Friday, January 19, 2018

Romy Roams Tokyo: Where to Eat

Happy 2018, dear readers! I know it's been a while since I last wrote a post, but I've been busy with the life of being a wife and finishing projects on the side too, so the blog took a back seat. 

Hopefully with the new year comes a new drive to write more regularly. Please don't get tired of dropping by!

So, let's get on with my first post for the year. :)

Now that you've read where to go in Tokyo, it's time to let you in on all the good food we ate! 

Japanese food is something I grew up eating. My brother and I inhale a plate of sashimi within seconds. 

My family and I frequented Kimpura, Sugi, and Saisaki when they were the only choices in Manila. When we grew older, we tried other restaurants to get our sashimi fix and other Japanese food staples. 

So to say I was excited to finally try Japanese food in Japan is a major understatement. 

Here's my Tokyo Eat List! Hope you enjoy these restos and dishes as much as I did. 

1. Ichiran Ramen 

Ramen is the one of the latest Japanese food crazes that hit our country in recent years, and it's a craze that's here to stay. Ichiran is a franchise that has yet to reach our shores, and it was really on my list of restaurants to try. 

This chain of ramen joints is unique as it has cubicles instead of tables for its patrons. Groups of people won't be guaranteed to sit together, and the ramen experience is enjoyed on your own. 

A plus for introverts, this place is not where you take a leisurely meal. But! With how good the ramen is, you really won't have time to talk anyway! 

Ichiran has a creamy, milky broth, and noodles that melt in your mouth. I have been trying to replicate their noodles with my orders in ramen places here, but to no avail. 

What you do is you fill out a form for your order, and when you still want extra noodles (called kaedama), you can press the buzzer and they will refill it for you for an extra charge. You can't order more soup though.

We loved Ichiran so much we ate there one more time during our trip. We also tried another ramen joint, Tonchin, where you order through a machine that dispenses a ticket that corresponds to your choice. It was good, but Ichiran is better. 

2. Sushi Zanmai

To eat sushi in Japan is any Japanese food lover's dream. I waited days into our trip before this dream came true, and I'm thankful Jay came with me on a breakfast sushi run! 

The rest of our companions weren't too keen on eating sushi so our trip to the Tsukiji Market was taken out of our itinerary. It was a good thing there was a Sushi Zanmai outlet near our apartment that was open for 24 hours! So off we go in freezing weather to eat raw fish.

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The experience will always be imprinted in my memory. The taste of fresh toro that melts in your mouth (there really is no other way to describe it) sent my eyes rolling in happiness

We ordered two plates, one nigiri+maki and one sashimi. Nigiri are the ones composed of Japanese sushi rice with a topping. Sashimi pertains to fish with no rice (my personal favorite). 

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We had the Kashimori (no. 66 on the menu), a special assortment of raw fish good for two persons. That's the platter in the photo above. It costs Y2,980. That's Php1365.89 in today's exchange rate. 

We also ordered the Uruoi Sushimori Special (no. 59 on the menu), a platter with 13 pieces of assorted nigiri and maki. 

I wish we could've eaten sushi more than once during this trip, but it's a good reason to come back to Japan!

3. The Gindaco Takoyaki

This isn't a meal but more of a filling snack. We chanced upon the Gindaco stall while strolling in Harajuku. A quick Google search told me it's one of the recommended shops for takoyaki so we grabbed the chance to sample their fare. 

My only previous takoyaki experience was from food stalls in the Philippines, and they always involved way too many flour and very little octopus (I don't even think it's real octopus but most probably just squid haha). 

So it was a revelation to find out what authentic takoyaki tastes like. The soft coating is thin but filling (also piping hot), the octopus stuffing generous, and the sauce tasty. 

Check out the geotag on my Instagram post (and follow me while you're at it! hehe) to see the exact location of the Gindaco stand in Harajuku.

We chose two variants. The first one is the Original with Gindaco sauce, green seaweed and bonito flakes for toppings. It's umami-filled and perfect for my salty-loving tastebuds! 

The other one we ordered is the Teritama, which is pictured above. It has teriyaki sauce and Japanese mayo, egg salad, dried green seaweed and bonito flakes, plus sprinkled with Japanese 7 spices. Equally good, but this one has a sweet touch because of the teriyaki sauce. 

