Gotti’s Ristorante

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Away from our usual haunts in Makati, we found ourselves in Megamall with dad and his business partner for a surprise dinner, and with a challenging budget of 300 per head, we decided to take a chance at Gotti’s Ristorante at the Atrium 4th floor.

The place reminds one of the different modern casual dining areas here in the metro, from sleek designs of solid red mixed with pictures of Italians, to the wooden chairs and cushioned leather seats, as well as the restaurant being lit and pleasant to the eye.

 

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Margherita Pizza

So for dinner, we shared a Margherita pizza. Aside from that, I had the Gambino Gamberi, Kat had the Salisbury Steak with rice, and then dad and his business partner had the Grilled Chicken Pesto and Creamy Basil Bacon pasta.

As we see it, one gets their money’s worth here in terms of volume. The pizza was more or less alright with its crisp thin crust sides, the cheese complements the tomato base and I would say, a guilt-free margherita.

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Creamy Basil Bacon Pasta

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Grilled Chicken Pesto

The grilled chicken pesto and creamy basil bacon pasta had well-cooked pasta for both. As for the taste however, I have to say that it’s a little uninspired and too overdone in either creaminess or the oily feel to the tongue. However, these are things that can be improved on in the future.

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Gambino Gamberi

With the Gambino, it’s quite filling and the stone-baked rice meal concept is actually quite interesting, especially in keeping our meal warm. At the same time, I’m quite a sucker for seafood and they cooked this one well enough.

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Salisbury Steak

The Salisbury steak on rice was served piping hot, with enough cheese on top to make the first bites delectable. However a little sauce coating the rest of the dish would not have been amiss. Nevertheless for a solo dish, this was a pretty tasty deal.

There was actually a lot of food left over from the two pastas that we took some home too. That said, if one wants to be full and hang out with friends at a budget, Gotti’s Ristorante is a good place to dine in.

Food Score: 3.5/5. The food here is a testament to the adage you get what you paid for, with decent taste suited for the Filipino palate and decent serving sizes, but there’s some room for improvement with some hits and some misses here and there.

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. Gotti’s ambiance is pleasing to the eye, from clean lines and welcoming appearance, it’s a treat to dine here every now and then. The servers were quite attentive as well, which is always welcome.

GERD Score: 3/5. One could say that each order of food is for sharing, so it can be a task for someone with heartburn to go at it alone. That said, there are thankfully some good options for selections, but again, for sharing.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. This is a case again of not knowing what exactly goes in the seasonings and flavorings. Unlike some other establishments, diners don’t have as much control over any dietary limitations and modifications to menu items. However there are enough food selections to cater to the preferences and needs for most diners.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5. When one puts everything into consideration, Gotti’s Ristorante is a decent place to dine in on a budget, giving value for money with their serving sizes. The place is certainly great to bring some friends in for a casual dining experience. However, for people who have medical conditions such as ours, we believe they can do better.

Food in the Time of Conflict: The Marawi Siege Crisis, and How We Can Help

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© Mike Gonzalez, 2005.

Photo By Mike Gonzalez (TheCoffee) (English Wikipedia) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Bullets and bombs are the most well-known, but not necessarily the most widespread of weapons during times of war and conflict.  Displacement, disease, and hunger affect both combatants and civilians, with the latter often winding up as refugees forced to make perilous journeys to safety away from the ‘Ground Zero’ of war zones, places that had once been home to them. In different parts of the world, refugees from all parts of the world are forced to make do in crowded temporary housing, camps, and evacuation centers. In these places, they often face shortages in basic necessities such as food, potable water, clothing, and medication.

One such ongoing crisis is the siege in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Philippines. Marawi was a beautiful city, the provincial capital with a rich history because of the heritage of its Muslim and Christian inhabitants. On May 23, 2017, a group of extremists known as the Maute group attacked Marawi City, leading to clashes with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Most of Marawi’s 220,000 residents were forced to flee to neighboring cities and municipalities such as Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City to escape the continuous firefights and airstrikes between government forces and the extremists.

