ON October 29, 2017, the Diamond Ballroom of Diamond Hotel Philippines transforms into Count Dracula’s lavishly luxurious lair in the animated movie Hotel Transylvania, where monsters of all kinds go to get away from it all and party the night away. Discover the world of Frankenstein, Werewolves and the whole spooky bunch over games and treats from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Held in partnership with Magnavision Inc., the frightfully fun Halloween adventure for kids is full of exciting activities, such as Trick or Treat around the hotel, Face Painting, Glitter Tattoo, and Arts and Crafts. Get your pictures taken at the Photo Booth. Sing and dance along with the live musical performances. Indulge in a gastronomic experience at the Food Booths.
Kids in their most creative costumes get a chance to win thrilling prizes. Everyone also has a chance to win a Nintendo Switch with Joy-Con in the Grand Raffle Draw.
Ticket to the Halloween event is at Php1,000 nett per person, and it already includes a snack box filled with yummy goodness and a party loot bag. Diamond Indulgence Card members get a Php100 discount for a maximum of four tickets purchased.
What’s more: Should you decide to stay at the hotel and stay overnight, Diamond Hotel Philippines offers the Halloween Room Package, which is an overnight stay in a Deluxe Room at Php6,000 nett per night from October 27 to November 3, 2017, The package includes a free ticket to the Halloween event (per stay basis), buffet breakfast for two at the Corniche restaurant, unlimited Wifi Internet access, and 20% off on massage and laundry. Stay for two nights and the special rate of Php5,800 nett per night applies. Use rate code HIDEAWAY to book your stay at diamondhotel.com.
For event ticket inquiries, call (632) 528-3000 extension 8461, and for room reservations, call (632) 528-3000 extension 1140 to 43.
(Diamond Hotel Philippines is located at Roxas Blvd. corner Dr. J. Quintos St., Manila; with telephone number (632) 528-3000.)
Chocolate-dipped Potato Fries with Pistachio (Photo by Rafael R. Zulueta)
I LOVE potatoes. They are a healthy alternative to rice because potatoes are complex carbohydrates, which means that they supply plenty of pure energy that can help sustain power the whole day no matter how many hours you need to work or how challenging the day may turn out to be. Being complex carbohydrates, they are absorbed more efficiently by the body and burned throughout the day.
Potatoes are also loaded with Potassium (which helps keep blood pressure in check and keeps the body properly hydrated), Vitamin C (an antioxidant that keeps harmful free radicals away and helps the body maintain a strong immune system), Vitamin B6 (a water-soluble vitamin that aids in carbohydrate and protein metabolism), and Fiber (which helps improve blood lipid levels, regulate blood glucose, lower blood cholesterol and keep the body feeling full longer), as well as other vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
What’s more: Potatoes contain no cholesterol or saturated fat, no sodium, and contain only 110 calories, so they are good not just for the heart and proper diet but for overall health.
I feel guilt-free and assured that I am doing my body a lot of good when I eat potatoes. These amazing spuds are also a great gastronomic treat because of their versatile flavor and texture.
Mashed potatoes are my favorite because they can take on a lot of different flavors, such as truffle, wasabi, roasted garlic, bacon and cheese. While they are good when cooked to a smooth and very fine texture, I like my mashed potatoes quite chunky, with bits of still whole potatoes mixed into the mash. I used to make mashed potatoes from scratch using fresh potatoes, but in recent years I have discovered dehydrated potatoes from the United States and realized how much easier it is to use US Dehydrated Potato Flakes in making mashed potatoes than making them using fresh potatoes. It’s true, there are mashed potato mixes available in supermarkets, but US Dehydrated Potato Flakes are different because they are made from real, top-quality US Potatoes that have been dried into different textures of flakes, shreds and powder to address different culinary needs. The natural flavors have been sealed or locked in, and, when rehydrated by soaking in water, they go back to their natural state and double in volume.
My other favorite potato product is fries. I like them fried to a golden crisp, not soggy, and the only fries that are able to achieve this are US Frozen Potatoes. Yes, frozen fries—fried in hot oil straight from the freezer so that they turn out crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is difficult to get this kind of texture from fresh potatoes. US Frozen Potatoes also offer quite a number of different cuts, such as straight cut fries, crinkle cuts, twisters, criss-cuts or basket weaves, half shells, tater tots, smileys, and hash-browns. While I have experimented with different cuts of US Frozen Potatoes as a blogger (www.flavorsoflife.com.ph), my favorite cut is the straight cut fries because they have universal appeal and are versatile. They are good with different dips and flavors, and pair up nicely with rice meals, pasta, sandwiches and desserts.
