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Kos and Effect (Kos Greek Ouzeri)

Kos Greek Ouzeri review blog

If you think Katipunan traffic is horrendous, the newly sprouted UP Town Center just made it a haven for emergency lights and texting breaks. The stillness of the avenue is quite dramatic, but being there is a harsh bladder test which my dad would miserably fail. UTI sufferers, beware.

The parking can be a bit tricky, and do not get lured into tailgating a blinking vehicle or you’ll be cursing for a good 30 minutes or until yaya suddenly appears with boxes of Dulcelin or Cotton On paperbags. If you are not a driver, get the hell out of the driveway and find the moonlit gravel—yes, that’s what you call parking lot.

Pay P20 on the spot, unless you’re a miser like me, who keeps her wallet at the bottom of an abysmal bag. Took me a couple of minutes to fish out a bill—what, you afraid I’d run off the gravel with my P20?

Kos Restaurant UP Town Center

UP Town Center has 2 floors; you will have to be extremely curious or adventurous to find the stairs. So if you get there all stressed, tired and hungry—when you find something you want to eat at, EAT THERE! Don’t bother reading (and following) silly blogs and reviews from bloggers with questionable taste—follow your nose, companions or wallet! Just decide and make it quick. The places fill up like an hourglass and I have no idea where the people come from!

I made the mistake of over reading reviews, and we ended up having dinner at Kos Greek Ouzeri (cough, cough Hades). I say, if you have qualms about what you eat, charge it to good sales people and bad instinct.

Kos Greek Ouzeri UP Town Center

So yes, we ended up at Kos Ouzeri because it was an empty Greek tavern with free bread. The things restaurants do to prey on poor people like us—free bread! How very primitive—but effective!

Kos Ouzeri Menu

Kos serves complimentary bread (wait for it… un-li-mi-ted!) but you have to order the dip (there’s a page full of these in the menu) unless you want to curse the rest of your meal with bland chewing, and a serving averages about P150. If you react the same way as I do (gasp, choke, faint), welcome to my stingy club! Seriously now, with Christmas approaching, #stingy is the new #selfie.

Unlimited bread greek Kos

We nearly went for raita or tzatziki, but I decided to differ and choose cheese so we ordered Tyrokafteri, supposedly made up of feta cheese and chili. Tempting, right? Truth is, for half the price I can get a large jar of Cheez Whiz Pimiento and have enough left for my sandwiches at home—because that’s how it tastes like. Reminds me of grade school and my grandma, cold bread and cheese with no hint of “hot” whatsoever!

Tono Salata Kos UP Town Center

Being the salad blogger, albeit self-proclaimed, and a fan of the Cyma version, I just had to order Tono Salata. For P350 it was supposed to feed 2-3 people. When it arrived, my initial reaction was I can eat this serving size, in threefold. The sales girl has really underestimated my appetite and size, because that salad was a puny piece of rock salt. Let me explain.

SOME Tono Salata components were present: seared tuna, beans, tomato, cucumber. There was no feta cheese or egg, but fine, I understood the economy during these hard times. The anchovy was evident in the bite, in fact all of them! Seems like the dressing was made up sea salt and I felt no trace of the vinegary aspect. After the 3rd bite, I was taking sips of water in between. It was like Poseidon threw up on my salad.

I am not over reacting; my brother felt the same way and for someone who adores arugula in all its mighty forms, he gave up on this salad despite appetizing call of the chunky seared tuna.  Salty salad, tono salt-ata! Ton of salt. Get it?

The person in white (seems like the supervisor, looks like a credit card salesperson; does not speak Greek) asked how the meal went and we blatantly complained about the salt wave on the salad. She was like, “OK thanks, noted.” (What is this, a corporate memo?) I don’t think she even took note of my COMPLAINT. Should I have said blogger? Maybe she would have listened more closely. I had a lot to say so I’m writing about it instead.

