Sunday, October 20, 2013

CDOmnivore in Manila: Tonkatsu by Terazawa

Tonkatsu by Terazawa at Greenbelt 2, Makati, MM.
On my last night in Manila for my school's benchmarking trip, our party was invited to dine at a fairly new concept restaurant by an alumna. The restaurant's name was Tonkatsu by Terazawa, which was brought to the Philippines by the Bistro group. Current restaurants owned and managed by the Bistro group include TGI Friday's and my favorite from their portfolio, Italianni's. Our alumna was one of the partners of this new restaurant.

As the name suggested, Tonkatsu by Terazawa served various iterations of deep fried pork cutlets, or tonkatsu. One could appreciate the fairly straightforward name which left no room for doubt what was served by their kitchen.

I had their Roso Katsu or the Deep Fried Pork Loin Set. The set came with four side dishes: rice, radish soup, pickled vegetables and shredded cabbage. The food was artfully presented as my enclosed photo shows and I really love their chopsticks which were multi-sided and very easy to grip and use for beginners.

The cutlet was fried perfectly, crispy and still juicy. It went very well with the shredded cabbage, which was refillable and had two sauces which gave one the option to make some impromptu Japanese style cole slaw. Still, I fell in love with rice; it was of the Japanese variety, long grained and glutinous, I could eat it by itself.

I love how they set my plate, this and unlimited rice and vegetables too.

This was one restaurant I would want to visit again. It may not replace Italianni's in my heart but since it's brought by the same people, I have no doubt that the service and food would appeal to families dining out in Cagayan de Oro.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

CDOmnivore in Manila: Breakfast Fit For Hobbits

Tolkien's hobbits may be small in stature but they have elevated breakfast into an artform. The hobbits of The Fellowship were so worried about skipping second breakfast on their way to destroy the One Ring, that they let Aragorn know about it and even compromised their safety.

The hotel I stayed in, while I was on a benchmarking trip with fellow faculty and our dean was the Best Western Plus Antel in Makati Avenue, which had a nice restaurant called the Azzurro which specialized in Mediterranean cuisine. They had a decent breakfast buffet, although didn't have much of a selection; it was serviceable. I mean, a breakfast which had refillable scramble eggs was great in my book. The menu had variations for the two days I had breakfast there, but the eggs remained consistent as well as at least a variety of processed meats. 

First day: Eggs, beef, vegetable pasta, cheese, tuna and toast.

The buffet also had rice substitutes, for example the first day, I opted for the vegetable pasta and on the second day, they had some pretty great sweet potato fritters. I had a little rice although I would have ignored the pasta or the fritters if they had some garlic rice.

The usual suspects when it comes to breakfast fare were there. Some fresh fruit, rolls, toast, desert and unlimited coffee, tea and fruit juice were also served. It was a decent way to start one's day, especially since we had a long day of sightseeing to do.

Second day: More eggs, rice, corned beef and sweet potato fritters.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

CDOmnivore In Manila:Part One: A Long Time Coming

The first Seattle's Best Coffee in Mindanao,
at the pre-departure area
of the Languibdingan International airport.
Early this week, I went on a faculty benchmarking trip with my fellow faculty, dean and her staff to Manila which provided me some new rich material to blog about. That experience could only be called CDOmnivore in Manila. #cdomnivoreinmanila

I started the trip with a light breakfast and tea at the first Seattle's Best Coffee shop (SBC) in Mindanao and it's not in Cagayan de Oro or in Davao but at the new international airport in Laguindingan. I had my Earl Grey, which is customary for me every time I visit one of those fancy schmancy cafes and their overpriced coffees. I wanted to have one of SBC's tasty looking panini sandwiches but elected against it after feeling my rather thin wallet. I went with a Corned Beef Pandesal or bun instead.

Pre-flight breakfast of Corned Beef Pandesal and Earl Grey Tea.
The flight to Manila was thankfully uneventful. I had another cup of tea and took the complimentary bag of egg nog cookies and peanuts. After claiming our luggage, our party went to the hotel to check in early. We were booked at the Best Western Plus Antel Hotel on Makati Avenue, which was a nicer hotel than I expected. I expected to billed at a cheaper business hotel not with a place affiliated with an international chain. It was a great location, the A. Venue Mall was just across the narrow access road, but what really made it for me was the Wendy's just across the block.

What's with Wendy's? This international fast food chain restaurant, who are known for their square beef patties, probably have the best cheese burger ever.  Although I've always wanted to try the Baconator, I avoided that artery clogging monster and went with the Bacon Mushroom Melt. That burger was a long time coming. I haven't had one in almost two decades. The last one I had was when I was still doing my schooling on the Hill. I still remember where I had it; it was at the Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall in Rizal.

Hello again Bacon Mushroom Melt and your oozing cheesy goodness.

