In Which There is Breakfast for Dessert

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Matcha Souffle Pancake

Under ordinary circumstances, pancakes and waffles are dishes usually considered breakfast or brunch.  However, a little creativity and a touch of divine decadence can take these mundane munchies to another level as seriously scrumptious desserts.

Take, for instance, the matcha souffle pancake (PhP 180.00) from a new discovery: Le Petit Souffle over at Makati’s Century City Mall.  At first glance, compared to the other green tea confections available on LPS’s menu, it looks rather plain: a thick, stodgy cake under a light snowdrift of confectioner’s sugar.  But when you take a bite…!

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Splodge on some creme Anglaise et laissez les bon temps rouler!

You sink your teeth into a delightfully fluffy bit of cake: somewhere between a very thick breakfast buttermilk flapjack and a light and airy chiffon.  Here, the matcha has a very pronounced flavor: somewhat floral though without the grassiness that seems to characterize the taste of more common matcha-infused sweets.  There is no bitterness, though the herbaceous character of the matcha used (I’m half-tempted to describe it as la fleur de matcha because it is so headily fragrant) adds a very mild astringent hit.

This will arrive at your table with pots of vanilla bean creme Anglaise and maple syrup.  Tip: skip the maple syrup as it adds nothing to this pancake’s charms.  Instead, generously splodge on the rich, luxurious-textured vanilla cream on every bite: the lushness works gorgeously with the pillowy texture of the cake.

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After these, you probably won’t want to eat waffles any other way

Now, as for the waffles, southerners should make a beeline for Milkbox at the Alabang Town Center and grab the dark chocolate waffle sundae (PhP 290.00 for a two-scoop serve).

Here, two dark chocolate waffles fresh off the iron are drizzled over with chocolate and strawberry syrups, dusted with confectioner’s sugar, scattered over with bits of brown sugar brittle and edible flowers, then topped with two scoops of the ice cream of your choice and a pair of toasted marshmallows.

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No regrets if this is the only thing you’ll eat all day!

The waffles are properly crisp on the edges and fluffy within, their crevices a perfect catch-basin for dollops of syrup.  These cakes are more bitter than  sweet, by the way: the smoky richness of cocoa evident in each bite as well as the aroma.  (I swear: you can smell the waffles cooking several feet away.)

Milkbox denizens recommend dark chocolate, red velvet, and green tea ice creams for topping this bittersweet behemoth.  I recommend the latter two: the cream cheese in the red velvet adds a welcome tang that goes nicely with the strawberry syrup while the green tea helps balance the bitterness with a somewhat nutty – almost almond-esque – nuance.

Le Petit Souffle: 3rd Floor – Century City Mall, Kalayaan Avenue, Poblacion, Makati

Milkbox: Lower Ground Level – New Wing, Alabang Town Center, Alabang, Muntinlupa

In Which We Ate Quite Well in Cebu…

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Now, here’s brunch!

Here’s the assignment: fly in, fly out on the same day for an Institute event in the Visayas.  You won’t have time to tour ’round as this is all work (and you will be shlepping equipment – laptop, DSLR camera, recorder, tarps in a carrying sling – for much of the day; you will be interviewing senior members of the Cebu business community; and you are the [sort-of] official photographer so you’ll be on your feet much of the time).  You shan’t have that much time to sample local delicacies, but – at the very least – you will be fed well.

Thus was the scenario from last week when the Institute of Corporate Directors for whom I work as a marketing/communications specialist flew over to Cebu for an event honoring two new fellows for the Institute.  Fly out of Manila at the crack of dawn; fly back to Manila in the early evening (air traffic permitting).  And don’t worry about going hungry as the City Sports Club in Cebu caters quite well.

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Club Sub Sandwich with potato wedges

The City Sports Club is a gem of a facility: excellent sporting facilities, a refreshing-looking pool that made us want to jump in, ample conference and banqueting facilities for the locals and for those from outside Cebu.  The downstairs resto-bar, Bistro 88, does good eats with more than substantial portions.

A good brunch option if you’re feeling peckish from the drive from the airport is the amply-portioned Club Sub Sandwich.  Here, a  crisp-crusted mini-baguette is grilled and filled to the gills with ham, bacon, salami, and crisp mesclun leaves.  The sarnie is simply dressed with mayonnaise and ballpark-style mustard and a dish of fat, chunky potato edges is served on the side.