At present, more than 55,000 refugees are staying in Iligan City and neighboring municipalities. The Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as other agencies involved in the relief and evacuation efforts have to stretch limited supplies of food and other relief goods to meet the needs of refugees already being housed in 37 schools, multi-purpose halls and other buildings converted to evacuation centers, as well as newcomers who have just been rescued from or escaped the conflict zones in Marawi City.

One of the most immediate needs of the refugees is food, whether ready-made or in prepackaged forms. What makes this food crisis more challenging is that food donations for refugees from Marawi must be halal or prepared according to Islamic dietary laws. Halal foods are free from pork or pig by-products, therefore even vegetables and other foods fried in pork lard or fat are not permissible for consumption. Halal foods must also be free from blood, alcohol, and also involves a specific means of humanely butchering animals to be used for food.  

Apart from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, other groups involved in the relief efforts for the refugees from Marawi include the Red Cross, Alagang Kapatid foundation, Save the Children, Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, and the Office of the Vice President. Universities such as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, Ateneo de Naga, De La Salle University, and La Salle Academy in Iligan are also accepting and coordinating donations for the refugees. One group directly involved in preparing and distributing halal food to the refugees is the Art Relief Mobile Kitchen. The Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (ARMK) at present prepares 10,000 to 12,000 meals each day for the evacuees in Iligan City.

Art Relief Mobile Kitchen is no stranger to feeding refugees from calamities after all. Starting all the way back from the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan) in 2013, ARMK set up a mobile kitchen near the area where refugees landed from Leyte and other typhoon-hit areas, with the efforts from volunteers and donations either in cash or in kind helped feed the multitude coming to Manila for safety.

Now the same case is happening in the evacuation centers in Illigan and Cotabato City almost a month in with the fighting in Marawi, where there are still reports of people in need of assistance and relief. Let’s not sit back and allow hunger to become a weapon of terror, help out in anyway you can, especially with addressing Art Relief Mobile Kitchen’s herculean task of feeding of our brothers and sisters in Marawi during Ramadan.

To learn more about Art Relief Mobile Kitchen and how to donate, one can visit their Facebook page by clicking here.

Food Truck Adventures: Flow

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With the heat and humidity in the Father’s Day event and our heavier-than-usual afternoon snack, some dessert was in order. Fortunately, there was one nearby, a handcrafted ice cream stall by the name of Flow.

Instead of the usual scooped ice cream placed on a cone with a Turkish man wearing a fez playing around before giving you your ice cream, Flow does “stir-fried” ice cream, basically using a cold pan or flat surface to turn a milkshake base of different flavors into the consistency of ice cream, flattening it out, and then scraping it out into rolls, served into a cup.

Their ice cream flavors also have catchy names such as Cookie Maltser to Rock Salt & Cheese. For this dessert trip however, we picked the Tsokolate-ughh and Avocadoe flavors.

The ice cream itself reminds me of an actual rolled-up cinnamon bark, which adds to the overall visual appeal of it. It’s light on the palate and bite, unlike typical ice cream that overwhelm one’s tastebuds in one spoonful sometimes.

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Avocadoe

As far as the Avocadoe goes, I’d have to say that the flavors were a bit too sharp for me and perhaps could be countered with a touch more salt or sugar, a matter of preference in my case. The texture was pleasing to the tongue however and cleans the palate well.

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Tsokolate-ughh

The Tsokolate-ughh on the other hand was bittersweet and a treat because of its tablea-like flavor which we appreciate.The consistency was smooth, making it easy on the tongue.

“Fried Ice Cream” is not a new innovation, however Flow Ice Cream takes it to a more delectable level. We look forward to see what else they’ll be stirring up soon!

Food Score: 4/5. The ‘stir-fried’ ice cream here at Flow is definitely good for an afternoon stroll at the park. With its appeal in both preparation and presentation, one can’t go wrong with it.

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. The stall and the people manning it were organized and the cold plate catches the eye well. The ice cream is served promptly, before it has a chance to melt on a hot day.

GERD Score: 3.5/5. While dairy is one of my triggers, however it didn’t do as bad on my GERD as I thought it would, just a few burps and was good to go. If dairy isn’t a trigger, by all means, try their ice cream. I do hope they’ll explore the soy milk option later on.

