Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Paradise Dynasty

Eating in Paradise

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, December 15, 2016

My first time at Paradise Dynasty was in Singapore six years ago. I saw the posters everywhere, along the walkway to the MRT station and all over ION Orchard, the most happening shopping mall during those days. Photos of bamboo steamer filled with dumplings the colors of the rainbow haunted me. Oh how I love rainbows. And chasing/eating them.

I made plans to have lunch there with a friend almost immediately. We ate our way through the colorful babies, which also doubled as educational materials for her learning toddler. “What color is this dumpling mama is eating?” “Green!” “How about the one Auntie Jin is eating?” “Yellow!” “Orange!” “Red!” He had almost as much fun as we did, even if all he ate was blended chicken and vegetables.

It was not surprising to see the same reception when Paradise Dynasty opened in S Maison. Curious people queued up for the fun experience and there was always a basket or two of rainbow xiao long bao on every table.

During one of my visits I was able to chat with Paradise Group CEO Eldwin Chua who was in town to oversee the opening of his first Manila branch. “We are very excited to be in the Philippines. We have been wanting to bring our brand here for many years, we were just waiting for the right partner and the right location,” shared the young Singaporean businessman.

In the span of 13 years, the Paradise Group has expanded into over 30 restaurants in Singapore and 20 outlets in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and London, with every branch exuding opulence and luxury. When you go, make sure to check out the VIP room with its monstrous dragon sculpture hanging on the wall. It’s like stepping into the lavishness and drama of 1930’s Shanghai, with you feeling like some emperor, ordering and eating up a feast, and then feeling absolutely pleased with yourself when the bill arrives and you realize you are paying ordinary working men prices.

This is exactly the experience Chua wants to offer his diners. “Here at Paradise Dynasty, we want customers to enjoy premium food in fine dining setting without breaking their wallets. We use simple ingredients and find ways to elevate their flavors. We always work to improve and innovate so we can offer gourmet food with exceptional value.”

So what are the five dishes you must try at Paradise Dynasty?

1. The most popular 8-color Dynasty Xiao Long Bao, of course. 
You will be given an eating instruction manual to ensure you get the optimum taste of the
technicolor pouches. No, you cannot just eat them according to your favorite colors. 
You have to follow rules here and eat the dumplings in this sequence: Original, Ginseng, 
Foie Gras, Black Truffle, Cheese, Crab Roe, Garlic, Szechuan. The two I enjoyed most
were #3 foie gras and #4 black truffle. While I thought this was fun and something 
people should try once in their xiao long bao-eating lives, I am still a purist at heart
 and prefer uncomplicated flavors, which brings me to the second dish.

Rainbow xiao long bao eating manual

2. Original Xiao Long Bao
To be enjoyed simply with vinegar and ginger because the classic way is the best way. Period.

3. Scrambled Egg White with Fish and Conpoy 
This dish dates back to a time when seafood was a rare commodity in China. The emperor
wanted crab during a time there was none so the kitchen had to create a dish to satisfy
his craving. The result: egg whites cooked painstakingly under low heat to attain a texture 
similar to that of the crustacean. If this dish made the emperor happy, I believe it should 
make ordinary people like you and me happy, too. Tip: There is a special way to mix
the egg yolk so sit back and let your server do the honors.

4. Stir-Fried Shredded Pork with Chinese Crepes 
Paradise Dynasty’s take on peking duck. Shredded pork stir-fried in black bean and hoisin
sauce until tender, to be paired with scallions and wrapped in thin, soft and chewy pancakes.

5. Radish Pastry
This is THE BEST THING at Paradise Dynasty. Soft and creamy radish strips in an 
incredibly fine and flaky crust that is almost too gorgeous to eat. Do eat it anyway. 
I can come to the restaurant and order nothing else but eight pieces of this golden 
beauty and leave perfectly merry and content.

Paradise Dynasty is located at 2/F S Maison at the Conrad, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City 
Tel: 828-8333

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Arla Promise

This was our breakfast during the presentation at the Arla Factory in Holstebro, Denmark. 
It was a typical breakfast spread - breads, deli meats, cheeses, jams, and Lurpak butter.

I must admit, because I see it so often, I have taken the Lurpak brand for granted.
Obviously, it is good butter therefore the choice of many, kind of like how Colgate 
has become toothpaste for most of us. 

You see, I am a butter monster. Sometimes I eat little pieces of bread just because they
help transport the silky, creamy yellow goodness to my stomach. 

So imagine my delight when I discovered that Lurpak butter is produced by Arla, the 5th
largest dairy company in the world and the biggest organic dairy company of them all! 
During our factory visit, we spotted an Arla truck delivering fresh milk from the farms. 
Fun fact: Did you know that 308,000 tons of raw milk is used to make 130,000 tons of 
butter in this facility each year? It is the biggest butter dairy in the world serving 
918 million consumer units!

