In Which an Ice Cream Sandwich is a Sweet, Simple Pleasure…

DQ's Dilly Sandwich
DQ’s Dilly Sandwich

With the weather becoming increasingly hot these days, ice cream is getting to be the snack of choice during sultry, scorching summer afternoons.  Proof of this can be seen in the number of people scrambling down to Mini Stop in the middle of the day to grab cheesecake soft-serve cones which have returned for the summer.  Others opt for a more bespoke fix and head over to Bono Artisanal Gelato or Cara Mia for rich, creamy, refreshing Italian ices and sorbets.

In the middle ground, though, there’s the DQ Sandwich from Dairy Queen.

It’s pretty much everything an ice cream sandwich ought to be: a thick slab of vanilla ice cream (actually a massive splodge of DQ’s classic vanilla soft-serve) sandwiched between two dark chocolate cookies.  Think of it as an Eskimo’s Oreo as it echoes that particular play on the dark chocolate and vanilla theme.

Now, I should be honest at this point and say that this is not in the same bracket as the nigh-on-baroque ice cream sandwiches from Sebastian’s which are ice cream and cookie behemoths whose sides are rolled in nuts, cocoa, or what have you.  The DQ Sandwich is a more modest treat: roughly the size of my palm, the ice cream within about an inch or so thick, the cookies mass-produced and tasting more of cocoa than real chocolate.

But it’s a satisfying treat, one that serves to sate a craving for something sweet together with the need for something cold to ease the burn of a sunny day.  It would be so easy to gobble up scads and scads of these, but one – just one – is enough to sweeten the day.

Oh, Constable…!

Incidentally… If you’re in the US, the season finale of Hallmark Channel‘s hit series When Calls the Heartairs on Saturday night.  The series which stars Aussie heartthrob Daniel Lissing (Crownies, Last Resort) as the village constable revolves around schoolteacher Elizabeth Thatcher who ends up in a small mining village called Coal Valley.  Now, will Constable Jack Thornton finally get to kiss the girl…?

In Which There is a Tub of Sweet, Cold Taho for One…

This is how I like my taho: chilled, more bean curd, less syrup, no tapioca!
This is how I like my taho: chilled, more bean curd, less syrup, no tapioca!

Taho (tau fu far) has long been a morning staple for many Filipinos, particularly for those of us who grew up in the suburbs.  Most people in these parts have fond memories of the magtataho (bean curd hawker) who would walk down village streets before ten in the morning with his massive stainless steel cylinders filled with silken bean curd, brown sugar syrup, and tapioca pearls (sago) carefully and ponderously balanced on the yoke he shouldered.  Five pesos would get you a small glass (about a juice glass’s worth) of sweet, warm bean curd topped with syrup, a few bits of pearly tapioca scattered on top; ten would get you a breakfast bowl of the stuff.

Nowadays, I rarely eat the stuff; most mornings, I’m already at the office when the magtataho makes his rounds.  Plus, I don’t care much for the taho peddled on the grimy sidewalks of Makati; with all the pollution in the metro, I don’t want to take any chances!  Once in a blue moon, though, whenever a craving hits, I’m off to Taho Boy at Cash and Carry to grab a tub of the stuff.

Unlike standard-issue taho which is invariably served warm, Taho Boy’s bean curd is served cold but has none of the off-putting graininess common to most versions of chilled silken bean curd available in many supermarkets.  It is properly silky with a nice, mildly nutty flavor to it.  It’s nice when doused with standard-issue brown sugar syrup, but I’d rather go for the one with the dark almond-flavored syrup; it totally amps up the flavor of the bean curd.  It’s a snack I can definitely polish off solo.

Yes, it is a bit pricier than the one sold by your regular magtataho, but it is nevertheless clean, delicious, and wholesome.  And it’s a price worth paying for a taste of one’s childhood.

In Which One Has a Healthy Lunch in New Environs…

A healthy little meal...
A healthy little meal…

Posts on this blog have, admittedly, been scarce since I started my new job a short while ago.  Deadlines needed to be met, adjustments needed to be made; I attended the company orientation and pretty much lost a whole stone in the process of hunting down and submitting requirements.

Now all of that can make a girl hungry and it is fortunate that there’s a nifty little food court down on the second floor where I can get some more-than-decent nosh.  Laza, the newest food court developed by the Raintree Group (the same folks who developed the food courts over at The Enterprise and the PBCOM Building, both along Ayala Avenue), has a nice enough roster of stalls from which one can grab a bite.

Altamura, a dinky little stall, specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine and offers a reasonably priced set-lunch (rice, soup, one viand, and one’s choice of vegetables) for only P 80.00.  I was really hankering for the pad Thai I saw on the menu board, but I only have an hour for lunch, so I needed to grab something that could be served out of the steamer vats ASAP.

Fortunately, the fish tempura with garlic-buttered vegetables was a good choice.  The tempura is made with cream dory and, while the crust lacks crispness, the fish within tastes fresh and goes well with the gingery dip that comes with it.  The vegetables are a simple mix of crisp broccoli, tender cauliflower, and just-this-side-of-soft carrots tossed in garlic butter; really flavorful and quite satisfying for all its simplicity.

