All About Cronuts

I jumped on the bandwagon. Who will not? Besides, its all about sweets!

Cronuts, as described by many as the hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut, took the pastry world by storm and spread like a virus after it was first released last May 2013. It was said to be invented in New York City by Dominique Ansel and people were falling in long queues for this unique pastry. Surprisingly, Manila was able to catch up with the craze so fast that versions of the pastry popped up like mushrooms.

Reports say that there were already about 12 bakeries here in Manila who made their own versions of the Crounts and as of the moment, I only tried two of them.

Wildflour Cafe + Bakery

They say Wildflour Bakery were the first ones to bring the Cronuts here in Manila. I remember calling them one morning to reserve (yes, you have to call them for a reservation) a dozen Cronuts and was told that they will only hold it up to 20 minutes or else, they will give it to the walk-in customer in their store in The Fort. I went to the office hours earlier than my shift just to make sure my Cronuts will not go anywhere but my mouth.

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Well, their Cronuts come in five flavors; Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, Sugar raised, Dulce de leche, Mixed Berry, Hazelnut. They are P125.00 per piece. It’s big and tall. Sugar coating adds more texture and sweetness making it too sweet for my taste. They were also too crispy (I’m not sure why) meaning the pastry was a bit overcooked. But I really liked the Chocolate since it tasted like dark chocolate which is bitter. I like their packaging of simple white box. It’s very classy. Wildflour has two branches, The Fort and in Podium. You have to call to reserve and then pick up.

Wildflour Cafe + Bakery. G/F Net Lima Bldg, 4th Ave corner 26th St Fort Bonifacio, Taguig. +63.2.856.7600. Monday to Saturday – 9:00AM to 10:00PM. Sunday – 8:00AM to 4:00PM

Dolce Latte Café and Gourmet Bakeshop

I have to ask my office mate to get me some of Dolce Latte’s Cronuts since its way to far from where I am.

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The best thing about their Cronuts is that they offer the widest range of flavors: Valhrona Crunch, Custard Cream Cheese, Peanut Butter Crisp, Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry Cream Cheese, Almond Caramel, Raspberry Cream Cheese, Nutty Nutella and Lemon Meringue. I’ll give it to them for making a variety of flavors and including cream cheese on the menu. They are P110.00 per piece. They’re kind of smaller that Wildflour’s, but I really like its flakiness and delicateness. It was cooked just right with the right amount of sweetness and sourness (because of the cream cheese). My favorite was the Blueberry Cream Cheese since it was sweet and tangy at the same time. Packaging is quite similar with Wildflour only they accented it with a ribbon. They only have one branch in Quezon City and you also have to call in to reserve a day before you pick it up.

Dolce Latte Café and Gourmet Bakeshop. 1616 Quezon Avenue, South Triangle, Quezon City. +63.2.332.3407. Monday to Friday – 9:00AM to 10:00PM. Saturday and Sunday – 10:30AM to 8:00PM

So for now, if I have to choose between the two, I’ll go with Dolce Latte for coming up with a wide variety of flavor choices, it being not too sweet, and for cooking them just right. I read that Chatime (P55.00 each), Dunkin’ Donuts (P75.00 each), Le Coeur de France (P89.00 each), Café Jeepney (P130.00 each) and Country Style Donuts (P60.00 each) came up with their own versions of the Cronuts but I haven’t tried them yet. I’ll update this entry once tasted.

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Caritas Manila: Donating Made Easy

Helping and sharing doesn’t always have to come from your wallet, you see, it can also come straight from your closet.

One fine afternoon while surfing the web, I found Caritas Manila’s Segunda Mana site. Basically, what they do is they sell pre-loved items but what makes it different from second-hand outlets is that the items at Segunda Mana are donated and the proceeds are used to fund Caritas’ education, health, disaster management, and prison projects. It’s like Goodwill Stores in the US which I also had the chance to visit. When we dropped off some of my mom’s stuff, they even gave us shopping discount certificates in return. (See photo below)

20130902-015359.jpg So I was so thrilled to know that we already have this here in the Philippines too because finally, even if I cannot donate money, I can help by giving them my old stuff. They were still good stuff, most of them just don’t fit me anymore. So I scoured my closet and put everything in a bag, shirts, pants, shorts, a pair of shoes, a bag, etc. All ready to go.

20130902-015515.jpg Another great thing about Segunda Mana is that you don’t have to bring the stuff to them yourself. They can actually pick it up from your doorsteps! You just have to call their number and schedule a pick up. They will contact you back once the truck is on its way.

20130902-015629.jpg That weekend, their truck arrived. Personnel was very courteous and accepted my donations without hesitation. I was expecting a pick up charge but there was none. I cannot count the number of “thank you’s” that they gave me for the small amount of stuff that I asked them to pick up. It really felt good.

