Monday, August 31, 2009

Leslie's in Tagaytay

It was our last day in Tagaytay and Tagaytay is famous for it's succulent and tender beef. Some folks from Manila also shop at the market in Tagaytay to buy beef because the meat is so tender and fresh.

A balikbayan's trip to Tagaytay is never complete without having Bulalo (a beef shank soup). We decided to have some at Leslie's. The Bulalo is served in a huge bowl with potatoes, sliced cabbages and green beans. The meat is so tender and falling off the bone. So yummy and so bad for your cholesterol, but what the heck, I'll gladly use up my cholesterol quota for the week just to have that yummy fatty broth and that soft fatty tissue. He he he.

We also had the Cripy Pata, or fried pork hocks. Tony called it cracklings. I call it..."extremely-bad-for-my-health-but-I-am-poweless-to-resist" occassional treat.

I've had my cholesterol quota for the week. Darn, I have to walk a few more blocks to burn it off.

Bawai's Vietnamese Kusina

We had an early dinner reservation at Bawai's Vietnamese Kusina. Please book in advance when you want to dine there, they can only accomodate a few number of people. The restaurant is part of a family home thay they've opened to the public. For reservations, you may call +63920BAWAI. Bawai's is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for lunch and dinner.

For starters, we had the spring roll, Goi Cuon. Spring rolls with mixed vegetables, noodles and shrimps wrapped in rice paper and dipped in a special peanut sauce.

We also had the Goi Thit Thom, a salad of mixed vegetables, shrimps and pork strips in a lime, patis (fish sauce) dressing.

Me and Gerry had the Pho Bo. Flat Noodles with some beef shavings, herbs and mung sprouts. We liked this dish very much. It's not too light and not too heavy either. Quite perfect for an evening meal. The soup is fantastic.

Hubby ordered the Bung Bo Hue again. Vermichelli noodle soup with beef stips and pork knuckle. You can specify how spicy you want your noodles. Hubby likes his "mild".

Tony had the Ga Xao Xa, caramelized lemongrass chicken. I reckon it's like Vietnamese Chicken adobo.

Bawai never disappoints.

The churches in Tagaytay area

Staying for the weekend in Tagaytay need s a little bit of planning ahead specially if you're staying for Sunday mass.

We decided to have an early mass at the Pink Sisters chapel.Pink Sisters Chapel holds two masses every Sunday, one is at 7:30 am and at 5:30 pm. We went to the 7:30 am mass so that there will be less people, or so we thought. The Philippines is around 90% Catholic and people go to mass en masse. If you want to go to mass at Pink Sisters, come early to get a good parking space, the parking space outside the church is the best and the easiest to get in and out of.

In the afternoon, we also went to Caleruega in Nasugbu, just outside of Tagaytay. Not too far. Caleruega is a nice little church on top of a hill and it overlooks some fantastic views of the mountains. Many couple marry there due to its picturesque location. The church is small and very cosy. If you're planning an intimate wedding, Calruega is the perfect place.

Day two at Tagaytay - Sonya's Garden

As I have mentioned before, we are entertaining hubby's balikbayan cousin from Australia. Whenever we have balikbayans coming come, we often make it a point to take them to Tagaytay and Sonya's Garden.

Sonya's Garden still holds that allure of a "secret garden" although it's no longer a secret. It's nice place to have lunch in. All their dining areas have live vines and plants and flowers inside. Makes you feel like eating in a greenhouse. The salad of course is the reason why people come back. The lovely combination of the freshly picked greens, assorted local fruits, jackfruits, flowers and the crunchy pop beans with Sonya's secret salad dressing truly makes a one of a kind salad experience.

Sonya's has expanded so much through the years, I hope that they develop more of the gardens instead of just the dining areas and the bed and breakfast. After all, people not only go to Sonya's for the salad, they come also for the lovely flowers and plants that abound the property.

Shakey's at Summit Ridge Tagaytay

I know that Shakey's has been a part of our Philippine culinary lansdcape for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories of dining out was watching the pizza guy toss the dough and ladle on the special sauce and toppings while I watch mezmerized through the restauran't kitchen looking glass. We tend to take Shakey's for granted. What we sometimes forget to realize is that Shakey's is no longer a global brand as it was two decades ago. Shakey's has fallen victim to the global slump and so many management changes through the years that resulted to closing hundreds of their stores globally. The Philippines currently holds the most number of Shakey's restaurants in the world.

