Friday, September 17, 2010

Goodies from Vigan

One of Mamu's friends who's from Vigan gave us some goodies from her recent trip home.

Chichacorn is a snack made from a special variety of corn then popped making it very crunchy.  It comes in a variety of flavors like garlic, spicy, adobo, barbecue and cheese.  I prefer the classic garlic. Believe me, once you start popping, you just can't stop.  It's that addictive!  Perfect with a glass of ice cold coke.

Ilocos Royal Bibingka is a sticky rice cake native to Ilocos Sur.  This type of bibingka is different from the simbang gabi staple which is more cake-y or breadlike.  Royal Bibingka is stickier, more like the consistency of sapin-sapin or kalamay.  This goes so well with coffee or hot chocolate. 

I saved the best for last.  Vigan longanisa is something I always ask as pasalubong whenever I hear of someone planning a trip to Vigan.  These local sausages are flavored using Ilocos' native and very potent garlic and Sukang Iloko, a local dark vinegar made from sugar cane.  Because of the presence of Vigan longanisa in our house, I've been having garlic rice these past few days.  The cholesterol laden kind, fried in the rendered longanisa fat.  Dip the longanisa in Sukang Iloko with chilies, throw in a sunny side up, over easy, please. is good.  Walang diet-diet. 

We also have a gallon of Sukang Iloko.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pinoy Care Box

When my brother came home a few months back, we welcomed him with a care box of Filipino grocery items.  It contains his favorite chichirya, Boy Bawang, Century Tuna, Lucky Me Pansit Canton, Purefoods Corned Beef, Taba ng Talangka, Reno Liver Spread, Chocnut, Flat Tops, just to name a few.  It's practically a sari-sari store in a box.

Long story short, he wanted to travel light and decided to leave the box behind.  He only took a few items with him.  The noodles and some of the canned goods are still in the pantry as I write.  Oh's the thought that counts.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm

We wanted our roadtrip to be not the usual Tagaytay trip where a view of Taal Volcano along Taal Vista is always part of the itinerary.  Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm seems like a break from the usual so we decided to go there.

This is my first time in a bee farm, so apart from seeing a lot of bees, I really didn't know what to expect.

The farm is a huge and except for the name post pictured above, I didn't see a lot of bees buzzing around.

This is a place for the nature lover.  It has a fantastic view and I especially enjoyed the flowers around the area.  We were told that the flowers are used by the bees for pollination.

Ilog Maria also sells honey, beeswax, bath and beauty products.  Check out their website.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Manos Greek Taverna

Driving along Tagaytay-Calamba Road, Manos Greek Taverna is pretty hard to miss.  The blue and green facade sticks out like a sore thumb among it's neighbors.

Inside, Manos is quaint.  The blue and white theme continues, reminding me of the movie Mama Mia.  Wine bottles are displayed in one corner and little mementos from Greece are scattered here and there.

The menu reminds me a lot of Cyma, probably because they're both  Greek, duh.  But Manos has a more rustic feel to it.  The waitress is attentive and very patient in explaining their menu.  She also told us that the taverna is named after the owner, Manos, a Greek married to a Filipina.

First off, we decided on the Tzatziki, a traditional yogurt and cucumber dip served with freshly baked bread.

We really enjoyed this appetizer.  The bread is fresh and warm and good on it's own.  I dipped it in the special olive oil (served as part of the condiments) and it's pure bliss.  Dipped in the tzatziki which is creamy and tart, made this one of those simple joys that I don't mind having again and agian.  We were told that they make they own yogurt. 

Next came the Hellenici Salata (Greek Summer Salad), tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, olives and feta cheese. 

There's definitely something "not Greek" about the dressing.  Don't get me wrong, the salad is good but I'm just bothered by the dressing, maybe it's just me though.  I love their feta cheese!

Saganaki, shrimps in tomato sauce with feta cheese and spices.

