Italian Goes Local



When I decided to move to the Philippines, I had eight Canadian friends visit me during my couple of years. That was eight different times I had to show off the Philippines. It was easy. I was an avid scuba diver then. So we went to different dive sites and islands. In my first visit back to the Philippines, I extended what was supposed to be a three month trip to eight months. I fell in love with the country. I travelled all over from Zamboanga, Davao, Cebu, Palawan, Boracay all the way up to Luzon. Though I haven’t seen Batanes yet, I felt I had seen more of the Philippines than an average Manila girl did.

I’ve been here long enough to consider myself a real local. So now when we get foreign visitors, sometimes my husband and I find ourselves at a loss for places to show them. We have been so jaded. Manila is not exactly the easiest city to love. So when I saw photos of my friend’s visiting-Italian-friend (Antonio) enjoying the things we’ve already forgotten, I got nostalgic about why I moved to Manila in the first place. It’s about the people and the many layers of things to do and see. It’s about local food and our culture of hanging out with food and drinks. It’s our very animated spirit. These are the things that make us endearing to visitors. We make up for whatever we lack in services and architecture.

Antonio was originally from Italy, but he’s been working in Bangkok for a few years. And according to him, he’s “been working but not quite living.” He says in the years he’s been in Bangkok, he’s barely experienced anything. So he decided to take off a few weeks to discover and eat his way through Asia — the sort of thing we did after university, except Antonio already has a job and he’s not your typical backpacker.

Antonio’s travels (which, coincidentally is the name of his social media accounts) focuses around Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta. I’m sharing with you some of the highlights of his Manila trip where he met new friends. These like-minded foodie people showed Antonio some of Manila’s best restaurants to taste and try real local food.


A jeepney ride

Every visitor must see and ride a Filipino jeepney. It is quite a cultural experience.


The colourful streets of Metro Manila.

The colourful streets of Metro Manila.


Like Antonio, I found it both amusing and disturbing to see people's laundry hanging out windows.

Laundry-drying, more fun in the Philippines.


In the Philippines, night food markets do really well. It's just a lot more comfortable when the sun is down.

Night food markets do really well here because of our tropical climate. It’s just a lot more comfortable when the sun is down.


Mercato, or any food bazaar or market, is alive with many choices. It is here where new food concepts are usually tested.

Mercato, or any food bazaar or market, is alive with many choices. It is here where new food concepts are usually tested.


The new Pinoy lechon - crispy pork belly roll at Mercato.

The new Pinoy lechon – crispy pork belly roll at Mercato.


Buko juice.

Buko juice.


This is a fascinating and truly Filipino activity - Arnis! Antonio tried arnis in Luneta.

This is a fascinating and truly Filipino activity – Arnis! Antonio tried arnis in Luneta.


Can't get any more Pinoy than chicken adobo. Here, Goto Monster creates their own dry version.

Can’t get any more Pinoy than chicken adobo. Here, Goto Monster creates their own dry version.


Antonio at Goto Monster

Antonio at Goto Monster


Antonio with his new friends in Manila at White Moon Bar, Manila Bay.

Antonio with his new friends in Manila at White Moon Bar, Manila Bay.


Our famous Manila Bay sunset.

I am a sunset snob because of our famous Manila Bay sunset.


The biggest bone I've ever seen in soup. The half-Ilonggo in me is salivating. I love Kansi.

The biggest bone I’ve ever seen in soup. The half-Ilonggo in me is salivating. I love Kansi.


Now I know where to go when I crave for Kansi.

Now I know where to go when I crave for Kansi.


It's always good to find a pocket of stillness in the chaotic city of Metro Manila.

It’s always good to find a pocket of stillness in the chaotic city of Metro Manila.


Follow Antonio Travels in Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Check out Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta through the eyes of Antonio. #italiangoeslocal



Lemon Rosemary Chicken



I’ve been meaning to share this Lemon Rosemary Chicken recipe for a while but never got around to organizing myself to take photos while prepping. I swear, I do not know how recipe bloggers do it – cook and take pictures at the same time.

This is one of the easiest dishes you can ever make. Prep time is like 5 minutes, as long as your chicken is thawed. And cooking time is less than an hour. My kids love this. It is a family favourite.

