The Tummy Train Food Awards 2020, aka my 20 favorite products of the year

2020 Year End Coverr - The Tummy Train Food Awards 2020, aka my 20 favorite products of the year

I almost forgot to make this list, which is ironic considering how I’ve been preparing it for several months already; adding to it little by little as I fell in love with this product and that. Though I decided to skip a December round-up, I have surprisingly managed to religiously post monthly favorites this 2020. It’s quite a task, to be frank, and I’m not sure I can continue on with this expensive habit in 2021. Nonetheless, in this list you will find what are, in my opinion, the 20 best things I ate in 2020.

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I’ve been contemplating how I should approach making favorites lists this 2021 because I feel like I don’t want to make it a monthly thing anymore. It has begun to feel as if I’m putting too much pressure on myself to buy new things to try, and I end up spending so much on things that are not very good at all. I think this 2021 I’ll just do a favorites list when I’ve gathered enough things to share with you all, and if that means it’ll become a bi-monthly or quarterly list… So be it. Anyhow, let’s focus on my 2020 favorites first. 

DRINKS

The Black Bean

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One of my favorite new discoveries of 2020 was for sure The Black Bean. It’s a coffee shop located in Makati that I have never physically visited, but oddly enough I almost feel like a regular in spirit. Because they made their drinks available for takeout/delivery during the ECQ, I was able to get a taste of their delicious drinks for the first time ever. I was an instant fan! (To be fair, they have some really good food too!)

The thing I will say about The Black Bean is that their pricing is justified by the quality of their products. I also love the fact that they’re flexible, taking feedback and using them to improve their products. They are also open to customizations for your drinks. My favorites to this date are their Dirty Chai Latte (with extra chai!) and the Lazy Barista (with the sweetener on the side). They always remember my preferences too every time I order and I love that! I’m due for another order soon actually so I can try some of their new stuff. You can order from The Black Bean through their Instagram or their website.


The Good Cup Coffee

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I tried quite a lot of different coffees this year, but the absolute stand out for me are the coffees roasted by The Good Cup Coffee of Cebu. Their beans are amazing, and everything from their packaging to the way they handle their deliveries scream class and quality. Their single origin coffees are also pretty fairly priced if you compare it to others, and they offer a head-spinning range of choices. Ordering from here is a great way to go beyond Arabica and get acquainted with the different kinds of beans from different parts of the globe. Simply put, there’s just so much to love about this brand.

Though I have been slowly drinking my way through their product catalogue, one of my favorites from The Good Cup has been their Ethiopia Sakicha. The most unique coffees I’ve ever tried are from here too. (The Honduran Caballero coffees!) Every coffee I’ve ordered has been interesting and memorable, and I will continue to be a loyal customer of this local roaster. Check out the amazing coffee selection on Good Cup Coffee Co.’s website!


Yagam Coffee

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2020 was a good year for my coffee journey because this was the year I finally figured out my favorite local coffee origin. And that ladies and gents is a place called Benguet, up in the mountains, where the coffees are usually oh so sweet and delicious! So naturally, to find a roaster that focuses exclusively on the different kinds of Benguet coffees was quite a treat for me. Yagam Coffee is famous in the local coffee community not just because they sell good Arabica coffee, but also because they support farmers in the Cordillera region by putting these coffees on the map.

Yagam Coffee offer sampler packs on their online store wherein they choose the beans for you, and so I had a blast comparing the different Benguet beans in the box. I am all the more fascinated by how different farms from the same province can produce very different tasting coffees. The complex Atok for instance is nothing like the very sweet Mankayan coffee, but I ended up loving everything anyway. This just reaffirms my theory that I absolutely love Benguet coffees. I urge you to check out Yagam’s website so you can partake in some of the best coffee our country has to offer!


Fill Phil’s Rose Pistachio Latte

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A drink that’s as delicious as it looks? That’s Fill Phil‘s Rose Pistachio Latte for you! This was probably one of the more unique drinks I tried in 2020. It’s certainly the most aesthetically pleasing anyway. It is lightly sweetened; with balanced flavors of espresso, rose, and pistachio as well. I was expecting this to be more on the floral side perhaps because of the color, but it’s surprisingly not. Although I enjoyed many of Fill Phil’s other products, I must say this is my personal favorite. You can check out Fill Phil’s offerings on Facebook and Instagram; just be warned that they’re on the expensive side. 

The reason why this drink ultimately made my year-end favorites cut is that it made such a big impression on me, I actually tried making my own rose latte. With much success, I might add! (Excited to share the recipe soon!)


