Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Brunch at the Peninsula in Makati

Sometimes you have to treat yourself to something very special, something like a Sunday Brunch at The Peninsula in Makati, Manila. There are of course many great places to have a Brunch, but we thought to start with the Peninsula.
The hotel is already impressive but what impressed me most was that when we drove into the garage, the security came immediately as our car was too high, they guided us in a special parking slot that we could after our Brunch drive out again the same way......which we did and they made sure nobody would drive down while we are on the "wrong" that is service and friendliness, the Brunch already started really good.

We were a little early so had time to browse through hotel, shopping is not great and sort of done like an after thought.....but there is a small pastry shop with home baked goods, yummy that is for sure.
While browsing we walked into the most amazing cupcake trolley and they had these little lollipops....chocolate pralines on stick, just amazing
The buffet is huge, the choice is amazing. It actually spreads over 2 restaurants, one having the more traditional Asian and Filipino dishes and the other the more continental, international dishes
There are plenty of action station, the chefs are busy at work, but at the same time looking well after the guests. They still have time to explain the food and chat to the guests.
The Pizza Station is another highlight, there is not just the normal Pizza but a sweet one as well and it looked absolutely delicious
Eating Brunch is a long and slow affair. You don't go there to have a quick bite to eat, no; you want to take your time and sample a bit of everything. I started with some continental cold meats, Oysters and smoked Salmon, all was of top quality, the cold meat on the photo is Bresaula, one of my absolute favorites!!!! It comes from the Valtellina region and is air dried beef.
Then I went on to try the Sashimi. There is a swell Sushi, but for me the rice fills my tummy too fast, so I skipped the Sushi. Sashimi was delicious with really fresh Tuna and Salmon
Then a main course, roast Prime Rib was so juicy and tender and a little Pork Belly, nice and crispy.
Then a bit of Tempura, Calamari were tender and overall great and crispy
No meal is complete with some cheese. I love cheese but have to say that the cheese selection was a bit disappointing. Never mind, it was still nice and the Croissant was fantastic. I love a good Croissant with a bit Brie
And then of course the desserts. I do have a sweet tooth and must say that I could have gone wild and have a lot more, but after all the great food I already had, I think I would have popped
There was still a little space, so I did go for seconds.....with a lovely cup of coffee, the Berry Panna Cotta was super light and delicious
So overall it was amazing. If you go, take the Champagne Brunch package, then you can wash down the delicacies with Moet et Chandon, something that is hard to beat. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Spaetzle, the German Dumpling

Yes we cook something not just German, we do it of course in Switzerland too and it can as well be found in Austria, but the name Spaetzle is from Germany, southern Germany.

The big difference between the German and the Swiss variety is mainly the shape. Everything else is the same. The main ingredients are Flour, Eggs, Milk, Nutmeg and a bit Salt and Pepper. OK, the batter of the German variety is slightly thinner as it has to be "scratched of a board into the boiling Salt Water whereas the Swiss version is a little thicker and more round. That is why we call it in Switzerland "Chnoepfli".
How to pronounce that funny word? Very simple, the Ch stands for clearing your throat, yes you heard right, the ch sounds like you are clearing your throat, the oe or ö is a bit pronounced like the u in burp..... so let me not go further into the pronunciation of this funny dumpling.....which actually mean "little button" in good old English because it is round like a button

The preparation is actually very simple, just mix all ingredients quickly together, don't add all the milk from the beginning as you don't want the batter too thin and then you have to beat it. Yes you heard right again, you have to beat the batter till your arms are sore and the batter has big bubbles. Sounds strange I know but you will see what I mean when you do it......if your arms are not too sore before the bubbles come.
It looks like this is quite a violent blog, burping, clearing throats, beating batter....but trust me it is all worth it. The Dumplings are delicious and you can make them in all sorts of variations. The recipe I give you today is actually one with Rocket in it. It gives a lovely flavor and looks really sexy.

So here is the Recipe

500 g (1.1 lbs) Flour
40 g (2 oz) Butter
4 Each Eggs
200 ml (0.2 qrt) Milk
1 Punnet or 125 g (5 oz) Rocket fresh
5 g Salt
2 g Nutmeg

Blend the eggs with the Rocket till the Rocket is nice and fine
Sieve the flour
Mix all ingredients except the butter with the flour
Beat the dough with your hand until the dough has blisters
The dough must be smooth and slightly runny
Scrape the batter off a cutting board in boiling salt water
As soon the the dumplings come to the top, skim them off and put in iced water
Strain the water off
Heat the butter till slightly noisette, add the Spaetzle
Fry without color and season to taste

Goes perfectly well with Goulash

 One can add Rocket, Spinach, Wild Mushroom flour or Tomato Paste to flavor the Spätzle

This recipe makes enough for 10 friends

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hungarian Goulash

After all the travelling I am cooking again, yes and there is a lot to come. I will cook a lot of basic and simple dishes like the one we talk about in this Blog. The Goulash.

