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Food / Kazakhstan

Countries Without McDonald’s

Countries without McDonald's

McDonald’s is my personal benchmark of a ‘familiar’ place, as opposed to a strange one; it’s hard to imagine a place in the world where something as globalized as McDonald’s still has not penetrated the local economy. It has become a default eating place especially when we are too tired to look for better (cheaper) options. I’ve eaten at McDonald’s Barcelona, Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, (gasp) Versailles, Bratislava…

I once found myself in Kazakhstan– ninth largest country in the world, yet there was not a McDonald’s outlet in sight. There was, however, a McD’s ripoff called McBurger in downtown Almaty– serving pizzas, burgers (they taste like Burger Machine burgers!), kebabs.
Mc Burger

I also discovered that there is a KFC outlet in a mall far from where I lived– and strangely, it was rebranded as Rostik’s (Ростик’с). I realize that this is what they call the KFC stores in some Russian-speaking states (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, etc). Suffice to say, after being deprived of good ol’ fast food for weeks, I was so happy to have found it in a remote strip mall.

Rostik's in Kazakhstan

Food / France

Café du Marché, Paris

In between getting cheap fastfood from (gasp) Chez MacDo, Quick Burger or Monop, we would have proper meals from time to time. It would have been such a pity to spend nine days in Paris eating burgers, fries and supermarket baguettes. Café du Marché proved to be one of the more memorable restaurants with good food and service. The prices aren’t too bad, too.
Cafe Du Marche

If we had the budget, we would have wined and dined at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy, or any Michelin-starred restaurant for that matter, but unless I inherit copious amounts of money or win the lottery, that would have to remain in my food bucket list- which, if I may add, is growing everyday. (PER SE, French Laundry, The Fat Duck, WD-50, Babbo, Momofoku, Ler Bernardin, Daniel, Buddakan, Topolobampo… obviously I watch a lot of Top Chef.)

It was 2pm and after seeing an overwhelming number of Van Goghs, Degases, Renoirs, Gauguins at Musée d’Orsay, we were starving. The le midi menu prices still apply. The food is 0,50€ more expensive at dinner (le soir), even more so on weekends and holidays. (photo by Angela, click to enlarge)

My dish- confit de canard, or duck leg cooked in its own fat, with pommes sautees and salade verte. God knows how much cholesterol and fat is in this thing, but I love a good duck confit and Café du Marché does it well. 10€.
Cafe du Marche's confit du canard
Angela’s steak- entrecote grillee, pommes frites et salade verte. 12€.
Cafe du Marche's entrecote grillee

Dessert! My riz au lait (rice pudding) 5,50€ and Angela’s pommes caramelisees (flambeed / caramelized apples) 5,50€. They say rice pudding is old people food, because it’s soft and mushy, but I love it anyway. I want to try and make this however I don’t think vanilla beans are easy to find around here, but I did see vacuum-packed ones at the gift shop at Sonya’s Garden.
Cafe du Marche's riz au lait
Cafe du Marche pommes caramelisees

Most restaurants in Paris offer free water from carafes.
Cafe du Marche

Café du Marché
38 Rue Cler
75007 Paris, France
Metro: École Militaire

Food / Philippines

Weekend lunch at Sonya’s Garden

I have been hearing about Sonya’s Garden for the longest time and finally I had the chance to visit one Saturday with my family. Sonya’s Garden is a charming place with an organic farm, bed and breakfast, spa, and restaurant somewhere past Tagaytay City.

We ordered the set menu (P610 per person), which was served sit-down style. The best thing about the meal is that you can ask for more servings if you run out. 🙂 The meal also came with bottomless freshly-squeezed dalandan juice.

Salad spread – The greens are lettuce and arugula, with pineapple, carrots, jicama, papaya, mango, jackfruit, eggs, cucumber, and melon, broad beans. Served with Sonya’s dressing.

Sonya's Garden
Sonya's Garden
garden from Sonya's Garden
salad from Sonya's Garden

The salad course was followed by freshly-baked whole wheat bread, with an assortment of toppings— basil pesto, anchovies, tomato & garlic, mushroom pate, olive tapenade.
bread from Sonya's Garden
My favorite spread would be the basil pesto.
basil pesto

The pasta course: spaghetti with two kinds of sauces, sun dried tomato and chicken cream. You may choose to top your pasta with the salmon belly, ratatouille, shitake mushrooms, olives, capers, and parmesan cheese.
pasta course from Sonya's Garden
salmon belly

Also asked for an extra order of the roast chicken (P450), which unfortunately was too dry for my liking.
roast chicken

For dessert: glazed sweet potato, banana rolls with jackfruit (turon), chocolate cake and tarragon tea.
glazed sweet potato
chocolate cake and tarragon tea

The service was brisk and left much to be desired, and this probably is because we visited on a holiday and the place was almost full. Overall, it was a good meal and I would visit again. I’m always looking for places where salads are a big part of the meal and not just treated as an afterthought or an accompanying dish; as the latter is how I usually eat. It was a filling and healthy lunch and Sonya’s Garden seems like the type of place that foreign guests would enjoy. It also was a welcome respite from smoky, polluted Manila.

