My first full month back at work feels both familiar and foreign at the same time. For one thing, the added worry caused by being out of the safety of the house all day from Mondays to Saturdays can be very mentally exhausting. Even if you get used to the situation after a while, it never gets truly easy. And to think I’ve long accepted that it’s virtually impossible to be 100% virus-safe no matter how careful or cautious you are. You have no control over the people moving around you after all. But now that I think about it, getting to have that home and workplace boundary has actually done a lot of good for my psychological well-being. But of course, it’s not as joyful a thing as the exercise of looking forward to new food discoveries each month during better days.
I’m going to start a new category for my monthly round-ups starting this June. It’s just a little section in the post that highlights local brands and products I tried and enjoyed for the month. I have been thinking about contributing to the #SupportLocal movement for a while now, even before COVID, and so far I feel like my efforts have been very minor compared to what I actually have in mind. Adding this segment to my blog isn’t a big deal either, but more than anything, I think this is a manifestation of my efforts to hold on to something good when it comes to my country. Lately, it has gotten very difficult to separate the feeling of bleakness each time I hear the word “Philippines” being uttered. Thankfully, there are still a lot of hardworking and talented people who do not give up on shining that bright light on a country that badly needs it. I wonder if they are aware how much it also helps the people who badly want to grab onto something good. Like me.
Because I am exposed to the world of Philippine food products so much, this is the “good thing” I find myself focusing on the most. So I figured, might as well spread the local love to my fellow food lovers.
Here’s a list of the #SupportLocal brands I enjoyed this month, in no particular order:
1. The Black Bean
One of my major weaknesses is coffee and coffee products, so it was very hard for me to resist ordering from The Black Bean when I saw some really positive reviews from blogger friends. Their gorgeous Instagram feed also did not help. Mostly though, my decision was made when I saw their impressive menu. I ended up ordering twice in the month of June alone, and considering the number of other things I want to try and order, that says quite a lot.
I don’t think you can go wrong with any drink from The Black Bean’s menu. It’s one of those situations where the phrase ‘you can taste the quality’ rings true in every offering. Not to mention, they have one of the most luscious and silky smooth Spanish Lattes I’ve ever come across. Although this drink ranks pretty high in my personal favorites from their lineup, I am most in love with their Dirty Chai. It’s a mixture of espresso and chai that hits the spot in the best way possible. I LOVE IT. (They now offer it by the liter so I’m not the only one!)
They also offer a Mocha drink using Auro chocolate (another fave!) and if you’ve had enough Mocha from different coffee shops in your life, you can tell immediately when you’re drinking something that involves actual good quality chocolate rather than syrups from a bottle. The drink has a more pronounced and more nuanced chocolate flavor. Although I did find the Mocha quite thick out of the bottle if not iced, I’m very impressed with the taste.
It’s possible that the reason why this brand and I hit it off so well is because they offer a lot of the coffeeshop drinks that I love. They also have this DIY coffee jelly kit called the Lazy Barista, and while I don’t think of myself as lazy nor am I anywhere near barista level in my coffee-making escapades, I do love a good coffee jelly quite a lot. And this was a REALLY good Coffee Jelly drink. No wonder it’s so popular!
One thing I really like about The Black Bean is that they have a good attitude when it comes to taking criticisms about their drinks. The fact that they listen to feedback is an indication that they’re passionate about giving their customers the best experience with their products. They innovate and adjust depending on customer comments, and also, they remember customer preferences after just one conversation. I think this goes a long way to making a customer feel like a valued “regular”.
Frankly, it was not my intention to make a long write-up about this brand, and some of you are probably thinking by now that I was sponsored to write all this stuff. The truth is I spent quite a bit of money ordering from them because I really like their products. The delivery was expensive because I don’t live anywhere near Makati, but it was okay because sometimes you come across a brand you’re just willing to pay for, you know? It’s also a brand you’re willing to go on and on about, because at least talking is free.
PS. Their Red Egg Chili Pasta was also A+! Haven’t tried their other food items, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good this dish was. If it was a little spicier, it would’ve been perfect for my palate.
You can order from The Black Bean through their Instagram.
2. Man on The Moon
I first tried this brand many many many years ago. It was right around the cold brew boom, back when I didn’t realize how easy it was to make cold brew on my own lol. I remember liking their drinks a lot back then, and for some reason I felt compelled to order again last June. (It might’ve been because I had a #marupok moment again thanks to the combo of good packaging and a promise of good coffee.)
I love how Man on The Moon have stayed true to their branding and their lineup after all these years. Some of these flavors are the same ones I remember trying before, and they taste just as good. Except for one. I made the mistake of ordering their Armstrong variant, and all I can say is I will keep myself physically distant from anything with whey protein from now on. (I don’t even know how to explain the taste!)
