The Christmas sugar rush

Without much ado, here is my traditional Christmas food list, chockfull of items you can either joyfully give away or enjoy in your own gatherings. As good wishes are bounced along with these treats from kitchen to kitchen, home to home, here’s hoping that the gentle joy and true meaning of the season rises above all else, like rich cream on the surface of cold, fresh milk.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Cheers to good food, and every other good thing that life has to offer, plus the gift of family and friends to share them all with.

New Stars

Gay’s Sans Rival. One of the best Sans Rival this side of town. Some are either too sweet, too chewy, too crispy, too buttery. This one has just the right mix of everything. As a matter of fact, I even find that it gets better the longer it stays in the freezer. This is a real gem. She also has wonderful chocolate chip cookies. For orders, call 631-0125 or 0917-3010615.

Bailey’s Concorde Cake. From Goldilocks, a steal at only P540 for the big size and P340 for the small size. This iconic brand, home of the very delicious and very affordable, needs no introduction really. They never rest on their laurels though and in fact continue to surprise and delight, and we are all the happier for it. Their Chocolate Sans Rival, at P440, is also always a holiday bestseller and they now also have a delicious Ensaymada Cluster for only P130.

Butter Cake. From Miss Desserts at Serendra. I love butter cake and have tasted quite a few but this one somehow stands out in my memory.

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Big Al’s Caramel Cake. Heaven bless the day they made their first caramel cake. The first time I tried this, I craved for and ate a big, flat slice every day for a whole week until my pants started to get tight and I had to practice some hard-to-come-by-when-food-is-this-good self-control. This is simple, and beautiful. And very cheap for what you get! A junior size (8” x 9”, serves eight to 10) costs P250 while the birthday size (9” x 12”, serves 15-20) costs P500. Equally delightful are their Decadent Chocolate Cake (comes in four sizes) and their Chocolate Caramel Cake. May heaven provide you with some measure of control once you try these treats!

For orders, call 681-5978/ 0920-9214906/ 0906-5567899. They deliver, too!

Almond Toffee Cake. Words will not be enough to describe this lovely, lovely cake. The name sounds deceptively simple but it is everything but. Each bite takes you to many layers of bliss — it is that good. You can experience this bliss for only P765, from very experienced bakers with a very new bakeshop called The Kitchen of Carla & Elaine at G/F Promenade Buliding, #198 Wilson St. corner P. Guevarra Streets, San Juan, Metro Manila. Contact number is 0922-8420536.

Mini Cream Puffs. From Pawsitively Purrfect, maker of the best crispy oatmeal cookies ever. Unfortunately, she does not make these oatmeal cookies for Christmas because they are quite tedious (I told you they were special!) but she does have these delightful Mini Cream Puffs (with non-dairy filling, in addition to her Food for the Gods and Dark Chocolate Covered Almond Clusters). Call 0916-3115900 for orders.

Truffettes de France. I used to beg friends to carry boxes of these gorgeous chocolates back for me and Richard when they went abroad but finally it is available on local shores. It is easily a favorite. These chocolates are rolled in the traditional French shape and finely dusted with rich cocoa. It literally melts in the mouth and comes 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.

Carrot cookies with Cream Cheese Filling. A cake moonlighting as a cookie, this is delicious. I first tasted it on the seventh day of a full week with very little sleep and after three big cookies I just felt less tired, if not instantly happy. What sugar can do, really! Please try this. It is soft and chewy and sandwiches a cream cheese filling. How wonderful is that? P170 for six pieces and P340 for a dozen. From Saltine, the same maker of the famous savory patties and toffee cookies. Call 898-2541/ 0917-5028088/ 0918-8118088.

Iya’s Giant Pastilas. I got a box of these, again as a present, a few months back. I think I finished the whole box in one sitting. I remember eating it with cold milk. Call 729-0325. Call the same number for sweet, delicious pomelos from Nenitas.

Aunt Judy’s Macaroons. No-fuss, straight to the point macaroons that you will love immediately. Simply delicious, with a homemade taste that eludes most other macaroons. Call 929-1748/ 0908-2864461.

Cakes and Bakes. This bakeshop is worth checking out. I have never been there but the treats I have tasted from their kitchen have been delightful. There have been far too many though, so it’s best that you go see for yourself. They have meat rolls, bars, cakes and pies, breads and tarts. Located at 888 Samat Street, Highway Hills, Mandaluyong City, you can also call 533-0772 and 533-0623 for orders.

