Tea lovers, get ready for Starbucks Teavana!

I am a coffee drinker in the morning but in the afternoon, when I want a hot drink and my body cannot tolerate caffeine after 12 noon, I go for very light tea. So, what a delight it was to be invited to a Starbucks event that was NOT about coffee but all about TEA!!!

Starting September 14, 2016, all Starbucks stores will be carrying the Teavana line of teas in hot and cold variants!

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An intimate lunch with Mega Creations Premium Sardines

My kids may be carnivores but when it comes to seafood, we are a heavy sardine-eating family. It is something that everyone looks forward to especially during breakfast and we take it in different ways – with pan de sal or with eggs and rice. So how could I say no when Mega Creations invited me to an intimate lunch with its owners and team to try its premium sardines product? Besides, it’s always a pleasure to return to Pio’s Kitchen, knowing how good Chef Chin’s specialty paella (regular and negra) is.

Four sardine variants
The four Mega Creations Premium Sardines

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Introducing…a rebranded My Starbucks Rewards, new Starbucks cards, and lots of promos!

The second half of 2015 is starting off with a lot of new and exciting stuff from Starbucks. Hold your breath because July 28, 2015 is when they introduce a whole range of new items – a rebranded My Starbucks Rewards program, 4 new Starbucks cards (including the second Pilipinas commemorative card, and a slew of promos that go with the launch.


Whew! Let’s get to them one at a time. Read all the way down to see all the promos waiting for you!

Continue reading “Introducing…a rebranded My Starbucks Rewards, new Starbucks cards, and lots of promos!”


Braun and Severin’s Afternoon Bites with Mommy Bloggers

When you get an invitation like this, you can be sure that the afternoon would be fun, fun, fun. And indeed it was! Mommy blogger friends took time off from family responsibilities to gather for some much needed ME time with our host, Colombo Merchants Philippines, exclusive distributors of the German brands Braun and Severin.

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Clara Ole will make sure everyone can cook!

In this day of dual-income households and fast-paced living, almost no one has the luxury of time to cook — unless your business is food or you are a chef by profession. The result? Fast food places are thriving as people drive through for one of those burgers, spaghetti or chicken pieces. Instant meals that are popped into the oven and served have also become popular. Not always healthy, mind you.

But what if you long also to have really tasty and healthier dishes that remind you of home-cooked meals? This is where Clara Ole comes in, with a wide range of pasta sauces, marinades, dips n’ dressings, vinaigrettes. And they even have syrups, jams and jellies as well to pair up with dessert items!

Continue reading “Clara Ole will make sure everyone can cook!”


Knorr’s “Sarap ng #LutongNanay” Movement brings easy cooking back to homes

My Mom was a hands-on, stay-at-home Mom who knew how to cook and bake, sew, draw, play the piano, embroider, amd do oh so many things. Now that she has passed on, I remember her for all the things that she did for us as kids. And one of the things I truly remember (and miss a lot) is her home-cooked dishes.

When I went off to grad school in the States, the one thing she made sure I had with me was a box of her recipes so that I would not go hungry. That was typical Mom.  Memories of Mom washed over me during the Knorr #LutongNanay event I attended recently because everything about the event reminded me of things she used to do for us as kids. I listened to celebrity Moms talk about how some of them only learned to cook when they got married but that they now draw pleasure from cooking for their families.

(L-R): Carmina Villaroel, Dimples Romano, Pia Guanio
(L-R): Danica Sotto, Delamar, Christine Jacob

World-renowned neuroscientist Dr. Stuart Firestein, PHD from Columbia University in New York confirmed that mom-cooked flavors actually activate memories because scents reach those parts of the brain that connect the familiar scents with past experiences with Mom. By leaving children with these wonderful flavor imprints in their brain, heart and soul, Moms leave wonderful memories up to their kids’ adulthood. Dr. Firestein says, “What continues to fascinate me is how the brain instinctively knows that certain flavors and foods have the power to mean more to us than just sustenance. This is called sensory recall and is a phenomenon which demonstrates how the brain is hard-wired to respond in certain ways to different tastes and smells. Even over time and distance, when we taste mom’s cooking, it transports us back to a special place and a unique memory”. So, so true…

Unfortunately, modern lifestyles have put pressure on young people. Compound that with the bane of Metro Manila traffic and you have single people, aged 23 to 27 roughly (and even older) who would rather go for fast food eating. As a result, many have admitted in a new research that they cannot cook.