Epilepsy Score: 4.5/5. Most of the ingredients used for the ice cream are fresh, without additives. Since it doesn’t undergo a long freezing process like most other ice creams, nor is it in ‘soft’ form there are no extra ingredients added to make it ‘gel’ or become light and fluffy enough for spreading on a plate. In short, it’s all good.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. Flow hits the mark with its delectable selection of fried ice cream flavors and the ingredients they use to create the ice cream itself. Definitely worth a taste every time they set up shop in different venues.

Food Truck Adventures: Buns & Bros

IMG_4421After watching the 22nd French Film Festival in Greenbelt 3, we decided to go off the beaten track and go for the nearby Father’s Day celebration just around the Power Plant Mall. In the idyllic afternoon sun, lo and behold, we found ourselves in a closed off part of a street with stalls, wooden picnic tables and food trucks around the area serving casual dining delights from Wagyu Cubes to Pizza Cones along with some craft beers on the tap.

For this one however, Kat decided to get her burger fix from Buns & Bros. With quirky names such as The New Kid, The Boss, The Eager Beaver, and the Assassin, and a selection of different buns namely Roasted Black Sesame, Classic Brioche, and Beer, the burgers from this place are an aesthetic wonder making you almost regret eating the burger itself.

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The Assassin

And for this one, she selected the Assassin burger. Made with Angus beef, shredded nori, barbeque wasabi sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and their homemade roasted black sesame buns, each bite spotlights the different flavors and textures making up the burger. The first bite was a wonderful explosion on the tongue, with the savory juiciness of the meat mixing with the kick from the wasabi sauce. One could say we were ‘assassinated’ in the best way.

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That said, one of these days, we might just give their restaurant in Julio Vargas a quick peek soon.

Food Score: 4.5/5. From fresh ingredients to the medium to medium-well done burger meat, the burgers here have to be experienced more than once. The unique combinations of burger toppings as well as homemade buns were definitely worth exploring.

Ambiance / Service Score: 4/5. Even with the confines of a stall, everything was well organized and the staff were quick and attentive.

GERD Score: 4/5. The burger itself doesn’t feel too heavy to the taste buds or to the stomach which lends itself to be eaten leisurely without fear of having one’s heartburn act up. That said, the mantra of chew slowly applies well here.

Epilepsy Score: 4/5. Not all sauces may be friendly to the very sensitive. Also this is not a place for those with gluten issues. That being said, these burgers are freshly made and free of many additives and extenders

Team Glasses Score: 4/5. Buns and Bros is one of the burger joints one should drive all the way out to Pasig to experience, from the freshly made ingredients to how balanced the flavors are, even for people with our conditions.

Buns & Bros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saying Goodbye to My ‘Best Friend’—Getting Rid of My Caffeine Addiction

There was a time when coffee and I were inseparable. Friends caricatured me always holding a cup of the brown brew, and stops to a coffee shop were mandatory during any outing. At one point, I was clocking in about five cups a day—all in the name of staying awake during lengthy lectures or late nights finishing up papers. If I could not get coffee, I almost always resorted to chugging down cans of soda.  Inevitably this nasty habit caught up with me, resulting in trembling hands, jittery speech, and two seizures that were enough to send me to the emergency room. I soon realized that caffeine—or at least excess amounts of it—was a factor in my seizures. It was time for the coffee and the soda to go.

Now a caveat: Caffeine in small doses can be a good thing. It has been touted as a way to manage some kinds of headaches. Coffee is in itself said to be an antioxidant. However, caffeine in excess is another thing altogether, whether from coffee, soda, or other sources. Also, there is no nutritional benefit in ingesting soda, which is full of additives such as food colors and acids.

So how does one get rid of a caffeine habit? Many people trying to get rid of a caffeine addiction choose to cut back on their caffeine intake, by gradually reducing three cups of coffee a day to two, then one. Another strategy for cutting back is to reduce the size of one’s caffeinated drinks by a fourth to a half of a cup each day. Using low-caffeine substitutes such as ‘herbal coffees’ is also said to help get rid of a caffeine habit, but the use of such caffeine substitutes must be done carefully especially with persons who may have adverse reactions to some herbal preparations.

