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Tips for a surprising Valentine’s Day |

Food and Leisure

Tips for a surprising Valentine’s Day

THE BACONMAN COMETH - Sharwin Tee - The Philippine Star
Tips for a surprising Valentineâs Day
An interesting combo of squid and cucumbers from The Test Kitchen

By the time Valentine’s Day season comes upon us, you will have gone through several of the “Top Valentine’s Day Spots” lists, but isn’t surprising your date one of the keys to a great day? Hence, I’ve got my annual list of alternative choices right here.

• Get cozy.  While trying a degustation menu is always a great dining experience, I find them too long to enjoy on Valentine’s Day. The Test Kitchen, the less formal Josh Boutwood-helmed restaurant, can be a great alternative. Recently named by CNN as one of the world’s best new places of 2020, you get the same quality of dishes but in an a la carte menu, so you can manage your time. The kitchen cures their own meat, from pork belly to tuna, and they bake their own sourdough bread as well. Combine that with a wonderfully cozy mezzanine level with a view of their curing room, and it can definitely be a night to remember.

Make sure to try not only their cured meats, but the steak and sea bass as well. A great conversation starter would be the unusual but refreshing combination of squid and cucumber. Finish the meal off with the chef’s lovely white chocolate and grape dessert.

• Use your hands. While convention would have you steer away from “everyday food” during this special occasion, there is a certain charm to eating said food on Valentine’s Day. Pizza and wine might just be enough to produce a charming evening with a loved one and Salvatore Cuomo in Uptown Parade is just the place. World Pizza Championship judge celebrity chef Salvatore Cuomo is staying full-time in the Philippines now and proudly training his local staff to become pizza makers of the highest level. 

Make sure to grab some of their Margherita pizza and a nice bottle of red wine. Drop the utensils, and encourage each other to use your hands to enjoy the classic pie. Eating with your hands can be quite romantic! Feeling adventurous? Try the pizza with pears and gorgonzola, which has a lovely sweet and salty combination going on. If you don’t feel like pizza, the crab fettuccine with crab-fat cream sauce will definitely make you happy.

• Find your north star.  A steak place is definitely a can’t-miss option, but avoid the crowds heading to Makati, BGC or Pasay for that. Up north in Quezon City, Nanka Japanese Steakhouse along Roces Avenue is a great alternative.

The WX Ribeye from Nanka Japanese Steakhouse is a beauty.

They’re preparing a special set menu for Valentine’s Day, complete with steak and lobster, but you can also order their steaks a la carte. The have a great selection of steaks (which they bring to the table), ranging from A5 Japanese Wagyu to Black Onyx and the hybrid Australian WX. My personal choice would be the WX Ribeye and their steak rice. They also have sides like roasted cauliflower and sautéed mushrooms for those looking to avoid carbs. Steaks not your thing? They have a great selection of sushi and sashimi as well. Save room for their Shimeji mushroom fries as well.

Flowers and chocolate in ice cream form is a great alternative idea.

• Buy flowers that are delicious.  Sure, flowers are the norm during this season, but they wither and die in a few days and get more expensive during this time. What about flowers that can be eaten? Sebastian’s Ice Cream celebrates the season with their Valentine’s-themed flavors and tongue-in-cheek names like “Matinong Boyfriend,” “Unresolved Issues” and the like, but they also have a flavor that’s not only delicious but would also make a great alternative to buying a loved one flowers: “Flowers and Chocolate” — rose jam and bittersweet chocolate ice cream swirled together. Isn’t that the perfect Valentine’s Day flavor? The fragrant rose ice cream isn’t too overwhelming and the bittersweet chocolate plays a big part in balancing it out.

Meanwhile, if that flavor is too out-there for you, “Closure,” which, let’s face it, many look for during this season, is a delicious green tea and toasted-rice ice cream. I personally love the “Matinong Girlfriend” flavor (yes, yes, cue the jokes as I am single again this season), which is made with dark beer ice cream with honey-roasted peanuts. Absolutely delicious!

All these lovely flavors are now available at Sebastian’s Podium and Vertis North branches.

• Love is like a box of local chocolates. Buying your loved one chocolates is another common and expected act, but how about dropping the expensive and imported chocolates this year?

Give the gift of local nama chocolates from Chumoto PH.

If the Japanese “nama” chocolates are a personal favorite, it will excite you to know that a local brand has emerged and they should not be missed. Chumoto PH uses 100-percent-local chocolates and cocoa powder while achieving the same lovely, silky texture that has made “nama” chocolates a sensation. I particularly like their dark chocolate, but they also have the milk chocolate variety that is equally enchanting. You can order through their Instagram account and they will deliver.

Vegans need not miss out on chocolate, either. Chocoloco, another local company, produces delicious vegan and organic cacao nibs. Cacao nibs are actually considered super foods, so in addition to being the great date that brings chocolates, you can be the one that’s also considerate about health. My favorite is the spicy cacao nibs, which gives only a slight bit of heat after chewing on them. You can order at 0917-511-3883 and they will deliver as well.

Buying these local versions gives you the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping local chocolate producers and small enterprises, too.

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Sharwin’s book So You Want to be a Chef? is available in all National Book Store and Powerbooks stores nationwide. Follow Sharwin’s food adventures on Instagram @chefsharwin and for questions, reactions, recipe and column suggestions, you can contact him at


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