Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lunch at Chateau Hestia

We heard about Chateau Hestia from friends and stumbled upon directions to the place during a trip to Tagaytay earlier this year. We were already coming from our lunch so when we got there, we decided to just have coffee (tea for me) and some dessert. The staff were very kind to accommodate us and we were lucky to get a table at the restaurant, which was full of customers the time we got there. This was around 1:30 PM and so we got the impression that the food was really good. Judging by our coffee, tea and dessert, it was, and so we decided to come back again the next time we are in Tagaytay. That next time happened last June when we took a couple of weekdays off instead of a weekend to make up for not having a trip last summer. Following are photos we took at the garden restaurant, which also is a bed & breakfast.

The entrance to the restaurant
Menu for June
It was a weekday and we were early for lunch so we had the restaurant to ourselves for a while.
The restaurant's interior was both homey and elegant.
They also had a bar where solo diners (or couples) may want to have their meals.
Onion soup
Green salad with balsamic vinaigrette
We ordered pizza just to sample their version and were learned we could have a half and half so we could sample two types of pizza from their menu.
Prime rib steak
Mousse au chocolat
We also decided to have another dessert to share and opted for their chocolate souffle, which we tried during a previous trip to the restaurant.
Chateau Hestia is highly recommended and we'll surely be back there soon. Their special menu changes every month so variety is quite assured. During the weekends, prospective diners should call them first to reserve a table. Otherwise, it would be difficult to get a table because they're quite busy on weekends. Weekday lunchtimes are much better as there are fewer customers.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Japanese beer: Sapporo premium

Spending 3 years in Japan, I became familiar with their beer. This is not because I took to drinking while I was residing as a graduate student there, but because we had beer once in a while for occasions as well as while relaxing with friends on a weekend evening. The more popular beers at the time were Kirin Lager, Asahi Super Dry and Sapporo Premium Beer. There were, of course, many other variants from these major companies including beers offered for specific seasons of the year. But these three were the mainstays of New Year's, year end and graduation parties, birthdays and other celebrations, as well as those times when you just felt like you needed a beer to conclude a toxic day.

Recently, Japanese beers have been available in supermarkets and prices seem to be significantly lower than they were from a few years ago when these beers can be purchased only from stores selling Japanese goods. On recent trip to the supermarket, I decided to purchase a couple of bottles to give to two good friends who recently celebrated their birthdays, who were also similarly in Japan as students when I was there. Reading the labels of the available beers from Asahi and Sapporo, I discovered that the Asahi Super Dry being sold were brewed in Thailand while Sapporo's were from Japan. And so I opted to purchase bottles of Sapporo Premium Beer, which I assumed to be the more faithful brew in as far as what we expected to the beer to taste from our times in Japan. For posterity, I posed the bottles together with a beer mug from my collection.

A couple of bottles of Sapporo and a mug from my collection


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chocolate review: Royce Milk Chocolate

The Clairvoyant had a stop at Nagoya's Chubu International Airport and while on layover, she picked up a few bars of chocolates there. Curious about the brand and the hype that went with it when they set up shop in Manila, she picked a couple bars of Royce. I had not heard about the brand when I was residing in Japan in the late 1990s and my frequent trips back in the last decade. Perhaps it is because there are so many brands to choose from including chocolatiers from Europe and the US having their shops or stalls at the major shopping centers in Tokyo and Yokohama. Chocolate, after all, is very popular in Japan and especially during occasions like Valentine's Day and White Day.