I found the recipe online when I was googling anything about rosemary. I recently succeeded in growing rosemary at home. The original recipe I found was here. But I tweaked it a bit.

My recipe does not have precise measurements (sorry). Here are the ingredients that you will need.

1 kilogram chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
2 to 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
juice of 1 whole lemon
2 to 4 tablespoons of Bertolli extra virgin olive oil
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Optional – vegetables like carrots or potatoes







Lemon, rosemary and Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil






1. Preheat oven to 180C

2. Season chicken thighs with salt. Arrange on a roasting dish.

3, Mix all the ingredients of the marinade together – olive oil, juice of one lemon, chopped rosemary sprigs, chopped garlic.

4. Pour all marinade on the chicken. Make sure all surfaces of the chicken pieces are wet with marinade, though they don’t have to be soaked or submerged in the olive oil.

5. Put chicken and mixture in the preheated oven. Leave for at least 40 minutes. Check if the insides are cooked. Or if you prefer to brown the chicken skin, leave on for an extra 8-10 minutes.

Marinate the chicken for one hour or overnight in the refrigerator
Brown the chicken in a cast iron skillet before putting it in the oven


It is an option to brown the chicken with marinade and salt/pepper in a cast iron frying pan before baking. This gives the skin more colour and flavour.


I transferred the browned chicken and marinade mixture into a deeper baking dish and added some potatoes and carrots.


And here’s what it looked like after 45 minutes.


This dish is Lily approved. Promise, next recipe will be more precise.




Abuelita’s Kitchen



Abuelita’s Kitchen Roast Prime Grade Rib Eye, photo from their Facebook page.


Who is Abuelita? She is Eduarda Cuyugan Lacson, a beloved grandmother with Capangpangan roots. She moved to Bacolod where settled down, lived an idyllic life and held fort in the kitchen. Years after her death, her food is still being celebrated by her granddaughter Marianne Campillo-Legasto, and husband Chef Marco Legasto of Prime 101 Restaurant. Together they have recreated Abuelita’s dishes, now available on order-basis.

Last week, Vicky Tensuan of Whisk Designs — that lovely custom stationery service — sent me a whole order of roast prime grade rib eye. Vicky has partnered with the chefs of Prime 101 and has helped introduce the concept of catering/home service. The roast came in a lovely porcelain platter, ready for serving.

I have to say, this was one of the best roasts I have ever had. And to be sure I wasn’t just swayed by the gift, I invited Patrick’s cousin Raul to taste the roast. Raul is a food snob and even he had a “food coma.” It was that good. We will definitely be ordering this again.


Here is what the roast looked like when we received it. Looked even better than in the file photo. This Roast Prime Grade Rib Eye serves 10-12 and is priced at P6,000.


And look at perfection! Slow roasted US Angus Beef marinated in wine, spices and herbs. This is seared in a wood chip grill and finished off in the oven. Served with au jus (it’s own juice).


Other items on Abuelita’s menu – Japanese A3 Wagyu Sirloin Roast, Roast USDA Prime Grade Beef and Roast Chicken. They also sell frozen cooked food like Tapa, Callos, Chorizo and Korean Beef Stew. There are extras like Bone Marrow with Mushroom Rice and Caviar Pie.

Make sure to bookmark this entry. You may need it for Thanksgiving and Noche Buena (or birthdays, family lunches, pot luck dinners).

For inquiries and orders, email or 0916.475.3547. Place orders 5 days in advance. Orders are for pick-up only (no delivery) at Prime 101 Restaurant, 2/F Zeibart Building, Pasong Tamo, Makati beside Don Bosco.



Bettina Osmeña’s Gourmet Corner





As someone who recently just learned to love cooking, I am constantly on the lookout for realistic and yummy recipes (hello, You Tube). I have a few generous friends who love sharing tips and techniques. My parents also stayed with us for the past three months, so I learned how to cook meat in a tender and juicy way from them. Finally!

