This time of the year is the perfect time for brands to introduce new items to their menus or lists of offerings as more and more people are not only going out to dine but also looking for unique gifts to give. As restrictions have loosened and the pandemic seemingly waning, retailers are now expecting a jollier Christmas compared with last year. Here’s a short list of some of our favorites.

Full Circle Craft Distillers’ Christmas gin

This limited edition release is sure to get you in the Christmas spirit. Handcrafted in small batches in their copper stills in Laguna, this holiday gin packs the warmth of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, and sweet orange. This is easy to gift with options of buying it with a wooden crate and even a home bar starter kit.

F&B holiday eats: Full Circle Distilleries’ Christmas gin

A table by Dulce Magat-Gibb’s kransekake

Dulce Magat-Gibb has been doing private dinners at her home for years and since the pandemic, her clients never stopped calling her for her food. She offers a wide array of beautifully plated food trays such as kesong puti served with tomato jam, roasted squash, pickled pineapple, and basil pine nut pesto. For Christmas, she goes Scandinavian with a traditional towering cake that is sure to wow guests. Made with stacked almond-based cookie-cakes and decorated with icing, the kransekake is eaten on holidays and special occasions.

F&B holiday eats: Dulce Magat-Gibb's kransekake

New stalls at The Grid 

All of the stalls at The Grid have put out a dish for the holidays that gives food lovers great reasons to drop in and taste everything new.

Stall 6 Gochugang’s torched truffle beef bulgogi bowl seems simple enough but it packs so much flavor with the torched beef strips and mushrooms along with the subtle truffle cream sauce drizzled on top. It comes with a good dose of kimchi and pickled cucumbers to cut through the richness of the dish.

Holiday eats: Gochugang's torched truffle beef bulgogi bowl

Stall 8 Babu is known for hawker fare, especially the oyster cake that gets its own spin—a pancake filled with juicy and chewy pieces of oyster yet crispy on the outside.

Babu's oyster cake

Stall 20 Workshop brought back the classic salted egg bibingka for those yearning for a nostalgic bite. You can add different types of cheese to make this well-loved baked rice cake more indulgent: cheddar, kesong puti, or manchego. They also have an ube queso bibingka that is filled and topped with ube halaya.

Workshop's ube queso bibingka

Butternut Bakery’s holiday cakes

A fail-proof gift for the season is either Butternut Bakery’s Holly Jolly Chocolate Cake, a rich chocolate fudge cake topped with a wreath made with frosting, or its Merry Mocha Cake (pictured here). What’s great about Butternut Bakery is they also have mini versions, giving you plenty of sweet options for every type of recipient.

Butternut Bakery’s Christmas cakes

Rico’s Lechon opens in the south

The south now has more to offer with the opening of Rico’s Lechon at Festival Mall. Not that there’s been a dearth of restaurants but the addition of this Cebu institution (in time for the Christmas holiday) supports the enviable dining environment that residents of Alabang, Parañaque, and Las Piñas currently enjoy. The Festival Mall branch occupies a space that can accommodate up to 100 customers as well as a takeout counter who prefer sinking their teeth into  the satisfying roasted pig at home.—Eric Nicole Salta 

Rico's Lechon Festival Mall

Bad Cafe’s DIY gingerbread house kit

The collective seasonal appetites of Filipinos may not normally gravitate towards the German-rooted gingerbread house but this DIY kit from Bad Cafe makes it easy to enjoy the holiday experience nonetheless. Build your own cookie-walled house, decorate it with sweet snowy treats, and give your Noche Buena spread a little winter cheer.—Eric Nicole Salta

Bad Cafe DIY gingerbread house kit

Ikinari Steak democratizes the steak experience

Steak is usually an expensive treat reserved for special occasions, but Japanese steakhouse Ikinari Steak is changing that. The popular chain restaurant has opened its first Philippine branch at MOA Square with a price point friendly enough for people to indulge in without hurting their wallets. 

For those familiar with the typical Ikinari format in Japan, we’re pleased to inform you that its local iteration doesn’t require you to stand for your meal. The restaurant offers spacious tables with comfortable seating so you can relax while dining and, most importantly, an almost identical menu serving delicious, expertly seasoned dishes.

Ikinari Steak

Some of the highlights of its lean yet formidable menu include the wild steak (P599+) made from certified Angus chuck eye, the hamburg steak (P475+), and the assorted cut that consists of, well, an assortment of prime and wild steak cuts (P920). 

You can also order premium cuts like the ribeye, tenderloin, and striploin by the gram—further solidifying the point that steak can be for everyone. 

Easyfood Restaurants Corp., the local company franchising the brand, is eyeing more branches across Metro Manila by next year. Which is good news considering the line for its flagship branch is always out the door.—Andrei Yuvallos