I wish our takoyaki stalls here step up their game!

4. Ikinari Steak

We ate steak for our first meal in Japan. Ikinari Steak was recommended by a photographer friend, and I'm glad we decided to try it out. The concept is simple, choose your cut, choose the cook, and wait for your order!

They have small outlets and most of the customers eat their steak standing up, but when we came in the server showed us to an area with stools. There are also a couple of booths for groups dining together.

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Jay, Efra, and I were all satisfied with our orders. It made me wish I chose to have my steak medium rare, though. I always go for medium well whenever ordering steak, but when I tasted Jay's order it changed my mind. Next time!

The owners of Ikinari Steak in Japan also operates Pepper Lunch. The latter is already in the Philippines (the franchisees are blogger Chuvaness and her family), but I wish they bring this concept here too. There's a shortage of places that offer great steaks at mid-prices.

5. Luke's Lobster

This last place was an item I didn't get to cross off my list, but I'm still posting it because you might be able to drop by. Tell me if it really is worth it!

Well to be honest, you don't have to convince me. I mean, look at how gorgeous their lobster rolls are (photo not mine).

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Luke's Lobster has two locations in Tokyo, one in Shibuya and one in Harajuku.

Okay now that I know how close it was to the Gindaco stall, I'm disappointed we didn't go! I really need to plan out our food trips better. But like I said, it's an added reason to come back, so all good.

So there you have it, my Tokyo Eat List. There are A LOT of good food places in Tokyo and I'm sure I'll have more for you when we come back in the future, but a good rule of thumb is go where the locals eat. If you see a spot with a long line of locals, there's a great chance you won't be disappointed.

Have you been to these food spots? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wedding Supplier Review: Our Cake by Joy San Gabriel

Our cake supplier is one of the best decisions I made for our wedding.

Wedding reviews usually come with a rating and I forewent that in my previous entries, but for Ms. Joy, I will tell you that my rating is 5+++.

You know that supplier you can't stop raving about each and every time their product comes up in a conversation? This is that kind of supplier. If I can get married all over again just so I can have a three-tiered, all-edible, whipped cream cake with four different flavors, I would. Her cakes are THAT good.

To be honest, she wasn't my first choice. I didn't even know about her until I went to a bridal fair.

I already had a cake design and a cake designer in mind months before the wedding, and Jay and I even went to a bridal fair so we can avail of a discounted rate just in case we decided to get the said vendor.

But when we were there, the quote given to me was still way over our budget even with the discount, and for a design much simpler than I wanted. I could've worked on it if I wanted, but what made me decide to skip the said vendor was the taste of the cake. Let's just say I was expecting more.

I wanted our wedding cake to not just be beautiful on the outside, but decadent on the inside too. Our wedding cake wouldn't just be decoration. It will be eaten, and it will be eaten heartily. Mainly by me!

Haha. I love cake. Cake is one of my comfort food. I can finish a whole cake by myself , but I'm an adult now so I have to act like one.

So fast forward to another bridal fair my bridesmaid Kat and I visited. There we were, getting overwhelmed with the maze of wedding supplier booths all around us.

We got to the wedding cake vendor aisle and we sampled their products. One stall didn't have a lot of giant cake displays like the others, but they did have a lot of bite-sized samples laid out at their booth.

Different variants of cheesecakes, a carrot cake, a chocolate one, and some other flavors.

I was in cake heaven. First taste of the mango cheesecake and I knew, we found our supplier. But just to make sure, Kat and I went back another round so we can eat the samples again.

That vendor was Joy San Gabriel Young. Ms. Joy wasn't there during the fair, but her husband Martin explained their rates and cake details very well. I wanted to book them already, but of course Jay and I had to decide together.

I sent an email to Ms. Joy for the specific design I wanted. What I love about her is she takes into account her client's budget so she can work around it and still give the client the best product she can produce.

She explained to me the kind of cake we can avail within my budget, the flavors available within that range, and also the extent of the design we can achieve.

There's a fast turnaround for email inquiries, and her replies are clear and thorough.