BEST SAVORIES

Pepe Samson’s #FeedMePepe dishes

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Before you all go and say I’m adding this to my list because Pepe is my friend, I have just one thing to tell you: Go and try his dishes before you judge. Seriously though, even if he wasn’t my friend, my opinion of these dishes wouldn’t really change simply because they’re legitimately good. Each time I order his dishes, my family cannot help but gobble up every last drop of the food. Literally every last drop. 

Being the well-traveled individual the he is, I honestly think Pepe has done an amazing job sharing his personal favorite flavors from his travels with the rest of us through #FeedMePepe. It’s inspiring really. He has made me want to cook more Asian dishes in the kitchen rather than spend all my free time baking. My personal favorites from the dishes I’ve tried so far include his bun cha, Thai green curry, tom kha gai, and the dry tom yum. Seriously, Pepe’s dishes are a must-try.


The Baos Pad Thai and Thai Green Curry

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I must admit, I did not know what to expect from The Baos when they first contacted me about trying out their products, but now I think I’ll go right ahead and make this bold statement: Their pad thai and Thai green curry are possibly some of the BEST I’ve eaten locally. For me, they’re even better than the versions from local Thai restaurants, and frankly, they’re more affordable too. They created a pad thai DIY kit that allows you to eat their pad thai piping hot and freshly cooked, aka in its best form.

I absolutely love how meticulously they planned the DIY kit, but the best part is the flavors of their actual pad thai. It hits all the right notes of salty and sweet, with a touch of spicy. Likewise, their Thai green curry packs a punch and does not shy away from all the flavors. It’s the type of dish that will make you want to shovel rice into your mouth! I’m also due for another order so let’s get our Thai fix together from The Baos on Instagram! 


Ahana’s Chashu Casserole

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I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: In a world saturated with sushi bake and lasagna, this chashu casserole is a breath of fresh umami-fied air! This layered rice casserole has flavorful gohan underneath, a layer of spiral charsiu or chashu on top, then a line of ajitama tamago down the middle.

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Aside from the fact that this looks so mouthwatering, I feel that the components were also very expertly done. The chashu is tender, smoky, and prominently sweet and salty. Umami as promised! I reckon the excess sauce created from the marinade/simmer is what they used for the rice underneath, so it’s equally full of flavor. But the icing on the cake for me is the ajitama tamago, which is one of the best things in life for an egg-lover like me. JUST LOOK AT THE EGGS! Order through their Instagram account and enjoy!


Quisine’s Sushi Bake series

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It’s a homerun for Quisine as far as their sushi bakes go. It’s rare that you would find a brand that consistently delivers good taste and good quality across products, and Quisine does just that. Whether it’s the Cereal Prawn with Salted Egg Aburi Sushi Bake, the Flamin’ Hot Aburi, or the Truffle Steak Aburi, you cannot go wrong with any of their offerings. I’m thinking about which of the three is my absolute personal favorite and after much debate I think I have to give it to the Flamin’ Hot Aburi. Everything in that sushi bake comes together nicely for me, and I think the heat keeps the richness of Quisine’s special sauce at bay.

But as I mentioned, whatever you pick from their lineup, you ultimately will not be disappointed. All the choices are unique, top quality, and truly delicious. I have always been one of those people who did not buy into the sushi bake craze because of the price tag, but this might be the only time I will tell you IT IS WORTH IT. Check out Quisine’s Facebook or Instagram page to order!


The Walking Mushroom’s Greek Moussaka

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It’s been a while since I’ve had any Greek food, but I’ve always been a fan of moussaka. I actually prefer this to lasagna because it has so much more to it than just pasta and sauce. You get meat cooked in a flavorful tomato-based sauce, then eggplant, sometimes potato. And then it has a thin layer of bechamel sauce on top, with breadcrumbs sprinkled on for good measure. Mmmmmmm.

I’m lietrally salivating as I type this, especially because I’m remembering The Walking Mushrooms version of mousakka and how good it is. This was one of the few things we ended up reordering, and you have to understand we like to try a lot of different things in this house so you have to be really good to get a repeat. Check out The Walking Mushroom’s Facebook or Instagram so you can taste for yourself!


Penafiel’s Birria Queso Pares

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I haven’t had tacos in quite a while and Penafiel’s is responsible in reigniting this dormant craving I have for them. For the record, I have some issues with the tortillas they use for their tacos, but that’s as far as my complaints go. They nailed all their fillings you see, staying true to their Fil-Mex concept rather well. But while all their tacos are delicious, it’s the Birria Queso Pares that stood out to me the most. The filling is delicious, but their pares broth is just something else! When you dip your birria into the broth, all the flavors become super amplified and just mouthwatering! The beef is tender, and the cheese just rounds everything up.

This would’ve been perfect if the tacos themselves were a little softer and less prone to breakage, but it’s a forgivable thing in the grand scheme of things. I highly recommend you give Peñafiel’s a try by hitting them up on their Instagram.


