Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kozui Green Tea Bar

Along Tomas Morato is a quaint little Japanese tea place that accordingly serves the best tea beverage in town, Kozui essentially brew all kinds of tea concoctions -- from the shake-type, iced-blended, to frapuccino-like tea drinks. With it, they also have a fascinating array of tea paraphernalia, from cups to pots to the novelty tea cup covers.

But apart form that, they now expanded their product line to soup, salad, appetizer, and Japanese rice bowls. From the numerous times I have been in this restaurant strip of Quezon City, I have never dropped by here.

The mural is reminiscent to the C2 green tea bottle, only that it is accentuated by container of gourmet green tea in different variants.

But because I am in a frantic search to find a coffee shop as my near-house study place for my exams(away from the bustling and noisy road excavations in our street), I visited the place.

Wearing just a pair of household-worn shorts, shirt and sneakers, I whisked away to try out their tea goodies.

I got myself a Matcha Green Tea, a ground green tea that contain higher concentrations of catechins and vitamins.

Accompanying my drink is a Japanese favorite streetfood, Takoyaki, a fresh pan-grilled samurai balls flavored with generous chunks of Tako(octopus in English), negi, red ginger, cabbage served with Japanese mayonnaise, bonito flakes, aonori and special tangy, in-house Takoyaki sauce with a subtle touch of sweetness. The bonito flakes were so thin that you think the Takoyaki balls moved in its own volition, but it's the airconditioner vents that make the flakes dancing.

To top it all, I had my brain food. Sugar. The legendary Anmitsu Taro, a lot like a Japanese superlative halo-halo version. It's a combination of green tea jelly cubes, pink and white dango balls similar to ginataang's galapong, azuki beans, purple taro jam, and a swirl of green tea ice cream sitting at the throne of finely shaved ice. It was so good that it's probably one of the best desserts I have ever tasted. Smooth and sweet.

Now, time to study….

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Brother's MacBook Pro 15" Core i7 Unboxing

To most of you who have knew me quite well, you know that my brother's condo in Makati had been forcibly opened by mindless thugs slash vicious thieves, taking with them some of the valuable items earned from his hard labor.

One of the most noteworthy items was a MacBook Aluminum. It was freshly bought, it didn't even consume its entire warranty entitlement period. Other items which are of seemingly important value are his passport with US Visa and some cash in dollars as it was his entire backpack that was taken.

Now, the guy has had enough hard-earned money to acquire a MacBook Pro 15". And so he did.

Everytime a new gadget is unboxed, it always send some ineffable flutters in my heart. So I volunteered as a sole witness of the ceremonial unboxing, and an official(albeit unsolicited) photographer as well. The place: his new condo(place withheld for security reason).

The MBP 15" is a midrange flagship of the MBP line, next to the MBP 13.3". It has the same single-carved unibody as the rest of the MBPs, although a distinct difference from his unit with mine is the presence of a pair of integrated speakers at the expanded sides of the keyboard lay-out.

With a 15" inch screen, obviously a trade off will be the weight. It is slightly heavier. Right now, I left him testing the battery life as to how long will it last on a seamless usage. But this one should be faster than his old MacBook as this already sports Intel Core i7, 4GB RAM, 512MB NVidia Geforce GT330M and a whopping 500GB hard drive.

It is being retailed at Apple Philippines for Php112,990.

As to why both of us are using Mac? He uses his for programming, I use mine for astronomy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

From savoring to shopping

I passed by the mall while on my way to lunch, thinking on what will I fill my gastric tank with while fighting its near-depravation state. Although I pass by the same mall almost every single day, there was something in it that I could not put into words. Beautiful, homey, and invigorating. But it wasn't that all. There was this deafening silence that hovers the entire landscape, probably an aftermath of a long week-end where only a handful of people strut their way around to malls.