To avail of the discount, I went to another bridal fair and paid our down payment. Mr. Martin filled out a form and gave it to me, and that's what I brought to Ms. Joy's studio for our cake tasting.

Cake sampling is scheduled on Mondays and Tuesdays only since they have a busy week for events. The studio is located in Galas, Quezon City. I posted the map to her studio at the end of my review.

Our meeting was very productive. Ms. Joy was attentive to all the little details and emailed me her notes the day after. And of course, the samples she served were all delicious. I didn't finish everything so Jay and his family could taste them too.

I also met up with a friend and we were in agreement that everything was good.

Ms. Joy also gave me a sample of her cheese roll. Back then, they were still finalizing the details of a stand-alone kiosk for their baked goods to be sold in malls. And now, it's a reality! You can find their soft and yummy cheese rolls and ensaymada at Marketplace by Rustan's inside Powerplant Mall.

Our final design was a three-tier, all-edible whipped cream cake with four different flavors. Yes, four, because the bottom layer could be divided into two flavors. Isn't that awesome? My main design element was a cascade of light peach peonies with green leaves made of sugar icing.

But in the end we just chose three flavors because the strawberry shortcake was out of this world. That was our bottom layer. Our other two flavors were mango cheesecake (top) and moist chocolate (mid).

The three tiers were sized as follows: 6x5, 9x5, and 12x5 round cakes.

The best part is, we ended up with a cake that cost less than our budget! It's because of the 5% discount we availed at the bridal fair. And of course, Ms. Joy's generosity.

The other flavors you can choose from include coffee caramel, tarta San Marco, apple, or carrot.

For other weddings, after the couple slice their cake, it just sits there like a sad kid forgotten by the others. But not me. I had plans for our cake. Since we already had several dessert options for our guests (including a white chocolate cake, I planned on reserving the wedding cake for us and our families.

What's great is Ms. Joy offered to convert out top two tiers into styrofoam for the wedding day, and give us FOUR boxed cakes (two 6-inch mango cheesecakes and two 9-inch moist chocolate cakes).

It was perfect because we were able to give them to our families. As for the bottom layer, our lucky guests who stayed until the end of the wedding got to take home our cake too.

They have other options like converting one or two layers to cupcakes of mini-cakes. Just talk to Ms. Joy about your options.

Friends, don't overlook your wedding cake. It will be the first thing you taste during your reception proper (your coordinator is supposed to feed you before the program, but that doesn't count), and you want to make that memory great.

Choose wisely. Choose Joy.

Hehe sorry got a little carried away there with my copywriting brain. But, trust me. Go ahead and sample her cakes at bridal fairs. Drop by her stall for cheese rolls and ensaymada. You will not regret it.

Joy San Gabriel
Address: 3F PNB Galas Branch Building, 20 Bayani Street, Galas, Quezon City
Contact Numbers: +63917-5278837 / +632-7439306 / +632-2114820

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I Worked Out for 30 Days and This is What I Learned

Last month, I started working out again. I had gained back some of the weight I lost before the wedding and I felt lethargic from being in the house all the time. I also knew I had to start taking care of myself to prepare my body once Jay and I decide on having kids. But I'll be honest with you. My reason for wanting to work out and lose weight was this:

I wanted my thighs to stop chafing. 

It may sound simple to many of you. I know I can just wear cycling shorts or half slips underneath my skirts/dresses. I know I can put baby powder and/or lotion to reduce friction between my thighs, even put deodorant. I tried these, but thigh chafing has been bugging me for a long time. I would see other ladies who are the same size (sometimes even bigger) as I am, and watch in awe as they walk in shorts and skirts and dresses seemingly without a care in the world or the chafing between their thighs. I would wonder whether they're wearing something underneath that allows them to walk comfortably. And I would scratch my head when I prove they aren't. Hoooow?!

So instead of suffering and wondering all the time, I decided to hit two birds with one stone and just start working out. I would lose weight, and I would get rid of thigh chafing in the process. Easy peasy!

One Day or Day One. Choose wisely!

Not. I knew the challenge was to KEEP WORKING OUT. Like many good habits I tried to form in the past (applying body lotion every night before sleeping, dry body brushing, eating healthy), I would end up pumped with adrenaline in the beginning, usually the first three days, then fizzle out by the fourth day. So this was my short-term goal: to keep going beyond day 4. I didn't know if I could do it, in fact I highly doubted it, but here I am 30 days later and I'm still at it!