Knorr’s #LutongNanay event was a way of showcasing so many ways to cook quick, uncomplicated dishes and we had a chance to experience just how quick it was! Here I am at Table No. 1 with Dimples Romano who shows us how to cook Tinola sa Gata.

Our cooking table with Dimples Romano

Tinola sa Gata ingredients. They are all readily available.

Here’s Dimples whipping up Tinola sa Gata on our side of the room. It only took her a few minutes to cook this.

Later, I went around the other 3 tables checking what the other celebrity Mom-bassadors were whipping up. Here are the other dishes:

Here’s how to make the Tinola sa Gata:

I’ve been using Knorr products for a long time so am so relieved they have a #LutongNanay section on their website where I can go and check out easy-to-whip-up recipes. You can do the same.

For more simple and delicious recipes from #LutongNanay, visit It’s not only the celebrity Moms’ recipes that are there but they’ve also posted recipes shared by other Moms. What a wonderful community!


1780 by SariSari: heritage Philippine products in one site

The sari-sari stores that we know have been a part of Philippine life for decades. It’s everywhere — those houses in our neighborhood that use whatever little frontage they have to sell canned goods, bread, chichirya (chips), softdrinks, cigarettes, and whatever else. We even have a sari-sari just two houses away from my home!

The physical sari-sari stores are what I call the earliest form of the 7-11 convenience stores. They are the run-to places when you find yourself craving for something to eat when stores are closed. Or the place you buy eggs from when you suddenly run out and it’s just not worth a trip to the grocery. Or even the saving grace when a holiday shuts down all stores and you need to buy a few things.

This was what SimpleSoft CEO Ernell DyLim had in mind when he named his online site, after our iconic Filipino one-stop-shop. DyLim realized that there are consumers looking for certain products and merchants selling these products but there was no central place where they could meet. And oftentimes, cost was a big factor for the merchants to bring their goods to market. Thus, his site was born out of this need.

But even as this online platform grew in popularity, DyLim felt that there were still areas where it could make a sizeable impact — small-time business enterprises and undiscovered gems around the country from microentrepreneurs. With this in mind, a new project was born — 1780 by SariSari.

1780 by SariSari is now a sub-portal within that showcases Philippine heritage products that have not yet broken into mainstream urban commercial areas. The sub-portal highlights the wide variety of regional delicacies and crafts from different regions and makes us realize just how much more creativity there can be in local ingredients and indigenous crafts.

Why 1780? 1780 refers to the 17 regions and 80 provinces of the Philippines combined in 1 website.

Beautiful closeup photos of the products make up a slideshow on the 1780 home page

Each product has a thumbnail with the price, a Buy button and links to its details

The product details have an interesting write-up on the entrepreneur & a short story on the product

At the launch of the 1780 sub-portal, I got to see for myself some of the products that can be bought via the site . Here are some.

A beautiful banig spread of products one can find at the 1780 by SariSari sub-portal

Fashionable Paniya clutches — made from buntal (palm tree) straw and acacia wood

Pili products like this Corioso and Hopia de Pili by Charito’s Delights are indeed a delight to eat

My first time to see… ketchup!!!

One-of-a-kind pieces from Josephine’s Jewelry use silver and gold metals
with jewels such as topaz, opal or even diamonds
Dark chocolate and spicy dark chocolate — made from cacao and sold by Kablon Farms

CT South Tropic now makes wine out of fruits: mangosteen, passion fruit,
durian, jackfruit, pineapple and dragon fruit, among others

Really beautiful and vibrant colors in these banigs made by the Badjaos of Zamboanga.
Some are so intricate that they take 1-3 months sometimes just for a single mat!