Apple Pie from S&R. Don’t let its simple look and packaging fool you. This is a winner, both in price and taste! My dad, whose favorite dessert is apple pie, swears this is perhaps the best apple pie in the world!

Savory

Caramelized French Brie. This one is guaranteed to be a bright, bright star at any table, Christmas or otherwise! And here I thought cheese could not get any better. I could not stop eating after I first tasted it. This is perfect especially for the hostess who is convinced she has tasted and bought everything there is to be tasted and bought for the holidays. Marielle, who makes it, also has delicious Caviar Pie. Both the Caramelized French Brie and Caviar Pie come with crisps with every order.

Caviar Pie: P1,000 for a 4.5-inch diameter pie, P2,500 for a seven-inch diameter pie.

Caramelized Brie: P1,500 for a six-inch diameter pie.

For orders, call 722-2234 or 722-8469.

Kimchi. I am not a kimchi lover but after I tried the kimchi from Lee Song Grocery I became a happy fan. Their kimchi is so popular that Mrs. Lee, the Korean lady who runs it, has to make 200-300 kilograms of it every day. They sell it in half, one, even five-kilo packs. Have you tried kimchi on fried rice? Yummy like anything. First you take out some kimchi and leave it out of the fridge at room temperature overnight. We are after the sour taste here. Sautee onions (you can use spring onions, too) and garlic in a bit of olive oil, throw in some ham, ground beef or Spam, put in the chopped kimchi and keep on cooking until you see that the kimchi is already half-cooked. That is the perfect stage before you finally toss in the rice. Mix everything happily together, they all sync together in your pan like good friends. Take the rice off the heat and add Korean sesame oil. (Sesame oil is very sensitive to heat, it has a tendency to turn bitter, so please make sure you really do this step only after taking the fried rice off the heat.) Korean sesame oil is more potent than Chinese sesame oil so you need less of the former, which is good because you do not want your fried rice to be so oily. This recipe, by the way, was shared by Grace, the daughter of the owner of Lee Song Grocery. Prices are as follows: half kilo, P80, one kilo P130, and five kilos, P500. Contact number is 63864655.

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.

Parmesan Chips. Richard and I received two tins of these during our 10th wedding anniversary earlier this year and it was so good I kept the label and contact number of the person who made it. I sprinkled it on salad a lot while we had it but we also nibbled on it guiltlessly as is.

Please place orders at least a day before. Contact Belly Sweet at 886-7869/ 0917-5280744/ 0917-8516600.

Whole Wheat Bread. From this little shop at the Metrowalk complex called A Taste of Sanctuario. Finally, healthy and truly delicious wheat bread that does not taste like cardboard. Please place your orders in advance because they fly off the shelves so fast, it is always out of stock by midday. Call 635-5508. Address is Ground Floor, Metrowalk Complex, Meralco Avenue, Pasig.

Mini Patties. Technically, this is not entirely a new entry because it appeared in my article last year but Saltine’s famous patties now come in a mini version, in all seven flavors — mushroom, chorizo, spinach, chicken, tuna, pork adobo and short ribs. The price is P200 for a canister of 12. Call 898-2541/ 0917-5028088/ 0918-8118088. While you’re at it, you might want to try their House Cured Corned Beef. It’s sold pre-cooked; kindly order in advance. Cost is P300 for 250 grams. The best lemon squares come from her kitchen, too. Tippi is a C.I.A.-trained chef so it is no surprise really that only good things tumble out of her kitchen.

Iberico Ham. From Terry’s. I know it is quite a lot of money to spend if you think about it but if you are in a celebratory mood and you can afford the whole beautiful leg, why not?

Sovital Bread. From Baguio Country Club. It’s got nuts and raisins and tastes delicious and healthy. It is quite far but you can never tell, someone you know might just be willing to bring it down for you.

Mr. Moo’s. For the best kesong puti ever. You can even choose if you want kesong puti made out of carabao, cow or goat’s milk. I do not have the complete address but it is in the Sta. Rosa road going to Tagaytay, about a kilometer before the Sta. Rosa market and somewhere before the ridge at the junction. You won’t miss it, it is on the right side with a white, black and pink sign.

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. From The Peach Box, owned by an Arce. Our refrigerator is almost always never without bottles of these. We consume it a whole lot lately, because the nights are cooler we have been enjoying it in our hot chocolate concoctions. The Peach Box also has delicious home-style meals that are perfect to bring to the many potluck parties you will be attending this season. Choose from Baked Macaroni, Chicken Pastel, Callos Madrileno, Roast Beef with Mushroom Gravy, Lengua Champignon. Prices are very reasonable too, ranging from P1,200 to P2,600 for 20-30 people. Not bad at all. For orders, call or visit The Peach Box, Greenhills Theater Mall, Greenhills Shopping Center. Call 0906-5207777 or 0922-5333105.