I only exercised during the weekdays, so that's 5 times a week. There were a couple of days I missed so I made up for them by either doubling my workout the next day, or working out even on a Saturday. I also started slow. I searched for beginner workouts on YouTube, and did those that were 10 minutes or less. Gradually, I increased my time and the intensity of my workouts. Sometimes I would do a 10-min HIIT workout with 20 minutes of yoga. Or sometimes I would do a 5-min standing arm workout coupled with a 30-min Zumba session. When I couldn't do some of the movements, I would modify them, but I kept moving. 

I love High Intensity Interval Workouts (HIIT). According to Shape Magazine, HIIT refers to any "workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity or even complete rest." Most of these workouts involve cardio exercises, so it will get you sweating in no time. These workouts are best for people who love to say they don't have time to exercise. HIIT workouts are fast, convenient, and there are no equipment necessary. Best of all, they work. Researches have shown that short HIIT workouts are better than spending an hour at the treadmill. If you're really pressed for time, you can even work out for 4 minutes using the Tabata protocol!

Now I will start to introduce weight training to my routine as well. This is to tone my muscle and also help in burning fat. 

There's a saying that motivation is what gets you started and habit is what keeps you going. That proved true for me. I had my why, and I kept going because eventually my body became used to working out, and my mind became conditioned to include a workout for a complete weekday. But I also learned the importance of having rest days and listening to your body. I skipped a workout once because I lacked sleep and knew not to push myself. 

I weighed myself when I started and also measured my waist, hips, and thighs. I was told sometimes you'd see no weight loss but find it on the tape measure. Thirty days in, my progress is slow but sure. I lost four pounds, one inch each on my waist and hips, and half an inch on my right thigh. I am satisfied with my progress but also know I can do more. 

How? By eating better. I admit I had a hard time saying no to carbs and fast food and my kind of sweets (a.k.a. cakes and pastries). I saw the difference when I substituted rice with kamote for dinner for a week. I lost two pounds. Then I gained them back the following week. I also plateaued by week 4. Are you working out and not losing weight too? This article provides possible reasons why.

What was my biggest surprise during the last 30 days? I discovered I could hold a plank longer than I thought! One day I took a video of myself planking and was ready to stop at 20 seconds. I always found it hard to hold a plank, my body shakes and my body just gives up. But that day, I was shocked I held it for 45 seconds! I know, it's still under a minute, but if you knew how physically weak I am, that's a big achievement. So I slowly kept increasing my time after that and I am now up to the minute mark. One day I will do two minutes, just watch me!

I don't know why my site cut the video to under 45 seconds. 

Here are three workouts that I find most effective. I am so happy for discovering free workouts, because paying for a gym membership is way low on my priorities. I also love that these workouts involve the barest of equipment (just a mat!), and can be done anywhere. 

This video is from the Emi Wong's StayFitandTravel Youtube Channel. This is what I did on my first day of working out and it was perfect. I ended up subscribing to her channel. I love her workouts because I feel the burn and sweat starts dripping on my mat a few minutes in. Most of her workouts also require no equipment and she modifies them for beginners. It helps whenever she says "I know it's hard but remember, I am doing it with you. No pain no gain!" Haha. It's true though. Pain means it's working!

I discovered Tracy Campoli's workouts when I searched "standing arm workout no equipment" on YouTube. That's really my main criteria, so I'll have no excuse not to do them. You can do this while watching your favorite KDrama, while waiting for your dinner to cook, even at the office when you're itching to get out of your cubicle. Work those arms instead of stressing out on your deadline!

And finally, this one's for my thighs! Ooh when I did this workout I was so sore the next day. But I loved it. It's from the POPSUGAR Fitness YouTube channel. They have short-but-effective sets. One of my favorites also is this 5-Minute Standing Flat Belly Workout. 

I made my Instagram stories the daily repository of my fitness journey. That way there's some sort of accountability to stay focused and not get lazy. Follow me for video recs and hopefully meal planning in the future too!

Do you have fitness and workout tips for me? Leave them in the comments and let's work out together!