Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 it is!

2010 was the year I have to say goodbye to SG and say hello to the Netherlands.  2010 was the most challenging year but I was happy and contented.  2010 was the birth year of this blog.

And what made 2010 special for HT couple's blog? :) Aside from the magnificent food trips we've made...being acquainted to everyone virtually through our blogs and especially meeting all of you who shared the same passion and for sharing your time even if i was about to leave Singapore then and now still keeping in touch even if i am on the other side of the world...thanks for the friendship!

Happy 2011 foodies!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a good steak, but it ain't beef!

The snow and the cold weather made my Christmas very different from what I had for the past decades.  And I was surprised how I have nicely adjusted with it (of course, wearing  3 or 4 layers of clothes really helps).  The temperature dropped below 0 in time for Christmas holiday which is a season to keep on eating...and eating makes our body warm (good excuse :D).

We spent our Christmas eve and Christmas day with our small friends/family community in Utrecht.  It was really 2 nights of fun...of no worries, just dancing, playing and savoring each moment of our favorite hobby...indulging good food (Thanks again to the hosts, you know who you are *wink*).

We also had our "HT couple Christmas dinner" which HT hubbie made something special for me.  Sweet, isn't he?
This juicy-looking steak is not beef (though it looks like one).  It came from a big animal that has long legs, neck and lots of feathers...can you guess it now? :) Yes!  This delicious steak is an ostrich meat (struisvogelstuk). 

Seared in a pan for 2-3 minutes after which, topped with hazelnut puree and sauce and hopped it went to the oven at 175 Celsius, grill setting for 10 minutes.  This was cooked medium and still very tender and succulent.  This was my first time to eat ostrich meat but HT hubbie said it never failed him.

And fun facts from wikipedia: Ostrich meat are low in cholesterol and they don't have marbled fats.  It is pretty healthy as it is rich in iron just enough of what every woman needs.  But are they endangered?  Hmm, I've read they're not, so you can have it (as long as you know that it's not everyday a holiday:D).

Of course we had dessert (just bought it in a bakkerij) but it was way too sweet.
Nougat Tart

I'm just wondering, since this red meat came from a bird, are those who are not eating beef makes ostrich meat an exception?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

TIME-OUT: It's Christmas time again...

Time flew fast and it's almost Christmas! :)  I just love this season.  Walking around the shopping area, you can hear a lot of people saying 'LEUK' (meaning "nice" or "pretty" ) in every corner.

Why do i love this season?

I love Christmas lights.  I even enjoyed cycling even if it's freezing cold to check out from the smallest christmas light a family put up in their house up to the almost burning home of a family who didn't care about the electricity bill just to give that Christmas atmosphere.  I love it!

Santa would suddenly show up (ok here in NL after the Sinterklaas).  He still makes me smile even if he had stopped giving me gifts since I was 6. (but i wouldn't mind if i'm getting one this year...did you get that HT hubbie? :D)

I love putting up a Christmas tree and it's more special here in Holland as we bought a real tree! Though I miss dad's talent in decorating one...but it's the spirit that counts. 

I love receiving Christmas cards unexpectedly.  I even got a huge one from my colleagues in India! :)

And of course, the never ending parties, gatherings and get together makes this season even more special.  Everyone gives time to be part of it.

So before everyone goes for holiday and becomes busy to read our blog...
HT COUPLE would like to greet you...
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Prettige Feestdagen and Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar!

There are hundreds of reason to love this holiday season.  What's yours? :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

TIME OUT: Party here, there and in the Netherlands

Hello!  HT couple had been very busy since the 1st of December hit the calendar.  Dec, is my favorite month.  Aside from the holiday break from work, it gives a sense of joy with all the glittering lights put up on the street (not to mention the almost-burning Orchard Road in Singapore) and how each (building in Makati in Philippines) glam up as if there's a big prize for creativity.  Parties, reunions almost everyday...just sharing food, laughters and time.

