Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Seafood in Davao

The first time I was in Davao was in 1999 when I filled in for a project that was concluded the following year. Since then I have been to Davao four times prior to my latest trip to the city. Each trip is always enjoyable due to Davao's attractions but it is the food that I have enjoyed the most. My trips to Visayan and Mindanao destinations always have seafood as a must for at least one meal and Davao will not fail with all the good restaurants around. Our hosts from the DOST took us to one obscure restaurant where we enjoyed grilled tuna and other seafood as we concluded the field work part of our trip to the city.

The restaurant was an unassuming place in Davao
Grilled tuna panga (head but literally jaw) and buntot (tail) along with tuna fish eggs (bihod)
Local rice and grilled fish
Marang looked and tasted like sweet sop (atis)
The famous durian is not for everyone's palate (and noses)
Grilled attractions on display on the restaurant window
More delights
The grilling is done on the sidewalk right in front of the restaurant

Monday, June 25, 2012

Swiss dining in Davao

There are many restaurants in Davao serving local fare including the usually scrumptious seafood so we were a bit surprised when we were invited to have dinner at a Swiss restaurant. The Swiss Deli & Restaurant was a short multicab ride from our hotel and we were ushered into the basement where we could have the entire room to ourselves. There were 18 of us so we were able to fill up the basement and talk freely without being conscious of other diners.

Our group comprised of people from UP and DOST who were involved in the research on customized local road vehicles.
We were able to have the basement to ourselves as there were many of us and we were impressed by the wines they had on sale and on display at what also turned out to be their cellar.
It was a very enjoyable meal enhanced more by the exchange of stories not related to our work.
Other opted for the high chair and table
The restaurant also had a bar at the basement.
It was evident that the owner(s) of the restaurant ordered a lot of wine and these were usually in boxes or crates that were properly marked with the vineyards' trademarks or even coat of arms.
I was pleasantly surprised with finding bottles of a sweet wine often served along with dessert that I had been acquainted with during a trip to Napa Valley in November last year.
There were other bottles of Gewurztraminer including those produced in France.
Cold cuts and cheese
I was not able to take photos of the sausages and the bread that they served but I could guarantee they were really good.
Set meal at the Swiss Deli Restaurant
The Swiss Deli & Restaurant has a shop where one can purchase sausages, cold cuts, cheeses, chocolates and even coffee and tea. They sell local coffee from Davao and Bukidnon as well as a variety of the very expensive civet coffee that is from a species endemic to Mt. Apo. The restaurant was a pleasant surprise for us who did not expect to experience a good Swiss-themed in Davao where people would usually opt for local fare.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A view of Taal

The Taal Vista Hotel still is probably the best place to see the Taal Volcano. The following photos we took do not do justice to just how close one could seem to be when standing at the viewing deck/balcony of the hotel, which has provided great views for so many people since the hotel was constructed in the late 1930's, when it was built as the Taal Vista Lodge. My first memory of Tagaytay and a view of the volcano was when we had a brief stopover in the then undeveloped town back in the 1970's, en route to the beaches of Nasugbu where my father's office was having their summer excursion. I even remember our old Volkswagen Beetle almost losing a hub cap as we negotiated what was then a fairly rough road at the ridge.

Taal volcano as seen from the ledge at Taal Vista Hotel.
A view of the lake, volcano and the town of Laurel, Batangas
Volcano island where there is another lake - a lake within Taal Lake
What looks like THE volcano in the middle of the photo is actually one of many craters of an active volcano
Taal has been the subject of a lot of photos due to the constantly changing lights, clouds that provide different backgrounds everytime. That's Mataas na Kahoy at the back in the background.
Another photo of Taal taken from the ledge at the vacant lot being used for horse riding attractions beside the hotel.
The town of Laurel, Batangas

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Curry Treat

My first taste of authentic curry dishes was when I was a student in Japan in the 1990's. I was able to enjoy the Japanese version and the spicier originals from Thailand and Sri Lanka, the latter thanks mainly to my close friends from countries like Sri Lanka, Iran, Thailand and Indonesia. A favorite meal was katsu curry or breaded meat with rice with a generous serving of curry on top. Pork and chicken seem to be the best variants of the dish. For vegetarians there will always be potatoes and carrots as substitute for the meat. Seafood lovers would probably go for the breaded shrimp or prawn as I've not heard of salmon or tuna being paired with the curry.

