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4 Sep

Carlos Celdran’s enthralling and informative tour once again, an interesting glimpse of the nooks and cranny of Intramuros’ old buildings, fabulous paella and salsa monja, and easy, comfortable company.  Worth braving the rains on a weekend night.

Intramuros internal

Glorious food coupled by wonderful company.

The sun does shine even on a rainy night =)


25 Jul

Remember my post for this year’s Mother’s day entitled The Albert Sisters, wherein Lola Chia, her 4 daughters and 4 grand daughters were featured? See  Since it was Mother’s day, that post’s focus was on the Albert women and not much on the Albert men.

Well today’s post, aptly titled The Albert Son, is solely dedicated to Jose Riva Albert or Nene as he is affectionately called. Tito Nene was the eldest of Jose Mein Albert (Lolo Jose) & Rosalia Riva Albert’s (Lola Chia) brood of 5 children, 4 being women, which made him the only rose among the thorns =).  Lolo Jose passed away too soon, no thanks to the Japanese invasion.  Tito Nene automatically took the responsibility of being padre de familia, stood as the family’s pillar of strength, kept watch over his beloved mother and younger sisters and endured a lot to ensure all was fine.  He was a good and kind man to all and it is certain that everyone he touched has a wonderful story to say about him.

For moi, Tito Nene was a saving grace during my awkward-growing years. He made it a point to make me feel special and beautiful during family reunions even if  the actual truth showed a scrawny-looking little girl who resembled Popeye’s Olive Oyl.  He constantly made me laugh when there was  absolutely nothing to laugh or even smile about. He taught me to find humor in everything, even the silliest.  Unknowingly, he was planting the seed of optimism.  And for that, I shall be forever grateful.

A super vintage photo taken in Bamboo beach. L-R Tito Nene in a cowboy hat, scrawny-looking girl doing a silly thing on Tito Nene & naughtily laughing, Lola Chia, Cito, Tita Marisa, Kathy (+), Tita Cris. Standing: Dad (+), Mom, Jenny, Rose (+)

Tito Nene’s death a year ago was a sad event to many for various and different reasons.  Of course I can only speak for myself hence, my sadness stemmed from regret of not being able to visit when an opportunity struck, not having  the chance to properly say good-bye and more importantly for not telling him how much he really meant.  But like always, every cloud has a silver lining.  This we saw.  And surely, Tito Nene would have wanted that.

During one of the masses in Manila for Tito Nene: Tito Nene's grandchildren. L-R: Renee & Nikki Yam Umali, Bianca Lyttle Reyes, Cassie, Mike, Nico & Max Albert (Tito Nene's grandkids from son, Kit who is based in the US), Paolo & Paco Razon Rabat

Fast forward to today.  Tito Nene’s wife, Marisa de Leon-Albert and 2 of his 4 children, famed designer Pepito Albert and carinoso Cito Albert invited a few family members to commemorate Tito Nene’s first death anniversary with a mass at Sanctuario de San Antonio’s crypt followed by a catered dinner at Premium Wine Exchange.

Before the mass. Tito Nene's wife Marisa de Leon-Albert with his 4 sisters: Cris Albert-Lyttle, Charito Albert-Razon, Rose Albert-Florentino, Lally Albert-Yam

Tita Marisa with her brother and sister-in-law

Cousins Linda Lyttle-Reyes and Cito Albert

Marisa de Leon-Albert, Josie Yniguez-Albert (wife of Tito Nene's son, Ramon Albert who is in Canada), Charito Albert-Razon

Venue for the intimate family dinner commemorating Tito Nene's first death anniversary.

The dinner table

Place setting of understated elegance up close.  Very Gaita.

Pass-around hors d’oeuvres

Chicharon (fried pork rind & fat)

Cream cheese filled barquillos (wafer) topped with prosciutto

Squash flowers, mushroom & apple fritters

The evening's wines that flowed endlessly: Follador Prosecco di Valdobbladene, Flowers Perennial red wine from Sonoma Coast, Livio Fellergra Pinot Grigio 2009

A salad with no-pretense yet still visually arresting. Perfect to begin the food journey or to cleanse palate.