Truffle Oil. Available at Galileo Enoteca and Terry’s and other such delis, this is especially good drizzled over scrambled eggs but I have used it too over salad and in pasta sauces with happy results.

Classic Stars/All-Time Favorites

Chocolate Dreams

Chocolate Couture by Marissa. Delicious homemade Belgian chocolates.

For orders call 0920-9608390.

Chocnut Valrhona Cake from M Café (757-6000) and Chelsea (909-7011). Even someone who does not love chocolate cake (and I know quite a few) will love this.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake. My chocoholic husband and daughter love this almost as much as they love me! The four layers of chocolate cake is filled and frosted with a Belgian chocolate ganache and raspberry jam: Arabian Holiday Cake.

For orders call 823-5235 and 0922-8085639.

Roshan. Already legendary for her chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cupcakes with surprise filling and biscotti. I order from her year-round, she of the delicious sweet treats and gorgeous packaging. She is on my speed dial, and I suspect she always will be.

Call Roshan at 0917-8336286 or 631-7786/408-6886. Check out her website at www.homemadebyroshan.com.

Cioco Delice Fondente. A twist on an old favorite, this one boasts of fine dark chocolate. It is flown in from Italy, and available only at Galileo Enoteca.

Call Galileo at 532-0482.

Max Brenner. I love the chocolates as much as I do the packaging, so it really is double the treat.

Call Max Brenner at 728-8801 and 901-8184.

Polly’s. For award-winning chocolate cake and unrivalled bread pudding with Spanish cream sauce. Try her apple pie, too!

Call 824-7612.

Decadent Chocolate Cake. Goodies and Sweets still has the best.

Cupcakes

Marta’s and Sonja’s. Both at Serendra at Bonifacio High Street. The best pound cake is from Marta’s, the best Red Velvet from Sonja’s. But do try their other flavors, they are just as wonderful.

Orange Cakes

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.

Fig Orange Cake. Rich and delicious, call Arya at 727-5062. It is delightful, and tastes luxuriously of good times and Christmas. Please place orders in advance.

Miscellaneous Sweet Treats

French Coconut Pie and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. These two are definitely unrivalled. She also makes bottled products like tuyo fillets in olive oil, daing flakes, Pinoy caviar, bangus sardines in olive oil with wine, and sardine antipasto. For orders, call 911-3443.

Delize. Choose from Pistachio Sans Rival, Cashew Sans Rival and Macadamia Sans Rival. Great Pavlova and Concorde, too! Oh, and you must try Jill Sandique’s cheesecake and Tocino del Cielo. No shortcuts here, everything has been thoughtfully baked from scratch with a lot of love. Call 721-7022.

Margaret’s Torta Espanol. Traditional Torta Espanol that tastes like a throwback to the olden days. Call 0918-9082576.

Haagen Dazs Ice Cream Cakes. Never fails to elicit “oohhs” and “ahhs.” Call 757-7570.

Krispy Kreme. Need I say more? The name speaks for itself.

Caterers

Marilen. For the best adobo with castanas, excellent fabada, delicious beef caldereta, and outstanding fresh lumpia. Comfort food at its best.

Call 0918-8881229. Please place 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.

Carina Guevarra, Tippi (of Saltine) and Farah (of Le Canard D’or) are great private caterers too, so just in case the need arises, you know you can count on all of them to deliver. For Farah, though, December is Foie Gras season so she will not do any catering for the whole month.

Chicken

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 tighter 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.

Ultimate Indulgence

Le Canard D’or. Foie Gras to die for! Superior-quality fattened duck livers are flown in from Perigord, Southwest France and Farah makes each one almost lovingly for three days. The foie gras is soaked in a brine solution, de-veined, then marinated with spices, left to rest, and finally cooked ever so gently, and again left to set and let its flavors develop further.

This became such a hit that a year after she launched it she tweaked the recipe a bit and made foie gras poached and marinated in spiced red wine, prepared au torchon. The same foie gras used for the terrines are rolled in a cheesecloth and cooked slowly in spice-infused red wine. After cooling and setting, it is placed back into the liquid and allowed to soak and absorb all the rich tastes. It tastes different, but is just as lovely.