Back in the Philippines, I have often crave for the food we are in Japan and fortunately, there are not a few restaurants in Manila where you can eat Japanese-style curry dishes. So I was delighted when during visits to Singapore, the Clairvoyant and I found a nice restaurant tucked amongst other smaller ones in a food court at Marina Square. Mr. Curry is a member of the Waraku Group, which operates several Japanese themed restaurants in Singapore and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. They have a nice menu that practically offers a lot of different curry meals including sets. The place is quite popular and can get quite crowded during lunch and dinner times with people often congregating outside while waiting for a table to open up inside the restaurant. 

Restaurant wall filled with realistic models of the different curry meals offered on their menu 
Posing with the curries while waiting for our meals
The real thing - chicken katsu curry
Mr. Curry mascot at the front door

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chocolate reviews: Theo & Philo and Scharffen Berger

The Clairvoyant brought home some chocolate bars she purchased from the Echo Store in Serendra at Bonifacio Global City. The bars though were not for our consumption and enjoyment but for her to bring back to Singapore to gift to our friends there.

I have heard a lot about Theo & Philo chocolates but have not had the opportunity to sample a bar (or two). They are a local company who specializes in artisan chocolates made from locally produce cacao. The bars are quite special, the taste exquisite, and the presentation quite good as the photo below shows - perfect for souvenirs in a country not known for packaging products well enough to attract people to buy them. Unfortunately, I have yet to taste their chocolates as we decided to pass on the experience for later. The chocolate bars are a bit expensive considering their size but I'm sure from my sources that they're well worth every peso.

Theo & Philo Chocolates from the Echo Store at Serendra - 70% Dark Chocolate (top left),  Dark Chocolate with Green Mango & Salt (top right), and Milk Chocolate with Pili & Pinipig (bottom)

A few weeks ago, we feasted on a few chocolate squares from Chile care of a visitor of the Clairvoyant from one of their offices in South America. The packaging was similar to the Scharffen Berger chocolates we enjoyed in San Francisco. The chocolates were a delightful treat especially considering the variants from white chocolate to different % of the dark chocolates (50%, 61%, 70% and 75%). Needless to say, we ended up finishing the squares in one day.

Chocolates from Chile
More on chocolates in another future post.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekend Lunch at Tagaytay

We spent the Fathers' Day weekend in Tagaytay, taking advantage of the Clairvoyant being home from Singapore and hitting the proverbial two birds with one stone as her mother was also celebrating her birthday last weekend. After the long drive from Quezon City to Tagaytay, which we took in just about 2 hours thanks to the light traffic on Saturday morning, we decided to find a place where we could have an early lunch. We were mindful that restaurants in Tagaytay could get quite crowded during breakfast, lunch and dinner times and we only had a light breakfast before leaving Antipolo and Quezon City. We ended up at Dencio's, which we knew had a good view of Taal Lake and Volcano - a major attraction with the best views coming from the ridge where Tagaytay is located.

We enjoyed our food, the great view and the cool winds that blew into the restaurant. We had seafood, bulalo (a must-try dish whenever in the Batangas and Cavite areas), chop suey (enjoy fresh veggies in Tagaytay) and adobo fried rice, and had buko juice (coconut water) on the side. The buko meat was tender and just sweet enough, and so made for a good dessert after our meal.