As I look around from Myron's Place to Felix to Chateau 1771 and beyond, I was already drifted ashore at the Greenbelt 3. So I just said to myself, why can't I just grab some comfort food at the National Sports Grill-- a sporty place to boot, big chairs and tables, big television screens, and with all American foods which are usually the kind that I munch while minding exhilarating sports matches-- foods like fries, burgers, fish and chips, ribs, and the usual meats and pasta.

While on my way up, I passed by a yet another sports sanctuary, the Adidas Concept Store. Nothing really new to wedge your eyes on a tethering frenzy, except for the fact that there were only few people around, and thus, such a comfortable way to shop.

On what was meant to savor my dear lunch ended up with having to shop and grab my very first sub-5grand shoes. Yes, you heard it right. Mainstream-priced male shoes nowadays cost Php6-7k, and I got mine less than 5grand? Whew!!! Steal-deal.

The cost of getting a good bargain? I have to stay around for a couple of hours to fit almost all the displayed models. Oh yes, that is how I shop. I fit them all, and decide which one goes well for me. The "fit all, buy one" dictum really suits well with my retail philosophy.

Because of my long-overdue stay at the Adidas Concept Store, my time runs out. I rushed back to the office after, empty stomach but not empty handed. But I was still able to pass by 7-11 to grab hotdog, instead.

Now, this is another welcoming addition to my gym shoes then.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Terrace at 5th

I was on the prowl for the best designed, astutely-fitting Adidas running shoes over the entire Makati but couldn't find any.

Out of straining walks from Glorieta to Greenbelt, I just had one thought in my mind, to have a savory feast for the beast. And so I ended up at The Terrace at 5th.

This restaurant is an amelioration of the finest culinary craftsmanship of Ching Cruz, Ivy and Cynthia Almario, and Chef Cecille Ysmael. The triumvirate is a combination of Asian and mid-eastern Mediterranean recipes fused into a dazzling restaurant interior, an idyllic dining destination like no other.

I recently have had a growing penchant over Ivy Almario's design elements, from Cerchio to Thai @ Silk. Right smack in front of the Greenbelt gardens, The Terrace at 5th's motif is a true au fait with lush greenery as the restaurant's central theme.

The Terrace at 5th is essentially a home-recipe enriched into fine-cooking, a lot like a Filipino household with a privilege treat to its guests.

As a courtesy appetizer, I was given a bread with butter. I didn't bother taking it as I was bent on getting my major piece.

For the main course, I grabbed myself a USDA-grade beef, a Roast Angus Belly. It's an oven-roasted Angus belly served with root vegetables and mushroom ragout. It's in its class, that you can actually taste the beefy goodness of it, cooked just how it should be. Soft and tender but still full-bodied, and you can even cut it with your fork.

Here goes the sweet gland that I have with the Merry Mango Jubilee for my dessert. It is a combination of fresh mango balls flambéed with cointreau and caramel topped on vanilla ice ream. It was a wow to my taste.

Afterall, it's not the "primer" that I look forward whenever I eat but the "parting". It's the dessert that makes or breaks my dining experience polish its gustatory climax. The dessert should be as important as the appetizer and as well-defined as the main entree. And I could say it was all good.

Next time I will be there, I will try their steaks with chimichurri, an Argentine condiment made into a pesto-like sauce extracted from from onions, garlic, parsley, dried oregano, salt, cayenne pepper, oil and vinegar.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Mind Museum @ Bonifacio Global City: RP's First World Class Science Museum

Just because one is a bachelor doesn't necessarily mean that he is bereft of significant contribution to the society at large. Some of my colleagues are actually into occasional street children feeding program, school supplies drive on remotely located public schools, and recently a music-for-a-cause in which proceeds are funneled into the less-fortunate, poverty-stricken few.

While their contributions are stapled into the economic amelioration of our desolate Filipino brothers, mine is a little bit more indirect but at the same time internal. It is anchored towards educational re-indoctrination, one that will lead them into an enlightened struggle for life, the academic paragon of excellence.