20130902-015719.jpg So if you have a lot of pre-love items taking so much space in your homes, go give them to Caritas Manila. I’m now building my second batch of boxes and also asked my family donate theirs. Its really true that in our own little way and a couple of minutes in our daily lives, we can help the less fortunate.

Caritas Manila Segunda Mana
Address: Caritas Manila INC., 2002 Jesus Street, Pandacan, Manila, Philippines
Telephone: (632) 564-0205; 562-0020 to 25
Fax: (632) 563-93-06; (632) 564-6678
Email: cm@caritasmanila.org.ph ; segundamana@caritasmanila.org.ph

Staying in Seoul: Namsan Guesthouse

A few people were asking where did we stay in Seoul for our 10-day vacation so I’ll tell you now.

We stayed at Namsan Guesthouse. I wanna thank Google for helping me out on this.

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Namsan Guesthouse has 3 locations but they are in the same area. Namsan Guesthouse 1 is located a bit further up the hill. Namsan Guesthouse 2 and Namsan Guesthouse 3 which is their newest building. We stayed at Namsan 1. Upon check in, I saw walls of soft-cork board decorated with pictures and notes left by the guests. A lot of satisfied customers indeed.

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Location
The place is located near subway exit 3, Myeongdong Station a few minutes away from Myeongdong which is the shopping mecca of Seoul. Its on a hill so we kinda had to hike the hill to reach the guesthouse (its a good exercise though). It was also near the Namsan Cable Car station, which will bring you to the N Seoul Tower.

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Booking and Rates

Getting a room is very easy. Just go to their website, fill out the reservation form, and send it to them. They are very prompt in emailing you back with the confirmation. Once you have a confirmation number, they will advise you that you need to re-confirm your booking a month before your scheduled check-in. You will pay them upon check-in. yes, no down payment.

Since we just need a room for two, we booked their Double Room for 45,000 KRW roughly PHP 1,700 per night. Upon check in, they will give you the keys to your room and you just need to return it to them upon check-out.

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Room

Basically the room size is just nice for 2 people. Its clean, simple, with air-conditioner, refrigerator,, cable TV, and Ondol System which is the Korean Floor Heating System. The toilet and bath is clean too with all the basics provided like towel, hair dryer, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper. It has its own bath tub too by the way.
Amenities

Seoul has the fastest Internet connection so expect that they have free internet (with two desktops for guests to use) in the common room. You can also enjoy their fast WiFi inside your room.

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They also provide free breakfast of toast, strawberry jam, peanut jam and butter. They also have spicy cup noodles, oatmeal, green tea, coffee, sugar and cream. Just enough to jump start your day.

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Missing home would not be a problem because you can call them anytime with their Skype Internet Phone.

They also have an open kitchen where you can cook. Also a washing area with two large automatic washing machines so can do your own laundry especially if you’re gonna stay for a long time.

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Staff are very friendly, English speakers, and accommodating too. They can help you with your whole trip there in Seoul.

How To Get There

Take AREX (Airport Railway Express) from Incheon International Airport non-stop to Seoul Station. From Seoul Station, take subway Line 4 going to Myeongdong Station and get out from Exit 3.
Look for the Pacific Hotel and walk towards the hotel. Then take the right side of the road. Namsan Guesthouse will be at your left. You will need to check in at Namsan 2 since their main office is located there. For more information: http://www.namsanguesthouse.com
So there. You see, you don’t really need a high class accommodation in Seoul since you are not gonna spend most of you trip inside the room. All you need is a room that is comfortable so that you can rest well after walking around the city. I guess the next time we got to Seoul (like in December 2013), accommodations would not be that of a problem anymore.
*Photos are from the Internet. Had no chance of taking photos of the guesthouse.

Things I’ll Miss About South Korea

Seoul offered me a lot of different and unique experiences that I’m finding hard to replicate in Manila. There were just some things that I came to adore about Seoul — things I wish Manila would pick up. Here are a few things that I’ll surely miss.

Fastest Internet in the World

Nope, I’m not kidding! South Koreans enjoy the fastest connection speed in the world! That’s why when I went there, I got my own pocket Wi-Fi so that I can enjoy the internet anywhere I go.Isaac watched a couple of series too when we were there. Just amazing!

Korean BBQ

Galbi, our favorite dinner when we were there. The tender beef ribs, the grill, and the wide array of side dishes; Kimchi, Sineumchi Namul (Koream spinach), Kim (Seasoned roasted seeweed), Baek Kimchi (White kimchi), Gouchujang (Soy bean paste), Sukjunamul (marinated bean sprouts) etc. I’m planning to do a Korean dinner with my friends in the next few weeks. 🙂

Taxis

Yes! Of all the cities I’ve been, I can say that Seoul has the best taxis! Some are equipped with WiFi and all of them has GPS, which is totally and completely AWESOME, by the way. There were also taxis specifically for foreigners which makes going around the city not a problem since drivers can speak and understand English. Such a convenience!