Sonya's Garden

Sonya’s Garden
Barangay Buck Estate, Alfonso, Cavite, Philippines
+63-9175329097 or +63-9175335140

Food / France

Schwartz’s Deli in Paris

After spending a lot of time taking pictures and battling the crowd at Trocadéro, we decided to grab dinner at Schwartz’s Deli. The place is decorated as a diner with little booths and red gingham table covers. It was close to 10pm yet the place is still packed with teenagers and twenty somethings.

I was feeling adventurous that day and decided to get beef tartare and fries (tartare de boeuf et pommes frites).

I have had beef tartare in the past as an appetizer, and I remember it being very heavily spiced with pepper and herbs and it came as a total surprise in my mouth, in a good way. This was not, in fact I found it a bit bland for my liking. That being said, it pretty much felt like eating a raw burger patty. It wasn’t that bad really, but the country girl in me just was not used to lack of the aggressive flavors to mask the tartare’s texture.

Beef tartare and boat-cut fries

Angela taking pictures of her steak haché– this is how the French call their hamburger.

Schwartz’s Deli (Trocadéro)
7 Avenue d’Eylau 75016
Paris, France

Food / Italy

Risotto Alla Milanese

A few weeks ago, I bought packaged risotto from Mercato Centrale in Florence. I also remember buying the same two years ago from Cuisine de Maison at the Rockwell Christmas Bazaar. I now realize that the entrepreneurs must have gotten the idea from their trips to Italy.

So here is the risotto pack, which cost 10 euros for 3. There are badly translated English instructions and I tried my best to execute what was exactly asked. The grains of risotto Milanese are yellow because of saffron. It usually accompanies another Milanese dish, the osso bucco.

Recipe needs a medium sized white onion, salt and pepper, olive oil, vegetable stock (but I used chicken broth), water, and parmesan cheese. A few years ago I made the mistake of making risotto by using Kraft parmesan cheese from the canister. It made the dish tasteless. So I now learned my lesson and bought real fresh parmigiano.

It turned out looking like this. I’m not sure if it is really the quality of arborio rice, but think the grains are overcooked as they have expanded to such a larger size. I also think I put too much liquid (water and broth). Anyhow, it was still al dente.

I have been trying to learn how to cook since forever, I hope I can come up with a better plate next time. Anyway, I though it still tasted good. 🙂

Food / France

Croque Madame at Café de la Mairie

The Église Saint-Sulpice was our first stop in Paris. It was a Sunday morning, we heard mass and briefly stayed for the organ concerto. It was past noon when we finished, and we were starving. We walked around the Saint-Sulpice area looking for a place to eat, but most restaurants are either closed or above our price range. We finally settled for Café de la Mairie, which is just outside the church.

I like simple things, simple food. In this post I shall rave about a fairly simple sandwich called the croque madame. A croque madame is basically a grilled ham and (gruyere) cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce topped with a glistening fried egg; without the egg it’s called a croque monsieur. It’s a simple meal but it made for a wonderful food memory; the crunch of the toasted gruyere with every bite, the sauce and the yolk running through the sandwich– it was delicious.
Croque Madam
I did a quick google search and found out that the café uses the famous Poilâne bread for this dish, however in mine they used American white bread. I suppose they ran out of country bread. I honestly preferred the softer bread, as I still have scratches on the roof of my mouth from my hard sandwich the night before. I would love to have a croque madame again and I will be in search of a good one in Manila, or perhaps make one myself.

Angela’s chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) and my café crème
chocolate chaud and cafe creme


We shared a salad

Angela’s three-egg omelette
three egg omelette

Café de la Mairie
Place Saint-Sulpice
Paris, France 75006

Food / Philippines

Pampanga Food Coma

My friends and I spent a weekend eating in Pampanga. M has graciously welcomed us in her home and overfed us with takeaway food from the local food stores. The rest of the time we were out visiting restaurants. Thanks to G as well for his wonderful birthday treat at C’ Italian Dining 🙂

It has been said that Pampanga is the culinary capital of the Philippines; of course the rest of the regions would beg to disagree. While I did not have enough time to sample the food extensively specifically the local cuisine, I would have to say that it is definitely home to great food, and it’s exactly why people from the city come on food tours and visit. Here are a few pictures from the trip. Needless to say we came home a few pounds heavier.