My favorite drink before was the Nebula (cold brew + matcha), but now it’s Pluto (cold brew + coconut milk). Thanks to this brand and my coffee buying impulses, I discovered this great combo!
I thought the aftertaste of Pluto is really quite nice, though I suppose not everyone will appreciate the lingering coconut taste. This one has a strong coconut essence so my mom said it tasted like coffee with VCO. (She doesn’t like VCO very much.) Wanting to replicate this drink, I asked around for coconut milk recommendations and ended up with Milk Lab‘s Coconut Milk. I did notice that the Milk Lab version I made was a bit milder and smoother in the coconut department, while Man on The Moon‘s had a significantly more pronounced coconut taste. I’m a fan of both versions but I thought it was worth a mention.
You can order Man on The Moon products from Karton.ph.
3. Sinag Coffee Roastery
Going down the black hole of coffee addiction has really put a dent in my wallet, so much that I literally need to set aside a coffee budget and force myself to stick to it every month. But you know what? It still makes me happy to buy new coffee gear and discover new coffee brands. I stumbled upon Sinag Coffee when Shopee suggested it on my front page, and I was intrigued by this inexpensive but well-reviewed coffee.
At Php 150 to 200 for 250 grams, it’s quite affordable. At least I wouldn’t feel bad if I didn’t like it right? I ordered a 500-gram bag of Arabica (because I am biased) for Php 350 and a 250-gram bag of Robusta for Php 150. I do my best to source out coffees at this price range to make cold brew because the amount of beans needed for this application is a budget-killer. Cold brewing is a very forgiving way of brewing coffee anyway, and often enough you get some surprisingly good results even with stuff like Folgers. What more with freshly roasted beans?
During my first attempt at cold brew using these beans, I went for the Arabica. The chocolate notes were very pronounced in the cold brew, and I was pleasantly surprised by how clear the flavor rang through. The Robusta was a real gamble for me. I normally shy away from these beans because a brand I tried before left a bad aftertaste, so it was an even bigger surprise for me when I liked the Robusta Cold Brew more than the Arabica one. The pronounced nutty profile of the Robusta combines really well with milk! It also smelled so good! Super happy to have found a new go-to coffee bean brand for cold brew. The only thing I wish could be improved with this brand is the packaging, because they don’t use a ziptop bag.
PS. I also tried brewing these beans via V60 drip method. Maybe because I bought these beans ground (lazy to grind over 75 grams at a time for cold brew lol) it didn’t bloom very well anymore, but it still tasted more than decent. It was good actually. Again, I found the Robusta more fragrant and flavorful. I’m not biased towards Arabica anymore lol.
4. Tea Source Manila
Despite my penchant for drinking a lot of coffee everyday, I sometimes go for teas in the evenings and the late afternoons. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t really planning on buying any of these teas. I was on Shopee looking for some good quality black tea I can use for baking, and I just got sucked into the black hole. As far as tea goes, I almost always exclusively drink green tea and genmaicha, but my curiosity got the better of me and I ended up buying a bunch of these dried fruit teas.
I don’t know if I should curse my imaginativeness, but my decision to buy all this was made because I could literally imagine how delicious the teas were just based on the descriptions. The reviews were all very good, and I was convinced I made the right decision when my orders arrived and I found the packaging pretty lol. Actually, the quality of the teas themselves was good too.
The first bag I tried was the Blueberry Tea, and at first sip, I honestly couldn’t decide if I liked it. It’s really different from the more earthy-toned teas I’m used to drinking, but the more I sipped, the more I began to appreciate the brighter flavors of the fruit combination in the tea.
This fruit tea gives off tart and sour tones, with just a light sweetness. If green tea is relaxing, then fruit teas are more on the playful side. It’s a nice change up, and I can see why tea-ta’s have been enjoying these for a while now. (And yes I decided not to use an infuser. I don’t remove the dried fruits anymore to maximize extraction.)
You can order from Tea Source Manila on their website.
5. Hey, Macarona!
I can’t remember the last time I had macarons, but I am certainly glad I got to reunite with them through Hey, Macarona! This brand name is so cute! I reckon anybody who eats through this box of macarons will start dancing to the similarly named 90’s hit song thanks to sugar high.
The macarons by Hey, Macarona! are not only delicious, they are super pretty too! You can have them customized as desired for a fee, until they become ALMOST too pretty to eat. When I received these, I was pleasantly surprised by how they painted a replica of my blog logo. The mini versions had some flowers painted on the top shell and I almost felt bad gobbling them up. I super appreciated the artwork as someone who also does a bit of watercoloring.
These macarons are skillfully made for sure, but I also like their fun premium flavors. The mini ones have a classic chocolate center, but I wish it had a bit more filling so the chocolate can shine through the almond flavor of the shell a bit more. Nonetheless, I was very pleased with their Maple Bacon Macaron. Salty things always cut through sweet flavors really nicely to balance them out, and this is especially true when it comes to these macarons. The shell, buttercream, and bacon play nicely together. Get your own box of 8 Premium Maple Bacon Macarons for Php 380 so you’ll know what I mean. It’s their Flavor of the Month for July, but they have other flavors too!
