In Which the Pork Chops were Perfect (Well, Almost)…

These porkies were almost perfect
These porkies were almost perfect

Pork has always been one of my favorite meats and a proper pork chop – especially one on the bone – is always well appreciated.

Case in point, these Pacific Grilled Pork Chops from TGI Friday’s.  The two-chop order is a magnificent platter featuring two toothsomely thick pork chops marinated in a mix of salt, pepper, and pineapple juice before grilling.

These pork chops are deliciously succulent and tender.  While the porky flavor of some restaurant chops gets drowned out by the taste of the marinade, the sweet-savory natural flavor of the pork is simply enhanced by plain and proper seasoning along with the sweetness of the ripe pineapple it’s topped with.

The garlicky rice pilaf and corn that come along for the ride are both passable and palatable, but honestly: these chops can hold out their own and demand all your attention.

In Which There is an Alternative to Apple Juice…

Pear Juice
Pear Juice

I was never that big a fan of apple juice.  Even as a kid, I didn’t like the stuff that came in tetra packs; they were far too sweet and tasted nothing like real apples.  When I grew older, I developed a taste for apple cider but never thought much of the unfermented stuff.  (And please: don’t get me started on apple-flavored soda!)

Recently, I encountered bottles of Taiwanese pear juice at my local 7-11.  For an apple-juice-hating person like me, this was more than a little palatable.  Faintly sweet, slightly tart, it actually tasted like something pressed out of fresh, ripe nashi pears.  Not bad; not bad at all…

Incidentally, while this is quite refreshing when served chilled, I recommend this as a mixer for either gin or vodka cocktails.  Poire martinis, anyone?  😉

In Which One Turns a Favorite Coffee Bev into a Cookie…

Are they making you dizzy now?
Are they making you dizzy now?

After the rather successful run of my pandan and almond pinwheels, I decided to do something more conventional but still with a bit of a twist.

These may look like garden-variety chocolate pinwheels, but these have a more grown-up vibe to them.  Why?  These are actually almond mochaccino pinwheels!

I usually order a mocha whenever I grab anything from a coffee bar and I usually amp it up with a shot of almond syrup.  It puts the palate-pleasing bitterness of the chocolate and coffee up front and center as the almond enhances the nutty character of both.  A dash of cinnamon on top brings out the very best in the combined aromas.  That said, the notion of using this particular flavor for pinwheel cookies makes perfect sense.

These cookies make lovely presents and are just the sort of thing you want to eat with, of course, a hot mug of milky coffee on a rainy day.

Almond Cappucino Pinwheels

For the cinnamon-almond layer:

  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams granulated white sugar
  • 100 grams soft margarine
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the mocha layer:

  • 1 packet instant 3-in-1 coffee mix + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder + enough all-purpose flour to make 250 grams total weight
  • 100 grams granulated white sugar
  • 100 grams soft margarine
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line two lipped cookie sheets with waxed paper or baking parchment.  Set aside.

Prepare the almond layer first.  Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; then mix in the egg, baking powder, cinnamon, and flavoring till well combined.  Add the flour and mix until a soft, cohesive dough forms.  Press into an even-surfaced rectangle on one of the cookie sheets.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.  Repeat the procedure for the mocha layer; note that this makes a slightly stickier dough than the cinnamon-almond layer, so be sure to dust your hands well with flour when handling it.

Remove the cookie sheets from the fridge.  Press the mocha layer carefully onto the almond layer; remove the waxed paper sticking to the mocha layer.  Working from the long edge, carefully roll the layered dough into a log.  Cut in half; wrap both halves in waxed paper.  Freeze until ready to use.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4.  Grease a pair of cookie sheets;  set aside.  Unwrap the dough logs and cut into slices about a quarter of an inch thick.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove immediately from the oven and allow to cool for about 20 seconds before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 48 cookies.

In Which a Sloppy Sandwich is the Happiest Thing in the World (at the Moment)…

Sometimes, the sloppiest thing is exactly what you need...
Sometimes, the sloppiest thing is exactly what you need…

I know people who divide dishes into “girl food” and “guy food”.  To them, women should eat delicate, dainty, frilly foods: afternoon tea served in the English fashion, French macarons, pert little salads, and tiny sandwiches with the crusts neatly trimmed off.  Men, on the other hand, eat massive steaks, Mexican food, Sloppy Joes, and humongous pizzas.