US Frozen Potato straight-cut fries also happen to be the easiest to buy from the supermarket. While twister fries, crinkle cuts and half shells may sometimes be difficult to find, straight-cut fries are always available. They are plentiful in the refrigerated section of top supermarkets such as SM Supermarket, Rustan’s, Robinsons, Cherry Foodarama, and S&R. They come in different brands and in different sizes, so it is convenient to pick up a bag that suits your purpose.
I recently got a 450-gram bag of US Frozen Potato straight-cut fries at SM Hypermarket Cainta, which is near our house. I went straight to the refrigerated section of the supermarket, picked up a bag, brought it to the check-out counter to pay for it, and rode a tricycle back home. It was that easy.
US Frozen Potato straight-cut fries in their frozen state
Straight from the freezer, fry the US Frozen Potato fries in hot oil until golden brown
Drain the cooked fries off excess oil on a strainer lined underneath with paper towel
Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler–in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of hot water
Dip the fries in melted chocolate then coat with chopped pistachio nuts
I have done different things with US Potato straight cut fries, but always with savory ingredients. This time, though, I thought of coming up with a sweet treat using fries as main ingredient. Impossible? No, not really, because my kitchen test turned out well. I fried the US Frozen Potato straight-cut fries I recently bought to a golden crisp and sprinkled salt on them, then I melted dark chocolate (milk chocolate or white chocolate are also OK, dipped the cooked fries in the melted chocolate halfway, and coated part of the chocolate-dipped side with chopped pistachio nuts. It was a medley of flavors and textures, with the saltiness of the fries interacting with the bitter-sweet dominance of the dark chocolate dip and the crunch of the chopped pistachios.
This is a sweet treat that can be served in two different ways—with the fries served separately from the chocolate dip and the chopped nuts in another condiments bowl; or with the fries already dipped in chocolate and coated with chopped nuts. And if you prefer milk chocolate or white chocolate, go ahead and replace the dark chocolate with your preferred chocolate variant. Just follow the same procedure.
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED US POTATO FRIES WITH PISTACHIO NUTS
1 bag US Frozen Potato straight cut fries
vegetable oil for deep-frying
salt to taste
250 grams dark chocolate bar, roughly chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts
1. Heat oil in saucepan. When oil is already hot, drop in US Frozen Potato straight cut fries in batches and cook to a golden crisp.
2. Remove fries from the oil and drain off excess oil on paper towel or strainer.
3. Sprinkle fries with salt to taste. Set aside.
4. Melt roughly chopped dark chocolate in a double boiler (*chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a small saucepan filled halfway with hot or boiling water). Mix constantly with rubber spatula until chocolate is completely melted. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the melted chocolate to cool down a bit.
5. Dip crispy fries halfway in melted dark chocolate. Then dip the tip of the chocolate-coated fries in chopped pistachio nuts. Allow to set, then serve.
(For more information on US Potatoes, visit the Potatoes USA Philippines Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PotatoesUSAPhilippines/).
Vitasoy soya milk in Coffee, Original and Chocolate flavors
A VERY interesting package arrived in the house recently. It came in the form of a brown, cardboard, handbag-type package that simply said ‘Vitasoy: The Soy Experts’ on one side and scribble-font ‘Real Good Surprise Inside’ on the other side.
I took off the round sticker that held the ‘bag handles’ together, and the package revealed three 330ml. plastic bottles of Vitasoy soya milk—in Original, Chocolate and Coffee flavors—to announce that, from Hong Kong, China, Australia and New Zealand, Vitasoy has arrived in the Philippines.
Yes, Vitasoy in the 330ml. plastic bottle form now comes in these three classic flavors. Made with non-GMO (genetically modified organism) soybeans and only the finest ingredients to create a delicious and nutritious soya milk blend, Vitasoy is backed by over 75 years of experience in providing consumers with the best soya milk and is guided by the three pillars of taste, nutrition and sustainability. All three variants—Original, Chocolate and Coffee—are low in saturated fat, lactose-free, cholesterol-free and packed with protein.
The popular soya milk brand also comes in Vitasoy 1L Plus form, in Original and Oat flavors. Vitasoy 1L Plus is high in Calcium and Vitamin D, so it is a very nutritious drink.
WASABI, which is Japanese horseradish, is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine. The stem of the plant is used in paste form to add flavor and a spicy kick to sashimi, sushi, maki, temaki and other Japanese rolls. It is rubbed on to sushi rice that has already been pressed onto nori (seaweed) strips and then rolled with other ingredients, such as crabstick, shrimp or tuna. For more kick, a small amount of wasabi paste is mixed into Kikkoman sauce, and each piece of sushi or sashimi is lightly dipped into the mixture and then popped into the mouth.
