Il Fiore Earth Café and Gelato Lab

The mention of ‘organic dining’ or ‘farm to table’ restaurants often evokes images of greenery, warm brick red walls and wooden benches, and lengthy menus describing the ingredients and cooking styles of featured dishes. However, Il Fiore Earth Café and Gelato Lab defies this type by combining café-style meals and gelato under one cheery roof.

IMG_4601

In keeping with its floral name—as il fiore is translated from Italian as ‘the flower’, this small café on Salamanca Street in Poblacion is decked out in pastel tones that provide a cheery contrast to its steel-and-glass environs. The menu is straightforward and reader-friendly, providing diners with a no-nonsense look at what they will be ordering. On the other hand, the novelty lies in the gelato selection, which features some unusual flavors such as mango-dragon fruit and hazelnut.

During our visit here we sampled the dark chocolate ganache gelato, as well as the portobello mozza burger, and the spinach and squash lasagna. The gelato was thick and luscious on the tongue, with creamy chocolate bits adding to the dessert’s deep flavor. Clearly there were no corners cut in the making of this gelato.

IMG_4589

When we got our first sight of the portobello mozza burger, the first thought that popped in our minds was “How are we going to eat this?” Our knives and forks seemed too meagre for this task. After a little consideration, we realized there was no other way but to simply pick up the burger and bite into it, letting the melted mozzarella cheese ooze out along with the juiciness of the mushrooms. The alfalfa sprouts and tomato relish complemented the richness of the burger patty, providing some much needed cleansing to our palates.

IMG_4597

The spinach and squash lasagna on the other hand was surprisingly light on the palate, even with the layers of tomato, béchamel sauce and cheese. The dish’s overall mildness made it easy to finish, however we felt that a sharper cheese or combination of cheeses would have brought a bit of a kick to the pasta.

IMG_4600

Il Fiore Earth Café and Gelato Lab also features other interesting entrees like mushroom chips and quinoa chili shepherd’s pie, as well as a small array of cakes, pastries, tea, coffee, and yogurt drinks. This is a promising alternative to coffee shops and cafes, especially for patrons who desire healthy yet substantial meals to go with a hot drink or delectable dessert.

IMG_4593

The Food Score: 4/5: The dishes here have an excellent balance of flavors, though at times they play a bit too safe on the palate. The gelato though is this place’s biggest strength.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4/5: The ambiance is cheery yet relaxing, good for a casual meetup with friends or holing up for a few hours to read or use a computer. However we noticed that this place uses disposable boxes and cutlery for serving, despite the presence of more environmentally friendly alternatives.

GERD Score: 3/5: Given the selection of meals they have, most of them aren’t heartburn friendly at all, either with the portion size that’s good for sharing, or the amount of cheese put in. But to their credit, they also have selections that are perfect for people dealing with heartburn such as yogurt and their gelato.

Epilepsy Score:  3.5/5: The dishes here are not too strongly seasoned, thus allaying most concerns about artificial seasoning. There are not too many non-caffeinated drink offerings on the menu though, which may be a bit off-putting to some cafégoers.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: We feel that this place has some promise in terms of concept a well as a few dishes, but there is still some room for improvement. On the whole though it is a cafe worth stopping in, or even lingering in for an hour or two with good food and excellent gelato.

Il Fiore Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Advertisements

Honey Nutribar: The Future Disaster-Relief Snack

In a country where natural disasters happen often, food that’s both filling and nutritious is a necessity. Unfortunately, most relief packs from donations consist of either crackers and biscuits, canned goods, or things like noodles or rice which require potable water. The last two options have downsides to them, which are the problem of artificially made preservatives, as well as the lack of sustainable potable water or water-filtration systems in evacuation centers and in ground zero.

If my guilty pleasure of watching people who eat military or civilian Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) has taught me anything, ready to eat foods need to meet certain criteria.  Since its purpose is to be ready to eat even after a year of storage or more, an MRE pack should remain edible despite being stored  for a long period of time. It should be easy to transport without crumbling apart readily. And most importantly, these should have a healthy amount of calories and nutrients to make one survive the grueling day or have a substantial meal in a pinch.