Korean Cuteness Overload

Their music, their business signs, their stores, and their boys! Korea is the place for cuteness. Everyone you look at, you can see it. Like everywhere, in stores, and on the people, old and young alike, male and female. Everyone seems to like things that are cute.

Cuteness was also in heir TV shows and commercials! I don’t understand what they were saying, but it made me smile! Take these two for example:

And this one is our favorite! The hottest K-POP idols have participated in a special project to cheer for the 2012 London Olympics.

 

Subway System

Its cheap, clean and efficient. Seoul subway system is all connected with nine main lines which makes it easy to go to tourist spots. Exits and entrances to the subway stations are clearly marked, music and sound effects were used to notify commuters that they have arrived the station, and a screen shows the current location of the next train. Another best thing is the T-Money card, an electronic transportation card which is good for the subway and also the bus.

Ice Cream SALE

There’s something about Korean ice cream. I dunno, but its more creamy, full of flavor, and most of all… cheap! It also comes in different flavors and fun shapes. As I mentioned in my previous post in Facebook, a convenience store near our guesthouse announced an “Ice Cream Sale” and we were there every single night for after dinner dessert. I think they gave me my vacation weight too.

Myeongdong

This was our favorite hangout place. We started our tour by watching a movie in Myeongdong and we also ended it here with a visit to their big Dunkin Donuts store. We were here every single night too looking for pasalubongs and checking out restaurants where will we have dinner. This place has everything and its still alive even at 12 midnight. Truly a shopping mecca for any shopaholics who will visit Seoul.

Korean Fashion

How can I forget this? Koreans were one of the most fashionable people I’ve seen and they practically look good in anything. One thing I’ve noticed is their office wear which is simple and plain, in colors of black and white. I’ve seen girls wearing flowy dresses and blouses in bright colors and men in short shorts, tucked white crisp shirts or even a simple plain v-neck tees and loafers. Just lovely, eye candy for me even! Can’t wait to see them during winter season.

Being Totally Foreign

Yes! The simple fact that I don’t understand what their saying, whats written on their menu or the street signs, or where to go. That feeling of being clueless! There’s something about being in a public place and not understanding a word of what’s going on around you and all you have to rely on are your senses… smells, images, sounds and feelings. This feeling excites me and this is one of the moments that I will miss in Seoul.

Well, I will definitely go back. Probably in their winter time.

My KIMCHI Chronicles: Day Seven (일곱)

We’ve dedicated our last day in visiting the old Seoul.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

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The Palace Gate.

Again, we woke up late! Hahaha! So we just went to one of Seoul’s major palaces. The Gyeongbokgung Palace is also called the “Northern Palace” because of its location. According to the blogs I read, Gyeongbokgung is the most beautiful and grandest of all palaces. The names translates to “Palace of Shining Happiness.”

So what to see here? Well, its a very big palace. I can only imagine the Korean royalties roaming around the big square and number of guards looking after this place. Speaking of guards, there is a “Changing of the Guards’ ceremony held here daily. It is said that during the old times, the royal guards of Joseon Dynasty performed a specific task of guarding the Gwanghwamun Gate. It first took place in 1469 and continued until the end of the dynasty. They now show a re-enactment of the original one. And guess what, we missed it. It’s only from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

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For me, it was nice to see this palace. The details, from the ceiling to the doors and walls were so intricate. I can just imagine how hard it is to make those details for all the structures in the palace. I also read that all the art works on the palace were had painted. Wow!

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Bukchon Hanok Village

We then went to the Bukchon Hanok Village. Hmmm, of all the places that we’ve been this was by far the most tiring to tour. First, it was very hot, second we had to walk quite a distance, and third, finding that place is not easy either. We were sweating the whole trip. Some parts were also on a upward hill so its like we were exercising while touring.

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Ok enough ranting. I must say this was a must-see too. For me, Bukchon is one of the few places to get a glimpse of old Seoul. This hilly neighborhood is one of the most picturesque and charming places in the city.The place was a home to hundreds of traditional houses called ‘hanok’ that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. It was like an old Korean village in the center of the new Korea.

Along its alleys, you will also find several small museums or cultural centers and for a reasonable fee, you may enjoy several activities such as accessories making, art gallery viewing, craft making and others. Here, you can experience, learn and immerse in Korean traditional culture.

Then we went home and ate! We were so tired but it was a nice sight to see. Truly memorable!

