Baguio’s famous pasalubong: Good Shepherd Ube Jam

Aside from the walis tambo, coffee alamid and Baguio Country Club’s raisin bread, the ube (purple yam) jam from the Good Shepherd Convent tops the list of pasalubong (souvenirs) from the City of Pines that you can bring home to family and friends.

The Good Shepherd Convent manages the Mountain Maid Training Center. It is a social enterprise borne out of the need to sustain the convent’s mission of the sisters which is “bringing about fullness of life with care and compassion, by enabling the economically challenged, deserving youth from the six tribes of the Cordilleras to live in dignity and integrity” through a regular income from product sales.

Today, the training center produces a number of food products that are recognized for their quality with the famous ube jam comprising half of their total sales. Proceeds of the sales of these products support the college education of 370 working students from the convent’s adopted communities.

Fortunately, the Good Shepherd Convent is just a 5 to 10-minute walk from Summerlin Appartelle, where we lodged during our stay in Baguio. Hubby and I made our way there while the kids were resting.

Our stash of Good Shepherd Convent goodies included:

  • An 850g bottle of Ube Jam – of course! – (Php350)
  • Two 440g bottles of Ube Jam (Php210 each)
  • A 12oz bottle of Peanut Butter (Php185)
  • Two jars of Lengua Cookies (Php175 each)
  • A 280g jar of Chocolate Crinkles (Php175)
  • Two 320g jars of Snowball Cookies (Php200 each)
  • Two jars of Caramel Alfajor (P200 each)

Here are some reminders to make the most of your visit:

  • Bring your own reusable shopping bags. Baguio City has an ongoing ordinance that prohibits the use of plastic bags and styrofoam. You can buy ecobags at the counter for as low as Php20 per bag but if you have a huge collection of ecobags at home (like I do!), you might want to bring those instead.
  • To save time, write down your orders on a slip of paper (there are some provided) before you line up at the counter. The prices of the available products are featured in one of the store windows.
  • Check out the view. The convent has a lookout point where you can see the vista of houses lining the mountainside. The lookout point houses a gallery that documents the history of the convent, a mural of Jesus, the Good Shepherd and a statue of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd Convent is located at No. 15 Gibraltar Road, Baguio City. For inquiries, call + 63 74 4241109.

Breakfast at BenCab Museum’s Cafe Sabel

Part of the family’s Baguio vacay itinerary is a visit to the BenCab Museum. After hearing rave reviews about the place from friends for so long, and having an art geek for a daughter, I was glad to finally step foot in it.

Well, the 30-minute travel and all the walking around that we did took its toll on me and I got so hungry. The fam then decided to take our breakfast at Cafe Isabel, located at BenCab Museum’s lowest level.

Similar to the museum’s upper levels, Cafe Sabel offers fantastic views of the mountainside. It also leads to an organic farm and garden that, sadly, we weren’t able to explore due to the rain. The farm supplies fresh and organic ingredients for the cafe’s food offerings.

Our food orders were:

  • Basil Pesto (Php200). The pasta has a fresh flavor and is adequate as a snack. You might want to add to your order if you’re really hungry (like we were!)
  • Bagnet Rice (Php350). The crispy bagnet with melt-in-your-mouth fat went so well with the mountain red rice and chili eggplant salsa. After seeing me finish off my plate, hubby ordered his own.
  • Carbonara (Php200). A bit on the saucy side but good, nonetheless.
  • Strawberry Shake (Php120). It still has a bit of natural tartness from the fresh strawberries but my little boy loved it.
  • Hot Caramel Coffee (Php150). It was a good pick-me-upper and helped energize me for the rest of the tour.

Hopefully, I get to visit the cafe again in the near future to try out its hot choco!

Cafe Sabel follows the same hours as the museum: 9am to 6pm Tuesdays to Sundays (closed on Mondays, Christmas and New Year’s Day).

For more info on BenCab Museum, click here.

An array of brick oven-baked Neapolitan pizza at Amare la Cucina in Baguio

Pizza Napoletana, better known as Neapolitan Pizza, originated from Naples, Italy, hence the name. Its preparation involves fresh ingredients: basic flatbread dough, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and fresh basil. It is normally sized at 10-12 inches, making it closer to a personal pizza.