IMG_4529

While we don’t have locally-produced MRE packs like in the US or Indonesia, I would have to say that the Honey Nutribar is a step in the right direction.

Created by the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), the Honey NutriBar is made out of pinipig (pounded glutinous rice), honey, rice krispies, dried fruits, and pectin. What sets this bar apart from the commercially available ones is the process that’s involved in preserving it.

IMG_4530

Each bar is vacuum-sealed in laminated aluminum foil, and then irradiated at a dose of 1 kilogray gamma radiation at the PNRI’s Multipurpose Irradiation Facility. Now one asks him or herself, “Irradiated? Isn’t that toxic?”. Unlike what happens in nuclear meltdown and accidents like Chernobyl or Fukushima, the irradiation process does not turn the food radioactive, and in fact makes it safer for consumption.

Now what is irradiation exactly? It is the process wherein the food (in this case, the Honey NutriBar) is exposed to electron beams or gamma radiation. Here are some benefits to the irradiation process.

  1. Preservation by destroying or deactivating the organisms that speed up spoilage and decomposition.
  2. Elimination of disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella and E.Coli.
  3. Sterilization. Sterilized food last long in storage and a useful source of food for patients with severely-impaired immune systems.
  4. Irradiating does not change the taste or consistency of food.

Currently, the said product is still in development. The team at PNRI has managed to get the Honey Nutribar’s shelf life at nine months, but the staff in the PNRI conference area told us that the team is aiming to make it shelf-stable for two years.

With a bit of help from individuals and groups willing to invest in this research, the Honey Nutribar will soon be able to provide a readily available and tasty source of food during natural disasters and other emergencies. Since these are packed with nutrients and sufficient calories, these snack bars are also great for athletic events and outdoor activities.

 

For more information on the Honey Nutribar, please contact:

Ms. Zenaida M. De Guzman

Head, Biomedical Research Section, Atomic Research Division

Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute

Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City

Tel. No. 929-6010 to 19 loc. 273

Email: zmedguzman@pnri.dost.gov.ph

On Tagines and Pierogi: Al Fresco Dining at the Salcedo Market

Public and community markets are acquiring additional faces here in the Philippines. Although most markets are still comprised of rows of stalls housed in large buildings and divided into ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ sections, other set ups such as night markets and open-air markets have been established in some communities. One example is the Salcedo Market, which is open on Saturday mornings at Jaime Velasquez Park, in Makati City. This weekly market is not only a place to acquire some choice organic produce, meats, fish, and deli items, but it is also a haven for diners seeking comfort food as well as less well-known cuisines in a more relaxed environment than a food park or restaurant.

We decided to have a late breakfast-early brunch here on one lazy weekend. It took us some time to browse through all the stalls offering all kinds of foods from sandwiches to paella. Eventually we decided on some chicken saffron tagine from The Real Moroccan Cuisine and pierogi dumplings from Babci.

The chicken saffron tagine was served on a bed of saffron rice, with an olive garnish. Although the saffron rice was a little lacking in flavor, the chicken had a distinct lemony taste with hints of saffron that played well on the taste buds. The meat itself was falling off the bone; another sign of careful slow cooking. The black olives were firm, soft, and flavorful, complimenting the dish as a whole,but perhaps they should watch a bit more closely to removing the pit in order to prevent accidents. In summary, it was a very filling dish that would do well to keep you from feeling hungry throughout the day.

