Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving dinner with the US Potato Board

I had my very first taste of an authentic American tradition last Nov. 25, 2009 at M Café when I was invited to join the United States Potato Board's Thanksgiving Dinner.

Thanksgiving dinner table setting at M CafeThe dinner menu was especially prepared by Chef Sau Del Rosario, M Café's food consultant and Chelsea Market Café's chef. It was like something out of the TV show Iron Chef, with US frozen potatoes as the theme ingredient. I was very excited, I always watch Iron Chef and here the great Chef Sau himself was going incorporate US frozen potatoes into every single dish of our multi-course dinner.

USDA Agricultural Attaché David Wolfe and Potato Dill Sourdough BreadUSDA Agricultural Attaché David Wolfe (pictured above left) gave a little talk about US Frozen Potatoes just before dinner. He said that the Philippines is the second largest market for US Frozen Potatoes in Southeast Asia. Quite impressive since we're such a small country don't you think? Anyways, the first course, Potato Dill Sourdough Bread (pictured above right) was served shortly after. I loved its freshly baked goodness. Amazingly, it was made with US Frozen Hash Browns.

Crispy Seabass, Parsley Brandade, Root Vegetable Floss, Rosemary Orange Beurre Blanc and Seared Foie Gras US Scallop Potato Soup at M CafeNext up were Crispy Seabass with Parsley Brandade, Root Vegetable Floss, Rosemary Orange Beurre Blanc (pictured above left) and Seared Foie Gras US Scallop Potato Soup (pictured above right). It was the first time I ever had a sizable piece of seabass for an appetizer. It was very tender and juicy. The parsley brandade was made with US Frozen Mashed Potatoes. Meanwhile, the soup had this amazingly rich and creamy texture which makes it hard to believe that US Frozen Hash Browns were used to create it. The foie gras was a surprise -- I was expecting something buttery and sweet but Chef Sau's foie gras was savory in flavor and lightly crisped. It complemented the soup perfectly.

Turkey Carving Station and Porcini and Truffle Gnocchi at M CafeOf course, what's a thanksgiving dinner without the traditional turkey? A turkey carving station (pictured above left) was set up. I got a couple of slices and topped them with cranberry sauce. Then came the best dish of the night -- Porcini and Truffle Gnocchi (pictured above right). I was already quite full at this point but wow, I was in heaven as soon as I had a gnocchi. The gnocchi is so chewy it rolls in your mouth. I also felt as if I tasted truffle for the first time. The mushrooms were drenched with truffle oil. I've had a lot of truffle dishes in the past and yet never really tasted truffle. It was incredible.

Baked Pork Tenderloin Potato Spinach Flan, Mustard Sauce and Potato Torte with White Chocolate at M Cafe
When the main dish of Baked Pork Tenderloin Potato Spinach Flan with Mustard Sauce (pictured above left) was finally unveiled, I was already so full I could manage only a few bites. Anyways, I didn't think the potato spinach flan was successful because what we got was a US Frozen Potato with mustard sauce and spinach salad on the side. It was rather disjointed and not really one of my favorite dishes. Then came one of the most exciting parts -- dessert! How do you incorporate US Frozen Potatoes into dessert? Chef Sau came up with a Potato Torte and a circular piece of hash brown partially coated in white chocolate. The Potato Torte tasted like Sansrival, except that instead of the usual regular buttercream this one mixes in US Frozen Mashed Potatoes. The resulting layers of sweet potato-buttercream in between crisp meringue is quite indescribable. I don't like Sansrival but this was something else.

And I thought US Frozen Potatoes were only used for fries...

Photo op with Chef Sau Del RosarioAfter dinner, I had a chance to meet and have a little chat with Chef Sau. He admitted to being hesitant about taking the US Frozen Potato challenge, but he did an amazing job all the same. I miss his Porcini and Truffle Gnocchi already! :)

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Hooters of Manila Bay Philippines

Hooters.

It's a restaurant I've seen in Hollywood movies, characterized by busty and bubbly blondes in tank tops and short shorts. Although I've been to the US many times in the past I've never really gotten around to going to Hooters.

