Welcome, 2011!

Happy new year! Hurrah for 2011, the Year of the Metal Rabbit!

In a few minutes we are saying goodbye to 2010. This past year has been exciting, for lack of a better word. This year surely has given meaning to each of us, be it related to our family, career-wise, relationships, or anything that enriched us personally.

2010 was a fruitful year for me as a food writer. Unlimited Grub Grabs still doesn’t have much of a following, but the drive to write something about food and places to dine in still remains. At first I couldn’t imagine I could regularly go around and search for good food, much more write about them, but as I read through my posts I figured saying that my blog activity was “regular” or “active” is an understatement.

Back in 2009 all I could do was introduce myself to the blogging comunity. Never mind that I didn’t get much attention, back then writing about food was a personal endeavor. It was when UGG reached its first anniversary that I realized how satisfying my adventures were.

This past year I have discovered a lot of restaurants and other places to dine in. I was able to join various tours, try out food tasting, learn about other cuisines, and meet other food enthusiasts like me. Having a heart problem didn’t stop me from enjoying great food; it helped me learn how to take care of my body, keep myself healthy, and eventually build up an appetite.

I realized that I’ve been to so many places but I didn’t have the time to write about each of them. Good thing I still have my pictures, but it’s clear that I already have a backlog of God knows how many articles. I’ll write about them soon; I really want to share so much to you, so stay tuned.

I’m still here in the office, spending the last minutes of 2010 alone. (Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ll spend the new year alone.) The next available bus trip to Baguio where my family is comes at 4am, so from here I’ll go straight to the terminal and get myself a ticket.

For the moment I’ll write a bit, edit some pictures, watch a drama series or two and listen to the fireworks while posting New Year greetings. (I think I’ve been blocked from other people’s walls on Facebook. The only time I’d probably get noticed is if I complain about something that is sure to blow up on my face. Yeah.)
And so, I thank you once again for visiting UGG. I hope you join me this year as I discover more restaurants, bars, kiosks and whatnots, and enjoy good food and wine as I always hope to do. It’s gonna be a challenging year this time, but hopefully you’d be there to see me through.

I hope the past year has been great for you all, and I hope the new year becomes a great one as well. Happy new year!

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A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you!

Merry Christmas!
So, how’s your Christmas so far? Did you celebrate Christmas with your family? If not, have you greeted them and everyone else around you? How’s your Noche Buena? Did you and your companions dine well? (Also, do you have a hang-over now from all that partying last night? I thought as much.) Did you complete your nine-day Simbang Gabi and made a wish? Did you play with firecrackers? (I hope not.)

It’s that time of the year again for us to spend quality with our loved ones, hear the traditional Dawn Masses, and spread good cheer to everyone. And yes, sing birthday greeting songs to our Lord Jesus Christ if you will. Yup, it’s his birthday, after all.

We Filipinos never grow tired of Christmas, simply because of the good things it represents for us. It’s actually nice that this year, Christmas Day landed on a Saturday, which makes the holiday more relaxing for some of us. (For all those working on Christmas Day, such as the security guards, call center agents and mall employees, and members of the media, my love goes out to you as well.)

Christmas will never be complete without the usual Noche Buena and holiday feasts. In my childhood I remember that our family would have the traditional bibingka and puto bumbong every Christmas Eve or after Mass. This is a traditional snack I never forgot to have for Christmas even as an adult. (Bonus points if they serve “salabat” or ginger tea.) Fruitcake? It’s been a while since I had one of those. Hint, hint. 
Our Noche Buena would consist of barbecues, fried chicken or fish, lechon kawali (deep fried pork, sometimes), cakes, fruits, and spaghetti. The best part of the holiday feast would be the leche flan and ube halaya, and Mom’s beans and homemade bread pudding (whose recipe she brought with her to heaven; God and the legions of angels and saints would be feasting on beans and pudding by now).

Gift giving is one of the biggest highlights of Christmas. Sure, gifts nowadays cost a lot of money, and we have to sacrifice a lot of time and effort to find the perfect stuff that we could give to our family/friends/co-workers/sweethearts/whatever, but seeing the joy in their faces when they do receive their gifts is something we can never grow tired of.

