Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Donut Loco at JCO

the J.Co storefront at Centrio
J.Co Donuts and Coffee is an Indonesian donut and coffee chain whose eponymous dough delight have gained a cult following in the Philippines and is often touted as an alternative to the its corporate American competitor Krispy Kreme. At one time, it was the preferred pasalubong for the Kagayanon coming from a Manila trip. That was of course before J.Co opened its first branch outside Luzon in the spanking new Centrio Mall.

Its opening a couple months ago was a mini-cultural event as Kagay-anons or the natives of Cagayan de Oro as they are called in the local dialect queued in lines that snaked around a block. I wanted to go then but couldn't because I had to be somewhere else. People were posting selfies of themselves lining up or enjoying the sweet treats in the social media sites.

The distinctive gold takeout box of a dozen.
It took a few months after the opening but I finally have my J.Co donuts to try. I figured that a good ending to my Italian-American food trip was some dessert and J.Co's donuts certainly seemed right. Actually, I only wanted to try a few of the goodies. I certainly won't be eating the dozen, and I already planned on gifting most of it to my mother.

Here are my thoughts on the J.Co donut variants I've tried. One can refer to the photo I've included to see what that particular variant looked like.

Alcapone. (the three white donuts on the top row).
It was appropriate that I topped of my Godfather food trip with the donut named after the most famous mobster. I really liked it fresh from the store, still soft and with almond chips, made it quite a delight eating it.

Avocado Dicaprio. (first from the left, second row)
I didn't quite figured out the avocado taste but I now love J.Co's creme-filled donuts. Biting into it lets the fluffy cream explode all over your lips.That's how one should enjoy creme-filled donuts.

Green Tease. ( third from the left, second row)
Again, I couldn't figure out the green tea flavor but the cream explosion replicated itself. J.Co has the best creme-filled donuts.

Jacky Chunk. (first from left, top row)
I'm reserving judgment on this one. I ate this after two nights in the fridge. J.Co donuts are best eaten straight from the store. Storing it cold made the fried dough lose its softness.

I can see why people are going crazy over these premium donuts. They are good, quite so. I certainly would be coming back to try more of the other flavors; especially the creme-filled ones, which I believe are their best variants.

So what do you think are the best donuts from J.Co?

Directions to JCO Donuts at Centrio Mall, Cagayan de Oro:

View Larger Map

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dining Like the Godfather at Italianni's in Centrio

My posts on Centrio Mall restaurants continues. I've been to Cagayan de Oro's fanciest new mall a lot lately; so expect more of my thoughts on the restaurants found in that mall. The second of what I expect to be a multi-part series is the Italian-American chain restaurant Italianni's.

Italianni's is known for its large servings as well as the quality of their Italian-American menu. A regular serving is large enough to be shared by two but and can be pricey as well. A regular sized main course item could range from 450 to 795 pesos. There is a lunch-sized option though, so one need not break the bank to dine in Italianni's.

The reason I was able to eat at Italianni's despite my budget or lack of it, was that my dad wanted to try his new Premiere card which gave him 30% off the food bill if used on a Monday. So that was how my folks and I went on an Italian food trip.


One could not expect to have the full Italian dining experience without some starters like soup or salad; so we ordered Minestrone for soup and Insalata Rucola for salad. We also had a coupon for an additional starter and had Mussels Lombardi. The romaine and arugula lettuce salad and tomato soup were as good as expected. This wasn't the first time I've had Italianni's; I've been here before but still, the mussels were a pleasant surprise. I'm not sure if mussels were in season but it was one of better mussel dishes I've had.

The mussels were a pleasant surprise;
with rice they could be a meal by themselves.

Main Course

We all ordered three separate main dishes. I had the Spaghetti and Meatball, my mom ordered Roast Pork Ribs - Italian Style and dad had his Flatbread. Actually, it was mom who ordered the flatbread and dad wanted it instead so they switched. 

The flatbread with arugula. Not quite pizza but very close.

The flatbread was like pizza, only that it had a thinner and crisper crust, almost like cracker bread. The ribs were tasty but I had a lot of fun with my pasta. This was what I imagine dining Italian style was, a plate of al dente pasta and one huge meatball.

The winner! I just love their pasta
and this Spaghetti and Meatball was no exception.