Inside Hooters Manila BayOne night hubby, a friend, and I decided to pay Hooters over at Manila Bay a visit. The place was big, but since it was a slow night it wasn't exactly packed. There's a dining area and a separate bar area, and the first question you'll be asked when you set foot in it is "Smoking or Non-smoking?"

With all the beer promos on the posters and the table standees, yes I'd say that Hooters is primarily a place for drinking with your buddies while getting to ogle skimpily clad waitresses. However, it's actually not as raunchy as it sounds. It's like a cross between a TGIFriday's type of family restaurant and a bar. It's brightly lit and cheery, and there were actually families with kids dining the night we went there.

Buffalo Platter and Hooters Cobb Salad at Hooters Manila BayTo get us started, we ordered Buffalo Platter (P750, pictured above left), Hooters Cobb Salad (P450, pictured above right), and Lots-a-Tots (P250, pictured below).

Lots-a-Tots at Hooters Manila BayThe Buffalo Platter consisted of buffalo shrimp, chicken strips, and wings served with carrot and celery sticks on the side. It was nothing like I expected, since I expected buffalo wings and things to be spicy. The batter was sweet but nothing really special. The shrimps were gross, they were big -- oh yes -- but so big that you could see through the batter that they had not been de-veined. Armed with the knowledge that the black stripe on a shrimp's back is actually feces (shrimp poo, eew), I was grossed out. The Hooters Cobb Salad was okay, the problem was the vinaigrette. It was so bland it tasted like heavily diluted olive oil with just a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar. Lots-a-Tots was basically hash brown nuggets topped with cheese sauce, bacon bits, green onion, and sour cream. An average appetizer at best.

BBQ Baby Back Ribs at Hooters Manila BayFor our main course, we settled for BBQ Baby Back Ribs (pictured above, P495) and their latest dish at the time of this posting -- Grilled Pork Belly (P375, pictured below).

Grilled Pork Belly at Hooters Manila Bay
The BBQ Baby Back Ribs was very dry and quite actually the farthest thing from tender and fall-off-the-bone. I could tell in a glance that I was not going to enjoy it, and I didn't. Grilled Pork Belly was slightly better, but really, for a something like this I think I'm better off having some liempo at a cheaper place like Dencio's or Gerry's Grill.

I guess some of you would like to hear what I thought of the skimpily-clad servers. Well, they were the farthest thing from the perky cheerleader types Hooters prides itself on hiring. The server who attended to us was about as lively as a corpse and couldn't even manage a smile. I didn't bother taking a photo because it just wasn't worth it.

Did I even like anything about Hooters? Well, I liked that the place was bright and spacious. But overall, I felt it was a waste paying a great deal of money (our bill was around P2.5k and we were just 3 people!) for such bland and tasteless food. Just about the best part of my meal was the celery sticks and ranch dip that came with the Buffalo Platter.

Hooters of Manila Bay Philippines
Building D Units 1-6,
San Miguel by the Bay,
Mall of Asia, Pasay City
556-4946 or 48

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Johnson's Baby Bedtime Discoveries

Johnson and Johnson converted The Conservatory at Manila Peninsula into a big cozy nursery last Nov. 21, 2009 in an event entitled "Johnson's Baby Bedtime Discoveries".

Johnson's Baby Bedtime Discoveries at the Manila PeninsulaJohnson's Baby Bedtime Discoveries at the Manila PeninsulaHosted by celebrity mom Tintin Bersola-Babao, the event aimed to educate moms and moms-to-be's on the importance of a sound sleep in a child's overall health and well-being. Dr. Luis Rivera, a Fellow of the Philippine Society for Sleep Medicine and pediatric consultant at the Makati Medical Center, reiterated the impact of sleep on a child's growth and development. He shared with us the results of a sleep study conducted by Johnson and Johnson's.

