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

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

Healthy food for the Filipino Palate: Satinka Naturals

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As a fact of life here in the Philippines, and an inherent irony, is that a good portion of Filipinos don’t consider incorporating vegetables into their diet. Don’t believe me? What are we most known for in terms of food? Some examples are Lechon, Crispy Pata, Sisig, Adobo, and the list piles on and on. Or if one walks to a roadside eatery, we add in pork, beef, or shrimp into the few vegetable viands.

Thankfully there are some exceptions and one of them is Satinka Naturals.

It all started when Kat asked me to surprise her with our dinner pick and the place caught my eye while searching one. Satinka Naturals is found by the corner of Kamagong and Chino Roces / Pasong Tamo in Makati, as both a place to eat, and a place to get organic products for many needs.

The interior reminds one of a rustic home, a mismatched but well-kept and loved Filipino-Spanish home, but with some modern sensibilities to the place. In a word, the place is cosy.

We started our dinner with some Yoga Tea, a mixture of ginger root, cardamom, black pepper, and cloves. While unusual to the Filipino palate, taking a sip of this tea with honey was a delightful experience, especially for me with my discovered preference for adding spices. This also gave me an idea on what to do with the cardamom pods I brought home from Qatar.

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Greek Platter

For the main dinner itself, I ordered a Greek platter and Kat had the Vegan platter. The Greek platter had chicken strips marinated with oregano, paprika and caraway seeds, giving each strip a vibrant flavour with every bite. The spiced beef in tomato sauce and feta cheese helped balance the meal with its bits of acidity from the tomatoes. The accompanying salad and shredded cucumber, as well as the red rice knit these two meat dishes together, creating a memorable meal hands down.

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Vegan Platter

The vegan platter consisted of two types of ‘meatballs’ made with beetroot, carrot, and a mix of other veggies, a marinara dipping sauce, raw ‘zuchinni pasta’ and a garden salad. Now whoever said that vegetables weren’t filling has certainly not encountered this rich meal. The vegan balls were heavy and savory, thus necessitating the other greens to cleanse one’s palate. This meal may be a bit overwhelming for those not used to vegan meals, but it is certainly worth a try.

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Sagada Yogurt with Honey

We ended our night with a small bowl of Sagada yogurt with honey. It was a solid dessert after our hearty dinner here at Satinka Naturals. But if we were to do it again, we would have ordered the pot of tea after the meal to make it an absolutely perfect end to the night.

Food Score: 5/5. Aside from minor nitpicks here and there, we enjoyed the food not only through its taste alone, but also from preparation and presentation to the organic ingredients of our meal. There is a wide selection of entrees and group platters to choose from, all of which use healthy and fresh ingredients. The beverages section can boast of having Sagada Coffee, several types of tea, and craft beer all available. One must never be shy to order.

Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5. Throughout our stay, it was surprisingly quiet and the hustle and bustle of the outside world didn’t get inside at all. At the same time, their décor, tables, and cushions speaks well of not only their tastes, but also become a place to rest our minds after a long trip around the Metro. Their service is not only attentive, but also quick on their feet in handling anything we needed.

GERD Score: 4.5/5. Surprisingly, even with the large portion and serving, the food here doesn’t trigger my burping at all, which is remarkable in itself. Also, the food is spiced just the right amount, so as not to make it too spicy for people with heartburn / GERD. While there is some alcohol in the vicinity, there’s plenty of beverage options as well.

Epilepsy Score: 5/5. No MSG and artificial flavors! This is cause enough to celebrate. And the vegan meals have no gluten, thus making this a bonus for people sensitive to this substance. The non-caffeinated teas and fresh fruit shakes are excellent too for diners with restrictions due to either their seizures or their medication

Team Glasses Score: 5/5. Our entire dinner here was a great experience because they create great food for diners with health concerns like us.

Heartburn: A change in lifestyle

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Photo by Christopher Dart (https://www.flickr.com/photos/darty53/8686152556/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Before working abroad in Doha, I already had the problem of acid reflux and normal remedies prescribed by the doctor worked out well for me. A bit of portion eating there and a less chili, no coffee, booze, or softdrinks for a period of time, and drink your medicine. After those two weeks, I’d feel better and be back to eating anything I liked without a care in the world. A matter of wash, rinse, and repeat. Easy peasy, I’m mostly healthy after all. I was unfortunately mistaken.

After the wear and tear of shifting schedules from my many tech support jobs, and the six day work week in Doha, perhaps my body finally called up to take its dues. A month or so after coming back to Manila, I began burping and having the taste of stomach acid line my mouth. Didn’t mind it much, drink some water or some milk, good to go. I only took notice when I kept regurgitating foam after a single bottle of beer, my walk home punctuated by spitting out the foam that came up from my throat.

The gastroenterologist pretty much confirmed my worst fears, I had heartburn a few months before I turned 28th. I bet you’d ask, “So what? Just drink medicine and go.” or “It’s not like (insert here disorder / disease / ailment), you have it much better.”

One would normally dismiss such thoughts, until Kat reminded me what an untreated and ignored gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) / heartburn can do to someone.

According to this article from cancer.org, one of the risk factors for having esophageal cancer or Barrett’s esophagus is GERD. While it does not happen to everyone with heartburn, I most certainly do not want to ever encounter them in my life if I can help it. After all, everything that we eat and drink goes through the esophagus, so it’s imperative that we take care of it, along with everything else in our body.

I can safely say that I’m a foodie, having both an interest in having a meal and making one, something I share with Kat. I didn’t want to give up on that and live in the spectre of being defined as another foodie who had to stop because he couldn’t each much anymore. And with a few changes here and there, I can say I’ve done rather well with a good deal of help from Kat and a couple of friends’ suggestions here and there, along with our Team Glasses Food Blog.

But there are times where heartburn catches up to me, no matter how I try to take care of myself. After the string of many food adventures, I had to get myself checked up again. As per my latest gastro check up, I was told that it’s a recurring thing, so I guess I’ll have to deal with this the best way I can.

On my part and your part, if you’re dealing with heartburn but still love eating great food, here are some things to remember:

  1. Follow your gastroenterologist’s advice and don’t cut corners. Maintaining your health matters more, no matter how the medicines costs initially.
  2. Remember your trigger foods and stay away from these or at the very least, do your best to put these on the side if possible. Also skip the alcohol, deep fried food, and tobacco—even if you don’t have GERD.
  3. Find what works for you, in terms of food portioning and the meals you can actually eat.

As what I’ve learned here while writing with Kat about our different food adventures here in Team Glasses Food Blog, life doesn’t really end if you’re living with medical conditions here and there. One can still find great food places in Metro Manila, without sacrificing your health. And this is the reason why we continue to write our foodie reviews, thoughts, and adventures. We really hope that we help you out in our own way.