March 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
For the last few years, I’ve wanted without success to try La Terrasse that it has somehow become an obsession.
My first attempt was in 2012; they were closed for the Easter holiday (seriously, on one of the busiest week?). It is, to me, a sign that they don’t really need the tourist patronage.
Suffice to say that when we were planning our trip to Puerto Princesa last January, I had my mind set on this cozy, open-aired restaurant-cafe. And the truth be told, it was our first agenda after touching down. Straight from the airport with bags in tow, there we were at their doorstep.
From the idyllic vibe to the service, appetizer to dessert, La Terrasse did not disappoint.
The duck was superb.
Crispy minced duck in a Hoisin-based sauce combined with cucumber sticks and leeks wrapped in a soft thin pancake adapted from the very popular Peking Duck. We loved it and went back for it on our last day before heading to the airport.
Another memorable dish was the Adobo Overload.
Adobo fried rice served with fried chicken and pork adobo and topped with pork adobo flakes. Now that’s overload in a good way. More importantly, the flavor of the sauce is how I prefer my adobo to be, not too acidic but very flavorful from the blend of soy and garlic. Started serving my adobo the same way. Love the idea of serving the rice already flavored with the adobo sauce.
The killer. Their Palawan nougat made with wild honey and cashew nuts
and their Candied Orange Peel.
It’s really more of a “pasalubong”, something you take home, but we had it for dessert and I was floored, blown-away. I, of course, had to bring back some of these babies for when I need a pick-me-up. That good.
Highly recommended when in Puerto Princesa, do make it a point to drop by La Terrasse. It’s on Rizal Avenue and a hop away from the airport.
February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
Davao. Home to some of the country’s pride— the world’s largest bird, the monkey-eating Philippine Eagle and a rare orchid of exceptional beauty, the waling-waling— both found in Mt. Apo, Philippine’s highest peak. But there is more to Davao than these. Let’s not forget the “king of fruits”, durian. The area is known to be the center of durian production, thanks to its rich fertile volcanic soil and until recently, typhoon-free area. But more than durian, Davao is favored with other fresh, quality produce and fruits that are available all year round— pomelo, banana, mangosteen, lanzones, rambutan, mongo, peanuts, cabbage eggplant… among others.
The city is a fascinating mix of small town allure and modern metropolis refinement. A metropolis inhabited by 1.4M people of different ethnic groups, culture and faiths. The city teems with good food and on my not so very recent trip there, I discovered a few worth mentioning.
Along JP Laurel Ave., in Lanang is a deli and restaurant offering fine sausages, cured meats like bacon and hams, a selection of cheese, US and Australian steak cuts and even ostrich meats. Owned by a butcher and a baker, Swiss Deli has been around since 2005 catering at first to expats and Davao’s upper crust. Today, they supply some of the bigger supermarkets nationwide. On my visit, the restaurant was packed for lunch.
Claude’s Le Café de Ville
We drove into a driveway of a well-lit ancestral house. The garden well polished, the interior emulates the facade with old photos gracing the walls and well-appointed antique pieces scattered around.
My favorite part of the house would be the porch— what a wonderful way to be greeted.
This house epitomizes old world elegance through and through. An ancestral home of the Oboza family (also called the Oboza Heritage House) now dwells the only full-service French restaurant in Davao, Claude’s Le Café de Ville.
Complementing its charming home are wonderful dishes served from its kitchen headed by husband and wife team Claude and Tess Le Niendre. I had the Crab Cocktail to start and the specialty of the house, the Fillet of Beef Tenderloin with Pepper Sauce.
The crab appetizer was excellent, and my main, albeit a bit overcooked for my taste (it was more medium well than my preferred medium), was tasty and still juicy.
A pretty authentic French restaurant in Davao was definitely a pleasant surprise.
Malagos Farmhouse Artisan Cheeses
Davao surprises me, I tell ya. After an evening of wonderful French feasting, we were on our way, the next day, to buy artisan cheese. This wasn’t the first time I had tried cheeses from Malagos and so impressed I was, I had to find them and see what else they had to offer.
Olive Puentespina, the woman behind Malagos Artisan Cheeses, has been producing cheeses since 2006. All made from hybrid cows and goats from their dairy farm.
A cheese spread was laid out for us to try over at the farmhouse—from quesong puti, to flavored chevres, to manchego blue—an unbelievable spread, all proudly made in Davao.
Personal favorites are: Queso Rustico (semi-soft cow’s milk similar to a manchego), Blush (Queso Rustico with a tint of blue), La Maria (similar to a camembert), Feta tricolor (feta with chili and rosemary, infused fresh), and the Chevre with mango (a blend of creamy French style goat cheese with sweet mango bits).
For wonderful pasta and pizza, Spirale Ristorante will not disappoint. Thumbs up for the Vongole ai Chorizo (a wonderful combination, don’t you think?) and the pizza, which is cooked in a wood-fire oven. Crust was doughy yet crispy.