The most important part of Christmas in the Philippines is our reverence to the holiday’s religious significance. Filipinos have the longest Christmas celebration in the world, ushered in by the nine-day Simbang Gabi on December 16. Some areas also have the “panunuluyan,” the reenactment of the journey of Joseph and the pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary in search of lodging, and other religious events. Most of the time this is celebrated with the singing of Christmas carols and charity work, among others.

The Nativity by Charles-François Poerson, 1667

Christmas is a celebration for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Never mind how commercialized the Yuletide season is, or how people think of Santa Claus and the material matters of the holiday season more often. Christmas not only means paying respects to the child Jesus (especially if you’re a Catholic), or setting aside time to be good to others (one of the secular aspects of the holiday).

Christmas all boils down to sending our love to the world in commemoration of this holiday. Christmas is a time to share part of ourselves to everyone. Christmas is the season of giving, sharing, selflessness, love, and most of all, peace.

Peace be with you all. Again, Merry Christmas!

Aikyatchi: The Winners of Ultimate Taste Test 5.0!

Finally, the results of Ultimate Taste Test 5.0 are out!
Last November 5, about 50 food establishments gathered at the NBC Tent, and had their best products placed under the scrutiny of hundreds of food lovers and critics. Everyone had their fill of dishes of all kinds, desserts, drinks, and pastries from those that take pride of themselves as some of the best in and outside Metro Manila.

Just last weekend (December 17), Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet, the event organizer, released the list of the winners of the food tasting event; namely, those who got an average rating of 3.3 and above. 27 establishments made the cut.

These are:

1. Risa Chocolates – 4.14
The truffles and chocolates here were my personal favorite in this event. So sweet and soft to the palate, it warms the heart just savoring it. 
2. Pepita’s Lechon – 4.13
3. Mother Lee’s Hungarian Goulash – 4.11
4. Chef Lolly’s Pork with Shrimp Siomai – 3.97
I didn’t get to taste any of those though. Boo-hoo.
5. YOH-GEE Premium Froyo – 3.87
6. Dulcelin Gourmet’s Korean Red Rice Salad and Hickory Smoked US Pork Belly – 3.86
Biting on this juicy, tender pork dish is a wonderful experience.
7. Angelo Yaneza’s Honey Shrimp Paste – 3.82
8. Kitchen ala Ching’s Oatmeal Cookies – 3.79
9. Edible Option’s Sausages – 3.77
10. XOCOLAT’s Bake-to-Order Cookies – 3.77

11. Hacienda Macalauan’s Fresh Milk & Yoghurt – 3.74
12. Christa’s Kitchen French Macarons – 3.73
13. Merry Moo Ice Creamery’s Artisan Ice Cream – 3.72
I would have asked for more ice cream, but I got distracted by the sexy, so to speak 😛
14.Manila Q’s Bagwang and Fish Ham – 3.72
15. Hearty Onion’s Pandan-Wrapped Salmon – 3.71
Repeat after me: “Salmon is luv, salmon is luv…”
16. Bote Central’s Freshly Roasted Coffee – 3.69
17. Dessert Barn’s Amnesia & Bananalicious – 3.68
18. Mama P’s Bagnet & Longganiza – 3.68
 
19. Jan Viray’s Just Desserts – 3.67
20. da.u.de Marketing’s Organic Gourmet Tea – 3.66
I do drink coffee, but I take tea, my dear, just like the Englishman in New York that Sting sings often about.
21. Sweet Finale’s Dark Chocolate Flourless Cake – 3.62
22. Sassy K’s Korn Krisp and Gourmet Dips – 3.62
23. Dulces Y Tapas aka Christina’s Kitchen – 3.60
24. United Village Breadhouse’s Crostini Toasts – 3.60
 The first item I tried at UTT 5.0. Who would have known that bread and spread can taste so… homey?
25. Kitchen of Elaine & Cara’s Peppermint Bars – 3.59
26. Aunt May’s Escargot and Beef Tapa – 3.57
27. Fortune Empire’s Roast Pork – 3.55

Click on the links here to know more about winners #1-10, #11-20, and #21-27, respectively.

Congratulations to the winners! I look forward to the next Ultimate Taste Test!