Thursday, August 28, 2014

Watermelon Steak and Bloodless Dinuguan: Meatless Mondays at Harina Artisan Bakery Café

Red Planet, warm watermelon topped with cheese, arugula and crushed walnuts and/or peanuts, and drizzled with balsamic glaze

From the outside, the bakery-café looks like any modern bungalow home, cream-colored and almost nondescript you may miss it. Inside, prints of gray and orange leaves and red roses run through the walls, a charming contrast to the dark-vanished wooden plank benches that hold the wooden tables, accented with potted plants, in place. Songs of the Beatles are played in the background. Different kinds of bread fill the shelves near the entrance including its popular breadsticks and Spanish bread. The counter is filled with pastries and sweetsmuffins, cookies, pies, cakes, etc.
            Many residents of White Plains Subdivision in Quezon City still call the neighborhood bakery by its original name, Monsees. Since it opened in November 2010 along Katipunan Avenue, Monsees has been well-loved even by people from other parts of Metro Manila. After three years, Monsees was renamed Harina Artisan Bakery Café. The name is the Filipino word for flour, and the owners, lawyer Marina Demeterio and Sally Yunez, wanted a name that is closely associated with their products. The name Monsees is still retained though, although it now refers to their institutional businesses and is the brand name the breads carry, while Harina is the retail arm, the café operations.
            Despite the change of name, the vision remains the same.
            Everything is a labor of love, the owners emphasize. The baking is done the traditional way, without shortcuts and chemical additives. Since chemical additives are not used, the flavors of each ingredient are fully developed. It wasnt necessary to add chemicals to bread for centuries and Harina believes that it still isnt. Nothing less than premium ingredients are used. The breads are hand rolled. We do not mass-produce the breads; they are baked in small batches rather than on a vast assembly line.  An interesting corner is the open baking area which allows customers to see how some of their products are made.

Inside Harina Artisan Bakery Café
Harina Artisan Bakery-Cafe is located along Katipunan Avenue in White Plains, Quezon City