In Holland, we start the festivity with Sinterklaas.  Also known as St. Nicholas or Santa Claus for me!  He celebrates his birthday every 5th of December and this is when you find Sint (santa) all over the places in the Netherlands.  Nobody has confirmed if Santa Claus of the US really originated from Holland's Sinterklaas.  But do take note, that New York (new Amsterdam) was a Dutch colony.  Wherever it came from, at this age, Sint or Santa still gives a big smile on my face. :)

This is how Sint (santa) looks like in Holland.  He wears a cape and a bishops hat, (ok, he was supposed to have white beard as well but somehow this Sint shaved :D) and along with him are the Zwarte Pieten (black Piets), who we are acquainted to as santa's elves, carry the gifts and serve as Sint's assistants (ok don't ask about the reindeers...they're not part of this festivity, i think)

Pepernoten - these are the small, candy-like biscuits that Zwarte Pieten throw to kids while they try to grab as much pieces as they can.  But taking note of the hygiene of those kids eating their pepernoten from the floor, Piet changed their ways by getting a handful from a sack and hand it off to kids and even to somebody who looks innocent like me (if there hands are cleaner than the floor, is another story).  And if you can't find Piet to get your share of this cookie, go inside in some shops, and look for a plate filled with pepernoten at the counter (be discreet and only grab a few pieces not a's all about sharing *wink*).

Festivities like this include getting a gift from Sint!  The unique way here is that the exchange gift should be accompanied with a poem. What you're getting really comes from the heart, well at least, making a poem makes it "personal".

opening my gift with the whole Sinterklaas gang!  (my nice poem was inside:D)

what is a party without food!!!

Another fun thing about parties is preparing for it too!  I made a Filipino street food called Turon...
it's simply made of lumpia wrapper, sugar, bananas for cooking (bak banaan in toko).  In Singapore, you might be able to get it in Lucky Plaza or sometimes if you're lucky in Carrefour and Fairprice.

Roll the banana slices in sugar, wrap it in until the bananas are safely secured (use water as paste), heat the pan with oil and put sugar in it, once the sugar goes on top of the heat up oil, throw in those turon  pieces until they're brown and crispy.

Ta-dah...let the oil drip so it won't be soggy.  It's supposed to deep fried, but I made it calorie-friendly.

This reminds me I have to start preparing for our Christmas' and New Year's eve menu :)  Hope everyone is excited with their plans.  Do share your holiday menu for this year or the restaurant/place you would be spending your holiday with your loved ones.

2 weeks to go! :)

*party photos were taken by my co-choir members :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Utrecht, Netherlands: Saigon: Vietnamees Cuisine: thank God they're in Utrecht!

Brrrr...brrr....brrr...this had been my favorite expression since the temperature drop to 0.  A tropical-blooded human being trying to fight her way over the winter.  And an enjoyable and effective way is to keep on eating to bring up the heat in you.  Yes!!!
We visited this always full-packed restaurant beside the Japanese hole-in-the-wall and was lucky enough to secure a table for 2.  It was already 9 pm and the place was still very busy.  Observing the diners on what they have ordered, everyone was into the DIY spring rolls or what they called "gegrild specialiteiten met rijstpapier" (grilled items with rice paper).  As I have made up my  mind that I wanted a vietnamese soup bowl for dinner and in a cold weather like this, laziness do kick in easily (good excuse) here's what we got for an adventure...(yeah right)
Appetizer: Fresh Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon) - enough fillings of vermicelli, vegetables, shrimps(garnalen) and pork slices (varkensvlees).  The sweet chili sauce, of course, always give extra taste to this dish.   HT hubbie wanted to get the fried ones but after tasting this, he agreed we ordered right...healthy and tasty.

Mains: Pho (Pho Bo Tai)- my much-awaited vietnamese soup bowl!  There's something in this soup that after the first sip it always gives me the comfort that I need and even more comforting in this cold and gloomy weather.  The rice noodle soup was such a delight and the beef slices were all tender and take note "medium rare", so the beefy taste was retained.  One word: excellent! 

these fresh herbs (ok they were not that fresh) - mints, chili, lemon and big stalks of coriander...completed my pho!  Though, i know some prefer it without the herbs...and that black bean sauce reminded me of yong tau foo (haay, Singapore) :D

Mains: Grilled beef in black bean sauce (Bo Xao Tuong Den) -  This beef dish was delicious.  It goes very well with fragrant rice.  (All along I thought HT hubbie didn't like black bean it was good to know that my assumption was wrong...trying this out at home).

