Pancakes With Abs | Waffle Sa Cathedral

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Our former nanny, Tita Luz, used to reward me and my sister for sitting through the hour-long Catholic mass by buying us churchyard ambulant vendor goodies like popcorn, sugar-crusted fried peanuts, cotton candy, ice-scramble and waffles. Some recent online buzz about the street cart institution called Waffle Sa Cathedral brought back a flood of memories. Quite plucked to relive the Sundays of my childhood, I took The PussyKat downtown in yet another food-discovery/rediscovery jaunt to seek options for my ever expanding heritage walk itinerary. Striking out on our first try, coming in towards five in the afternoon to the attendants wiping down the cart, we returned at an earlier time the next Sunday.

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The sight of the unmarked, bright yellow cart parked across the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral’s East door quickened the pitter patter of The PussyKat’s shoes on the uneven asphalt road. A wonderfully homey scent tickled our noses in a further come hither. An attendant was busy churning out waffles from a single, handheld waffle iron on a gas burner. I was imagining something like a “mother” batter from the stainless steel mixing bucket, each batch getting tastier than the previous, but that’s just me. Another attendant was busy taking and filling orders while the other did the cashiering. A short while in the queue later and we were presented our steaming hot plain and chocolate waffles in brown paper bags.

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A slathering of margarine coated the insides of the plain waffle folded in half. While there was nothing radical about the actual waffle, nostalgia may have played a big role in its great register. Ever so slightly sweetened, the pillow-soft waffle provided a great base to the buttery saltiness of the margarine. I wasn’t able to resist going for seconds. The chocolate variant, also ever so slightly sweetened, packed enough chocolate flavor to not disappoint this chocoholic and was bolstered by the addition of a chocolate spread. These are a steal at Php14.00 and Php16.00, respectively.

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Quite satisfied, we started to head down that same road to on our way home and came across more food carts and one with an assortment of cold beverages. Those were immediately marked for our next visit.

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Waffle Sa Cathedral is located up B. Gomez street across the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral’s East door on Sundays. They set up shop around the vicinity of Cebu Normal University from Monday to Thursday.

Betta’ Carotene | La Vie Hamburgero

“Necessity is the mother of invention”, so goes an old saying. Stemming from disappointment over La Vie Parisenne-Ayala’s Carrot “Ice Cream” was the urge to make a decent one. I deemed it necessary to appease my own tongue.

Carrot Ice Cream at La Vie Parisienne-Ayala

Carrot Ice Cream at La Vie Parisienne-Ayala

I demanded carrots from our Girl Friday when I got home, washed and peeled those before freezing for the next twenty-four hours. I popped one into our Yonanas unit and let it rip. It came out rough and minced, much like the one from La Vie. I guess the cellular make of carrots, its low water content and the regular freezing process does not make it quite viable for yo-ing. I considered boiling or steaming a fresh batch to soften it and to allow the heat to render its natural sweetness but impatience got to me.

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I previously mentioned that carrots have a similar flavor profile as mangoes and thought those would provide a more fibrous, more moist base to give the end product an ice cream-like texture. I luckily had a batch of golden yellows ready in the freezer. Two slices of mango went into the unit with two large carrots. Out came magic. I gave that a quick whirl in a blender to mix the fruit and vegetable portions well. I funneled the mixture into a small tube-ice plastic bag and taped one end into a conical shape. Some embroidery thread wound up around it to hopefully give it circumferential lines as on a real carrot after refreezing.

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*drumroll…* Tadaaa! Betta’ Carotene! Carrot (with a bit of Mango) Yo served with fresh Mango Puree. Non-dairy, no added sugars, all-fruit and veg. The carrot taste still came out on top of the mango in the yo and could be eaten as is. The puree allowed customization of the level of sweetness. All taste-testers at home loved it and are still alive and kicking as of publishing.

