Must-haves for the Christmas table – and beyond

Merry Christmas everyone! May you enjoy the season with wonderful food as a backdrop. Here are my favorite food finds for Christmas 2009:

Date Bars from Lorenzo’s Kitchen. One of the best I’ve ever tried, so far as date bars are concerned. This was supposed to be on my Christmas list last year, but I lost the contact number at the last minute and by the time I got it again it was already February. But this is a keeper. I feel that with every bite the taste dances between Food for the Gods and Butterscotch. So I feel safe saying that, in effect, you are getting the best of both worlds, in just one bite. I love! Call 852-7798.

Nellie’s Special Rum Cake. This is easily the best rum cake I have tried in years. The first one was from Mamamunch, about a decade ago when I was a very new bride. I ate it almost every day. But then the owner moved to another country, bringing with her the rum cake of my dreams. Nellie’s version is just as excellent, too. You must try it. Call 0917-8506124.

Chocolate Chip Cookies from Cookie Jar. I got this as a gift and I kept the card because the cookies were just so good. Call 887-3988 or 0917-8306883.

Lourdjean’s Lenguas de Gato. Melts in your mouth. In a buttery, unpretentious and most wonderful way. For sure you will have lots of guests over for the holidays, so stock up on this. Will go very well with coffee, tea and lovely conversation. Call 913-5090.

Gigi’s Custaroons. As the name suggests, it is just macaroons with smooth custard inside. But there is nothing “just” about this. It is chewy, buttery and quite rich, definitely delicious, and it’s perfect for those with a seriously sweet tooth. And because it comes in very cute packaging it’s nice to give a box as a present. Call 0917-8282929.

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Gng. Bukid. She’s the one who makes wonderful Challah bread that you slice, toast and slather good butter on. Or you can always choose to tear off big pieces to dunk in a great big cup of thick hot chocolate. It is almost like brioche, and I have joyfully tried sandwiching a bar of good milk chocolate between two slabs. What joy, indeed. Call 815-4552 and 474-2600.

Queso de Bola Cheesecake. My new favorite, as far as cheesecakes go. This has been such a hit on our dessert table. And I can eat a big slice of this even if I am stuffed with food already. It is that delicious. From Chef Florabel, and easily one of her best original creations.Call 667-3220 or 638-7527.

Bruno Tirel’s Desserts. A true-blue French chef who makes authentic French pastries. Take a bite, close your eyes, and you almost forget you are not in France. Because of the wonderful selection he has, the best way to enjoy it would be to have an assortment of bite-size pastries to allow you and your guests to enjoy the diversity. Chef Bruno can also organize a French-style amuses bouches — a canapé service, of sorts, for a private party for up to 30 persons.

His lovely selection includes:

• Opera (coffee and chocolate square pastry)

• Manguier (mango and cream square pastry)

• Tarte au fruit feuilletée (puff pastry fruit tart)

• Tarte au chocolat (dark chocolate tart)

• Tarte à l’orange (orange tart)

• Cake assortie (dried fruits and beer, banana, orange or citrus and chocolate chips)

• Petits fours frais (small fresh cocktail pastries. Example: small tart, small almond cake, small “eclair”)

• Chocamboise (dark chocolate and raspberry layer cake)

It is best to call in advance for your orders. Chef Bruno is quite in demand. Mobile phone: 0919-9485140 / 0919-8217697.

Tarta Imperiale Rusa or The Russian Imperial Torte, available only at Terry’s Selection. If you had to choose just one dessert to impress even yourself, let it be this one. This is from the original, unadulterated royal recipe, the way they made it for the Czars and Czarinas of Russia way back when. This is the cake that inspired the Sans Rival as we know it now, and all its reincarnations and variations. Not as sweet as the Sans Rival, this one is nuttier, with more compact layers. As JC de Terry always says, the secret, really, aside from using only the best ingredients, is in the way the almonds are roasted and how the caramel is made.

For orders, call Terry’s, with branches at Pasong Tamo (844-1816), The Podium (638-5725), and Salcedo (889-3194). Call in advance if you want a whole piece — this is always sold out!