You wonder why it took me four decades to learn how to cook. I just never had an interest in it. As a child I was told to stay away from the kitchen because it was dangerous. Growing up in Toronto, my chore was washing the dishes and sorting laundry. My brother was the one who loved cooking, so I willingly gave way to him. As an adult, I found it easier to buy good meals or hire a helper who can cook. Last year, however, I found myself without any help. So instead of panicking I started to cook – three meals at a time. The results were more than edible. It got rave reviews from my husband and children. So that’s how I got started. It also helped that I already had my dream kitchen.

Some people are just born a natural at cooking. Bettina Lopez Osmeña is one of them. “I learned to cook when I was around 15,” says Bettina. “I used to attend the cooking classes of Sylvia Reynoso. Her sister Lorrie who is a Cordon Bleu graduate elevated my cooking and taste level. She has become one of my very good friends today after 40 years of friendship. She is a cooking instructor in a top culinary school in NYC.”

Before I met Bettina personally last year, I knew of her, not just as the wife of Senator Serge Osmeña, but as the woman who shared an amazing recipe for Iberian Chicken in Rica de Jesus’ blog. Recently, Bettina started a home-based business meant for busy people who appreciate good food, yet don’t have time to cook. She began selling her home-cooked meals in frozen packages at the Dasmariñas Village Bazaar. It did so well, it is now a regular thing. The next Dasmarinas Village Bazaar is this Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18 from 10 am to 6 pm. And for times when there is no bazaar, you can simply call +63 998 569 6849 and order Bettina’s food. Check out Gourmet Corner in Facebook.


Bettina Osmeña in her garden.


Bettina saw a need in the market. She says a lot of people are living alone in condos — they love to eat good food but it’s not like they have time to make beef stew for four hours. Bettina is a believer in the “slow food” process. She takes no short cuts. I asked her if this was for taste or health reasons, “I cook slow food because it tastes better. Health consciousness just followed. For example, the base of my sauce is real beef broth that has been slow simmered for several hours. No Knorr cubes for me and it makes a difference in both taste and health.”

Then there is the issue of staffing the home. A lot of young families I know (including ours) are having a hard time finding a cook who would stay on. I’ve given up on finding an experienced cook and taken matters into my own hands, as it should have been in the first place. However, I cannot cook all three meals every single day. I work. For busy mothers like me, Bettina’s product is the perfect solution. “There are a lot of restaurants and outlets that sell ready-cooked Filipino meals. There are diet food delivery systems. But very few do good quality, slow-cooked continental food,” says Bettina. Soon she will also offer vegetarian dishes.


I asked Bettina if I could feature her in this blog and she invited me to her home to see how she does things. She has got everything down to an art and science.


Her household staff does the marketing, using only the freshest and best produce.


At the time of my visit, there were four helpers who did all the food preparation. I asked Bettina if having Gourmet Corner changed the logistics and schedule of her staff. Of course it did. And it also increased their pay. So everybody is happy.


After hours of careful cooking and preparation, the meal is properly portioned (by weight) into these freezable packs. Bettina says you can store the cooked meal in your freezer for up to three months. She doesn’t recommend the use of microwave ovens for reheating. You can simply defrost the meal in your refrigerator a day or two before you intend to eat it, then heat it in a stove top… the old-fashioned way.


Bettina’s staff demonstrated how they make spaghetti sauce using canned cherry tomatoes from Italy. Bettina supervises all the cooking, and does the seasoning herself. The staff carefully follow the recipes she has written in a plastic clear book. There is a digital weighing scale to measure every bit of ingredient. Like I said, she’s got it down to a science.


For Gourmet Corner, Bettina only uses top-quality ingredients like these canned cherry tomatoes from Italy, exclusively imported by her company, Euro Fine Foods Specialist.


She does not compromise on the ingredients. Everything is top quality. The cans bear the seals of Italian and European organizations that certify the tomatoes come from organic farms and are of the finest quality.  The only reason it doesn’t have the “certified organic” seal is because these are not even sold in the U.S. yet.


After sautéing, the tomato sauce sits in low fire in her oven for many hours.


P4090581 - Version 2
Bettina’s Beef Ragu, popularly known as bolognese, is incredible. Look at all the ingredients! She says this is the “old-fashioned and expensive way.”


With this ragu sauce, you won’t see any ground beef. All her meats start out as real chunks, cut up into small strips and cubes. And because they are slow cooked for hours –four to five hours– the beef ends up naturally falling apart into smaller pieces.


