Friday, February 24, 2017

Tahanan Bistro, Antipolo City - Part 1

I keep procrastinating posting about Tahanan Bistro. We have been wanting to try out this restaurant located in our home city. It is not your typical restaurant in that it is actually the home of wood furniture maker and artist Benji Reyes. Tahanan is located inside a private subdivision in Antipolo City, Rizal. Click on the link I provided to get more detailed info including their address and contact numbers.

As we were the only ones who were there for lunch, we had the full attention of the staff. We had a quick tour of the areas open to the public including the personal collections of the owners, who we were told were abroad at the time. The food was really good and I will just let the photos sort of speak for themselves rather than me describing each and maybe make some mistakes about my choice of words for what was for us a really good gastronomic experience.

At the time, they only had 3 sets on the menu and since there were three of us, we decided to order one of each so we can also share and sample everything. They now have a new menu, which the Clairvoyant and her friends tried out last weekend. She says they were not disappointed and the bistro is now among the top recommendations we have for friends coming to Antipolo and wanting a place where they can have really good food. A couple of important notes though: First, it is fine dining and so it is quite pricey (read: definitely not mid-range). Last, if your idea of good food is more on the quantitative side (read: buffet) then this is also not for you. I think this last note is clear from their social media page and from the photos I shared here.

More photos of Tahanan in Part 2 coming soon.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Praying for a miracle for Nay Nene

February has always been a happy month for me. For one, it is my birth month and so we usually have some celebration during the latter part of the month. It is also the birth month of my niece and I have a lot of happy memories of things happening in February (e.g., my first trip to Japan, my first experience of snow, etc.). This year was not supposed to be different because it is my 45th and we had already planned a family trip over the weekend. So much for a happy February...

Earlier today, I received news from my father that a beloved aunt (his elder sister) was hit by a jeepney. She is now in critical condition in a hospital in Iloilo and we are trying to confirm exactly what injuries she sustained. My brother says that from his conversation with our cousins, it looks bleak and we can only hope for a miracle for my aunt to get through this.

Nanay Nene or Enriqueta Regidor is one of only two living siblings of my father. The other, Nay Paring (Amparo Torre) is older and lives with her in my paternal side's ancestral home in Cabatuan, Iloilo. Although Nay Nene has had some health problems recently and the past few years, these were mostly the typical illnesses attributed to her advanced age (sakit ng matatanda). I've known her to be a tough lady but she was very kind, very cheerful and that is how I want to remember her from my childhood days spent in Iloilo during summer breaks.

Nay Nene (4th from left) beside my lola (3rd from left) in front of our old house in Cabatuan, Iloilo (photo taken in March 1974, just after my 2nd birthday)

She was like a mother to me and I was very fond of her. I used to tag along with her whenever I was in Iloilo whether its going to the market, on a religious procession or to church. It was she who usually cooked for us whenever we were in Iloilo. It was she who usually accompanied us to the airport when we returned to Manila. Nay Nene was a teacher and one among many close relatives who probably influenced me into teaching, too.

This is going to be a long night and a critical one at that. We can only pray that Nay Nene will get through the night and hopefully recover. Only God knows what about His plan for her and we surrender to His will.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chi Spa, Shangri-La EDSA Plaza

One of our guilty pleasures is getting a massage. We find massages soothing, relaxing, detoxifying - if done the right way. I've experienced massages where the therapist seems to be going through the motions and you can tell that by in many ways including the way they transition from one part of your body to the other. In certain cases, the therapist can't seem to estimate the right amount of pressure she's supposed to apply so that it won't be painful during and after the massage. Among those we've gone to are Nurture Spa in Tagaytay and Sofitel's Le Spa. These two have good menus of massages and we think their staff are well-trained. Last December, I finally was able to go to EDSA Shangri-la's Chi Spa, which is supposedly one of the best spas in the country.

