Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lotte's Milkis Carbonated "Milk" Drink

I had been curious to taste this unique carbonated "milk-flavored" drink for days now. Until I decided to buy and see for myself how its tastes like. It turned out, it tasted just as i had expected it to be: think of Sprite or 7 Up + Vanilla Ice Cream! It is very similar to coke float or rootbeer float except that it comes in a clear fizz soda. Not good for the kids because although it does have that "milky" taste, still it is artificial. 

If you're like me who wants to be an adventure nut, tired of drinking the same iced teas, orange juice and colored sodas, then try this new drink from Lotte. It had a feeling of soda but with the sweet and creamy taste of vanilla ice cream or milk. Now available at 7 Eleven Convenience stores nationwide. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WIN a Christmas Goody Bag from Purple Plum Fairy

Chestnuts roasting.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose....Hmmm, before I could get any further, let me greet you an advance Merry Christmas!!! It's yuletide once again so here I am giving you guys another easy peasy giveaway. Win a Christmas loot from the Purple Fairy for Security Blanket followers. Here's how:

1. Simply tell us your favorite noche buena (Christmas feast/season) food and why you had chosen it? Comment below this blog post. Include your name, location, twitter and facebook account names and email address. (Incomplete details will be disqualified). Deadline of submission of entries will be until December 31,2011 12MN. Winners will be posted on our Facebook Page. 
2. You must LIKE Purple Plum Fairy on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @purpleplumfairy

That easy... Just two steps. NO NEED to be a BLOGGER. So that means, anyone can join! What's inside the Purple Plum Fairy's loot bag? It's going to be a surprise! After all, it is Christmas!

So what are you waiting for? Join now! Thank you so much!

From my family to yours: A very Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year!

PS: This contest is open for Philippine Residents only.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dining at Isabelo's Garden Restaurant: Stimulates All Your Senses

Spend dinner with the family at this secret resto is the best way to celebrate a special occasion.
I had recently been lucky for being chosen to become an openricer. For those who live in the boondocks, Openricers are those who dine, write and review food + restaurants in the Philippines and post them on the main site called I had been making my own food blog for almost a year, but I’d say that it’s my first time to join the Openrice group. I was pretty excited upon knowing I made it to the list.
Romantic dinner for two is perfect for this setup.

The Secret Garden: Although we were given maps sent on our emails to make it easier to get to the restaurant, I didn’t realize it would be quite hard to find. I thought since I am quite familiar with Marikina, I’d be able to know my way around. I figured if ever I get lost, I’d just ask the locals. And this is exactly where I went wrong. Why? The locals weren’t familiar with the said street, more so the restaurant itself. It was a rainy evening when I got to Marikina and the rain must have made the search even more difficult. I did not lose heart. After a few minutes of walking, I had finally arrived at the secluded Isabelo’s Garden Restaurant. The minute I arrived, I had asked the guard on duty why there was no signage upon the entrance. The guard politely said that it was the owner’s personal choice not to put up a sign. Upon hearing this, I began to wonder why. You’ve got to read and check out the end of this article for you to find out the owner’s reasons.


The vibe: Upon entering its huge silvery-gray gate, I was dumbfounded! Totally captivated by Isabelo’s sweet rustic charm.  Isabelo had this quaint romantic vibe. It is perfect for a dinner date with someone special or to celebrate special occasions with the family. 

Cupboards were filled with thingamajigs.
Pachyderm figurines.
 Apart from the typical ornamental plants and trellises within the restaurant’s vicinity, I’d have to say that it is really unique with bits and pieces of history and culture on its own. It had an artist’s nook (the lovely owner, Ms. Portia Dee-Baluyut’s mom used to paint in the said room) where different paintings are on display. They’ve got loads of used perfume bottles, ivory and ceramic figurines, crafts, antique copper pots, pans and whatnots also on display at their one-of-a-kind cupboard collections. Not to mention, they’ve got old black and white family pictures hanging on the walls that truly brings a sense of nostalgia to its guests. 

Cute dove figure.
Empty fragrance bottles on display.

Old family pictures.

Trimmings and recycled items may look fabulous like this one.

Portraits of Portia and her family.

Clown paintings.
Even the mosaic floors are as lovely.

Roses are red and blooming.

More paintings from Portia's mom.

Al fresco dining at its best.

