No doubt about it—people ate well this year, patronizing countless new restaurants and home-based food businesses.
But there are particular food items that truly awakened our palate—the ones we won’t mind eating time and again.
Here is our list, each sealed and ready to be given to loved ones, or to yourself.
Tsaa Laya Teas (P70/tea bag; P200-330/tin can)
Owner Jamir Ocampo has come up with a range of teas that provide livelihood to urban poor communities from homegrown flavors like tanglad, pandan, centella mint, java banaba and lemon ginger.
They come in beautiful tin cans and pouches that require no further gift wrapping. And with all the binge-eating that the holidays bring, this will surely come in handy.
Tsaa Laya, tel. 0915-8493162
Ahma’s Chili Sauceby Decker Gokioco (P120/bottle)
As a loving tribute to his grandmother, chef Decker Gokioco has created a spicy condiment made of garlic, chili, soybeans and spices. He makes the sauce and bottles it up himself.
Add it on stir-fries and steamed dumplings, or mix it with rice, and you’re in for a fiery treat.
Decker Gokioco, tel. 0999-8811900
Sausage Sampler from The Butchery (P1,500/sampler)
The reasons why this line of organic sausages makes for a satisfying gift—mint and tarragon, Parmesan and parsley, red wine and rosemary, saffron, jalapeño, caramelized onion and mozzarella, and buffalo and celery—seven original flavors that make choosing just one a tough decision. Well, that’s exactly what a sampler is for.
The Butchery, tel. 0917-7955005
Ensaymada Macarons from Mrs. Grahams Macaron Café (P60/piece)
It has the most playful macaron flavors out there—cookie dough, Tequila Rose, white coffee, inside-out S’mores—and all are undeniably good. But it’s hard to top the ensaymada macaron.
Butter-flavored shells sandwich a sweet-salty buttercream, then coated in white choco and studded with shredded cheese. Best of all, it befits the season.
Mrs. Grahams, tel. 0915-8122662 or visit the café at 51-C Scout Rallos St., Quezon City.
Manila Chocolatier (P1,450/box of 15)
Raul Matias of Machiavelli Chocolatier encapsulates the country’s beauty and flavors through a box of indulgent chocolates. Aptly called Manila Chocolatier, it’s a box of 15 pralines, each representing a cultural icon, like the barong tagalog for the robust kapeng barako variety, and pop heroine Darna for the muscovado nougat.
Contact tel. 0916-2978729 or visit its stall at Rustan’s Makati and Rustan’s Tower in Shangri-La Plaza Mandaluyong.
Bald Baker Cookies (P60-P65/piece)
A lot of cookie brands penetrated the market this year, and of the lot, this brand is among my favorites. It’s chewier than the usual; owner Cy Ynares (yes, he’s bald) replaces some of the flour in the batter with mallows. And his flavors, though few—choco chip, birthday, salted caramel and white choco cranberry—are enough to pacify any cookie craving.
Bald Baker, tel. 0917-5116370
Manille Liqueur de Dalandan (P400/bottle; P500 in tin cans)
Manille Liqueur de Calamansi had a lot of people in high spirits when it was launched early this year. It won’t be a surprise if it happens again this Christmas as Destileria Limtuaco & Co. just released the Manille Liqueur de Dalandan variant.
The vodka-based drink has a sweet, zesty flavor that can be enjoyed either as is or mixed with tonic water, or with more vodka for the holidays.
Holiday Ham Set from Wildflour (P1,200/1-1.2 kilos)
This ham is so good it can very well be the star of everybody’s Noche Buena table. It uses pork belly, which has a higher fat content and does not contain any preservatives.
The seasoned slab comes with a pack of parker rolls and a jar of pineapple glaze, which you can slather on the ham and roast or just serve on the side.
Contact tel. 8567600 or visit Wildflour’s branches at Salcedo, Podium and BGC.
‘Sapin-Sapin’ by Jessie Sincioco (P1,000/8-inch)
Many bakers, professional and home-based alike, made this year a lot sweeter by coming up with memorable cakes. But to shake things a bit and make the dessert table more interesting, I suggest this rice cake. Chef Jessie Sincioco’s sapin-sapin is simply the best there is—it’s pristine white, studded with latik, and light but satisfying to the palate.
Contact tel. 8906543 or 8907630; Chef Jessie is at Rockwell Club, Makati; Top of the Citi, Citibank Tower, Paseo de Roxas, Makati; and 100 Revolving, MDC Building, Libis, Quezon City.
Wagyu Steaks from Japanese Wagyu Shop (price depends on cut and weight)
The marbling on the Wagyu A5 steaks is enough to get mouths watering—and make people forget their other gifts. It’s such a thing of beauty that you don’t even need to tie a ribbon around it.
The Japanese Wagyu Shop is only one of five accredited importers of the prized beef in the country, and since it carries them by the blocks, you have the option of picking your preferred cuts. Your family and friends will surely thank and love you for this.
The Japanese Wagyu Shop, tel. 8089508; or visit the shop at G20 Sunvar Plaza, Amorsolo St. cor. Arnaiz Ave. (Pasay Road), Makati