Half my day isn't done yet and I've already ticked off one important item off my list of things to do for  CDOmnivore while in Manila. This is just the first chapter of another multi-parter.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Snacking Around XU: Product Exposition, part three

This is the third and last installment of my recap of the Product Exposition last week by the marketing students of Xavier University - School of Business and Management. There is a lot food stuff to sample again. In case you're wondering if there were any non-food proposals, there were but since this is a food blog, the emphasis on the food products is easy to see. In case you missed any of the last two installments of this series, here are the the links for your convenience. Part 1 and part 2.

Some ube cake samples.
By this time, I was already a little overwhelmed by the number of sweet food products I had to evaluate. It didn't help matters that the next up was some ube cake. For a cake it was nothing extraordinary, in fact it was a mundane product that I felt was never going to break out in sales. I certainly wouldn't be buying it with my money. But I had to give props to the group for how they presented their product. I just wished they had a better concept to sell.

Camote ice cream!
Up next was a novel idea, ice cream from yams. Not exactly ube ice cream, but it's made from camote, a common rootcrop high in starch. I appreciate the idea of selling ice cream, they are rather labor intensive to make and a small challenge to store and transport. They were actually the only group proposing ice cream as a product to sell, but this group was only one assigned to me. I enjoyed the novelty of camote ice cream,  and they had two flavors too.

The group Whoopies came next after the ice cream and I admit that there position was not exactly conducive to their rating. They were selling these little sweet sandwiches which had cream cheese as filling. They really looked good too. It was unfortunate that my taste buds were overtaxed by all the  sweets that came before, and it wasn't able to cleanse my palate with a glass of water, I found their little sandwich cakes to be too salty because of the cream cheese filling. Maybe if I had come here earlier it would have taste differently but I thought their product didn't work for me.

Some group with fruit shakes came next, I was a little thirsty so it really hit the spot. I actually passed over their table earlier because they weren't ready to present yet, but it was good that I had some beverages to sample that I held in reserve. The product itself was just what I needed then.

Love on Top is an appropriate name
 for a group making viand toppings from banana hearts.

The last two tables to judge just came in time for me. At least they weren't sweet and they were savory. The penultimate product proposal was a meatball made from banana hearts by the group Love On Top. As long as they weren't sweet, they were fine with me.

Ended my stint as a panelist
with one of the better products at the exposition.

The last product was actually one of the best of day. A group made some empanadas which came in three variants. I was only able to try one and I think it was the best one, it had a meaty beef filling and it was tasty. They even had dips to give even more flavors. I also liked it that it had a thinner shell that most commercially available empamadas I've had. Oh, before I forget, the group called themselves Pinas Empanadas.

So that ended my stint as a panelist for the Product Exposition. There were really great concepts there. I hope those would be able to move on to the next stage of the implementation. I actually I visited a couple more tables after I finished judging. I was just trying to see what the other groups were planning to take to the market. The last table that I actually visited sold honey and they mixed it with some flavors. It was great to end there, they offered free tea which after all those sweets was just about the perfect way to end my rounds.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Snacking Around XU: Product Exposition, part two

Welcome to the second installment of the CDOmnivore's recap of the Product Exposition last week. If you missed the first part, just go and click the link here.

So far, I've pretty much enjoyed myself testing all the different products assigned to me as panelist. It has been food items all the way; an obviously popular product category when starting a business. A person's got to eat, so there would always be a market for food.

Adding a fancy twist to what is a simple Filipino snack.
Up next is JAMS Banana who turned an ordinary snack of banana doused in syrup into something creative. They added cream and mango and ├╝be preserves. It's such an obvious idea and they made their own.
Another product that earned raves.
Cremoso marketed their version of the Italian dessert panna cotta with three different toppings. I liked it but I didn't consider it to be tru panna cotta. I wish they used preserved fruit instead of jam. Still, I could see this product selling in school.
Peanut butter with rice krispies
Some of my former students
 from my first semester of teaching in XU-SBM.
The table after the panna cotta was actually manned by some of my first students when I started teaching two years ago. They were presenting Nuts & Kisses Peanut Butter as their product proposal, which was a different from the last two in that this was not something that you sold ala cart. They would be selling their product directly, with no plans of selling it in school. They offered these tiny peanut butter sandwiches as samples. They added rice krispies as their personal touch.

I love this drink, no added sugar,
except for the toppings and had a goat's milk base.

Feeling thirsty after all those sweets, I doubled back to a table a skipped since there weren't ready to present yet. They had this Goat's Milk Drink with various toppings. Their presentation didn't really wow and it wasn't much as a display as  what the neighboring tables did but they let their product speak for itself.

