I´m the girl you see lingering at the grocery store, looking oh so happy at the aisles, reading through labels and picking items with a smile. Grocery stores are my kind of wonderland! Here are the goodies I´ve brought back from my trips to the grocery, because, really, good stuff are meant to be shared!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Buys Zoenen: Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Kisses

I always buy myself a special treat every weekend.  It´s my reward for a week´s worth of work.  Most Saturdays, I wake up in time to catch the first opening hour of my neighborhood grocery.   I like to shop early  in the morning during the weekend, when the store´s still tranquil and there´s not a crowd along the aisles.  It makes my shopping time more relaxing as it allows me more time to linger through the aisles  to scrutinize the merits of the weekend specials.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Sweet Find: Karina White Chocolate Crisp Bar

It´s the weekend and the sun in Holland is out!  People are in their summer best, and for once we can go out in shorts and shirts!  And so, to celebrate the summery weekend yesterday, I went out with a friend to  the city center.  We walked for hours, and crossed through  the Erasmus bridge which connects the suburban Rotterdam to the city center, the warm breeze fanning our laughters.   As always, the agenda was to tackle the essentials---dreams, game plans, all those important things you need to vent out once in a while with a trusted soul.

  Erasmus Bridge, Rotterdam  ( image from stockfootage.com)                               

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Cheap and Good: Prosciutto, Cheese Spread and a 5 kcal Drink for less than 300 Pesos

There is a misconception that Europe is expensive.  Well, sure if you eat out all the time, you´d most likely spend at least 10€ per meal.   But if you follow what the locals do,  you´ll be surprised how you can stretch your Euros. Let´s consider for example a hypothetical question:

What can you buy for 6€ (about 300 Philippine Pesos)?

Well, today after work, I went shopping for tomorrow´s packed lunch.   These are what I bought for less than 6€ at my neighborhood grocery:

A pack of Prosciutto from Italy  (2€)

2 pieces of rustic bread rolls ( 0.30€ each)

A tub of this addicting cheese spread (0.80€)

These three ---prosciutto, bread, and cheese ---- went into the making of tomorrow´s lunch:

 Mmmmm,  I can´t get enough of this delicious and super smooth cheese spread from Tenery.

A slice of rich, smokey Italian prosciutto adds a touch of indulgence  to my simple cheese spread sandwiches.

I also bought Teissere Fruit Syrup for 2€

How do you use Teisseire Fruit Syrup?

First get a container of ice cold water .

Get your magic syrup, squirt and Voila!

You get a refreshing glass of flavored water with the unmistakable yet subtle taste of green apple and blackberries! Each squirt of fruit syrup is pre-measured to flavor a 300 ml glass of water. And because each squirt (and therefore each glass) contains only 5 kcalories,  this is my current alternative to cold fruit juices and sodas.   The fruit syrup is also small and ultra-handy, small enough to drop in my hand bag.

Two prosciutto cheese sandwiches, 20 servings of flavored water, plus enough leftover prosciutto and cheese for four more sandwiches for less than 6€.  Cheap, yes, and definitely good eats too! 

Sunday, 31 May 2015

What I Bought With My 20€ at the Marks and Spencer Food Hall

It´s June! And in a perfect world,  the sun shines with exuberance as we transition from spring to summer.   But  I am told that that summer does not really come to Holland.  And so, maybe that is why,  despite our best hopes,  it rained over the weekend.  To be honest, it isn´t as terrible nor as dreary as  London´s rainy weather.  Sure, the skies go from ochre to grey to muddy throughout the day, the streets are wet and the air misty with tiny water jets. But it´s not too bad, it´s the perfect weather to loll around in bed, read books, watch movies, and let my secret sloth have her day.

But I had to go to The Hague today, despite the bed weather, for an important errand.  It took me an hour and a half of travel,  but the errand itself in The Hague, I completed in less than ten minutes. I figured, I´ll do a bit of window shopping to pass the time before traveling back to Rotterdam so I walked around, checked out stuff at Zara ( OMG! So expensive! I need to make another trip to Madrid to have my fill of my favourite Spanish brands! ).  I also went inside Primark and H&M but came out empty handed.

But what really made me happy today was discovering the big, badass Marks & Spencer store in Den Haag with a big food hall. Ah, it  was a slice of British food heaven!