Other people choose to go ‘cold turkey’, as I did. The first three or four days without a drop of coffee or soda were nothing short of trying. I was cranky and felt as if my eyes were half-closed as I walked through glue. I wanted to just lie down and sleep off the hours, but I had to will myself to stay awake; at that time I was reviewing for a licensure exam and there was much ground to cover. Fortunately, within a week, my body finally found some equilibrium—or I had simply learned to adjust to a less frenetic pace once more.

What was also just as challenging was finding foods, as well as restructuring my habits, to fill up the role that caffeine once played.  I had relied on that substance to keep me alert and awake especially during lull hours. Now I had to literally find other ways to keep my eyes open.

One thing I made sure NOT to do was to switch out caffeine for sugar in the form of sweets, pastries, or other quick fixes. I also eschewed other non-caffeinated energy drinks as well as other stimulants. Instead I used these strategies:

-Eating smaller meals a day instead of 3 large ones: This was to prevent that dreaded post-lunchtime sleepiness. Also, breaking down 3 large meals into 5 small ones helps ensure a steadier blood sugar level, preventing ‘crashes’ that may actually be dangerous to one’s health.

-Hydration: I cannot stress this enough. That 8 glasses a day piece of advice is the bare minimum. Drinking more water not only helps keep one awake, but also does wonders for skin, hair, breath, and just overall health.

-Power naps: Instead of forcing myself to stay awake to the point of non-productivity, I learned the benefits of snoozing for just five minutes, in order to relieve eye strain as well as give my brain a break.

It’s been nearly a year since that last cup of coffee. To this day I still miss the taste of a hot, deep and dark brew, but I’ve learned that the health benefits of limiting caffeine far outweigh the jolt and exhilaration. I consider this change as kicking ‘my best friend’, caffeine, to the curb, in favor of taking care of my other best friend: my body. And that is something always worthwhile.

Baker Brothers

The smell of freshly baked bread, for most people, is integral to visions of early morning and a hot breakfast. If one smells the fragrance of a hot loaf at sundown, one just might be in the vicinity of Baker Brothers, a tiny bakery at the front of the Cathouse Bar on Doña Carmen Street in Poblacion, Makati. Unlike other bakeries, Baker Brothers is open only from 5pm onwards, making it perfect for night owls, or those who simply do not want to be up at the crack of dawn just to fetch a fresh loaf or two.

We might have passed up on this place had it not been for a sign pointing us to artisan pizzas and freshly baked bread. As usual, where our curiosity leads, the stomach soon follows. It was just as well that when we got here after work on a weekday, it was not quite time for the dinner rush, thus allowing us to peruse the menu and consider our orders. All the pizza selections seemed enticing (especially the Ultimate pizza with Gorgonzola cheese and anchovies), but we eventually decided on the BB’s Calzone filled with cheese, ham and olives, as well as a steak and kidney pie.

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Now our past experiences with calzones had involved middling portions either with a too thick crust, or overstuffed with cheese. This calzone at Baker Brothers was another story altogether: this was a 14 -inch pizza folded in half, served warm with a generous basil garnish. While Lee and I were still wondering how to tackle this delicious behemoth, our steak and kidney pie was brought out. At first glance, it appeared to be just like any other pot pie, comprised of flaky puff pastry. When we cut into it, we were treated to the unmistakable fragrance of gravy and spices, and meat so tender that it easily fell apart. Each bite was a combination of the hearty flavors of the steak and kidneys, as well as the more delicate hints of pepper in the gravy.

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The only thing that was missing? A cold pint of beer to wash all of this down (but alas, we have eschewed alcoholic beverages a long time ago).

Despite the bare-bones dining area and occasional distractions from the TV on the porch, our dinner was enjoyable thanks to the good food and accommodating service. This is one place to consider for a meal before a night shift, or at the very beginning of a pub crawl throughout the labyrinth of Poblacion. If one’s bender doesn’t go all that well, then Bakers Brothers has a great selection of comfort foods to cap off the evening (or early morning).

