Bucky’s

For quite some time before starting this blog, Lee and I were under the impression that we’d have to travel out of Makati City just to try up and coming places to eat. Then one day, while stopping by a convenience store in the Poblacion area, we ran into a long time friend who was apparently en route to a meet-up. She pointed out that there were a number of establishments within walking distance from our respective homes, and that we should consider stopping in for a bit. Well, in the name of finding some good food, we decided to stroll down Kalayaan Avenue and turn left at Don Pedro Street, and thus we found ourselves right in front of a row of restaurants and cafes worthy of future escapades.

First up on the list was Bucky’s, as per my buddy’s suggestion. We stopped in one sunny afternoon and discovered that much of the fare was exactly what we hoped for: savory and sweet snacks that were perfect for filling up after a long day at work, but not so heavy as to preclude the possibility of a later dinner. The staff was accommodating, and ready to guide us as to how to order one of their specials: Make Your Own Bucky’s Parfait.

Like some other establishments with a ‘make your own combo’ component, Bucky’s uses a checklist format to guide diners with choosing combinations of cookies, brownies, soft-serve ice cream, toppings and sauces to create a unique parfait. The available ingredients are more comforting and familiar, and what one would expect out of an ice cream bar. If one is looking for strange toppings such as chilli cheese sauce for ice cream, this isn’t the place to go!

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Parfait with chocolate syrup, marshmallows, pistachios, and rice crispies

We chose a chocolate base and vanilla ice cream for our parfait, and topped it off with marshmallows, rice crispies, pistachios, and chocolate sauce. The result was a soft-serve concoction that looked almost too good to eat. The Bucky’s Parfait is definitely meant to be a shared experience, except for those who consider ice cream a meal in itself.

Apart from parfaits, Bucky’s also offers larger meals such as pasta and sandwiches, and snack foods or pica-pica to share with friends. We also tried out their mozzarella sticks (which were more nugget sized), which came with a flavourful and well-balanced marinara dip. Unfortunately five mozzarella sticks are hardly for sharing, especially with a cheese fiend aboard.

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Bucky’s definitely has a niche in this part of the city; most of its neighbours are styled as grill and barbeque places, or as bars and lounges. This is a good place to go for a quiet afternoon with friends, a prelude to a night out, or a wrap-up to a hearty dinner. We’re happy to have this in our neighbourhood.

The Food Score:  4/5. It may need to be specified if the portion sizes are for sharing, or meant to be consumed solo. Nevertheless the dishes are tasty without being overwhelming to the palate. Homemade ricotta and yogurt also figure in some dishes, adding a healthy bonus.

Ambiance/Service Score:  4/5. The staff and service crew are friendly and ready to help out diners with navigating the menu, especially the checklist. However the restaurant premises are rather small, and occasionally difficult to move around in.

GERD Score: 4/5. Considering that fried food, soft serve ice cream and dairy, beer, and coffee are my triggers, they still offer some fare that won’t cause GERD, at least for my case. Also thankfully, eating a combination of their parfait and nuggets are great because the acidity problem didn’t come out as bad as one would expect.

Epilepsy Score:  4.5/5. The large and small plates have fresh, balanced ingredients, utilizing almost no processed or heavily preserved meats. The Make-Your-Own-Parfait option allows one to enjoy a custom-made dessert with little to no fear of accidentally ingesting a trigger food.  Although Bucky’s prides itself on serving excellent coffee, and also offers beer and sodas, there are fruit shakes and hot chocolate also available on the menu for those with some dietary limitations.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. This cozy and fun place is worth a visit for anyone interested in food tripping within the Poblacion area. We probably won’t go here for a full on dinner but we’d be glad to have a bit of dessert.

Bucky's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Hummus Elijah

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While walking around the nooks and crannies of Rockwell, Poblacion, and Makati Avenue for a proper dinner yesterday, my foodie partner-in-crime spotted something she definitely knows I missed as a former OFW in the Middle East. So she grabbed my hand and led me to this small restaurant named Hummus Elijah which is located on top of a Thai massage parlor, just along Makati Avenue.