Nice views of the street below
Nice views of the street below

And may I just say that the view below is much prettier than what I used to see at lunchtime when I was just across the street…

In Which Eggplants are Turned Into a Side Salad…

A refreshing savory side salad for a warm evening
A refreshing savory side salad for a warm evening

Eggplants – aubergines in other parts of the world – lend themselves beautifully for a number of savory presentations.  In the Middle East, there is the baba ganoush, a rich and smoky dip made with roasted and pureed eggplants enriched with olive oil and given some zing with ground sumac.  Eggplants are one of the key vegetables in such classic vegetable casseroles as ratatouille and the Italian melanzane Parmigiana.

In the Philippines, it is used with ground meat and eggs to make savory frittatas (tortang talong), added to the bagoong-seasoned pinakbet of the northern provinces, or simply boiled, mashed, and scrambled with eggs to make the whimsically-named poqui-poqui – an Ilocano side dish traditionally served with the cholesterol-laden bit of porky madness known as bagnet.

In the summer, eggplants are used to make, ensaladang talong, a delicious side dish that goes beautifully with the grilled meats and seafood that have become typical fare for the season.  This little side salad is traditionally made with boiled eggplants and red onions, but mine has a bit of a fresher twist to it, seeing how I’ve grilled the eggplants and swapped the red onion for fresh leeks.  I recommend using the skinnier Asian eggplants for this, though.  They’re certainly less bitter than the fatter, rounder European kind.

Ensaladang Talong

  • 2 Asian eggplants, peeled and slitted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon rock salt or sea salt
  • 1 leek, trimmed and coarsely diced
  • 1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (I normally use coconut vinegar [sukang puti], but sinamak [chili and garlic-infused vinegar] adds loads of flavor)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a grill pan over medium heat.  Rub the eggplants all over with the oil and rock salt.  Grill until charred on all sides.  Allow to cool for a few minutes and chop coarsely.  Toss with the leek and tomato in a serving dish.  Dress with the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 6 as a side.

Now, THIS is what I call a weekend dinner!
Now, THIS is what I call a weekend dinner!

Incidentally…  Aside from being a nice addition to a meal featuring barbecued meats and roasts, this salad is also an excellent partner for richly-flavored Southeast Asian braises such as Filipino pork adobo. 😉

In Which There is a Decadent Cup of Coffee for a Grateful Blogger…

Sometimes, all you need is decadence - DIVINE decadence...
Sometimes, all you need is decadence – DIVINE decadence…

It has been a busy couple of weeks for me, hence the complete and utter lack of new posts for the blog.  Two weeks ago, I chanced upon an opening on my regular online job hunting platform.  I wasn’t expecting a call, of course; I’d done three interviews – no dice; while I got far enough in the application line, no offers were tendered.  But a call came; even then, I wasn’t very optimistic.  In fact, it got to the point that I began to wonder if anyone wanted to hire me – that is how bad things got.  I really felt that I would never work again and I was beginning to feel like a burden to my family and friends – and bother the fact that I left my last job because I’d burned down to a virtually unrecognizable cinder.

But the call came.  Interviews were done; an exam was given, taken, and – to my shock – aced.  For that, I thank God; I thank the people who never gave up on me.  Thanks to them, I managed to scrape through to an opportunity to make a fresh start.

It would be easy to celebrate with a fabulous meal – if I were actually rolling in the dough, of course.  But, since several freelance projects done during my three-month hiatus remain unpaid to this day, all I could afford was a cup of coffee – but, oh!  Such coffee!

I was curious to try Tully’s, a Seattle-based coffee bar that recently opened a franchise in the Philippines.  The offerings are all standard-issue coffee bar treats: espresso-based drinks, ice-blended coffees, smoothies, chai and matcha bevvies.  But what got me excited was the drink at the top of this post: Tully’s intense dark mocha.

The average cafe mocha – known as a bicerin in Turin, Italy where it was first drunk – is, essentially, a latte mixed with a dark chocolate sauce or syrup.  Other variations involve mixing the drink as half-milky coffee and half-hot chocolate.  Either way, I refer to it as sheer, drinkable bliss.

But the intense dark mocha is different.  According to the counter-staff you cannot order it cold.  You are not supposed to drink it cold.  This drink is apparently made by pouring a hot, just brewed shot of espresso over a mound of crushed dark chocolate.  A splash of steamed milk and chocolate syrup finish the drink.  The heat of the coffee melts the chocolate in the process, making the texture smooth and satiny; much like a ganache.  This also amps up the flavors of both the coffee and the chocolate: a rich, bittersweet taste that coats the tongue.  You really have to drink it up as soon as humanly possible, though; the chocolate seizes up and solidifies once the mocha cools completely – of course, for a hard-core chocoholic, that’s never a bad thing.

And so, I raise my cup to everyone who kept the faith.  Here’s to you; here’s to me; here’s to all of us.  Here’s a toast for better things to come.  😀