                                      Image from www.coconutsnl.wordpress.com

Surprisingly,  the prices of the goodies at M&S Netherlands are reasonable.  Sometimes, even cheaper than the prices of comparable items at the grocery shops.  I  just wanted to buy a pack of the  M&S lemon and white chocolate muffins that a friend brought last week on our road trip to Germany, but all the goodies on display looked scrumptious so I was panicking because, being a grocery hoarder,  I wanted to buy soooo many things!  Sadly, though the spirit was willing and my wallet is poor haha!  So I talked myself a 20€ budget for today´s  M&S food spree.

Here´s what I got for less than 20€ from M&S:

2 bagfuls of goodies for less than 20€

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Smith´s Ringlings Onion-flavored Snack

I was in search of a new snack to try, something beyond potato chips, nacho chips and cheese curls.
I espied this at the grocery store and I thought, hmmmm, onion with fine herbs, that sounds fine by me.
     My weekend snack: a bowl of Ringlings and a mason jar of mint and cucumber-infused water

What I like Ringlings is that although it has that telltale onion zing, the herby flavor (garlic and parsley, I think) and a very gentle hand at salt makes this a surprisingly mild flavored snack.  Mild enough to find me eating the whole bag in a span of two hours.  Addicting!

At the moment, this, and another Smiths NL snack, are my favorite nibbles of sort.
   Yum!  Bugles!  The best flavor for me is the Nacho Cheese variant.

Ringlings Product Information:
Made by Smiths Netherlands
Available in 125 gram bags
Price in the Netherlands:  about 1.30€ per bag

Saturday, 9 May 2015

GU Chocolate and Vanilla Cheesecake

I have loved Gu desserts eversince I tried them in Paris a few years ago.

What are Gu Desserts?  It´s a line of premium individual sized desserts , mostly puddings and cheesecakes,  made in the UK by Noble Desserts Inc.  They are packed in reusable, pretty ramekins and jars.

These were not available in Spain where I was based  for the last two years.  But I now live in the Netherlands and I am happy to discover that Gu desserts are usually stocked at the big supermarkets (Albert Heijn, Hoogvliet).  This morning,  as I did my grocery-shopping for the coming week,  I saw that a particular variant of Gu was on sale at 30% off.

And here´s what happened next:

Someone bought a box  of 2 Chocolate & Vanilla Cheesecakes in reusable ramekins :-)
    A jar of beauty

    Look at the layers and that crackly chocolate top!

    In the end,  I had my moment of Gu indulgence!

The Verdict:
This chocolate and vanilla cheesecake variant is still delicious,  with a crumbly chocolate cake base, a vanilla cheesecake layer, and a chocolate mousse top but it is a bit too sweet for me.  Of all the GUs I´ve tried, my favorite is still the Speculoos Cheesecake which I have written about here.

I have tried a few supermarket desserts and Gu comes on top by a mile.  It is not cheap, at about 3.5€ for a box of 2, but it is still cheaper (and more delicious) than buying a cake slice from the bakeries here.

Allergen Alert: Contains sugar, eggs, lactose, chocolate

Recommendation:  Delish!  Must-try.

Availability:  Available in big supermarkets in The Netherlands

Monday, 27 April 2015

Nestle Bros Aerated Milk Chocolate Bar

I was once again felled by the power of the "SALE " tag.  Let´s admit it,  the bulk of the stuff we buy on impulse during a sale are  stuff that we don´t normally buy.  It´s just the way we´re wired (or screwed).  We hunt for great deals,  and when we see the sign, S-A-L-E, we go gaga and think that we must  pounce and get as much savings from the sale as possible by, of course, buying. Not too logical, no?

This was how I was able to finally try Bros, a fairly common chocolate bar here in The Netherlands.   It´s in the same price range as the more popular Milka bars.  And perhaps that´s why I never ever tried it before, there was just no incentive to try Bros.  If I can buy myself  a Milka Oreo Bar at the same price and know that I will enjoy it immensely, why would a venture into trying something new?

So let´s blame this post on the sale sign! How one day I saw the Bros bars on sale at my neighborhood drugstore.  And I knew, I just knew that it was time to finally try it (cue in melodramatic music).
                         Bros Aerated Milk Chocolate Bar 

What´s so special about Bros?  Well, the fact that Bros is an aerated chocolate bar.  It´s a bit hard to describe aerated chocolate,  so we´ll let the chocolate speak for itself:

    Cross-section of Bros Chocolate Bar:  You see the bubbles?

