Monday, August 6, 2018

Halo Halo Cafe-Filipino Food and More!

Finally! A place close to home that serves all of our favorite Filipino desserts and more! Have you checked out Halo Halo Cafe in East Chula Vista?  If not, do yourself a favor, take your family, call your bestie and meet up for some IG worthy sweet treats!

New owners Cherry Reyes-Magpusao and her husband, Lee (and also Cherry's sister, Jane and her husband Ron) took over the cafe this past year from it's previous owner.  They have added so much value to the service and menu, there is almost always a line out the door! It is a cozy place so I wouldn't be surprised if they added some outdoor seating to accommodate the crowds! 

I had the opportunity to chat with Lee:

Let's explore some of the menu items, starting with the namesake of the eatery, the halo-halo!  This is a multi-layered rainbow of cut up fruits, beans, jello, crushed ice, ice cream and condensed milk! There is really no limit to what you want to top your halo halo with.  It is one of those items that is too pretty to eat, but halo-halo means to "mix-mix" so you mix all of the goodness up and start enjoying every slurp!

Halo Halo Cafe also serves other ice cream-topped desserts like this Bubble Waffle Cone! The cone's texture is not your typical crispy cone, it is a little chewy and tastes like a thin pancake. (I thought it would be cool if the "bubbles" were filled with flavors that would pop in your mouth, but that's really next-level desserts huh!) This was very yummy with the ube ice cream and coconut shavings. I love the attention to detail with a rolled wafer to add some crunch.
Bubble Cone with ube ice cream and coconut shavings
Crepes are also served here, with your choice of fillings and syrup! Whoever does the training here for plating sure does an excellent job!
Nutella crepe with cereal sprinkles

Other desserts include acai bowls, Magnolia brand ice cream scoops, brick toast, macarons, and even better-macaron ice cream sandwiches (Brick brand)!

Acai Bowl
PC: Halo Halo Cafe website Mango, Ube and Buko Pandan
PC: Halo Halo Cafe website  Brick Toast
PC: Halo Halo Cafe website  Macarons made by @MalynsSweetDelights

All these sweets need some drinks to wash them down! Look at all that awaits you in the display case! There's is quite a selection!
PC: Halo Halo Cafe website
They have all sorts of smoothies, blasts, slushes, thai teas, milk teas, with or without boba (tapioca pearls) and other specialty drinks!
Thai tea!
Milk Tea!
Sago & Gulaman!
Are you salivating by now? Hold on, there's thought you would come here for some dessert, BUT they also serve some really good Filipino food too! Say what? I know!

As mentioned in the video, one of their most popular items is the Special Pancit Palabok! Shrimp-based sauce served over rice noodles topped with green onions, eggs and crispy bits of lechon (roasted pig!) It's pretty special alright!

Do you like seafood?  The Garlic Shrimp was great and the bangus is always a good choice!

See that fried egg in the last picture? Lots of Filipino style breakfasts are served with an "itlog" (egg), thus the bangus dish with an egg is called Bangsilog. Here is a trifecta of "ilog" dishes, the TLT! Otherwise known separately as tapsilog (marinated beef), longsilog (beef or pork sausage) and tocsilog (marinated pork)

Kare-Kare, an oxtail stew, is a favorite of mine and this one was superb with the peanut sauce, tender oxtail, eggplant, green beans and a side of bagoong (fried shrimp paste) to add just a teeny weeny bit of salty tanginess that is critical to the Kare Kare experience.  To be honest, I was looking for the tripe, though, hahaha! 

Feeling like you just want something light? Then the fresh vegetable lumpia is for you!  A mix of veggies served in a light crepe lumpia wrapper also served with a slightly sweet peanut sauce. 

All of the food is served in microwave safe take home containers ready for your leftovers because the portions are so generous! These dishes are definitely family style servings! I appreciate that Halo Halo Cafe is enviro-conscious and leaves you with something that you can use over and over again, the container! 