After a satisfying meal, we can't leave the place without hubby ordering this (TRIVIA: night doesn't end if HT hubbie didn't get his 4th or 5th dose of caffeine for the day):

The famous Vietnamese drip coffee!  It's not as strong as how hubby wants it (but for me it's strong enough), but we both agreed it's very aromatic.  You can get it cold too!

Overall, it was a good yet simple dinner.

Price Summary in Euro:
Fresh Spring Rolls = 5.50
Pho = 13.25
Grilled beef in black bean sauce = 14.25
Vietnamese drip coffee = 3.00

Saigon Vietnamees Restaurant
Voorstraat 68
Utrecht, Netherlands

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kyushu Japans Restaurant: a hole in the wall but serves good food!

Have you experience when you eat something regularly and suddenly it was taken out of your system, you feel weak and you just have to have it and nothing else can replace it?

I had that feeling a few weeks ago when I was craving for Japanese food.  In the Philippines, there's a wide range of Japanese establishments.  And of course, in Singapore, from cheap, mid-range to expensive Japanese restaurants, you name it the country surely has it.

There are a number of Japanese restaurants around Netherlands, but once that craving hits you, it should be near to your place.  We spent about an hour searching online for a good but not-so-expensive jap place and HT hubbie beat me this time (usually i'm faster in this matter :D)

My eyes went big and i started drooling when this plate arrive on our table.
Our neighbors were looking at us as we eat and enjoy our sashimi.  They're used to Japanese food = Sushi, that's it. And raw fish is a delicacy that only locals can eat just like how they eat their herring.  So they were quite amaze how happy hubby was, everytime he garnished his fat slice of raw tuna or salmon with a bit of wasabi, dipped in the sauce and place it in his mouth. I did the same but for them it's like "nah, she grew up with those".

We haven't had this before so it became a must-have that night.  These Aigamo (duck yakitori) were delicious though I prefer eating duck the chinese way as I can savor the duck meat and its juice than the teriyaki sauce overshadowing the meat itself.

For the mains, hubby had Gyuniku Teriyaki.  They served a slab of sliced grilled steak and drown it in teriyaki sauce.  It was nicely cooked (medium rare) and very tasty.  And hubby's meal won't be complete without a bowl of yaki meshi (jap fried rice)  - not in the picture.

And I had one of the famous japanese don...Katsu don.  I got something simple due to my craving.  The price was not cheap considering I can get like 2 bowls or even 5 bowls in different places in Singapore but hey, I just need to have this!  The pork cutlet was lovely and without any fats at all which suited me, and I felt like I was being transported back to Asia, eating the meat with rice seasoned with good blend of soy sauce, mirin and a bit of dashi. (heaven)

And we cannot end our japanese meal without this Matcha ice cream (green tea).  Ok, I was so ecstatic that night that I forgot to ask for the desserts menu and immediately ask if they have green tea ice cream.  And we got this huge plate.  The green tea was strong enough for the enjoyment of my palette.  Though I would prefer just serving the green tea plain as how you can get it in Asia so the taste resides in your mouth until you walk out of the restaurant smiling.

The place is not fancy...just small tables and i think it can accommodate about 20-25 people at a time.  What i like about this place, they made an effort to put up a sushi bar despite of the small area.  (And they serve plum wine...yum!)

This is one of the hole-in-the-wall restaurants around Utrecht (there's a Vietnamese restaurant beside it, next stop!).  And this made our food hunting more exciting as we discover this type of places that gives satisfaction but doesn't hurt our pockets. 