With our country's educational fate gradually declining in favor of non-sense showbiz and character-demeaning politics, one should make a stand to make a difference. That stand will hopefully rally others into a meaningful cause, and will foster a collective will.

If we do not want to become a nation of clerks 10years from now, it is absolutely essential that we inspire younger people to go into science and engineering. We know that there are two branches of science that are uniquely compelling: the science of dinosaurs and the science of the stars. Let's drive our younger minds to embrace science, because a functioning democracy requires scientifically literate citizens.

Slated to launch by 2011, the Mind Museum will be the Philippines' First World Class Science Museum. The museum's cutting-edge design will feature the following highlights:

1) The Story of the Universe: Its beginning and majesty

2) The Story of the Earth: Its story across the breadth of time

3) The Story of Life: The exuberant varieties of life

4) The Story of the Atom: The strange world of the very small

5) The Story of Technology: The showcase of human ingenuity

It is in the understanding of these things that we can help build a society that is well-informed, a society that very well know where they are heading as far as intelligent race is concerned.

And that will hopefully be my legacy too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Samsung Galaxy 5: Cheapest Android solution

The mobile phone OS that has the audacity and rightful claim to challenge the dominance of iPhone, Google Android has gradually gained overwhelming popularity due to its widget-based home screen set up, and.. oh well, price factor.

One of the industry leaders when it comes to mobile phone category took the cudgels to fiercely compete the current market dominatrix duo, Nokia and iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy 5 I5500 is the cheapest Android solution, cheaper by 5grand than the HTC Wildfire. It is essentially Samsung's entry-level device that derived its form-factor from the Corby series.

Commonly coined only as Galaxy 5, it packs a wallop when it comes to rafts of features that one wouldn't expect in a bang-for-the-buck brick.

The device is equipped with 2.8-inch capacitive screen with QVGA resolution, 3G, WiFi, GPS, 2-megapixel camera without flash, 3.5mm jack, microUSB port and microSD expansion card slot. The more interesting thing, however, is that the affordable cell phone runs Android 2.1 Eclair.

The looks department brims with glossy material and sturdy built. The framing is basically just a plastic which is to be expected from its price point. However, it's craftsmanship is forged with elegance. It fits snugly in the hands and is comfortable to hold.

One of the topnotch features is the display technology which make use of a capacitive screen, sporting native resolution of 240x320 pixels, instead of the resistive counterpart.

Inside the hood is the Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0, a personalized interface shell where one can tailor-fit his lifestyle by the utilization of widgets. Aside from the usual eye-candy, one would also get enamored with a whole gamut of apps: Swype, a text input interface that provides faster method by the continuous finger motion, much like swiping, and the SNS(Social Networking Service) that enables you to synchronize your contacts with relevant information about them from various social networks. It´s also what the preinstalled application Write and Go relies on in order to give you the option to simultaneously update your Facebook, MySpace and Twitter status.

Despite the small screen downside, this is still a lovely piece with features as complete as your entertainment touchscreen devices.

Restaurant Ciçou: French Bistro

Because almost all Greenbelt restaurants are unusually full today(it's payday, plus some retail establishments went on sale), I was awashed into a French Bistro, and not just any publicly withdrawn restaurants, this one is actually a hotel restaurant.

Restaurant Ciçou is nestled in the baronesque Hotel Céleste along San Lorenzo Drive. That hotel that is reminiscent of the hotels at the Amsterdam suburbs, Hotel Céleste prides itself of providing royal and refined European experience.

The restaurant is a beacon of culinary brilliance by the Executive Chef Cyrille Soenen, a French national known for his foie gras creations.

Adorned by the endless interconnection of 'washer-like circles' is the restaurant's core design. The ambiance is intimate and cozy, but don't let it intimidate you. It isn't a fine dining haven, it is merely a bistro, hence the dark lighting fixtures and a wide array of wine collections.

I was given an unlimited baguette as a free appetizer.