Johnson's Baby Bedtime Discoveries at the Manila PeninsulaBasically, there are three steps that Johnson's recommends for ensuring a more sound and restful sleep for your baby. These three steps were demonstrated by midwives J&J brought to the event along with some volunteer mommy bloggers.
  1. Step 1: A warm bath or punas
  2. Step 2: A soothing massage
  3. Step 3: Some quiet time
We were given a rundown on how to properly give an infant a sponge bath and a soothing massage. Funny how they likened the massage to milking a cow, the problem is, I've never even been near a cow much less try milking one. Anyhow, based on my experience as a mom I think determining the amount of pressure you apply during a baby massage is instinctive. Quiet time would consist of storytelling, singing or humming lullabyes, putting some powder on baby (well that is Johnson's suggested quiet time activity as you can see in the photo above), etc.

Johnson's Baby Bedtime Product Line
The sleep study shows that adapting this simple bedtime routine with Johnson's Baby Bedtime products helps babies sleep more soundly for longer periods of time. Shown above are the Johnson's bedtime bath, bedtime lotion, and bedtime powder. I know for a fact that there is also a bedtime soap and bedtime oil but they were not highlighted in the event.

Personally I like the Johnson's Baby Bedtime line because they smell so good. They're formulated with lavender and chamomile so the result is a delicate, fresh, and soothing scent. My kids actually use the Bedtime Bath as shampoo and they end up with soft, nice-smelling hair afterwards. I usually bring Johnson's Bedtime Bath when we travel because it's an all-in-one product. I don't have to pack separate soaps and shampoos for the kids.

To find out more about Johnson's Baby Bedtime products, log on to http://www.babycenter.com.ph/bedtime. You can also create your child's sleep profile there and pick up invaluable information and tips that can help you improve his sleeping habits.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Earn up to US$100 with your Facebook account!

Do you have a Facebook account? Do you have a Paypal account? Are you a resident of the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, or India?

If you answered yes to all three questions then good news... you can actually earn up to US$100 through Facebook!

Paypal Wishlist at Facebook
Just use the application Paypal Wishlist. Pick five things that you want and then share with your Facebook friends. Voila! You get US$1 for every friend that you refer. There's a US$100 cap though so that's the maximum amount of money you can make.

Get started on your Paypal Wishlist by clicking HERE. You're just a click away from some extra cash this Christmas.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Immunity Foundation -- keep your kids from getting sick!

Any mom would know how hard it is when your child gets sick. Apart from the constant worrying, there are those sleepless nights, endless calls and texts to the pediatrician, and just this general feeling of uneasiness until your little one gets well.

I remember one time when my daughter suddenly came down with fever. I was so paranoid about dengue that I called our pediatrician right away and went in for a blood test. It came out negative, but waiting for the results was a very stressful experience to say the least.

One of the things I do to keep my kids from getting sick is giving them their daily dose of vitamin C. Our pediatrician also advised me to double the dosage in times of colds, flu, and other ailments. I’m a believer in the immunity-boosting properties of vitamin C. I even make sure to bring some whenever we travel. I can say it’s been quite effective because my kids don’t get sick that often even without flu shots. Prevention is always better than cure, as much as possible I’d like to minimize my kids’ medicine intake since too much meds takes a toll on one’s liver.

Breastfeeding also helped a lot. I breastfed my son for 3 months -- he just wasn't cooperative! With my daughter, I was able to do so for 6.5 months since she was very receptive to it. There's such a big difference between the two in terms of getting sick and recovering. My daughter gets sick a lot less (even if in general both of them don't get sick a lot) and recovers within a day or two with minimal treatment.

Aside from taking vitamin C, here are a few other things you can do to keep your children healthy:
  • Make sure your kids get enough sleep. A well-rested child is a child that's more resistant to sickness. On a side note, our pediatrician told us that growth hormones are released during sleep -- so sleeping actually does make one grow.
  • Make sure your kids eat properly. While I don't deprive my children by prohibiting chips and sweets, I moderate the intake and always have a combination of vegetables, meat, and seafood on the table during main meals. They also bring sandwiches and water to school for recess instead of packed cookies and juices.
  • Make sure your kids get enough physical activity. Admittedly, my children love playing video games above all else so it takes extra effort for us to get them to go out and play. We'd take them swimming or have them ride their bikes around the compound during late afternoons when the sun isn't so harsh.
  • Make sure the house and the surrounding area is clean. Undisposed garbage and puddles of water around the house encourage the breeding of disease-carrying pests like mosquitoes, roaches, and mice.
  • Teach your kids about the importance of personal hygiene. Bathing everyday, frequent handwashing, regular tooth brushing... these may seem very basic but adapting healthy habits at an early age builds your child's immunity foundation.
Immunity Foundation by Ceelin
Learn more about immunity foundation by logging onto http://www.immunityfoundation.com. Register to get expert advice, interact with other moms, and win prizes!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A lovely lunch with Hardys fine wines