Is it any wonder that Balikbayans crave for Shakey's whenever they come home? Even though Shakey's is not a local brand originally, Filipinos have made it their own and has been a part of the Filipino dining culture since it opened here in the 70's.

On our first night at Tagaytay, hubby's cousin Gerry requested to have Shakey's for dinner instead of dining in more swanky places in the area. Shakey's is just within the Tagaytay Summit Ridge's hotel premises and it was so convenient to dine there.

We had a basket of Mojos, or crumbed potato chips as our Aussie friend Tony would say.

We had our usual Friday's Special of shrimps, anchovies and mushrooms with an extra topping of bell peppers. This is our favorite pizza in the whole wide world :-) No exagerration. Hubby was a happy camper.

We also had the Shakey's Special with probably all the toppings available in the Shakey's pantry. This pizza was a bit over done (or extra crispy, as we like to call it).

I love Shakey's pizza. Do you?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summit Ridge Hotel in Tagaytay

As part of our Tagaytay adventure, our party of four is checked into the newly opened Summit Ridge Hotel. Owned by the JG Summit group. They offer 20% off for August. We made it just in time. Perfect!

Tagaytay is a great place to come for a short weekend vacation. Tagaytay is still considered "out of town" despite it being just an hour away from Manila (without traffic). Tagaytay is far enough, yet, close enough. You know what I mean? It's that perfect place to get away for a short while.

All rooms at the Summit Ridge Hotel in Tagaytay has a view of Taal Volcano. This is our view from our hotel balcony. Sweet!

The Standard rooms at Summit Ridge Hotel are very comfy and clean. The bed mattress is firm, just the way we like it.

The bathroom is well appointed and generously sized. basic toiletries are also provided.

Dig the shower head. I like it very much, it makes me feel like bathing under the rain.

One problem that we encountered with Summit Ridge Hotel is the low water pressure and temperature. Hot water is "lukewarm" at best.

Each room comes also with an LCD TV, free wifi (that's why I can blog while hubby is snoring away) and complimentary water, coffee and tea making facilities and a small fridge.

The best part without any doubt is the view and the lovely fog in the morning.

Summit Ridge also has a small commercial area adjacent to it, a supermarket, Starbucks, Shakeys and Pepper Steak to name a few. You won't go hungry here :-) Most stores close at 9:00 p.m.

Every stay at Summit Ridge Hotel has complimentary buffet breakfast for two. Their selection includes bacon, tocino, assorted breads, eggs, fried rice, sausages, cereals and fruits. I went straight for the bacon, he he he :-)

Overall, I would recommend Summit Ridge Hotel. It's the nicest hotel in Tagaytay, very accessible with nice facilities.

Crepes at Cafe Breton, Cliffhouse Tagaytay

If you regularly visit this blog or my facebook page, you will notice that we looooove crepes. After our lunch at La Esquina in Splendido, we headed off to Cliffhouse to have dessert, coffee and tea.

It's nice to transfer places when dining out. Our objective was to take Gerry and Tony to as many places in Tagaytay as we can so that they will get a feel of the place and see as much as our time allows.

As usual hubby had his banana split. We didn't take a photo of it anymore since he always orders that or any dish with tons of ice cream.

I had a Mango Crepe with condesed milk. This is one of my favorite combinations. When I make crepes at home, I also do this specially when mangoes are in season.

Tony and Gerry shared a Blueberries and Cream Crepe. Dessert crepe with Mantecado ice cream, whipped cream and Blueberry preserves. Very decadent and sinful :-)

Gerry ordered the Cafe Mocha as well. All coffee in Cafe Breton is made with Kapeng Barako, or local Batangas Coffee. "Barako" in Tagalog means "manly" or "muscular". As the name Kapeng Barako suggests, the coffee is very robust and packs a punch.

Our diet (of sensible eating) was thrown right out of the window, just for this weekened... I hope!

Cliffhouse is a nice place to have a vantage point of Taal Volcano. It's not crowded like the other places.

Cliffhouse is also a very nice place to have lunch or dinner. Buon Giorno, Cafe Breton and Fire Lake House Grill are all excellent places to have your meals.

La Esquina at Splendido

Hubby's cousin Gerry and his partner, Tony flew in from Australia this week. We invited them for a weekend in Tagaytay. As an Australian, Gerry's partner Tony, is still getting used to the humidity here in the Philippines. Tagaytay is a great way to spend the weekend, away from the heat and the noise and crowd in the malls.

