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 One’s Coffee/Tea and Doughnut Break Gets Green – Literally…

Green tea on my doughnuts, avocado in my coffee!

Green tea on my doughnuts, avocado in my coffee!

My siblings and I have created a tradition of our own: on Labour Day, we hang out together, just the three of us.  Sometimes, significant others (like my sister’s) will come along, but it’s almost always been just the three of us over the past three years.  It’s almost always a lunch affair, one followed afterwards by coffee, tea, and conversations.

This year, my sister wasn’t able to join me and our brother for lunch as she was still on duty at the hospital, but we took her and her S.O. out to Little Tokyo for teishoku and ramen later that afternoon.  In the meantime, my brother and I grabbed a Japanese lunch and headed off to J.Co D0nuts for dessert.

My brother opted for the green tea frappe, an ice-blended drink featuring matcha mixed with copious amounts of cream and cold milk.  I, on the other hand, chose something unusual from the menu: the cappuccino avocado.

Cappuccino Avocado from the J.Co site

Cappuccino Avocado from the J.Co site

You can’t see it because it’s in a paper cup (dang that Makati ordinance against clear plastic cups!), but, as shown above, it’s a very pretty green drink that combines a whopping two shots of good espresso with fresh avocado, ice, and cream.

It may seem like a jarring combination if you read it, but it’s a gorgeously dreamy combination that actually works like the proverbial charm.  Creamy, smooth, the slight bittersweetness of the avocado taking much of the edge off the bitterness of the coffee, it’s a drink that is an absolute delight to sip slowly on a sultry summer afternoon.

Oh, and if you buy any of the chilled coffees and delights, you get a free doughnut with each purchase.  In our case, we got Mr. Green Tea, a delightful soft doughnut generously frosted with a matcha and white chocolate icing and scattered over with toasted almond flakes.  Pure, glorious gluttony, indeed.

In Which the Blogger Puts Her Spin on Nigella’s Ice Cream Recipe…

This is like asking for trouble

This is like asking for trouble

Ice cream is a real treat for people of all ages.  It calls to mind birthday parties, getting good grades in school; fun, good times for all.

For the most part, the bulk of the ice cream eaten in my part of the world tends to be store-bought.  The cheapest fix, of course, is a P 10.00 tri-coloured cone bought from the sorbetero cart on Sunday mornings after Mass.  While I was growing up, Magnolia was the brand of choice – specifically the sweetcorn ice cream that heralded the start of the summer months.  Later on, when the original Magnolia brand was bought and rudely superseded by Nestle, it became a toss-up between Selecta and its predecessor and now competitor Arce Dairy.  And then the foreign brands came in: Ben and Jerry’s, Haagen-Dasz, Dreyer’s and Breyer’s – all pricey, super-premium, and definitely worth saving up for in the even that you should choose to celebrate a happy moment with ice cream instead of champagne.

Homemade ice cream, nevertheless, is not unknown in this part of the world.  For those of us with Kapampangan/Cabalen (those hailing from Pampanga in Central Luzon) roots, ice cream churned in a garapinyera – an old-school bucket churn you filled with ice and salt to facilitate freezing – was a highlight of many a childhood summer, if not a mouthwatering memory related by one’s elders at family reunions.  Alas, who in this hectic, schedule-conscious day and age has the time or the patience to crank the stainless steel churn for hours just to get an ice cream fix?

Still, with many people rediscovering the Old Ways of cooking – and finding out that doing things from scratch does make a delicious difference – it isn’t surprising that ice cream is one of the things that people now want to make at home.  And that’s with or without either a churn or even a modern ice cream maker!

Have a pint?

Fancy a pint?

My recipe is actually a spin on Nigella Lawson‘s one-step/no-churn ice cream – a scrumptious, coffee-and-cream affair made livelier with a splash of espresso liqueur.  Don’t cringe back at the use of alcohol in this recipe: it is necessary.  According to another of my favourite authors, Titania Hardie, the alcohol prevents the formation of ice crystals that may otherwise ruin the texture and overall quality of the finished product.  The addition of alcohol delivers an  end-result that is something more like gelato than commercial ice cream: smoother, richer, creamier, with a bit of a chew to it.

