Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pizza secret

by Ana Valenzuela
Published Manila Standard Today August 17, 2011

Being a pizza junkie, I yearn for nothing but the taste of this palatable Italian dish. Sometimes at home, I would make one for myself using leftover pasta sauce and spread it on pita or even Pullman bread, top it with slices of cheddar cheese, then heat it in the oven toaster. My own rendition of pizza is enough to fill my appetite.

However, after all the pizzas that I’ve tried—from my homemade specialty to different bars , cafés and restos— there would always be certain pizza joints that I always go back to, and wish that I could eat my favorites as often as I want— if not to commit the sin of glutton, at least know what makes their pizza delectable. We all know that some secrets are meant to be shared, right?

So, imagine my excitement, when I was recently invited to tour Yellow Cab’s kitchen at Megamall. Yellow Cab has always had an open kitchen setup, where there in front of you, are the cooks and chefs, carefully rolling the crust, grating the cheese, measuring the onions and mushrooms, and spreading other toppings. But, it still makes you wonder what makes it Yellow Cab’s pizza a favorite of many Filipinos.

Genelyn Bermudo, marketing officer of Yellow Cab Pizza Co. answers this question during the tour. “Pizza is known for its tomato and cheese, these are the soul of the pizza,” she says. “So we depend on all natural, all fresh ingredients. This is what makes our pizza tastier. Yellow Cab uses fresh garlic, fresh mushroom, fresh vegetables as well as natural and fresh cheese.”

So, from Four Season’s to New York’s Finest, Yellow Cab works only with fresh ingredients that are delivered daily. With Yellow Cab’s innovative menu, like the Barbeque Chicken Pizza and Roasted Garlic and Shrimp, these do not use tomato as base, like the usual pizzas they do however have cheese. Maybe apart from garden fresh vegetables, the secret is in the cheese.

“We depend on the quality of the cheese—our cheeses are supposed to be fresh also,” Bermudo affirms. That certain cheese which Yellow Cab has been filling our appetites with is no less than Fonterra’s parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Since Yellow Cab started and opened its first branch in Makati Avenue on April 2001, Fonterra has been supplying them with the cheeses and creams (used for pasta).

“It’s perfect to partner with Yellow Cab because they stress on the freshest ingredients,” says Pauline Lagdameo, Fonterra Brands Philippines chief advisory chef says. Fonterra locally distributes brands such as the Anchor butter, Anlene and Anmum.

Fonterra assures pizza lovers like me of the quality of the cheeses that they provide Yellow Cab. The cheese goes through a process of aging and adding flavor. The cheese are made from fresh New Zealand’s cow milk using natural cheese resulting in excellent stretch for mozzarella and rich, strong flavors for Parmesan. “The distinct characteristic of mozzarella is that it is stringy. They knead the curd—like kneading dough, which is where you get that distinct is stringy characteristics. The other one is parmesan cheese. Parmesan would not go through that kneading process and it is harder, stronger in flavor because it is preserved for a longer period of time,” explains Lagdameo.

Now that I know what makes Yellow Cab’s pizza, I would definitely try this at home. Hmm, maybe. But, for now I’ll just a call the Yellow Cab.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The shopaholics’ network

by Ana Valenzuela

Published Manila Standard Today

August 5, 2011

We all know of—either heard of it or have an account on it. With all the renovations on social networking sites, Multiply too is getting a makeover.

Multiply currently has 130,000 sellers, and more than 88,000 of them are based here in the country. It just won’t be another social networking site; it’s revamped into social shopping. Apparently, it is catering to a market where it has innovatively been utilized by users worldwide.

“We are a doing a transformation, from a hundred percent social networking site to a hundred percent social shopping site with full ecommerce functionality,“ says Jack Madrid, country manager of Multiply Philippines. “It’s social because we are engaging with our community to improve what they have been using Multiply for—which is buying and selling of goods. Now, it will remain social because we will not remove the features that have made Multiply popular. All we did is we made the photo album into a product listing and we are still going to allow messaging and communication tools between buyer and seller and between Multiply, buyer and seller.

Multiply introduces new features into the website to accommodate a friendlier buyer-seller vibe for its users. Now, a marketplace is made available where products are categorized. There are product listings, shopping cart, payment gateway, buyer protection for merchants and consumers alike.

Buyers need not be afraid of bogus sellers as “Buyers are going to pay Multiply, and Multiply would be the one responsible to pay our merchants, “says Jack. “So, we are giving buyers a blanket of security that we know the merchants, who they are, their business documents. So, in the event of any problems in purchases we are offering a guarantee.”