Arroz Cubana has potatoes, carrots and soy protein in a stew, and fried egg, plantains and steamed rice
The bruschetta platter of baguette slices with three toppings: avocado, asparagus and arugula; herbed tomatoes; and sliced mushrooms and cheese
Of the dishes in Harina Artisan Bakery Café’s Meatless Monday menu , the dinuguan  stands out. This Filipino favorite stew is made without pig’s blood and innards but it tastes exactly like traditional dinuguan, which is served with puto (rice cake) or steamed rice.
             One other thing that the change of name indicates is the growth. The bakery is now also a restaurant popular for its breakfast offerings that include sandwiches; pancakes; biscuits; different versions of the French Toast such as the strawberry cheesecake and peanut butter bananas with chocolate; the unique breakfast tart which is puff pastry shell filled with eggs, spinach, roasted tomatoes and bacon; and the Bloomin Bread, round Italian pull apart bread. The menu was expanded to include rice combination meals and pasta dishes.
            On ordinary days, Harina Artisan Bakery Café serves filling dishes such as pulled pork adobo with fried kesong puti, lettuce and tomato on baguette; linguini in a marinara-based sauce with Spanish chorizo and roasted peppers; rib-eye steak with two fried eggs, French fries, baked tomatoes and toast; and fried milkfish belly with salty red eggs, tomatoes and garlic fried rice. But today is Monday, and recently Harina introduced a special menu available only on the first day of the working week.
            Unsuspecting customers are always caught by surprise but are almost always willing to try it out despite the reputation of the food being bland and generally dislikable. And almost always they are surprised that the dishes are very agreeable, relates the owners.
            We are not serving meat at Harina Cafe every Monday, explains Demeterio. We have a special vegetarian menu for the day and the items on our regular menu will not be available. So diners will have to order from the vegetarian menu.
            They call this practice Meatless Monday.
            There is an international Meatless Monday campaign, Yunez says. We are not connected to the proponents of that, but since we have pretty much the same aim, which is to encourage people to not eat meat at least once a week to improve their health and help the environment, we decided to adapt the name. They say that Monday is the best day for this because it is the start of the week, and at this time of the week, people are usually enthusiastic and raring to begin something new, something good.
            Profits from Meatless Monday will go to charity. We have not determined yet which charity though, Demeterio adds.
            Girlishly, the two admits being Beatles fans, which not only explains the Beatles background music but also the Meatless Monday practice, inspired by Beatles member Paul McCartneys Meatless Monday movement launched on June 15, 2009, with his daughters Stella and Mary.
            Of course, the reasons are deeper than that. Both are professed vegetarians. For Demeterio, her concern for her health prompted her to embark on a plant diet.
            And I am learning that it isnt all so bad, she admits. I have recently learned to appreciate the benefits of being vegetarian through my friends Henry and Sally Yunez and Judy Lao. For years, they have been encouraging me to give vegetarianism a try, sending me dishes every now and then. But it was only now that I decided to go for it.
            She further says: I am thinking that maybe if I started this earlier then maybe I wouldnt have developed a health problem. So far, I have been less irritable. I am more focused and more productive. Our tagline is Sharing happiness with every bite, so this is still in line with that. This is what makes us happy, so were sharing it with you. Hopefully, it will also make you happy. So I want people to consider getting into it, even for just one day a week, while they still have a choice.
            On the other hand, Yunez, a vegetarian for four years now, reveals her family is Buddhist, and the main motivators are compassion for animals and to do our share in saving the environment.  Furthermore, she explains that meat-eating causes a huge damage on our ecological system.
            Animals grown for food need space to graze on so theres deforestation. Their emissions and waste poison the surroundings. The higher the demand for meat, the bigger the stress on our environment, Yunez says. It is our personal advocacy to spread vegetarianism. It will help the environment and it is good for our health. We understand that it can be quite difficult to adjust to a new lifestyle especially since vegetarian meals are not readily available. The sources are still quite limited. We would like to help out in that department with Meatless Monday. Being vegetarian for a day is a good start. And we would like people to change their mindset on vegetarian food. It can be as delicious or even more palatable than your regular food. This is also our way of sharing our knowledge in preparing vegetarian food.
            It was Yunez who developed the dishes for the Meatless Monday menu together with her sister-in-law Judy Lao, who is famous for her fruitcakes and who has been a vegetarian for 12 years now.
            We want dishes that are familiar yet interesting enough, Yunez says. We stayed away from anything intimidating. The menu is not hardcore; its just for beginners. It is to entice, not to scare.

Healthy drinks: the Green Electrolyte, made with cucumber, lemon and lime; and the Red Electrolyte with apple and watermelon.
The kimchi fried rice with barbecue consists of kimchi rice with barbecued bean curd skin and grilled bell peppers