Chicken Gyro Kos Ouzeri

Oh wait, I forgot about the Gyro. What’s Greek food without that notorious gee-row? My brother went for a chicken gyrothat came with fries on the side. Poseidon, not satisfied my salad, also chose to throw up on the fries because they were one heck of a salty siding! The gyro was one wee roll and I felt sad for my companion with a hefty appetite. I badly wanted to taste it, but since it looked like a hotdog roll, decided to be a charitable host. He claims that it was good, and that the sauce was awesome, but looking at the size, it was just, hmm-kay. I could probably eat 2 of those, sans the fries salt fest.

All in all, the experience at Kos Greek Ouzeri was a strange one. We badly wanted to like it because it seemed to be a cheaper (?) alternative to Cyma, but having a letdown for a salad, I might go for pizza the next time we visit UP Town Center.

The free bread does not make up for the hunger pains that ensue and with other more lively competitors in the vicinity—it is easy to get lured by everything else! Just be-kos.

Lack of wit, charge to hunger.

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A Blondie Moment

Cupcakes by Sonja Lazy Black Cat

They say blondes have all the fun, but the Blondie Bar by Sonja’s Cupcakes (Serendra) is often overlooked and ignored in favor of the more colorful cupcake bunch. The brunettes (like that choco cream pie) and red (velvet vixen) heads have better mileage in Sonja’s little  shop, but for those who like to look up at the cookie jars, that’s where this flaxen treasure lies.

The Blondie Bar may pale in comparison to the creamed up cupcakes and shimmering denizens of the lower chiller, but for those who’ve tasted it, they will agree that “Everyone loves blondes.”

Sonja Cupcakes Blondie Bar Jenina Gonzales

The main bar may be a simple composition with buttery flair but interspersed with walnuts and chunks of Valrhona chocolate (dark and white), this turns into a blonde bombshell. Nothing compares to its morsels of sweet gratification and fresh oven baked texture. Great with tea, better enhanced when warmed up, the Blondie Bar is everything but dumb.

J.Anne Gonzales Blondie Bar

If any, it’s dumbfounding.

So no more crying when Sonja’s runs out of the Bunny Huggers carrot cake or Valrhona milk-choco hazelnut tart. The Blonde is in.

And no more blonde jokes.

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Moving Out: The Lazy Black Cat

Let it be known that Lazy Black Cat is moving to another address (The Lazy Black Cat), or as they call it in the online realm: migrated to a different URL. It does have a bit of an edgy IT feel to it, but this was a result of numerous Google keywords just to get the move in progress and to understand the nitty gritty of the blogger vocabulary.

Don’t think that the Wordpress account will be suspended, deleted and just erased from existence, I’ve decided to keep it as a catty chalkboard of some sort. And no, I’ve not committed any cyber crimes in this domain.

As for the other blog, with a “THE” thanks to The Social Network, I’ve decided to give it a try. Blogger is a whole new universe with a different set of “buttons” and color scheme, and I assure myself more sleepless nights in progress.

Kampai!

And do to celebrate the sleepless nights, why not make a toast with tea while we’re at it?

To the new B!

No goodbyes, just see you in the neighborhood!

J.Anne Gonzales (aka Lazy Black Cat, with and without the THE)

Sneak Peek!

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An “F” Lunch

When I said,  “I had lunch at that F place” I was being honest, solemn and definitely not vulgar. That “F” place happens to be the restaurant at the hotel with such a lengthy name, it makes anyone’s most customized Starbucks drink sound monosyllabic.

Get ready because it’s quite a mouthful: Best Western Premier F1 Hotel. I’d prefer my self-made nickname: F1 Hotel. However if you imagine a racing-inspired accommodation and theme, then you’ll have to go to Toyz for that. F1 Hotel is classy, sleek and very silver/gray-oriented. There are no cars, just quite a collection of mirrors lining the walls.