The place was a quaint nondescript establishment that could be mistaken for a café of sorts or a small eatery, but the relaxed atmosphere was a welcome relief. The walls and décor almost likened it to a comfortable diner to hang out with friends, instead of the usual touches of Persian or Arabian interior with brass décor and multicolored tiles and cushions strewn about. I think I even gawked at the spices such as saffron and cinnamon lined up on the shelves.

Service was alright since we did go there just before the dinner rush. We even got to see this cool shirt from their staff. Thankfully, they were fairly cordial during our stay.

We ordered Hummus Elijah, tabbouleh, and two mint teas. And feast we did. In our opinion, the hummus serving size would feed three people, give or take an extra order of pita. The mix of vegetables from the tabbouleh complemented the hummus quite well and the only thing lacking for me was either some kebab or kofta.  The best part was barely any burping from the GERD end even if we both had half of the meal and even ordered one extra pita to share.

The restaurant also sells bags of spices, Turkish coffee implements, and even pre-mixed curry and masala which we’ll definitely also give a try when we get back. Baklava, both in its usual form, and a sweet pie variant, is also available for dine in and take-out.

Food Score: 5/5. The food was enjoyable and managed to bring out plenty of good food memories I’ve had as an OFW. After all, balancing fresh ingredients, food presentation, and taste is not easy feat, but they exceeded our expectations at a fair price.

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. The service crew were attentive and cordial, and the interior, while well execute and pleasant to the eye, doesn’t evoke much of the feel that you’re eating in a Middle Eastern restaurant.

GERD Score: 4.5/5. While there are some fried items, such as samosas, that aren’t quite as friendly to someone who has heartburn, there’s enough variety to get you to come back often to try something out.

Epilepsy Score: 4.5/5. The food is freshly prepared and mostly free of preservatives, which is a plus. However for persons whose seizures or other conditions are exacerbated by spicy foods, it may be best to stick to the hummus or salads when eating here. Herbal infusions are not an option yet in this place, thus limiting the selection of hot drinks for those who are sensitive to caffeine.

On an added note, persons with blood uric acid issues may need to stick to the salad or vegetable dishes. After all, hummus is made out of chickpeas, and various lentils feature heavily in other dishes.

Team Glasses Score:  4.5/5. This type of restaurant or cuisine isn’t for everyone, however if someone is looking for fairly safe and authentic Turkish dishes, this place is worth considering for a light meal. It is also the sort of place to visit with a large group of friends, as there’s no fun in polishing off a plate of hummus by one’s lonesome. We’re definitely going back for more hummus adventures.

Hummus Elijah Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Epilepsy Bite by Bite

When one thinks of diseases that necessitate food restrictions, among the first things that come to mind are food allergies, or ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Not many people would immediately put ‘epilepsy’ at the top of the list, owing to the fact that it’s not always a readily apparent condition. Yet according to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people worldwide live with epilepsy, and each year 2.4 million more people are diagnosed with it.

What exactly is epilepsy? Actually the term ‘epilepsy’ refers to a whole range of diseases that manifest as recurrent seizures, oftentimes without other underlying causes or diseases. A seizure may be described as an abnormal electric impulse in one part of the brain. In a sense it can be likened to what happens to some gadgets when plugged in during a power surge. Fortunately the brain doesn’t burn or fizzle out the way gadgets do, but instead it triggers changes in a person’s behaviour ranging from brief lapses of attention that resemble daydreaming, or outright convulsions. The Filipino word ‘tirik´ sums up the experience of a seizure quite aptly.

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Credit to: 123RF

Since epilepsy is such a diverse disorder, there are no specific foods or ‘triggers’ that people living with epilepsy need to avoid. What may worsen a seizure for one person may have little to no effect on another. However some of the more common triggers include stress, sleep deprivation, and alcohol consumption. Other persons are triggered by sudden noises or the presence of flashing or strobe lights.