Judy Lao (left)  helped develop the vegetarian menu together with Harina owners lawyer Marina Demeterio and Sally Yunez
Pochero soup of chopped plantains, tomatoes and pechay (bokchoy)
             The Meatless Monday menu is still small, but the selections are quite interesting.
            We want to educate more people and let them know that they have a choice, that theres more to vegetables than what we usually see, Demeterio explains. Its not just adobong kangkong (water convolvulus stewed in soy sauce, garlic and vinegar) and nilagang kamote (boiled sweet potato) all the time. When we were doing our research and development and made people try the dishes. They were surprised at the flavors.
            Noteworthy are the meat dishes they made vegetarian. Example is the famous Cebuano stew of pork, tomato sauce, bananas and vegetables, the pochero. Though they have the usual lentil soup (P120), their pochero soup (P120) catches our attention. The soup is surprisingly sweetish and tasty with only chopped plantains, tomatoes and pechay (bokchoy). This is nicely paired with the bruschetta platter (P310). The slices of baguette, arranged on a wooden chopping board, come with three toppings: avocado, asparagus and arugula; herbed tomatoes; and sliced mushrooms and cheese.
Unexpectedly, they offer one kind of salad, the melon celery salad (P160), which consists of melon cubes and chopped celery with sour cream and yogurt dressing. It is refreshing but too sweet to start a meal.
            The biggest surprise is their dinuguan (P230), the Filipino favorite stew of pigs blood and innards. Lao explains that she substitutes the chewy innards with chopped black mushrooms, banana blossoms and soy curd. To give the characteristic black color of the dish, Lao uses black hair seaweed from China. This is served with either steamed rice or puto (rice cake), like the usual dinuguan, and it tastes exactly like the usual dinuguan. The contention is the name since dinuguan means with blood put in in Filipino.
            The main dish selections are international in appeal: kimchi fried rice with barbecue (P250), which is available in other days and consisting of kimchi rice with barbecued bean curd skin and grilled bell peppers; Arroz Cubana (P230), which is also available in other days and has potatoes, carrots and soy protein in a stew, and fried egg, plantains and steamed rice; and porcini mushroom linguini (P200), which is linguini aglio e olio with porcini mushrooms and topped with parmesan cheese.
            Serving as their house steak dish is Red Planet (P180), which has a thick slab of warm watermelon as main ingredient. Its sweetness is cut off by toppings of cheese, arugula and crushed walnuts and/or peanuts, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze, preventing it from becoming a dessert.
And for desserts, the Cocoro chocolate cake (P125 per slice) is offered. The bittersweet chocolate cake is made from 72 percent courveture dark chocolate and sweetened with coconut sugar, which is considered a healthier sweetening choice. One can also opt for the apple crumble (P375 per small tray), which uses Fuji and Granny Smith apples with cinnamon and its crust topped with streusel and chopped walnuts.
            These are downed with refreshing and healthy juice blend drinks: the Green Electrolyte (P150) with cucumber, lemon and lime, and the Red Electrolyte (P150) with apple and watermelon.
            Yunez says the menu will change. As much as possible, I wanted to work with local products that are readily available. We also want to incorporate whats in season. We want to offer a wide variety so were still developing more dishes. Expect the menu to grow. We also want to hear the preferences of the market so we can work with ingredients they like. If they dont like okra and you insist that they try okra, it really wont work. I want them to enjoy vegetarianismgrains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Vegetarianism isnt all vegetables!
      Were working on a lot more dishes. We will be rolling them out slowly to keep the clients excited. Watch out for more vegetarian dishes from different cuisines next month, Demeterio promises.
      Picture yourself in a boat on a river/With tangerine trees and marmalade skies, the song from somewhere suddenly enters the consciousness. The Beatles is still being played. As our watermelon sweetly bleeds for us and the lemon-yellow sunlight streams through the window, we know some people are making a difference by just innovating with food.

Harina Artisan Bakery Café is at 118 Katipunan Avenue, White Plains Subdivision, Quezon City, with telephone number (02) 352-6721. It is open Monday to Sunday, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.  

Regular Menu

3 pieces fluffy pancakes served with whipped butter & syrup. Php165.00

Muesli with Fruit
Homemade muesli topped with assorted fruits. Php270.00

Strawberry Cheesecake-Stuffed French Toast
Cheesecake-filled brioche topped with whipped cream & strawberry preserves. Php290.00

PBB Chocolate Stuffed French Toast
Wheat honey walnut French toast stuffed with creamy peanut butter, sliced bananas &choco-hazalnut spread.

Freshly baked Southern-style biscuits.Served with butter and jam. Php165.00

Harina’sBloomin’  Bread(for sharing)
Crusty pull-apart Italian loaf filled with basil puree and an assortment of melted cheese.   Served with  a dip of balsamic vinegar  &extra-virgin olive oil. Php320.00

Add Php130.00 for sausage & garlic OR pepperoni & pimiento bloomin’ bread

Breakfast Tart
Puff pastry shell filled with cream cheese, spinach, baked tomatoes, bacon and eggs. Php290.00

Quiche Lorraine
Flaky pastry crust with a savoury filling, served with salad greens tossed in balsamic vinaigrette. Php290.00

Steak and Eggs
Rib-eye steak served with two fried eggs, French Fries, baked tomatoes & toast. Php450.00