F1 hotel food

As for F, the restaurant, it was enclosed with glass, giving a fantastic view of Taguig. As a downside to this glorious location, the summer sun was not very forgiving to lunchtime diners. Good thing I was part of the late lunch crowd. Dining at near closing time (2pm), something as irrelevant as sunshine can be waived for other more pertinent matters such as cheese and ice cream. With fewer people to contend with!

j.anne gonzales blog

The lunch buffet offers the usual cuisine selection that people have gotten quite used to: Japanese, Chinese, a bit of Indian and American. Nothing fancy as Greek or Mexican, but with my limited time, I was glad that I need not face indecision at such a crucial moment.

F1 Best wester buffet

The salad bar was nothing grand and extensive, just the usual dressing and toppings. On the side were various cold cuts, sushi and sashimi that were plentiful enough to appease the hungry crowd. As for me, salmon sashimi and smoked salmon topped my salad – weird, I know – but was engaging enough for me. Perhaps with the lack of interesting toppings, the salmon came in particularly tempting.

best western premier buffet

The main course section was a line of viands, soups, pasta, shabu-shabu and seafood selections. Spotting the cheese board at the start of the line, I couldn’t help but get a sample of each, thus reducing plate space for the main course. My bad. But it was so good, topped on my already existing salad, so not bad at all.

best western buffet

The vegetables were the first to grace my plate, then came the fish with raita sauce and that cajun chicken. The waiter-cook swore to that chicken’s spiciness which I looked forward to with a glass full of water, only to find out that it was mediocre hot in my spice scale. The fish was tender and succulent, but I found the sauce a tad too sweet for my taste. Too early for dessert. Hence the fish dove into my salad. Fabulous catch.

blog buffet bgc2

laxy black cat buffet

My customized pesto came in a wee serving but tasted absolutely fresh and cheesy. The carbonara looked just as appetizing – a bit on the creamy side but with all that cheese – worth it!

Roasted potatoes, tempura, dumplings and bagnet graced the plates of my companions. I would be forever sorry for not having taken photos, but with the way everyone was rushing, people might just end up eating my camera in haste, or something to that disastrous effect.

f1 bgc buffet

The dessert section was a glorious lair of fondue, fruit, cakes, pastries, crepes and ice cream. For once, I was astounded and could not determine what to select. Strange as it was, I decided to forego ice-cream for the first time in my life. A traitor to ice cream, I will make it up next weekend.

The Crepe that Launched a Thousand Burps

The crepe station had fruits, a host of awesome toppings and ice cream to boot. This crepe was not mine but was such a delight to stare at and take a photo of. As for the rainbow sprinkles, good luck to the lucky diner who finished this off.

f1 bonifacio buffet

My dessert platter was painstakingly chosen from a chiller containing at least 10 other cakes. I decided to stick to the chocolate inspired theme. The brownie was the best bet, ultra moist and mixed in with a bit of walnut. If I was not that full, I’d have gotten more of that brownie and topped it with vanilla ice cream. The chocolate cake had a layer of chocolate icing and another of hazelnut – perfect with coffee. The creme brulee was fantastic for those who refused to indulge in a totally sweet dessert but wanted a decently sweet treat. A second favorite next to the brownie.

Aside from buffet, the hotel also offers conferences and the like. Here’s what they served our guests. The thickly sliced bread was quite a sight, I’d forever wonder how they finished their sandwiches while trying to be all prim and proper.

f1 hotel conference room

F1 hotel fort boni

j.anne gonzales blog review

Of course I had none of those sandwiches. I was still too full from lunch – and just managed to drown myself with chamomile tea.

It can’t get any more “F” than that.

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Red Velvety Goodness

I have never really figured out how Red Velvet came to be or why it was named as such. Why it’s so strikingly red, when it can be brown or peach colored and renamed as Caramel Velvet? It does have a nice ring to it though, wouldn’t you say?

How about Maroon Mayhem? Indulging!