I ordered a salad first because I was thinking of getting a meat. I picked the Seared Tuna Niçoise Salad, a combination of French beans, red and green bell pepper, potatoes, tomatoes, boiled egg, anchovy, black olives and sardines. I know what you have in mind, you must have probably reacted, "what? sardines?" Yes, but this is nothing like your grocery-derived canned sardines. They are fresh little fish filleted and cooked in its own marinade, akin to a French version of our native "kilawin."

The main course, Onglet de Boeuf(Le Steak Favori de Chef Cyrille) - this is a prime US Beef in shallot sauce, croutons, romaine salad, with home-made French fries. Again, on a medium rare finish. The beef was done with scrumptious quality that it left a distinctive taste in my mouth.

The service is also world-class, not because they have given me a sampler of their Sea Bass, braised sea bass in mashed potatoes and leeks in truffle sauce, but because the servers were meticulously attentive to the guest's needs.

It was definitely a dégustation de délicieux, truly a taste of Paris in the heart of Makati.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

iPhone 4 16GB: first dip

The most-coveted device, since the time man invented silicon chips, is already here in our shore. Globe Telecom, the Philippine's official carrier, just had a 2-in-1 launch for it, 2 events in 1 day, or 2 hotels for 1 blast.

With an ever-widening fan base, iPhone 4 is a classic example of Apple's uncanny ability to rally its product to consumers. Rumors of its release is spreading like wild-fire in the degree of anticipation and specs-guesses.

Now that it's here, I will also take my dip on it:

The industrial design-overhaul was made, from a plasticky feel of the predecessor iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 already sports solid yet squarish design classic, with an aluminum alloy that wraps around its bezel edges. Design elements include a pair of two strengthened glasses(I don't know if it's a Gorilla glass, that industry talked-about glass with the strength of a sapphire crystal) and a stainless steel band that firmly embraces on all four sides. The effect of which is stunning simplicity.

Along with the enclosure are the usual suspects like the rocker volume, speaker, and a camera. Unlike the iPhone 3GS that only has a camera at the back(not to mention crappy), this time iPhone 4 is accentuated by cameras of both front and back, with 5Megapixel snapper and a flash as a frill factor.

Another rehash that makes the market rave crazy is the "Retina Display". The 960x640 IPS LED backlit is crisp with high pixel density and is probably one of the clearest, if not the clearest, mobile devices around. With my iPhone 3GS, you can literally see the difference in terms of overall display quality.

The phone is comparably thinner than the 3GS at .37 inches compared to .48 inches, making the whole package seem tighter and denser. It's as almost around 25% more to the size of a regular ID. See my astronomer ID alongside with it.

Inside its ace-high exteriors are a treasure trove of fantastic specs: blazing-fast 1Ghz A4 CPU, a spanking 512 RAM, and a capacity option for either 16GB or 32GB of storage space, and of course an OS4 user-interface with APIs that can excellently do backgrounding.

It has an impressive multitasking capability and a plethora of applications to boot: Facetime which is nifty for videocalling, Mail improvement which now include threaded messaging, iMovie(we're already familiar with this, I know, right), and a lot more under its hood.

It's probably the next-big-thing in the mobile technology sphere. But the market reception rest on the laurels of the consumers who would either go for it despite its initial signal criticisms and reported significant call drops or let go of it with the temporary help of the free bumpers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Alpha at the SouthGate Towers

Located oddly at the 6ht floor of a commercial high-rise is this restaurant that one would perhaps mistook as a hotel, reckoning from the broad appearance of the interiors and its ambiance.

The Alpha Restaurant, located at the SouthGate Towers, prides itself from delivering good food that is not compromised by commercialism. It is owned by a certain business entrepreneur, however the entire concept was a brainchild of Chef Katrina Alcantara, from the Culliere fame.

The interior is a splendor of its own, classic styling, and a motif that might only be found in a five-star hotel dining.

They even have a separate conference table that can accommodate 10 business bigwigs who want to preserve private discussion along with their executive luncheon.