Hai Chi Jia’s Sichuan Sesame Dry Noodles 

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Say hello to my newest instant noodle addiction. I have been a fan of the Hai Chi Jia lineup of noodles for months now, but I have to say this one is probably the best of the lot. It comes as a surprise for me too, because I usually prefer noodle soups over dry noodles. But this was Sichuan Sesame Dry Noodles was too good. I still have a hard time believing this is instant! 

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From the quality of the noodles down to the flavor, I feel like if I was served these noodles in some restaurant I never would’ve guessed it was instant. The smokey sesame flavor is so pronounced and complements the peanut-y undertones of the sauce SO WELL, plus that kick of mala… SO GOOD. The sauce coats each strand of noodle with flavor, and you even get crunchy bits of vegetables in there. This Sichuan Sesame Dry Noodles is EVERYTHING. I buy this and other Hai Chi Jia products from Klass A Prestige on Instagram. They also sell other grocery and baking items like Guittard chocolates. (I recommend those too!)


BEST BREADS

Otter Breads

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I feel like I’ve been raving about Otter Breads for quite a while now, but I am a big fan of their product lineup so as long as they continue to make breads, I will continue to tell everyone how good they are lol. I had thought their classic sourdough and the succeeding chocolate version were already their best work, but then they go and make their Garlic Herb Butter Sourdough and suddenly I find myself with yet another favorite. 

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The thing I love about their sourdoughs is that they use a recipe that provides the dough with enough hydration that it never goes rock hard when it’s no longer hot. It’s obviously not going to be as crusty on the outside and soft on the inside as a freshly toasted slice, but while other sourdough breads literally turn into bricks, these stay relatively soft and chewy when cooled. Oh, and the flavors are DELIGHTFUL. I’m just sad that they’re all the way in Las Piñas. Go and order from Otter Breads now through their Instagram


Cakeaholic by Joanne

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When people were buying ube pandesal from the far reaches of the city for exorbitant prices, I was introduced to this ube pandesal seller located a stone’s throw away from my house. I was so pleased by this development I started ordering all sorts of stuff from her. To be fair, Cakeaholic by Joanne sells many other delicious things apart from ube pandesal, but I think some of her best bakes are her ube-based products. 

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Her Ube-Cheese Ensaymada is also an absolute delight. Super soft, super fluffy, with a spoonful of ube in the center, this was one of my absolute favorite things I ordered from her. This has become one of the things I always recommend when people ask me what they should order from Cakeaholic.

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Cakeaholic by Joanne‘s Cassave Cake is my third favorite thing I ordered from her. It’s almost melt in the mouth, with cheesy undertones and a light sweetness that makes you go for seconds and thirds. This actually inspired me to research how to make a cheesy cassava cake at home. You can order from Cakeaholic by Joanne through Facebook and Instagram. Make sure to check her baking schedule first for product availability!


Lilu’s Cheese Rolls

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When I tried this out for the first time, I was struck by how long it’s been since I last ate an honest-to-goodness cheese roll. I’ve had so many gimmicky baked goods lately I’d forgotten how good it feels to find an affordable classic. These cheese rolls are fabulously that. Soft and fluffy rather than airy and empty; plus it has a long stick of cheese in the center. (Not a matchstick, mind you.) It also has everyone’s favorite coating of butter/margarine and sugar on top to complete the experience. The best part? It’s just Php 150 for 8 pieces. My problem again is that it’s all the way in Las Piñas. WHY???! Check out Lilu’s Cheese Rolls on Facebook and Instagram!


BEST SWEETS

Geno’s Ice Cream Gabi-Keso-Pinpig

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When I first tried Geno’s Ice Cream from Bataan, I was really delighted by how good it was. The gabi-keso one remains my favorite flavor, followed by the langka-keso, but the more flavors we tried the more everything started to taste the same. I guess it’s because Geno’s uses the same ice cream base for all their flavors and just puts in different add-on’s or a bit of color to switch things up.

Nonetheless, I cannot deny Geno’s make some pretty addictive stuff. My only issue is that their huge boxy containers are difficult to store in the freezer. Totally worth it though if you find a reseller that doesn’t charge an outrageous price. You can buy this ice cream from Manila resellers close to you. Just do a Facebook search. Here is where we buy.

Gold Delight Cocoflan Ice Cream

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This brand came as a total surprise to me because I had no idea of its existence until this year, but Gold Delight’s ice creams are so good the brand has climbed its way up my favorites list and made a home there. What I love about this ice cream brand is that it’s cheap but the quality and the flavors are topnotch. My current favorite is their Cocoflan, which is a coconut based ice cream with leche flan. The combination is a pleasant surprise!