I'm not a wine expert. I'm just a regular person who loves good food and drink. Albeit I've attended a wine workshop and wine appreciation lectures in the past, I regret to say that I'm still not a wine connoisseur by any measure.

Hardys Stamp Riesling Gewurtztraminer white wineI was invited to an intimate lunch with Hardys fine wines last November 16, 2009 at The Oakroom, Oakwood Premier Joy-Nostalg Center's fine dining restaurant. This being a wine event, we were welcomed with glasses of Hardys Stamp Riesling Gewurtzraminer (pictured above). Riesling Gewurtzaminer is a sweet and fruity white wine which I really, really loved. Like most wine novices, I preferred the sweeter wines which are more like sparkling fruit juice rather than alcohol. A bottle of Hardys Riesling Gewurtzraminer costs only P300+. I'm really quite easy to please when it comes to wine.

The highlight of the event was the presence of Bill Hardy (pictured above on the right with James Du Vivier on the left) 5th generation, and currently the brand ambassador of Hardys. Bill talked about how his family's wine business got started, the challenges they faced along the way, and their current position as one of Australia's top brands of wine.

Bill was a very amicable fellow. After his talk, he went around the tables to sit and chat with the guests, entertaining questions and queries.

Gourmet Salad with Shaved Smoked Duck Breast and Duck Terrine on Mesclun Leaves, French Beans, and Truffle Xeres Dressing at The Oakroom
Then came my favorite part -- food and wine pairing! For every course we had, a matching wine was served. First up was Gourmet Salad with Shaved Smoked Duck Breast and Duck Terrine on Mesclun Leaves, French Beans, and Truffle Xeres Dressing (pictured above). Such a long name for mixed greens, cubes of liver paté, duck meat, and what seemed like vinaigrette. I didn't taste any truffle in the dressing unfortunately. Anyways, the salad was served with Hardys Nottage Hill Chardonnay. The chardonnay was markedly stronger and more tart compared to the sweet Riesling Gewurtztraminer but it complemented the salad rather nicely. A bottle of Hardys Nottage Hill Chardonnay costs somewhere between P400-P500.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Sauce, Mini Vegetables, and Sauteed Potatoes at The Oakroom
We had Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Sauce, Mini Vegetables, and Sauteed Potatoes (pictured above right) for the main course served with Hardys Nottage Hill Shiraz (pictured above left) -- our first sampling of red wine. The Shiraz was as expected, even stronger than the Chardonnay. I could feel my face getting hot as it was my third glass of wine already. I'm more of a white wine person since I prefer its lighter taste.

Hardys HRB D638 Chardonnay and Chocolate and Grand Marnier BruleeFor dessert, Chocolate and Grand Marnier Brulee was served. I'm not fond of Creme Brulee since it's usually too sweet and sore-throat inducing but wow, this particular Brulee was absolutely heavenly. It was very creamy with just the right level of sweetness, plus it had rich milk chocolate swirls inside. It was sooo good. I literally scraped my bowl clean because I couldn't get enough of it. The Oakroom's Chocolate and Grand Marnier Brulee definitely has my vote for the best brulee ever.

By this time, they were getting ready to serve the wines which they were planning to launch in the Philippines, the new Hardys HRB (Heritage Reserve Bin) comprised of Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. What makes the HRB line special is that it showcases the famous Hardys tradition of blending grapes from different regions to produce innovative new wines. Hardys HRB wines would cost around P1000+ per bottle.