For me, what makes 1780 by SariSari a wonderful idea brought to life are these:

* It recognizes the creativity of the Pinoy microentrepreneur & inspires more such entrepreneurs to look around their own locale to see how they can use what they have to produce world-class products.

* It cuts out the problems and additional cost of middlemen and allows the entrepreneur to connect directly with consumers.

* For consumers, we get access to products that we ordinarily would not see yet in metro cities and which are often found in the local areas of each of the entrepreneurs

You can find 1780 by SariSari at the e-commerce site of Also check the Facebook page of 1780 at


Enjoy Starbucks Latte Mmm-oments (with a raffle!)

Before anything else, new seasonal lattes are here again! Hot or cold, these 2 lattes are sure to be enjoyable so I’m trying them next time I go to Starbucks.

French Vanilla Latte

The French Vanilla Latte is the first one I want to try because vanilla has always been a favorite flavor of mine. Just imagine the Espresso Roast complemented by steamed milk and creamy French Vanilla sauce with mild custard notes. The beverage is topped with whipped cream, vanilla bean specks and dark chocolate curls.

Dark Caramel Latte

The Dark Caramel Latte is espresso, steamed milk, and creamy dark caramel sauce topped with whipped cream and a custardy caramel flan drizzle.

And there’s more! How would you like a chance to win 30 days of Starbucks Mmm-oments?

How to join: Just purchase a pack of Starbucks VIA® Latte with your registered Starbucks Card and earn a chance to win a one month treat of your favorite handcrafted beverage. You have 3 flavor options:


  • The Starbucks VIA® Latte Raffle Promo will run from October 15 to 31, 2014
  • To join the promo, customers must purchase any 4-pack Starbucks VIA® Latte using a registered Starbucks Card within the promo period
  • Every valid purchase of a 4-pack Starbucks VIA® Latte will automatically earn one (1) raffle entry. 
  • There is no limit to the number of raffle entries a customer can earn. 
  • There will be ten (10) winners in the raffle draw. Each winner will receive thirty (30) Tall beverage coupons applicable on any handcrafted beverage. 
  • Customers can only win once in the raffle draw. 
  • The raffle draw will be done electronically through a random generator program. The raffle draw will be held on November 3, 2014 in the Rustan Coffee Corporation’s Head Office in Makati City at 5pm. 
  • The winners will be notified through registered mail declaring him/her as a winner. Name of winners will be announced in the Starbucks Philippine Facebook fanpage at
  • All employees of Rustan Coffee Corporation and Rustan Group of Companies including their relatives up to second degree of consanguinity or affinity are disqualified from joining the promotion.

How winners claim prize:

Mega-Manila winners

Winners must visit Rustan Coffee Corporation (G/F Urban Bldg. 405 Sen.Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City) and look for Ms. Jamie Silva to claim their prize.

Provincial winners

Prizes of provincial winners will be sent through courier.

Important reminders for claiming

  • To claim the prize, the winner must present a valid ID and the verification letter. Claiming period is within 60 days from receipt of registered notice. 
  • Unclaimed Tall beverage coupons after the claiming period will be forfeited. 
  • Redemption period of Tall beverage coupon is valid in all Starbucks stores nationwide from November 4, 2014 to December 31, 2015. 

Per DTI-FTEB SPD Permit #3224, Series of 2014.


Starbucks Reserve Coffee – my unique coffee experience

It’s not every day that I get to be treated to coffee tasting of a premier kind. I was very lucky to have been invited to this special coffee-tasting experience at one of the existing two Starbucks Reserve branches in the Metro.
At a blogger gathering at the Tomas Morato Starbucks Reserve store, we listened to the Starbucks team, headed by Keith Cole, tell us about these rare coffee beans.

In the Philippines, there are only 4 Starbucks Reserve blends and the coffee beans are extremely rare, limited, and hand-picked for the Reserve brand specifically for their distinctive flavors as well as unusual locales around the world.
Lucky us….we got to try each one of these four rare coffee blends together with special food items that can be found only at the Starbucks Reserve stores and go very well with each cup of Reserve coffee.