Chicco di Caffe
For their Durian Brazo di Mercedes. Yum!!! Anything durian is possible in Davao. I had my first taste of durian in an ice cream in Davao some 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I. Adore. Durian.Swiss Deli JP Laurel Ave., Lanang, Davo City +6382 234 0271 Claude’s Cafe de Ville 29 Rizal St., Paseo de Habana, Davao City +6382 305 2635 / +6382 222 4287 Malagos Farmhouse Bolcan St., Agdao, Davao City +6382 226 4446 Spirale Ristorante Damaso Complex Angliongto Road, Lanang, Davao City +6382 234 6298 Chicco di Caffe Gen. Douglas MacArthur Hwy, Davao City +6382 305 3534 Faura St., Davao City
December 16, 2012 § 3 Comments
Batanes – a more off the beaten destination that offers a unique combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Credits: Papers and elements taken from ScrapMatters Life’s Little Surprises kit. Papers by Denise Beatty Originals and Designs by Sarah Bennett; Elements by Scrapmuss Designs and Gwenipooh Designs.
Not as easy to get to as many other destinations in the Philippines but the journey is worth it.
The place is undeniably charming with breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, old stone houses and despite the remoteness, an abundance of good food, my kind of food.
My first meals in Batanes go a long way back, at Mama Lily’s in 1997. There were no restaurants to speak off then so she serves meals at her guesthouse. Simple dishes cooked the Ivatan way left an impression to this day. I remember flying fish cooked every way – fried, dried, sinigang, with soy… simple yet memorable. I also remember fish roe sautéed in tomatoes, onions and garlic. It was the first time I had bihod and every bihod dish thereafter reminds me of Mama Lily.
Fast-forward to 2012, Mama Lily has long migrated to the US, her children no longer accepts visitors and a few eating places have emerged. I have likewise found a new Mama Lily in another mother, Nanay Laura. Laura Larez lives in the farthest inhabited island of Batanes called Itbayat.
It’s a 4-hour grueling boat ride from the main island or an easier 12-minute ride on an 8-seater plane. Both only operate if weather permits.
A grandmother to 13 kids, a craftswoman and a hell of a good cook, Nanay Laura runs a carinderia (canteen) beside her house in front of the town plaza.
She makes the best Turmeric Rice in Batanes, in my opinion at least. This yellow rice is a specialty of Batanes and is popularly served all over the islands.
The rice is cooked with garlic, onion and ground turmeric delivering a subtle ginger flavor that is meant to complement rather than clash with any viand. What makes Nanay Laura’s special is the addition of pork, not too much, just to flavor.
She serves her dishes on leaves of the fruit bread tree, which shades and decorates the outside of her canteen.
It is widely used in Batanes in place of the usual banana leaf used in other parts of the Philippines.
The way Nanay Laura uses these leaves however conveys her eye for detail and beauty. A simple root crop made more appetizing by her talent in styling. With a canteen so well maintained in Itbayat, Larez Carinderia is a force to reckon with.
While Nanay Laura reigns in her small little corner (for now at least), the competition in the main island is stiffer. Once Mama Lily’s territory, Batan has since seen a sprouting of places worth trying, some even going out-of-the-way for.
While going around Southern Batan last May, I was pleased to find a nice restaurant in Vatang.
I remember 6 years ago, we hung around a small canteen waiting for our ride (for more than half a day) to nearby island Sabtang, had lunch there as well. Gone were the days of watered down sweet spaghetti (sans the tomato sauce) meals because Vatang Grill and Restaurant serves delightful Ivatan dishes.
Not far from the port of Ivana but a bit out-of-the-way if not touring so it is a good stop when in the area.
Much of the island’s terrains are rolling hills – excelletnt for raising livestock and Batanes has become a major producer of cattle.
So a burger joint is not so far-fetched, is it? No it isn’t. Not so far from where we stayed, in fact just right beside Shanedel’s Inn is where you can find good organic Basco burgers – a pretty good burger that will hold up on its own in any big city.
Juicy and slightly seasoned, this burger with (sweet potato) fries and a soda goes for P100.00 (roughly US$2) at Zantan’s Canteen – not really a burger joint but their burgers are bestsellers.
If good burgers have started to impress, in nearby La Fuerte St., is an unlikely place to find good pizza – dough baked fresh upon order, ingredients consisting of mozzarella cheese, anchovies, pepperoni, fresh homegrown herbs, etc. Yes, excellent pizza in the northernmost island of the Philippines. I first learned of Casa Napoli in 2006, it was a newly opened pizzeria found on the 2nd level of a grocery (if my memory serves me right) in Abad St. Wary (after the sweet spaghetti experience), we entered the place out of curiosity. It was a simple room with a few tables inside and 2 more at the balcony with a view of the town. When the pizza came, we were pleasantly surprised.
Baked on a pizza stone, the crust was crispy with a bit of a bite. Not too thin but not bread-like thick as well. A nice change from the local cuisine.