I asked Bill to elaborate a bit more on how blending is done. Basically, Hardys would have vineyards and wineries in differen areas. After the wine is made, one of its components is transferred to another location where the other wine is located. They are put together, or blended, during the cold months after vintage. The wines would need time to merge and mature together in order to create a smooth blend. Mixing up two fully mature wines and then putting the result in a bottle would not work -- it would yield a disjointed wine.

We were served the Hardys HRB D638 Chardonnay and the Hardys HRB D636 Shiraz. These were even more... hardcore (for the lack of a better term) than all the previous wines served. I still very much prefer my Hardys Stamp Riesling Gewurtzraminer though, even if the HRB's are triple the price. :p

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Family Game Night -- Win over 5k worth of Hasbro games!

What is Family Game Night?

Hasbro's Family Game NightIn this age of video games and the internet, a lot of us may have forgotten what it's like to spend an evening playing good old-fashioned board games with the family. I remember playing Uno with my aunts, uncles, and cousins as a little girl. We would all sit in a circle and take turns putting cards on the table, with the winner finally shouting "Uno!". It was such fun. I think I've played just about every classic board game there is -- Monopoly, Risk, Cluedo, The Game of Life... you name it, I've played it. It helped that my grandma's house was a treasure trove of games like these.

With Hasbro's Family Game Night line, we want to bring back those fun times shared with the family. Those times when we weren't so preoccupied in front of the PC, the TV, or whatever new gadget we can get our hands on these days. We want to talk to each other. Laugh together. Make memories...

Hasbro's Family Game Night with Mr. Potato Head
To get you started on your very own Family Game Night, Color Mix Corporation, the exclusive Philippine distributor of Hasbro games, is giving away more than P5,000 worth of games to three lucky winners.

Family Game Night Blog Contest
  • Blog about Family Game Night. It could be an account of your own family's experiences or your thoughts on Family Game Night... so long as the theme is Family Game Night, blog away and be creative!
  • You can blog on any site -- Multiply, Blogspot, Wordpress... it's your choice!
  • Include a link to Animetric's World and Color Mix Toys and Games at the end of your entry. No links, no entry.
  • Leave the url of your blog entry at the comments section below with your full name and email address.
  • Contest is open to residents of the Philippines. Prize will be shipped to the winner.
  • Prize: Trivial Pursuit Digital Choice game worth P2,799.75, Electronic Hyperslide game worth P1,799.75, and an Electronic Hyperslide T-shirt.
  • There will be one winner to be selected by Color Mix Toys and Games.
Family Game Night Photo Contest
  • Take a photo of your family playing together with the theme Family Game Night.
  • You will need a Multiply account to join this contest.
  • Join the Color Mix Toys and Games Multiply Group at http://colormixgames.multiply.com/
  • Go to the Family Game Night Photo Contest Album and click Add Photos. Follow instructions posted on the album.
  • Contest is open to residents of the Philippines. Prize will be shipped to the winner.
  • Prize: Electronic Hyperslide game worth P1,799.75
  • There will be one winner to be selected by Color Mix Toys and Games.
Family Game Night Electronic Raffle
  • Everyone who joins in the blog contest and the photo contest will be eligible for the electronic raffle.
  • One name will be drawn from all the non-winning entries in the above contests.
  • Prize: Electronic Hyperslide game worth P1,799.75
Deadline for all entries is Nov. 30, 2009.

Hasbro's Trivial Pursuit Digital Choice and Electronic Hyperslide from Color Mix Corporation
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Monday, November 16, 2009

An early Christmas with Working Mom Magazine

Finally got a copy of Working Mom Magazine's November 2009 issue today. It's special to me because after approximately one year of writing for WM, I finally got a spot in the contributors' page entitled "Our Family". For a readable version of the page, click HERE.

Working Mom Magazine November 2009 issueFor this issue I was assigned to feature things to do as a family this Christmas season, and I came up with a list of ten spanning two pages, entitled "Holiday Fun: Ten things to do with your kids this Christmas".

Outside Casa Santa at Jardin de MiramarI started the list with a visit to Casa Santa (pictured above) at Jardin de Miramar in Antipolo City. Casa Santa is actually a beautiful two-storey house turned museum wherein it's Christmas all year round. The owner Ms. Edna Del Rosario is an avid Santa Claus collector, purchasing Santa figures, collectibles, and merchandise from just about every corner of the world during her travels. Before she knew it she had thousands of santas in all shapes, sizes, and materials... and she still keeps adding to the collection to this day!