Yummy Patties, their sampling dish was basically wiped out.
The next product was a welcome respite from all the sweets. Yummy Patty presented these hamburger patties which they planned to sell directly to the customer. The burger wasn't exactly the burger that I was looking for. I mean, it was too thin and I could barely taste any meat and they prepared it too dry, but the price point that they were offering it at wasn't too expensive and justified the corners that were cut in order to sell a product and still earn a profit.

My next post will conclude this three-parter. Come back within the week  as I wrap things up.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Snacking Around XU: Product Exposition, part one

It has been a while since I posted an article for Snacking Around XU that I decided to make this edition special by making it a three-parter. I took way too many photos for a post to load quickly enough that serializing it in three parts would be the prudent move.

Product Exposition by Marketing Management students
 at the XU Covered Courts.
It was by sheer chance that I had some free time when my colleague asked me to step in for her as a panelist in rating various product launches down by marketing students which would be their future thesis / feasibility study. I figured if it involved tasting food, I might as well blog about it too. What I didn't anticipated was that an entourage of my students coalesced around me so they could also partake of the samples. At least I had some people to carry my stuff for me.

Chocolate Lava Cookies
First stop was for some Chocolate Lava Cookies. A new spin on the cookie idea. This would set the trend for my stint as a panelist in Product Exposition. I would be tasting a disproportionate number of sugared food items.

Fruit flavored Puto Madness
The next table was the group Puto Madness whose product proposal is a twist on the Filipino rice cake.I loved it that they served hot chocolate to go with their puto. The two really meshed well.

Fish fillets and dips by Something Fishy
The third table I visited was a welcome break from the sweet stuff. I've seen a lot of fried chicken fillet stalls selling in the school, so I appreciated this group's idea  of using fried fish fillet. It wasn't exactly novel, but it would give XU people another option. The fillet was nothing special, which the group realized so that's why they offered three kinds of dip to add flavor to the fish. Only one sauce appealed to me because they used an emulsion that would normally be packaged as sandwich spread. The other two dips didn't make the cut for me; but I suggested they improve their dips and give them a much thicker consistency.

Deep fried eggs wrapped in batter now comes in many colors.
The fourth table presented hardboiled eggs covered with batter and deep-fried. Their product was already being sold as the street food kwek-kwek. What made theirs different was instead of the standard orange, they used food coloring and painted multi-colored eggs. Not much differentiation but I do love their vinegar dip and my entourage seemed to like it too.

Red Velvet Buko Pie by Pie 360
The fifth table was probably the most popular product among a sampling of my students that I asked after the expo. The group called themselves Pie 360 and their Buko Pie with Red Velvet. I really enjoyed how adding red velvet made an ordinary pie into something special. The pie was easily one of the top thee products in the expo in my opinion.

My Product Expo recap will continue in my next post. There's still a lot more food to cover.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mooon Cafe at Centrio Mall. Yes, their name has 3 O's.

Mooon Cafe. The Mexican inspired restaurant  that brought the taste of Latin North America to Cagayan de Oro. For a while, it was the the go-to place to satisfy the craving for tacos, burritos and chimichangas. It originally was located at the ground floor of Robinson's Mall in Limketkai Center. It has since moved to the second floor of the brand spanking new Centrio Mall. It also appeared that in the intervening years since my last visit, Mooon Cafe made some interesting changes to the menu. The Mexican entrees were still there, but there was a marked shift towards more standard Filipino fare like Crispy Pata.

The family (i.e. my dad) had a hankering for some Mexican that we finally had to try Mooon Cafe for the first time. We initially went to their location at Robinson's, but they have already transferred their operation to the second floor in Centrio. With what we ordered, it was pretty obvious that we were going for a Mexican theme. Except for mom, who had the Mooon Steak, most of the meal pretty much featured corn flour.

What We Ordered:
Chimichanga. This was once my favorite dish to order at Mooon. I couldn't find any other restaurant in Cagayan de Oro that had this on the menu. It's essentially a deep-fried burrito slathered with sour cream. I could eat two in one sitting.

This Beef Taco actually looked pretty inviting,
 but I wouldn't trade my chimichanga for it.

Beef Taco. My dad had the Beef Taco and it really looked appetizing at first but it eventually underwhelmed him because he expected more lettuce filling. It actually looked good but I wouldn't trade my chimichanga for it.
Quesadilla Veracruz

Quesadilla Veracruz. I actually enjoyed their version of the quesadilla, very cheesy.

Nachos. Now this was underwhelming. No melted cheese sauce and a very tepid salsa. It had what looked like store bought chips and it was plated uninterestingly. It was so uninteresting that I didn't take a photo of it.
Moon Steak

Mooon Steak. My mom had this as her main course. It was pretty much a ordinary steak flooded with gravy added with extra starch for thickening. It was passable but it was nothing spectacular.

My dad won't be coming back any time soon but I probably would just for some chimichangas.