The Coffee Masters

Walk into a Starbucks Reserve store, order a cup of Reserve coffee and you’ll notice that the barista who will prepare it wears a black apron, unlike the other baristas who don green aprons. They are Starbucks’ Coffee Masters. Not all baristas of Starbucks are Coffee Masters. In order to carry the Coffee Master title and wear the black apron, I learned that they had to undergo special training and had to master knowledge of ALL things coffee — their history, types of beans, locations, varieties, taste, preparation, etc. Whew!

In order to get the most sensory experience from the Reserve blends, the Coffee Masters prepare each cup carefully only upon order. I watched them first place a #2 coffee filter on top of a ceramic brewer and mug set. The beans are ground only when about to be used so that they are fresh all the time. Even before pouring in the ground beans, the Coffee Master preps the filter by pouring hot water over it. I suppose it’s a good way to bring out the initial aroma of the coffee beans as these touch the hot, wet filter. Once the filter is wet, coffee beans good enough to make one cup of coffee are poured into the filter and once again, hot water is poured on the ground beans, allowing the liquid coffee to run down a tiny hole in the brewer and into the ceramic mug.

Here’s a quick tour of the 4 different Reserve blends and food items so you’d have some idea.

First, the Reserve Coffees

Globally, there are different Starbucks Reserve coffee blends but four of these were specifically chosen for the Philippine coffee lovers.

Starbucks Reserve Sumatra Blue Batak

My first sample came from Sumatra’s prized coffee-growing region on the southern shores of Lake Toba. This region is about 3,900-5200 feet high. The variety that the Batak tribe grow there is smooth and earthy with sweet herbal notes, a full body and low acidity. Tasting this one gives you a hint of cacao or dark chocolate.

Starbucks Reserve Zambia Peaberry Terranova Estate

The beans were grown on the rich soil of the Terranova Estate 4,000 feet above the sea. This medium‐bodied coffee with notes of apple and vanilla consists of smaller, handpicked peaberry beans, which are roasted to provide a medium body and acidity that pairs well with citrus, apples, and chocolate. For me, the Zambia Reserve coffee blend was the mildest of all the four blends so if you are looking for great coffee that is not too strong, this is it.

And…better try the Zambia blend soon. I also found out that it will be available for a very limited time only since the beans are now in limited supply. No worries though because another Reserve blend will be taking its place when that happens.

Starbucks Reserve Finca Nuevo Mexico

High in Mexico’s Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range sits the El Triunfo Biosphere and Finca Nuevo Mexico family‐owned farm. While much of the lush area is a refuge for rare wildlife, the remaining area produces a bright, complex, uniquely flavored coffee bean.

Of the four blends, I found this blend to be the most acidic. There is a citric taste to it with a hint of the sweetness of brown sugar.

Starbucks Reserve Sun-Dried Ethiopia Yirgacheffe

The district of Yirgacheffe is located 6,000 feet above sea level, a perfect mix of sun, air and soil. We were told that coffee beans here were placed in between berries. No wonder when we tasted the coffee, there was indeed a hint of berries in it. This is my favorite of the four!!!

The Starbucks Reserve coffee blends are not only available within the Reserve stores. They are sold in packs so you can continue to enjoy the coffee experience of these rare coffee beans in the comfort of your own home if you have a coffee press.

What is Reserve Coffee without matching Reserve Food?

To pair off Starbucks Reserve coffee blends with equally great food, Starbucks created six (6) Reserve Exclusive Food to go with the four Reserve Coffee blends.

1. Carrot Muffin – Muffin loaded with carrots, walnuts, and crushed pineapples and topped with cream cheese.

2. Double Chocolate Muffin – Muffin with creamy chocolate truffle and topped with chocolate chunks

3. Granola Cheese Muffin – a muffin packed with crunchy granola and cream cheese filling

4. Blueberry Scone – a light, buttery and moist scone loaded with blueberries

5. Apple Cinnamon Scone – a delicious, moist and buttery scone packed with cinnamon apples

6. Black Pepper and Cheese Scone – a sweet and savory moist scone flavored with cheese and pepper to give it a spice touch.