However Red Velvet has become quite a universal madness, from cupcakes to ice cream to lipstick shades. While I’ve never been that fond of red food, having associated it the Neolithic medium rare steak, I did fancy the Red Velvet Cake from Christina’s Kitchen.

Bought from Parvati (Trinoma), it was 100% red and with no hint of pink. For certain, Revlon would have a hard time replicating such a gorgeous and seamless shade of red. Muy rojo!

As for the “velvet” side of it, the cake was pure smooth and spongy goodness. While not bordering on the heavy cake consistency, it was greatly complemented by its cream cheese frosting. Not too buttery and by no means my-dentist-will-kill-me sweet, the light frosting and soft, light cake create that seamless Red Velvet cake, whose name or color I will never question again.

I’ve never described a cake as seamless, so I suppose this is one makes it to my books.

But I still think that someone ought to consider Maroon Mayhem. You do that, all right?

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Starving at Sambokojin

Sambo Kojin (Eastwood), the smokeless grill, provides quite an appeal to those who want to grill their own meal, eat, eat some more, and leave the place smelling all fresh and dainty. Even those who have the aversion to cooking will find an interest at this proposition, this lazy cat included.

Why, my menu even included grilling the salmon, searing the tuna sashimi and bathing them with teriyaki sauce – sweet seafood fantasy!

All those plans flew out of the window when, upon being seated, the waiter dropped this chunk of butter on the grill.  Closer scrutiny revealed that it was not butter but something more horrid, as if butter was not bad enough: beef fat! Being part vegetarian and a firm believer that Japanese cooking favored less animalistic elements, this new information astounded me to the point where it can’t be helped.

Sayonara, grill!

I had to forego the grilling element and enjoy my sashimi raw. It was time to hang out at the cooked food station and deem the raw foods nothing but the beefy offshoot of that sinful grill.

This abstinence rather paid off, having enjoyed the cooked bounties of the seafood offerings. Tuna teppanyaki and the seafood with creamy egg sauce topped my list, while the fried salmon was a bit of a disappointment.

I spied tofu steak as well and had the audacity to pick out the tofu from the meaty mayhem. No one ought to complain since I got the part that people never really like. Poor tofu.

The chap chae glistened and beckoned my plate, but beef strips heralded themselves and I had to move elsewhere.

Other fishy viands were scattered around the place, breaded, steamed – you name it – but since they yielded the similar flavor, best to stay loyal to my tuna teppanyaki.

Wondering about the tempura? Well it’s got its own fried battered station with kani, ebi and the whole lot of vegetables. As always it was hailed the most populous spot in the buffet, which is why I had to steer clear of it for fear of getting my new open toed sandals sprinkled with tempura sauce. That, and I enjoyed my kani raw.

Sushi and maki rolls are also provided for in abundance, alongside the volume of human traffic concentrated in that dangerous region. Once again, I steered clear of the “rice” path and concentrated the tongs on the protein bearers, the the sashimi.

The dessert station was nothing exorbitant or ravishing – the usual fares you’d expect from Saisaki. There’s the ubiquitous ice cream and the line that stretches to the kitchen, the mini pastries with skyrocketing icing and fruits in season. No cheesecake, mousse or anything with green tea. In short, no dessert for me – but I had to make do with the fruit cup, as necessitated by my “complete meal” mantra.

This beef bias may be dissuading and most likely, discouraging for most, since 99% of the people I know wouldn’t care about beef fat, butter or whatever animal they are ingesting. If you are part of the 99% then good for you, grill to your heart’s content and savor your “moo-tiful” meal.

As for the minority, the cooked foods are quite a bountiful lot and yes, if you are as lazy as me, no need to don that invisible chef’s hat!

No more cooking – now that’s a catch!

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Mochiko = My Mochi


Whoever invented Mochiko named it perfectly. That fist-sized ice cream-filled mochi is great for a one-time snack, unfit for sharing and definitely meant to be finished single-handedly. Mochiko roughly translates to “my mochi” in Filipino. My Mochi, not ours, certainly not yours –  just mine.