Impressive lobby
Lounge area where clients wait for their turn of service
Another section of the lobby displaying spa products for sale
I just had to take a photo of this exquisite chandelier hanging in the middle of the lobby
We were served tea while we waited to be called
Inside the changing room - the showers, toilet and steam sauna are in this area
Massage tables in one of their suites
The view from the seating section just across from the massage area
Seat where you can wash
Entrance to Chi Spa from the hotel building
Chi Spa didn't disappoint and their service made you feel really cared for. I thought the massage was one of the best if not the best I've had for some time now. It was very relaxing and definitely a pleasant experience. I already look forward to trying out Chi Spa at Shangri-la's Mactan resort.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Blugre': A Taste of Davao

We were at the Taytay Municipal Hall for a meeting and afterwards wanted to go for some merienda before heading home. We spotted a new cafe at the building just across from the municipal hall. The last time we were here was more than three months ago and this wasn't there before. 

Blugre' Coffee is a popular cafe in Davao City, the hometown of the current President of the Philippines. I haven't seen any branches in Metro Manila and so it came as a pleasant surprise to see this one in Taytay. Here are some photos of the cafe, which opened only last weekend but now enjoys quite a crowd especially municipal hall employees and visitors.

Backdrop, tables and chairs
Counter and merchandise
Beverage and food selections
Novelty drink celebrating the popularity of the current president
We thought their coffee and iced tea were good. I also tried their tuna melt sandwich and it was good, too. The prices are more like Figaro than Starbucks and they do have some unique items on the menu featuring mainly durian. I think the service is good though they are a bit slow to prepare our orders. We thought that this was likely due to their being new so there's definitely room for improvement. We will definitely be back for more coffee, tea and merienda. Maybe next time we will try their meals.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Barn by Tipsy Pig, UP Town Center

We had some guests from Japan last December. A professor whom we are close with and his students were in Manila in part to explore research topics on transportation and also for his students to have some exposure outside their laboratory in Tokyo. As per his usual request, we arranged for dinner at a restaurant featuring Filipino food. Our staff made reservations at The Barn at the UP Town Center. They had tried it once before and were all praises for the food they ate there. Here's what we ordered for dinner with our guests.

Kare kare
I forget exactly what this is but it is fish and it was really good
Crispy pata
The place is highly recommended especially for big groups. The servings are really for sharing so a small group won't allow you to enjoy a variety of orders. The service was also very good with their staff being very attentive. They were also knowledgeable about the food they served and so you can ask them for recommendations like what's popular with their customers. We thought the amount we paid for all the food and drink we ordered was fair considering our big group, serving sizes, and (of course) the quality of the food. We look forward to the next time we eat here again. Perhaps it would be during one of our lunches out of the office?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Another beautiful sunset at the "second floor"

We only recently have gone back to what older people in our area of residence call the "second floor". This is atop what appears to be the highest point in our village. The Clairvoyant wanted to go there again for the first time since almost half a year ago before she had surgery. I had brought our daughter there for the first time a week earlier as part of our adventures together. She was actually more interested in the cows grazing near the road than climbing up to get a nice view of the city, the mountains and even Laguna de Bay. But when we were on top, she became curious about the mint that grew seemingly everywhere on that rocky land. I just had to caution her about running and not watching where she went. She can get quite clumsy and might just end up stumbling and hurting herself.

I related our little adventure to her mother and the Clairvoyant was naturally envious of our expedition. When we finally had the opportunity one afternoon, we decided to go there again and timed our climb so we can have a great view of the sunset. We were not disappointed and here is one of the shots we were able to take using just our smartphones:

The major elements conspired that late afternoon to give us this spectacular sunset
There are no two sunsets that are alike and so we will continue going up the "second floor" to view the sunsets. Of course, now there will be three of us going there from time to time. :)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dessert wines

We enjoy drinking wine from time to time. I think this started not too long ago in 2011 when we were living in Singapore. We usually bought good wine from the duty free shops at Changi Airport after arriving from trips, mostly from Manila. I had "commuted" between Manila and Singapore at least once a month from January 2011 to June 2012 when the Clairvoyant was posted there by her company. 

