Food and Leisure

Two of my favorite things

MISS TECH - Kathy Moran - The Philippine Star
Two of my favorite things
Red and ready: The Toyota Altis Hybrid is a beauty to look at and a joy to drive.

First. The day began with a drive in the Toyota Altis Hybrid. It was going to be a happy day, as I had planned a ride up and down SLEX with my final destination being Beso Beso Restaurant for a bespoke vegetarian lunch.

It’s got the look

The hybrid and the short downward-sloping rear back of the Altis Hybrid give the car a very sporty profile. The pointy, two-tone taillights are quite minimalist, while gouges on the rear bumper are a cool touch. The 17-inch wheels complete the look.

Environmentalists, vegans and vegetarians will notice and appreciate the Altis Hybrid because of its vegan leather seats.

The center of the speedometer can be configured to display hybrid system status, trip computer info, and driver safety aid settings. A button next to the gearshift lever lets you select from Eco, Normal, and Sport drive modes. There is also another button for brake hold, which allows the driver to keep the car stationary in traffic without having to shift out of drive or having to engage the parking brake.

Drive on

My thoughts were on the yummy lunch forthcoming even as I drove up and down SLEX as I experienced the heart of this car, its hybrid powertrain composed of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine and its electric motor. The silence as I drove was lovely and enveloping — a good thing, as I lost myself in my thoughts.

I heard practically nothing as the Altis Hybrid runs in EV (electric vehicle) mode powered solely by the electric motors. The only sound heard inside the cabin is a barely audible hum of the electrical system coming to life, making it easy to sneak the car out of the garage.

The car can cruise at 70 mph for a few kilometers as the engine slumbers. The engine awakens when the motor’s batteries need charging, or when the motor can no longer keep up with the demands of the driver’s foot.

When the gas engine is running, the powertrain goes into EV mode a split second after the driver eases off the accelerator. The batteries then get recharged as they harvest the kinetic energy from decelaration or braking. It’s amazing how the hybrid system does all these seamlessly. An EV mode button lets you switch to electric propulsion on demand provided certain parameters are met.

Chef-owner of Beso Beso Rob Pengson.

Job well done but hunger calls

I was expecting the Altis Hybrid to produce good fuel consumption figures and it exceeded my expectations big-time.

In SLEX driving, the Altis Hybrid did well with 32 km/L. This makes the Altis Hybrid one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the road today.

The drive up and down SLEX was fun. But hunger was calling and off to Beso Beso I went.

Second. I arrived at Aleanza Institute on Chino Roces Extension Makati starving and looking forward to a good veggie meal.

“The restaurant anchors its culinary philosophy around the rich and diverse history of the Philippines,” said owner and executive chef Rob Pengson, as he told me about Beso Beso.

For the resto he coined the term “Filipiniana cuisine” based on the philosophy that spans historical heritage cuisine inspired by pre-colonial Spanish occupation to the gastronomic zeitgeist of the present day.

“My main inspiration is the entire Philippine culture, which is part Spanish, part Chinese and part Malay. All the dishes that we create, we flip it on to the Filipino side,” added chef Rob.

As I excitedly waited for my vegetarian meal, which Beso Beso did and can do on request, I learned that the resto opened in December 2019, three months before the city went into lockdown due to the pandemic.

“We had to pivot to survive so we cut down on expenses and opened a cloud kitchen that focused on takeout and deliveries,” he said. “Today, two years later, the F&B industry is starting to recover and we are back to cooking the dishes we love. In the past four months alone, we have seen an incredible amount of business both in dine-ins and catering.”

Finally, the lovely — and oh-so-yummy — vegetarian meal arrived. I fell in love at first taste with the Dark Rye Pandesal with Inihaw na Talong Butter and Tomato Marmalade. It was the start of an exquisitely prepared meal.

As I ate, I learned that Beso Beso’s main offering is a seasonal 10- to 12-course tasting menu that is updated quarterly, as well as a “semi prix fixe” menu supplemented by a creative à la carte tapas selection.

“Our specialties in the current menu include the Bucatini Carbonara, Clam Tostada and Cacao as my personal favorites,” shared chef Rob. “We offer degustation catering for private dinner parties, wedding receptions and corporate functions, as well as customized menus like plant-based dishes for vegetarians and vegans, like you.”

Of course, we know that the Aleanza Institute campus of Beso Beso is a place where guests can book culinary classes for their birthday celebrations, parties and team-building activities.

It was a happy day for me because two of my fave things passed their tests with flying colors.

Tierra Filipina is a salad made with the season’s best produce, kesong puti and pickle ferments.

Drive home

I got back to the Altis Hybrid and tried its Toyota Safety Sense, a comprehensive suite of passive and active safety features, in the wide-open parking lot.

A Lane Departure Alert gives off a beep and a warning light goes on when the system senses that you are veering off your lane. A Lane Tracing Assist gently tugs at the steering wheel to keep you in your lane.

The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control adjusts your speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and can make the car accelerate and decelerate accordingly. The Pre-Collision System helps prevent crashes by alerting the driver that the vehicle ahead has suddenly decelerated or stopped.

Perfect days are made of these and that Saturday was to die for.

* * *

For information on Beso Beso, call 0917-179-2562.


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