The Illy Series: Aruma Coffee Lounge

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It was a very rainy day at The Illy on the tail-end of outgoing tropical depression, Agaton. I rose close to midday after a harrowing twenty-seven of a supposedly just a seventeen hour ferry ride over the weekend. A splitting headache signaled my body’s demand for caffeine. The PussyKat hauled me into what later turned out to be an overpriced, non-metered cab and dutifully took me downtown to one of her favorite hangouts, Aruma.

Nestled in a mixed-use sector of second-floor residences atop hodgepodge eateries, watering holes and girly bars, this all-white affair stood out from its corner curbside location. Warm, yellow pendants and alcove lighting softened the stark color-way and feel. A chalkboard menu announced more than just the usual pastry-and-sandwiches café fare with full meal options.

I ordered a Hot Nutty Chocolate with an Espresso shot and a slice of Banoffee Pie. Dainty demitasse’s of Mocha Mousse looked very tempting on the display but with much willpower I declined the barista’s invitation to try one. Yes. Strong The Force is in this one. While I had to look for the nutty in my drink, it did come with a smooth mocha flavor not unlike that from Starbucks. Confusing as it is apparently a misnomer but otherwise pleasant. My current gold standard for Banoffee pie in the PI is Banapple’s but Aruma’s version did not disappoint. The baker deftly held the balance of taste, holding back on the caramel tofee, chocolate and other sugar-laden ingredients to allow the natural sweetness of the perfectly ripe bananas to mellow out with the unsweetened cream topping and the very basic, crumbly, packed-Graham crumb base.

Officially an unfinished-food disposal system by virtue of relations, I also sampled the PussyKat’s Coffee Jelly Mocha Frappuccino and Espresso Brownie. It was as Frappuccino’s everywhere go, very creamy but had a generous amount of coffee jelly in minute, regular straw-suckable, “crystal” sizes. I didn’t expect much from the Espresso Brownie’s simple, square slice but it packed a good flavor without overwhelming the chocolate with the bitter of coffee. Again, the baker wisely held back on the sugar. It would have been perfect with a black brewed or steamed, full-cream milk.

Until next time, Aruma.

World War Z III: Hamburgero VS Zark’s Tombstone Burger

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Hamburgero VS Zark’s Tombstone Burger

Relentless. That’s what we are. For the third day in a row we found ourselves again at Zark’s.

Enter: Zark’s Tombstone Burger. A two-pound cheeseburger split into a stack of four half-pound patties covered with cheese sauce and served with 300 grams of fries.

A tombstone is an ornamental stone on a grave, often with the dead person’s name and dates of birth and death engraved on it. Zark’s aptly named this gigantic item as eating it may cause death not just by the sheer overload on your digestive capacities and your circulatory system but by the very fact that it is “so good you could die.”

Having survived Zark’s Jawbreaker and their Deep-Fried Bacon-Wrapped Burger, I took on this behemoth to cap off my quick visit to the capital. The sight of it alone was daunting. People from the other tables were open-mouthed with awe.

The cheese sauce oozed out and smothered the bed of fries it was served on. It was too tall to be held by hand as a whole so I resorted to eating it “open-faced” with two patties on each bun. I eventually gave in and used utensils. The patties were well-charred and the cores retained a delicious medium rare pink. Almost like a greasy carpaccio. I opted for the same bourbon sauce I had a day earlier. Hmmm, bourbon. That’s another story. As with its siblings the two days before, it was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

Finishing the first two quarter pounds, I wisely took on the third just by itself. I was teary-eyed both with joy at finally having had the Tombstone and the sad fact that I just could not finish it. This time Zark’s won. I had to leave the fourth patty intact with the bottom bun. Hey, I gotta live to die another day.

Zark’s Burger’s. “It’s Fresh. It’s Huge. It’s Great.

World War Z II: Hamburgero VS Zark’s Deep-Fried Bacon-Wrapped Burger

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Day Two: Zark’s Deep-Fried Bacon-Wrapped Burger

Rather than a product description, they put a stern warning on the menu: EAT AT YOU ON RISK! Zark’s ups its ante on their Deep-Fried Burger, a deep-fried mushroom cheeseburger, by wrapping one up in strips of bacon before deep-frying this amalgamation of beef and pork into one beautiful beast.