It can be an absolutely beautiful dish if properly cooked. One part that is really important is the onions. One uses a lot of onions. They don't just give a beautiful flavor, but thicken the sauce nicely too. At the end we add potatoes and because they cook in the sauce they are taking up all the flavor.
The difference here compared to other stews is that the meat does not get browned, either do the onions. Everything is cooked without giving color but as you can see on the first photo, the color at the end is still great. I have not added any stock to it. With the slow cooking and adding the salt at the beginning, all the juices from the onions and meat will come out and then the meat is braising slowly in its own juices.

As a spice we add a little bay leaves and of course caraway seeds. They are really important because they give a wonderful new level to the dish, something that makes your Goulash different and at the same time more original. Just be careful that you don't add too much to the dish.
What I find amazing cooking here in Maldives is that I am constantly exposed to Indian and Sri-Lankan cooking. Especially in Indian cuisine one finds often the gravy which is based on onions and like with the Goulash onions, it thickens the dish apart from giving it a lot of flavors. So even these two cuisines are so different in many ways....there are some similarities.
So try it out, the recipe is really simple and try to buy a lower cut of the beef, something from the leg that needs long cooking. There the meat has much more flavor which will add to the dish. Just take your time with cooking, it really has to simmer very slowly and would actually work well if cooked in the oven

So here is the recipe which is enough for 10 friends, because like this you can freeze some if you have less over for dinner

1.5 kg (2,5 lbs) Beef cubes
750 (1,5 lbs) g Onion
75 ml (3 oz) Oil
400 g (1 lbs) Red Peppers
400 g (1 lbs) Tomatoes
60 g (2 oz) Sweet Paprika powder
8 g (0.3 oz) Caraway seeds
2 ea Bay leaves
15 g (o,5 oz) Salt

Cut the beef in 30 g cubes
Cut the onions in a fine julienne
Sweat the onions in the hot oil
Add the beef cubes and sweat at low heat
Add all the spices, red peppers and tomatoes
Stir well then simmer with the lid for 1.5 hours or till the meat is starting to get tender
Add the potatoes which are cut in 1 cm cubes
Simmer till all is soft but the potatoes are still whole
Season to taste
Serve with homemade Spaetzle

Friday, August 8, 2014

It's more fun in Philippines: Hoyop Hoyopan Caves

This is not the first time I write about caves here in Philippines, I like caves and wherever I see caves and go and see them. Last time I wrote about the Calao caves in an earlier blog but let me tell you, the Hoyop-Hoyopan Caves are a lot better.

The main difference is that the Hoyop-Hoyopan Caves are still alive. One can see the Stalactites and Stalagmites still growing which is amazing. Then there is a lovely tour going around the caves.
The caves have been used by the local population as a shelter, even now when there is a big Cyclone coming, the local population would find shelter in the caves. But the locals are not the first ones using the caves, there is evidence that 10’000 Years ago the caves have already been used by the first settles in the region.

The tour is really nice and at the end it gets a little tight, one has to squeeze through a tight, narrow opening, I guess I was already at the limit to fit through. Then one gets out of the cave and can see towards Mount Mayon....and with clear weather one can see the volcano.
Going back even further, one can still see some of the corals left which proves that originally the caves where actually under water

I have to admit, it would have been great to have a more knowledgeable guide, not that our guide was bad, he really tried his best, but I just like to hear a lot of facts too, how old, what stones and so on, but at least the guide gave a lot of the recent history of the caves
As usual, it is a bit difficult to find the caves, best to have a GPS a put the name in, and then the drive is very easy. The caves are quite high up in the hills one has even a good view onto Mount Mayon, so while staying  in Legazpi, I think it is a must to visit these Caves up here in the hills.

The caves ore on private property, so there is an entrance and a parking fee, but both are not very high. As soon as a car comes on the parking there are a couple of souvenir stores opening...nothing special but some nice little souvenirs are for sale
While I am on the topic of Legazpi, we stayed in a lovely hotel called St. Ellis. It was very refreshing walking into the hotel, all was nice and bright, we got a great room to a very reasonable price and tried out the restaurant which served excellent food. The SPA offered exactly the right massage I needed after a long day driving, so I can only recommend this hotel. Again, there is of course a write up I did in Trip Advisor.
Pork BellyAdobo

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Its more fun in the Philippines: Mount Mayon

The second part of my miniseries to Mount Mayon which is the most iconic volcano in Philippines. Mt. Mayon is one of the most perfect shaped cone volcanoes in the world and yes it is still very active even so when we were there it was not just very quiet, but totally hidden away in the clouds.