Inside Casa Santa at Jardin de Miramar
Normally you'd have to arrange a group tour before you can see this amazing collection, but since it is that special time of year, Casa Santa will be open to the public every 1st and 3rd Saturday of December and January from 2pm to 4pm. Entrance fee is P120 per person. Our family has actually been to Casa Santa several times in the past and let me tell you it's such a great experience for the kids and kids at heart. For more information about Casa Santa and location maps, click HERE.

Aside from my Christmas activity roster, Working Mom's November issue is jam-packed with features like bargain-hunting with a customized Divisoria map, Multiply toy shopping, budget-friendly potluck dishes, understanding teens' secret codes, and tips for looking and actually being slimmer this holiday season. There are also promos and contests to join where you can win anything from Promil Pre-school gift packs to toys to pampering packages from Aesthetic Science. Grab a copy today!


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Can we whip up 5,000 dishes made of Kraft Eden cheese?

I got to attend a rather interesting food event last Nov. 7, 2009 at The Manila Hotel.

Kraft Eden cheese event host Chynna Ortaleza and an Andalucia cocktailHosted by Chynna Ortaleza, Kraft Eden cheese's latest project was unveiled: To put the Philippines in the Guiness Book of World Records by crafting 5,000 dishes out of cheese to best the previous world record of 4,668 set by India.

Roasted Vegetables-Cheese Terrine @ Kraft Eden cheese eventAs if to demonstrate, a lovely sit-down lunch was served with cheese dishes for every single course. We started off with Roasted Vegetables-Cheese Terrine served with Tepenade and a simple salad on the side. It was delicious.

Eggplant Soup with Cheese Foam and Tomato Float and Pineapple-Cheese Sorbet with Lemon Grass @ Kraft Eden cheese eventNext up was Eggplant Soup with Cheese Foam and Tomato Float (pictured above left) followed by Pineapple-Cheese Sorbet with Lemon Grass (pictured above right). The sorbet had a very strong flavor for a palate cleanser -- sweet, sour, and tart all at the same time.

US Beef Tenderloin Baked in Eden Cheese Garlic Infused Merlot Sauce Grilled Risotto Cake with Cheddar Bouquet of Vegetables and Eden Cheese Cake with Chocolate Sauce @ Kraft Eden cheese eventFor the main course we had US Beef Tenderloin Baked in Eden Cheese Garlic Infused Merlot Sauce with Grilled Risotto Cake and Cheddar Bouquet of Vegetables... whew! (pictured above left) Such a long name but it was actually just this really thick chunk of steak in brown sauce. I wasn't too happy with it since the cut I got was about two inches in diameter and it was rare. We were then treated to three different desserts -- Eden Cheese Cake with Chocolate Sauce (pictured above right), a warm cup of Chocolate Coffee Concoction (pictured below), and Pralines with Cheese Filling (pictured further below).

Chocolate Coffee Concoction @ Kraft Eden cheese event

Pralines with Cheese Filling @ Kraft Eden cheese eventThe Pralines with Cheese Filling (pictured above) was a pleasant surprise. I've used Kraft Eden cheese at home and well, it's on the savory (dare I say even salty) side and not really the type of cheese you have for dessert. The pralines were pretty good, I quite enjoyed them with Manila Hotel's hot brewed coffee.

Kraft Eden cheese Yumm Pack couponBe a part of history as we attempt to put the Philippines in the Guiness Book of World Records with Kraft Eden cheese! Register at http://www.sarapngbuhay.com and get a FREE Kraft Eden Yumm Gift Pack when you attend the event on Dec. 14, 2009 at 3:30pm in the Araneta Coliseum! Admission is free.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Get your FREE Johnson's Body Care gift pack!

Free Johnsons Body Care gift packExperience Johnson's Body Care for FREE simply by signing up here - http://www.femalenetwork.com/bodycare/. Just fill up the form and confirm your email to get a limited edition designer Johnson's Body Care gift pack delivered to your doorstep for FREE -- wherever you are in the Philippines!