Just my two cents: The scones are very dense and filling. Order them if you want something that will make you feel very full. Otherwise, if you want something light only, go for the muffins.

There are currently two Starbucks Reserve stores:
* Starbucks Reserve Tomas Morato
* Starbucks Reserve 8 Forbes Town

And more Starbucks Reserve stores are coming soon:
* Starbucks Reserve Keyland Centre
* Starbucks Reserve Central Square
* Starbucks Reserve Signa


Barista for a Night with Starbucks Refreshers…and more

What happens when a blogger is turned into a barista for one night?

She is given a Starbucks cap, an apron and her very own barista badge, that’s what!

And that’s exactly what I got one Starbucks-y night when we were introduced to the latest Starbucks Refreshers as well as to eight (8) new food offerings.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin with the beverages.

Starbucks Refreshers

Starbucks is bringing in a new form of beverages. One is called Very Berry Hibiscus Starbucks Refreshers while the other is Cool Lime Starbucks Refreshers.

Very Berry Hibiscus Starbucks Refreshers Beverage
(Tall-PhP115, Grande-PhP125, Venti-PhP135)

Cool Lime Starbucks Refreshers Beverage
(Tall-PhP115, Grande-PhP125, Venti-PhP135)

At first, I thought: Oh they’re introducing juices now in the coffeeshop? But as it turns out, the Starbucks Refreshers are different from the juices in other cafes because this one is still made of COFFEE! You read that right.

Here’s how it’s done.

Green coffee beans

All coffee starts as a coffee cherry with a green coffee bean in the center. These beans are normally roasted to bring out the bold and distinctive coffee flavors. But in the case of Starbucks Refreshers, the caffeine natural found in 100% UNROASTED arabica coffee beans is extracted and made into a flavored beverage base that becomes the foundation of the Starbucks Refreshers

Flavored Beverage Base

And for the first time in Starbucks beverages, REAL FRUIT is combined. In the case of the Very Berry Hibiscus Refreshers Beverage, whole blackberries are added while in Cool Lime Refreshers it is, of course, lime!

Instead of serving the beverages directly to us, the Starbucks team decided to make us baristas for a night and actually taught us how to prepare the Refreshers. Armed with my own Starbucks cap, pink apron (my favorite color!), and my very own barista badge, I was ready to make my own Cool Lime!

Take a measured portion of the lime flavored beverage base
Add a slice of fresh lime and some ice. Cover the tumbler. Then shake, shake, shake…

And voila! I made my own Cool Lime Refresher!

Refreshment Tumbler Promo

Here’s a way to get a complimentary Tall Starbucks Refreshers Beverage. Just purchase one of the 16-oz customizable Cold Cup Tumblers (with a flat lid and dome lid) and you get the beverage free. This promo is good till September 10, 2012 only.

New Starbucks Hot Lunch Sandwiches
Starbucks regularly puts out new food items. In fact, they just had a new batch of items a few months back. Sorry folks, those items are gone but there are now new ones that could become your favorites too. Here they are:

Starbucks Deli on French Bread (PhP 160)

A returning favorite, Starbucks Deli on French Bread consists of square ham, florentiner, mortadella, chicken ham, lyoner, meatloaf, beef pastrami, beef salami and emmenthal garnished with mustard, mayo, pickles and chopped onions all inside a soft French bread.

Falafel on Pita Bread (PhP 150)

Falafel on Pita Bread is a Middle Eastern staple street food. Inside the soft, chewy pita bread are crispy falafel patties, grilled sliced eggplant with hummus and yogurt sauce drizzled over it. Vegetarians, this is for you!

Creamy Egg Salad on Whole Wheat Granny Loaf (PhP 150)

I love creamy egg salad in itself or as a sandwich. In this version of Creamy Egg Salad on Whole Wheat Granny Loaf, bits of cheddar cheese, lettuce, dill and a bit of creamy cheese sauce are mixed together to produce this egg salad. Packed between whole-wheat bread, it makes for a very filling (and healthy) meal.