There are also some other baked goods, Filipino rice desserts and even pecan tarts available for purchase. The supply changes daily.

I had the chance to tour the kitchen and everyone I was introduced to was a member of the family. Some had literally arrived from the Philippines a couple of months ago.  You cannot get more authentic Filipino food than from the hands that are making it here at Halo Halo Cafe! They also cater too! Leave the cooking to them for your next gathering, fiesta or office party! 

Come check out the latest Filipino food eatery in Chula Vista and see why there is always a crowd!
Say hi to Lee and Cherry too!
Halo Halo Cafe is located at 2326 Proctor Valley Road, Suite 108 in East Chula Vista. 
Hours are 10:00 am - 9:00 pm seven days a week! 

Follow them on Facebook: Halo Halo Cafe and on IG: @halohalocafe

Disclosure: I was treated to a menu tasting as a member of San Diego Filipino Blogger Network.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"Switch"ing it up-Nintendo's Family Game Night at 2018's SDCC!

My family was super excited to be invited to a Family Game Night sponsored by Nintendo of America on the eve of the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con at the spectacular Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. You see, my twelve-year old son, EJ,  has been hanging out with Mario and Luigi since he was in diapers. He was introduced to all sorts of activities playing with the twins:  bowling, tennis, driving and of course having an adventure collecting coins to save Princess Peach!

We got the Switch for him as soon as it became available! He loves playing at home and also taking it with him to places where he knows he will be seeing other Switch gamers!
We were able to bring along my godsons to the family event and once we arrived, pictures of Mario and Luigi greeted us!
Just look at this incredible mural featured inside the Nintendo Switch Family Lounge!
Various gaming stations showcased all the latest games throughout the lounge, like Mario Tennis Aces!  My husband and I enjoyed a friendly game. The Score?  We were at Love-Love for a bit, hahaha! The boys were a bit more competitive!
After tennis, the kids previewed a new game debuting in late July called Go Vacation! Up to four players can explore an island paradise by engaging in a multitude of vacation activities!

The lounge also had some cool displays of other products coming out soon, like this Mariokart Hot Wheel set!
Another new product featured was the new Poké Ball Plus remote controller that works with the three games, Pokémon Go, Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Pokémon Let's Go Eevee. This controller fits in the palm of your hand and will be out in November 2018.  I immediately thought it could also double as a stress relief ball when you take it with you to catch some Pokémon! Shake it and you'll hear the sound of the most recent Pokémon caught!
A special surprise of the night was the appearance of Pikachu and Eevee!
I had my own dance party with them!

Captain Toad was another game available to play at the event. While not new, it launched recently for the Switch and 3DS. An interactive photo booth featuring Captain Toad captured all the fun we were having!
Also displayed were products from the Nintendo LABO line! This line felt like a throw back to old school toys that we could feel and touch. Items were made of plain cardboard pieces put together. The total opposite of the colorful, techy visuals usually associated with Nintendo products. It was really neat to see that one can create something that works with the gaming system!
EJ checked out the piano.
At the event was one of my good friends, Lysabeth of Garcia Memories, and her boys! They also tested out the LABO Controls.
Even celebrities use the LABO line! Check out pop star Ariana Grande with Jimmy Fallon and the band, The Roots, using LABO instruments!  Impressive!
Not only did Nintendo provide first class family entertainment, they also fed us very well! We refueled with a dinner break!
At the end of the event, the kids received some really cool swag, including two games! 
We all felt like special guests experiencing all things Nintendo Switch for a couple hours! 
This event will surely rank as the top memory of 2018 SDCC for the boys! Thank you Nintendo of America for an amazing Family Game Night! 
Keep up with all the latest and greatest Nintendo news on their social media channels:
Twitter:  @NintendoAmerica
Instagram: @Nintendo
Facebook: @Nintendo