The new place in La Fuerte St. is not much bigger
but has its own identity in a white Mediterranean inspired establishment. They deliver too.
But if lobsters and other local fares is what you are after, try trekking to Bunker Café in Naidi Hills one evening.
Open only for dinner as the owners have day jobs, this place is the perfect end to the day. They start serving at 5, and the first night we were there,
I had this lovely turon with my coffee.
Naido Hills with the lighthouse in the background is magical at night. The owners couldn’t have chosen a better spot.
An impressive dish of Lataven — Ivatan’s version of kilawin.
Enchanted, we went back the next evening to an enjoyable dinner of lobster and other local fare. It did not disappoint.
Great ambience and wonderful company is a winning combination in my books.
Ivatan Cuisine is characterized by a variety of seafood. During summer, dorado and flying fish are abundant. So are lobsters and cuttlefish.
The threatened coconut crabs can still be found and devoured but only in the island. To protect the species, a regulation prohibits it from being transported out of the island, live or cooked. Coconut crabs (locally known as Tatus)is a priced delicacy and is widely hunted, its population dwindling. The crab is said to climb coconut trees and husk coconuts with their powerful claws hence the name although not a significant part of their diet. When cooked, the claws are hard and needs a good bashing to break. The meat is sweet and firm but in all honesty, Alimango (mud crabs) and Alimasag (blue crabs) are still my front-runners.
We simply didn’t have enough days to sample all the good places, which means that a next time is likely to happen. In a few years perhaps, I have a sneaking suspicion that more interesting restaurants would come to light and I want to be there to try them out myself.
Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship. It is of great importance to the morale.
October 7, 2011 § 4 Comments
I love Sagada for many reasons but one that is high on the list is the food. Early on, this quaint, bucolic town already serves simple yet appetizing meals. Imagine a dish called Tuna Fried Rice, which is simply tuna (from the can) mixed with mountain rice and veggies. How simple is that?
It could very well be the mountain town ambience but I remember downing that fried rice with so much gusto – amazed at how good it was. Many moons later, Sagada has transformed into a gustatory delight of sorts with several charming restaurants serving up delightful dishes, contradicting the bland cuisine known of the Cordilleras. Foreign and local tourists, artists, balikbayans (returning residents) have most definitely influenced this transformation. Highlighting some of my favorites:
On one of my early travels in Sagada, I came across this charming log cabin by accident (but would have eventually found out about it as the town is pretty small). We were on our way back from Lake Danum when it started to rain and thought it best to wait it out in that charming cabin we passed on our way to the lake. With a good cup of coffee, we knew we found a gem that afternoon. They served simple yet great tasting dishes – definitely a notch higher (I dare say) than all the other restaurants there then.
Pretty soon, it became a place to hang and meet fellow travelers from different walks of life and culture. It was such a small community of travelers then and sharing travel tales over a plate of pasta was such a delightful experience. Even back then, reservations were preferred and encouraged ordering in advance as the owners, Dave and Janice Gulian would only market and prepare the food according to the orders made that day.
It is as famous, if not more sought after today especially on Saturday when French chef, Philip Aklay prepares the Saturday dinner buffet – reservations are now required.
Before his stint at the Log Cabin, he used to bake and sell breads out of his home and when I’m there, I would buy from him.
Regular days or Saturday buffets, the food is almost always impressive. A must try on their regular menu: Pork Tenderloin
Yoghurt is my best friend so gravitating to a place called Yoghurt House is not so far-fetched. They don’t only serve yoghurt but really good food too –
but let it be known that their homemade yoghurt can give commercial yoghurt brands a run for their money. The service can be a bit slow even for Sagada standards but what comes out of the kitchen makes you turn a blind eye. A must try:
Roasted Eggplant with Basil Pasta – something unexpected in a simple café up in the mountains, that’s for sure!
A friend of mine consistently orders this Curry Chicken – I swear he goes up to Sagada just for this.
Also not to be missed is this tender, perfectly seasoned and fried Breaded Pork Chops.
Another great cozy place to while the time away.
I once spent an afternoon reading out in the balcony while my friends roughed it out at the cave. One of the best lazy day I’ve had.
Lemon Pie House
I swear… anywhere you go in Sagada exudes a sense of relaxation and Lemon Pie House is no exception. Another great place to lounge around and finish that book.
It doesn’t help that their Lemon Pie is so good and with mountain coffee, one slice is never enough. Try their egg pie too — also a winner.
Ganduyan Inn and Restaurant
The place is so plain that I ignored it for years. But as fate would have it, we decided a few years ago to try their breakfast and was pleasantly surprised.
Their crepes were light and thin while they impressed me with the bacon – cooked just the way I like ‘em, crispy but not burned.
Is not a restaurant, eatery nor a place. It is a smoked dried meat, a local delicacy that is often added to a local dish called Pinikpikan.
It also goes well with any dish with legumes – I like it in my monggo. Deep-fried and dipped in vinegar is supposedly good too. Etag is normally sold in the stores in town.