Christmas is upon us. And given the wide selection of items made available by both old and new food entrepreneurs this year, choosing the right gift can be a daunting task.
I tend to favor gourmet goods that are original and delicious, and which I want friends to discover and enjoy, as well. I will reserve the usual suspects like Spanish sardines or plain mango jam for another day.
For Christmas, it has to be special, so I’ve come up with a list of bottled goods (because they are easy to transport and have a long shelf life) that are worth sending our loved ones.
Calamansi, Mint and Gin Jam
After a European sabbatical in 2017, Patricia Paredes returned with the drive to come up with something she could be proud to sell abroad. She thought of making jams based on her lola’s tips and tricks. To make it local, calamansi became her main flavor. Her brand Nieta has three variants—the classic, calamansi lemongrass and another inspired by a cocktail, the calamansi, mint and gin. “I learned that I could put a teaspoon of my jam in hot water and it could be enjoyed as a light tea. Then I thought of mojito,” she says. The result is a spreadable sweet cocktail without the lingering alcohol taste. thesevenpantry.com
Since Ima’s Kitchen launched their patco, a Kapampangan snack of crepes filled with grated coconut, they have been toying with the idea of coming up with spreads to pair with their specialty.
“We usually have our patco with hot tsokolate, but we have customers who like it sweeter so they add butter and muscovado or Nutella,” says coowner Joan Gallares. They produced several versions and, after a blind taste test, the coco jam with latik emerged as the favorite. Compared to other commercially available jams, theirs is more caramel flavor, with the coconut milk curds adding a nice texture.
Truffle Honey Melange
The long quarantine had chef Jun Jun de Guzman wanting to offer a food item from his home. “I wanted to sell something that’s not too fragile, doesn’t require any refrigeration or freezing, and can last at room temperature,” he says. After seeing social media posts of friends enjoying truffle honey, he decided to develop his own. He made his honey unique by adding lots of assorted nuts and dried fruits. Plus, he pairs his bottles with packs of Roka biscuits so people get to taste the product right away.
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To celebrate La Petite Fromagerie’s (LPF) fourth anniversary, Karla Reyes launched a new product called the Trufflata, which she collaborated on with Jutes Templo of Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza. “When we eat at Gino’s, I go for the burrata rather than the pizza and pasta. I’d maybe have a slice or two, but I focus on the burrata talaga,” says Reyes. This led to the crazy idea of making a truffle burrata, fresh burrata stuffed with LPF’s signature truffle cream cheese spread, adding that rich and earthy profile to the clean-tasting cheese. This item is limited, so place your orders early.
Anchovy Spiced Butter
The inspiration behind Marco Rodriguez’s flavored butter was a dinner meal he prepared for his family when they visited Queenstown, New Zealand, last year. “I cooked meats, which I lightly spiced and topped with anchovy butter. We enjoyed it so much, and it became one of those why-don’t-we-bottle-this moments,” he recalls. The bottled butter is flavored with ras el hanout spice and ocean brine. It works best smeared on pork chops, fried chicken or steak for an umami boost. For a boozy variant, he also has brandy butter.
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Spicy Pork Bits
After closing her 12-year-old restaurant in Naga, Debbie Santos returned to Manila and opened a small home-based food tray business. One of her bestselling items was the pork chips, and since she ended up having leftover pork bits from her production, she decided to turn them into a crispy and spicy garnish. This bottle of pork bits mixed with chili oil and labuyo chili powder, called Oragon Bits, lends not just crunchy texture, but also a feisty punch when added to any dish.
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To supplement The Test Kitchen’s ready-to-cook line as well as make their customers’ dining experience at home just a bit more special, chef Josh Boutwood released a range of flavored salts and oils. To pile on another flavor profile, he has lemon salt, chili salt and charcoal salt that can be sprinkled as a seasoning. For oils, they have many kinds—basil, black garlic, chive, dill and even smoked. “They are great for adding that extra touch to recipes and dressings that would be impossible to achieve at home,” the chef says. Tel. 0977-2885751
Like everything chef Kelvin Pundavela makes, this wasn’t planned. “A lot of it stems from what I feel like making or something I can feed my family and friends. Then when I feel like others will also enjoy it, I share it,” he says. His sambal, under the brand Lekcha, is based on a laksa paste recipe he has made, personalized and refined many times. There’s lemongrass, chili, shrimp paste and kaffir in the mix, and it works best in a stir-fry, mixed in a broth, or simply as a rice topping.
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Real Gisa Mix
Leah’s Pantry started as a mom’s noble effort to feed her son using the best ingredients and made from scratch. Extending the same service to people who want to serve good food with minimal effort, Leah Magallanes came up with the Unang Gisa line, which, like its name implies, is the foundation of many local dishes. Not only does it save time and limit wastage, it also guarantees a lot of flavor in any of your dishes. There are four variants—original, hot, soy and herb.
Sinaing na Gigi
In the Candelaria, Quezon, household Marianito Alcala grew up in, most of the meals were prepared by slow cooking. His grandmother and mother used earthenware pots and wooden logs to cook their favorite dishes like adobo, sinigang and bistek Tagalog. And this tradition is what he has been bottling under his range of gourmet goods called The Pantry. His Sinaing na Gigi is full of flavor, as fresh round scad or galunggong is simmered for hours in a palayok then flavored with vinegar, toasted garlic and olive oil. The fish is deboned and flaked, making it easy to eat with bread, crackers, rice or pasta.