Our first stop in our weekend adventure was to have lunch at La Esquina in Splendido. Splendido is a sprawling property with a golf couse, clubhouse and some pretty swanky homes. I always thought the you cannot go to Splendido unless you forked in a few million bucks to buy property. When I learned that there are two restaurants there that are open to the public, I was quick to book us a lunch table at their Spanish restaurant, La Esquina.

La Esquina is situated right beside the golf course at Splendido. Our table had a fantastic view of the golf couse and the surrounding mountains. What a great view while having lunch.

La Esquina offers classic Spanish cuisine. For starters, we had the Chorizo Splendido. We unanimously vote this as a perfect dish to start your lunch. The chorizo was so good. The chorizos are a little spicy and it has a hint of vinegar in it. I just love it. I may have to come back just for the Chorizo Splendido.

Next, we had the Pollo Croquettas, or chicken croquettes. This is flaked chicken breast rolled in milk batter and fried. The Pollo Croquettas are so yummy and creamy. The dish comes with a Hollaindaise and a marinara sauce. The Pollo croquettas are so goog by themselves even without the sauce. If you must have the sauce, the Hollaindaise is very good as well.

Hubby and I shared the Caesar's Salad. The Caesar's Salad was not very good. I suggest to choose another salad. The dressing was not very creamy and the serving (even if not shared) is very small.

I had the Bacalao Alla Viscaina. A fish dish with Marinara sauce. I suggest to skip this as well. The fish is very salty and for the price of P400 plus, it's simply not worth it.

Both hubby and Tony had the Steak Charlemagne. Steak Charlemagne is a tenderloin steak in mushroom sauce served with mashed potatoes and buttered vegetables. Both hubby and Tony finished their off quickly because they were hungry. The steaks were ok, according to hubby.

Gerry and the rest of us also shared the Paella Christina. If you order paella, it takes an hour (no kidding) to have it done. Be sure to pre-order so that you don't have to wait like we did. Paella Christina has seafood and chorizos in it. The paella is very good with just the right balance of flavors, and yes, we finished the entire thing. This is just the half order but it's good for two to three people.

Splendido is a nice place to visit. Be sure to go to the viewing deck to get a nice view of Taal volcano and the golf course.

All in all, I would still recommend to eat at least the appetizers at La Esquina in Splendido, despite the mishaps with the Bacalao and the salad. The view is spectacular and the service is superb. Despite the long wait for the paella, the taste was worth it (I must say though, Amalia's Paella is still better). Be sure to try the Chorizo Splendido and the Pollo Croquettas. You're gonna enjoy eating them. The restaurant is a little pricey if you have the Paella, Steak Charlemagne and the Bacalao but, the some of the entrees and appetizers/tapas are competitively priced.

Happy dining!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Red Kimono/Painted Red in Westgate Alabang

After a long drive from Subic, hubby and I were contemplating where to have dinner. We decided to eat close to home instead of finding a restaurant somewhere in the North Luzon highway.

Our choice was at the Red Kimono Japanese Cuisine in Westgate Alabang. We've always been intrigued with the restaurant but never managed to eat there until last night. The place looks swanky and hubby dropped me off to check the menu before making a commitment. I liked the selection and I gave a thumbs up to hubby while he proceeded to park the car.

The interior was designed using red, black and white, very modern. The menu consisted of two types of cuisine. The first one is Japanese, called Red KImono (the name of the restaurant) and the second menu is American, called Painted Red. I like that, more choices. Hubby of course stuck with the Japanese menu.

It was rainy evening, hubby wanted some soup so he ordered the miso soup to start with. The miso soup is pretty typical, nothing fancy.

Red Kimono also offers Wasabi Oyster Tempura, and we ordered that immediately upon seeing it in the menu. Crispy fried oysters in a Japanese dipping sauce of mayo, Kikkoman and maybe a hint of sesamwe oil (?). The dipping sauce was a little bit sweet. I like this dish, hubby on the other hand, would like to have more wasabi in the batter. Well, the menu did say Wasabi Oyster Tempura but there was hardly any wasabi in the batter. I liked it anyway but I see hubby's point.

I also ordered from the Painted Red Menu (American). I had the Artichoke and Spinach Fondue although technically it's not a fondue since the dip is baked as opposed to being in a fondue pot. The Spinach and Cheese fondue was served with nachos and garlic bread. I liked this dish very much and would probably order it again. It smells funny because of the cheeses (sorry, I forgot to ask what kinds were used and Painted Red did not mention it in their menu).