Aerated chocolates are made using a whipping siphon,the kind where you need to load N2 cartridges to create those tiny bubbles. Almost a decade ago, Heston Blumenthal demonstrated in his awesome cooking show, In Search of Perfection, how to aerate chocolate using home appliances, including a vacuum cleaner.  The mad wannabe scientist in me hopes to one  day try my hand at making aerated chocs too, but since I still don´t have a whipping siphon, this aerated chocolate dream shall go into the already long list of kitchen experiments I hope to do within this lifetime.

But the question really is, why would chocolate makers go to such lengths to tweak and add bubbles to an already awesome food?  Can chocolate be even better with bubbles in it?

Well, that was my question when I bought my inexpensive, on sale Nestle Bros bar.

The Verdict:  Okay, so I think I get what these tiny bubbles do to the chocolate experience.  At firs bite, the chocolate flavor appeared mild, but then as my mouth warmed the chocolate and the bubbles were exposed,  there was thatsilky, light as air texture , and the chocolate flavor seemed to be stronger, more intense. The reason, it seems, is because the aerated chocolate has greater surface area than a regular bar.  Because of the bubbles, points of contact between the flavor sensors in the tongue and the chocolate is way greater.   As the tiny bubbles and the tongue get in contact,  melting occurs faster, and there are tiny burst of chocolatey flavor.

The main draw of aerated chocolates is that they provide  light as air, intensely chocolatey experience.  Did Nestle Bros achieve this?

The Verdict:  Eating this indeed makes for a very velvety, light-as-air yet very chocolatey experience.  One problem though, the chocolate used for Bro is very sweet, almost cloying.  So yes it´s very chocolatey and very light, but way too sugary!  Now I feel the cocoa used for this bar wasn´t really of high quality chocolate.  But maybe that too is too much to ask for, since Bros of the same ilk as Mars, Nestle Crunch, Milka and Hershey´s.  And these chocolates, which we all loved when we were kids, tend to be too sugary.

Allergen Alert: Contains sugar, lactose

Recommendation: So-so.  But I figure that kids, since they like everything sweet, would enjoy the novelty of this ¨bubbly¨ chocolate.

Availability: Available in France, Holland, Belgium, Germany.  Sold in supermarkets, drugstores and newspaper and candy stalls.

Worth Buying: Amicelli Chocolate Hazelnut Creme Sticks

I often see these classy-looking hexagonal boxes of chocolates in big groceries in the Netherlands but I was only tempted to buy this weekend because I find it a little expensive.  A small 200g box of Amicelli costs the same as a family pack of Bounty bars or Twix White bars.  I can buy 4 bars of Milka Chocolates for the price.  Just a little too pricey for me.  But last week was a particularly trying one and I needed a little indulgence, so on Saturday at the the grocery,  I caved in and bought my first  box of Amicelli.

Amicelli is made by Mars Europe.  Reviews have called it the better, more indulgent version of Kinder Bueno.   Hmmm,  although both Amicelli and Kinder Bueno are filled with hazelnut creme, I don´t really agree with the comparison, because Kinder Bueno is geared for kids and youngsters with a very milky flavor.  It´s a little too sweet for me whereas Amicelli is less sweet and is I think meant for older, more, ehem, discriminating tastes.

 A box of Amicelli contains 16 individually wrapped Amicelli chocolate rolls

    Amicelli Chocolate Rolls

    The six inch long Amicelli Roll

   The Amicelli Roll

    The Amicelli layers:  a thin coating of  milky chocolate followed and thin wafer layer and  a heart      brimming with hazelnut creme
    It is certainly not difficult to pick up some Amicelli sticks!

    The layers of Amicelli Sticks

Allergy Alert:  Contains hazelnut creme, lactose, soya lecithin

Verdict: Delicious!  I have a love-hate attitude to Hazelnut creme products.  I hate Ferrero Rocher but I like Nutella.   Amicelli is on the love list. 