Lurpak is produced only in Denmark and Arla takes serious measures to keep the quality 
at its highest. "Butter tasters" are employed to taste the product every 20 minutes during
production and Operations Engineer Jakob Pedersen has been doing it for 16 years!
 No wonder despite serving almost 1 billion consumers, they get only 55 complaints in
a year. Here Jakob shows us how he does quality checks, inspecting the butter up 
close and then taking a big spoonful into his mouth.

And that is me taking advantage of the situation, enjoying my 
own spoonful(s) and eating Lurpak butter like ice cream! 
I think I can live here happily ever after.

That is, until Holstebro Cream Cheese Factory. God, it smelled like heaven in there!
And it is one of the cleanest facilities I have ever been in.

Everything is automated, precise. Watch the video at the end of this post to see the action.

Check out all the exciting flavours. You name it, they've got it!
How about chanterelle cream cheese on your bagel today?

Best part is, there is absolutely no artificial ingredients in the mix. "Arla uses only the 
real deal for all its cream cheeses. There's real garlic pieces in our garlic cream cheese, 
bits of olives in our olive cream cheese," Arla Foods Philippines GM Jen Christian 
Nielsen proudly reports. Arla does not believe in artificial preservatives, 
and instead utilizes sweet buttermilk as stabilisers. 

And Kenneth Olesen guarding the goods from me. Lol.

So delicious we ate them right out of the tubs

My personal favorites are olive, tomato and basil, goat's cheese, horseradish, 
papaya and curry, and chocolate. I pray these will be available in Manila soon.

Cheese snobs will be ecstatic to know that Arla also produces very special small batch, 
single-farm artisan cheeses under the Arla Unika brand.

We were lucky enough to sample a few during our visit, and with Cheesemaster 
John Gynther himself

Nutty, creamy, caramel-y Havgus

Sweet, salty and full of umami Gammel Knas

And an interesting coffee cheese made with Coffee Collective's Guatemalan coffee. 
Bet you've never had anything like this before!

Cheese and tea pairing at 9:00am? Yessir!!!

The most special experience for me was visiting Faregard, one of the 12,600 farms 
Arla works hand in hand with.

There are 400 cows in Faregard and I must say each and every one of them looks 
healthy, meaty, very well taken care of.

It is so wonderful to see the cows live in a clean, stress-free environment, 
and are allowed to move around freely

They get clean water, nutritious food and soft beds

And enjoy a little play time, too! 

Of course, like every parent (although none will admit), Rasmus has his favorite child. 
When asked how he chose his favorite, he said it just came naturally, like the feeling 
he felt when he first met his wife! How adorable is that?!

As for me, my favorite cow will be the one that produces the most milk! Haha!

These are the cows that produce 40-70 litres of milk a day. Because they work harder,
they are rewarded a place in the VIP section where they enjoy all the good stuff in a cow's 
life, like feeds that are higher in nutrients and minerals...

... plus free massages anytime of day!

It is so heartwarming to see the hardwork and dedication that mother-and-son team 
Birtit Gade and Rasmus puts into providing their cows a home. They treat them
like family and with love and respect. Arla cows eat healthy and live happy, and
we all know that healthy and happy cows produce better and yummier milk!

With Senior GM for Arla Foods Philippines Jens Christian Nielsen, 
Cheryl Tiu and Pam Pastor. 

I have always loved Arla, and even more now after experiencing firsthand its company values, its faithfulness to deliver the promise of providing healthy, natural, responsible dairy products. 

Every time I see Arla products on supermarket shelves, I will remember the farms, the cows, the love that Arla farmers put into their work, the quality and consistency that Arla factories aim for to bring to the world food that is not just good and nourishing to the body, but also good and nourishing for the soul.

Arla Official Website
Arla Philippines Website
Arla Philippines Facebook
Arla Philippines Instagram

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Bodegas Castañeda ♥ ♥ ♥

I walked away quickly from La Gran Taberna to make it to my next tapas stop before it closed for the night.

Bodegas Castañeda, a local haunt before Rick Steves brought all the tourists in -
myself included!

A row of sexy jamon legs greeted me as soon as I entered and I knew this was 
my happy place

Bodegas Castaneda is a very typical Andalusian tapas bar which looks like it hasn't
been renovated in centuries. There are barrels of wine behind the bar, and absolutely
no chairs to be seen. You stand by the bar and eat and it's a lot of fun.

I was so hungry I made the mistake of ordering food before the server could give me free
tapas with my drink. For people traveling to Granada, remember that it is one of the very
few cities left in Spain where you get complimentary tapas with every drink you order.
Please take advantage! Haha! :)

At least I was given a generous pour

One of the beautiful things about traveling in Europe is that nobody cares what you do.
You can go about doing your own business and people won't judge. 

Like ordering AND finishing this plate of assorted montaditos

Joselito Jamon Iberido de Bellota

Jamon de Trevelez con Manchego

Salmon, Avocado, Caviar

I wolfed down 6 montaditos in 15 minutes. 
They were still at it when I walked out the door.
 Nobody cared.
I love España.

Bodegas Castañeda: Calle de Almireceros, 1-3, 18010 Granada, Spain
Phone: +34 958 21 54 64

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