Monday, May 30, 2011

Brownies, Cupcakes and MARC friggin' NELSON!!!

I’m scheduled to go to Palawan today and since I had no one to take me to the airport at 10am, I asked my brother to bring me to the airport before he goes to work. Which is usually around 6 in the morning.  So here I am at the airport 5 hours before my flight bound for Puerto Princesa with no other way to kill time.

Before I was even able to begin packing my stuff last night, I had already a ton of things to do. Apart from taking my mom to Greenhills for shopping earlier in the day, I had a cupcake order from Ian due that evening. A dozen vanilla and a dozen and a half of chocolate. The half order, obviously, was for Karrie who is too stingy to buy a dozen (Hehehe!).

The shopping took a big chunk of my day. But after going shopping with my mom, I was able to get some rest before I worked on Ian’s cupcakes.  And since I have been watching DC Cupcakes on cable recently, I decided to make the cupcakes look like the ones sold at Georgetown Cupcakes. I tried my hand at their “signature” frosting which was a simple swirl using a big round piping tip. It wasn’t really difficult to make, but I’m not sure if they look anything like the cupcakes that inspired it. You be the judge. (On second thought, don't be. I just saw photos of Georgetown Cupcakes and they look really really good.)

I almost forgot to mention that two days ago, I was able to try out David Lebovitz’ recipe for Dulce de Leche Brownies. It was a relatively easy recipe to make, with no specal, hard-to-find ingredients. Save for the dulce de leche, perhaps. But it doesn’t take much effort to make, so I don’t think it should be a problem. Lebovitz makes his by taking condensed milk and baking it in a water bath in an oven until the milk is caramelized and thick. Frankly, I think that takes more effort, but I admit, doing the alternative could be scary for a first-timer. The method that I prefer involves boiling unopened cans of condensed milk submerged in water for three hours. I can see why this would scare some people. But as long as the cans are completely submerged in water, you should be fine and you won’t be scraping dulce de leche and shrapnel from your ceiling.  That goes without saying that you should check the water level from time to time and replenish as necessary. I let them cool in the water as well, just to be sure.

Making these brownies does take some planning and prep work. I just happened to have some dulce de leche lying around from my last recipe testing.

These are good!!!


Never mind. I can’t finish this entry. I was blinded by Marc’s porcelain white teeth at na starstruck ako ng bonggang bongga!!!

May 31: Okay, I thought I'd finish this entry anyway since I got over being starstruck by Marc Nelson.
The Dulce de Leche Brownies were really good, but it is a must to underbake it a little bit because mine turned out a little cakey. Nuts are a welcome addition as well, because I like the crunch versus the creaminess of the rich dulce de leche. I also doubled the recipe so it would fit my 11- by 15-inch jelly roll pan (not to mention my family's voracious appetite). Its a great recipe to make if you happen to have some dulce de leche lying around.

David Lebovitz' Dulce de Leche Brownies are gorgeous!!!
(photo from

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Busy just got a helluva lot busier!

After much thought, I decided to sit down and commit some time to writing at least one blog entry for this month because if things will keep on going the way they are, then I might as well shut down this blog. Remember when I said that March was such a busy month for me? Well, it just got busier. Waaaay busier. Just like I predicted.

Last April, I was in Palawan to train some of the kitchen staff of a resort in Sabang Beach. I stayed there for 10 days teaching a couple of cooks how to prepare the desserts we presented to the resort owners during a food tasting a while back.

Desserts I made for the resort: this one is a Choco-Caramel Candy Bar, sort of like a Snicker bar, only less sweet and with  walnuts and almonds

White Chocolate Cheesecake Mousse: Cheesecake mousse enrobed in white chocolate with graham crumbs and berry compote
Shipping is tricky in these parts so I was not surprised to find out that the shipment of the ingredients I ordered in Manila hadn't arrived yet. I was jumping for joy inside (or was I literally? Can't recall. I was overcome by jump-inducing joy) because that gave me some time to explore the beautiful beach and the interesting subterranean river. I'm still punishing myself though for having missed trying the exotic tamilok or shipworms (which are not actually worms, but odd-looking mollusks that burrow into wood immersed in sea water, or specifically in mangrove trees which thrive in Sabang). Locally, they serve it marinated like a ceviche. Heard they taste like oysters. And I looove oysters.

At the subterranean river entrance
Hardhats are for pussies
The beach near the entrance of the river
Wouldn't mind waking up to this every morning 
Sabang has interesting sunsets
Rainy days in Sabang are still beautiful
The mountains that sit on top of the subterranean river
Monitor lizards roam the protected area freely
At the Empire State Building 

Ten days later, I was 80% done with my work in Palawan. I was scheduled to go back for five days in May to teach the rest of the desserts, but not before Chef Booj and I along with Chef Ed, discussed a few consultancy projects that I might be interested in. I'm really thankful for having reconnected with Chef Booj. I will never admit it to his face, but I do owe him for giving me ways to raise some capital for my business in a shorter span of time. I was at a point where I couldn't really invest in any thing like kitchen equipment I knew I needed. And briefly, I didn't even allow myself to fantasize about having my own kitchen to operate. But now, with significant amounts of financial and emotional support from my mom, income from Chef Booj' projects and continuous cupcake orders, things are looking a lot more reachable.

I went back this month to Palawan to finish the work I started in April. We knew that it was going to be a very busy five days because on top of the food tastings and the cooking, we also had to train the service staff and make them familiar with the new menu. It was such an action-packed week due to the full resort occupancy with equipment breaking down in the kitchen and simultaneously teaching the staff the new recipes and dishing out the existing recipes.

You screw up your mise en place, you screw up your service
Chef Booj plating his Kinilaw na Tanigue, Sashimi style

Busy night at the resort restaurant

Getting ready to plate the new menu items

To add to the frenetics in the kitchen, we had encountered quite a number of manpower challenges so Chefs Booj, Ed and I agreed that there was just no way we could finish the training given the circumstances. So we made some adjustments with the staff schedule and decided that we needed to go back in June so we could launch the new menu smoothly. I'm scheduled to leave for Palawan at the end of the month and will be staying there for five more days.

When I get back to Manila, more work awaits me. The consultancy projects that Chefs Ed, Booj and I discussed are pushing through and our clients have made their initial payments. Now consulting doesn't come cheap and I'd be sure as hell our clients will be getting bang for their buck. Time to hit the recipe books!

Wish me luck!!!


On my second trip to Puerto Princesa, we made a pitstop at Vietville Restaurant. Our flight was delayed by an hour and by the time we got to the city, it was already past lunch time. We decided to get a couple of banh mi (baguettes with vietnamese fillings) to go so we wouldn't starve on the hour and a half transfer from the city to Sabang beach.

There were plain jane banh mi like pork and chicken. I got their best seller, roasted pork with pate. Oh my gosh, this was delicious. The baguette was hot and crispy outside and the crust was thin and delicate. And it soft and airy and pleasantly stringy inside. I was like, how did they do that?! The filling was good, but this time, really, I could have survived on the bread alone. The filling consisted of roasted pork that reminded me of char siu, atchara or pickled papaya, tomatoes and a yummy chicken liver pate intensely perfumed with star anise. The sandwich was so good I regretted not getting extra for dinner and breakfast the next day =D

Roast Pork with Pate banh mi

Read more about the history of Vietville here. Viet Ville Restaurant is located in Kilometer 13, Barangay Sta. Lourdes, Puerto Princesa City, 5300 Palawan.
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