The packaging for Royce milk chocolate reminded me of the campaigns for  eco-friendly product packaging.
There's no English translation pasted at the back of the bar. I wonder if the bars selling in Manila have those stickers like the Japanese products sold at supermarkets.
The correct way to open the bar is by peeling the tab at the back where the perforations are clearly seen. This way, the packaging is not ruined and you can still keep the left-over chocolate for later consumption. Of course, this doesn't matter if you intend to eat the entire bar in one sitting. :)
Our first look at what promised to be a delightful sampling of Royce's Milk Chocolate

I must say that Royce Milk Chocolate is one of the smoothest we've tasted. You don't have to let it linger in your mouth to know it's really good quality chocolate. At this point, I would say you can believe the hype and perhaps look forward to the next bar (hopefully a different variety) of Royce.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cake and latte

While burning some time before a meeting at Bonifacio Global City, I decided have refreshments at the nearby Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or CBTL as it is also called. I had what I remembered as a flavored latte and a flourless chocolate cake. I was able to get a good spot at a corner in the cafe where I could review my notes with minimal people passing through my table and away from groups chatting in other tables.

Cake and iced tea latte at CBTL
I would like to think that I know how to spend time by myself in a cafe. It is actually enjoyable for me to have this kind of me time in the middle of a busy day even if it is just for a few minutes prior to a late afternoon meeting.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pizza sampling at Yellow Cab

We love to eat pizza and so it didn't come as a surprise that while on our way back home from inspecting the site of our future home, we stopped for lunch at a branch of Yellow Cab Pizza. There we tried out their new Mrs. Hudson's Pizza, which in their website is described as "a sauce-less pizza topped with prosciutto, fresh tomatoes, caramelized onions, tarragon, herbed boursin cheese, and other premium cheeses."

A must try at Yellow Cab Pizza
We enjoyed Mrs. Hudson's Pizza and would recommend it to anyone eating at Yellow Cab. And though we weren't able to take photos, I would also suggest the reader to try out their ice cream. The pistachio was really good!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Burger dinner at Joyce's Diner

I was just writing about the breakfasts at Joyce's Diner at Joaquin's Bed & Breakfast. I mentioned that the food was really good and the servings quite generous. After checking in at the B&B in the afternoon, we decided to take a nap. We ended up sleeping til the evening and so decided against going out for dinner. Instead, we had dinner at the diner to check out the food and maybe have an idea of what we can expect for breakfast the following day. While there are info out there with reviews readily available online in travel sites, we would rather have a taste or sampling of the food at restaurants and diners recommended by friends or those we discover on our travels.

Interior of the diner at night

The decors give the diner a homey feel. The Clairvoyant liked the copper pans and pots that hung beneath the shelves.

The burger at Joyce's Diner was not like the fast food type and the fries were crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

The patty was just perfect and the burger is a good share for two persons.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Breakfasts at Joyce's Diner

Joyce's Diner is part of Joaquin's Bed & Breakfast at Tagaytay and since our accommodations included breakfast, we tried what they had to offer in their menu. I must admit that we didn't expect much about breakfast considering our past trips to Tagaytay when typical Filipino breakfast was served where it was part of what we paid for. In many of those trips, breakfasts were nothing special and in some trips, where breakfast wasn't included, we usually went out to eat or bought food and drinks in the afternoon or evening for our morning meal the next day. However, dinner at Joyce's the previous evening gave us something to expect the following morning and the next. 

We were not disappointed as we enjoyed "American" breakfast the first morning and "Filipino" breakfast on the second. Our hot chocolate and coffee were served using a variety of china that to some may be considered antique. And we definitely appreciate that they didn't just serve breakfast a la fast food. Instead we got a rather homey (lutong bahay) style breakfast, and ones that seem to have been specially made by your favorite aunt or lola.

Hot chocolate for me and coffee for the Clairvoyant

Bacon, eggs and wheat bread for me on the first day

Pancake and sausage for the wife

I just had to take a photo of the plate. After we had consumed our fruits, we were surprised to find out that the plate was a souvenir from a past trip along the legendary Orient Express.

Danggit, fried egg, rice and hot chocolate for me on the second day

Boneless daing na bangus, scrambled eggs, garlic rice and coffee for the wife

Joaquin's definitely got both the Bed and the Breakfast aspects of B&B. We will certainly be back for more!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Weekday stay at Joaquin's Bed & Breakfast

We learned about Joaquin's Bed & Breakfast from the internet as we browsed one travel site for accommodations in Tagaytay. We are frequent visitors to Tagaytay where we usually go on weekend "detox" trips to enjoy the food and the cool climate. This time, we were looking for a place to stay for a couple of nights during the work week when we took our leaves from our offices for an extended break. As the B&B was highly recommended and the rates were reasonable, I immediately booked us two nights to finalize arrangements for our trip.