And the Tabacalera Cigar Lounge is a lot like an old-country house, held by its dim lighting fixtures and homey-feel leather seats. It's like a living room in the uniquely American domestic architectural-styled ranch house.

I was in a rush that time so I never had the luxury to order sumptuous meals like the Wagyu Striploin. I grabbed Braised Grilled Lamb Riblets with a Ratatouille Mint Rice instead. Soft and tender, the taste of the lamb was preserved adequately, so as not to spoil the meat through hardened grilling.

And since I am not really into lamb-based cooking, I concluded it with a Summer Salad, a mixture of Mesclun greens, Apple, Pears, Grapes, Grana Pedano slivers, Candied Walnuts with Raspberry in Balsamic Vinaigrette.

And because of my inadequate wine-pairing knowledge, I asked the server which one goes well for my meal, however I ended up with their house Cabernet Sauvignon wine.

I asked if one can customize the "L'Opera stipple" by writing the diner's name instead of the default "Opera", and the waitress says it's doable. They simply have to request it at the chef in-charge at the cold kitchen. I didn't bother ordering though as I was running out of time.

It came to my thought that maybe the target demographics of the restaurant are those who multitask by exploiting dining time with brainstorming sessions and grueling meetings, as it is conducive with such affairs that would seal the deal.

Next time I will close a big account, this is probably the place to be.

Sony NWZ-W202: a wireless music rarity

Sony, the forerunner of the Walkman hype, once again unleashed its forte and fortitude with the advent of a revolutionary concept of wireless music player.

It seems like only Sony can pull off a product that defies the ordinary. It has continuously challenge a market by unraveling unorthodox devices that would appeal to generations and their dynamic styles and comfort.

Sony NWZ-W202 is one such product. Fit for those who are always mobile who denounce the slavery of dangling wires, this music player has all the convenience one would ask for in an MP3 player.

The features aren't stellar though, as it is just basically an MP3 Player and nothing more. No FM radio. No other bells-and-whistles. So if you're into Papa Jack's Wild Confession Nights on the radio, this might not be suited for you.

Its lack of LCD display to fiddle music list is complimented by the "Zappin In / Out" function that plays short recognizable snippets of songs on the middle part. So if you prefer the auditioned song, you can quickly press the wheel to start from the beginning.

Much like the, oh well, iPod Shuffle, this one has a shuffle button too, that alternate songs from the list.

It supports file system such as MP3, WMA(including DRM'ed files), and AAC(unprotected). A bit limited as compared with the other players in the market.

On a continuous play, I can get around 8 hours of juice on this lovely player.

While the Sony Walkman NWZ-W202 lacks some outstanding features, and a meager capacity, it looks good, fits well, and delivers solid sound with strong bass. It also lets you browse your music in a way that effectively compensates for its lack of a screen.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Zuni Restaurant and Wine Bar

My folks knew me well as a person who has a penchant for good food, with a sporadic voracious appetite to boot. Sporadic I should say because for one, my appetite goes well with the place. I have a meager food indulgence when I'm in an upscale restaurant. I feel my food well when I'm there, and for whatever scientific reason, that eating habit makes me easily and swiftly full.

I have been to the Zuni Restaurant and Wine Bar lately to have my dinner. If you're into restaurants often as I am, you would know that Zuni is a restaurant formed by the Prasad family, the same breed of restauranteurs that brought to you the Duo Steakhouse and Wine Bar.

Zuni is such a nice, cozy, and comfy restaurant nestled at the very heart of Makati. It's a well executed dining concept serving continental cuisines. They change their menu though every year or two, or so I was told. Two of their entrees are similar to the Chef's Quarters as Chef Mauro Arjona of the Chefs Quarters works with the Prasad family in the Duo. However Chef Ding Lazona is mainly heading in the creative effort of making the menu for the Zuni.

Dessert comes first. Oh the sweet entrements should lead the pack in picking my fancy, so I ordered the Banana Split first. I have a special instruction for it: two chocolate ice cream on the side sandwiching the strawberry ice cream, crushed peanuts sprinkled all over, and a cherry fruit on top of the strawberry ice cream.