Disclosure: My family received free products, food and beverage as a result of our attendance at this event.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

j / wata TEMAKI BAR - the ONLY sushi handroll bar in SD!

j / wata TEMAKI BAR is the latest food venture from Chef Junya Watanabe, the brain behind Pokirrito, Raki Raki Ramen, and Angels and Hearts on Convoy in Kearny Mesa, San Diego. You can find all of these eateries in a nice little row in the strip mall anchored by O'Brien's Pub and many other fast casual restaurants.
The concept behind this 24-seat bar are premium handrolls! The menu is small but that is because each handroll is made right in front of you and served personally by the chef. The chef waits until you have finished eating your current roll before making the next one.
My husband and I were able to dine in on one of the Grand Opening weekends.  They have been opened for about a month and the word has gotten out.  We came right at 11 am and had no problem getting a seat. When we left 55 minutes later, there was a line.  All of the staff we interacted with were very friendly, made us feel welcome and answered any questions I had.
This is the menu:

We chose the Go set that came with 5 rolls.  There are no substitutions and no splitting plates.
One novelty of this place is that they roast each seaweed on top of a charcoal open flame to get it toasty. You can hear the crunch when you take a bite. I really enjoyed the texture of the nori!
They give you a disposable wet towel to wipe your hands with when you sit down. Even though there were chopsticks available, I just used my hands! The usual cone-shaped hand rolls hold everything at the bottom, but these were open ended rolls, so if you are prone to being clumsy like me, you had to be careful because the filling easily came out once you were near the end of the roll.

The rolls are about five inches long packed with simple ingredients. We started with the Maine Lobster roll.You can see how much lobster meat was in there!
The next roll was the Spicy Tuna roll. It was great, but we're used to eating this sushi so it didn't make that big of an impression.
The third roll was a Bay Scallop roll. This was one of my favorites! You can taste the freshness of the seafood and the mayo ratio was just right!
The fourth roll was a Negi Salmon roll.  I filmed Chef Brian making this one. Again, one of our regular sushi rolls. It was also good.
The last roll was the Blue Crab roll.  It was heavenly! The sweetness of the crab melted in my mouth! This was very yummy.
One might think four or five rolls doesn't make for a filling meal, but when you take the time to savor each one and patiently wait for the next while having good conversation, I was satisfied! This also leaves some room for dessert. The receipt offered a 15% off a same day purchase at the Angels and Hearts creperie next door. Yogurt World and the newly opened Cauldron are a few doors down as well.
Here are some other items that j / wata offers.
The atmosphere is like an open exhibition kitchen with interesting art on the walls.  Initially there was only one Chef working while Chef Brian was still prepping. But once the place filled up,  Chef Brian jumped in to start filling the orders. I'm glad too because I wanted some "sushi chef" talk and got the chance to banter with Chef Brian. That's part of the sushi bar experience, right?
If you like seafood, I think you will enjoy this place. I have never ordered a lobster, scallops or blue crab roll at other places because of the price, but this set of five rolls was $21.75 and worth it!

Ok, I mainly gave some positives right? So here's some negatives:

  • Parking in this strip mall can be like the Hunger Games so be prepared! I don't really count this against the restaurant though.  Maybe Chef Watanabe can invest in a parking garage nearby since he owns a lot of the places?
  • The water came with no ice.  I like ice. We had to request for some ice when it came time to refill. But again, our server was very nice (and nice-looking too, hehehe). 
  • Here's the one thing that was off-putting. The Chefs are gloved up making the rolls but then they are also touching tablets with the same hands checking on what to make next.  Does this only bother me thinking about yucky germs being spread? Not sure how to fix that.  Chef Brian was using his pinky finger to swipe on his device, but I'm certain his pinky also touches the mound of rice whenever he grabs some for his next roll and so on. Whatever. I guess I've seen worse.

Overall for the taste, friendly staff and concept, 4 stars!  If you've tried it, what did you think?
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