Mushroom cannelloni with just the right amount of cream in it.

A well-prepared paella

Sigarilyas. Distinctly flavorful & über crunchy. A simple & successful merger of taste & texture.

Salt crusted salmon. Succulent & moist. Can be had on its own with no accompaniments.

The pièce de résistance. Lechon de leche. Notice how effortless & yet striking the presentation is. Just a few sprigs of fresh rosemary on the side gives all the drama of rusticity.

This is no ordinary lechon as it is stuffed with loads of tanglad (lemon grass) and.....

...two bottles of cerveza negra (strong, dark beer) with caps pierced. This preparation has really piqued my interest. Again, a plain, straightforward yet ingenious idea that gives so much depth & pertinence, this time to roasting. Definitely my kind of mind-set. Believe me when I tell you that even before carving, the aroma of tanglad mixed with cerveza negra permeated the nearby surroundings. Jo Malone must concoct a scent out of this =)

A welcome twist to complement lechon...sweet sauce made with santol & calamansi rind. Taste & consistency resembles chutney.

Two types of sauces: au jus and traditional liver based.

Our gracious & generous hosts for the evening

Cito, Pepito and Marisa Albert

Pepito entertains left


and center

Tita Marisa with her eldest sister

Cito full of love hugging his mom

and uncle.

de Leon contingent

and more.

Albert contingent

and more.

Albert & de Leons together

Gaita Fores' very efficient staff responsible in helping make the evening a wonderful & memorable experience for all.

Tito Nene must be smiling from up there, very pleased to see his family together.  And yes, definitely guffaw-ing at all the silly things we were doing  =)  We miss you ♥


20 Jun

This is such a long over-due post. The evening’s get-together happened many moons ago, long before everyone went on their merry way to their chosen vacation destination. 

Rachelle was kind enough to host a pot-luck tapas night initially to make-up for not joining us in Bale Dutung.  It was also a fitting event to wish Kat, who was due to give birth, a safe and easy delivery.  Well, Kat has given birth to a lovely bundle of joy a couple of months back.  The rest have returned from their summer hiatus.  Our country has had 3 typhoons so far.  Classes have already started.  And this post is…did I say…long over-due?

Better late than never, kapish?! =)

A well put together console table at Rachelle's home. One of several around. An indication of a well-arranged & planned evening despite the rush.

Rachelle’s signature dish: Crispy wontons with a creamy fish sashimi dip. I forget if it was tuna or salmon she used but I was hooked like a fish =)  Creamy & crispy textures in place,  a good balance & blend of spice & other asian flavors with an attractive presentation to boot.  

Gambas ala hostess. This dish was gone in minutes =)

A quintessential hostess will always have manchego cheese.....


...and vino galore on a tapas night! Rizza brought her poison of choice, Skky vodka with orange juice =)

Rica brought a very refreshing mediterranean style salad consisting of 3 kinds of sliced seedless grapes, cherry tomatoes, chunks of Laguna white cheese, tossed in a light yet flavorful dressing that had white wine vinegar & Dijon mustard. Look at the wonderful colors. Pleasing for both palate & eyes.

TBW brought 3 kinds of finger rolls or lumpia sticks. If memory serves correctly, this is cheese with pimiento slices with a spicy thousand island dip.

Beef taco & cilantro accompanied by salsa.

Bangus sisig with garlic mayo

The boys saw their Tita taking photos (as usual) and offered to fix, style and “pose” what they were drinking.

Lemonade galore for them...

The boys "styled" these lemonade packets. Arranged in pairs, according to flavor. How cute is that!

The drink of choice....

....for a hearty toast to Lorenzo, Cobo and Mat for a job well done! Cheers!

And of Rachelle for being a wonderful & gracious hostess! Muchisimas gracias! Salud!