I don’t agree with that sort of sexist thinking.  I’m a girl, and it’s rarely that I’m ever able to indulge in afternoon tea and I find crustless sandwiches boring, even insipid.  And I’m the sort of girl who has days when only the sloppiest, messiest, meat-laden sandwiches will do.

Case in point: the new chili cheese melt dog over at the restyled Wendy’s.

This sarnie is plenty sloppy: a New York-style beef frank in a plain bun sloshed with a generous amount of Wendy’s satisfying beef chili (sans the beans usually found in its usual incarnation, chili rice) and a splash of melted American cheese.  It’s the sort of thing that demands to be eaten with one’s bare hands, a mound of thickly-cut fries (with the spud-skins still on, please), and a tumbler of cold, sweet tea.

It’s anything but fine dining, but it’s more than passable, richly flavored, and just the thing to put a smile on one’s face following a rather harrowing day in the office and serious traffic to-and-from work.

Oh, and yes: eating such a messy behemoth does not make me any less a woman.  😉

In Which One’s Dessert and Coffee Both Come in Jars…

Time for a rather indulgent dessert for one weary girl!
Time for a rather indulgent dessert for one weary girl!

I’ve always been a fan of verrines – those little desserts served in small, clear glasses, usually made with plenty of sweet cream, custard, and fruit.  I find them more elegant than most plated desserts; little pots of sweetness filled with two or more spoonfuls of bliss.  So, you could just imagine how thrilled I was when I saw that Vanilla Cupcake Bakery offered a selection of classic desserts served in clear glass jars along with their rather overwhelming selection of cupcakes.

When the bakery first opened on the second floor of Makati’s Glorietta, there was quite a bit of bad press about it.  Some said the staff were none too efficient, others related appalling tales of cupcake trays lined with greasy paper and a slow turnover and replacement of offerings.  It was a horror story for foodies, really, but time has proven most haters wrong and the bakery continues to flourish as it now has three locations: two in Makati and one in Alabang.  And I was finally glad to come on in and try its treats.

Vanilla’s interiors are a bit of a throwback to the 1950s or a Cath Kidston catalogue: chintz upholstery, pretty and feminine pastels, ruffled lampshades, and rose-patterned wallpaper.  The mismatched chairs and glass-topped tables make diners think they’ve stepped into the breakfast room of an eccentric albeit elegant old aunt who is both adorable and generous, her spaces cozy and comfortable.

Cupcakes...  Cupcakes everywhere...
Cupcakes… Cupcakes everywhere…

Quite obviously, cupcakes are the bakery’s primary stock in trade, featuring such flavors as blueberry lemon, dulce de leche, Valrhona mint chip, sticky toffee (I’ve yet to see, however, if it also has dates), and brownie cheesecake along with such modern classics as red velvet, salted caramel, and hummingbird.

But, really: it’s the verrines I’m after.  Previously, these were served in teacups (hence referred to as “cup-cakes” in earlier menus); but these now come in round-bottomed glass jars.  The bakery currently offers four variants on its menu: mango panna cotta, strawberry panna cotta, tiramisu, and banoffee pie.

Banoffee Pie - in a jar
Banoffee Pie – in a jar

Vanilla’s version of this indulgent dessert features ripe bananas layered with dulce de leche, crushed Graham crackers, lightly sweetened whipped cream, and a dash of ground cinnamon: sort of like an abbreviated pie.

You really have to dig deep with a spoon to get all the layers in a single mouthful.  It is not, thank goodness, temple-achingly sweet; it is more subtle and the flavor of the banana really shines through, tempered somewhat by the buttery crumbs and silky dulce de leche.  The cream is gentle on one’s palate and the cinnamon makes all the flavors pop up.  It is, to be perfectly honest, my favorite take on banoffee pie – not too rich, not too sweet; the perfect indulgence for one.

Why would such an adorable-looking drink have such a ridiculous name?!
Why would such an adorable-looking drink have such a ridiculous name?!

Since I was indulging myself after two rather insane weeks where my life seemed utterly shot to hell, I thought it appropriate to order an iced coffee – but not just any iced coffee, mind you.

This is Vanilla’s Dirty Mocha, a spot-on, madcap, utterly decadent beverage featuring espresso, chocolate milk, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and whipped cream garnished with more shaved chocolate.  It is, in my opinion, a balance of sweet and bitter flavors, served refreshingly cold but without too much ice.  A magnificent way to end the week, really.

Fall in line for the cupcakes...
Fall in line for the cupcakes…

Next time, I’m grabbing a cupcake – or two…