Now, the back-story for this particular recipe involves my misreading of the measurements in La Lawson’s original.  Rather than 300mL of cream and 175 grams of condensed milk, I actually ended up using 375mL of cream and 300mL of the condensed milk.  This little snafu actually got me into a little panic as my mixture just wouldn’t thicken and lift up into soft peaks no matter how much whisking I did.  Fortunately, consulting with a friend more knowledgeable about making ice cream got me this little bit of advice: let the mixture sit in the freezer to set a bit, and then go at it with the beaters.  She was absolutely right: the semi-frozen mix thickened beautifully and I happily chucked it into the freezer overnight.

The next morning, I had a little of my creamy, dreamy ice with breakfast.  My only regret is that I didn’t bake any brioches to go with it for a proper Sicilian breakfast.  :p

I confess: I had a wee bowl of it for breakfast

I confess: I had a wee bowl of it for breakfast

Mocha Mudslide Ice Cream

  • 375mL all-purpose cream
  • 300mL condensed milk
  • 25 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate or coffee cream liqueur

Whisk together the cream, condensed milk, coffee, cocoa powder, and liqueur until the dry ingredients have more or less dissolved.  Pour into a covered container and freeze for about 1 hour.

Remove the softly-set mixture and scrape into a mixing bowl.  Whip vigorously (or, better yet, use an electric mixer at medium speed) until soft peaks form and the mixture has doubled in volume.  Fold through the chopped chocolate.  Scrape into clear plastic tubs with covers.  Freeze for at least six or a maximum of ten hours.

Makes 1-1/2 pints.

 

 

In Which There are Pick-Me-Ups Against Holiday Stress…

Mango jasmine milk tea with custard pudding

Mango jasmine milk tea with custard pudding

There are big events to handle at the office, gifts to buy and gifts to bake, people to coordinate with, meet-ups to schedule or cancel depending on the situation.  The last few days before the Holidays are a mad, mad time – especially for those of us in the advertising industry.  There are numerous events to handle for clients: end-of-year sales runs/mini-concerts, ads to place before the country shuts down for two weeks of Yuletide cheer, last-minute arrangements and contract renewals.  Believe me when I say that it would be so very easy to buckle under the pressure and burn out.

Thank goodness, therefore, for both coffee and tea breaks.  Sometimes, all you need is a wee cuppa tea or joe to stiffen up your spine for just a little longer; other times, only something massive, iced, and calorific will do.  For that, Serenitea is a good stand-by.  The mango jasmine milk tea with its rather floral flavour is one such sipper.  The blossomy notes of the jasmine black tea are played up beautifully by the addition of lightly sweetened mango compote.  Add generous dollops of custard pudding and you, dear reader, are all set for a slurp-filled break.

Sea salt Mocha and a Chocolate Berliner

Sea salt Mocha and a Chocolate Berliner

If you’re hankering for something more substantial with a slightly savoury edge, Hollys Coffee offers its sea-salt mocha.  You get a distinctively chocolatey drink made with good espresso and a shot of Belgian chocolate ganachecreamy-rich, duskily bittersweet, and so moreish.  The sprinkle of sea salt makes the flavours of both chocolate and coffee pop.  Order it hot to enjoy the full benefit of its invigorating smoothness.

So, what do you readers sip or nosh on to stave off the stress?  😉

In Which the Coffee Helped Put the Blogger to Sleep…

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Coffee that’s supposed to help me relax?!?

Coffee is not exactly the best nostrum to use for getting to sleep.  On the contrary, it’s the sort of pick-me-up people drink to stay awake.  However, as there is an exception to every rule, there actually is a brand of iced coffee that can help you chill out.

RealBeanz, a Brooklyn, NY-based brewer, offers one such ready-to-drink coffee.  RealBeanz’s Relax is a decaffeinated brew mixed with milk and a touch of Madagascan vanilla to make a delightful, not too sweet sipper that goes down smoothly.  And, more than that…

What have they put into my coffee?!

What have they put into my coffee?!

…this particular drink is compounded with several herbs that have long been known in the practice of both aromatherapy and homeopathy to help lull the mind and body into a state of repose and relaxation.

Chamomile, in particular, helps alleviate the effects of stress and eases anxiety.  Lemon balm helps relax the drinker’s mental state and calms the psyche.  And there is a tinge of passion flower to help relax tense muscles.  So, you see, it’s the sort of coffee you can chug down at the end of the day – and still be able to grab forty, well-earned winks.

(Note: I found RealBeanz iced coffee in the chilled drinks section of Shopwise Supermarket in Alabang.  All variants are priced at P 117.00 per bottle.)