 What I love most with Isabelo’s Garden Restaurant is that it stimulates and pleases almost all of your senses: your sense of sight: with what you see within the area (amazing art works + some history + relaxing garden), with what you hear (with the soothing music they play) + your olfactory nerves (the delicious aroma of both food and sweet scent of flowers), + taste, your discriminating palate (with really excellent food!). With such stuff I had just mentioned, I could feel my stomach began to grumble so let’s now proceed to the food review.

Now, here's what I can say about their food.

The Food Review:
Spinach Artichoke Dip—It is served with a few slices of bread. The spinach artichoke dip was so creamy and delightfully delicious, it tasted heavenly! For P350 per order, it promises to be a good appetizer.

The best appretizer ever: Spinach Artichoke Dip with bread.

I  can't have enough of this creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip.
Pinoy Tuscan Salad—I’d say do not underestimate this simple-looking dish. Yes, you’re reading it right. It may look ordinary with bread and tomato slices, but when you put it inside your mouth, it spells all the difference. I didn’t know how Ms. Portia did it. But there’s something on this salad that makes it refreshing. Could it be cilantro? How about its balsamic vinaigrette dressing? I’m not quite sure. One thing I’m sure of is that this plate had been emptied in less than ten minutes. Pinoy Tuscan Salad is P195 per order.
Pinoy Tuscan Salad in its simple yet addicting taste.
Green Grilled Vegetable Salad--I can't believe that something so healthy could be so delicious. Need I say more?
The healthy grilled green vegetable salad.

 Apple Cranberry Bread—Okay, I had to admit I am not really an apple eater. But I do love cranberries and this one tasted sweet just like French toast. It is served with something that looked like butter. This appetizer was actually a hit among the openricers because I almost didn’t taste it. I was left with a really small portion just so I could taste it. It costs P150 per order.
The Apple Cranberry Bread--Berry Good!

This was the leftover buttery-sauce from Apple Cranberry Bread.
Honey Bacon Pizza—I am a self-confessed pizza fan. Although I was able to eat just a small slice during the Eats a Date event by, it was enough for me to taste its crunchy pizza goodness with gooey mozzarella cheese and the smoked-honey flavor of bacon toppings. For only P430, a serving of this pizza is great for an entire family.
Pizza heaven for cheese and bacon lovers.

Chicken Family Feast—The chicken was served with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side. The chicken was tender, juicy and flavorful. As its name suggests, an order of this chicken is enough to feed the entire family. It’s P1050 per order.

Beef Ribs—It was a bit spicy, somewhat similar to one of Filipino’s favorite viands, Caldereta. But unlike a typical caldereta, it didn’t have carrots or potatoes on it. It has caldereta’s rich sauce and spicy peppery taste. It is also very tender and you could slice it up by a fork even without the use of a knife. An order of this dish is P950. Quite a value for the price, considering that it is good for 4-5 person per order.

Beefy goodness!
Pinugon Pork Crackling—We were told that Ms. Portia had to cook the pork for long hours, not to mention its marinating time. This is my personal favorite. Believe it or not, I don’t like pork. I’d rather go and eat chicken anytime but one bite of Pinugon Pork Crackling is enough to make me a convert. It tasted soooo heavenly tender and juicy. Infused with herbs like lemongrass, it is crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. As if it wasn’t enough, it had four different sauces for you to explore and try. It had a sauce that tastes like sweet and sour apple cinnamon vinaigrette, another one tasted like Mexican salsa, minced tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, another one with chili on them. A bit of advice though: Eat this in moderation or your cholesterol level and hypertension might shoot up to high heavens! An order is all worth it at P1250.

The star for the night: Pugon Pork Crackling with four different dips to choose from.

See how well we ate this delicious pork crackling?
Desserts: Watermelon Sherbet—Before this dessert was served, Ms. Portia told us to taste the sherbet, as it is first, after that only then we’ll squeeze out the lemon slices. We did just as we were told. And we were all surprised with the results. It turned out that the lemon did a refreshing twist to the watermelon sherbet’s flavor.  It is indeed a great way to cleanse the palate and cap off an excellent meal. It costs P90 per order.
Sweet and zesty Watermelon Sherbet is my fave with lemon squeeze for that twist!