Pierogi are filled dumplings, originating from Poland. Babci offers a whole range of pierogi fillings ranging from traditional ones such as sauerkraut and potatoes, to more innovative creations including chocolate and fruits. Since we were having brunch, we decided on a trio of savory pierogi: potato with cheese and onion (also known as ruskie, a classic meat mix, and last but not the least, cabbage with mushrooms and a hint of truffle oil.  All of the pierogi came topped with caramelized onions and cream. The ruskie had a rich but not overwhelming flavor, with the perfect balance of both cheese and onion. The meat pierogi was strongly seasoned, but without being overly salty for enjoyment. On the other hand, the truffle oil lent a distinct sharpness to the last pierogi, but that soon gave way to the subtler flavors of mushrooms and cabbage. It was a welcome change from the more richly filled and flavors dimsum houses or other cuisines with a tradition of dumplings. Babci also offers a variety of sausages (served with pita bread or rice) that are made without extenders or excessive amounts of other preservatives.

Hopefully we will have another opportunity soon to sample more culinary treats from the Salcedo Market. It is fortunate to see many small and medium food enterprises emerging to give diners more healthy and diverse options to suit all palates and needs.

The Food Score: 4/5: Although there were some misses when it comes to the flavors of the pierogi and the chicken tagine, the dishes on the whole were affordable, filling, and satisfying to eat.

Ambiance/Service Score: 5/5: One feature of the Salcedo Market is al fresco dining. The ambiance is bustling but relaxed, conducive at least for casual conversation or taking a rest before rushing off to peruse more items in the stalls. The market is clean, organized, and safe on the whole

GERD Score: 4.5/5: The Real Moroccan Cuisine and Babci offers savory food spiced just the way we like them, as such isn’t a problem unless these have your triggers. But I do say that the serving size of the chicken tangine is great for sharing rather than taking it on alone.

Epilepsy Score:  5/5: Food options in The Real Moroccan Cuisine and Babci are free of preservatives and extenders. Non caffeinated teas and other drinks are available in the former establishment and in other stalls. The marketplace is a haven for health buffs after all.
Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5 Although there is still room for improvement with the food and the set-up of the market, this is a promising place for foodies and those interested in healthy eating and organic products.

Knackering for a crunchy snack: Brown Rice Nutty-Fruity Bar

It’s no secret that Kat and I love learning new things about science, and it sure was a treat seeing advances, advocacies, and innovations during our adventure in this year’s National Science and Technology Week by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

To our surprise and delight, the said event also gave us more than mental stimulation; it also helped us to find food we can actually eat due to our respective conditions. In the same place we discovered RiMo Curls, we found the Brown Rice Nutty-Fruity Bar, a locally produced and healthier equivalent to the rice krispies snack.

IMG_4549Compared to regular rice, brown rice is a good source of dietary fiber, and also includes vitamins and minerals like B6, magnesium, niacin, thiamine, and manganese. Typically, it has a more chewy texture, which is something Filipinos are not quite used to compared to white rice. Given this particular problem (even if it’s the healthier option), how to get Filipinos and especially kids to eat more brown rice?

 

NutriDense Corp, along with technologies by the DOST – Food and Nutrition Research Institute, came up with Brown Rice Nutty-Fruity Bar. It’s made out of brown rice crispies, honey, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, soy protein, and iodized salt.

My first bite reminded me of the Kelogg’s rice krispies cereal, but with contrasting flavors which improved it all together. The dried fruits added a touch of sweet and sour to the overall texture, while the sesame seeds and nuts gave another layer of crunch. Thankfully it was only mildly sweet because the makers used honey instead of refined white sugar. However, the nuts and soy ingredients pose a concern to those who have allergies to these ingredients.

We also have the energy bar’s nutritional facts in the image below. Given this, we think it’s a good step in the right direction since most of our locally-made snack bar selections are not on the healthy side of things.

IMG_4564

Brown Rice Nutty-Fruity Bar is manufactured and distributed by Nutri Dense Food Manufacturing Corporation. For more information, please contact the company at:

2/F UP-ISSI Bldg. E. Virata Hall, E. Jacinto St., UP Diliman Compound, Quezon City, Philippines

TeleFax No: (075) 600 8251

Mobile No/s: +63 999 729 0234 / +63 916 641 8611 / +63 923 703 2198

Email: nutridensefmc@yahoo.com.ph

Toast Box: a place for all hours

The very mention of ‘toast’ often brings to mind images of golden brown bread served with jam, eggs and bacon, and perhaps with a cup of coffee on the side. It is just as well that there is a restaurant chain in Metro Manila that is bringing a new face to this take on sliced bread. Welcome to none other than Toast Box.