We went into Italianni's looking to try the best Italian-American cuisine in the city and we came out satisfied and stuffed. It was expected since it was a six-course meal. The course we didn't had in there was dessert, which is another post for another time.

Inside, with vintage photos
celebrating Italian-American culture.

The salad was as good as expected.

The pork ribs looked good but I wasn't in a rice-eating mood.

Google Map directions:

View Larger Map

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Uptown Cravings: Mrs. Hudson Pizza by Yellow Cab

It's a limited edition. How can one not want it?
Mrs. Hudson's Pizza. The name evokes Sherlock Holmes' landlady of his 221B Baker Street bachelor pad. That's in London though and Yellow Cab is known for their New York-style pies. Actually, it's the name of the limited edition pizza conceived by Yellow Cab Pizza; made with their large, wide, thin, foldable yet crispy crust. It differs from their regular offerings in that it's a sauce-less pizza and made with premier ingredients prosciutto and herbed boursin cheese and reinforced with caramelized onions, tomatoes, tarragon and other quality cheeses.

It seemed too irresistible not to try and the fact it is limited edition made it a bit urgent that I do before it is withdrawn from the market. Plus, pizza are my kryptonite; my will is easily suborned with the prospect of eating pizza.

And it smelled good out of the oven too.

The Good.

It smelled so good straight from the oven and the crust is done the way I like my pizza. No pizza sauce and instead, tomato slices were there. I couldn't believe I was eating whole tomato slices, since I usually avoid them. The toppings blended well, giving it a sweet-salty taste that is rarely found in pizzas I often eat.

The Bad.

I miss the tartness of the pizza sauce. I was almost tempted to pour ketchup all over the pizza. I also miss the gooey melted mozzarella. There isn't much meat in this pizza. I could taste the prosciutto but I wanted more meat in it.

The Verdict.

This is great a pizza if you tastebuds prefer the Filipino taste; which is a preference for sweet and salty foodstuffs.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as I would have enjoyed their pepperoni pizzas. I want the sour flavor of pizza sauce in my pizza. This is just too tame for me. Granted, the overall taste is almost exquisite, I guess I'm just too accustomed to pizzas prepared the regular way.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Spoils of War: Brazo de Mercedes

Team 6 writes for CDOmnivore

Team 6 dominated the month of June in Missy Bon Bon's Trivia Night with three first place finishes out of a possible four. After sealing the deal with another win in the fourth week, we weren't able to get our monthly prize, but we did get a nice treat the week after. Our monthly prize was a customized Brazo de Mercedes roll with a nice message commemorating our achievement.

The kitchen was kind enough to include a note
etched in frosting congratulating Team 6
for another victorious outing.
Brazo de Mercedes (Arm of Mercy) is essentially a custard roll wrapped with a meringue covering. The lightness of the meringue is more than offset by the sweetness of the custard filling. This is a dessert that is truly sinfully delightful.

Missy Bon Bon's version doesn't deviate much from the classic brazo de mercedes recipe, except that it is well made. The meringue covering is done properly, light and airy, with a shadow of a crisp. No doubt this would have been even better if it was straight from the oven, but ours had already spent time in the fridge.

Still, it was a sweet dessert that matched the sweet taste of our victory.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Extra Rice Please, at Hukad

Hukad Sa Golden Cowrie, the chain restaurant that specializes in Filipino cuisine, could not be named more appropriately. The word "hukad" is a Cebuano term that describes specifically to the act of serving rice from the cooking pot to the dining table. In the restaurant, the grain that is the Filipino staple, is served everytime a patron asks for  a refill of it on the plate since Hukad serves unlimited rice.

Hukad has its Cagayan de Oro branch in Centrio Mall. I was able to eat there recently when I went along with a few of my graduate school classmates for a late dinner after an evening class. We ordered some dishes one would consider to be traditional Filipino fare. I'm going to go through them one by one.

Pork Sinigang
First up we have our starters. The soup of choice was Pork Sinigang, which was done quite capably. The savory sour flavor of the soup helped perk our appetites. It could have used more greens though.

Baked Scallops
The Baked Scallops were a delight. Although there wasn't much scallop meat left on the shells, the melted cheese and garlic is one of my favorite food combinations. If it wasn't for the cheese, this appetizer would have looked bare indeed.