Yes, that is bacon!


For her ragu, she uses Pomodoro San Marzano tomatoes, from the same Italian farm where the cherry tomatoes are from.


No beef buillons for Bettina. In addition to real beef stock, she uses an all-natural stock from jamon serrano! This Aneto broth and the above-mentioned cans of tomatoes are exclusively distributed by her company, Euro Fine Foods Specialist.


I caught the first half hour of the ragu cooking. Here are the vegetables and bacon, sautéed together.


The meat is then added. When the sauce is put in, the cooking process lasts for another four hours.


Bettina personally adds the salt and pepper in every dish. This way, quality always stays the same and meets her standards.


As a result of frequent trips to Europe, in 2011 Bettina and a friend set up a full-time importing business, Euro Fine Food Specialist.


The first product they imported was Marchesi de Frescobaldi Laudemio Olive Oil, one of the finest olive oils in the market. Then they brought in pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, truffle oils, butter and such. Check out their Facebook page in links I posted above.


They also have these amazing fresh juices from Italy, all from organic farms. These items will be available at the Dasmarinas Village Bazaar this April 17-18.


Here’s what the frozen meals from Gourmet Corner look like. The meals can stay in your freezer for up to three months, as long as it’s totally frozen. A day before using, you may bring the container up to the fridge to thaw.


Love the handwritten labels.


Gourmet Corner dishes are priced at an average of P350 per frozen pack, which serves two (to three) people.


They also sell them in larger batches, good enough for parties. You must order this in advance.


I served Gourmet Corner’s Ragu to my family and they absolutely loved it. Bettina calls it “grown-up bolognese”. She wasn’t sure my kids would love it. But they all did. Looks like we will be regulars. We also had Korean Beef Stew. It was so good, I forgot to take photos of it.



For complete menu and schedule of pop-up sales, check out Gourmet Corner in Facebook. To order call +63 998 569 6849.



Barcelona food





Last December, just before the Christmas rush, I travelled to Barcelona with a 2-person team from Lifestyle Network. It was a surprise bonus from being Samsung Digital Home’s brand ambassador at the time. We filmed some interstitials called “DAPHNE Diaries” that will soon air in Lifestyle Network. I have quite a few stories about this trip that I’ll be sharing in future entries.

Barcelona is one of those cities you can just lose yourself at while wandering through its streets. There are the must-see sites for visitors, those listed in all travel guides. But the true beauty of Barcelona is in what you discover while walking around. This is what happened to us in terms of food. We had a couple of pre-planned dining spots, but we left a lot of our meals to whatever came our way, wherever we were. Hope you like my list.


Our hotel Hotel Silken was located just off of La Rambla, the main tree-lined promenade with kiosks that sell newspapers, flowers and souvenirs. We were within walking distance from La Boqueria and other great spots.


When in Barcelona, must have churros at any random xurreria. Found this stall while walking around Placa de la Sagrada Familia, outside the church.


Thank you for our guide, Fabio Bugna, for showing us some his favourite spots in his beautiful city.





We arrived in Barcelona on an afternoon flight and found ourselves famished by 5pm, too early for dinner. Euskal Taverna was a random discovery on our way to the Picasso Museum. They had a pintxos bar! Pintxos (or pinchos)  are little snacks served in bars common in the Basque country. They are like tapas, but pintxos are spiked with a skewer or toothpick on a piece of bread. They are served and billed individually. You may either order them or just pick them up in a buffet setting. You are then charged for each pintxos based on the number of toothpicks on your plate.


Euskal Etxea Taverna


The pintxos are presented over the bar. You just get what you want. This is what I love about Spanish dining. It’s so casual and social.


For my first meal in Barcelona… of course, jamon iberico and tortilla de patata.


Euskal has over 80 varieties of pintxos, depending on what is available and what’s fresh.


Happy tummies. Our producer Dianne Sibal and director/videographer Carlo Lina.

EUSKAL TAVERNA, Placeta de Montcada, 1-3_08003. Tel +34 933102185





I can just imagine living in Barcelona and having La Boqueria market right there. I’d be picking up fresh food every single day. There would be very little cooking done, just tossing of all the fresh ingredients in hot olive oil and everything would taste so good. This is a place that is frequented by locals and tourists.