21 Mar

This is Part 1

Part 2

Hola!  The delightful experience continues…..

An Asian influenced Tapas was next.  TBW could eat this with rice!


Make sure salmon is fresh.  It has to bright in color, not pale and anemic looking.  Flesh should be firm, not sagging.  Like it goes to the gym regularly =))

Salmon in full color

Procedures:  Pour sesame oil in pan.  Sautee garlic, onions and red/green bell pepper.  Grate ginger into pan.  By this time, a marvelous aroma fills the room. Stay focused and continue cooking =) Put in the salmon.  Sear.  Add sliced fresh button mushrooms.  Kikkoman and chili flakes (the Japanese brand Tongarachi is preferred) are next.  Then pour a bit of white wine (of course from the bottle you already opened for yourself  to drink=)).  Add sugar (better brown), sprinkle pepper.  Cook until salmon is half cooked.  Pour sesame oil to finish.

Thanks to food stylist Rizza for this shot =)

This tapas is soooo good and if arranged all together in a serving platter, can be served as a main course.  For wine pairing, Chef Marco set us free by choosing either the Grand Bridge Muscato or the Cape Jaffa Chardonnay.  Some chose both =)

Tips:  1.)  You may substitute salmon with shrimp, tuna or any protein, even tofu.  2.)  Do not over cook fish.

The last but definitely not the least of the 4 tapas is the Spicy trout and cheese cigars. This is definitely a fitting finale for the workshop as the end product created an explosion of flavors in the mouth.  Always end with a bang to create impact, right?

Chef Marco Legasto was very consistent in his wondrous ways that he prepared a cheese spread with fine ingredients to go with the “cigars”.

In a food processor, he put several types of  “immortal” cheeses like  goat, cheese with truffles, bleue, goat curd, Brebirousse d’ Argental (one of my faves) and more.  All purpose cream was added to soften the mix.  Juice of 1 1/2 lemon and chili flakes were added next.  And then….tada….truffle oil once again!  Blend well.

Tips:  1.) For a simpler and practical version, TBW and Rizza think that using “mortal” cream cheeses like Philadelphia or Magnolia  are good enough =)  2.) Or use any leftover soft cheese you have in the ref.

On to the cigar…..

Spread cheese on one sheet of lumpia wrapper. Better to use the square shape. You'll find out why in a bit =)

Layer smoked trout on top of the cheese spread. You can use smoked salmon, tinapa or any smoked fish.

Add a sheet of nori wrapper. Nori wrapper is usually square in shape. That's why it's better to use square lumpia wrapper. Place 2 or 3 sprigs of Arugula and cilantro on one side of the wrapper.

Roll like a cigar. Seal edges with a little egg and flour.

Fry “cigar” for 10 seconds or just enough for wrapper to crisp.  Avoid frying too long as inside ingredients may be compromised.

The ideal fry look. Best to lay on paper towel for oil to be absorbed.

Cut like sushi. About 1 inch thick.

Experience the 4th of July with the burst of different flavors in your mouth.  Really!  Wait for the layers of distinctive tastes to come out and savor each delectable goodness. Plus the crunchiness of the greens, nori and lumpia wrapper adds the element of texture to every bite.  Perfect combination!

Spicy trout & cheese cigars. A very colorful & delicious tapas

Tips:  1.) To balance out the saltiness of the smoked trout and cheese spread, perhaps a nice balsamic vinaigrette dip can accompany this tapas.  2.)  Make sure “cigars” are fried minutes before they’re to be eaten otherwise, they may turn soggy and the crunchiness appeal is lost.

Chef Marco Legasto

Muchisimas gracias, Chef Marco!  We immensely enjoyed that afternoon.  We are now  tapas friendly and tapas wiser that a “tapas party” is in the offing =)  Here is looking forward to the next gourmet workshop….with or without the truffle oil….right BBF’s? (as in Basketball Fans =))


TBW borrows this quote from “neighbor”  My Grandparents’ Kitchen to end this 2 part entry:

“Good oil, like good wine, is a gift from the gods. The grape and the olive are among the priceless benefactions of the soil, and were destined, each in its way, to promote the welfare of man.”

