Hamming it up in CDO

SLERS Beef Pastrami Sandwich and Tsokolate
SLERS Beef Pastrami Sandwich and Tsokolate

Mention Cagayan de Oro and on top of the list associated with this City of Golden Smiles is its famous ham.  And when it comes to hams, the overwhelming favorite among the locals is SLERS Jamon Cagayan de Oro, which has been around since 1969.  What makes their ham different is the natural juiciness and tenderness of the meat.  This is due in large part to the fact that the swine from which they are made were fed with pineapple, a fruit laden with the enzyme papain, which has natural tenderizing properties. Over the years, SLERS hams have become a part of tradition among CDO locals as well as guests all-year round and especially during Christmas-time.   SLERS have also ventured into the quick-service restaurant and more recently, the café business.

We chanced upon the newly-opened SLERS Ham & Café while looking for somewhere to eat for lunch on our way back to Manila.  The small but charming café is warm and inviting, with a wall decked with goodies ready to tempt the diner.

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Turning Japanese at Banzai

Banzai Chicken Yakitori Bento (Php 95)
Banzai Chicken Yakitori Bento (Php 95)

The food court of a mall is normally NOT the place to look for decent Japanese food.  Almost always, the “food court pricing” automatically means that the food outlet would scrimp on ingredients or cut corners, ergo less satisfying Japanese fare.  But happily, we found an exception and it was literally right under our noses – Banzai Japanese Kitchen in the food court of Cash & Carry Mall.

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Savoring the flavors of Tasty Dumplings

Tasty Dumpling Noodle Soup
Tasty Dumpling Noodle Soup

Mention Binondo and one immediately conjures up images of crowded streets, Binondo church, Chinese herbal medicine stores, Eng Bee Tin hopia, and of course, the-hole-in-the-wall eateries. I used to live in Manila and Ongpin was a regular haunt but not anymore. Venturing to the Binondo Church one Sunday and the almost mandatory side trip to Eng Bee Tin, I chanced upon this seemingly small restaurant with the signage, “Tasty Dumplings”. And so started food trips to this eating place that yielded tasty surprises.

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Tongue-Thai’d in Thai Sticks ‘n Steaks

Thai Sticks n Steaks Chicken Pandan (Php 45 /pc)
Thai Sticks 'n Steaks Chicken Pandan (Php 45 /pc)

I’ve always had a penchant for Thai food ever since I’ve encountered it a long time ago way back when Flavors and Spices, one of the pioneers of Thai cuisine in the country, was around. Then, there was also the more mainstream but nonetheless delicious offerings of Sukhothai. I had this notion that it’s pretty hard not to like Thai food because for all the differences it had with local fare, there are some striking similarities – the use of a shrimp paste, nam pla, for example bears strong resemblance to our bagoong and patis. Some of the flavors are also familiar – the liberal use of lemongrass or tanglad, lime juice, chilis and coconut milk.

It’s not everyday that I hanker for Thai food but I somehow lament the fact that it’s not as commonly available as before. Until I found out that there’s a Thai restaurant along Pasong Tamo that serves great Thai food – Thai Sticks ‘n Steaks. The blurb outside says its cuisine is inspired by Sukhothai. Don’t let the funky name fool you, the food is really very good. So come inside and let’s taste what it has to offer.

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Food tripping in Sagada

Yoghurt House House Specialty
Yoghurt House Specialty (Php 85)

Much has been written about Sagada and its natural wonders that attract trekkers, spelunkers and other adventurous spirits. But to the foodie, Sagada is more than that. there’s another side to this so-called Shangri-la of the north, a more flavorful one that will appeal to the adventurous foodie. We traveled over 400 kilometers to food trip there and there’s something about the highlands – its nippy, crisp clean air, peace and quiet, and of course, the awesome scenery – that makes eating so much more enjoyable. It could also be the elevation that takes eating to a new high. Here, we give a sampler of the many food offerings out there.

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When desserts don’t have to be so sweet

M&Ts Baked Oreo Cheescake (Php 135)
M&T's Baked Oreo Cheescake (Php 135)

Desserts have always been synonymous with the word “sweets” but it doesn’t always have to be that way. A visit to an American country-style bakery cafe named Mom and Tina’s proved us wrong. They have a huge selection of baked goodies that are both truly luscious to the eyes and delectable to the taste.

Mom and Tina’s is a run by the Torres family (named after their Grandmother Mama Belen and her daughter Tina Torres-Santos) for a few years now. The restaurant shows that the very good home-grown food they prepare is hard not to hide for so long. Starting as a small bake shop in Pasig, their place eventually grew to a large bakery cafe in front of SM Hypermart in Ugong. And about 3 months ago they opened a new spot in Legaspi Village along Dela Rosa, Makati where we were finally able to sample what they have to offer.

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Goodfood hunting

Hunters Lamb Chops (Php 345)
Hunter's Lamb Chops (Php 345)

22 years is a very long time for any restaurant to be around especially now that restaurants sprout one year and close shop the next.

Hunter’s could be commended for longevity alone if it weren’t for the wonderful food it offers.  Tucked in a rather non-descript part of Mile Long in Makati, Hunter’s carries on a tradition of exotic fare that harkens back to a time when game animals such as wild boar and deer were still plentiful and un-politically correct to serve.

What’s the secret ingredient for Hunter’s?  The good food, for sure.  Another is the impossible-to-not-like presence of its affable owner, Mila Fitz, who regales guests with stories that trace the history of the place back when most of Makati was still grassland.

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Authentic Yakiniku at Urashemi-ya Restaurant

Yakiniku, grilling meat, Japanese Style
Yakiniku, grilling meat, Japanese-Style

Yakiniku is Japanese for “grilled meat”.  Beef, pork and offal (entrails, internal organs) slices are cooked over coal (traditional), gas or electric (modern) grill and served with a soy-sauce-based dip. Yakiniku traces its origins to Korea but is different from Korean fare such as bulgogi as the customers themselves grill the meat.

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