IMG_4558

We visited the Toast Box in Greenbelt just before the dinner rush, initially intent on grabbing a light early dinner. However, after perusing the delectable selection of toast box combinations as well as the sandwich and entrée selections, our appetites were whetted enough for us to choose something more substantial. Kat picked a Hainanese quarter chicken served with rice, soup, and a glass of cold barley, while Lee chose the sandwich version of this chicken dish.

IMG_4554

The Hainanese chicken with rice was savory, with the chicken’s flavors mingling pleasantly with the light sauce. This particular meal was delicate on the tongue, and filling enough for an early supper. The best part though was the chilled barley drink, which reminded us of a cooler, chewier version of pinipig (a toasted rice delicacy). It was perfect for cleansing the palate, leaving the diner ready for more.

IMG_4556

The Hainanese chicken sandwich on the other hand is what every sandwich lover should try at least once in their lives. The chicken was firm and savory, the tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumber were crisp and fresh, and the thick toast held the juices better than what one would normally expect. We dare say that it’s perfect for the start of the day, a heavy afternoon snack, or a light dinner. The black tea that accompanied it was a bit too much on the strong side, unfortunately.

Although Toast Box markets itself as an ‘all day breakfast’ establishment, our experience showed us that this is a restaurant for all hours: breakfast, brunch, lunch, snacktime, and all the way to dinner. This is definitely a place to consider for diners who don’t want to go all out on either stomach capacity or budget, but who could definitely use a filling, satisfying meal.

The Food Score: 4/5: The toast selections fit the bill for a light yet classy breakfast, something that is a respite from many of the heavier breakfast selections in other restaurants. However the entrée selections may not be as friendly for diners allergic to seafoods; since the entrées are very South Asian and Southeast Asian inspired, foodstuffs like bagoong feature in these dishes.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: The ambiance is chic and calm, perfect for sipping a cup of coffee alone or having a quiet meeting. The décor is eclectic yet not jarring, adding more to the inviting atmosphere of the place.

IMG_4560

GERD Score: 4/5: The selection of the place’s menu strikes a good balance for those that love the cafe experience with coffee and tea, and people who are health conscious and looking for good options here and there. At the same time, the food portions are just right as long as one remembers the mantra to chew their food slowly.

Epilepsy Score:  4/5: Although the toast box selections come with coffee or tea, there is a good selection of juices and drinks to accompany one’s meal. Likewise, though luncheon meat and other preserved foods feature in some of the entrees, there are other dishes available for discerning diners.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5: This place is proof for us that breakfast is an anytime, anywhere affair. We definitely recommend this place for all hours and all appetites.

Toast Box Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

RiMo Curls: A creatively healthy snack

For just a moment, imagine being in the shoes of a kid in a candy shop with a sizable amount of cash to buy anything and everything from the place. However, there is a catch; one can only select from the lesser types of sweets one doesn’t care much for.

In a way, this is the experience of how we at Team Glasses Food Blog haven’t had chips / crisps / curl snacks in a long while now, because of our respective health concerns. We honestly thought we couldn’t have anymore of those types of snacks anymore. But in a stroke of good luck (and a lot of science), we found ourselves eating those words after finding out about RiMo Curls.

IMG_4544

During the last day of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)’s National Science and Technology Week, Kat and I were roaming around to satiate the craving for science, innovation, and of course, food. A poster caught my attention of rice and monggo beans (mung beans) being turned into a crunchy and ready-to-open snack, aptly named RiMo Curls. We soon out that this is made possible by the technology applied from the DOST’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute

Now, one may think, ‘Well, there are plenty of healthy snacks right there, why is this one any special?’ However, RiMo Curls is a snack worth trying among the plethora of ‘healthy’ snack foods on the market. Many older versions of healthy snacks have much to be desired in terms of texture or taste, but with this snack, there’s a different and longer lasting crunch after the pack has been opened.