Laing, the dish made of taro leaves and a Bicolano staple is one of my favorites; but the way they prepared this one, it doesn't seem appetizing. There was hardly any taro leaves, which I suspect was pureed. There was some taro pieces  but that doesn't make it deserving to be called laing. This dish was a disappointment.

Their Sisig was actually good. The pork head meat chopped finely and cooked with a lot of onions. I believed we ordered another one after the first one was all but wiped out immediately after being served from the kitchen.

Crispy Pata
Crispy Pata was the main course. It was undeniably crisp and the meat wasn't too dry. It wasn't too bad, probably one of the better crispy patas that I've had.

Overall, it wasn't a bad experience dining at Hukad; it was actually pretty good. Their dishes didn't veer too far off from the classic recipes; their food was easily recognizable as Filipino cuisine. Well, except for their laing which was an aberration from all the dishes we had. The unlimited rice was also a draw, as it seem it has become de rigueur among native themed restaurants to have it (Mang Inasal comes to mind, which probably started the trend). It's a nice place to bring family over for lunch or dinner after Mass on Sundays. Just don't ever order their laing.

Nothing screams native cuisine louder
than a banana leaf for a plate. 

With a few of my grad school classmates.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Snacking Around XU: Chingkeetea and Milk Tea

I've heard so much about Chingkeetea; especially how they almost single-handedly turned a tea- drinking trend into a healthy habit among Xavier University (XU) students. Trends come and go, but Chingkeetea has turned it into a viable business model and in turned has inspired more than few businesses to copy them. They also cultivated a large social media following, with a few thousand likes and followers on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, CDOmnivore and Chingkeetea follow each other on Twitter. It's about time that I pay that tea-house a visit; after all, it's just in the vicinity of XU's Corrales campus.

The place is practically plastered  wall to wall with knick-knacks.

The first thing that struck me was the interior decor; this was a temple of femininity, estrogen and the double x chromosomes with its laces, frills and birdcage mobiles. No wonder its clientele was disproportionately female; no man would want to be caught dead inside this dollhouse. I could almost feel my testosterone levels dropping. Good thing I brought Queen to buffer me from all that estrogen.

Attracting the purchasing power of the college age female is a rare feat indeed and the decor and their offerings helps maintain that following. They offer mostly milk tea and fruit juice blended teas with a listing of extras like tapioca balls, nata de coco and other goodies to customize their drinks.

Blueberry Juice Tea and Wintermelon Milk Tea

I ordered a blueberry juice flavored tea without any extra sweetener and a small chicken panini sandwich on the side. We managed to get a table inside even though it was packed with coeds hanging out with their cliques and enjoying their tea. I asked the nearby tables why they frequent the place and all agree they were there for the milk tea and the ambiance. This was a place where girls can be girls. This was their sanctuary from school and it was a place they could call their own.

Chicken Panini Sandwich
Sadly, I'm not their target market but I did manage to satisfy curiosity. I don't even drink my tea with milk; the better to retain the antioxidants. Still, Chingkeetea cultivated their following via word of mouth and social media; I couldn't help but marvel at that fact. Though this place is not for me, I recommend it for anyone who has two x chromosomes and enjoy their milk tea.

I also enjoyed my tea, as it was prepared to my specifications. But I'm definitely ordering it to-go next time.

Queen enjoying her wintermelon milk tea.
Frills and birdcage mobiles.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Uptown Cravings: Jeannette's Pizza, Pasta and More

I was home alone last weekend and I wasn't feeling cooking lunch for myself. So instead I went out, intent to trying out the food places in my uptown neighborhood. I struck out on my first stop; King's Food and Wine was closed! Their bakery and deli were still open, but they shuttered their diner. Longtime readers would remember that I wrote about their bruschettas here. I guess now would be a good time as any to try Jeannette'a Pizza, Pasta and More at the Primavera Residences building in Pueblo Business park.

Initially I was impressed, the diner had an extensive menu for some of my favorites: pizza, pasta and breakfast! They serve breakfast all day! But for lunch I settled for lasagna, two slices of Hawaiian pizza and buko pandan for desert. They don't carry all the items on their menu though, which I learned the hard way as some of the interesting items on the menu weren't available.