While the flavors are typical of many sandwiches, the heft is what sets this wee beastie apart.  One sarnie easily feeds two ravenous people (seriously) and keeps them stoked for a morning’s worth of setting up, running around with cameras or clipboards, and interviewing local brass.

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Chicken Cacciatore with Parsley Rice

The City Sports Club’s function food is also pretty good.  In this case, the meal began with a mild spin on traditional pork sinigang – not bland, so you could mistake it for nilaga; but just tart enough to let you know that tamarind leaves and not pulp were used as the souring agent.  It’s the sort of thing that helped whet the appetite for a neat spin on chicken cacciatore.

This Italian classic featured chicken breast and thigh fillets rather than bone-in pieces, but these were tender and coated with a savory tomato sauce.  The chicken was a good match for the parsley flecked rice that came with it.  The vegetables, I must say, were standard-issue banquet food.

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Watermelon Shake

While sodas and iced tea were offered to slake intense summer thirsts, one would do well to grab a watermelon shake (or, for that matter, any other smoothie made with fresh in-season fruit) to cool down on a hot day.

City Sports Club: Cardinal Rosales Ave., Cebu City 6000, Cebu

 

In Which Breakfast is Inspired by an Indonesian Snack…

Here's a notion...

Here’s a notion…

Pancakes are the sort of breakfast you have when you want to take things easy and you aren’t exactly in any hurry.  For most Filipinos, it is a taste of luxury – and an accessible luxury at that.  For this reason, Pancake House remains one of the country’s favorite restaurants – and continues to be so despite the entry of foreign franchises such as IHOP and Slappy Cakes.  And for those who can’t be bothered to leave home to satisfy a pancake fix,  instant pancake mixes are a dime a dozen and are all dead-easy to use..

However, even the fluffiest, most golden pancakes tend to lose their appeal if that’s all people get for the most part.  Variety being the spice of life, there are as many variations on pancakes as there are ways to tell a joke.  These days, aside from the usual buttermilk and chocolate variants, you can get matcha-infused flapjacks, pancakes studded with chocolate chips, banana-walnut cakes, and even pancakes made with cake mixes to yield flavors like red velvet or even birthday cake with sprinkles.

Today’s recipe, however, is different.  Rather than appropriating the flavors of the West, I decided to play up tastes taken from our neighbors in the Southeast Asian region.  In this case, I decided to make pancakes from scratch inspired by an Indonesian snack: murtabak.

Consume with coffee

Consume with coffee

A popular halal street snack in many Muslim countries, a murtabak is a cross between a crepe and a turnover in that it consists of flour-based pancakes folded over a sweet or savory filling.  For the most part, these are usually savory things and are usually filled with beef or lamb mince before being doused with curry, gravy, or a soy-vinegar dip.

My recipe was inspired a specific variety of the dish commonly eaten in Indonesia called murtabak manis.  For this dish, the pancake batter is sweetened and flavored with either vanilla or almond extract.  The resulting griddle cakes are then filled with a mixture of chocolate, cheese, and crushed roasted peanuts before being folded over and handed to eager customers.

This recipe gets its basic form from Nigella Lawson‘s recipe for American breakfast pancakes.  However, once you’ve added the grated chocolate and cheese, you get something totally different from a standard-issue Yankee johnny-cake.  Not too sweet and intriguingly savory at the same time, these come into their own sandwiched with lashings of peanut butter and finished off with a drizzle of honey (not syrup).

Murtabak is normally eaten as a snack in the afternoons, but I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t have these for breakfast.  😉

Murtabak Breakfast Pancakes

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (preferably muscovado sugar)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 30mL corn or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 300mL milk
  • 225 grams all-purpose flour
  • 25 grams grated dark chocolate
  • 15 – 20 grams grated Parmesan or Edam cheese
  • butter for greasing the pan
  • peanut butter and honey, to serve

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients save for the chocolate and cheese.  Whisk together the oil, milk, vanilla, and eggs.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture.  Beat very well until a smooth, creamy appearance is achieved.  Add the chocolate and cheese and mix until well combined.

Heat a griddle or a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add just enough butter to grease the surface.  Add batter by 1/4 cup-increments and cook for about a minute on each side; immediately transfer to a serving dish.