Binawang na hipon (Garlic shrimps)
From top (clockwise): Adobo fried rice, grilled squid and chop suey
We probably had the best table with a clear view of Taal Lake and volcano.
The Clairvoyant actually took a lot more photos at Dencio's. The restaurant had an area across from the building that could be used for receptions for events like weddings, birthdays and baptisms. They have a nice garden at the restaurant level where people can take photos with the lake and volcano in the background.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thai food at the clubhouse

We love to eat at the clubhouse of Chuan Park where our home in Singapore is located. The clubhouse specializes in Thai and Italian food, quite an oddity for many but perhaps not surprising in the city-state, which is known for the diverse cuisine owing to its being a meeting point for a lot of nationalities. In fact, the staff is comprised of a few Filipinos whom we mistook for either Indonesian or Malaysian the first time we ate there. They have a very good menu with lots of selections including pastas and pizzas, and seafood, beef, chicken and pork dishes. The food is very good and based on our experience, they are consistent with their cooking. Proof of their tasty offerings are the many people who keep coming back to eat/dine at the restaurant. For convenience, they also deliver food to residents in Chuan Park. They just charge a delivery fee but one is guaranteed satisfaction with the very delicious food.

Coconut water
Thai lemon chicken on a bed of lettuce
Cream dory fillet with mushrooms, basil and chili
Not in the photo but among our favorites is the pineapple rice. Their pizzas are also quite good and we usually order their mushroom pizza and a pasta (aglio olio or pesto) that the Clairvoyant and I share. We could usually finish our pasta but take out half of our pizza for a later meal at home.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cathedral of Our Lady of Penafrancia, Naga City

The Clairvoyant went to Naga City with her father to celebrate with their relatives the occasion of the 80th birthday of her aunt, who is also our godmother in our wedding. Our cousin, Fr. Sonny, con-celebrated a Mass for his mother where in attendance were representatives of several generations of their clan as well as close friends of the family. Cousins flew in from Australia, Hong Kong and the US for the reunion. My father-in-law was in Naga for the first time in many years and so was also excited by the get-together with his siblings, nephews, nieces and grandchildren.

The Clairvoyant took the homecoming as an opportunity to snap up a lot of photos and among them are of the old cathderal dedicated to Our Lady of Penafrancia. I was only able to visit the new cathedral during my short trip to Naga back in 2009 and so wasn't really able to go around.

The old cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Penafrancia where our priest-cousin celebrated Mass for his mother
The gazeebo at the plaza in front of the new cathedral
The arch at the pier at the river with the image of Our Lady on top. This is where the fluvial parade ends during the feast day in September.
Another look at the dome with stained glass canopy featuring religious scenes
The cathedral facade up close
Inside the cathedral, the ceiling provides a very impressive example of church architecture similar to those in Europe.
The main altar of the cathedral.
Ceiling detail and stained glass windows
Image of an angel holding holy water at the entrance to the cathedral

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dauis Church

Dauis Church was founded by the Augustinians in 1692. It is among the old churches that are part of the heritage of Bohol Province, and the Philippines as well. We missed going to this church during our previous visit to Bohol where we were able to see parts of the churches of Loboc, Baclayon and Albuquerque. Unfortunately, we were only able to enter Baclayon Church and were only able to appreciate the exteriors of the other two. This time around, we made sure that we spent some time at Dauis Church including coming back on Sunday to hear Mass at the church prior to our flight back home. It helped, of course, that our late afternoon visit to Dauis was in part to view the picturesque sunset from the pier behind the church and also to dine at the highly recommended Cafe Lawis in the church complex in a building which used to be a convent.

Bell tower
National Historical Commission marker describing the history of Dauis Church
Front of Dauis Church as seen from the town plaza
Church facade - the photo does not give a good view of details such as inscriptions
The church as seen from the driveway on the side
NHC marker describing the church complex

Rear side of the church featuring another bell tower, which also served as a watchtower as the rear of the church faces the strait between Bohol and Panglao Islands.
Close up of the rear of the church - the door leads to a counter where one can get bottled water that is derived from a freshwater spring located beneath the altar of the church.
Main altar
Dome above the altar
Choir balcony