During our weekend getaway in the City of Pines, the fam met up with relatives at Amare La Cucina. Its claim to fame is its wood fire brick oven Neapolitan-style pizza made with fresh dough.

Its name translates to “love the kitchen” – the same passion for food and experimentation that drove owner Edmark Bustos to open his own restaurant which is now the default destination for extraordinarily good pizza in Baguio.

Our group consisted of two families with kids ages 5 to 18 years so finding dinner choices that will satisfy everyone was a challenge. Fortunately, Hubby, with the help of his cousin, chose a winning menu:

Beef Carpaccio (Php300).  Thinly sliced raw Beef Tenderloin with extra virgin olive, finished with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt and pepper. This was more for the adults in the group. It went particularly well with the beer that the dads in the group ordered.

Mozzarella Dip. Melted seasoned mozzarella cheese served in heated pans where you can dip thin slices of flatbread. This was very enjoyable for the kids, especially my little boy who loves cheese.

Chicken Skewers (Php350). Grilled chicken pieces served with a tangy sauce. This served as our main protein for the meal.

Margherita Pizza (Php325). Pizza made with plum tomatoes, mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and basil.

Tre Formaggi (Php440). Pizza made plum tomatoes topped with herbs and three types of cheeses – mozzarella, cheddar and parmigiano reggiano.

White Pizza (Php405). Pizza made with mozzarella, bacon, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and a dash of oregano.

Foie Gras (Php595). Pizza made with mozarella, basil, white truffle oil and foie gras (duck liver).

Mint Iced Tea (Php85). Refreshing blend iced team infused with fresh mint.

After dinner, we stopped by the all-women art exhibit we chanced upon earlier, and admired the artworks by local contemporary female artists.

Amare La Cucina is located at EGI Albergo Hotel, No 1 Villamor Drive, Brgy. Lualhati, Baguio City. For reservations, call + 63 916 3321522.

For Manilans who want to sample its offerings without leaving the metro, the resto opened a branch located at 91 East Capito Drive, Brgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig City. For reservations, call + 63 929 8237313.

Trivia: Did you know that until the 1700s, pizzas were not topped with tomatoes? When tomatoes first arrived in Italy, they were mainly grown and used as ornaments. They were also thought to be toxic until Italian peasants started putting them on top of their flatbreads.

To learn more about Italian cuisine, check out these books on Amazon.com!

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Recipe: Lava Cake in Less than 5 Minutes

I got myself a pair of Hershey’s Lava Cake Makers from Gourdo’s a couple of months back.

These nifty plastic mugs enable you to make mug cakes using your microwave oven. They even come with lids so you can have your mug cakes on the go.

Imagine the possibilities:

  • Whenever you have craving for sweets, you can easily whip up a dessert
  • You can teach your kids how to make their own sweet snacks in a fun, fast and easy way
  • You can have something to serve to unexpected guests in a matter of minutes

The packages come with 2 lava cake recipe options: one using the cake mix from Hershey’s and one from scratch. Since I have the ingredients readily available, I decided to make the lava cakes from scratch. I wrote down the recipe as I thought I might lose the hardcopy (and I did!). This recipe yields 2 yummy mug cakes, great for sharing!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Procedure:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, milk and vanilla. Add the flour, sugar and cocoa and whisk to combine.
  2. To make 1 lava cake: place 1/8 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips at the bottom of the mug, then pour in 1/4 of the batter to cover the chocolate chips. Place another 1/8 cup of chocolate chips then cover them with 1/4 of the batter.
  3. Microwave on HIGH for 90 secs or until cake is fluffy.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to make the second mug cake.

Enjoy the lava cakes while they’re still warm! You can add a few dollops of vanilla ice cream as an extra treat.

If you have trouble finding the Hersheys Lava Cake Makers in local stores, you can order them from Amazon.com.

Want to try this recipe today? There’s no need to leave home to shop for ingredients.  With Honestbee, just order your groceries online and you’ll get them delivered right at your doorstep at your preferred time. Use this referral link and get Php500 off for a minimum spend of Php2,500.  You can download the Honestbee app on iTunes or Google Play.