Key Lime Pie—This pie can be deceiving. It looks so simple but I swear, once tasted, it can be pretty addicting. Just like the effect the watermelon sherbet had given us, a slice of key lime pie cleanses the palate and gives off a refreshing zing to one great meal. It tastes just right—not too sweet, not too sour. For P200 per slice, it’ll surely satisfy your sweet tooth.
Refreshingly sweet Key Lime Pie was a sure hit!
Mango Float—Think of graham crumbs + ladyfingers + frozen cream + ripened mango slices + chocolate syrup, that pretty much sums up what this mango float is all about. For P110 per slice, chocolate lovers would surely go loco over this dessert.

Yummy Mango Float with chocolate drizzle.
I am amazed to find out that Isabelo Garden Restaurant’s owner and head of the kitchen, Ms. Portia Dee-Baluyut had not taken any culinary course. She was an Assumption Graduate (she used to run an ad agency) who had a natural flair for the kitchen as she grew up watching her grandma cook. Ms. Portia takes pride that everything in Isabelo Garden Restaurant was done with a heart: from the garden’s cozy look to the kitchen and of course, to their efficient service and excellent food.
The lovely and accommodating Ms. Portia Dee-Baluyut.
The author after enjoying a hearty meal.

Here’s a little trivia: Did you know that the Isabelo Garden Restaurant was washed off by the tropical storm Ondoy? But as Ms. Portia would say, Isabelo means God is Bountiful. Thus, He had restored everything they had lost in a few months time. It was really Ms. Portia’s personal choice why the restaurant had no signage at all.  She wanted to protect the privacy of her clients and to make sure that they will have an unforgettable al fresco dining experience at Isabelo’s. That’s why reservations and advance booking is a MUST.

And btw, Isabelo's had a pretty restroom. Check it out yourself:

So I may have gotten lost on my way to Isabelo Garden Restaurant. But I’d have to say, with the great ambiance, efficient service and excellent food—I don’t really mind because it’s all worth the effort.
Visit their website Call 681-2461 for reservations and inquiries. Like them on Facebook as well. Purple Plum Fairy thanks Openrice, Isabelo's Garden Restaurant and Ms. Portia Dee-Baluyut. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Latest Food Discovery: How I Fell In Love with Tokyo Cafe!

I am always on the look out for culinary creations to feed not just my hunger, but more so my curiosity. And I know I’m the only one hooked on this hunt in my family, thus, I end up this big (read: on the plump side err obese, if you cannot utter the word). But I know there are lots of food lovers out there who find themselves in the same delicious dilemma so to help, I’d like to share my two cents on my latest food discovery which had probably the best-tasting Japanese and European fusion foods available in the country today. Sure, there are thousands of restaurants and food shops to choose from and on top of that thousands of dishes to try. Hopefully, you can try my latest food discoveries. Read on and find out how I fell in love with Tokyo Café.

See that small jigger sized glass? That's how you adjust its taste.
To begin with, Tokyo Café is currently rising as one of the most sought after Japanese coffee shops in the country. The restaurant provides a cozy ambiance, delicious food, and unique Japanese beverages. Oh, and I haven’t mentioned anything yet about the stuff posted on their walls—they’re so cool! I really liked the few words and wisdom on their walls. An example would be something like this: “In Japan, before eating you say, I-ta-da-ki-ma-su, which means, “I receive this gift thankfully.” After finishing your meal, you say, Go-chi-so-sa-ma, which means, “Thank you for the meal.” I’ve always thought it was as simple as Taberu…(read: Let’s eat!)

The crispy and tasty TenJu (Shrimp Tempura) with fresh salad on the side.

A delicious concoction of coffee and chocolate syrup with ice cream.

Another interesting wall post is the Japanese saying Ichigo Ichie, it says, “The true spirit of hospitality is based on the saying Ichigo Ichie which means, ‘treasure every encounter with another person”.  The place provides a laid back environment, very nice interiors and well lighted with touches of colors light green and ecru white.
Coming from a reputable Japanese coffee shop, a native of Tokyo, Mr. Atsushi Yoshizawa found potential in the Philippine market. With his background in restaurant operations, he adopted the same method and ventured into the food business here in our country. Mr. Yoshizawa had trained his staff well for excellent service and uses the Japanese standards of food quality.  He’s also very hands-on, making sure that every food or beverage is served the way they do in Japan. 

Mr Yoshizawa and Ms. Kate Paredes explains how Tokyo Cafe started.