One particular type of wine that we do enjoy are dessert wines. And we bought at least one bottle of De Bortoli Noble One from Australia. This was De Bortoli's Botrytis Semillon, which is basically grapes that were infected with a disease that made them especially sweet. I discovered that we still had a bottle of this wine from 2012 when we came home from Singapore for good. This was a bottle of their 25th Anniversary vintage.

This dessert wine from the New World has a more prominent and older relative (ancestor?) is something from France. Sauternes from the Bordeaux region is enjoyable to drink whether with chocolate, cheese or by itself. We found a relatively inexpensive bottle by Dulong at our favorite deli and have been getting a bottle or two for our stock.

I have a more expensive bottle of Sauterne in stock for special occasions. The last time we were in Singapore (March last year), we didn't find any Noble One's. Hopefully, we can get this wine again soon and hopefully, too, we can find it in Manila.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Hanako, Maginhawa Street

We discovered a new Japanese restaurant located at a newly built building along Maginhawa Street near the corner with Magiting Street. We sort of found it when we were forced to slow down for a vehicle making a U-turn along Maginhawa and in front of the building. We got to peek inside the building and saw what we thought (correctly) as a newly opened restaurant.

Hanako's menu states that it basically offers a wide range of Japanese food
Table for two
The ground floor's interior contains a lot of mirrors to give an illusion of space. There is a mezzanine level, which we guess has more space compared to the ground level.
Wall climbing? On one side of the restaurant is what appears to be a wall for training.
Salmon sashimi - this was good and priced more affordably than another Japanese resto in Maginhawa. Hanako is not as pricey and offered many items in their menu for those wanting to satisfy their cravings for Japanese food.
Chicken teriyaki don was also good according to my friend
The kani salad was also okay. We thought the ingredients were fresh and the serving size just right for sharing considering we ordered other items.
The chicken katsu curry looked and smelled good. However, the breading was too thick and the rice was too much for a serving. The thick breading meant you'll taste more bread than chicken and you'd be full way before you're even halfway through your meal. I did mention this to the staff as this is a common flaw among many Japanese-themed restaurants serving this dish.
We'll also probably be back at this restaurant some time but maybe when there is already additional parking available at the building. There are other restaurants there including a branch of the popular Bo's Coffee. There is also a branch of a major fitness center chain in the building so it attracts a lot of people and many have cars. There is a driveway leading to a basement level so perhaps they'll have enough parking there.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tipulo Tree

We went to a possible venue for our 15th wedding anniversary last Saturday and were impressed with the estate we visited in our home city of Antipolo. Our host that afternoon was so kind to show us around and a highlight of the visit for us was something that we didn't quite expect to see there. Near the house of the owner stood a gigantic and likely to be very old Tipulo tree. This is the tree after which this city was supposed to have gotten her name.  Here are a couple of photos of the tree, which we took for posterity.

A gigantic, old Tipulo tree appeared to be the centerpiece near the home of the owner of the estate we visited
The tree had large leaves and bore these oddly shaped fruits.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Comfort food: Homemade Prosciutto a Tartufo pasta

I continue February with another comfort food feature. Among what we consider as comfort food is prosciutto a tartufo pasta. We like to order this at Italian restaurants in rotation with our other favorites pesto and aglio olio pasta. I like the versions by Italiannis and Amici but I am sure there other equally if not better versions in other Italian-themed restaurants here. The Clairvoyant got the recipe on the internet and has been trying not really to replicate the versions we've tasted but come up with our home version of the dish. Here are photos of what we enjoyed one day during the Christmas break last year. This version is cream-based instead of olive oil-based.

A tray of prosciutto a tartufo using the remaining spiral and penne pasta we had at home
A close up of the dish showing the creamy pasta and the prosciutto
The wife usually gets some prosciutto from Santi's, Rustan's or other delis that we thought had good quality meat products. These are also where we get our salamis and sausages that we also use for pastas or, in the case of sausages, for sandwiches and for grilling.