If you’re in the US and an Amazon Prime member, sign up for a free trial of Amazon Fresh to get your groceries delivered to you.

Jellybeans in the City included in Feedspot.com’s List of Top 50 Filipino Food Blogs

I started this blog three years ago as an outlet for my writing and as a venue to share my tips and opinions about my favorite things: food, books, movies and TV shows.  Blogging was just one of my hobbies as I was holding down a full-time job and managing my responsibilities as a wife and mother.

For the longest time, I didn’t give much thought about what I wrote here. I felt that as soon as I hit the “Publish” button, my words are just floating out there in the ether.  I do post about food establishments to help people like me discover their new favorite places and I post recipes as a way for me to remember them (I lost several recipe books during the Ondoy floods). From time to time, I would get notified of likes and follows (much appreciated, by the way!), but I know that my audience is a small and select group.

Last Friday, I discovered that this humble blog is included in Feedspot.com’s Top 50 Filipino Food Blogs.

feedspot

What an honor for my blog to be featured in the same list as Yummy.ph and Panlasang Pinoy which I visit for recipe ideas.

Feedspot.com is an RSS (Rich Site Summary) reader that aggregates content from your your favorite sites in one place so you can keep up with all your information sources without having to visit each website one at a time.  It also extends the reach of bloggers such as myself by promoting the site to its user base.

Recognitions like this is a great ego boost and an affirmation of my place in blogosphere.

Thanks for including me in the list, Feedspot.com, and thanks for your support to bloggers like me!

Lamonfest at Vikings, SM Megamall

Vikings seems to be the default buffet resto for celebrations and family gatherings.  Known for its lavish decor that display sumptuous spreads of mouth-watering dishes from various cuisines throughout the world, Vikings can generate long waiting lines of avid diners.

The fam, together with the in-laws, recently dined at Vikings at SM Megamall’s Mega Fashion Hall for bro-in-law’s birthday celebration.

With an all-you-can-eat arrangement at the rates below, the family is definitely in for a #lamonfest:

  • Adults: Php738 (weekday lunch); Php938 (weekday dinner, weekends and holidays lunch and dinner)
  • Kids:
    • for kids below 3 feet: FREE!
    • for kids 3 feet to 4 feet: Php208  (weekday lunch); Php938 (weekday dinner, weekends and holidays lunch and dinner)
    • for kids 4 feet to 6 feet: Php418 (weekday lunch); Php618 (weekday dinner, weekends and holidays lunch and dinner)

Note: Rates not yet inclusive of the 5% service charge.

For this #lamonfest, I focused on some dishes that I don’t usually have the opportunity to taste that often: the Seafood Paella (I guess I’m going through a paella phase now), the Lengua Estofado (went so well with the paella for a great taste of Spain) and the Leg of Lamb.  The Ebi Tempura is always a good bet (and always nearly depleted by the time I get there, hehehe!), but some of the meats in the carving station fell short of my expectations: the Stuffed Turkey was a bit dry and the Angus Beef was tough and chewy.

For dessert, no one can tear my away from my favorite Puto Bumbong (since it always reminds me of Christmas; I even went to the Cheese Station and sprinkled some grated premium cheddar on it) and Avocado Ice Cream (as it’s hard to find ice cream of this flavor in the supermarkets).  I also tried the Caramel Dip for the Churros and the moist Carrot Bar.

Overall, it was a great dining experience for the family.

To make the most of your #lamonfest at Vikings, you might want to make sure you do the following:

  • Make your reservation. This way, you avoid waiting outside and can just walk right in as soon as you arrive. To make your reservation, you can call +63 2 8454647 (this hotline covers all Vikings branches), book via the Booky app (you may get some discounts at selected branches), or book online via the Vikings website.
  • Check out Vikings’ current promos.  You just might get big savings.  For example, birthday celebrants get to eat for free on the day of their birthday so long as they’re with one full-paying adult, or any day of their birth month if they’re accompanied four full paying adults.  Until June 30, members of the graduating class of 2018 can eat for free as long as they’re with three full paying adults (which is why my daughter snapped a photo of her diploma before we left the house).  Just make sure that you bring all the necessary documents.  For more details on these promos, click here.
  • Pace yourself.  Scope out the spreads first and pick the ones you want for your gastronomic explorations, be they your tried-and-tested favorites or some new cuisines you want to sink your teeth into (literally and figuratively!). Sample a bit of of the food and just come back for seconds to avoid leftovers.  There are an awful lot of food here and you don’t want to already be in a food coma just when you get to the stuff you want.