The road to Mt. Mayon from us is a very long one, not just in Kilometers, but the roads are not the best while we went, there is a lot of building and upgrading being done at the moment so one has to stop often at red light. On a positive note, the scenery between Lucena and Naga is absolutely beautiful, we tremendously enjoyed the drive. Just after Lucena the road has a diversion with a beautiful curved road, take that one, it is a lot of fun driving through it I felt like being in the Swiss Alps driving up a pass road.
Then there is the traffic. It is actually better driving the good 500 km during the day as at night the visibility is not great and there are plenty of trucks and buses who seem to prefer driving at night. During the day there are of course plenty of jeepneys and tricycles
We stayed over in a town called Naga, there is not much I can tell you about this town, we only arrived late around 9 PM and looked up a hotel in Tripadvisor…….which was a bad choice. The room was OK but breakfast was terrible and the restaurant full of cockroaches, we just left as quickly as we could. No I won’t tell you the name of the hotel but of course I wrote something in Tripadvisor….
So, let me come to the volcano, the one, the famous one…that we actually didn't see because of the clouds. The best photo opportunities are from the Cagsawa Ruins. Cagsawa is a town that was founded by the Spanish in 1587 and was totally buried by an eruption on February 1, 1814. Only in the 1930ties the town was excavated and a made into a tourist attraction. Even today Mt. Mayon is very active and tourists are advised not to go hiking without a guide. Only 2 month ago some German tourists lost their life while hiking and walking into a dangerous area with deadly gases
If one imagines a sunny day, I have to admit, it would be absolutely stunning, and there are plenty of souvenir stands where one can buy little memorabilia and food. The volcano is not far away from Legazpi, the next major town, so Legazpi is actually the best point to stay over. We stayed there for one night. Unfortunately the mountain was still covered the next day so we have no choice but come back here in the future again

There is still more to explore here but more about that in my next blog.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It is more fun in Philippines, Pagsanjan Falls

I am back in Philippines for a little while and we have decided that we will have a little drive down to Mount Mayon, the famous volcano in Bicol.

As we are living close to Tagaytay, another volcano even so this one is not active anymore, we wanted to see some of the other great tourist attractions here in Philippines. Pagsanjan Falls was very high on our list.
The one things one never must forget is that driving here takes time, if Google tells you one hour's drive, take 2 hours as a guideline. The falls are a mere 60 km away from us but it took nearly 2 hours to get there. There is always a lot of traffic and at the moment it seems like all the roads are getting fixed at the same time.
But trust me, it is absolutely worth the drive to Cavinti and then taking a small boat to travel to the falls. The boats are very small, maximum 3 passengers can go on a boat and then there are 2 boats men. It might sound like a small amount, but there are 14 rapids and the 2 guys have to push the boat with you inside up the rapids.

The boat ride is absolutely amazing, first one is pulled by a small motor boat, but then as soon as one is in the park it is just quiet. The gorge is at least 150 to 200 meters high and everything is lush and green, an absolutely amazing ride.
The 2 guys had to work hard to get up up the rapids, we had a rest from time to time. About half way there is a little hut, they are selling food and drinks, so we treated the boats men for a lunch of crispy chicken leg and rice, it really did look yummy, the golden brown roasted, crispy legs, I still get hungry thinking of it..
The falls are 91 meters high, it is not rainy season yet but the falls are still stunning. One has the possibility to go on a bamboo raft and then go under the falls and even behind them to make a photo with the falls behind one.

Apparently there is a hiking trail to the falls, but one has to descend 500 steps and 2 vertical ladders.....this is not my thing, especially after I have seen the one ladder coming down close by the falls.
After a little while we went back through the rapids, that was a lot of fun and went a lot faster than going up. Yes the boats men still had to pull us over some of the rapids as there was not enough water. They said in August is the best time to come here, then the water is about  10 cm higher and still the falls are accessible. After that it might get difficult as the water level is just too high
There is just one thing that one has to be careful and that is at the end, the boatsmen will ask for tip and especially if one is a foreigner they will try their luck. The told us that the Koreans give 50$ tips.......then suddenly it was 50$ per person. That is more than double what the whole cruise costs and of course we did not entertain the thought of giving that much. It gave a little bit of a negative experience, but apart from that, it was an amazing 2 hours going through a beautiful gorge

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Magnum yourself

Manila has its own Magnum Ice Cream shop where you can make your own Magnum. This is soooo cool, an individual Magnum. There are shops as well in Hamburg, Paris and Istanbul, but to have one here in Manila is just absolutely amazing. The location is on the 5th floor in Aura Shopping Mall, one of the hip shopping malls in and around Manila. 

I always had a bit of a fetish for Magnum, I love the rich flavor of the ice cream and the lovely chocolate around, but to make your own flavor is just incredible. We had so much fun making our own flavor of Magnum, our own personalized Magnum.
You can choose from 2 ice cream flavors which is chocolate or vanilla, then from 18 toppings and 3 different dipping chocolates so you can make your own piece of art.
We took 2 extremes, one I call death by chocolate, it was with chocolate ice cream, milk chocolate dipping and then all sorts of chocolate toppings, the other one was the sweet delight, vanilla ice cream with a caramel chocolate dipping. The toppings were white crunchy chocolate pearls, mini marshmallows and freeze-dried raspberries which just looked so lovely and gave a bit of acidity to the extremely sweet concoction
There are some strange toppings available like broken chips and broken pretzels.....strange?? Yes but it actually goes well. The saltiness brings out the chocolate flavor even better so even so it sounds strange, it goes well with chocolate

Magnum Manila offers more than just Magnums, one can actually eat there with savory and sweet plated desserts available. The savory menu includes about everything from sexy crostini to pasta and salads all the way to the roasted Rib eye 
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