Among the online merchants are Suyen Rivera Lopez of House of Flair and Jonie Cheng of Mamaway. The two have been selling online since 2009.

Like most shops, they assure us of their products uniqueness. “Some of the products are available in Manila, but they are not available in Visayas or Mindanao, so that is where I mostly cater to. But most of them are US brands that are not available here in the country,” says Suyen who sells beauty products.

Jonie, on the other hand is the exclusive Philippine distributor of Mamaway, a nursing wear brand. It provides an option to moms who are pregnant or recovering from giving birth, “For our products, its mostly nursing wear. After they give birth, moms usually stay home, so it’s much comfortable if they do online shopping,” she shares.

In tune with Multiply’s social shopping goals, these two have been friends with their consumers. Like how Mamaway has its own corner for clients. “We just don’t sell breast feeding clothes, we help moms, and coordinate them to classes with breast feeding organizations where they can learn from them. We build rapport with the clients. It’s not just you buy from me,” says Jonnie.

“Online shopping would save a lot of time to a lot of people, since you can do a lot of things online, you can attend to a lot of important things in your everyday life if you shop online,” Suyen says. “It is easier, since some people have no time to go to stores and malls, so they browse everything online and when they have decided to order they just pay for it and we ship it, the next day, it’s usually with them already.”

With Multiply’s revamp into a social shopping site, shopping 24/7 get a lot easier. Shopaholics would certainly reboot their accounts in to this networking site.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

To treat or Not to Treat

by Ana Valenzuela

Published Manila Standard Today August 4, 2011

One out of 10 Filipinos is infected with Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is one of today’s challenging and infectious diseases. It is threatening to the physical condition as it can lead to other diseases.

There are two ways to get HBV(Hepatitis B Virus). One is through blood to blood or bodily fluid contact, and the other is through mother to child transmission. “Bodily contact, exposure to blood, you had a needle prick when you were doing an injection, blood transfusion, sharing of needles, piercing, tattooing, multiple sexual partners, but here in the Philippines, the incidence is more on mother to child transmission. Meaning the mother is a carrier of HBV, and during the process of delivery, the virus is transmitted to the newborn,” says Doctor Judy Lao-Tan, internal auditor of the Hepatology Society of the Philippines (HSP) at a recent press conference sponsored by the HSP and Roche.

The HSP is rallying behind the mandatory vaccination of newborns so that the high numbers might see a decline. The first vaccine should be given at birth, so that it prevents the virus, followed by vaccination at one month and six months.

“Not everyone who is a carrier of Hepatitis B is a candidate for treatment. Two-thirds who have hepatitis B are just carriers, the only problem they have is that they can transmit the disease and nothing is going on inside their body. One-thirds have active hepatitis, they are the ones who will require treatment. Not all, not everybody is a candidate for treatment,” says Doc Judy.

From Hepa B to Liver Cancer

Majority of acute Hepatitis B carriers do not develop chronic Hepatitis B. Still, the HSP is moving for prompt treatment of active Hepatitis B patients.

Those who have chronic Hepatitis B are at risk of developing liver cirrhosis. “When you develop liver cirrhosis, you may develop liver cancer. The normal life span of a patient with liver cancer after diagnosis is anywhere between three to six months,” says Dr. Marilyn Aguillas, President of the HSP.

Apart from liver cirrhosis those diagnosed with active Hepatitis B might also get infected with another Hepatitis virus. “With the HBV, you have the tendency to develop Delta Hepatitis. It requires the Hepatitis B to be infected. Fortunately, in our country, Delta Hepatitis is not a major problem, unlike in Mediterranean countries where dual infection is high,” says Doc Judy.

“Hepatitis B is more faithful to you than your wife or husband, the only way to remove it is either through treatment or oral medication,” says Doc Marilyn. Medications, however, are not easy on the pocket. They would require you to shell out a whopping P12,000 a week, or more or less the minimum monthly wage.

Even more saddening is that patients are troubled by the drawbacks of discrimination. The Yellow Warriors Society is an online patients group. It has members that are skilled employees, lawyer, accountants, among others, and it became an online venue for them to share what they are going through. Pamela Chan, a speaker for the Yellow Warriors Society shares, “there are a lot of members who are competent. They have passed all the exams, submitted all the requirements, but when they have been tested positive, they are not given the job. Even though there is memorandum by the Department of Labor and Employment not to discriminate Hepatitis B carriers, the employers will say that it is company policy. It is no longer about the competencies, but about the stigma that the public has.”