This is an indulgent treat. The sweetness grows on one´s palate, such that one stick is enough to satisfy me for the day.  Because of its somewhat delicate flavors, there is something classy about Amicelli.  This is not the kind of treat that you gobble up in one go!  It is more like the kind of secret vice that we place in our bags, something to help us through the rough day, a delicious chocolate helpline to buoy us over shitty days or  it can be our little reward for tasks done well.  This is the kind of chocolate a woman keeps to share with friends amidst heart-to-heart talks, or the kind we can share with our colleagues when we take a break from grown-up, we-need-to-solve-this dilemmas.

Of my box of 16 Amicelli sticks,  I still have 10.  Yeah, I ate 6  sticks in three days! I should reward myself for my willpower, yes?  Tomorrow, I´m going to the rest to the office tomorrow and share them with the team, some small sweet thing to rally us through another week of work.

Recommendation:  WORTH BUYING. If you find some Amicelli Sticks,  go buy!  They are perfect little chocolate bars for grown up chocolate lovers like us!  I think I´ll go buy a few more boxes as gifts to friends when I come home to the Philippines in September.  It´s classy and delicious and while not cheap, is reasonable enough to give to dear friends.

Availability: In big grocery stores in The Netherlands, Austria and Germany 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Erwtensoep: This Green Gunk is My Favorite Soup!

See that slimy green gunk on the left? The one that looks like
a) radioactive waste
b) something  that´s meant for the garbage can  or
c) something that´s ermmm, too gross to mention.

Well, that green gunk is the one food that I love above all else in The Netherlands.

My love story with the green hunk, I mean green gunk began two years ago when I first visited The Netherlands.  On the first day of my visit, my host-BFF introduced me to HEMA, what the Dutch call as their version of Ikea.  Like Ikea, the big Hema stores usually have cafeterias where one can have hot meals, sandwiches, pastries, cakes and well, soup.

That particular day was a bit cold,  and so I decided to have soup.  There was a rather anemic looking chicken soup and a green gunk labelled Erwtensoep.  Of course I choose the weird looking food!
And thus began my love for the Ewtensoep.

What is Erwtensoep?
It´s the dutch version of split pea soup.  That green coloring? That´s from the chlorophyll of the peas.
The soup, according to google, also has  carrots, potato, leek, onion and of course some seasoning.  But for me, the icing on the ermm, soup, are the chunks of  Dutch smoked sausage called rookworst mixed in the sauce.  Those meaty chunks add oomp to the decidedly mellow and comforting taste of the veggies.

Fast forward to now, and through a strange twist of fate ( or actually my desire to get out of what has become a bit of a monotonous existence in Spain),  I found myself living and working in The Netherlands.  And it is a bit shameful really, but during my first few weeks, while I was grappling with a lot of challenges, I found solace in eating bowls upon bowls of Ewtensoep as I second-guessed my decision of transferring here.  You could not have imagined how many times I berated myself during my first month here.
Are you crazy?  You chose to leave a stable job, that beautiful city with great food, gracious people and unending happenings for this cold land and those pushy people who don´t care what happens to you as long as they get what they want?

And truly, in my first few weeks here,  each grocery visit  would find me with cans and tetrapaks of Erwtensoep.  It was my comfort food, the one sure thing I knew was good in this place.  I think I have tasted all the brands of Erwtensoep available.  There´s Unox, the market leader in ready made hearty soup in Holland,  Konig which is a bit more expensive than Unox, and then there were the house brands of the different supermarkets.   I´ve tried Hoogvliet Grocery´s and Lidl´s versions of Erwtensoep.  And so far,  this brand is my favorite:

                         This is my favorite Erwtensoep.

I like this the most because the soup has chunky bits of veggies, and thus more texture.  The taste, to be honest, is all too similar among all the Erwtensoep I´ve eaten.  It´s the texture that makes this soup better than the rest.

Spring is coming, and with the advent of the tulips and sunshine,  the need for hearty soup to comfort us through the cold days is waning.  But I still keep a few packs of the soup, just in case.  It is the perfect dinner on nights when I am too tired to do anything and when a sandwich won´t cut it.    And it is still the one comfort food that I cling to, even as I  am slowly slowly getting used to the routine of my  life here in The Netherlands.

Where to Buy
Ewtensoep in tetrapaks or cans are readily available at all groceries in The Netherlands.  Just heat the soup for a few minutes and voila, delicious green gunk for you!