30 April 2013

Date Night at Zark's Burger, Taft Avenue

This happened last January, btw. Mr. M. and I were on our way to Cuneta Astrodome to catch the PBA Semi Finals game. It was our 1st solo date after I gave birth to Master E., #NotYourTypicalDateNight I know but we’re so romantic like that. Anyway, since were coming from the office we decided to finally try Zark’s Burger at Taft Avenue. Mr. M. who’s a big burger fanatic, had been dreaming to try this for centuries but because no branch was convenient to us, he settled on drooling with the thought of it. Until that day came.

Zark’s Burger is located at the 2nd floor of the Archer’s Nook, Taft Avenue, Manila. Just across La Salle and the same building where Army Navy is. Mr. M. was even teased by the charms of Army Navy but remembered he was committed to Zark’s already. See, he’s that faithful.lol There’s also a branch at BF Homes, Parañaque. 

Coincidentally, Zark’s had a sporty-casual dining vibe, which totally fits in our date night theme. Framed basketball jerseys and basketball related “actions” ornate the whole place. The television was playing NBA game when we arrived. Their main menu is even divided into a Major League and Minor League. The place was small and maybe easily jam-packed during school days.
Jawbreaker (Ultimate Burger at the back)
I had the Zark’s Ultimate Burger (1/4 pound burger with cheese sauce in a bed of fresh veggies and then topped with sautéed mushroom and bacon) for P130, it came with an iced tea and fries. Mr. M. was drooling for their Tombstone, but that humongous burger made him chicken-out upon their face-to-face encounter. He settled for the next BIG thing, the Jawbreaker (triple cheeseburger with spam, bacon and overflowing cheese sauce), P250, also came with iced tea and fries. There was an open challenge to finish the Jawbreaker in 5 minutes and it’s free. But how can you finish it if you don’t know how to start with it in the 1st place. 

The verdict: Zark’s burger patty was nothing special as compared to the likes of the Brothers Burger. It even falls apart easily but who cares? The ingredients compliments each other well that you would not even notice that their bun has nothing special too. All you care about is to finish this one greasy burger while saying ummm, in between bites. 
Tips: There’s a knife ready to use. There’s no way to finish this burger the traditional way, so use the knife in your advantage. Tummy-tacking is not applicable after finishing 1 burger. 
The verdict: Mr. M. and I was raving about Zark’s Burger the next office day that we convinced our officemates to have it delivered for lunch.

23 April 2013

Crab Stick in Chili-Garlic Sauce

When I was pregnant with Master E. last year, Mr. M became interested in cooking. He would watch me and asks me how to cook a certain dish and I would demonstrate it to him like we were in some cooking show. He would volunteer to cook and then slowly taking control of the kitchen. He almost had overthrown me in the kitchen if I had not read his ulterior motives (of course I secretly like to be overthrown, that means lesser chore for me. Lol). This dish is what I’m talking about here. This is his winning piece which he mustered himself, no cookbook, no coaching. 
Crab stick
Oyster sauce
1) Saute garlic, onion and chilis in the melted butter, about half bar.
2) Add the crab stick, mix well. Season with oyster sauce.
3) That's it.

My Take: So simple yet so delicious. We just love the oil that the butter produced. The oyster sauce gives the butter a good fight in the taste department. Of course credit also goes to the chili for giving this meal a nice kick.
Tip: If you’re a health conscious, do not attempt to even look at it. See that oil?
The verdict: The family comfort food.

16 April 2013

Pancake House - Guaranteed Child Friendly

When I became a mother, I tend to rate food establishments based on its competence to be child-friendly more than the food itself. I am keen to the staffs’ attitude and reception with kids. A crew who gives highchair without being asked will definitely be rewarded (with a smile).

Just recently, the M.E.E.L. crew had a spontaneous family date night, or should I call it a pre-sleep snack. We drove along NLEX and dined at Pancake House at Caltex Station right after Meycauayan Exit, (yes, the usual stop-over for travellers). I’m not sure if it was my 1st time or just the 1st time I had a recall of the establishment. Either way, I’m glad we gave it a try. 

I ordered the House Specials Set for P257, it had a taco, spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread, 1pc pan chicken and iced tea. Mr. M. on the other hand had Classic Pan Chicken for P186, it had 2pcs chicken and rice and complementary yogurt ice cream. We ordered milk shake to share. 

My take: The food was great. I especially liked the taco which was so meaty and filling. The spaghetti was also delicious, I am a spaghetti lover so I tend to be meticulous with it, but I’m glad it passed my taste. I was too full I just ate the chicken without savouring it, but I think it was also good since Mr. M. finished his’ even before I started eating my spag. The place had a cozy vibe with a backdrop of classic movie posters. The plus part was it came prepared with entertainment package for Miss L. The wait staff automatically handed her crayons and coloring materials even before they handed us their menu. 

I did not bother to ask for a highchair since Miss L. had the whole bench to herself. 

