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Paras Birthday

For Tita Ginger and Tito Dading’s joint birthday celebration, they opted to treat us to a fine home-cooked lunch. Tita Ginger is my mom’s sister and also one of the finest cooks I know. She understands food on a highly technical level and I notice that what she makes is forever evolving. When she calls to tell me she has mastered prime rib, I know we’re all in for a spectacular meal.

Paras Birthday

I got to lunch a bit late so I barely reached the Chili Con Carne for starters. Luckily, my ultimate favorite – Spicy Tuna Sashimi – was there and there was a lot of it to go around. Tita Ginger’s version of this strays a bit from Sugi’s but is just as tasty. It doesn’t have the usual tempura crumbs; the little wonton bowls they come in give its needed crunch.

Paras Birthday

The Green Salad with Candied Walnuts, Fried Onion and Raspberry Vinaigrette looked really good and was. But I didn’t touch it because I was saving precious stomach real estate for steak, spinach au gratin and cake.

Paras Birthday

More sides! Mashed potato, corn on the cob and creamed corn were present. There was also pasta with sundried tomatoes and black bean garlic sauce topped with green onions and Parmeggiano Reggiano.

Paras Birthday

The star of the show was the Prime Rib Au Jus. Lovingly cooked to perfection, I enjoy my steak pink and a wee bit bloody served with the roast’s drippings. Tita Ginger’s steak could rival any restaurant’s and it’s definitely the kind of prime rib you’d be happy to pay for.

Paras Birthday

The crust was nice and tasty – salt, cracked black pepper and garlic perfectly coating the sides of the steak. The beef itself was tender, beautifully marbled and flavorful. I enjoyed eating this so much, savoring every bite.

Paras Birthday

I realize looking back at my photographs from the weekend that I have zero photos of the Spinach Au Gratin. It was so mind-blowingly awesome I just ate it all and forgot I had a camera in the first place. I don’t know about anyone else but I think the perfect siding to a juicy Prime Rib steak is creamed spinach. I told my tita this and even if she hadn’t ever made creamed spinach she said she’d give it a go and came up with this. It was so good. I just don’t know how else to describe it. One of my titos even said he could eat the spinach as is, with rice. If that isn’t convincing enough, I don’t know what is.

Paras Birthday

When we were all full and busy digesting it was time for dessert. There were freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, pomelo slices (the healthy choice) and of course, Tito Dading’s favorite, the San Marcos Cake (Php 700).

Paras Birthday

So funny I forgot I had the San Marcos cake two years ago, Tita Ginger even showed me an old blog entry to prove I did. I had two slices that day just cause it was deceptively light even with the creamy icing.

I really appreciate our family gatherings when someone cooks, we get together and just share a meal at home. I prefer it to eating out just cause everything tastes better and there’s no pressure to rush to leave. Plus, eating at home means you can go back for seconds and maybe even have leftovers for the day after.

Sarie Truffle

When I saw the Food Hack Pepper did on Mamou’s Lorenzo’s Truffle Pasta, I’ve been waiting for the right time to experiment and recreate the dish. Since weekends are times I find myself less stressed out, I found myself inclined to take charge and cook for the family one Sunday.

Mom did the groceries during the week and picked up two small cartons of Elle and Vire cooking cream. We were missing cheese so I stopped by Terry’s to grab some parmesan cheese (which they didn’t have so I settled for Grana Padano). Saw that they were on an anniversary sale so I got a big steak and some pancetta to go with the pasta.

Sarie's Truffle

Followed the directions on Pepper except modified it a bit. Melted 3/8ths of a slab of Salted Anchor butter then added in 2 teensy cartons cream, mixed this in then added half a Knorr beef cube and a few pinches of cheese to get it saltier. Covered this up cause I was trying to cube the deli bacon til my mom freaked out cause the sauce was bubbling like a witch’s stew. Saw the sauce simmering so I poured in some truffle oil and yay the wait was over!

Sarie's Truffle

I thought I screwed the sauce up but it wasn’t burnt or too thick so I pat myself on the back for crafting a hack masterpiece. Sauce was done, noodles were taking forever so pan-frying the deli bacon was the next step. When that was done, it was time to marinate my steak.

Sarie's Truffle

Sarie's Truffle

Since we just were in post-production for a Knorr project I shot that week, I was seriously craving the stuff. I opted to slather my precious ribeye steak in just Knorr Liquid Seasoning and a dab of extra virgin olive oil. Trust me, you don’t need much to make the perfect steak. Just cook it right.

Sarie's Truffle

I like mine between medium and medium rare. I also take pride in perfecting the art of the grill mark. This meal happened almost three weeks ago but I’m glad I documented it because I think it marks the first entire meal I’ve cooked that my mom absolutely enjoyed. Sandro loved it too. And I don’t usually get rave reviews when I’m in the kitchen so this was a welcome first.

I remember the first time someone told me about Va Bene, I thought it was really funny there was this authentic Italian restaurant right by the gas station outside my village. I’m so used to thinking of convenience stores and the standard fast food joint when nourishment and gas come up in the same thought bubble. I mean, I did get a 1.5 liter bottle of Coke just three days ago when I loaded a full tank at Shell.

Va Bene Pasta
When you get to this particular Petron station, you’ll find that the commercial establishments are aplenty. There’s your standard convenience joint, a coffee shop, a yogurt place, cake shops, a ham store, a shoe repair shop, some fast food joints, a doctor’s office and lastly, Va Bene Pasta Deli, which arguably boasts some of the best pasta dishes in Makati.

Va Bene Pasta
I was there at lunch on a weekday and was greeted with a lot of empty tables. To me, this isn’t a bad sign, it just means I’ll probably get faster, better service. The space is small and the walls are adorned with numerous awards Va Bene’s received throughout its lifespan.