I liked combination of the tomato, cheese and the spices (I tasted oregano) which goes well with the bread.  I think this dish, while good on its own, was overshadowed by the other things we ordered.

Lamb Gyros, lamb strips with yogurt sauce, tomatoes and potatoes.

I didn't expect a lot from this dish thinking that it's just another shawarma.  But I was wrong.  Let me start with the pita, it was fresh and was the perfect foil to the creamy yogurt.  The veggies fresh and the lamb flavorful.  But it was the potatoes that made me fall in love with this dish.  It's very malasa that you can distinctly taste it.  This is definitely one hell of a shawarma.  Something worth going back to Tagaytay for.

For dessert, we had Baclava, layers of pastry filled with nuts, butter and cinnamon.

I'm not really into baclava so I didn't really get to appreciate this dessert.

We were stuffed!

If you're in Tagaytay, you should definitely check out Manos Greek Taverna.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Superhero for a Day

During a trip to Tagaytay, we decided to check out Tagaytay Zipline at the Picnic Grove.  I decided to include this in our itinerary because I had this childhood dream of being able to fly.  While the zipline is only 250 meters long and 300 feet off the ground, I figured it's the next best thing.

After we paid Php200 (2-way weekday rate), we were strapped on a harness (belongings included) and then we waited for what seems like forever for manong to give us a gentle push.

It's just how I imagined flying feels like.  Feeling the wind against your face then looking down to a lush greenery.  The whole experience is so exhilarating!  Super duper.

I just felt like Tagaytay Zipline was a little bitin, I was expecting a longer zipline.  Also, I think that there are parts of the line that are not safe.  They're using rubber tires a stoppers!  When we hit the end of the zipline I panicked a bit because I felt like we were going to crash into a concrete wall.  I don't know, maybe it's just me.  But since this is the first time I ziplined, I really have no idea what to expect.

My rant aside, Tagaytay Zipline is something definitely worth trying.  For a few minutes, you know how it feels like to be a superhero.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunset by the Beach

Don't you just love sunsets?  That time of day when the sun changes from bright golden yellow to a fiery orange ball as the darkness slowly creeps in.

Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan

I think the beach is one of the best places to be when the sun bids it's adieu for the day.  There's nothing like salty breeze on your face as you watch the sun slowly disappear, hearing the waves, basking in the amber reflections of the ocean.  Tranquility at it's best.

Casa Romana, San Fabian, Pangasinan

I just love sunsets.  I really, really do.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

An American Choir Sings a Filipino Classic

Don't you just love it when a foreigner tries his best to speak Tagalog?  So imagine my reaction when I saw this video on YouTube.  Don't let the title fool you though, this video has nothing to do with Glee and don't bother waiting for Charice to appear, wala siya dito.

Aliw no?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

Next stop on our land tour is Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.  The imposing structure sits atop Piedra Point, Baranggay Patar and is the second tallest lighthouse in the country, next to Cape Borjeador in Ilocos.

The is one of the "worth it" stops in the tour.  Though we did not get to go inside the lighhouse, Piedra Point gave us a very scenic view of Bolinao.  The blue color of the sky is a beautiful contrast to the lush green color of the countryside.  Truly breathtaking!

Other destinations in the land tour are just a couple of beaches.  One had what the locals call white sand beach.  I was pretty disappointed with this, not because the sand is not white at all but because the shore was littered with trash.  Our driver explained that it is a public beach so everybody who went there was free to do whatever.  Sayang, the beach had potential pa naman.

Customary jumping shot

The other beach had unusual rock formations which we didn't get to appreciate because it was already dark when we arrived.

It was a fun land tour, after all, a Manila girl like me hardly gets a chance to journey all the way to Bolinao.  In Mamu's wise words, "andun ka na, e di sulitin mo na."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Enchanted Cave of Bolinao

Part of our Puerto del Sol package is a land tour of several attractions near the resort.  Our first stop is the Enchanted Cave in Baranggay Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan.