As with any other burger small enough to be handheld, it would have been a travesty to go at it with a knife and fork. My fingers immediately took on the same, um, sparkle -yes, sparkle – that danced on the bacon fabric. My teeth tore into the porcine crisps then into the yielding, oil-saturated bun before the beef patty core. Each components’ taste and texture distinct but very complementary. The accompanying bourbon sauce was a sweet, heady reduction with a cool zing that cut through all that grease. I could do shots of that stuff.

I felt rivulets of fat streaming down my gullet and bypassing the regular routes to lodge into my arteries. It was everything on a physician’s no-list. I felt bad. And that’s what made it taste so good.

If this will be my death then allow me to die a thousand times over. No, wait! There are other items on their menu I have yet to try.
Stay tuned for World War Z III: Hamburgero VS. Zark’s Tombstone Burger

Zark’s Burger’s. “It’s Fresh. It’s Huge. It’s Great.”

‘Twas The Nightmare Called Christmas Burgers

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‘Twas the nightmare called Christmas Burgers
And all through the store
Holiday-colored burgers
Decorated the walls

I wasn’t really hungry
‘Bought them for novelty
One red and one green
I anticipated much satiety

The buns lacked much rise
They looked three days old
It must be the Allura Red
Or Green E143

The patties were signature Flame-It
But the buns ruined the score
They tasted so freaky
‘Had to hold them down the front door

Halfway through each
We left in a huff
Our bellies strangely heavy
When we didn’t even finish that stuff

Like a bad Christmas morning
‘Got a nasty surprise
It got us so gassy
‘Even bypassed turning into chyle

It all didn’t go down
The way that it should
One thing that’s for sure
‘Toilet sported a festive look

My God, that was gross
And nothing really rhymed
I think I am done
I…

I…

I really hated that.

Carameldita

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Chocolate, bourbon and mocha-cream frosting. Carameldita Cupcakes were promising. Promising of a good time. That which we did at its taste test and soft-launch held at The Turtle’s Nest on Friday.

The bourbon-infused batter rose up to a generous, home-baked consistency with just enough heft on the tongue, the chocolate melding beautifully with the liquor and the sugar thankfully restrained–its sweetness coming from the light, mocha-cream frosting piped into its core before crowning it with 6-point grooved swirls.

Deceptively subtle, my killjoy of a severe allergy to alcohol kicked in on the second cupcake after declaring between mouthfuls of the first that it needed more spike. Of course, I had to go for a third. It was a taste test, after all. Future iterations will include infusion variants: soaked, liquor jelly-crème centers, encapsulations and in varying intensities: Garbosa, Suplada, Maldita and Bruha.

Carameldita Cupcakes are currently on a test-run and will soon be available both on per-order basis and at select locations.

Carameldita Cupcakes
https://www.facebook.com/Carameldita

Turtle’s Nest Book Café and Gallery
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Turtles-Nest-Book-Cafe-Gallery/134218463268669

Ramen Burger Harakiri

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Tempura Japanese Grill’s Ramen Burger

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Ramen Burger Harakiri
A Hay Naku Haiku

Arrived rather late
Godzilla’s regurgitate(n)
Hungry, I ate it

Homemade beef patty with with honey-cured bacon, roasted onions with sesame seeds, garden-fresh lettuce topped with Tempura Grill’s signature Japanese barbeque sauce and sandwiched between two pan-fried ramen buns.

The long wait set my expectations high. Prep:complexity:sogoodicouldie. While the patty was seared on both sides to a caramelly crust and quite well done to a delicate medium well done, the fry-cook did not apply any Japanese restraint with the seasoning. The soggy ramen “bun” did nothing to redeem the dish. As it didn’t hold together, I had to fork it. The experience left this ramen burger virgin feeling like a hentai schoolgirl — violated.

I paid PHP245 for novelty. Skip it.