For tips on how to survive a buffet, check out my blog post: Buffet Survival Guide: All-You-Need-to-Know to Eat-All-You-Can.

Check out my blog reviews of other buffet restos:

Vikings Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Why fall in love with the Professor in the Gabriel’s Inferno Series by Sylvain Reynard

While I’m a self-proclaimed bibliophile and I absolutely devour books, it is somewhat rare for me to fall in love with a book series to the point that years after I’ve read it, I’m still raving about it to my friends.

Such is the case for Sylvain Reynard’s Gabriel’s Inferno Series which was first published in 2012. Though it began as fan-fiction of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series (and was released in fan-fic boards as The University of Edward Masen under the authorship of Sebastien Robichaud), this series is vastly superior (in my opinion) to its inspiration in both style and content.

Centered on its enigmatic protagonist, Professor Gabriel Emerson and his romance with his student Julia Mitchell, the series of erotic novels explores their growing passion between that transcends their pasts, secrets and fears.

Set against the backdrop of academic life in the University of Toronto where Professor Emerson teaches Dante studies and in Selinsgrove, Pennysylvania where he grew up, the first book, Gabriel’s Inferno, introduces him to his shy and unassuming student Julia, who, without his knowledge, actually shares a deep connection with him and has fostered feelings for him for the past six years.  The next book, Gabriel’s Rapture, sees the two lovers torn apart by academic politics and vindictive rivals.  The last book in the series, Gabriel’s Redemption, chronicles his married life with Julia and his efforts to make peace with his past to build a future with her.

Throughout the three books and six years later, my interest in the series never waned; I find myself re-reading the books cover to cover from time to time. Aside from the story and the quality of writing, much of the credit can be laid at Gabriel Emerson’s character.

But why is The Professor so compelling?  Here are my thoughts as to why:

  • From the descriptions in the book, he is H-O-T as H-E-L-L!  The Professor is tall, dark-haired with piercing blue eyes and has a great physique (having gone “ten rounds with a few Southies in Boston and lived to brag about it”).  Apparently, he can rock the suit and bowtie and still be all alpha male.
  • The man has brains. Being a university professor whose credentials include a graduate degree from Harvard, the man sure has the smarts.  Plus, he can give a lecture about Renaissance literature and art and still have his audience at full attention.  (Check out this part of his lecture titled “Lust in Dante’s Inferno: The Deadly Sin Against the Self”: “Sex is properly understood to be not only physical, but spiritual—an ecstatic union of two bodies and two souls, meant to mimic the joy and ecstasy of union with the Divine in Paradise. Two bodies joined together in pleasure. Two souls joined through the connection between two bodies and the whole-hearted, enthusiastic, selfless giving of the entire self.” Now, that’s just brainy and sexy in one dose.)
  • His mystery is part of his charm. The Professor has inner demons that he grapples with and how he works through them with Julia and helps Julia deal with her own, makes this a deeper romance story than usual.
  • The guy sure knows romance.  Aside from his “moves” in bed, he is also an attentive lover outside of it. Despite the (surprisingly) few love scenes in the books, Gabriel demonstrates time and again what an attentive lover he is: he brings fine food to Julia’s dorm so she can dine in comfort and pleasure while doing her schoolwork. For their first time together, he takes her on a romantic trip to Florence. Plus, he prepared a soundtrack for his seduction (which includes “Lying in the Hands of God” by Dave Matthews Band)!

Gabriel Emerson is an intriguing and irresistible romantic hero. And I don’t mind sharing him with other romance readers who appreciate a strong and sensitive alpha male.

Click here to buy this book series on Amazon.com.

You might also like these other works by Sylvain Reynard:

Guess what! Sylvain Reynard recently confirmed that he is working on a fourth novel in the Gabriel’s Inferno series. I’ll be counting the days until it’s released!

Check out my other blog posts about my favorite fiction books:

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