Tip: When at Pancake house, do not attempt to share the milk shake. Buy your own, buy your spouse his own and buy your toddler her own. 
The Verdict: It was distinctly homey experience, and friendly service – we’ll definitely be coming back.

11 April 2013

Misua with Meatballs and Patola

I remember my highschool teacher said that it’s better to drink hot beverage when the weather is hot because it releases the heat out of your body and will help you feel refresh after. Following that concept, I cooked misua with meatmall and patola on a hot summer night. You’ll going to use a lot of hand here so make sure you have a clean one.

           For the meatball:
Ground Pork
Onion, grated
Carrots (optional), grated
Egg, Flour
Cooking oil, Salt and Pepper
1) Mix all the ingredients together with the use of your hand.
2) Make the mixture into small balls and fry. Set aside.
For the Soup:
Onion, garlic
Cooking oil, Water, Salt and Pepper, Fish Sauce
1) Saute onion and garlic, add water. Put the misua and patola.
2) When the patola is tender add in the fried meatballs.
3) Serve with rice.
My Take: This dish is full of nutrients you’ll get iron, calcium and phosphorus with the patola alone. Plus the benefits you’ll get from the carrots.
Tip: Hand-mix your meatball mixture for a more even blend.
The Verdict: Who says soups are only for cold nights? You can always turn your ACs on and eat soups with your hearts’ content.haha 

08 April 2013

Giniling Guisado

It’s true that you change preference as you grow older. When I was younger, chicken was my favorite. Having said that, any dish that has chicken in it was a hit for me. But now, I outgrew my love for the winged fellow and shifted to the less favorit-able, ground meat (pork, beef, even chicken). Ground meat is always in our grocery cart every week, I just decide what to do with it as the need arise. This week, I whipped ginisang giniling for diner. This dish has nothing special in it, just that it’s my favorite (for the moment). 
Ground pork
2 pieces potatoes, cubed
1 piece carrot, cubed
Garlic, Onion, Tomatoes, diced
Oyster Sauce, Fish Sauce, Salt and Pepper, to taste
Water and Cooking oil 
1) In a pan, sauté garlic, onion and tomatoes in oil. Add ground pork and brown it, making sure to break it apart as you mix. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
2) When browned add in potatoes and carrot. Add water and simmer until the vegetables are cooked.
3) Season with oyster sauce/fish sauce, salt and pepper.
4) Best served on top of rice. 

My take: Oyster sauce adds flavour to the meat, I always use it as a seasoning to any guisa recipes. 
Tips: You can always add extenders like hardboiled egg or quail egg, I’ll do and show that next time. Left-overs can turn in omelette for breakfast, I’ll show that too, next time. 
My verdict: We all enjoyed our dinner in bed.

03 April 2013

Pork Binagoongan, Simplified

We are just a small family, our household is composed of 4 adults, a toddler and an infant. 2 amongst the adults are nannies, who (so unfortunate of us), only knows how to cook rice, fry and fry rice every morning. In order to justify their stay, I just write down, step-by-step, the cooking procedure of the dish for dinner and pray to have at least an edible one. But when it comes to favorites, we make sure that either Mr. M or I, do the cooking (you cannot trust your favorites to a maid who puts tomatoes on Tinola one time and then Oyster sauce the next. Poor Tinola, always the victim). Last night, we are decided that Mr. M would cook Ginisang Ampalaya, so we asked the maid to thaw the liempo as we are heading home, only to find out that we were not able to put the Ampalaya in our cart during last Sunday's grocery. Since the liempo was already thawed, I just whipped Pork Binagoongan for dinner. This recipe is one of the shortcut dishes I mustered.
½ kilo Pork Liempo (or any part of your choice)
Garlic, minced
1 small onion, sliced
Vinegar and water
Siling haba (green chili), chopped
Barrio Fiesta* Spicy Shrimp Paste
1) In a pan, sauté garlic and onion. Add the pork and mix until it changed color.
2) Add vinegar, let simmer. Add water and let it boil until tender. Don’t forget to remove the scum.
3) When already fork tender, let the water evaporate and bring the oil out of the pork.
4) Add bagoong and mix well.
5) Garnished with siling haba. Serve.

packed for lunch
My take: You’ll never go wrong with a ready made bagoong. It will make your binagoongan easier to prepare, it only took me 20 minutes to cook this. Plus you have the assurance that the bagoong (since branded) had passed the BFAD standards. 
Tips: You can fry eggplant as a side dish. Kick your inefficient maids, but in the meantime, teach them to rely on the internet for recipes (and pray they stumbled your blog for additional traffic.lol)
The verdict: My visiting nephew who at first refused to try the dish turned out to overeat last night. Miss L., who’s a picky eater, also ate a lot (although you have to trick her by pretending to offer each spoonful for Chuchu the dog, Swipper the Fox, Dora the Explorer, Boots the Monkey, Max and Ruby, Team Umizoomi, Spongebob and Patrick). Mr. M. even requested for a rerun next week, suggesting steamed okra as a side dish next time. J  

* The brand name that was mentioned is just the family's preference, not a paid post.