26 February 2011

House Brew, Banapple

My husband and I finally made a stop at this pastry shop that had grown from a small four-table affair to the entire 2-storey quaint structure you can't miss: a bright crayola-ish looking country cottage that has cars slowing down, fighting for parking space, and often, settling for leaving their vehicle in a second lane, on a very busy avenue. I thought the novelty would wear off, but it hasn't. 

That's what good baking can do. People swear by their banana cream pie. I love their cheesecake and apple pie. And these pastries are turned them into the traffic monster on Katipunan Avenue in the Blue Ridge area.

We were so hungry because it was way past the lunch hour, and we thought, might as well join those going gaga over Banapple. Much to our surprise, people were still enjoying lunch entrees that were large enough to share (and that's what most of them did... share), and had a slice or two of their cakes & pies waiting temptingly. We didn't know what to try first. Very good and filling comfort food, dessert, and of course, coffee. All reasonable priced.

Unfortunately, although the apple pie my husband and I shared was very good, the coffee was too strong and bold (more like bitter) for me -- and it wasn't an espresso; it was a full cup of brewed coffee, probably Americano. I finished an entire little cup of milk, added sugar, and watered it down twice. On top of that, the wait and food prep staff didn't know what kind of coffee it was, except that it was freshly ground roasted coffee beans.  I couldn't believe that they could have such good food, such a following, and coffee that was too bitter to enjoy. Could I have just come on a bad day? Probably, and I should make sure, so I'll visit again for weekend brunch with the kids soon, and get another taste.

16 February 2011

Batangueno-style Coffee, Kape de Malarayat

that's steam from the coffee migling with the fog close to the mountain top
I've had Batangas-grown coffee before (mostly Barako and Mountain-grown Arabica), but it was only recently that I got to first sample how Batangas folk had their coffee: freshly picked beans, roasted and ground but traditionally prepared by heating up the grains with water in an open pot, and served already sweetened. This was during a media outing sponsored by the Cafe Alamid group (the people behind the popular Civet coffee), R.O.X., and Moster Centaur, during which we were given a fresh insight on the exotic Cafe Alamid (more on that later), and treated twice with the farmers' very own Kape de Malarayat. A blend of Robusta, Liberica, and Arabica Exelsa, grown and picked from the mountains in their "backyards", this coffee is produced with love and hard work by the Malarayat Coffee Farmers and Consumers Cooperative with help and guidance from the Alamid group.

Looks like an easy leisurely trek from here, but that it wasn't.
My first cup of Batangas-style brew was at a small camp near the top of Mt. Malarayat in Lipa, Batangas (about an hour and a half-drive from the Fort in Taguig), where we were feted with a sumptuous reward of barbequed skewered pork, bangus stuffed with tomatoes and onions, and roasted veggies, after our 45-minute challenging trek up. By the time we were enjoying our lunch, I spotted the coffee already being cooked and stirred in a large open pot (we were at least 20 that day), over the campfire, and ladled through a sieve, into our disposable cups. Because I rarely sweeten my coffee (I usually have mine with some soymilk or powdered non-dairy coffee creamer), I was surprised at how sweet it was. I actually (ignorantly) thought it had something to do with a distinct property of freshly-picked, freshly roasted, freshly-ground, freshly-prepared local coffee. It didn't matter much to me at that time, since my last coffee was a Starbucks soy mocha before we left. It was time for another dose.

After once again dealing with the slippery, rocky walk, this time down the mountain, we were taken to where the farmers process the coffee, in the nearby Barangay Sto. Nino. There, once again, to my surprise, we had sweet black coffee. That's where I learned Batangas peeps (Batangenos) take their coffee black but sweetened. Although I prefer unsweetened coffee and won't see a change on this soon, this style tends to grow on you. Or was it because I got up so early for this junket, I just needed my fix more? Whatever, I just had to have another cup. It can be delish.

I got to take home a pack to enjoy at home, yayness!

05 February 2011

Cafe Americano at Blenz Coffee

I've started going back to Mega Mall after years of avoiding trips there. I hate the noise, the crowds, and the length I have to walk to get from one side to the other, on several floors. I mean, what if whatever you went to shop for or purchase happens to be at one end, and the other store you had to visit at the other?!

Then they opened that area at the center called the Mega Atrium, where many good restaurants and shops are, on all 4 upper floors (meaning excluding the basement), tucked away from the general melee. Strategically located at the opening of those pockets of wonder are cafes, one on each floor. Since Forever21, the Gap, Mango, Aldo, Promod, All Flipflops, etc., my favorite fashion haunts are on the 2nd level, I would always see this relatively new coffee shop:  Blenz (Canadian Coffee). It was always full, no matter what time I'd be in the area, so I thought, "hmm, must be good coffee."

So I finally tried hanging out at the place and sampling their coffee, and I wished my expectations weren't so high. Upon placing my order I already began to wonder why these people patronized the place. The baristas didn't make any eye contact and seemed a bit impatient when I asked for recommendations and explanations about their coffees. She had to consult a superior, who seemed like he couldn't care less. Hmm. And to think they had all this pride in their barista training.

Then I got my coffee, and it smelled so good. Oh, and a free table in spite of the crowd. Hopes went up! I started to get comfy and took out my book, ready for a nice hour at least, but the coffee kept spilling from between the rim and the lid *tsk*. It spilled so much, in fact, that I decided to drink my coffee without the lid. And yet more coffee bled on my next paper towels; I figured it had to be a leak in the cup. I asked the barista for a replacement; she put my cup into a fresh one and replaced the older lid. Still... coffee kept dripping. 

Ask help from the barista again? Never mind. She didn't look like she wanted to hear what was wrong and busied herself with arranging stuff far into the other end of the counter. 

The coffee was good, no doubt; actually, good enough for you to skip the escalator ride up to TCBTL, or another flight up to Starbucks, or venture even higher to Bo's Coffee Club. But perhaps the most obvious reason for the consistent crowd would more likely be the free Wifi and the enclosed smoking area. I mean, where's the next exit if you wanted a smoke with your coffee, right? On both ends of the long expanse of each floor. So there!