Price Summary in Euros:
Salmon Sashimi €4.50
Tuna Sashimi €5.50
Aigamo Duck Yakitori €4+ (2 sticks)
Grilled Steak Fillet €16
Katsu Don €16
Matcha Green Tea ice cream €8 (way too much...thanks to those fruits and whipped cream)

Kyushu Japans Restaurant
Voorstraat 66
Utrecht Netherlands
(do call for reservation due to limited seating)

Friday, November 19, 2010

TIME OUT: Madrid Spain Part 3: How to stuff yourself in Madrid for 5 days?

Travel guides gave a lot of reasons to be in love with Madrid...from the wonderful architecture of the buildings, their great museums, numerous plaza and garden up to their well-decorated churches...but they forgot what we loved the most about the city...

the delight it gave to HT couple's tummies!!!

Today, I'll be your "Lonely Planet" on the "must-eat" in this city.

If you're on a budget, drop by at this big supermarket at El Corte Ingles and enjoy looking at the chorizos, jamon and rioja wine and buy a few to bring it with you home...

Or make your own tapas in the hotel instead of going get more meat from your euros (3 euros for a big chorizo sausage and 7 euros for a pack of chorizo iberico).

And don't forget to get a bottle of this rioja wine for half the price compared to dining out (12+ euros).  (This rioja wine is pretty good and also available in Carrefour in Singapore - about 40 sgd as far as I can remember)
We didn't have a corkscrew with us but was lucky to bump to a chef in a convenience store who was well-equipped and admired the bottle while opening it.

Paella, a popular rice dish in Spain but not in Madrid as per the travel guides, is still a must-have when you had the opportunity to visit only this city in the country.  Tourist spots would have signs of Paella for a few euros but pay for at least a better quality Paella than just eating a plate of colored rice to keep your money's worth. 

There are a few places where locals go to but if there's only 2 of you dining out, most of these places won't accept you unless you pull a few more people on the street to share the rice with.  I stumbled a blog talking about La Buginvilla.  It was recommended by a Valencian and the restaurant is situated a bit outside from the tourists trap area.  The Paella are charged per person and not per order (typical in Spain) so sharing is not an option.

Paella Mixta ( about 15+ euro per person - a combination of seafood and chicken).  The dish was good and the grains were nicely cooked to its authenticity and not too salty just like how other tourists consistently find paella in Madrid drowned-in-salt tub...but the seafood and a small piece of chicken leg were a bit of disappointment.  I can't blame them as the city is not situated near the coast to provide abundance with its cost.  Still, HT couple took the train back to the hotel...carrying a full load of rice in our stomach...we were happy campers.

After strolling at the El Rastro (flea market) on Sundays, don't forget to drop by at this bar for a
caña of beer (no matter what time is it).  To avoid stomach problem from drinking too early...

Fill up yourselves with...
 Sardines y de pimientos y panLooking at those small fishes, I miss tuyo (dried salty fish) dipped in vinegar and eaten with rice in the Philippines for breakfast.  Spanish version, is grilled and not too salty.  You can munch from head to tail and if you don't fancy eating small bones, just throw it on the floor and you won't be sued nor kicked out as everyone does it anyway.  I was scared of eating the peppers that it might burn my tastebuds but it was cooked until its spicy-ness were gone but the classic taste were retained.  We ordered the media (half racion) but people here eat a full plate and we wouldn't mind eating the same amount too if we didn't just had spanish pastries.

If McDonald's are for the US, Cerveceria 100 Montaditos are for the Madrileños. 

I can't blame them though...1 euro for a Jarra cerveza (a big mug of beer) as long as you order at least 1 montaditos(small sandwich between 1-2 euros per piece) which goes with free potato chips.  That sangria-looking cerveza (alcohol) in a big mug was my water in Madrid.  Tinto de verano is red wine mixed with carbonated water or lemonade (wikipedia) and French people wouldn't like ruining their wines but Spaniards don't care as long as it taste good, they eat or drink it.

from left to right (Anchovies with quezo iberico, jarras cerveza, Pork in tomato sauce with quezo iberico) - we just love that cheese in this montaditos!  And they have a promo of todo los miercoles (every Wednesday), all items are 1 euro each!  I had 3 tinto de verrano in one stretch.  Guess who got drunk?