I also managed to try their Sans Rival Ice Cream, and their Coffee Crumble too. (I forgot to snap pics though.) Everything was delicious, not too sweet, and the flavors shine as they should. I was actually quite pleased with the coffee crumble. It’s shocking how many brands mess this flavor up despite it being fairly common. I am already thinking about what flavors to order next since my birthday is coming up. You can check out their complete ice cream lineup here, or message Ice Cream House PH on Facebook for orders.

22 Grams Patisserie’s Earl Grey Midnight Cake

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I did not buy many cakes this year, but I am certainly glad that this was one of them. Heck, this could have been the only cake I bought this year and I’d be perfectly happy! There’s something about this cake that feels so posh and high-end, but unlike many others, the price of this Midnight Cake is not one that will break the bank. At Php 895 for a 6 inch cake, it’s not cheap, and yet when you eat it you will appreciate how fairly it’s priced.

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Each layer is meticulously made and distinct, and yet the cake is perfect when eaten as a whole. You get deep chocolate flavor with a nice earl grey taste, and the magical thing that cuts down on any possible umay factor for this cake is that layer of lemon curd surprise. It’s gorgeous and expensive-tasting, well-made and simply something to savor.

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I ended up ordering a total of 4 of these cakes between November to December, one for me and the other three to gift people. Such is my confidence that this cake will please even the pickiest of palates. I cannot wait for what Chef Dave has in store for us this 2021! You can reach 22Grams Patisserie through their Facebook or Instagram page.

Soy Bueno’s Taho

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I used to spend my Sunday mornings jogging at the UP Oval for an hour or so, after which I would buy a cup of taho as an after-run treat. When the lockdown order was imposed in the city and Sundays were spent at home instead, I started to miss taho quite badly. Thankfully, taho purveyors began to pop up like daisies online. We tried several different sellers, but this was, hands down, the best one. We ended up reordering quite a few times.

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One of the things I appreciate most about Soy Bueno is that they start dispatching orders very early. And so if you schedule your delivery in the morning you can have your taho fresh and hot for breakfast! Order your taho and soy milk from Soy Bueno from their Instagram page.


Yolk Goodies Egg Tarts

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I never thought much about egg tarts until I tried these. I think it was the first time I realized adding a flavor combo could work with egg tarts without overpowering them. Yolk Goodies’ egg tarts are creamy, just sweet enough, and not eggy to the point they taste like scrambled eggs– perfect in my book, especially since they also have a super flaky crust. That crust is crunchy straight from the fridge, and lightly buttery as well.

A couple of more expensive and more well-known egg tart brands have tried to dethrone Yolk Goodies as my fave egg tarts of the year, but all of them failed interestingly enough. One of them was even made by a famous chef apparently. Goes to show one cannot underestimate home-based businesses. If you live near the Binondo area especially, check out Yolk Goodies. You can order through their Instagram!


Plentitude’s Rehoboth Chocolate

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Last but not least on this list is my favorite new chocolate bar discovery. At Php 215 for a 43-gram bar, it’s not the cheapest chocolate, but it’s certainly splurge-worthy. While the selection of Plentitude boasts smooth chocolate bars with distinct nuances per bar, the most unforgettable one for me is the 70% Rehoboth Estate Chocolate. It has a deliciously tart undertone that truly reminds me of green apple. I love it! I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a chocolate quite like it and I’d willingly buy it again when I feel like treating myself. You can view the complete lineup of Plentitude’s products via their website!


HONORABLE MENTION: NON-FOOD FAVORITES

Qwarto.Co’s Handmade Coaster

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My college friend Yza makes these coasters, and all her designs are pretty freaking amazing. I bought these some time ago but funnily enough they’re so pretty I don’t even want to use them looool. Don’t take my word for it though, her shop’s Instagram feed can do all the talking.

Victorinox Peeler

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This peeler saved me from a lot of grief this year as I did more cooking and more peeling.

Breville Precision Brewer

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These days, my daily companion for making coffee is this machine. I haven’t even used my V60 in months! You can see this machine in action in the video below, though I have a little blog post detailing my love for it.

Hario Mizudashi

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Satisfying my cold brew cravings since March. I caved and bought this while I was bored out of my mind during the lockdown and it might’ve saved me from going stir crazy as I began experimenting on flavored cold brews using it. I’ll share some of those experiments here soon-ish. 

‘Delicious World’ game

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This game is everything a food and cooking fanatic will love. (Speaking from my own experience lol.) It’s even better than Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant Dash, and the graphics are much prettier! You can even upgrade your dishes! Currently I am on Season 2, which is a ways away from the photo above. By the way, this game is FREE!

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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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