Postres Del Cielo Gourmet Polvoron. With interesting flavors like Kiwi, Cranberry, Lavander and Rose. Definitely something new. As far as flavors go, choosing your favorite really is a matter of personal preference. Personally, I enjoyed the Kiwi and the Cranberry flavors most. Check out postresdelcielo.multiply.com.

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins from S&R. I love these as much as I do the S&R Apple Pie. I do not mind eating it as it is, but my favorite thing to do is slice them into half-inch slabs. I stick them in the oven toaster until they become a bit crusty and even more delicious than it already is. It’s like taking it up to a higher level, in a very raw, homemade way. Try it; I think you will be pleased.

Roshan’s Gourmet Ice Cream. From the one who makes the greatest triple-ginger walnut biscotti, excellent brownies and cookies, comes another treat (in six wonderful flavors no less!) to delight. Choose from: Food for the Gods, Coffee Fudge Walnut Brownie, Deep Dark Belgian Chunk Brownie, Ghirardelli Choco Chip with Nutella Swirl, Slow-Roasted Macadamia Nut, Coffee Macadamia Nut. Yum. Yum. Yum. Call 631-7786 or 0917-8336286.

Nestlé Heaven Vanilla Secret, Belgian Bliss, Strawberry Dream. With such lovely-named flavors, there is no room for disappointment. Instant happiness in a spoon.

SAVORY

Wheatberry. Chef Arnold makes wonderful, chunky, homey Pork and Beans and a wonderful Potato and Cheese Dish. He also has popular bottled products that fall under the label Deep Dips.

Chef Boy Logro’s Chicken Relleno. First, a little note about the chef. His is a rags-to-riches story. From being a houseboy earning P50 a month to learning the ropes hands-on in a string of local restaurants, to finally landing a prestigious job as head chef for the Sultan of Oman, a post he held for many years until he finally decided to return home, Chef Boy truly inspires. His Chicken Relleno was a favorite of the Sultan. His Chocolate Caramel Cake is delicious, too. Call 0927-7847532 or 0919-4310748.

Comida Rica. Great cheese and spinach dip. Another one of those to stock up on, for instant get-togethers, midnight munchies, or just when irrational December cravings hit. Call 0908-5496292 / 0908-2167271.

New from Goldilocks

Home of my favorite mocha cake, the best dinuguan and bola-bola siopao, Goldilocks now offers their Christmas treats. Check out the prices! Goldilocks is always good, too: great value for money. Their Christmas products come in specially designed gift bags with the new Goldilocks logo.

Triple Chocolate Brownies (P120)

Food for the Gods (P120)

Holiday Meringue (P115)

Fruitcake (300 grams) (P260)

Butter & Chocolate Macaroons (P120)

Mango Butterscotch Blondies (P120)

Limited-edition cakes:

Royale Nougat Mousse with Toblerone (P550)

Kahlua Tiramisu (P500)

Health Is Wealth

For those on your list who already have everything, give the gift that promotes good health. Call Arthur Tanco at 0917-8168794 and ask for either or all of the following:

Wheatgrass juicer. To allow the recipient to enjoy the benefits of a shot or two of fresh wheat grass juice daily. Once you give them the juicer (with a couple of trays of wheatgrass preferably, so they can get on to it right away), they will hopefully be inspired to make the habit part of their daily diet. It is the first thing I take every day, just one shot that I gulp down in one go.

Himalayan pink salt. Easily the prettiest salt I’ve ever seen, with its blush pink color. A little back story: known to be over 250 million years old, Himalayan pink salt was formed during that time when the world was an unpolluted ecosystem. It is in the most pristine form salt could ever come in, and it has unlimited shelf life. Because it contains 84 essential minerals and trace elements naturally found in the body, using this re-mineralizes the body and promotes optimum health. You can use it for cooking, for bathing, you can add it to fresh water to provide an isotonic drink which may replace lost salt and minerals after exercise, it can also be used as a mouth rinse, disinfectant, and for the treatment of cuts and wounds.

Classic Desserts

Gay’s Sans Rival. Not too sweet, not too chewy, not too crispy, not too buttery. This one has just the right mix of everything. For orders, call 631-0125 or 0917-3010615.

Butter Cake. From Miss Desserts at Serendra. You can melt white chocolate on top and add some more to the drool factor.

