My ‘must’ lists

Must-buy for all foodies: Manila’s Best-Kept Restaurant Secrets by Ines Cabarrus and Elian Habayeb. Just when you thought you had at least heard of every restaurant in the city worth visiting, comes this gem of a book. It is for every person, every appetite, every craving. Ever since the book landed in my lap, I have made it a point to read about one special place each day. I wish though that the book came with a blank page at the end of every entry, if only for sentimental foodies like me, and I know there are many out there. If that happens then it could be a diary of sorts, a highly personal account of the food and the company you enjoyed, highlights of the stories shared during that moment in time, maybe you can even post even a snapshot or two.

My husband and I enjoy the journey — from reading about any one place found in its pages to actually discovering for ourselves what each has to offer. The hunger, for good food and even better company, is wonderfully sated. One day, we hope to visit every single place in there that we haven’t yet.

Nudged gently by the discovery that these spaces do yummily exist (you catch yourself wondering out loud where they had been hiding all this time), I am so looking forward to making my own memories with every plate I meet.

Must-try for authentic Thai food: Som’s located at 5921 A. Alger St., Brgy. Poblacion Makati City (757-8079). Almost literally a hole in the wall, they have excellent Thai food at unbelievably reasonable prices. My favorites are the Tom Yum soup, the Phad Thai, green chicken curry and bagoong rice. I first heard about it from my dermatologist, Dr. Sylvia Huang a couple of weeks ago, and my family and I have ordered takeout around five times already.  Not surprisingly, Som’s appears in the book I mentioned above.

Must-have for all techies: Smart Bro

Surfing the Net away from home has never been this easy and convenient. For only P900 a month you get to Google away to your heart’s content, anywhere Smart has a signal (and that is most everywhere anyway).

Must include in all diets: Malunggay leaves

The lowly malunggay, the same one used as “bakod” in the schoolyard, the ones our yayas sneakily planted in the garden amongst the pretty flowers, has finally arrived. It’s been a long time coming but it is the “in” thing now, maybe because there has been a conscious shift even among the young and younger to embrace a healthier diet.

The malunggay grows easily and in profusion, too, and is highly nutritious. The DepEd has given it a definite push by hiring a team to imaginatively create delicious malunggay-based recipes that even a kid hooked on junk food will eat and their aim is to incorporate these recipes into school canteens and home economics classes, providing and making readily available to students a healthier choice.

They were guests on The Sweet Life recently (weekdays on QTV, 6 p.m.) and we were fortunate to try malunggay pesto (at par with basil pesto), and being on a burger kick lately, I even enjoyed the freshly cooked malunggay burger patties (it was mixed with shrimp and mongo)! There was nothing yucky about it. Powdered, it was also refreshing in a fruit shake, mixed with fresh mango and melons, milk and a little sugar. You can dry and powder your own malunggay leaves; just leave them under the sun for a couple of days, then heat in a pan for a bit after. Don’t add anything.  When done you will end up with leaves so brittle that when you put them in a Ziploc bag, with very little effort you can crumble them into a fine powder.

I have only eaten malunggay in a soup before, over rice and with dried fish (a comfort food growing up) but there are so many ways to enjoy it now. It is just a matter seeing the sparkle of something new in something old — this lowly, shy plant that we have taken for granted, for much too long a time now.

Must take daily: One sachet of Clium Fiber in Del Monte Fiber-Enriched Pineapple Juice every day. They are my body’s best friends. Maybe because the toxins are really flushed out, your ideal weight is easily maintained, and skin is always clear. I don’t really take breakfast but this is how I always start and end my day.  It makes me feel healthy inside.

Must order for every dessert table and every gathering because it is old-fashioned and simply adorable:

Pastilles wrappers hand-made by Lola Luz. She is all of 86 years old, with very steady hands and a sharp eyesight (no eyeglasses!) and she was taught this craft when she was still in Grade 5. Lola Luz carefully folds ordinary Japanese paper in vibrant colors, she traces an original design from a box of templates that she has had forever, and then the real labor of love begins: with cuticle scissors she carefully cuts out the tiny spaces within the design, with gentle precision, and when she is done all that is left is an intricate panel of cutwork that trembles gently, beautifully, under even the faintest whiff of air. The prettiest way to arrange the fancy-wrapped pastilles is by arranging them in neat rows in a bowl with a stand so that the cutwork can cascade and flutter and show off their handmade beauty. Lola Luz can make any design, and she can even incorporate names in any of them. She does a lot of these for weddings (she carves out the names of both bride and groom), baptisms, birthdays, and other special occasions.

Depending on how much you need, be sure to place an order in advance. Just to give you an idea, Lola Luz can finish 100 wrappers per day. Visit her at 83 Inang Wika St. Caniogan City of Malolos, Bulacan, or call (044) 791-5657. And it doesn’t stop there: she can work the same magic on edible fruits like watermelon, orange, lemon, practically any fruit with a thick skin. She can carve out graceful designs on the skin of the whole fruit such that it looks almost embroidered. Talk about a special touch.

Must keep handy for fresh breath all the time: Oracare.  Because brushing and flossing is not enough. With this, morning breath is a thing of the past. One day I hope that the makers can come out with a gum or spray version so that we can slip it in our kikay kit.

Must go for great fashion finds: Suyen Corporation in cooperation with HSBC will hold an exciting fashion sale on from June 7 to 9 at the St. Francis Shangri-La Model Units, first level EDSA corner Shaw, Mandaluyong. It will be up to 70 percent off for such brands as Charles and Keith, Pedro, Aldo, The Face Shop, Celio. To be introduced during the event is Fox, the newest retail brand to hit the country. This is definitely exciting news.

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