Va Bene Pasta
My childhood friend, Alex was here for work from Singapore and I hadn’t seen her for months so it was nice to catch up. I picked Va Bene not knowing that she stopped eating white carbs so that day had to be an exception.

Va Bene Pasta
For starters, we were served some bruschetta. This is a freebie everyone gets after ordering. This simple appetizer consists of bread, fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil olive oil, and parmesan. It gets pretty addictive once you start eating it but because it tastes so fresh and light, you end up finishing it all and not feeling very full afterwards. This is a good thing assuming you have a big appetite and a full pasta order awaiting.

Va Bene Pasta
What sets Va Bene apart from other restaurants is that they make their own fresh pasta daily. The restaurant is run by Chef Massimo Veronesi who was the chef of Mi Piace Italian at the Peninsula for 5 years before starting Va Bene. Alex had the Blank Ink Tagliolini (Php 390) with seafood marinara in light tomato cream sauce. Despite breaking some diet restrictions, Alex was really happy with this dish. The servings were generous, there was enough pasta, sauce and seafood to fill her up. I managed to have a bite of this and thought it was excellent. I think the squid ink pasta gives the marinara a bolder seafood flavor.

Va Bene Pasta
Here’s what I always get: Organic Eggs Tagliolini (Php 390) with portobello mushrooms, white wine cream sauce and truffle oil. It’s basically my go-to truffle pasta. Whenever I’m craving that, this is the only place I want to eat it. Noodles are al dente, the cream sauce and mushrooms are a predictably safe albeit winning combo for comfort. It isn’t doused in truffle oil but the general whiff and subtle aftertaste is there. If you only need to try one dish there, it’s this.

I know a lot of people who are fond of their ravioli dishes but generally, if pasta’s what you’re looking for it’s really hard to order anything wrong at Va Bene. The only real issue I have with this place is that parking is so terribly difficult so hitch a ride with someone or commute so that doesn’t need to be a problem. If you’re looking for authentic Italian food on a fairly decent budget, Va Bene gives a bang for your buck.

Va Bene Pasta Deli
2/F Petron Gas Station, EDSA
Dasmariñas Village – North, Makati
(02) 556-9442

Yesterday, my family and I had lunch at Grace Park for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect, given that I always thought it was going to be some Korean restaurant when it was still boarded up. I was happy to find though that it’s Gaita Fores’ newest business venture which reflects Italian-Filipino farm-to-table, organic food.

Grace Park
The menu was light and clipped to a recycled piece of cardboard. Skimmed through it quick and knew I wanted the Muscovado Beef Belly so that’s exactly what I got.

Grace Park
For starters, we had Fried Field Mushrooms with Asiago Cream (Php 280) which I thought tasted rather bland without the dipping sauce. The mushrooms were deep fried in what resembled tempura batter and I thought the cheese sauce balanced it out quite well. This was just okay probably not something I’d order again. I’d rather take my chances on the Baked Chicharon which we didn’t get to try.

Grace Park
My brother had some Cauliflower Clam Chowder (Php 225) which was creamy and had big clam pieces. Wish it came in a bread bowl though, those are always the best.

Grace Park
Mom got the 3-page Salad with Honey Dijon Dressing (Php 220) which she liked. I didn’t try it so I can’t say how it tasted.

Grace Park
Before I talk about my food, I’d like to post photos of other people’s food. Here’s a shot of half an order of Fettuccine Truffle Cream Pasta with Organic Egg (Php 550) which was my lola’s. It smelled really awesome from across the table, magic truffle oil.

Grace Park
My brother got Chicken Parmigiano (Php 510) which I didn’t get to try because I didn’t ask him and I guess I just generally wasn’t in the mood for tomato sauce. Yes, I like run-ons. Now what.

Grace Park
My cousin got the OMG Burger (Php 795) which is like, OMG so expensive for a burger. It’s got double beef patties, a thick slab of bacon, a lot of cheese and this unique bread I don’t have the chops to identify. Tell me what it is, the top bun looks like it has dinosaur scales. It was pretty darn yum but nothing mind-blowing and in all honesty, with my own money, I would not pay for a $20 burger.

Grace Park
Here’s my order, Muscovado Beef Belly (Php 510) and it came with some roasted potatoes and greens. I looked at photos of this online and saw cherry tomatoes, was a tad jealous I didn’t get those but I was too hungry to ask. Ate there on a Sunday and service was particularly slow even if we were one of the first to arrive there. I had my food in around 45 minutes. So yeah, I was starving.

Grace Park
The belly was generally tender in parts but the bottom layer was kinda stringy, chewy and just didn’t have that melt-in-your-mouth quality you generally expect from slow-roasted meat. I thought the muscovado glaze was unique and tasty and appreciated the caramelized onions atop the beef, wish there was more though since I’m kind of an onion fiend. I’d probably order something else next time since I prefer Cibo di M’s catered Beef Belly to this one.

Grace Park
Since Grace Park’s a pretty new restaurant, I think some entrees are kind of hit or miss so I’d give it a little more time before going back. Service was efficient but rather slow. I say this because they were quick to refill our glasses but when my lola asked for some parmesan to go with her pasta, it literally took forever to the point that I had to walk to the bar to get it myself. Over all, I loved the look of the place and the concept though so I’ll be back to try their other stuff. I think for the quality, prices are reasonable.

Grace Park
beside Bizu
One Rockwell,
Rockwell Drive,
Makati

Open 11 AM to 3 PM and 6 PM to 10 PM
(0939)-93-GRACE
PLDT: 843-PARK (7275)