Another must-have are the gambas.  But do they take note they're not cheap and it won't fill you either.

But you can't leave this country without savoring into gambas al ajillo (8+ euros) sizzled in garlic and olive oil.  We clean up this divine plate using our bread.  No oil traces left.

These langostinos plancha ( 13+ euro for 6 grilled big shrimps though they were small) was a good tapa plate too!

Me enjoying the shrinps and the way locals eat (standing with bar type tables with a glass of wine or beer).

We also love this shrimps place...for their vino tinto dulce. (sweet red wine)...and this one taste like port --- so much sweeter tha normal sweet red wine.

Whew...I got hungry giving these tips.  And that was how we stuff ourselves in Madrid for 5 days.

El Corte Ingles (supermarket) - near Sol Metro
La Buganvilla (paella) - Calle Almagro 12
Bar Santurce (sardines) - Calle de las Amazonas 14
Cerveceria 100 Montaditos (small sandwiches) - all over Madrid (in every corner)
Restaurante La Casa del Abuelo(gambas) - Calle Victoria 12 (and 2 more branches)

Monday, November 15, 2010

TIME OUT: Madrid Spain Part 3: El Desayuno (What's for breakfast?)

El Desayuno or breakfast is the most important meal for the day.  I'm sure you've heard this several times from your doctor, your parents and even kids are well versed of this concept.  I read that the Spaniards take their breakfast seriously with a cup of cafe con leche (coffee with milk), a glass of fresh orange juice and toasted pan (bread).  But in my observation in this country, they take any meals of the day as serious as they can (i.e. 5x a day).

HT couple first  el desayuno was in this famous chocolateria.  In very early mornings, this place is dominated by the locals coming from parties until wee hours to fill up their stomach with solids and to wash the over consumption of alcohol from their system.  At 8 am till mid-morning, when the locals are about to go to bed or some are just starting their day, this is the time where this place is plagued by tourists (and we were one of them).

What everyone is going ga ga over here?
a cup of chocolate caliente y churros!  (Hot chocolate with churros)

This ain't your hot chocolate drink type...
Look at the thickness of this hot cocoa which is perfect in dipping the churros (fried dough).  Churros here in Madrid are not the same as what we can get in Manila.  (Our churros has flavors just like how Americans eat their pretzels).  These bread sticks in Madrid is tasteless which were done on purpose so you can savor the lip smacking cocoa which was not sweet and maintains its chocolate-y goodness.  And I was amazed how a number of thin churros dunk into this cup filled up our stomach easily.  (They also serve the fat and more airy type of fried bread sticks called "Porras").

After our satisfying breakfast, suddenly this latino guy with a baby put his shoulders around me and posed for the picture...(check out the other guy if he's trying to put his hands in my bag - pick pocket in action? LOL)

Next stop...
This place was our regular el desayuno just in front of Sol metro station.

This bread was the reason of being regulars here.  Ensaimada or ensaymada is a typical merienda (snack) or breakfast in the Philippines.  The big difference of this pastry in what I was used to, is that here in Spain, they use pork lard (taste like jamon fat) instead of butter and cheese.  And I find their version more fluffy than ours. 

Another best seller is Napolitana y Crema, a light puff filled with generous cream.  This was a delight and really gave us the sweet kicks during early mornings.  (I heard their napolitana y chocolate) is a hit too!

The bakery has a salon or dining area upstairs for diners who prefer to take it slow while enjoying their pastries.  If you don't mind standing and wanna be locals, grab a space at this counter and you'll enjoy everything the salon offers (and 20 cents cheaper per item).

Price Summary (in euros)
Chocolate y churros : 3.70 (set)
Ensaimada: 1.10 per piece
Napolitana y crema: 1+ per piece

Chocolateria San Gines
Pasadizo de San Gines 5 (small street beside the Iglesia of San Gines)
off Calle Arenal
Madrid, Spain

La Mallorquina
Calle Mayor 2 (exit of Sol metro station)
Madrid, Spain