Tell me your ice cream sob stories. Maybe we can turn that frown upside-down. 😉

Meeeh. What’s up, Doc? | La Vie Parisienne-Ayala

Our Sunday started pleasantly enough with an invitation from an old friend to go out for coffee. He wanted to try the new mall outlet of what is probably the most Instagrammed joint on The Island, La Vie Parisienne.

The “Parisian café” kiosk, done up in mint green, white and blonde woods, was what I would imagine to be a kawaii effort in interpretation of the theme and a sharp departure from the more rustic look of the primarily outdoor flagship location. Regular and high Louis The Indeterminate chairs and corresponding tables in the same colorway filled the raised platform space. Realistic faux-wax candle lamps glowed atop squat candle stands, adding to the draw. A glass display chiller held cheeses and cakes and an open counter displayed breads and other baked items to a currently steady stream of browsers. Hello, droplet spray contamination and thank you, highly resilient Third World immune system. A standalone ice cream booth in the style of an ornate food cart held the focal point on the far end.

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I actually loved the place but when the heywaitaminutes came up they did pretty strong. Macario ordered a cappuccino and I asked for my default Americano. Coming in straight from The PussyKat’s apartment on a power outage, the mall air-conditioning took a while to take effect so I ordered mine iced. So it did. In. A. Coffee. Cup. While the drink itself was Lavazza and quite okay, inappropriate serving ware was just unacceptable here. I’d drink from a dog bowl if I had to but the Parisian ways have never been survivalist. Well, except for the times when the commoners had to bear the brunt of the excesses of royalty and the war where they all had to live on pests, pets and the Paris Zoo. Already clouded with distaste, I couldn’t even bring myself to sample the plateful of baked carbohydrates that Max got as placeholders. I absentmindedly chewed on a piece The PussyKat popped into my mouth mid-conversation. Flaky. Sweet. It was good that the long catch-up session provided much satisfaction.

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All throughout, I kept eyeing the long list of ice creams. Carrot and jackfruit stood out among the usual hohums. Knowing me too well, The PussyKat pushed me to try one when I asked her if she wanted any. I may have already become too predictable for this kitty. Ugh.

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Considering the more exotic, I asked for carrot and the attendant fired up an industrial-type processor. He popped in what looked like ice-candy, some carrot pieces and put all of his ninety-pound weight on the lever to extrude the product. In a scene similar to less than an hour after gorging on bad oysters at a cheap seafood buffet, the “ice cream” exploded in terrible sequence into the cup. “Your carrot ice cream, sir!”, he said, beaming. He jumped on my apparent disappointment by pointing out the ice cream base. It felt a lot like the time I found out Suzy, of Sustagen’s Suzy and Geno duo, was, literally deep down inside her, actually a man.

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I like carrots. I even eat these raw. Yes, Bugs Bunny had a lot to do with that but growing up, my appreciation for the flavor of carrots went beyond identifying with the cartoon character. Glaringly veg but possessing a sweetness that is almost fruity, it has a flavor profile which I would say is quite similar to our local mangoes. That said, I might as well have eaten frozen carrot baby food by Gerber than this ice-candy and chopped carrot blend.

I was quite bummed but I wouldn’t swear off this joint. It does have its charm and the cheese display begged for consideration. I will be back and maybe I’ll show them how a carrot ice (cream) is done. Stay tuned for my next post: Betta’ Carotene.

Try Tetris | Brique Modern Kitchen

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It would have been a quiet dinner had Adele not been endlessly warbling about her pain from the moment we stepped in. Floor-to-second-floor-ceiling glass gave way to the bare concrete, wood and brick interior at Brique Modern Kitchen. We were quickly ushered to our reserved seats on the mezz floor to a view of Salinas Drive.

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The eager staff impressed as much as the clipboard menu did. Our server apologized that they did not have any burgers but quickly directed me their list of sandwiches instead. Torn between the BFC and Lechon Belly Sandwiches, I went for the former on her personal recommendation. We ended up getting the Lechon Belly Sandwich anyway as The PussyKat’s choice of Drunken Sardines from the breakfast menu was no longer available past five in the afternoon.