How can the patient provide for his medical needs without work? This is where Roche, the world’s largest biotech company, comes in as it tries to help those who are financially incapable through its program the PEGASSIST.

“The PEGASSIST Easy Access Plan socializes the medication discount system. This means, patients who truly cannot afford the medication will get a higher discount accordingly,” says Doctor Dennis Dioko, Roche specialty business unit director.

Patients can ask their doctors about this program or call the Hepatitis Hotline (718-7620). They can receive as much as 50 percent off on the medication and be provided with selected Hepatitis B laboratory tests.

Not every Hepatitis B patient would require medical attention, but those needing so now have a viable alternative making it easier.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Travel and taste

by Ana Valenzuela

Published Manila Standard Today

July 27, 2011

The Philippines has a rich culture, and this is reflected in our cuisine.

“The international media has long been saying Philippine cuisine is Asia’s best kept secret, so it’s time to discover the taste of Philippine flavor,” says Ryan Sebastian, project coordinator of the Department of Tourism during a recent tie-up of the DoT with the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) in promoting Pinoy culinary delicacies.

With 7,107 islands, the Philippines is rich not only in marine and natural resources and seas but also in recipes. DoT is encouraging people not only to visit the sites and see the attractions, but to taste the food as well to really enjoy the Philippines.

“We have a lot of recipes including cooked or barbecued innards (like small intestines, heart and gizzard of chiken) which are popular treats among Pinoys and is also gaining popularity among foreign tourists. In cooking, we usually season it with the usual herbs and spices that we use at home (like onions, garlic, laurel leaves and black pepper),” says CCA instructor, Chef Ojie Reloj of Filipino food.

"Foreigners enjoy these treats because for them, it's like like being in a Fear Factor challenge that is taste--rewarding. These aren’t the only gastronomical fare that we can be proud of. There is also our popular Adobo and Lechon, which are doing really well in the international market,” adds Chef Reloj.

What also makes Filipino recipes special is that it doesn’t have only one interpretation. This is evident in the different variations of adobos, sinigangs, pancit, and other dishes that we have grown to love. Chef Ojie even related that he would go as far as Cebu just so he could eat their lechon, even if there are numerous lechon outlets in metro Manila. What's more a dish may be interpreted in several different ways depending on the region.

For example, Chef Ojie shares, the La Paz Batchoy he grew up with in Manila is quite different from the original one. “I grew up with a family of food lovers and cooks. I grew up eating a version of La Paz Batchoy that does not have any noodles. But, when I went to Bacolod, Iloilo, that’s where I realized that they put noodles in it, the miswa. It is an entirely different-clear soup. They just put certain veggies, like kutchay. Per region, they have their own interpretation,” he says.

For foreigners or balikbayans wanting to learn to cook the dishes that have left them in awe, CCA offers a half day course. “One thing nice about the CCA is their facility is within the market. So that tourist would familiarize themselves with the ingredients needed on how to cook as they have already seen for themselves the available ingredients,” notes Ryan.

“Ten to 15 years ago, what was being served to foreigners were continental dishes.Now they when there is awareness, they now serve the likes of danggit, tinapa in a buffet breakfast. Now everybody is aware, that what they should serve is unique,“ says Ryan.

Seems like, more and more people are uncovering the secret that is Philippine cuisine. They have not only seen the sights, strolled in the beaches, swam in the seas, gained new friends, but also savoured a unique Pinoy travel experience as they’ve tasted our local dishes.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Keeping your kitchen TECH-SAVVY

by Ana Valenzuela
July 21, 2011

The smell of coffee beans roasting on the coffeemaker as you turn off your alarm clock is enough to wake anyone up. Sounds highly improbable, your coffeemaker would also be your daily alarm clock? With the Gaggenau CM 710, which has a programmable turn-on that time, one can get ready for work while enjoying the aroma of caffeine.

It is not just the coffeemaker which Gaggenau appliances are making adjustments in to the kitchen life. Ferdinand Ong, the general manager of Living Innovations differentiates these products from other household appliances. He says, “one is efficiency—our products are accurate. If you’re doing a soufflé, you would need the accurate temperature. Number two is the longevity of parts and warranty, we give products. Plus, we are developing, we are always one step ahead. I don’t think you’ve ever seen stuff like we do, and that has been in the market for three years already. We are introducing new technological patent in the kitchen field.’’