La Boqueria’s full name is Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. The earliest record of La Boqueria dates back to 1217. It went through many names and changes. It wasn’t til 1826 that the market was legally recognised. The construction of the permanent market structure started in 1840 under the direction of the architect Mas Vilà. The metal roof from the 1914 fish market still exists today. .

My happy place in Barcelona.




Fresh catch


Being touristy in the market.


Then I found what I was looking for.


Acorn-fed Jamon Iberico. This one’s from Salamanca. The ones I bought were from Jabugo.


I was so happy just tasting all the different legs!


Seriously. This is my joy. I could never give up eating jamon.


There’s my baby. I bought a big chunk of this and had it sliced and vacuum packed. Bellotas means acorn. This Iberian pig ate only acorns. It came from a farm in Jabugo. The ham was aged for 5 years. That’s the story of my jamon.


My precious jamon iberico 5 jotas. I still have one pack in my fridge. Hmmm.

LA BOQUERIA, La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona. Telephone +34 933 18 2584.





One of my unforgettable meals was in this amazing market stall at La Boqueria. El Quim does not take reservations. We took our chances and got there in the morning before the lunch rush started. El Quim started in 1987 with a three-metre long bar and just five stools. It now is one of the most famous eating spots in La Boqueria.

El Quim specializes in fried eggs, hence the egg emblem on the chefs’ jackets. They also have sandwiches, seafood and basically whatever fresh comes in to the market that day.


You won’t miss El Quim when you are at La Boqueria. It has a choice spot in the middle of the market with a 16-metre wrap around counter and 18 stools.


Chef Quim and his fellow chefs in the open kitchen.


A must!!! Two fried eggs with baby squid. Yes fried eggs. The best I’ve ever had!!!


Totally simple but oh so good – fried artichoke with a drizzle of sea salt.


With a glass of cava, early morning.


With the gracious and famous chef Quim.

EL QUIM DE LA BOQUERIA, Stalls 584-585-606-607-608-609, La Boqueria Market, Rambles. Telephone 93 301 98 10





Escriba is a pastry and chocolate shop with a lot of history and awards. We visited its second shop situated along La Rambla. The main confectionery showroom is at Gran Via. This shop along La Rambla was formerly Casa Figueras, makers of pasta and semolina. The corner shop shows beautiful Art Nouveau decor, with the founding date 1820, laid out in mosaic. The shop was refurbished in 1902 by stage designer Ros Guell who supervised some of the best craftsmen in the Art Nouveau movement.


Escriba’s pretty art nouveau facade.


The original corner mark of the building.


Beautiful chocolate shop.


We zeroed in on the xuixo, the sweet pastry beside the croissants.


Creations of Chef Antoni Escriba, which have been winning awards since the 1950s.


An image of the Virgin Mary guards the main shop.


Dianne, Carlo and I with our xuixo purchase.


If you don’t have time to sit and have coffee and sweets at Escriba, just drop by and get some xuixo, a pastry filled with crema catalana that is deep fried and covered with crystallized sugar. It was so good, I had to snap this selfie while walking down La Rambla with some crema in the corner of my mouth! Oops.

ESCRIBA, Rambla de les Flors 83, 08001. Telephone 93 301 6027



Feast formatgeria


One of the most charming places we went to was Formatgeria La Seu in Barri Gotic. This was highly recommended by our guide, Fabio. Formatgeria La Seu, a lovely cheese shop, is run by Katherine McLaughlin who personally picks the variety of cheeses from all over rural Spain. Her passion has brought her to some of the best cheese farms in Spain. At Formatgeria La Seu, you are guaranteed carefully selected cheeses, presented in optimum conditions.

We sat at the tasting room in the back, where we sampled a couple of palettes of cheese and a glass of vermouth.


A lovely cheese shop in the narrow streets of Barri Gotic.


The cheese at Formatgeria La Seu are stored and displayed in a temperature and humidity controlled cool-room, which one can enter, to view and sample.


The tasting room at the back still has equipment for churning butter as this was one of the first butter-making factories in Barcelona.