The rice and monggo flour blend is an interesting choice of ingredients since I normally only see these two during meals with one on top of the other. The cheese flavor is thankfully, only lightly applied and not overwhelming in terms of flavor.

 

Here are some more reasons to enjoy RiMo curls:

  1. It’s protein and energy rich!
    • It contains 120 kcal of energy (8.5% of recommended daily energy needs for children 4 to 6 years old)
    • It also contains 3 grams of protein (7.9% of recommended daily protein intake for children 4 to 6 years old)
  2. It’s iron and zinc fortified
  3. Low salt content (and it really is since each bite wasn’t coated with thick amounts of cheese powder or other seasonings)
  4. And it’s gluten free too

We hope to see this snack, and others of its caliber, becomes more readily available throughout the country. We definitely enjoyed it and hopefully those with our conditions can too in the future.

RiMo Curls is manufactured and distributed by Nutri Dense Food Manufacturing Corporation. For more information, please contact the company at:

2/F UP-ISSI Bldg. E. Virata Hall, E. Jacinto St., UP Diliman Compound, Quezon City, Philippines

TeleFax No: (075) 600 8251

Mobile No/s: +63 999 729 0234 / +63 916 641 8611 / +63 923 703 2198

Email: nutridensefmc@yahoo.com.ph

The Good Bugs

Most of us grew up with an (acquired) aversion to bacteria and germs. We were always told that having these little entities in our guts would make us sick. However, not all bacteria cause stomach upsets; in fact, there are some kinds of bacteria which promote better digestion and health overall. These microorganisms are better known nowadays as probiotics. These special bacteria can resist the extremely acidic and enzyme-filled environment of the human gut, and thus can reside there for a relatively longer period of time.

So why eat or drink these kinds of bacteria? In recent years, probiotics have been studied for their beneficial effects in managing digestive problems such as gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and even irritable bowel syndrome. They are also helpful for children suffering from colic. They may be beneficial in managing allergies, atopic dermatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease; however, more studies are needed to show the effectiveness of probiotics for patients with these disorders. Probiotics may also have an antioxidant effect by reducing the ‘oxidative stress’ and damage caused by harmful bacteria in the gut.

Various strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are among the more well-known probiotics. These bacteria may be found in special preparations marketed for therapeutic purposes, but they are also found in some commercially available foods such as yogurt and some dairy preparations. Other foods containing beneficial bacteria include sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kombucha (fermented tea). Like all things, these foods and other probiotic preparations must be taken in moderation. In fact, probiotics are not recommended for some critically ill persons, or those with severely weakened immune systems.

6933791485_91ca684502_b

Kombucha tea (Source: statickflickr.com)

 

In our anecdotal experience, regularly taking probiotics in addition to making necessary dietary and lifestyle changes has been helpful in preventing attacks of GERD, or at least in limiting their severity. We’ve also realized that drinking probiotics help us recover more quickly from our relatively rare stomach upsets and food poisoning misadventures. We hope that as more research is done about probiotics, that we can better incorporate these into our recommendations for healthy eating.

 

Sources:

Connor, E. (2017). 6 Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet. Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/probiotic-foods#kombucha6

 

Sanders, M. E, Guarner, F., Guerrant, R., Holt, P.R., Quigley, E.M., Sartor, R.B…Mayer. E.A. (2013). “An update on the use and investigation of probiotics in health and disease.” Gut, 62, 787-796. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2012-302504

 

Wang, Y., Wu, Y., Wang, Y., Xu, H., Mei, X., Yu, D….Li, W. (2017). “Antioxidant Properties of Probiotic Bacteria”. Nutrients, 9, 521. doi:10.3390/nu9050521