It has also been thought that caffeine, as well as food additives such as preservatives and artificial colourings, can be implicated in some seizures. One frequently blamed additive is the infamous MSG (monosodium glutamate), an often used flavouring in processed foods as well as some recipes. Other foods may not necessarily trigger seizures, but they may have unwanted interactions with the anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) that most people with epilepsy take in order to control their seizures. For instance, taking some fruit juices such as grapefruit may change the levels of an AED in a person’s blood, thus worsening side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness.

Considering all these possible dietary pitfalls, a ‘lifestyle change’ is often easier said than done. For yours truly this meant saying goodbye to a number of comfort foods from my student days. It was bye-bye to chips, instant noodles, fried luncheon meat and even some types of bacon. Instead of going to parties at bars or clubs, I had to content myself with more mellow cafes and coffeeshops. Then when it became apparent during my medical training that caffeine was not helping my condition either, I had to also give up coffee.

It was not easy. Suddenly it felt as if I could not eat anything I liked, much less be sociable in the company of other foodies. I could bring food from home, but what if I wanted other options or wanted to be with friends who were bent on eating anything they wanted? So what was next? Wide-eyed me, clutching a cup of hot chocolate, and wondering what on earth I could still munch on, without breaking my budget.

Fortunately I wasn’t exactly alone in this struggle. And so the Team Glasses Blog’s journey began with two foodies (one with Heartburn and me with Epilepsy) to help people with the same health conditions about making their own foodie trips in the Metro.

Kismet Cafe

kismet-signboardWhenever we walk from Makati Avenue going to Rockwell, we never fail to see the various facets of life within those streets lit by neon and red lights. But what amazes us about the area is the fact that some of the best food places right in the city are located here. A small artistic café in just by the fringes is no exception.

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Caprese Panini

We’ve visited Kismet twice already and for the first time we went there, we both had different types of panini. Hers was the Oh So Cheesy and I had the Caprese, mini for both of us. Since that was a great date, we went again and this time ordered a Jalopeño Non Quezo for her and a slice of Oreo cake for me.

During the wait, we couldn’t help but be amazed by the handiwork of the artist/s who did the signs and wall paintings. Even with less light, the wall livens up the place and brings back bits of nostalgia from those wanderlust trips to the museum and seeing Persian art, with a touch of western and eastern quotes on the speech bubbles.

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Jalopeño Non Quezo

Food-wise, we had an amusing moment when I accidentally took too much of the hummus and ended up coughing on the paprika. Mea Culpa, but it was a laugh still. Paprika mishaps aside, the hummus was fresh and a notable part of the meal. And during our two trips there, each panini is cooked to the right temperature and the right level of crunch. The Oreo cake on the other hand was a surprise hit because it would match perfectly with coffee, even if we both don’t drink the stuff anymore, or with some tea. Bittersweet mix of the chocolate and the actual oreos on top were satisfying to eat, a treat.

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The slice of Oreo cake

And their note of ‘Please inform us of your dietary restrictions’ on the menu is a nice touch for people who live with some type of condition that doesn’t help them with their meals.

The Food Score:  4.5/5. The selection of food is balanced and definitely something that a foodie ought to consider that they are a nifty café and not exactly a restaurant that serves full meals. Their sandwiches are filling though, so that’s a plus still. Thankfully, there are coffee, juices, and teas that cater to anyone’s needs.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5. While the place is aesthetically pleasing hands down, one also has to consider how chaotic it might be to move around once all the tables are filled up.

GERD Score: 4/5. My experiences eating here are great quality and taste-wise. However, there really are items that any person with Heartburn shouldn’t even come close to.

Epilepsy Score: 4.5/5. Sure, there is coffee, but thankfully a selection of teas and juices is also available to those who can’t drink the golden brew. The fact that one can inform the staff of any dietary restrictions is a plus

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5. For the two times we went here, we enjoyed our meals shared at Kismet cafe and will definitely come back for more.