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An AICA (The Academy for International Culinary Arts) Degustation Dinner

An invitation came for a Degustation at AICA (The Academy for International Culinary Arts) last October 29, 2009. It was the graduating students' "hell week", meaning for one whole week they would have to simulate an actual restaurant -- from decorating to cooking to serving to washing dishes. Students were free to invite family and friends over at their "restaurant" for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Place setting at the AICA DegustationDegustation involves sampling many different foods, usually a chef's signature dishes, in one sitting. It usually consists of 7-8 courses. Serving portions are smaller compared to a regular meal's so you don't get too full before everything is served.

Chicken Liver Mousse and Deep Fried Shishamo, Petit Salad in Citrus Dressing, and Ceviche of Scallops at AICA The Academy for International Culinary ArtsTo open the palate, a spoonful of Chicken Liver Mousse (pictured above left) was served first. It was very smooth, creamy, and flavorful. I'm not fond of liver but this one was just delicious. We had to wait for quite a while before the next dish was brought out -- Deep Fried Shishamo, Petit Salad in Citrus Dressing, and Ceviche of Scallops (pictured above right). Shisamo, also known as pregnant fish, is filled with eggs or roe when you slice it up. In fact, the insides of a Shisamo contain more roe than meat. It was quite a sight to behold and quite a treat for my uninitiated taste buds. It was my first time to have Shisamo.

Prawn Bisque and Salmon Confit in Infused Almond Oil with Mashed Potatoes at AICA The Academy for International Culinary ArtsNext in line was Prawn Bisque (pictured above left), a warm and savory cup of soup. My favorite dish of the night was served right after -- Salmon Confit in Infused Almond Oil with Mashed Potatoes (pictured above right). The salmon was very tender and juicy plus I could actually taste little bits of crushed almond. If it were not a degustation I would've requested this dish as my dinner! I wanted more well after I took the last bite.

Braised Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Basil Sauce and Chocolate Truffles at AICA The Academy for International culinary ArtsAfter the salmon came the Braised Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Basil Sauce (pictured above left). It was ground meat wrapped in cabbage leaves, sort of like those Chinese dumplings you'd have at dimsum places except that this one was served with tomato sauce. We had some Green Tea Basil Sorbet to cleanse the palate after the cabbage rolls and then it was on to the next course, Shiraz Braised Pork Knuckles with Watercress Relish in Mashed Potatoes with Port Wine Sauce (pictured below). Okay, so you're seeing rice instead of mashed potatoes... I wondered about that too but failed to ask the students who were serving. One of the batch's top students, Cat Ingles, explained that the pork knuckles took days of boiling to tenderize for that fall-off-the-bone softness. For dessert, Chocolate Truffles were served (pictured above right). Each person got three truffles of different flavors. I liked the nut-encrusted one best.

Shiraz Braised Pork Knuckles with Watercress Relish in Mashed Potatoes with Port Wine Sauce at AICA The Academy for International Culinary ArtsAfter dinner, AICA President Michael Tiaoqui sat with us and shared a few things about AICA and the degustation we just had. I asked Michael what the most basic course one could take was and he said it's Fundamentals of Professional Cooking which you take for one whole month. This course consists of 16 hands-on sessions around 4x a week. It costs approximately P39,000 inclusive of all ingredients, a basic knife set, a chef jacket, a full apron, a half apron, 2 kitchen towels, plus all handouts (recipes), and certificate. Pretty reasonable if you're really serious about cooking don't you think?

Did I mention that the mother of Philippine cooking, Ms. Nora Daza herself, was among those invited to the degustation? We had a photo op with her, and amusingly enough in that short encounter what she noticed was my pink Sony Cyber-shot TX-1. She remarked that she couldn't believe that what I was holding was actually a camera since it was so tiny. I think she'll be even more amazed when she sees the photos it is capable of taking... :p


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The Academy for International Culinary Arts (AICA)
Suite 207 Skyway Twin Towers
#351 Capt. Henry Javier St., Pasig City
672-2271

Monday, November 9, 2009

Coping with a lazy eye -- my little girl's story in Health Today Magazine

Health Today Magazine October 2009 issue with Maja Salvador A few months ago, my 5-year old daughter was diagnosed with amblyopia or lazy eye. While the news was disheartening, we wasted no time doing what was necessary in order to ensure her recovery. I believe we are under the care of one of the best pediatric ophthalmologists in the country -- Dr. Alvina Pauline Dy Santiago.