After what seemed like forever in a long rough road, we were welcomed by a giant fossilized clam.  A few meters away we were at the entrance of the Enchanted Cave, a coral cave with a fresh water pool at the bottom.  This cave is quite famous according to our driver/tour guide.  The movie Ang Pinakamagandang Babae sa Balat ng Lupa and somewhat recently, Dyesebel (the one with Marian Rivers) were shot here.

We had to go down a steep staircase to reach the bottom of the cave.  Inside, the temperature was a bit cooler, a nice change from the humid weather of Bolinao.  Going down, we saw a lot of rock formations.  It reminded me of a scene from Harry Potter where Hagrid took Harry to Gringotts to retrieve the Sorcerer's Stone from an underground vault.

Stalactites or stalagmites?

The pool looked more of a lagoon.  I didn't get a decent shot of the pool but it was clean, very clear and inviting.

The Enchanted Cave of Bolinao is not something you see everyday.  If you happen to be around the area, I highly recommend you check it out.  Swim in the underground lagoon if you want.  We didn't get to do this because we started pretty late with the land tour and we were running on a tight schedule.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Gem that is Puerto del Sol

To say that the Puerto del Sol  is not the easiest place to get to is an understatement. It is seven hours away from Manila.  Dadayuhin mo talaga.  But my stay at the resort more than made up for that.

Photo by Jasper Buenavista

My five-day stay there was very hectic, in fact, I was not able to take pictures of the resort.  But take my word for it, the place is picturesque in a rustic sort of way.  If you don't believe me, check out their website.

Photo by Jasper Buenavista

But more than the resort itself, I was impressed by their friendly and very accommodating staff.  I went there for work.  We organized a Fear Factor/Amazing Race type of activity.  Not the easiest thing to mount but thanks to the staff headed by their manager Sir Nestor, the event was a success.  The staff really went out of their way to accommodate all of our requests.  It's not only us though, case in point, the opening picture was something that was set up because one of the guests wanted to have a romantic dinner with his wife.  That's how they treat their guests.

As part of the advance party, I also got to taste a lot of their food and this time, I made sure to take a lot of pictures.

Dinner: Day 1

Egg Drop Soup
Chicken Teriyaki

Grilled Stuffed Bangus
Seafood Chopsuey
Leche Flan

For this set, only the leche flan stood out.  It was rich and creamy and not overwhelmingly sweet.  The perfect ending to a very tiring day.

When I was asked to provide a feedback for this set, I remember telling the F&B Manager that most of the dishes are under seasoned.  They took note of this comment and when all this was served to our clients, everything tasted better.

Lunch: Day 2

Roast Pork Loin with Mushrooms
Pan-fried Blue Marlin
Broccoli and Cauliflower with Bacon
Buko Pandan

We all enjoyed this set.  The pork and the fish dishes are well cooked. I remember enjoying the freshness of the broccolli and cauliflower but the dish itself is pretty forgettable.  The buko pandan tasted great with just the right balance of pandan flavor.

Dinner: Day 2

Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet
Roast Pork Loin with Cream Sauce
Sauteed Green Bean

Our official food tasting menu ended here.  Everyone liked the Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet best. By this time, the food was starting to taste the same us. But this was the most fun meal we had during our entire stay because we were serenaded by the F&B Manager.

Lunch: Day 3

Mixed Tempura
Bangus Sisig

Since the food tasting ended with yesterday's meal, we decided to order ala carte, para maiba naman.  I personally liked the Mixed Tempura best.  The Kare-kare is just okay, the sauce is a bit too sweet.  The bagoong is also sweet, I was expecting to see the salty Pangasinan pink bagoong which would go well with this sweetish kind of Kare-kare but I was disappointed. I'm not really a fan of bangus that's why I didn't taste the sisig.  During check out, we were not billed for this meal so this is our "tawad" meal.

I'm definitely going back to Puerto del Sol, purely for leisure next time I have the chance.  In the end, I know that the seven-hour drive is worth it.