A year later, she came up with “ready to bake” escargots. In pursuit of the highest quality and authenticity, she uses only premium French snails, and the butter mixture is made with Normandy butter and condiments.

Because she does not want to compromise quality, Farah is very hands-on, taking the orders, cooking and preparing each one herself. Her packaging is excellent, too. The foie gras when ordered comes vacuum packed with melba toast. It may come in a hand-painted gold-leafed wooden box with handle — with or without wine picked each year by a sommelier. The escargots package contains the special utensils and plates in an embellished wicker case with suede lining.

Prices range from P800 to P5,000. Orders are placed by calling 722 4234 or by calling or texting 0918-9264671. Three days lead time is required. For more information and to see photos, visit www.lecanarddor.com.

 SOLO FOIE GRAS (no special packaging)

1) Regular foie gras in ceramic container, 200 grams, with toast (P1,850)

2) Foie gras poached in red wine, 200 grams with toast (P2,000)

CLASSIC FOIE GRAS (foie gras and melba toast inside a box)

1) Regular foie gras, 200 grams (P2,300)

2) Poached in red wine, 200 grams (P2,500)

PREMIUM FOIE GRAS (foie gras and melba toast with one bottle of wine inside box)

1) Regular foie gras, 200 grams, with one bottle Pacherenc-October Harvest 2005 (P3,750)

2) Foie gras poached in red wine, 200 grams with one bottle Cairanne-Le Ventabren 2007 (P3,950)

SOLO ESCARGOT (one dozen snails “à la bourguignonne — vacuum packed and ready to bake) P800

CLASSIC ESCARGOT (one dozen ready-to-bake snails with two escargot plates, two tongs, and two forks in a suede lined wicker case) P2,800

GRAND PACKAGE (one regular terrine or poached foie gras with melba toast, one bottle of matched wine, one dozen escargot, two escargot plates, two tongs and two forks in a lined wicker case) P5,000

Steak

The Steak Lady. For great quality steak. A fresh arrival from Japan: Premium Kobe Beef. Please reserve immediately because there is very limited stock available. She has Wagyu Beef and Burgers, US Angus Rib Eye, Angus Tenderloin and Australian SteaksUSDA Certified Beef, Australian Beef, and Wagyu Beef. Call Sandy or Joy at 806-9537 or 0920-5222898.

Still on the subject of great steak, if you want to eat excellent Wagyu steak go to Malcolm’s at 108 HV dela Costa St. corner Tordesillas (Call 844-0000). The Wagyu burgers are delicious, and the Wagyu steaks, especially the rib-eye, are fantastic.

Lechon

Ulcing. I dare say it is the Philippines’ best lechon. Folks here in Manila eat it with Mang Tomas but in the Visayas, we eat it with vinegar, spicy or not. A true-blue Cebu original, the party table will not be complete without it.

Call 810-6408 and/or 0919-3613291.

Ham

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)

PARTY EMERGENCIES (just in case you get unexpected company!) 

Tapa and Tocino

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. Call 0917-5306558.

Pampanga’s Best Tocino. The best tocino ever!

Gyoza. Buy these fresh from Emerald and just fry or steam as needed.

For orders, call 523-8510, ask for Rosana.

Alaska Condensada. Immerse an unopened can in water and cook over very low heat for three to four hours and you have excellent caramel sauce to drizzle over cakes and ice cream.

Century Tuna and Spam. Two de latas your cupboard must never be without.

Claude 9 Sauces. From a real foodie himself, and a Kapampangan at that, how can you go wrong? All-natural ingredients, no preservatives, no MSG. He has Crab Fat, Inasal Barbecue Marinade, Xtra Ordinary Chili Sauce, Burong Hipon, Oriental Sauce and Pesto. Prices start from P300 to P915 for any combination of three bottles nestled in a nice reusable wooden condiment tray.

Also available just for the Christmas season are Claude’s famous dishes served only in his Bale Dutung: Binagoongan Sisig and Pata Mole (pig’s trotter’s stew). For orders and inquiries, contact MaryAnn at 0917-5359198 and 045-8885163.

P.S. Although it is not something you would give as a Christmas present, try it just the same when you are craving pizza (that is every weekend for me). Greenwich now has Delicious and Light Choices — reduced-fat pizzas and dishes that still have hearty flavor. There are two variants: Grilled Chicken and Garlic (lean chicken chunks, fresh tomato slices, garlic and herbs)and Garden Fresh (mushrooms, pineapple bits, green bell pepper, black olives, pure mozzarella cheese). It has 90 percent less fat and 33 percent fewer calories!

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