The Big Breakfast
Create your own breakfast with a vegetable and cheese omelet,  choice of Canadian ham, bacon OR breakfast sausage and roasted pineapple. Served with toast. Php290.00

Biscuit and Gravy
Fried chicken fillet, bacon, baked tomatoes & biscuit topped with white gravy. Php225.00

Vegetable and Cheese Omelet
Omelet filled with sautéed vegetables and cheese.  Served with toast & fruit slices. Php225.00

Pork Adobo &KesongPutiOmelet
Omelet filled with pork adobo, kesongputi, tomatoes & onions.   Served with toast & fruit slices.Php 225.00

Eggs Benedict
Ciabatta  topped with Gruyere, Canadian ham, poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Php225.00

Homemade Corned Beef
Sliced homemade corned beef served with fried eggs and garlic fried rice. Php285.00

Fried native sausages of Lucban, Quezonserved with fried eggs and garlic fried rice. Php220.00

Bangus Belly
Fried bangus belly served with salted eggs & tomatoes and garlic fried rice. Php220.00

Penne cooked al dente in tomato cream sauce with porcini mushrooms and bacon. Php200.00

Spaghetti in spicy red tomato sauce, roasted garlic and red chili peppers. Php200.00

Spanish Chorizo & Peppers
Linguini in a marinara-based sauce with cooked withspanish chorizo and roasted peppers. Php250.00

Creamy Bacon & Asparagus
Fettucine in a creamy sauce with bacon and asparagus, topped with poached egg. Php250.00

Pesto Pasta with Grilled Cajun Chicken
Linguini with pesto, served with grilled cajun chicken. Php250.00

Hot Ham and Cheese
Flaky pastry filled with Canadian ham, Gruyere and pickles topped with béchamel sauce. Php220.00

Adobo Pulled Pork
Pulled pork adobo with fried kesongputi, lettuce and  tomatoon baguette. Php265.00

Chicken Caesar Sandwich
Grilled Cajun chicken & lettuce in Caesar dressing topped with poached egg, bacon and parmesan cheese on baguette. Php220.00

Waldorf Salad Sandwich
Flaky pastry with filling of chicken, red and green apples, celery and chopped walnuts in mayonnaise. Php220.00

Crispy Chicken & Cheese
Crispy breaded chicken with cheese, pimiento and jalapeno aioli spread. Php220.00

Overloaded Tuna Cheese Melt
Tuna and Various Cheeses on lightly toasted baguette. Php220.00

List of Baked Goods
Loaves of Bread
•    Baguette P65.00
•    Spanish Bread (pack of 8) P100.00
•    Wheat Honey Walnut   P145.00
•    Rustico    P65.00
•    Italian Loaf    P65.00
•    Pandesal    P30.00
•    Apple Cinnamon    P145.00
•    Brioche    P145.00

•    Onion & Sour Cream    P100.00
•    Bacon & Cheese    P100.00
•    Almond    P120.00
•    Garlic    P100.00
•    Milk & Butter    P100.00
•    Parmesan    P120.00
•    Plain Cheese    P100.00

•    Cinnamon Swirls    P45.00
•    Double Chocolate Muffin    P90.00
•    Choco-Banana Muffin    P90.00
•    Blueberry Muffin    P120.00
•    Strawberry Muffin    P120.00
•    Cappuccino Muffin    P120.00
•    Carrot Bran Muffin    P90.00
•    Mixed Berries    P90.00
•    Cheese Roll with Buttercream    P45.00
•    Danish    P45.00

•    Premium Dark Chocolate Cake    P850.00
•    Chocolate Fudge Cake    P450.00
•    New York-Style Cheesecake    P850.00
•    White Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bundt Cake    P850.00
•    Peaches & Cream Bundt Cake    P850.00
•    Serious Rhum Cake    P180.00
•    Strawberry Cloud Cake   P850.00
•    Chocolate Almond Smores    P450.00

Savoury Pot Pies
•    Spinach & Mushroom Pot Pie   
•    Tomato & Fontina Pot Pie