To serve, allow four pancakes per person (they won’t be very big, really).  Spread one cake with peanut butter and top with another; continue spreading until you have a stack four cakes high.  Drizzle over with honey.

Serves 4.

 

In Which Breakfast is a New York Classic…

Time for a cappucino...

Time for a cappuccino…

You know the drill: wake up at the crack of dawn, throw yourself into the shower, throw some clothes on, dash out of the house, sally into traffic, and still get to work late.  This is the scenario that has become all too familiar to anyone who lives in the Greater Manila Area these days.  Things are bad enough that you end up eschewing breakfast all together just so you could try to get to work on time.  Of course, when this happens, you get to work with a very bad temper and an achingly empty belly – and that’s never a good thing.

Because I’ve been told to stop starving myself (not that it’s ever helped me lose any actual weight), I have to eat something at the start of the day.  Otherwise, my energy levels will flag and I will be bloody surly two hours into the workday.  Today, because I wanted to spoil myself a little after the stress of the past four months, I decided to grab at bite at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf where I got a breakfast that’s a throwback to the appetising stores of the more heavily Jewish districts of New York City.

...and a bagel.  With a schmear of cream cheese.  And lox...LOTS of lox...

…and a bagel. With a schmear of cream cheese. And lox…LOTS of lox…

I ask you: can there be anything – and I seriously mean anything – better than a warm chewy bagel split through the middle, smeared over with cream cheese, with thick coral-hued folds of belly lox (cold-cured salmon belly) piled upon it?  It is the breakfast of champions in my book and one that I find a necessary indulgence to guard against the worries of the day.

Have salad, will travel.

Have salad, will travel.

It is a most satisfying thing: smoky and salty; creamy smooth because of the cheese yet crisp and sharp because of the vinegary shallots sprinkled on top of the fish.  Sure, it’s not something I can have every day; but, whenever I do, it is more than necessary fuel.  It puts a smile on my face and, for a little while, I forget the stress at the office and I don’t miss my best friend/sounding board.  For a short while, I can forget that I have CFS and I feel strong and I feel like I can do anything.  For a short while, I can be just a shade happier than I normally am in these rough days.  And speaking of that friend…

It’s Dragonfly Collector (Clem Castro)’s birthday today.  The video above is from a performance at the Boiler Room earlier this year where he performs the title track of his album The World is Your Oyster.  Incidentally, his The World is Your Oyster – Philippine Tour wraps up in Puerto Princesa on Saturday, 12th December 2015.  If you find yourself there, he’ll be playing at Katabom.  Go say hi and congratulate him for me.  🙂

In Which There is a Bourbon-infused Pork Chop…

A Jack Daniels Chop with all the trimmings

A Jack Daniels Chop with all the trimmings

I haven’t been to ChopStop since I moved workplaces from Makati to the BGC.  There is a branch closer to where I live, of course, but I haven’t been inclined to go there for some reason.  So, when I finally decided to head there for a meal, I was pleasantly surprised to see new additions to its menu: bacon cracklings, nachos with all the trimmings, a burger slathered with a sweetly savoury bacon jam, pulled pork, Salisbury steaks, and pork or chicken chops slathered with a Jack Daniels-laced barbecue sauce.  After seeing that, I knew I just had to try it out.

You are given the option of getting a single chop plate (PhP 119.00) or a two-chop (PhP 169.00), a choice between nachos and buttered veg, and the option to grab an iced tea for an additional ten bucks.  I went with the single pork chop option as shown here with nachos.

While ChopStop’s chops are consistently good with properly seasoned, properly cooked, and tender meat, my sole issue has always been the thickness of the breading that coats it.  Not this time, though: here the coating was thin and crispy, enveloping a tender, nicely seasoned pork chop.  The Jack Daniels sauce was a good balance of sweet and fiery which complemented the peppery pork quite well without getting too sticky or overwhelming.  The nachos were pretty average, but they were hot and crunchy and the salsa added a sharp, piquant contrast.

I daresay I’m hankering for this as I write this particular entry; next time, I think I’d better get two chops and a frozen margarita for good measure.  😉

ChopStop McKinley Exchange: Ground Floor – McKinley Exchange, corner of EDSA and McKinley Road, Makati