My KIMCHI Chronicles: Day Six (여섯)

Hello!

Before I start, I just wanna give out a big THANK YOU for everyone who read my last blog and prayed for the safety of my country and my fellow Filipinos who remained strong during the recent calamity we faced. Truly, it proved that the Filipino spirit is waterproof!

Alright, so I stopped blogging about my trip for a while and now, here are my entries for my last two days in Seoul. Let’s start!

Cheonggyecheon Stream

We woke up very late, like 2:00 PM and we’ve just decided to go to one place and have dinner. Besides, the heat of summer is killing us still.

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Seoul is much like any other major metropolis: traffic, people, and tall buildings. However, running right through the heart of the city is a little piece of nature called the Cheonggyecheon Stream. Its a man made stream in the middle of the city’s business district which consists of bridges, stepping stones, and an impressive waterfall. Its kinda nice to hear the rushing waters in this part of the city and I heard that there are always lot of events going on here, from small open concerts to exhibitions.

During steamy summer days (like right now) in Seoul, people gather here to hang out and cool off. When we arrived, we saw people dipping their feet in the stream and relaxing. The water is clean by the way, and guards were everywhere to make sure that no one throws any kind of litter on it. Its like a temporary relief from the heat of Seoul summers. Here are some photos:

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When you see this lovely spiral structure, your at the start of the stream.ImagePeople dip their feet here. The water is clean!ImageSometimes we just need a hand to keep our balance. Sometimes it’s just fun doing it with a friend!ImageGetting in the way of this kid! 🙂

Very nice place! For me, Cheonggyecheon Stream is a great place to hang out with friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, or family.

After this one, we cant stand the heat anymore and we were starving. So we went home, but stopped by Myeongdong for dinner. We’ve decided to check out this restaurant named “24 OPEN Korean Cuisine”, a 24-hour restaurant which serves Korean dishes (Korean barbecue) and run by Japanese staff.

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We had Galbi!

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Sik-ssa-reul a-ju ma-sit-kke meo-geot-sseum-ni-da.
(I enjoyed the meal very much.)

I like the restaurant because you can sit on the floor while eating. Me and Isaac think that this was the best restaurant we’ve had dinner so far.

My KIMCHI Chronicles: Day Five (다섯)

Of course, our trip would not be complete without visiting our sister’s in Seoul, the Korean Gay Community.

That’s right, in a city where its hard to differentiate our sisters from the straight ones, they do have a small place in the city specifically in Itaewon where they can mingle with their fellow dolls, be free and have fun. Just amazing!

Homo Hill (Borrowed photo since my camera phone can’t take good photos in the dark)

The place is called Homo Hill (Too obvious, right? By the way, it has a twin hill called “Hooker Hill” for straight fellas). It’s an upward alley with bars from left to right playing loud music of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé and others. We went there last Saturday night of course when people are expected to flock the hill.

Lets get the party started! (Borrowed photo since my camera phone can’t take good photos in the dark)

There were a couple of bars in Homo Hill. By judging the bar’s facade, I think if you want to dance the night away, then you go to Queen, Soho, or Why Not. But if you prefer to have a quiet drink with friends before getting the party started then drop by Always Homme.

So we went to Soho first and I think we were there very early. The very cute dancing waiter took our order and he was dancing while serving our drinks. They even gave us complimentary pretzels and glow-in-the-dark bracelets. Then, the people started to come in, all different nationalities. After Isaac finished three bottles of Cass (Korean local beer) and I finished my Margarita and Apple Martini, we started to dance!

We then transferred to Queen where all the crazy dancing happened. We both went up the small ledge and danced like there’s no tomorrow. Who cares, they don’t know us! Haha! Then we started to feel tired and went home.

The gay men of Korea is quite different to us, they are not as upfront and forward about their intention. You would catch a discreet side-glance every now and then, or a slight nudge on the dance floor. But that’s about it. They would stare at you the entire night if they have to, but you’ll have to be the one to approach them. If anything though, it was very entertaining to watch them party. It felt like they have been captured by a resolve to make sure they sweat out all of the week’s turmoil – it’s as if there’s always a dance showdown (no matter how awkward some of them moved).

I think Korea’s gay community is still discreet compared to the one that we have in Manila (or the one that we have Spain as Isaac aptly describes it to me), but I’m glad that they have this place where they can be themselves and enjoy being free, happy, and queer!

We had so much fun in Homo Hill our “Seoul” sisters! More power to the gay people of Korea! Paws up, cause you we were born this way!

Getting there
Itaewon subway station exit 3. Walk straight until you reach the intersection. Turn right and walk up the hill. Cross the road when you see the second street on your left (Homo Hill). Walk up the hill. Trance is on the left hand side next to Queen.