Then, for the main course, I have the grilled US Beef under a medium-rare preparation. Unlike most Filipinos who opted for a well-done cooking almost like an overly-grilled chunk of beef(it must have been our inclination to barbecue), I always have mine on medium-rare as it will not spoil the taste and diminish the quality of the beef. It was soft and tender enough to my last bite, delectably good I should say.

Zuni delivered a balanced atmosphere of elegant dining and cozy ambiance assimilated by an impeccable brand of customer service, all for the always-mobile cosmopolitan consumer like me.

Starbucks Via

I am no coffee connoisseur, so my knowledge about the Arabica slash Robusta brewing universe is not in the virtuoso of my knowledge on astronomy and quantum physics.

I dropped by Starbucks Metrowalk for a Caramel Macchiato and found out that Starbucks has been expanding their product portfolio with the advent of their Starbucks Via.

Starbucks is a renowned international coffeehouse chain that started out as a bean distributor and ultimately metamorphose into a cafe-type business enterprise. The introduction of their Via is somewhat an unlikely recourse since it may either make or break their market foothold. The double-edged effect is that it may either diminish their in-store traffic or enrich it by reaching out to those who does not favor sauntering on coffee shops. The consumer will decide. And the decision will largely depend on the taste of the Via. Is it better or at least at par with the genuinely brewed ground beans?

Starbucks has been arduously struggling in the US with a rising number of outlets closing down. Our Starbucks here may spell a different trajectory. It is franchised by Rustans and Filipinos love it because it gives them an avenue to hang-out. It is not really the hot that sells but the blended sweets that only contains 5% of caffeine. We love sweets. I love sweets too. And that's why as early as mid-twenties, I am already suffering with diabetes.

Via comes in a two retail packings: three(Php130) and twelve(Php450). The 12-in-a-pack decaf is priced a bit higher though at Php470.

I am uber-particular about my coffee and I don't drink it if it passed 20min after brewing time because it will likely taste bland. What can I say about Via? Well, it's better than off-the-shelf Nescafe Instant but the real goodness of a brewed coffee is still topnotch.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Great Lenovo PC Fest at the Metrowalk

Metrowalk - On what is supposed to be a gimmick place turned out into one of the biggest cyber events of the year - The Great Lenovo PC fest.

I was hoping to have my haircut at Alcutraz Metrowalk but my hairstylist is not there to be around. So I gallivanted around the area, had myself a doze of Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks, went to the Lenovo last day sale and found myself buying a non-Lenovo item, ironically. I bought an A4Tech no-battery-needed optical mouse for my Acer Aspire laptop, my long standing Wintel unit since 2006.

The Lenovo sale is participated by the country's leading computer retailers like Villman, PC Express, PC Gadgets(Datacore), Silicon Valley, Gigahertz, Asianic, TCA(The Computer Authority), and PC Worx.

In time for the Christmas season, and the assertive liquidation of inventory in prelim for the new fiscal period, the Lenovo sale brings all the computing demographics together by offering a wide array of laptops, from basic desktop publishing to heavy-resourced entertainment laptops, from basic web use to graphical-intensive application.

The items included in the sale were Ideapad U, Y, and S series, Thinkpad Egde, Thinkpas X, R, SL, and Z series, B,G, and N series notebook, and a few IdeaCenter desktops, to name a few.

One can avail of discounts up to 60% off on selected items. The leaflet that was handed to me has the following big sale products to score: Ideapad Y410 and 510 can get you Php29,000 savings from original price, the Thinkpad X300 can save you from spending whopping Php52,000 more, and Thinkpak Z60m has a PhpPhp34,000 slash-off from their SRP.

The event was funneled in alliance with the industry leaders Microsoft and SmartBro.

The writer is not connected with Lenovo or to any of its affiliates, merchants and authorized retail partners.

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