The pasta was good. It was a few layers short of what I expected but it was multi-layered enough to be filling. They didn't skimp on the cheese. The price was good too. Their price range was a lot more affordable than I expected.
They were quite generous with the cheese on their lasagna.
The pizza looked appetizing and they were again generous with the cheese. Hawaiian isn't my favorite flavor but I was willing to look past that because it looked so good. But they lost me with their crust, it didn't tasted fresh, even for it being store bought.

Their hawaiian pizza looked quite goof to eat,
and this was fresh from the oven.

The dessert looked blasted with liquid nitrogen but by the time I was finished with my pasta and pizza it melted enough to be edible. Buko pandan is probably one of my favorite desserts, but looking at it as it was in its cryogenic state, it didn't look appetizing.

And here is their buko pandan fresh from cryogenic suspension.

Although I had was a mixed experience. I still would want to try their breakfast, so I'll probably come back again. Their pizza and pasta hinted of greatness and I wished I had tried them earlier when they first opened for business. But what's past is now gone and I'm looking forward to trying their potato omelet, which sounds positively perfect for breakfast.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Spoils of War: Mocha Custard Cake

Team 6 writes for CDOmnivore

Custard cake is a classic bakery item found in most bakeries and bread-shops around the Philippines. It is easy to identify at sight; it's the cake that has leche flan on top. Missy Bon Bon Breadshop takes this classic and turned it on its ear; they made it into a mocha cake with a thick layer of custard on top. They do offer the classic flavor, but this was what in Team 6's prize box when we won the June 27, 2013 Trivia Night at Missy Bon Bon, which cemented our domination for the whole month of June. 

Mocha Custard Cake

Missy Bon Bon has made their custard cake, THE custard cake. It would be hard to imagine eating another cake done by another shop. It is the topping the wins it for them. The thick layer of custard that goes so well with the mocha sponge cake. The sweet custard paired with the coffee-flavored cake and its hint of bitterness makes the custard stand out more.

That's a thick custard layer you got there.

This wasn't the first time we had custard cake in our prize pack. In fact, every time one is included, everyone on the team share in the cake as a post-game ritual debriefing of sorts.

The prize pack for first place.

Team 6's roster for June 27, 2013.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Snacking Around XU: Istanbul Grill

G/F Goking Building, Corrales Avenue, CDO

Last weekend, I did my "Snacking Around XU" bit and went out to try the Turkish eatery I noticed last month. With a name like Istanbul Grill, it could only be a Turkish restaurant but it also serves other Middle Eastern dishes. It is just in front of the campus on Corrales Avenue, in the same building that houses the Levi's/Dockers factory outlet. Now about the food, I did only try one dish but more on that later.

The eatery itself is recently renovated, the fresh coat of paint still shines, there is ample tables and chairs for a busy lunch hour and it is air conditioned. They have a widescreen TV playing HBO and it made waiting for my order tolerable. The prices are much more affordable than I expected; that I could fit in two entrees and not break my bank. It is a nice place to eat in and had wifi too; I almost regretted making my order a takeout.

The reason I ordered takeout was because the cloud were threatening to pour out rain and I would be stranded because I forgot to bring my umbrella. Also, I only had time for a snack because I had class in less than hour and I couldn't  risk being stranded.

I had Hummus and Pita bread and ordered some extra bread. It was on their vegetarian listing and they had a few more items that I would like to try soon. The first hummus I tried in Cagayan de Oro used lavash bread, which is similar to pita since both are flatbreads and are ancient in origin. Except pita tends to be more absorbent and it fit their hummus recipe which was runnier than I expected. They also have a genuine foreign chef in-house which reinforces their reputation of serving genuine Middle Eastern dishes. 

Once I had my order I brought to eat in the comfort of my office cubicle.It was real hummus and quite a lot of it too. I wished I had asked for a lemon wedge so that I could squeeze it to add some tartness to the dip. They prepared the dip by pureeing it with a food processor because I cold here the familiar whine while I was waiting for my order. There were still some whole chickpeas that escaped the spinning blades though; still it was a vegetarian dish at an affordable price. I just wished they prepared it with more care considering that mine was the only item they prepared that time and they didn't had to prepare anything else. But I will definitely come back to try some more of their menu items, maybe their shepherd's salad and shawarma.

My takeout: hummus in a cup and some pita bread.
I think an extender was added to hummus to
give it more volume & so lost much of its creamy consistency,
but the absorbent pita bread was a perfect companion
to their version of the Middle Eastern staple.