By the way, Hey, Macarona! also does customized cakes like the one in the first photo. The one I got is a slice of prettily decorated brownie cake that did not harden even when straight from the fridge.
You can order macarons and others from Hey! Macarona though their Instagram.
6. Nacho Mucho
I was feeling particularly tired and stressed one Sunday so I decided to spend my afternoon doing the whole Netflix and chill thing. It was great timing on the part of Nacho Mucho that they sent me movie snacks this particular day. One of my younger brothers was super excited over the Potato Corner Flavored Pop’s (popcorn) they sent because he used to buy the fries so often before and he misses the taste. The popcorn is sealed in an airtight bag to help slow down the deterioration. Much as I love popcorn myself, I was more excited about the nachos.
It’s been a while since I’ve had any nachos but I was surprised when my love for it was rekindled by this Nacho Bake from Nacho Mucho. Honestly, I was really surprised by how tasty it was! You get a good dose of Mexican flavors in every bite of the juicy and meaty ground beef, but it gets balanced out by the creamy four cheese and pico de gallo layers. The pickled jalapeno on top was a nice touch, though I wish there was more of it. I love pickled jalapenos.
At Php 350, it can feel a little expensive, but this is hands down one of the better quality movie snacks you can get. The crunchy nachos are included, of course. It’s good for 2 to 3 persons, and perfect for an afternoon of Netflix. Meanwhile, the equally Netflix-friendly Potato Corner Flavored Pop’s are Php 99 for a bag of 125 grams. If you’re planning a Netflix marathon, I highly recommend giving any of these products a go.
You can order these items and more from Nacho Mucho Philippines.
7. Soy Bueno
One of the things I’ve been missing in the last few months is jogging around the UP Oval and then treating myself to some taho after running 10 kilometers. (Sometimes 8, if it’s too hot or if I’m too tired lol.) Thankfully, there are people who figured out a way to sell DIY fresh taho kits, so at least that’s one less thing to miss!
I have actually tried two other fresh taho purveryors and there is one other seller that makes taho just a tiny bit better, but because Soy Bueno makes my favorite soy milk, they are my favorite brand as a whole. So far, at least. Their soy milk is SO GOOD! It’s just lightly sweetened and tastes fresh and pure. Definitely a well spent Php 100 per liter. (I honestly could finish 1 whole liter myself.)
Their taho goes for Php 360 for a 2-liter container like this. It’s enough to generously feed 6, but mostly it’s good for 8 servings. It comes with arnibal and sago of course, just enough for a normal serving. I imagine if you like a lot of arnibal and a lot of sago, you can order extras. We don’t like to overload so this was more than enough for us.
My favorite part about Soy Bueno is that you can schedule your delivery date and they will take care of it for you. They deliver early enough that we managed to have this taho for breakfast while it was still fresh and hot! (Hooray for us morning people!) We paid Php 100 to have it delivered to the Manila area, and that’s a fair price methinks. From their location to ours, it will probably cost around Php 120+ had I booked on my own. They saved me a bit of delivery fee and also saved me from the hassle of booking. All in all, highly recommended!
Order your taho and soy milk from Soy Bueno from their Instagram page.
8. Cakeaholic by Joanne (again)
Are you sick and tired of me mentioning this brand already? Because I’m not! I still can’t get over the fact that we have this hidden gem of a home bakery just a few blocks away. Incidentally, my favorites from Joanne this month have a theme coinciding with Philippine Independence Day, because my two faves are both Filipino bakes.
I have ordered ensaymada from Joanne before, and while it was good, it wasn’t exactly something that excited me as much as this Ube Cheese Ensaymada did. This was super fluffy, with a very nice ube undertone throughout highlighted by that ube halaya center. This purple ensaymada would make any ube and ensaymada lover go wow. I loved it, with that layer of shredded cheese on top to complete the experience!
Her signature cassava cake was also super addictive. I requested to purchase a small size, and like she said it was bitin. It’s hard to tell from the photo but this cassava cake is surprisingly melt in the mouth despite looking super compact and solid. It’s not too sweet, with a very authentic cassava and macapuno flavor, plus a creamy melty cheesy bruleed topping. It was a big hit at home!
And now, for my other favorites:
9. Janis & Melanie White Chocolate Key Lime Cookies
These cookies were recommended by my good friend, Pepe Samson, and because I trust his taste I decided to order this from Healthy Options. I bake a lot of cookies so I’m not very keen on commercial cookies, and while these had that typical grocery-bought crumbly butter cookie texture, the taste delivered as described on the box.