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Served on a wooden board with a side of chips, the Brique Fried Chicken Sandwich had a crispy, Southern fry smothered in tasty coleslaw and stuffed in a Kaiser bun. I’ll admit I’m partial to the mayo-cabbage-carrot combo. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with that. Even harder when it’s married to deep-fried poultry.

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An extra sweet iced tea would have gone with the whole Southern theme but the fancier Minty Lime-ade caught my eye. It passed as a virgin mojito with a generous muddling of mint leaves and some clouding with a lime concentrate, the sours cutting through the grease and heavy mayo.

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Sizeable slivers of lechon, with crispy skin intact, filled a Kaiser bun in a no-rice twist to a local classic. A Caesar dressing made for a very interesting sauce to the meat, bringing to mind a non-spicy dinikdikan (pork belly, spring onions and chilies in mayo). Crispy roast pork in white bread is always a winner.

The PussyKat’s Milo Dinosaur was a tad bit disappointing in price coming off rather Compsognathid than Tyrannosaurian(yes, I’m a dino-geek) in serving size and drink-to-Milo ratio. Still, it would score high in nostalgia if you’ve ever had one off a street cart.

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Topped with torched marshmallows, a decadent chocolate fudge brownie with a graham crust made up the Fudged S’mores dessert. I just wish they more than two pieces of the rock sugar-crusted shortbread that they served on the side. Those made excellent dippers into the warm, gooey dish.

Towards the end of the meal, Adele bled her greatest hits dry and threw in some beats for an EDM remix. That was our cue to exit. I was initially quick to dismiss this much ballyhooed joint but having sampled only very few items on their menu and having enjoyed those very well, I would now say it’s pretty good. Good enough to make you, excuse me, shit bricks.

Brique Modern Kitchen is located between Chik-an and ACT along Salinas Drive, Lahug, Cebu City.

Worth Its Salt | Salt By JM

Lugaw ug asin. Porridge and salt. A phrase, often used derogatorily, referring to someone’s poverty that he is unable to afford meats and subsists only on watery starches flavored with the crystals. Essential to animal life, the very common salt, the oldest and most ubiquitous of food seasonings, was once traded for its weight in gold and led nations to wage war and revolution. Producing the one of the four basic taste sensations, this basic element gives liveliness and piquancy even to the most simple of foods. It is from this simplicity that all manner of amazingly good comes from at Salt by John Mark.

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Impressed by The Bagel Hatch at the opening of Kiehl’s-Cebu, we found ourselves booked for dinner at the caterer’s showroom the following weekend. Extremely hands-on; owner, chef and almost everything else in between, the eponymous John Mark; graciously welcomed us into his all-white space tucked into Enmore Hotel. On his suggestion, we had the Vol Au Vent Experience and the Mini-Burger Trio. For our main, we picked the Chicken Cordon Bleu with Mushroom Gravy and Pasta from the limited tasting menu.

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Classically filled with a cream sauce-based mixture, Salt’s Vol Au Vents came in Chicken, Seafood and Mushroom variants. Translated from French as blown by the wind, the name extended to the pastry bases’ light and airy quality. All three had their fillings done up in the in-house demi-glace with the mushroom taking on the flavoring quite well, tasting almost like meat. It was definitely an experience as it is aptly named.

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Angus Beef with some Sirloin made up the perfectly grilled patties set on lettuce and tomatoes between soft, dinner roll-type, black sesame and oat mini-burger buns. Eschewing cheese, the simple stack allowed the natural savory-sweetness of the meat to stand out from the other components. A gherkin on top added a crunchy, salty dimension.