Classic Tuna Dill on Ciabatta Bread (PhP 160)
(Available in limited areas only)

The Classic Tuna Dill on Ciabatta Bread is only available in certain places: Baguio, Boracay, Bacolod, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo and Naga. Inside the crusty Ciabatta Bread are tuna chunks mixed with chopped celery and carrots with tangy and sweet honey mustard dressing with a slight hint of dill. These are topped with hard-boiled eggs, slices of cheddar and emmenthal cheese. Too bad this is not available in Metro Manila!

Classic Tuna Dill Melt (PhP 160)
(NOT AVAILABLE in certain areas)

This is the alternative to those in areas where the classic Tuna Dill on Ciabatta Bread is not available. The Classic Tuna Dill Melt is the classic tuna dill salad with slices of hardboiled egg and creamy melted cheese on rye bread, topped with melted mozzarella cheese with a dash of Spanish paprika.

It’s Just Cheese! (PhP 155)
There are people who love cheese so much so here it is. It’s Just Cheese! is just that. All cheese. But it’s not just plain cheddar cheese. This grilled cheese sandwich is a mix of 9 kinds of cheeses: Gruyere, Emmenthal, Feta, Provolone, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Edam, Gouda and Monterey Jack. How much cheesier can a grilled cheese sandwich get?
Roasted Chicken Pesto and Shiitake Mushroom on Flat Bread (PhP 155)

The grilled flat bread looked like huge pieces of thick crackers (not good for me because I cannot bite down on hard crackers with my front teeth). So I am not sure if I prefer to eat it this way as it seems very crumbly to eat. I actually prefer soft bread or tortillas. But taste-wise, the combination of chicken breast fillet tossed with pesto mayo sauce plus the Shiitake mushroom topped with melted Emmenthal and cheddar cheese was just yummy. When you order this, have them serve it up warm.

Zesty Chicken with Bacon Caesar Dressing on Focaccia Bread (PhP 160)

Softly crisped focacia bread becomes the sandwich ends of the Zesty Chicken with Bacon Caesar Dressing on Focaccia Bread. Chicken breast fillet drizzled with a bacon caesar salad dressing and topped with parmesan cheese that has been shaved is what this is all about.

All these lunch sandwiches have been available since July 31.
Starbucks Food Items (Limited Period)
Also available since July 31 but only for a limited period of time are the following:
Rocky Road Cake (PhP 140/slice; PhP 1,495 whole)
It’s not an ice cream. It’s a cake! Rocky Road Cake still maintains that decadent chocolate flavor but this time, the chocolate pudding studded with roasted walnuts, soft marshmallows and chocolate chunks covered in dark chocolate ganache are found in between layers of sponge cakes. The final touch is marshmallows and walnuts on top, drizzled with chocolate. Personally, I prefer this cake version over the ice cream version.

Mocha Silvana (PhP 95)

If you’re a Silvana lover, Mocha Silvana delivers. I always had smaller portioned silvanas so seeing how huge this one was really blew me away. It’s got a mocha buttercream icing sandwiched between two crunchy and chewy meringue cookies. There’s a generous sprinkling of crushed roasted almonds and dark chocolate bits on top to completely cover the silvana. This yummy dessert is so large that for some like me, it’s “to-share”!

Wild Mushroom and Emmenthal Cheese on French Butter Croissant (PhP 120)

Vegetarians, heads-up once more because this is for you. And for anyone looking for something healthy. Wild Mushroom and Emmenthal Cheese on French Butter Croissant combines the meaty, flavorful texture of button, shiitake and portabello mushrooms on a layer of melted emmenthal cheese inside a soft, flaky butter croissant. This is going to be my croissant of choice when I go to Starbucks!

Seafood Po’ Boy Wrap (PhP 160)

Taken from a New Orleans favorite, Seafood Po’ Boy Wrap is fried fish and shrimps and sauteed vegetables drizzled with Cajun sauce and sprinkled with mozzarella cheese, then wrapped in a tortilla. Tortilla wraps have come a long way from just Mexican innards, I think, with this one.