Let us not lie to ourselves with that delusional thinking that we are selfless and giving. With the sight of this ball of mochi goodness, all those hopes of world peace and brotherhood are sure to dissipate, to be replaced by that inevitable gluttony that we’ve been harboring all this time.

Best to give in though, as it’s rather cheap at about P70 per serving. With an assortment of flavors (chocolate, vanilla, red bean, cookie dough, etc.) you can have a different flavor each day, or until your blood sugar spikes – then you might have to take a break from these sinful balls. Mindless choice for me was, of course, green tea – an unfounded hope for a lower calorie serving.

Surrounded by a thin layer of mildly sweet mochi, the label strongly advises us to let the ball thaw for a few minutes before we get those incisors working. Ever devious, I forced a bite, failed and ended up leaving teeth marks on that still-hardened ball. At least I can’t say I didn’t try.

Upon reaching the desired thawed state, another attempt was made on this unyielding green fellow and finally, success! I was getting impatient from walking around Eastwood Mall with this plastic ball in my hand, and it didn’t help that it was in this horrid shade of apple green.

The thin mochi layer uncovered the creamy goodness of still a perfect ball of green tea if cream. Each bite was a mixture of smooth ice cream with that slight tinge of sweetness and chewy bits from the mochi.

Best way to end any meal is by this ball of indulgence. Best way to burn the calories is to just walk it off as I did.

While I’m no follower of Mochiko, just in case someone asks, I’ve encountered these little balls of toothy mishap in Mercato Centrale, the Eastwood Weekend Market (at the Eastwood Mall) and Parvati (Trinoma, by the bulk).


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Panera Bread and The Cheesecake Factory

If for some unforeseeable and inexplicable reason two places were to spring in Manila overnight, I would want these to be The Cheesecake Factory and Panera Bread. That’s right, cheesecake and bread. Just those two and I’d find myself gastronomically sound for the next decade or two.the cheesecake factory

The Cheesecake Factory has topped my place-to-eat list ever since the diary was invented. Seriously though, from articles in Eat This, Not That and those hard-to-resist chiller merchandise at S&R, just a slice of the real cheesecake was my irreparable wish, but then again, I’d be mental if I refused a meal.

So prior to the dessert, a proper meal was obligatory but nonetheless very appetizing.

Veggie Burger the cheesecake factory

I decided on a strange course that Manila has yet to offer: Veggie burger and side salad with Bleu cheese dressing. The veggie burger was a massive patty made with brown rice and grains and seasoned with what seemed like cumin. Sweet and curry-like, the garlic mayonnaise blended well with the burger, while the bleu cheese provided the saltiness needed for that overall vegan experience. While many might find the exotic flavor of this vegetarian fare a bit off putting, I enjoyed every bite and yearned for the Archer Farms Hummus Chips that I had stashed back home. What a wonderful pairing that would’ve been!

Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake The Cheesecake Factory

The Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake was a mindless choice: chocolate in all layers for the dark chocolate lover. Even Willy Wonka would be greatly interested in this godly creation. The cheesecake was fused with chocolate, firm, no overwhelming flavor—just smooth cheesecake heaven. The sweet revelry will certainly be missed. Forget the calories and sugar, it’s cheesecake excellence that I would certainly crave for despite being halfway across the world.

Panera Bread

As for bread lovers, Panera Bread is the way to go. Going on another “goat mode”, I decided on the salad path, but still with lovely bread on the side. Lovely indeed.

Panera Bread serves freshly baked bread everyday; well loved by neighboring folks, the line stretches and peaks during meal hours as well, so best to be an early diner.