That is the traditional use for wasabi. These days, however, wasabi has become a favorite flavor for such interesting bites as popcorn and potato chips, and it is mixed into mayonnaise to make a nice wasabi mayonnaise dressing for salad or sauce for main entrées. Hip and innovative chef Gene Gonzalez of Café Ysabel and the Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS) even came up with Wasabi Ice Cream and served it in one of the events that took place in the restaurant several years before ‘revolutionary’ flavors of ice cream were introduced by other restaurants and hotels.
I like wasabi, and I like trying out food products that have wasabi in them. One of my newest ‘discoveries’ is Tats Peanut Crunch Shrimp Wasabi flavor. I found it on the shelves of SM Hypermarket when I was looking for healthy munchies in the nuts section of the supermarket. The 80-gram pack is quite attractive, as it bears a cartoon character face while other brands of nut snacks look so serious and show photos of nuts on the label. Well, this one changes color depending on what flavor it is. Shrimp Wasabi is apple green in color and, being a Green Archer, green happens to be my favorite color.
Tats Peanut Crunch is like the traditional cracker nuts, which means roasted peanuts wrapped in a crunchy coating made with a combination of cake flour, modified starch and glucose syrup. It is manufactured by TMI Food Processing & Development Inc., a snack food manufacturing company established in 2000 and has Tobi as its mother company.
Distributed by Not Just Nuts Inc. (NJN), Tats Peanut Crunch comes in four flavors—Shrimp Wasabi, Garlic Fried Chicken, Garlic Chili, and BBQ with Black Pepper. I have not tried the other flavors, because Shrimp Wasabi happens to have the most attractive packaging, although the others also have the same playful cartoon character face on the label but in a different color. Shrimp Wasabi was the flavor I picked the first time I saw it, and it did not disappoint. I like the powdery green wasabi layer on the cracker nut coating. When you bite into each nut, it is just like a crunchy cracker nut but with a spicy kick that titillates the tongue and palate. Once you start, you will find it difficult to stop until the whole 80-gram packaging is empty.
The other flavors may be good, too, but my vote goes to Shrimp Wasabi.
SINANGLAY is a Bicolano dish that has fish wrapped in pechay or gabi leaves and cooked in coconut milk with minced onion and ginger, diced tomatoes and chopped shrimps. It is a very flavorful dish which I recently ‘discovered’ when I was searching for new ways to cook fish for my husband Raff. He had a stroke last year and is in the process of recovery, and since I personally take care of his needs, I am also the one who cooks and prepares his meals, so everything has to be delicious but healthy and nutritious at the same time. This is why I keep searching for new recipes to try. I google, flip the pages of cookbooks and food magazines, ask my elder sisters and my chef-friends and do my own experiments in the kitchen.
The sinanglay happens to be one of my best recipe finds. I first tried it with hasa-hasa and it turned out to be so good I decided to try doing the sauce with lightly grilled tanigue steak. It works! Perhaps if I wrap the tanigue steak with pechay and then cook it in the sauce like regular hasa-hasa, it would also work. That will have to wait till the next time because I prefer grilling fish on a cooktop grill pan, as grilling gives the fish a lightly smoky flavor that makes the fish even more delectable.
This is the recipe. Let me know how it turns out when you try it in your own kitchen.
For the tanigue steak:
2 pcs. tanigue steak slices
2-3 pcs. calamansi, juiced and seeds removed
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
extra olive oil for grilling
1. Season tanigue steaks with calamansi juice, salt, pepper, garlic and 1 Tbsp. olive oil.
2. Brush cooktop grill pan with olive oil, heat up, then grill fish steaks. Position tanigue fillet at an angle, grill for 5 minutes, then turn to the other angle to form diamond-shaped grill marks. Cook for another 3 minutes. Flip fish over and do the same to effect diamond-shaped grill marks.
3. Arrange on a plate, and spoon sinanglay sauce generously over the fish steaks.
For the sinanglay sauce:
1-2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
3-4 slices ginger, peeled and minced
1 pc. small red onion, minced
3 pcs. native tomatoes, deseeded and diced
1/3 cup peeled and chopped shrimps
1-1/2 cups coconut milk
1 tsp. ground turmeric
salt, pepper and patis (fish sauce) to taste
liquid seasoning to taste
1. Heat oil in pan. Sauté ginger, onion, tomatoes and shrimps until cooked.
2. Mix ground turmeric into the coconut milk. Pour into the sautéed mixture.
3. Season with salt, pepper and fish sauce. Sprinkle with a little liquid seasoning.
4. Let boil, then lower flame to a simmer.
5. Ladle or spoon sauce over the fish steaks and serve with hot, freshly cooked rice.