Out of all the kitchen appliances that Living Innovations provides, Ong believes that the convection oven is a must, It is what (Gaggenau) are known for. We’ve been building ovens for 300 years, and you could do anything from baking, doing a steak, and making bread in an oven. More than a cooktop, you would need an oven more, that’s where you do 80 percent of your cooking. “

Gaggenau has ovens which consumers can choose to suit to their needs. Among these are the Gaggenau BO 610 that has a stainless steel aluminium-backed full glass door with panoramic view and has 12 heating methods with core temperature probe and baking stone option. The BL 253 110 has its own elevator or LiftMatic function which loads and unloads the food into the cooking cavity so that heat will heat rise and remains inside. The BS 610 uses pressureless steam, one of the healthiest cooking methods as it retains vitamins, minerals, consistency and color of food. With these in your house, certainly, the oven would be the central element of kitchen.

“Ours is more specialized, and we give value for money,” Ong says referring to the products and services that Living Innovations offers in to the Philippine market. Sometimes the main problem would be maintaining cleanliness. So, Living Innovations offers a short term cleaning seminar for the household staff,’’ he adds.

“If you’d want to buy a sports car what would you buy? A Porsche versus a Toyota? We would give you more performance and means of use. We would give you the product in the best quality possible.”

Cooking would definitely be as easy as frying an egg if one’s kitchen is furnished with Bulthaup kitchen counters and equipped with Gaggenau appliances, the best there is.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The lowdown on Computer Vision Syndrome

by Ana Valenzuela

Published Manila Standard Today July 21, 2011

Problems with your eyesight in the middle of your working hours? Your eyes could no longer focus on the computer screen anymore? There could be many things that could be affecting your eyesight—the sun, dust and air pollutants---and of the main casues of eye strain is prolonged use of the computer

This could be computer vision syndrome brought about by eyes that are singly directed at the screen for a number of hours. “This causes eye strain, blurred vision, and headache, says Dr. Christine Therese Santos, an ophthalmologist from the Makati Medical Center. “It could also depend on your position because you might also complain of neck or shoulder pains.”

“If you are in front of the computer, and so intent on what you are doing, you tend to stare, and unintentionally delaying the blinking reflex. Sometimes mahapdi na yung mata or it gets red because of dry eyes,” she says. So what she recommends is blinking as often as possible to prevent computer vision syndrome. “We well tears to wet the eyes.”

Apart from blinking, she also recommends following the 20-20-20 rule to keep our eyes from straining. “To avoid the computer vision syndrome there’s this 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, look at an object that is 20 feet or six meters way from you,” says Dr. Santos. Glancing at a far distance for a few seconds relaxes our ciliary muscles, which help us focus.

Dr. Santos also recommends upgrading to LCD monitor or getting one with an anti-refractive coating, as it lessens the chance of computer vision syndrome. Apart from that, the monitor should also be 20 to 26 inches away you, and arms parallel to the floor.

Still if you get blurry vision, you might need some eye lubricants. However, Doctor Santos says to shy away from tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride, “it just makes the eye white, whatever redness is there, it just removes it temporarily. The notion is if one has dry eyes they automatically turn to tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride but the more your eyes will dry up. The more you will feel your eyes are heavy,” she says. It is better to schedule a check-up with your ophthalmologist and get a prescription or maybe check if you might be needing computer glasses. Computer glasses, which are different from distance glasses, help reduce eye strain.

Doctor Santos revealed that even if you can clearly see an obkect that’s 20 feet away from you, it doesn’t mean you might not have a small eye grade. “Some are near sighted, while some are far sighted, but they can all see 20/20, because the grade is really small,” says Dr. Santos.

Although our eyes have grades, that doesn’t automatically suggest the use of glasses right away. It all depends on how we use our eyes. Some of us do microscopic work like dentists or jewelers who would need glasses. Then, also a large number of us work around a computers which cause eye strain. Also with their constant computer use, children need to have their eyes checked. “Kids are not able to detect corrections right way because of their ability to focus nor the parents know that they are developing corrections,” says Dr. Santos.

Nevertheless the most trouble-free advice that she gave involves our health. Get enough sleep to relax the tired eye muscles plus, “Eating right is the simplest advice of all,” says Doctor Santos. “Leafy vegetables, carrots, squash, anything that is high in vitamin A, all those that you eat go to the retina, especially the macula.”