Big Al’s Caramel Cake. Decadent Chocolate Cake (comes in four sizes) and their Chocolate Caramel Cake. This may not look fancy but it tastes gorgeous. You will want more and more and more. For orders, call 681-5978/ 0920-9214906/ 0906-5567899.

Almond Toffee Cake. Words will not suffice to describe this lovely, lovely cake. The name sounds deceptively simple but it is everything but. Each bite takes to you to many layers of bliss, it is that good. You can experience this bliss for only P750, from very experienced bakers with a very new bakeshop called The Kitchen of Carla & Elaine at G/F Promenade Buliding, 198 Wilson corner P. Guevarra Streets, San Juan, Metro Manila. Contact number is 0922-8420536.

Truffettes de France. These chocolates are rolled in the traditional French shape and finely dusted with rich cocoa. They literally melt in the mouth and come in flavors like cappuccino, orange, original, Grand Marnier, champagne and even a sugar-free variant. For orders, call 726-4792/ 0917-8550240/ 0922-7255577. Prices range from P200 to P740, depending on the size.

Marisa’s Truffles. Handmade and homemade Dark Belgian Chocolate Truffles. Call or text 0920-9608390 for orders.

Arya. Decadently delicious Fig Orange Cake. Perfect with tea and on just about any day when you want to celebrate the joy of life and appetites. Call 727-5062, you must place your order for this sweet treat three to five days in advance.

Margaret’s Torta Espanol. Still unrivaled, the first and original is always the best. Light, spongy, and buttery Christmas will not be complete without this. Call 0920-4563127 for orders.

Iya’s Giant Pastilas. This is very similar in taste to the pastilles I grew up enjoying in the province. Call 729-0325.

Aunt Judy’s Macaroons. Macaroons with that homemade taste that you will love immediately. Simply delicious, with a simple taste that eludes most other macaroons. Call 929-1748/ 0908-2864461.

Delize. Jill Sandique, the woman behind Delize, is known for her Pavlova and Concorde, and she is also the Sans Rival queen, with no less than three specialties from her kitchen Pistachio Sans Rival, Cashew Sans Rival, and Macadamia Sans Rival. For orders, call 721-7022.

French Coconut Pie. From Carmel. Slippery, sensuous, delicious. Her carrot cake is the ultimate as far as carrot cakes go and she also makes great Pineapple Upside Down Cake, very similar to how Richard’s Lola Lydia used to make it.

Tita Carmel is also well-loved for her bottled tuyo, caviar Pinoy, daing flakes and bangus fillets. Call 911-3443 or 0917-6220083 for orders.

Polly’s. Best known for her legendary Chocolate Cake, and her delicious Bread Pudding with the Spanish Cream Sauce. Her Chocolate Cake has won awards endlessly! Call 824-7612 for orders.

Costa Brava. I will always love the white butter cupcake version of their birthday cake with marshmallow icing. They have good mocha cake, delicious caramel cake and strawberry shortcake. Call 896-1267 or 896-6872 for orders.

Chocnut Valrhona Cake. From M Café (757-6000) and Chelsea (909-7011). Divine. A must-try.

Marta’s and Sonja’s. Both at Serendra at Bonifacio High Street. For the former I’d say you must try the pound cake (yes, it comes in the cupcake version) and for the latter, try the Red Velvet. Of course there are other variants but these are my favorite flavors.

Orange Cake from Bellini’s. Classic and always delicious. With candied fresh orange rind generously scattered on top in graceful, flirty swirls. Call 913-2550.

Decadent Chocolate Cake. Goodies and Sweets is on top of the list.

Classic Savory

Ulcing’s Lechon. Still the best in town, and a true-blue Cebu Original, the taste is always consistently perfect. Call 810-6408 or call/text Tessie at 0919-4595591.

Le Canard D’or. Paris has never been this close. Farah’s Foie Gras, with its velvety, wonderfully indulgent taste, boasts nothing less than superior-quality fattened duck liver especially flown in from Perigord, France. For orders please contact Farah Tolentino Ylagan at 722-4234 or 0918-9264671. Please place orders a week in advance.

Lydia’s Chicken Relleno. A treat that can be happily enjoyed the whole year through. Call 0917-4405106 for orders. Still the best chicken relleno I have tasted.