It was a very cold morning. This is Fabio and me trying to warm up with a glass of vermouth. It took me a while to peel off my trench coat.


Vermouth was having something of a revival in Spain. It was an old-fashioned aperitif that was eventually replaced by beer or wine. But now, it is again in vogue in the Barcelona brunch set. People drink vermouth straight up before a meal or on Sundays after mass. Some say, vermouth’s resurgence has to do with the poor state of the economy. Vermouth has 15% alcohol by volume, offering the best value for your euro. The vermouth at Formatgeria La Seu was homemade, sourced though Katherine’s exploration of rural farms in the region.


Each cheese in our palette came with a story about the farmer, the farm, the region. I was amazed.


The backroom was kept as close to authentic as possible, with the old tiles and dairy-churning equipment.


Wine and vermouth decanters in every shape.


We really enjoyed this stop. I could have stayed longer. I’ll definitely be back. This is so Patrick’s thing.

FORMATGERIA LA SEU, Carrer Dagueria,16,08002, Barcelona. Telephone 93 412 65 48




In one of our walks home to our hotel, we stumbled upon El Nacional. At the time, it was just newly opened. El Nacional is located in a huge warehouse-like structure that dates back to 1889, the height of the industrial revolution in Barcelona. It used to house a cafe, a theatre, a fabric dye factory, a car dealer’s shop before the Spanish Civil War. Then it became a garage.

The building of El Nacional has now been converted into this beautiful dining hot spot with six different food specializations that reflect various recipes from the around the Iberian Peninsula. Loved the interiors!!! We didn’t get to try anything here, so feel free to let me know in the comments section how the food was. I just wanted to show photos of the stunning space.


Narrow path that leads to El Nacional


The cocktail bar.


The oyster bar.


La Llotja, specializing in fresh seafood.


There is a mini seafood market where diners can choose their catch of the day and request for it to be cooked.

EL NACIONAL, Passeig de Gràcia, 24 Bis 08007. Telephone +(34) 93 518 5053.




Stop & Mos was  random find while shopping at the Mercat dels Encants, one of the oldest markets in Europe, dating back to the fourteenth century. After going through stalls of peddlers in the antique market (I will share with you my finds later), we went up to the mezzanine and looked for a place to eat.

Stop & Mos is one of those market stalls that caters to people on the go. Their logo says “natural take away food.” So this is not your typical fast food joint. We found a picnic table and seats, where we ate our food in take out containers outdoors. It was December and it was cold. Everything we ordered was so good.


Mercat dels Encants.


There was a fantastic view of Torre Agbar from the market.


Me and Fabio ordering our tapas and pintxos.


The chef himself was taking our order while preparing our food.


We had tortilla, tapas, croquettas, sardines and these amazing fried peppers. I could have eaten the whole dish.


Layers of aubergine with goat cheese, tomatoes and olive oil.


And my favourite Spanish comfort food, tortilla de patatas.

STOP & MOS, Castillejos 158, Fira Bellcaire Mercat dels encants, Barcelona.



feast casa 1


Casa de Tapas is an interesting concept restaurant that put together award-winning, Michelin-starred dishes from other Barcelona restaurants and chefs, all under one roof. It’s like being able to have a sampler of all the best dishes at one time. This was our only scheduled meal in Barcelona where we actually had reservations. Excellent.


We started with bruschetta using fresh tomatoes and garlic and a bottle of award-winning olive oil from Tickets.


Casa de Tapes staff demonstrated how to rub fresh garlic and tomato on toasted bread. Then we drizzled extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled salt and pepper on our toasts. Delicious.


Salad with burrata.


Steamed tomatoes. So simple yet so out of this world amazing. What’s in their potatoes in Barcelona?


Beef stew that just fell off the bone.


Dani Garcia’s Burguerbull, with two Michelin stars. Oxtail burger, beef, arugula, havarti, cheese and Dani’s magical mayonnaise.


Chocolate cake


Russian roulette chocolate by Escriba. One of these chocolates is filled with pepper. Dianne was the lucky one.


A memorable farewell dinner with new friends Fabio, Dianne and Carlo.

CASA DE TAPAS CANOTA, Calle Lleida 7, Barcelona. Telephone +(34) 93 3259171.