Monday, June 2, 2014

Ladies Luncheon at Sweet Bella Cakes & Pastries

I had felt like I was adrift at sea after moving back to Las Piñas from Bonifacio Global City. Although I was surrounded by most things familiar in my old hometown, I felt like I was a whole country away from friends, co-workers, and all the good restaurants! Thank goodness for Mama Jane and her pseudo-adopting me whenever we go out as a group!

Jane also introduced me to a lovely group of moms who blog in Alabang, and I was invited by Michelle, who owns the blog Momma N Manila, for a ladies luncheon at Sweet Bella Cakes & Pastries in Molito. I'm a longtime fan of Sweet Bella, and Jericho and I spent a lot of time at their Molito branch when the weather was a lot cooler, taking my dog out to run around the grassy areas and sniff around while I enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate and a small cake or one of their cheese rolls. Saying yes to Michelle's invite was a no brainer.

Owned by Chef Cristina Santiago-Rivera, she had a passion for desserts and earned her culinary diploma at California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Not many people know she is also the daughter of Melo Santiago - of the famous Melo’s Steakhouse - and she started creating her artisanal desserts for Melo's menu before putting up her own cake shop-cum-cafe, named after her unica hija, Bella. 

The ladies and I met up with Veron, one of the owners, and she looked to me saying, "I know you..." Yes, I'm the one with the white fluffy dog you and your servers like so much. Haha!

Lunch started off with bowls of Seafood Chowder (P250), and I could see the bits of mussels and shrimp in mine. The portion size is actually a lot more than the picture, but since we had a lot of eating to go through that day, we split our portions in half.

Speaking of shrimp, I liked the Gambas Ajillo (P270) a lot, and this came with focaccia bread for you to dip into the garlicky olive oil while enjoying the plump pieces of shrimp.

I was surprised when they brought out the Oyster Rockefeller (P395) - there was one there that was as big as a child's foot, I'd imagine. Served hot and with a little assist of a spoon, this slid down the back of my throat, leaving a sweet, briny taste in its wake.

For those of us who don't consider it a meal without rice, Sweet Bella serves up some excellent USDA Salpicao (P495). Tender, juicy, with all of those flavors that remind you of home, this also comes with flavorful steak rice made from the salpicao pan drippings.

I've been trying (emphasis on trying) to make healthy choices lately, and particularly liked the Grilled Salmon (P495) that came with a classic lemon butter sauce, mashed potato, and a side of vegetables. Ok, so the salmon was pretty healthy being rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, da dada dada... but the lemon butter sauce - not so much.

Our pièce de résistance that afternoon was the Wagyu Rib-Eye Steak (P995), as it looked mouthwatering on the plate and did not disappoint. Grilled to a medium, the juicy steak was served with a side of gravy, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables.

We winded down with dessert, and while the other moms chatted about their kids, I ended up chatting about Mr. Wiggles - my furbaby - which was pretty funny. The sweet stuff is what Sweet Bella is known for, and we had quite a line up that afternoon.

Not to be missed at Sweet Bella is her Hot Chocolate (P150/a pot), which is a thick - with almost a sludgy consistency - Valrhona chocolate served in a teapot and is best enjoyed with a friend over good conversation. In my case, it's conversations about my dog.

If Fererro Rocher came in cake form, I imagine it would taste a lot like Sweet Bella's Mi Camille (P295). Belgian milk chocolate mousse is layered with hazelnut praline and a French biscuit on an almond praline crust. I have been known to squirrel a few of these away in one sitting.

Making the most of our sweet fruits that are currently in season, I liked the Mangotier (P275) - an oven-baked mango cheesecake layered with mango mousse and fresh mango coulis. This is sweet and fruity, with a soft, cheesecake center.

The tower of strawberry cream layered with vanilla cake makes up Sweet Bella's Strawberry Shortcake (P275). This was the prettiest cake of the bunch and not as sweet as I had initially thought it would be. It was light, fluffy with just a subtle taste of strawberry with lots, and lots of cream.

One of the most intriguing desserts was The Pearl (P295) that had actually won a dessert award that I can't remember of the top of my head. Made with a fragrant and super pretty guava mousse, this is filled with flambéed mango on a light chiffon cake.

The Trio (P275) had layers of coffee mousse, dark chocolate mousse, and white chocolate mousse blended together. As much as I love chocolate, this seemed like a bit too much for me.

And lastly, there was my other favorite dessert, the Chiccolata (P220). Truly a chocoholic’s dream, this rich chocolate cake is covered with an even richer ganache, and a chocolate net of sorts that just melts in your mouth and leaves you feeling smug and satisfied.

Overall, I had a marvelous time getting lunch and spending time with the gorgeous Alabang moms. The south doesn't feel so lonely anymore!

When mucking around Molito, go on and give Sweet Bella Cakes & Pastries a go. Not only do they make for a great breakfast hideaway, they serve up some pretty decent lunch options, and of course, their desserts are not to be missed!

Just mucking around Manila,
Follow @_muckingaround on Twitter and Instagram.
Like the Mucking Around Manila fan page.

Sweet Bella Cakes & Pastries
+63 2 556 4247
Molito Lifestyle Mall,
Alabang, Muntinlupa
Open Daily: 8am - 10pm