The Kismet Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Faburrito

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For a good many people, the term “healthy eating” would not readily belong in the same sentence as “Mexican cuisine” or “Tex-Mex”. Images of greasy burritos and tacos, or pots of chilli con carne often come to mind, much to the dismay of diners eager to avoid strongly flavoured foods or those that may raise one’s cholesterol. Fortunately there is one restaurant, Faburrito,  that rises to the challenge of changing this popular notion.

We first stumbled on Faburrito en route to a doctor’s appointment one sleepy December afternoon. We quickly realized that although the main dishes consisted only of tacos, salad, burritos, and bowls, the combination of ingredients in these dishes were actually complete meals in themselves. Interestingly enough, none of these options were particularly heavy on meat or cheese, unlike similar dishes in other establishments. There was even a vegetarian option: fajita mushrooms. Diners with larger appetites also could choose from a variety of side dishes such as soups and quesadillas to round out their meal.

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Selections 🙂

Choice is definitely a big part of the Faburrito dining experience, as the friendly service crew quickly showed us. We were asked if we wanted to include or exclude particular ingredients such as black beans or spices. The cook even accommodated Lee’s request to prepare his meal without cheese. Other diners were also given the option to customize their dishes according to their tastes and needs. This simple gesture was not only thoughtful and considerate, but showed the restaurant’s commitment to providing healthy meals. After all, healthy eating is hardly ‘one size fits all’, but consists of taking into account portion sizes and individual meal components for each person.

Both the regular and the large meal sizes were definitely filling. And lest anyone worry about this being overindulgence, the Faburrito staff have kindly posted the calories present in each meal option. One can dine on less than 450 calories (found in the burrito meal), without walking away with that heavy, greasy feeling that is sometimes associated with fast food dining.

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It is also notable that 10% of the proceeds in this restaurant are donated to charity. To support this restaurant and their causes, please check out their page at www.faburrito.com.

The Food Score: 4.5/5. The food was refreshing to the palate, and left us feeling full without being bloated. The ingredients are fresh, and blended in such a way that subtle flavours in each dish are brought out for the diner’s enjoyment. However their fish option is fried and battered, while their bowls can be rather heavy on the dressing.

Ambiance/Service Score: 5/5. The staff was cheerful and patient despite us and other customers taking time to think through our food orders. The meals were served quickly, and requests for extra water or the bill were easily accommodated. Though the place is small it hardly feels cramped owing to the bright decorating style.

GERD Score: 5/5. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a healthy choice. No burps or acidic feels after the meal, and this is coming from someone who regularly encounters problems even on small serving sizes at times.

Epilepsy Score: 5/5. No preservatives are used in cooking! And if one is sensitive to particular ingredients, there is always the option to have them eliminated from one’s meal.

Team Glasses Score:  5/5. It’s not every day when one finds a restaurant that caters to the needs of both our problems here at Team Glasses. We will most definitely eat at Faburrito again.

Thoughts on Heartburn

A few years back, I enjoyed and perhaps took for granted the fact that I could eat and drink anything I like. As a 20-year-old man, buffet or spicy food with a bottle of brew was love on my end. But things started to change when I heard the word ‘acid reflux’ from the doctor’s diagnosis two years ago. No to chilli peppers anymore, but I could still eat a good bit of food. In my travels in Qatar, I discovered Indian food which didn’t need the said peppers but still allowed me to eat spicy food. Some roti with some paya, masala, or beef curry is a passionate story on the taste buds.

But like all good things, it came to an end unexpectedly when I started burping one day after eating too much fried chicken two to four months before I came home. It led to that dreaded day I finally got my full diagnosis from the gastroenterologist. I now have heartburn or GERD etching itself into my daily vocabulary. From no more coffee, strong tea, and booze among other trigger foods, to slower and more thorough chewing, and altering my posture, my lifestyle changed almost immediately.

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But why did I do that in the first place, a lifestyle change, you may ask? One nasty thing no one ever really tells you is that if one leaves GERD to its devices and lets it have its way, it may eventually cause esophageal cancer. With rather nasty cancer stemming from one’s esophagus, the lack of decent food will be least of one’s problems. And as someone who found his reasons to keep on living and chasing after the life I wanted to live, changing my habits was not a hard decision to make.