Violet’s Peking Piglet. For orders, call or text Violet at 0917-7915505. She also makes very good paella, and the most delicious Iberian Chicken.

Kitchen Herbs. Contact Jejo through 0917-8108293 and 049-541-2154. They have a wide range of freshly cut, chemical-free culinary herbs such as Holy Basil, Thai Basil, Lemon Basil, Cilantro, Culantro (a.k.a. ngo ngai, Mexican cilantro), Galangai, Kinchai, Lemongrass, Mint, Pandan. They also have Arugula, Sweet Basil, Basil Fin Vert, Fresh Bay Leaf, Chives, Dill, Fennel, Marjoram, Italian Oregano, Lemon Mint, Spearmint, Rosemary, Sage, Tarragon and Thyme.

Pinakurat Vinegar. Available at 262 Amapola St., Palm Village, Guadalupe Viejo, Makati City. You may also call 899-3494 for orders.

Caramelized French Brie and Caviar Pie from Marielle. Trust these two to shine very brightly even on the fullest of all Christmas tables. Order one or both, and be very, very happy. For orders, call 722-2234 or 722-8469.

Kimchi from Lee Song. Contact number is 63864655. Try making Kimchi fried rice with this, or simply serve it as a side dish. The best Kimchi in town! Lee Song is located at 7 Amber Plaza, Escriva Drive Ortigas (near Astoria Hotel) and they also have another branch at Goldpark Meralco Avenue, under the flyover, right before Metrowalk.

Saltine. Mini patties in different flavors: mushroom, chorizo, spinach, chicken, tuna, pork adobo, and short ribs, House Cured Corned Beef; the best lemon squares come from her kitchen too. Call 0918-8118088 or 0917-5028088.

Carina’s Spicy Conchinillo. From one of the most talented chefs I know, her Spicy Cochinillo is stellar in taste and is just the right size for a small gathering. She also has a lot of other yummy dishes so be sure to ask her about her latest offerings. For orders, call 920-8514 or text 0920-9065650.

Fresh Carabao’s Milk. You can use this to make desserts. For orders, call or visit The Peach Box, Greenhills Theater Mall, Greenhills Shopping Center. Call 0906-5207777 or 0922-5333105.

Lydia’s Chicken Relleno. Quality and taste that has never been surpassed. Call 0917-4405106 for orders.

Kulob na Manok. You will feel your pants get tight because you will eat this with lots and lots of rice but you will be happy as anything. Good food always does that, right? The meat is tender and very tasty, with whole heads of mushy, fragrant garlic here and there swimming in a fantastic sauce. Call 911-7483 or 0917-8831705.

Adelina’s Ham. Call 531-6833.

Bone-In Baked Virginia Ham from Mt. Malarayat Golf & Country Club. Call 814-0743 and 893-16010.

The Plaza Premium Baked Ham. Call 729-0003. Comes with a selection of sauces such as Premium Glaze, Wasabe Mayo, Sweet Mustard and Gutsy Garlic.

Salted Eggs. Call Doc Larry at 0916-7990787.  

Marilen. For the best adobo with castanas, excellent fabada, delicious beef caldereta, and outstanding fresh lumpia. Comfort food at its best.   Call 0918-8881229. Like I always say, please call in your orders in advance. She is a very busy woman who hardly has time to cook but many people are addicted to and dependent on her cooking so like the mother that she really is, she cannot help but give in.

Mang Ben. Tapa that is thin and almost like bacon, but with a Pinoy taste. Call 0919-3904277 or 926-2750.

Picadeli. Different from the one I described above but just as excellent. Made from tender beef sirloin and bathed in a special, secret marinade that has been passed down from generation to generation. Their chicken and Vigan longganiza is also wonderful. Call 0917-5306558.

Gyoza. Buy these fresh from Emerald and just fry or steam as needed. For orders, call 523-8510, ask for Rosana.

Claude 9 Sauces. For orders and inquiries, contact MaryAnn at 0917-5359198 and 045-8885163.

Galileo Deli. Get a bag of their Belgian Hard Nougat with Almonds. It is as delicious as it is pretty. They also have Belgian Truffles. Call Vanessa at 0922-8328071.

Happy eating!

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