I also had the Mediterranean Salad with feta cheese, tomatoes, walnuts, red cabbages, assorted salad greens, olives and dill with a white balsamic dressing. I've never heard of white balsamic but it tasted like white wine vinegar to me. I thought balsamic vinegars were dark and syrupy. Anyway, the salad wasn't a hit with hubby because of the fresh dill. I am more neutral. I don't hate it but it's not my favorite either.

Hubby also had his Prawn Tempura, which got a very negative review from hubby because the batter was tasteless according to him. I didn't have any because I already wiped out the cheese fondue and was very full.

For some novelty, hubby ordered the Green Tea Tempura Ice Cream. It's green tea ice cream, dipped in a tempura batter and quickly deep fried to have that outer crust. This also got a fail mark from hubby because of the bland taste of the batter and the ice cream.

I'm not actually crossing Red Kimono off my list yet because I did like their fondue (very much) and I would like to try their Maki dishes next time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fun day with my family

My mom just got back from a trip from Toronto and NYC and we celebrated her arrival by getting together at LP for a simple lunch. My mom did all the cooking. We had the usual grilled liempo, shrimp sinigang ang beef caldereta and a brazo de Mercedes cake from Goldilocks.

My mom had plenty of stories about her recent trips, family that she met and places that she dined in. Maybe because of mom's stories, our feet got a bit itchy and we took an improptu trip to Nuvali in Santa Rosa so that the kids can feed the Koi and ride the water taxi.

It was hot afternoon but the kids (and me also) enjoyed ourselves immensely at Nuvali. We bought tons of feed from the vendor to feed the Koi. Each cup sells for just P15. Nuvali prides itself for having thousands of Koi in their man-made river. I even saw baby Kois joining the feeding frenzy.

The river taxi ride was a short one but it was fun for the kids nonetheless. Nuvali charges P30 per head for the river taxi. The river taxi ride lasts about ten minutes (maybe less) in a slow and pleasant speed.

It was such a hot afternoon, if felt like we were in the middle of summer. Ice cream was in order. We drove to Cliffhouse in Tagaytay to get some fresh cool mountain air and some ice cream and a rootbeer float from Cafe Breton. I also tried Fling, a frozen youghurt shop just beside Cafe Breton. I like it. Quite perfect after a hot afternoon baking under the sun.

We spent some time also at the viewing deck of Cliffhouse to look at Taal Volano and the surrounding mountains. The kids never rao out of questions about when the lava will come out, why can't we go to the volcano. Things like that. Kids are quite curious.

Come dinnertime, we decided to head back and eat somewhere close to home. We had dinner at Kanin Club in Westgate, Alabang. "kanin" means "rice" in Tagalog. kanin Club, as the name suggests, specializes in fried rice dishes. You can have different kinds of rice.

Kanin Club's best seller is the Fully Loaded fried rice which includes, pork bits, ham, egg. This is very rich and tasty. I also like the tinapa rice. The rice dihes at Kanin Club actually can stand on their own even without "ulam" or viand, the combination of the rice and it's other ingredients make them complete meals in themselves.

We also had Dilis Salad. Crispy fried "dilis" or anchovies with tomatoes, cilantro and vinegar. JJ liked this one. The fresh cilantro provides a nice "freshness" to an otherwise salty dish.

We've eaten at Kanin Club several times but both hubby and I never tried the Fried Dinuguan and it got us very curios. My brother highly recommends that. My brother being the spawn of my mom is genenetically predisposed to liking pork :-) The Fried Dinuguan is highly recommended BUT, the recommendation comes with a warning. This is a very fatty, cholesterol-rich and high on the list of "eat this often and you will die young" list. Let me explain why. Dinuguan, traditionally is made with pork innards (lamang loob in Tagalog), that in itself is already an artery blocker. After the pork innards are deep fried, the little crunchy bits are topped with the dinuguan sauce. Dinuguan, is a "blood stew". The black sauce that you see is pig's blood cooked with vinegar and other secret spices. I've never actually cooked this in my kitchen, but I've been informed that after making Dinuguan, your kitchen would probably look like a murder scene. So, I never made it at home :-)

Oh, we had other dishes too like, Crispy Tadyang (Beef Ribs), Fried Chicken (for the kiddies) and Binukadkad na Tilapia (butterflied fried Tilapia).

The taste of oil and cholesterol still lingers in my mouth. I've ingested too much pork and fried food today. Over quota for the week!

I think I'm gonna have to steal from hubby's Buko Sherbet stash in the freezer to cool wash down everything. He he he.