Differentiating itself from a regular coffee shop and a Japanese restaurant, it offers first-class fusion of Japanese and Western cuisine. Where else could you find especially blended coffee and beverages, Japanese tempura, burgers + fries, pasta, and pizza in one restaurant? Others may find it a bit odd, but if you really go to Japan, they really serve pasta and pizza in coffee shops. Maybe we’ve just been used to Western-style when it comes to coffee shops that’s why we would always see cakes, bagels, sandwiches and pastries on their menu. I guess this is also one of the reasons why Tokyo Café is a standout. I’d like to think this setup is perfect for the whole family. When Dad wants to drink coffee, Mom wants to eat Japanese cuisine, older sister is on a diet and wants something healthy like pasta, the kids love fries and the whole family can share in one pizza—you’ll never go wrong dining at Tokyo Café because they’ve got everything! Dining at Tokyo Café is all about being exciting and full of choices in a relaxing atmosphere.
The author preparing her chopsticks before indulging on her Kalbi-Ju.
I’ve tasted their bestselling Ten-Ju or deep fried shrimp tempura (real tiger shrimps) with their signature tempura sauce on a bed of steamed white rice. Here’s what I liked most about their Japanese rice toppings or Ju-Box (set meals)—for every order, there’s a small portion of green fresh vegetable salad as side dish. Making sure that every meal is a balance and healthy one. Unlike other shrimp tempura served in other Japanese cuisine-based restaurants where shrimp tempura had been over coated with batter and flour, Tokyo Café’s shrimp tempura is really a standout because it is tasty up to the last bite. It’s not greasy even if it’s deep-fried. The tempura was very crispy even if it only had very thin flour coating or batter. Surprisingly, from the crispy coating outside, it is very soft and tasty inside. The sauce lent a slight gingery taste. It’s like having my comfort food. I will definitely recommend it to all my relatives and friends.

The tender Kalbi-Ju with a special coffee based ice cream drink.

Tokyo Café’s Kalbi-Ju or thinly sliced beef smothered in original yakiniku sauce is also a must try. The beef wasn’t a challenge to begin with; in fact it was easy to chew. And it came in a generous pile on top of the steamed rice that inevitably made this dish drool-worthy. I just wish they even had more of its yakiniku sauce on the side because I was craving for more. Its got the sweetness and saltiness together in a dish. Had it been gristly, the dish would have been a dentures’ nightmare. Thankfully, it is incredibly soft and chewy.

Perfect meals for those on the budget.

Some of the delicious Japanese set meals Tokyo Cafe meals.

 Unaju is also a favorite among Tokyo Café’s customers. Unaju are pan-fried eel fillets topped with caramelized soy sauce over rice. Other must-try dishes are the Katsu-Ju and Oyako-Ju. Katsu-Ju is deep fried breaded pork cutlet flavored with signature tempura sauce, onions, leeks and scrambled egg on steamed rice. Oyako-Ju are sliced chicken braised in signature tempura sauce with onions, and leeks mixed in tamago (egg) on steamed white rice.
Tokyo Café also had lots of unique Japanese beverages such especially blended coffee drinks like Tokyo Ice, Tokyo Blend, Ice Caramel, and Espresso among many others. If you’re lucky, sometimes they even offer especially prepared beverages like Cherry Blossoms and Peach inspired drinks that are truly refreshing. Drinks and beverages are served with a small jigger glass for additional milk and syrup, giving customers the option to adjust their drinks based on their own taste.
The author at Tokyo Cafe in SM Megamall Bridgeway branch.

There are actually more sumptuous food and beverages to discover at Tokyo Café. I vow to come back to taste some more interesting foods like their pizza and pasta. By the way, it would be great to let you know that the company behind Tokyo Café also owns Parmigiano Pizzeria Ristorante, so you can be assured that their pizza and pasta are awesome in their own right! I immediately fell in love with Tokyo Café. It had more to offer than ordinary coffee shops I usually frequent which only had bagels, sandwiches, cakes and pastries. Tokyo Café will definitely satisfy even those with discriminating palate. More than their great tasting food and drinks, you’ll surely come back for more because of their efficient and friendly service.

The cozy interior of the cafe.

The author at Tokyo Cafe.

Find out for yourselves why I fell in love with Tokyo Café. Drop by in any of their branches: SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall, McKinley Piazza, Go Hotel in Pioneer and NAIA Terminal 3. Like them on their Facebook page to get updates on their promo and latest offers.

Purple Plum Fairy says Arigato Gozaimasu to Mr. Atsushi Yoshizawa and Ms. Kate Paredes of Tokyo Café. Special thanks to Mr. Richard Mamuyac.