–George Ellwanger




18 Mar


Wine Depot Alabang conducts gourmet workshops monthly.  Lucky participants get to learn new and easy recipes that could be replicated at home without much fuss.  Feature for the month of March: tapas or appetizers or pica pica.

Tapas (singular or plural) was derived from the Spanish noun tapa (cover or lid)  and verb tapar (to cover).  There are many versions of how and why the word has come to denote a type of food in Spain.  The most common story is that in the past, drinkers in tavernas would use a piece of bread or meat to cover their drink glasses as protection from fruit flies. The bread or meat eventually became the snack to go with the drink.

Most, if not all of Spain’s bars and restaurants have a variety of tapas in their menus.   In certain parts of the country, they are called pinchos.  Tapas was originally more of an appetizer and has evolved from the uncomplicated anchovy stuffed olives to elaborately prepared ones that could pass off as a main meal.  Nowadays, we can find tapas all over the world. In Manila, this type of food is fast gaining popularity and it is no wonder that Wine Depot decided to make this their feature for March.

At the  gourmet workshop, premium ingredients and top of the line equipment are used.

The much publicized Green Pan seen in Asian Food Channel

Only the finest ingredients used....pata negra, EVO, truffle oil, etc.

Booklets containing the different tapas to be demonstrated, their corresponding recipes, and space for jotting down notes are given to all attendees.

Chef Marco Legasto, the Executive Chef of Wine Depot was our tapas guru for the day.  He was a very gracious, generous and inspiring host.

Chef Marco Legasto

For the first demo, it was an easy breezy tapas that anyone can prepare. This must be the simplest tapas ever:  Sliced honey dew melon (better to use the orange Spanish melon) wrapped with a slice of  jamon (the best is the Pata negra variety).  Dollop with honey on top to achieve the sweet-salty taste. As an added treat, Chef Marco drizzled a substantial amount of truffle oil.  This started the truffle oil shower that afternoon and no one complained at all =)

Honey dew melon wrapped with Jamon Iberico or Pata Negra (the rolls royce of cured jamon)

Truffle Oil

Did I mention that aside form the cooking demonstration, the organizers thought of pairing each dish with an appropriate wine coming from Wine Depot’s vast inventory?  We were thrilled with the food and wine pairing =) For the honey dew melon with jamon, a light Chardonnay was served to everyone’s delight.

Cape Jaffa unwooded Chardonnay---meaning it was stored in barrels not made of wood.

Chef Marco in action preparing the first of four "official" tapas...

Better to use grass fed beef. Striploin, local tenderloin or wagyu topside are suggested meat cuts.

Procedures:  Rub garlic on meat and leave overnight if possible.  Right before cooking, put salt and using high heat, sear meat in coated pan with a thin layer of olive oil spray.  Remove meat from pan.  In the same pan, on medium to low heat, add garlic, onions and sliced green & red bell pepper.  Add Spanish paprika, a dash of red wine (from the bottle you opened to drink while cooking) and soy sauce. Stir.  Add back meat and mix.  Add chili flakes for a kick.  As a finishing touch add about 2 tablespoons butter.  Sprinkle pepper.  Sarapique =)

Tips:  1.)  Never marinate beef with salt as this dries up the meat.  2.)  Use the pan used for searing meat as there is so much flavor on it. You can saute on it or just deglaze it with wine or stock.  3.) Green & red bell pepper may be omitted for a more traditional salpicao.

This beef salpicao was paired with Tatachilla Merlot from Australia.

Next on the agenda….Covap croquettas (Covap is the brand name of the cured meats used in this recipe).

Procedures:  Sweat diced bacon, chorizo, salsichon, jamon iberico.  Sprinkle with paprika for that Spanish taste.  You can add some blue cheese and grated cheddar cheese for more flavor. If you wish to add cheese, turn off heat.