Panera Bread chopped chicken salad

My BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad was gigantic and luxuriously spread with tortilla chips, black beans and corn for that Mexican touch. The flavor is not restrained, yet carefully prepared—making comfort food its other name. Good for two and accompanied with Panera Bread’s signature bread, I will be forever apologetic for passing off on that wonderful piece of bread. 

chicken tortilla soup panera bread

The Chicken Tortilla Soup manages the same kind of flavor and toppings, good enough for a meal on its own with bread on the side.

The sight of the pastries and bread is enough to get people crowding in the place, but the wafting aroma will certainly get you hooked. As for me, another craving that will linger in my dreams.

So yes, I keep my fingers crossed that one day Panera Bread and The Cheesecake Factory will suddenly open in Manila. Oh please do, and make that soon, as I sense another cheesecake craving coming up!

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Three pointer at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Anything that suggests a cluster reaching the number three is normally dismissed as trouble: triplets, 3-in-1, triumvirate, three’s a crowd. Oh, and there’s the Triple Decker Cheesecake at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL).

Three's so not a crowd with this one.

No need to sense troublesome presence of calories and saturated fat, not to mention sugar – three whole layers of it – as they smack you right in the face with their creamy temptation! However it’s best to disregard these upsetting numbers especially when a slice is loaded with layers of fabulous cheesecake, guaranteed to kill any craving. The topmost dark cookie portion is a wonderful find and best kept as “the last bite.” The coffee layer may be a nuisance for insomniacs (like me) but this issue was easily addressed with good ‘ol water. Lots of it. Or decaffeinated tea, of course.

I wouldn’t recommend sharing this with anyone, as a bite less and you’re sure to scowl. Compared to Starbucks, Conti’s and some Parvati miniature bestsellers, this one’s a hefty serving—all fun, all cheesecake, all yours.

Or mine.

Then there’s this Chicken Chipotle Sandwich on the side, which took forever to prepare. I spied cucumber and one big chunk of panini—a kid’s jaw can’t get through that threshold. Since there was nothing special about the sandwich, except that it was sprawling with greens, we’re better off splurging on sweets when in CBTL.

CBTL in Trinoma provides a park-like venue for the bored or hungry—wide and overlooking Mindanao Avenue. Beside Peking Garden and Kimpura which are rarely filled—more space for everyone’s enjoyment and a breather compared to the top floor Starbucks which is forever congested in human haze. 

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Bathroom Buddy: Fiber Plus

A sucker for anything Fiber – without any hint of hesitation – Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Antioxidants (Dark Chocolate Almond) found itself in my shopping cart and straight to my office drawer. Without even having the time to acquaint itself with my stapler, it became morning snack #1.

Chewy and studded with chocolate and almonds in every bite, Fiber Plus is a delightful diet snack with 130 calories, 5g saturated fat and, 9g fiber and 7g sugar per bar. I must have eaten mine in 4 bites – quite a record for someone who prefers tiny, slow nibbling over the ravenous mastication. Promising 35% of our daily fiber, it also makes the pledge to make us full longer.

Promise fulfilled. Plus it tasted more like a dessert bar.

In my haste to gobble it down before Willy Wonka could snatch it from me, I forgot to check the ingredient list, which I managed to do only post meal. Ingredient number 1 is Chicory Root Fiber, to be followed by Rolled Oats and Crisp Rice – the carby bunch.

Does Chicory Root Fiber ring a bell? It does to me, being a proponent of teas, and this one makes it to the “diet” tea bunch. You know, where diet is synonymous to digestive.

How funny it was to learn about this relevant piece of dietary information after finishing a bar in the office. Googling it further, I uncovered numerous bathroom jokes on Fiber Plus and Chicory Root. You do know where I’m getting at – well certainly not the bathroom. While Fiber Plus may have spawned quite a bathroom population in certain gluttonous regions – no, I’m not part of it – this should be met with good news as to its fiber-rific claim. At least here’s one granola bar doing its job on promoting health and cleansing our system.

As to the bathroom jokes, best to snack on this when you’re at your fiber low. One bar at a time. Nice and easy.

Tissues might come in handy as well. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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