The citrusy key lime flavor is bright against the sweet white chocolate, making these little critters addictive. Their small size also made them super easy to eat one after the other, though it starts to get sweet after the third piece.
You can order these cookies from Healthy Options.
10. Milk Lab Coconut Milk
I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try adding coconut milk to my coffee, but this was such an eye-opening discovery for me. I was almost certain that coconut milk used for cooking won’t work well here because it might not completely dissolve into the coffee– certain soy milks do this too– so I asked around and they pointed me in the direction of Milk Lab.
I have been seeing this brand around for a while now but I have also been ignoring it because this is quite expensive, but I guess I can’t ignore it anymore. This 1 liter box costs Php 200, but thankfully it does indeed seem to be made for coffee. Whether I use it for hot or cold brews, the coconut milk smoothly fuses into my coffee. (It complements it too!) The coconut flavor is not in your face, but it’s also not too understated that you won’t recognize it. The milk itself is lightly sweetened, and the flavor lingers a bit on the tongue in the end before fading.
Honestly speaking, I don’t see myself regularly buying this because of the cost, but I would willingly occasionally splurge on it. I’m already considering trying out the macadamia. (I wasn’t kidding when I said I spend a lot of cash on coffee-related stuff.)
Some coffee shops, like The Black Bean and Commune, carry different flavors of Milk Lab products. Check out your nearest coffee shop first to save yourself the shipping fee.
11. Victorinox Stainless Steel Peeler
A peeler is just a peeler until you have to peel over 20 green mangoes on your own, in which case you will realize exactly how important a good peeler is.
I like to cook and bake so I have peeled a good deal of things, and so far, I’ve never met a peeler as good as this Victorinox one. The stainless blade is sharp and it glides so smoothly over any fruit or veggie, allowing for a fast and even peel. What normally takes me ages to peel with a different peeler takes half the time with this. It’s also a lot less messier.
This peeler was brought home from Europe by my mom when she vacationed there last year. If I ever get a chance to go to Europe once all this is over, I’m going to buy this peeler in a different color (and maybe also a Victorinox bread knife, because slicing sourdough with the bread knife I have right now is EXHAUSTING). This peeler would make an amazing gift to friends who cook too.
12. Homemade Burong Mangga
Now the reason why I peeled a ridiculous amount of mangoes is because I made a load of Burong Mangga to take advantage of mango season. Pickled mangoes is one of my favorite things but it’s very hard to find a satisfying one these days. This recipe creates exactly the kind of flavors I like in pickled mangoes. You don’t even need to cook a vinegar solutions. It’s literally just salt, sugar, pepper, and chili. The result is a just sweet and just spicy pickled mango, and depending on how green your mangoes were at the time of the pickling, you get a satisfying hit of sourness and crunch too.
My Mom taught this recipe to me but she also just got it from YouTube. Super sarap talaga, pramis! Here’s a little condensed tutorial on how to make it if you’re interested:
Despite the fact that I spent an entire morning peeling and pickling mangoes, the fact that we still get to enjoy pickled mangoes even way past mango season makes it worth it. We’re still slowly eating our way through the bottles in the chiller.
Click here for bigger instructions.
13. Homemade Sushi Bake
This trend that took Manila by storm couldn’t be easier to make at home. The best part about making your own sushi bake is that not only can you be generous with the toppings, you can also do whatever flavor you please.
When creating your own sushi bake toppings, consider pairing your meats with a contrasting flavor. This is what makes the kani (salty) and mango (sweet) combo work so well. The recipe I’m sharing is something I adapted from Philippine Daily Inquirer, and since making this I have made some adjustments to how I make my spicy salmon. Instead of using Sriracha, I recommend using gochujang instead for better flavor and spiciness. Use good tasting cheeses also. If you can, get some fresh fish roe from the market. It makes sushi bake taste better. That’s basically it!
A note on where to buy Furikake: Due to the popularity of sushi bake, it may now be difficult for normal people to buy furikake. I suggest an alternative– the Korean Kiminori, which is basically seasoned nori bits.
Click here for bigger instructions.
14. Delicious World Game
What do you do at the end of the day to fight off stress? Me, I play this game. I love playing cooking games on my phone, but this is the best one I’ve encountered so far. It’s even better than Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant Dash, and the graphics are much prettier! You can even upgrade your dishes! (AND IT’S FREE!)
Before going to bed, almost every night, I play this game. I know you’re supposed to set aside gadgets before bed but this helps my brain relax for some reason. Even if I am super particular about perfecting all the levels and collecting all the stars, this helps me wind down! I am now ways away from the level in the photo. Please don’t blame me if you get addicted to this game too!
That’s it for this month’s round-up! Thank you for reading until the end of this super long post.
Full disclosure: This post is not sponsored. All items were purchased on my own unless otherwise stated. I received no compensation for writing this post. All opinions are my own.
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