Then, combine mashed potatoes with all the ingredients in the pan. Make sure mashed potatoes are plain…meaning no salt or seasoning, no butter/cream/milk. After a thorough mix, form the meat infused mashed potatoes into your desired croquetta shape.  Ideal shape of course is the elongated one.  Roll the croquetta in flour, egg, breadcrumbs (in that order please). Fine bread crumbs will do.  Deep fry.

Ideal croquettas form

"Croquettas look" after frying

A cheese sauce was made as accompaniment. Recipe was not in the booklet but because Chef Marco was so generous with his knowledge and ingredients, sauce was made on the spot.  He sauteed garlic & onions in butter.  Salt and milk were added.  Then these sinfully delicious stuff followed:  grated aged cheddar cheese, goat cheese, goat curd (divine!).  Stir constantly on low fire.  And then it’s shower time!!!  Truffle oil poured….like rain =)

Extremely pleasurable cheese sauce! TBW wanted to lick the spoon and pan after =)

Finished product

Tips:  1.)  For the cheese sauce, use whatever cheese you have, especially the over staying ones in the ref.  2.)  A  well prepared sofrito can be used as sauce.  In fact, any sauce sourced from ceativity & imagination will do. =) 3.)  You can add ground beef, diced chicken, flaked salmon or any leftovers as filling.  This is actually a great solution for leftover meat, seafood and mashed potatoes of the previous night’s roast.  3.)  A huge batch of croquettas can be made to maximize time & effort. Store formed ones complete with batter in freezer.  Anytime you need a ‘croq” fix, pop a few in the fryer.

The croquettas seemed quite simple to prepare yet the taste was nothing like it. The experience got even better as this tapas was paired with a Muscato frizzante, a light and fruity sparkling wine.  A match made in heaven!


Grand Birdge Muscato Frizzante


Simple things can be used to create spectacular things.  Higher levels can even be achieved if paired well.  Hmmm….Food imitates life. Or life imitates food =)

Stay tuned for Part 2!


17 Mar

La Cocina de Tita Moning is  located in the elegant Legarda ancestral home in the San Miguel District of Old Manila, Philippines.  Diners who make reservations get the chance to step back in time and experience life in Manila as it was at the turn of the century.  It is like a personal and historical look at Manila’s more elegant past.

Don’t let this simple exterior fool you.  You will find nothing of that inside.  Never judge a book by its cover is very true here.

But before we enter the ancestral home, let us take notice of the progressive vegetable and herb garden at the front.  A variety of greens, basil, mint and other herbs are grown here and used for cooking.

Some herbs have been potted and displayed by the side of the drive way.

Gracious and well trained staff greet guests with glasses of refreshing lemongrass iced tea and bread slices with queso de bola spread.

Lemongrass iced tea

Once indoors, a brief walk through of the house’s history is given.

Elegant table settings are prepared for diners with prior reservations and are meticulously strewn around the house.

One of the several menus of  family heirloom Filipino-Spanish recipes

Salsa monja or aceitunas allenadas. Nuns used to make these for Spanish friars to accompany their meals as it makes food more delicious. My friend Blondie still makes the best =)

Kangkong salad from the garden with grilled peppers, caramelized walnuts & homemade walnut vinaigrette

A well prepared Paella Valenciana

Slowly roasted pork with chicharon & candied sweet camote. Love the crackling.

The play of tastes & textures is exquisite.

Caramelized saba bananas with vermouth. Sarapique =)

TDF dessert....Tita Moning's bread & butter pudding. Heavenly!

Coffee, tarragon tea from the garden or hot chocolate to cap the meal.

Hot chocolate with marshmallows and a cinnamon stick for flavor & stirring

A small delicatessen is found on the ground floor where you can purchase various bottled goodies using heirloom recipes such as:

tomato sauce, vinaigrette dressing

Bagoong & Salsa Monja

Queso de bola spread & Arugula pesto

Arugula pesto....a must buy

Another proof on how true that saying is….Never judge….


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