The Food Score: 5/5: We’ve been converted to eating meat pies thanks to this place. The portions are delicious, ample, and yet not overpowering to more delicate palates.

 

Ambiance/Service Score: 3/5: The dining area is open to the street and rather noisy, thanks to the TV and the adjacent bars, so this may be off-putting to diners wanting a quiet evening. However the service is excellent, and the food is served in a timely fashion and still piping hot from the oven.

 

GERD Score: 3/5: As things are, the food here is meant to be shared because a single order is too large for a single person. And the presence of cheese on the pizzas can be a trigger for some people with heartburn. That said, as long as one shares the meal and minimizes the trigger intake, the meal here can still be enjoyable.

 

Epilepsy Score:  3.5/5: The pizza selections are friendly in the sense that one can pick ingredients for pizzas. As for the pies, there is always the caveat of not knowing the exact blend of ingredients and spices used, thus some diners may need to take precautions. Though the place is in cooperation with a bar, there are still fruit juices and water available for hydration.
Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: This is not a place for healthy eating, or a glamorous night out. However this definitely a place to go for a hearty dish, or if one just ones something fresh out of the oven at late hours.

Señor Pollo: Winner, winner, chicken dinner?

Almost a year ago, I went on a month long chicken fast because I was sick and tired of the stuff from working in the Middle East, with a few exceptions here and there because of circumstance. By this time however, that wasn’t the case with our dinner as we further expanded into another food place in Poblacion. For this one, we chose to dine at Señor Pollo, which is close to WokBy4900, Lobo, Kite Kebab and Commune.

 

Stepping inside, the place really resembles more of a typical Filipino watering hole than a casual dining place, which is perfect for bringing your friends along for a brewski and some food with stories to tell. The artistic touches here and there contrast the concrete gray, adding a bit of spice and life into the place.

So for dinner, I chose to go with their trademark roast chicken with some tossed salad and cilantro garlic rice for my sides. Kat, on the other hand, chose the two-piece fried chicken with Colombian beans and Mac-and-Cheese.

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Señor Pollo Roast Chicken – Quarter

I have to say quite frankly that I wasn’t enthused with the salad since it was too wet for my preferences. The roast chicken was juicy for the most part which is a good thing for me, perfect with the chimchurri. And the rice added a subtle but good dimension to the salty-sour taste of the chimchurri and the roast chicken.

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2 piece Fried Chicken

The fried chicken on the other hand was a dream: crisp and flavorful on the outside, juicy and subtle on the inside. The gravy, although seasoned with pepper, didn’t overpower the chicken in the slightest. However the sides were on the rather bland side; perhaps we should have gone with something more adventurous like ‘patatas bravas’.

Summing it all up, you get what you paid for here at Señor Pollo. You’d have a decent-sized serving of food for its price. As to liking it, I’d have to say that it’s really a matter of preferences in this case.

For any restaurant suggestions that you’d like for us to try and rate, feel free to leave a comment below or contact us here.

Food Score: 3/5. As food goes, the roast chicken was good and the accompanying dips were decent and alright for adding flavor into the chicken. Unfortunately we had a bit of a stomach bug after this food trip; definitely a major setback.

Ambiance / Service Score: 3.5/5. The place is really a place to hangout rather than as a casual dining place, so it depends on how one goes about it. However it has to be said that the place has good service to take care of your food needs.

GERD Score: 3/5. Unfortunately, since this is Mexican-inspired cuisine, there are bound to be some uses of chili in some of the meals. Also, in the case of the quarter portion of roast chicken, I’d hazard to say that the meal is meant for sharing unless one is really hungry. Thankfully, there are some food and beverage options that can work out for people who are dealing with heartburn.

Epilepsy Score: 3/5. Once again the problem with very flavorful food is that one has no idea exactly what spices go in it. Diners with sensitive systems may need to go for either the blander food options or eschew this altogether.

Team Glasses Score: 3/5. All things considered, Señor Pollo delivered some hits and some misses in our time there. That said, the place isn’t friendly for people with medical concerns like ours, but is still good for a decent meal.

Señor Pollo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato