She had to pay for the whole set - a little less than 1,000 pesos, and was given this pre-order stubs, which has the main stub for the toys as well as ten food stubs, which my sister could use until August. It was a good system, though the meals were already pre-determined as well. majority of the food stubs were for Burger McDo meal, but it had two Chicken McDo meal stubs.

My sister asked me a huge favor, making me travel to Makati very early morning last June 25. For breakfast, we went to McDonald's to claim the toys, a day before the toys were made available for individual selling. I was so happy to be able to be one of the first people to share the picture to my sites, but I wasn't able to blog about it, so yeah... boo. Hahahaha.

I love the look of the toys for this batch compared to the last batch, maybe because the movie featured a more diverse set of characters. Taking a close look at the toys --

Chatting Bob
After turning on the power button, pressing the button on his tummy would allow the toy to speak. It was just unfortunate that the paint of this toy wasn't so good - there were some blue paint on the toy's lower left lip area.

Guitar Strumming Stuart
Switching on the power, pulling the guitar neck downwards would make the toy sing.

Minion Caveman
No battery power needed, pushing the button at the back would make the minion's hand with banana move.

Groovy Stuart
Tilting the toy from left to right would make the toy move his hands, like he was dancing.

Minion Vampire
Pushing the switch at the back would allow the toy to show its fangs - I used scotch tape to put the switch in position.

Egyptian Hula Minion
The hula hoop is detached to the toy, but there was a slot on the toy's waistband to make the hoop stay in place. Pushing the button on its head would rotate the hula hoop.

Lava Shooting Kevin
Another battery operated toy, switching on the power would make the "lava" light up, but we got a dysfunctional toy, it wasn't lighting up.

Guard Minion
A very classic way to move a toy - wind it up, set it on a surface and watch it walk.

Marching Minion Soldier
Pushing the button on its headdress would make the toy's eyes move from left to right.

Martial Arts Minion
A little complicated to use -- hold its foot, turn the upper body counter clockwise and release. It would spin round and round. Unfortunately, it was difficult to do this with the minion set on a surface. I really had to hold it's foot and position it at an angle so it would spin good.

True, paying a one time payment of 900+ pesos was a little heavy on the budget, but... we were glad that McDonald's offered the pre-order of the toys. It just took away the stress of hopping to different stores just to buy the toys, because not everybody buys the toys all at once, there will be instances that diners would all prefer just one toy, and there was a risk that the store would run out of stock for one or two toys.

If McDonald's would offer pre-ordering of toys in their next happy meal, I suggest you go and take the chance. There is a big sense of fulfillment in completing all the once.

*** Jenn ***

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Quick Trip to Tartland Baguio Pasarabo Factory

When one say "Baguio City," the first three food items that would come to mind would be -- Peanut Brittle, Strawberry (anything strawberry), and Lengua de Gato. Though Lengua de Gato is not my favorite Baguio City food item, it has been our usual pasalubong for family and friends.

On my last trip to the City of Pines, thanks to Azalea Residences Baguio, I was blessed to see how these delectable goodies are made.

Entering the Tartland Baguio Pasarabo factory, this electric mixer set and piping tube would be the first that would capture one's attention. This has been the family's source of inspiration, because back when they started the business, this was their tool in making their Lengua de Gato. Now that their business is constantly upgrading, this set of tools is a good reminder of their humble beginnings, that great things often start with a simple idea.

But how did Tartland Baguio Pasarabo start?

In the early 90s, Angie dela Cruz started making cheese tarts and offered them to fellow mothers at her children's schools. The product clicked, and she would then make more and more cheese tarts, but doing so caused her to throw away big amounts of egg whites, as the tarts would only use egg yolks. She was able to find a way to use the egg whites - by baking Lengua de Gato.

This new product was such a hit, that it even penetrated the Baguio pasalubong stores. Soon, they upgraded their tools to accommodate the growing demand for their products. They now employ about 25 employees, producing about 1,200 jars of their very delectable Lengua de Gato.

This was taken from a window before we entered the factory. As a food business, the need to make sure of the quality of their goods, so we were asked to wear hairnets and were asked not to touch any of the equipment and food product.

A good Lengua de Gato starts with the mixing of the ingredients. Ms. Angie dela Cruz told us there are a lot of recipes available online, but should we decide to try it out in our own kitchen, we have to make sure we use fresh ingredients.

After the batter is mixed, it is then loaded to this machine that pipes out 12 Lengua de Gato at one time. Cool!

They didn't divulge the temperature and the cooking time for their Lengua de Gato, but obviously, the next step is to bake them.

Trying not to break any of the delicate cookies, next step is to cool them and separate them according to their color. They might be cooked in the same temperature and time, but not all of them come out of the oven looking the same. They do have their standard color, but those dark ones are not completely discarded - they still pack them for other use.

Final step is to pack the cookies in their respective containers.

We truly enjoyed the short time we spent inside the factory, but aside from savoring the wonderful smell and buying the freshest Lengua de Gato, it was the story behind the success that was the biggest blessing I received from this trip. At this point, I am still trying to learn how to bake and I still don't have the strength to sell the baked goods I have tried, but I will keep this success story in my heart and hope that in time I will be successful in my own little way as well.

*** Jenn ***

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Balajadia Restaurant (Baguio City)

Though I travel to Baguio City at least once a year since my father passed away in 2007 (Baguio is our usual place to do side trips, as it is near to our place in La Union), I admit I still haven't fully explored the city as far as food is concerned. Call it a habit, but there were times that even if I am miles away from Metro Manila, my choice of food would often be those from fast food chains or those that I have already tried from previous food trips.

For our After Summer Group Getaway organized by Azalea Residences Baguio, I had no idea where we will eat for lunch. I heard someone said "Slaughter House," and some crazy thoughts run through my head, but when I saw the rows of eateries, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Of the many eateries in the area, the Balajadia Restaurant seemed to be the most popular. People seem to check this place first before checking the other eateries. From what I gather, this area is used to be where the Slaughter House of Baguio City is located, hence the name of the place.

{More after the jump...}

Friday, July 24, 2015

Café Yagam (Baguio City)

The day we arrived in Baguio City for the After Summer Group Getaway organized by Azalea Residences, the afternoon was actually a little humid despite the rainshowers. I didn't actually pack any jackets and sweatshirts, and it felt okay that way... but when we were called for dinner, spending time at Azalea Residences Baguio's lobby made me feel the very cold Baguio weather. It made me crave for something warm.

Thankfully, the Azalea Baguio team took us to Café Yagam. By the time we disembarked the vans, the rain was pouring hard so I wasn't able to capture some needed images, but entering the café, I instantly fell in love. I don't have the pictures to back it up, but it felt homey inside, and I just love the overall aesthetics and of course, the books! Oh man, the books!

For this dinner, we were served traditional Cordilleran dishes:

If I am correct, this is called pirurutong rice; I remember a family friend once gave us this kind of rice and we would mix a handful of this to our usual rice upon cooking. Anyway, this rice is soft and a pleasure to eat; cooked just right.

A mix of different vegetables such as string beans, eggplants, legumes, mushrooms, shellfish, and banana blossoms, this dish is delicious but very... and I mean very spicy! Unlike other vegetable dishes that are usually half-cooked, the veggies in this dish are very soft and tender, and it felt like eating "Laing." I actually liked this dish, but I just couldn't take its heat. I'd either eat more rice or drink more water if I eat this.

Of all the Cordilleran dishes, this should be the most popular dish, and yes, this is a soup dish - kinda like the tinola, but for this dinner, they served the broth separately - we just had to get a bowl and fill it with broth, chicken, and vegetables.

Pinikpikan is chicken prepared by beating a live chicken with stick before properly dressing it for cooking. This process bruises the chicken meat, hence the blackish tones on its skin, and such process makes the meat more flavorful.

It tasted like Tinola, but this one is richer, and more flavorful. The broth calms the body, but I suggest you add tapuy (rice wine) on the broth for additional flavor.

The Pinikpikan in Café Yagam is served with "Etag," which is how they called their cured meat. Although Kini-ing is also a form of cured meat, this is definitely different from Etag. Preparing this dish is quite complicated, and the process gave the meat its very distinct flavor and smell.

This has been the richest (flavor-wise) dish I ate that night. It paired well with tomatoes and onions, but even if I am a big fatty pork lover (I love pork fat, I won't deny it), each meat piece was so flavorful and so strong that I could only take a few pieces.

Pinuneg is the Cordilleran Blood Sausage, but this is not made entirely of blood - it also has minced meat. Dinuguan is my top most favorite Filipino dish, so of all the dishes for this dinner, this was my favorite. I loved it with the spicy vinegar dip, but as is, it is still delicious!

Our dessert. "Kiniwar" in Ilocano dialect means "stir," which was the main process in making the sticky rice dessert. Not too sweet, but it provided a much needed change of feel in the mouth after eating the very spicy Binungor.

Café Yagam takes pride of their coffee. In partnership with the CGN or the Cordillera Green Network, a non-profit organization, they source their coffee from the highlands of the Cordillera region. To ensure freshness of coffee, they only grind beans upon order and is available in different variations:

Brew - Paper drip or French press
Roast - Light, Medium, or Dark
Strength - Light, Medium, or Strong

Coffee in French Press
I wasn't able to ask the components of this coffee, but I kinda liked it as is - black. One thing we noticed, coffee served in this French press tend to retain its heat longer.

Tapuy (Rice Wine)
Made from fermented rice, this alcoholic drink is often served at many Cordilleran celebrations. I first learned about this wine through my late father, who used to stock this wine when I was younger, but it was my first time to taste Tapuy here in Café Yagam (I am not really wine drinker actually). At first I was a little hesitant, but... I am in Baguio, I am served authentic Cordilleran drink, would I still decline?

The taste? It was a little sour, but it was smooth. It instantly warmed my throat and tummy, but despite the sour flavor, there is something in this wine that would make you want to take another shot.

The traditional Cordilleran dishes are good, but I admit it was an acquired taste. Still, I highly recommend this place if you are in Baguio City. Like they say, "When in Rome, do or eat as they eat," in the same principle, when in Baguio, might as well try their traditional dishes. It's not only a about having a food trip, each dish and drink has history and culture to offer.

Café Yagam
25 J. Felipe Street, corner Gibraltar Road, Baguio City
+63 948 958 5157, +63 921 256 5677, +63 946 455 0364
Business hours: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Monday – Sunday)
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*** Jenn ***

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Jenn, the Foodie

I come from a family who loves cooking and eating. I never had any formal training in cooking and that I taught myself how to cook based on the handed down recipes, but I could say that I can cook good food. In 2008, I started documenting my food trips for my travel blog, and since I have quite enough to start a food blog, might as well put all those food trips in one location. Thus, a food blog is born - thanks to the new Friendster Blogs. However, due to several problems, I was left with no choice but to pack bags again and move here instead. Here's the permanent address, promise! Enough talk, let the food trippin' begin! {Know More About Me}