Still, one can live a foodie life in the fullest by remembering to do the following. First, noting down trigger food matters. Such is a case with Liempo. It doesn’t trigger me unlike someone I know who has GERD too. However dairy starts up my burping, and in worse cases, leads to some spitting of small amounts of vomit from the excess acid. Second, volume eating is the enemy. It’s best to chose quality instead. And lastly, consulting an expert is always best for one’s wellbeing. They are best situated to give the best advice possible for living with the condition.

Ending this on a good note, GERD isn’t death like I used to believe it to be. It isn’t insurmountable because with some lifestyle adjustments, one can still eat well, and live better. The best of luck and hopefully our blog helps with future foodie trips.

Ristorante delle Mitre

When one reads of Intramuros, or the Walled City, the images that immediately come to mind are those of narrow streets winding between old houses or alongside statuesque churches, all crammed within centuries old fortifications still housing artillery. Over the years this part of the City of Manila has drawn in students, scholars, tourists, or just anyone curious about a certain chapter in Philippine history, but this does not mean that foodies are completely out of the scene. In fact, right across San Agustin Church, is Ristorante delle Mitre, a place that provides delicious nourishment for the bodies that house the pious (or not quite) visitors to the Walled City.

The feeling of ‘going back in time’ whenever visiting Intramuros is still present when one visits Ristorante delle Mitre, as the furnishing and ambiance are reminiscent of the interior of the sala or dining room of a 19th century bahay na bato. As the name implies, this establishment is also a loving tribute to the clergy of the Philippines; various dishes on the menu are named after prominent cardinals, bishops, and other figures in the Philippine church. Yet the fare is a far cry from ascetic both in terms of variety and quality. One can stop by for a quick merienda of empanaditas (tiny empanadas) and coffee, or linger for a leisurely full course meal all the way to dessert.

We have had the opportunity to drop in for lunch twice at Ristorante delle Mitre. On our first venture there we tried two rice meals: fried tawilis, as well as beef salpicao. Now one of the best ways to cook tawilis is to fry it crisp such that one can crunch it, bones and all. Ristorante delle Mitre does exactly that, and so well to the point that we did not even need their delicious vinegar sawsawan to enjoy the fish.  The beef salpicao was tender, with just enough garlic to give the dish its characteristic flavour without overpowering one’s tastebuds. Both of these meals were very affordable, within the price range of a lunch out in other popular restaurants.

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Tawilis

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Beef Salpicao

Our second trip to Ristorante delle Mitre was slightly more decadent; we picked their pesto pasta and their grilled sole with mashed potatoes. Much to our delight the pesto was very well blended and flavourful, a far cry from simply minced basil leaves extended with lots of oil. The grilled sole was the highlight of the meal. In this restaurant spices are used judiciously, and this fish dish was no exception.

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Pesto Pasta

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Grilled Sole with Mashed Potatoes

However, Ristorante delle Mitre is definitely not the place to go if one is in a rush. The service here is leisurely, and during peak hours it may take a while till one’s orders get served. However like most good things, the food here is definitely worth the wait.

The Food Score: 5/5. The selection and execution of the food in our two trips has been downright heavenly. Seasoned just right with a touch of clean presentation, can’t go wrong with that.

Ambiance/Service Score: 3/5. While it does try and come close to resembling a Spanish-era living room, it does go overboard with the number of statues and reliefs around it which make moving around slightly challenging if you have a backpack.

GERD Score: 4.5/5. As long as you refrain from drinking wine and picking something spicy (maybe a trigger food in your case), you’re pretty good to go and order most anything here.

Epilepsy Score: 4.5/5. While not all the items here are free of preservatives, such as the Vienna sausages on the breakfast menu, there are enough options for diners with restrictions. Desserts, coffee and other drinks are also not made with artificial sweeteners.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. All in all, great food and mostly health conditions-friendly selections serve Ristorante delle Mitre quite well as a foodie stop for a decent, filling, and comforting meal.