Eyeglasses were prescribed since her lazy eye had already developed near-sightedness with a grade of 100. She was to undergo eye-patching for three hours a day and eye exercises when she wasn't wearing the patch. Fortunately my little girl is very cooperative. Unlike most kids her age who are resistant to wearing glasses and eye-patching, she embraced her treatment with willingness. She never complains, she just follows whatever the doctor orders.

The full story on how we found out she had lazy eye, facts about amblyopia, and a whole lot more can be found in an article I wrote for Health Today Magazine's October 2009 issue entitled "A Better View". The article was not given to me as an assignment. I felt I had to share our experience with other parents and create awareness about this often imperceptible affliction.

A Better View by Rowena Wendy Lei for Health Today Magazine October 2009I submitted an 800-word article on lazy eye to the editor of Health Today and Moms Today. I was aiming for Moms Today since I felt moms should be informed about this but it was decided that my article would appear in Health Today instead. You can actually read the whole feature here, but I highly suggest grabbing a copy of the magazine since it's a treasure trove of really useful health information.

I hope our experience will be helpful to other parents. Eye exams are usually not part of a child's regular check-up but an annual comprehensive eye exam is essential in the early detection and treatment of eye problems. Do consider having your child's eyes checked once a year.

Upon last check-up with Dr. Santiago, my daughter's eyeglasses have been discontinued since her vision in the lazy eye has improved. She is still undergoing eye patching and doing eye exercises though, but we are hopeful that her eye will get better soon.

You may contact Dr. Alvina Pauline Dy Santiago's clinic at 7278382.


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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Haagen Dazs opens its Robinsons Manila store

Haagen Dazs, one of the world's premiere ice cream brands, formally opened its store in Robinsons Place Manila and launched its Do Not Disturb campaign highlighted by their latest ice cream flavor -- Dark Chocolate Orange.

Haagen Dazs event at Robinsons Place Manila
Haagen Dazs Dark Chocolate Orange ice creamAttendees were treated to cups of Haagen Dazs Dark Chocolate Orange while waiting for the program to start. The dark chocolate ice cream was incredibly smooth and rich, a lovely contrast against the bits of chewy and tangy orange zest mixed in. I was reminded of those chocolate truffle trays which would usually have an orange creme-filled piece.

Do Not Disturb moments with Haagen Dazs ice cream
The Do Not Disturb campaign was presented as a three-act show featuring three different women in three different situations. The first was a composer who needed inspiration to finish her song; the second (pictured above) was a broken-hearted lass who just got out of a relationship; and the third was a career woman who got promoted to a top position. Each act culminated in the need to imdulge in some "me time" with Haagen Dazs. Whether its for inspiration, comfort, or celebration, some slow-melting Haagen Dazs is all one needs.

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney and Robinsons Land Corporation Business Unit General Manager Cornelio MapaAfter the show, guests were ushered to the Haagen Dazs store for the formal ribbon-cutting with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney and Robinsons Land Corporation Business Unit General Manager Cornelio Mapa. Ambassador Kenney then proceeded to the freezer area for the inaugural first scoop. When asked to give a few words during the ceremony, Ambassador Kenney said that having a Haagen Dazs store so close to the US Embassy was like having a little piece of the United States in the neighborhood.

Haagen Dazs store at Robinsons Place ManilaI was amazed by the non-stop traffic of people trooping to the Haagen Dazs store shortly after the ribbon was cut. Not surprising, as even my 8-year old son attests that Haagen Dazs ice cream is the creamiest he has ever tasted...

Special thanks to General Mills for the invitation.

Haagen Dazs
G/F Midtown Wing, Robinsons Place Manila
Pedro Gil cor. Adriatico Sts., Ermita, Manila

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