We were not disappointed with our decision and it turned out to be one of the most relaxing breaks we had in a while that's not in a nice resort somewhere in Bohol. As they say, words are not enough to describe the nice facilities at the B&B and the good service they provided to their clients. I will be writing about the food in another post so for now I am only sharing a few photos of our bedroom and the great view of Taal from our veranda.

Comfy four-post bed

Bed side lights


Television, a very nice console table and an old-style electric fan (it was functional)

Mirror and our welcome drinks

Shower and toilet
The great view from our room's veranda - unfortunately, I couldn't do justice to it with the BlackBerry Bold's camera
We will definitely be back at Joaquin's Bed & Breakfast in the near future. Though we are always tempted to try the other hotels and B&B's in Tagaytay, I think we've found a place we could regard as a sure thing for our typical weekend relaxation trip. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chocolate review: Whittaker's Dark Ghana

I spotted this bar from the shelves at a supermarket as I was picking up a few items to take back to the office after a lunch-out. I got curious because it was priced the same as a Meiji Black bar that is quite popular in the Philippines. It is definitely not a gourmet bar and does not appear to be promoted as such like other chocolates you would see on the grocery shelves. I quickly checked the cocoa % on the label and was pleasantly surprised to see 72% cacao, putting it in league with the more respectable brands in the market. I decided to purchase one to taste for myself and found it to be decent enough, though not as smooth as the more established (and pricey) bars I've tasted before. For a mass produced chocolate, its probably right there with the Meiji Blacks and Morinaga Bitters if you like a little more kick than the typical 36% to 45% cacao in most dark chocolate bars in the supermarket.

Whittaker's Dark Ghana is at 72% cocoa and its price on the supermarket shelves gives it a slight advantage per gram compared to Meiji Black.

The taste is definitely more pronounced (i.e., in terms of "bitterness") than the popular Meiji Black, which is supposed to have 36% cocoa (it's not written on the label)

Whittaker's can be a good alternative to Meiji Black for those who prefer more bitter chocolate for the same amount of money they are willing to shell out. Like Meiji Black, its packaging is unpretentious and so is the chocolate. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Weekday late lunch at The Grill by Antonio's

We decided to take a break spending the a couple of weekdays and a weekend in Tagaytay last June. We figured the weekdays were quite perfect for a getaway considering most people were at work or in school. Our assumption turned out correct as there were generally few people at the restaurants and other places of interest in the city. It was definitely unlike the typical crowded weekends when we were in Tagaytay for a breather.

Our first stop was a place where we could have our lunch. We left Antipolo in the mid morning and decided to drive straight to Tagaytay without any stops along the way. If we had left early, we could have made a stop at the Paseo in Sta. Rosa but since we made quite good time during the drive, we proceeded to Tagaytay for a late lunch. We had no trouble choosing a place to eat and a space for parking as there were few people going around the restaurant strip along the national highway. Nakakapanibago! As we were already hungry, we decided to have lunch at The Grill, which is part of the popular Antonio's group of restaurants in Tagaytay.

The batchoy was perfect for the weather as it was foggy and drizzling when we arrived in Tagaytay.

Chicken inasal and lumpiang shanghai for the main course of our lunch.

Mango & sago (tapioca pearls)

Leche flan just the way we like it...
We had a great lunch at The Grill and were definitely stuffed afterwards. And so we decided to transfer to another place to have some coffee and hot chocolate before we proceeded to the bed & breakfast place where we stayed during our getaway. The Clairvoyant actually wanted to try out Breakfast at Antonio's when we arrived in Tagaytay. We learned later the following day that the place was relatively a long way off from Tagaytay proper (about 15 to 20 minute drive from the rotunda). We'll probably try that one out the next time we are in the area for some R&R.