Breakfast at VFW Canteen

Bread, balsamic vinegar + olive oil dip (C’ Italian Dining)

Panizza – really a favorite from the trip. I’m not even sure how the panizza came about, it most probably is a twist to the Italian panino and of course, pizza. They serve you thin crust pizza cut intro long strips, and you roll it up with fresh greens. The flavours blend so well together! thin but chewy pizza dough + arugula + alfalfa + sharp parmesan cheese + chicken strips. (P800+)

Arugula and alfalfa for the panizza

Roast Chicken (C’ Italian Dining)

Tiramisu (C’ Italian Dining)

Everybody’s Cafe Sign

Chicharon bulaklak (Everybody’s Cafe)

Tapang Kalabaw (Everybody’s Cafe)

Stuffed frogs (Everybody’s Cafe)

Morcon (Everybody’s Cafe)

Camaru / Crickets! (Everybody’s Cafe)

Sinful chocolate cake (A la Crème)

Shey’s Cake (A la Crème)

VFW Canteen
381 Santol Road (Corner Santol Rd. & Pinatubo St.)
Clarkview Subdivision
Angeles City

C’ Italian Dining
1210 Don Juico Ave. Clarkview, Balibago
Angeles City, Pampanga
(045) 892-4059

A la Crème
Alcon Bldg.
MacArthur Hi-way, Angeles City
Pampanga, Philippines

Czech Republic / Food

Maze by Gordon Ramsay at the Prague Hilton

Note: This post was written ialmost 3 years ago. :)) The restaurant does not exist anymore as Ramsay pulled out from this location. Re-posting for posterity.

A friend had me watch several seasons of Hell’s Kitchen and I got to know Chef Gordon Ramsay because of that. His work and quality standards are incredibly high (at least that’s how he is portrayed in his shows), he can be quite a character with all the insults and the yelling. That being said, it’s not unusual to be curious about how his food is like.

Having grown up predominantly with Filipino / Chinese cooking and American-style fast food, I admit that I am not very familiar with classical French cuisine, just gradually learning things here and there. I followed Top Chef, some Anthony Bourdain (old man crush!), some Andrew Zimmern and I think I became less ignorant because of those shows. I also have been more interested in food and trying new things since I started documenting with my own camera.

The restaurant has opened in November of 2007, it bears no Michelin stars and the food is half the price of original restaurant in London. That being said, it still is by far the most expensive meal I had to pay for.

I had the Classic menu (seven small courses) and Jess had a three-course a la carte.

Service-wise I’d say the staff was more attentive during the beginning of the service. We were lucky to come a bit early, later into the evening the kitchen choked and a lot of guests weren’t receiving their food on time. The table beside us received complimentary wine because they have been waiting for their food for a long time.

Complimentary bread; apparently an homage to a certain type of Czech bread, the rohlík.

White onion velouté with braised rabbit leg and onion brioche. First taste of rabbit.

Marinated beetroot with Sairass cheese, pine nuts and cabernet sauvignon dressing
beetroot with sairass cheese

Roasted quail with peach and saffron chutney, foie gras and Madeira sauce
roasted quail

Roasted Norwegian salmon with braised artichokes and chorizo
Norwegian salmon

Navarin of lamb scented with lavender, glazed baby vegetables and fresh tagliatelle
lamb with tagliatelle

Slow cooked trio of pork with white bean ragoût and whole grain mustard, Jess’s main dish
trio of pork

Buttermilk panna cotta with fresh berries and yogurt sorbet
buttermilk panna cotta

Vanilla rice pudding with raspberry ripple ice cream
vanilla rice pudding

Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with honey milk ice cream
Valrhona chocolate fondant

Petit fours– rosewater-flavored Turkish delights of sorts
Turkish delights

Maze by Gordon Ramsay
Prague Hilton Old Town
V celnici 7
Prague, Czech Republic

Food / Singapore

my little chili crab picture in Afar Magazine

Afar Magazine

I’ll always be thrilled whenever my pictures get published. It doesn’t happen often at all, so it does feel nice even if the photo credit is tiny. 🙂
As promised, Afar.com sent me a free copy of the March-April issue in the mail. I don’t think this magazine reaches Philippine shores, but it’s the kind of material that I find very interesting. The photos and content are right up my alley, in the way that it inspires you to travel, none of that Condé Nast stuff that I would never afford in this lifetime.
So about the chili crab. Angela, D and I had it at Jumbo Seafood Restaurant. I remember not enjoying this dish only because I was hacking the entire day. Every bite made me cough my lungs out, because it was spicy and it irritated my throat. Looking forward to a better chili crab experience if I ever do find myself in Singapore again.

*This is probably the lengthiest post I’ve ever written here. Just in the mood at this hour, I guess.

Food / Thailand

Bangkok Food Porn

My first taste of ‘Thai food’ was a pack of instant Tom Yum soup which had no flavor except for the intense heat. It left me with a scalded tongue. I haven’t given it another chance until I found myself in Bangkok.
Speaking about Thai food in general, the flavor profiles are an interesting harmony of sweet, sour, salty, spicy. The keffir lime and lemongrass makes the dishes refreshing, despite the heat. It really does make the taste buds sing.
I can eat pad thai everyday.