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Panko, homemade breadcrumbs and herbs coated the Chicken Cordon Bleu in what was the crispiest crust I’ve ever had on one, perfectly complemented by the Mushroom Gravy. Mozzarella and Emmental cheese oozed out from the local ham core on which a succulent chicken breast is wrapped around. Pasta with tomatoes in olive oil balanced out the savories with the clean taste, the olive oil somehow coming off in that combo almost cheese-like. Beautifully arranged on an extra-large ceramic serving dish-cum-tray, it looked almost too good to eat.

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A Warm Chocolate Brownie with Chocolate Ganache capped the meal, compliments of the chef. Native chocolate made the brownie delightfully dark, much to my liking. Those averse to the heady weight and flavor of dark chocolate would find it sweet enough from the coco sugar content. Elements of whipped cream, fresh mint, dried cranberries, a Nutella stripe and a sugar rush came in both as visuals and add-on play of flavor.

The well-curated menu was very nuanced with the interplay of the subtle and the bold flavors in what I would declare to be one of the best examples of quality over quantity in this city–the elegant presentation being the only, but very welcome, distraction to the focus of what is ultimately important in food: taste. This focus extends even to the subtleties in the house iced-tea, a fresh-brew flavored with a fresh mint leaf. Adept service rounded off the exceptional experience making Salt by John Mark definitely worth its salt.

SALT by John Mark showroom and commissary kitchen is located at the G/F of Enmore Hotel, 257-A Jose Avilla Street. Corner Ma. Cristina Ext. ( Near Cebu vacation hotel and Sacred Heart School) Kamputhaw, Cebu City. Contact through phone at +63 927 8861111 / +63 928 7257237 / +63 933 1886224 or email saltbyjmc@yahoo.com.

Gone Vegan | Shiv Dal Roti Corner

Lost myself in the labyrinthine Urgello area with the PussyKat in search of this supposed vegan gem of a hole-in-the-wall. Working that street for a good amount of time in what the unforgiving heat made an already desperate search, Shiv Dal Roti started to seem like an urban myth until the owner, Vijay Kumar, picked up my nth call and graciously offered to meet us up at our stop. The jolly good fellow led us just around the corner, a little beyond our earlier attempts to locate the shop.

The restaurant’s colorway, patriotic to the subcontinental republic, almost led straight into downtown Mumbai had the radio not yanked us back to The Island with Sarah Geronimo’s radio jingle for a sanitary pad brand. Looking like a kid forced to eat vegetables, the grumpy manang behind the counter affirmed that, Toto, we were still in KansasPinas. No, this one’s probably not vegan.

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Vijay, as he insists to be called, ran us through the entire hot display and special menu items. We had a Roti Thali, of course, and a Vegan Burger. Somehow, a Vegetable Biryani found its way to our table, as well.

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The Roti Thali, a set, was pretty much standard Indian with Roti’s fresh off the tandoori to dip into the Paneer Tikka Masala–which was like a spicy, all-veg Pinoy menudo, and the Rajma–a slightly salty bean stew. These were made more interesting by the Chattni of pickled green peppers with a hint of mint and two other separate condiments of pickled garlic and ginger.

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The Vegan Burger was on the small side and, as with all items plant-based involved in foolish attempts to simulate flesh, failed to satisfy this primarily carnivorous omni. Apologies, vegan friends, I just cannot find joy in a lentil-potato patty.

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The Vegetable Biryani was surprisingly good but still lacks the oomph of the meaty standards. One would not be too inclined to this healthier option after having tried a killer Beef variant. Now I’m missing Geylang Serai, Singapore.

A hot, milky Chai Masala washed everything down and worked up a good sweat. Overall, it felt a lot like a home-cooked meal served lovingly by an uncle, Uncle Vijay, in this case. Indian on this Island definitely couldn’t be more authentic than this. Then we all suddenly found ourselves in traditional Indian garb and broke into a passionate rendition of A.J. Rahman + The Pussycat Dolls’ Jai Ho.

Shiv Dal Roti Corner is located on Aznar Street, Urgello, Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines.