Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tagaytay Food Trip: Sonya's Garden

Next stop in my food trip was Sonya's Garden. A lot of people I know have eaten here and they generally have positive things to say. It is known for its organic food and ambience so given the rich and heavy food I was expecting to eat while I was in Tagaytay and the fact that I wanted to know and experience what other people were talking about, I decided to have lunch here.

When I got there, I felt lost for a few minutes as I didn't know what the set-up was haha. I knew it was some kind of buffet but I wasn't sure how the food would be served. I wasn't in any rush so I just sat there until someone brought some clarity on the process. Apparently, the wait staff bring you each of the three courses one by one and you can tell them if you want more of that course or if you wanted to be served the next one.

To start things off, I got served a pitcher of dalandan juice that was very light and refreshing. They also served you bread along with a few "dips" - basil pesto, white cheese, tomato, and black olive tapinade.

The first course was a salad that came with a variety of ingredients such as mangoes, cucumbers, boiled egg, and nuts.

Second course was pasta. I got served a bowl of fettucini and a couple of sauces - sun dried tomato and chicken cream. They also served you a few options of other food items, such as ratatouille, shitake mushrooms, olives, and crispy salmon belly to mix in with the pasta sauce.

Finally, dessert. I got served three items - turon, chocolate cake, and sweetened camote - along with some tarragon tea. I think this was my favorite course. :)

While the chocolate cake was very rich and chocolate-y which matched perfectly with the tea, I was pleasantly surprised by the camote with mint leaves. There's a bunch of mint leaves in a small glass on the table, and one of the waiters suggested that I pick off one of these mint leaves and eat it along with the camote. This was truly a revelation!

The wait staff are very friendly and provide excellent service. I'd say the food is normal but a meal here is more about the ambience and overall dining experience than just the food. I mean, there's something quite charming and comforting about eating in a garden setting and knowing that the food you got served was picked from the backyard.

It is recommended to reserve a table since Sonya's Garden does tend to get packed. Most of the tables were occupied when I had lunch there at 1pm on a Tuesday.


Sonya's Garden
Barangay Buck Estate, Alfonso, Cavite, Philippines (near the vicinity of Tagaytay City, Philippines)
+63-9175329097 / +63-9175335140 / +63-9175231080

How to get there: From the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa Road, turn right into Tagaytay-Calamba road. Go past the rotonda along Aguinaldo highway. The Sonya's Garden directions say that you should drive for about 10km past the rotonda, but I think it was more like 11-12km (I remember going past 11km and wondering if I already missed my exit.) After Splendido Golf Course and Sunrise Hill, make a right turn on Buck State. Drive about 2km. Sonya's Garden is on the left.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tagaytay Food Trip: Breakfast at Lee Boutique

My hotel stay in Lee Boutique included free breakfast so I decided to claim it instead of driving to one of the many great places in Tagaytay to have the day's first meal. My breakfast included crispy bacon, toast, and scrambled eggs:

The verdict: it was basic. Not bad for a free meal (or a meal included in the room package) but not something you absolutely need to wake up early for. (And by early, I mean before 10am hehehe I know for a lot of normal people that is already quite late in the day.) I figured that since it was "missable", I would just sleep in the next morning and skip breakfast.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tagaytay Food Trip: Restaurant Verbena

I arrived in Tagaytay on Monday afternoon and decided that I would have dinner that night in Restaurant Verbena, located in the lobby of Discovery Country Suites.

A food trip only makes sense when you try a few things on the menu, so I knew I wanted to get an appetizer and a main course. You can check out their menu from munchpunch here (I can't find an official page for the resto apart from the Discovery Country Suites website).

I opted to start with the Bacalao & Chilean Sea Bass Cakes in the style of Spanish 'Croquetas' with Baby Greens and Caper Remoulade (P295). Quite pricey for only three cakes but they were pretty good.

I am so happy that they had a Verbena Sampler Plate on the menu because it meant I could try smaller portions of three different things that I really wanted to try: Moroccan Marinated Lamb Chops, Grilled Norwegian Salmon with Arugula- Mushrooms Salad and US Beef Short Ribs "Goulash".*

This dish was an absolute 'wow'! Everything on that plate was cooked perfectly. The combination of the items made for a great gastronomic experience, with the lightness and flakiness of the salmon providing an excellent contrast to the strong flavors of the lamb and the goulash as well as the richness and creaminess of the mashed potato. The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the fried feta cheese, but overall this main course sampler was a complete joy to eat and has now been elevated to one of my most memorable meals ever!

I can understand why Restaurant Verbena has been rated quite highly. Apart from the great food, the ambience is cozy yet vibrant and service is superb. It is definitely worth a visit.

I did check the munchpunch menu and noticed that it was updated last November 25, shortly after my visit there. The Bacalao and Chilean Sea Bass cakes don't seem to be available anymore. The Verbena Sampler Plate has a slight difference: the salmon and the beef ribs goulash are still there but they have replaced the Moroccan Marinated Lamb Chops with BBQ Lamb Baby Back Ribs. If I do visit Restaurant Verbena again, I think I'd still try the sampler. :)


Restaurant Verbena
Discovery Country Suites
300 Calamba Rd, Brgy San Jose, Tagaytay City
(046) 413-4567

Directions: from the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa Road, turn right into Tagaytay-Calamba Road. Discovery Country Suites will be on the left side of the road (lakeside) and you should see it before you reach the rotonda.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tagaytay Food Trip

So I finally get to blog about my food trip in Tagaytay! :) Back in November, my workload was incredibly massive so when I cleared my workload, I felt I just had to get away from the city to regain my equilibrium and to get some much needed rest and recreation. I bought 2 overnight stay vouchers for Lee Boutique that were about to expire so I decided to take a few days off of work and spend a couple of nights in Tagaytay. I didn't really have a specific plan in mind apart from watching TV, updating my ipod and just chilling. Then, a though. Food trip! There are so many good restaurants in Tagaytay that I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me to try a lot of restos that I hadn't been to before.

I decided early on that I wouldn't scrimp on food - I felt I owed it to myself to enjoy the fruits of my labor - so I went to tripadvisor and looked up some of the top ranked restaurants in Tagaytay. I felt that Antonio's, which was given the highest ranking, was a bit too expensive and one meal there would cost the same as a three-course meal plus drinks in the other places, so I ended up choosing the following:

I'll blog separately about the meals I had in each of these places.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Great run, Jessica!

Phillip Phillips was crowned this year's American Idol, which means Jessica Sanchez placed 2nd. I'm not really bummed about the result although I would have much preferred Jessica to win. What I am displeased about though was the massive pimping of Phillip during finale performance night. He got a marching band to back him up and a standing ovation from the judges who practically crowned him then and there, and I honestly don't think that performance merited that deluge of praise. I guess this really is WGWG territory and everyone else is just passing by. :)

It's the first time I followed American Idol closely in a long time, and that is really because Jessica was in it. I first noticed her when she sang 'It doesn't matter anymore' with Deandre Brackensack and Candice Glover (what a fantastic performance that was!) but it was her version of 'The Prayer' right before she got into the top 24 that got me hooked. She followed it up with a whole lot of solid and consistently good performances, sprinkled with a few moments of her own. Not only did she become a frontrunner with her version of 'I will always love you', her save was the best save in Idol history so far! And while she seemed to be losing a bit of ground after being saved, her showstopping rendition of 'And I am telling you' in top 4 week reminded people just how good she was and practically guaranteed a finale placement.

That she got to perform 'And I'm telling you' again in the finale with the legendary Jennifer Holliday who originated this song when she played Effie in 'Dreamgirls' back in the 80s is just icing on the cake. I still maintain that no one sings those big Dreamgirls hits better than Holliday (not even Jennifer Hudson) and you can see how experienced she is with this song when she takes the stage with Jessica, but I do think Jessica held her own. The extended standing ovation they got (that started midway through the song!) was merited, unlike a dozen other ones given this season haha, and their duet will be remembered as one of the best idol contestant-celebrity duets on the show ever. Here it is again:

video uploaded in youtube by salinesolution

While it's unfortunate that she didn't win the grand prize, she did leave with a car and a myriad of new fans globally. Somehow I'm confident that Jessica will land a record deal, and if she ends up having difficulty building a career in Hollywood, she can always come to the Philippines where she will surely make it big. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Nadal reclaims #2 ranking

Rafael Nadal is back to his winning ways on the red clay, taking the Rome Masters title last Monday (the final was scheduled on Sunday but it was washed out by rain) over current chief rival Novak Djokovic. This win was significant on so many levels:
  • He moves back up to #2. This means that the earliest he can meet Novak in the upcoming French Open is in the final. Novak is the player who has given Rafa the most trouble in his entire career, so the later he gets to meet his current chief rival, the better.
  • That said, he has now beaten his nemesis twice in a row. After losing 7 straight matches - finals, at that! - to Novak, he now seems to have solved the Djokovic riddle. At least on red clay.
  • Which is good, because the French Open is played on red clay. Rafa hasn't hasn't lost on this surface so far in 2012
  • He also won his 21st Masters title, reclaiming the solo record for most Masters titles. He was tied with Roger Federer at 20 when Roger won in Madrid.
I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that Rafa can maintain his winning ways. Roland Garros starts in a few days and I really hope Nadal can win his 7th French Open and 11th Grand Slam title.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Still sprained

So a week into my stupid mishap and my ankle is still sprained. It's definitely a lot better than it was last Sunday when I was experiencing extreme pain while trying to walk or even just standing up, but I'm still limping. Thankfully I have the option to work from home which means I don't have to take time off work but my workplace at home isn't ergonomic so it's not that easy working at home.

I am hoping that I can walk without a limp within a couple of days. Not because I want to go to work but because I would like to spend a bit more time outside my house and see my friends. :) I missed a surprise birthday celebration last Friday which sucked and I've had to have food delivered every single day (thank God for City Delivery and Quick Delivery, both of which have received multiple calls from me in the several days). Another sucky thing about this is that one of my discount vouchers already expired. I could've forced myself to use it last Tuesday but I decided that it wasn't worth it. In any case, I was able to use two vouchers in that same place so I guess in terms of value of what I got, I didn't really lose money.

The strange thing about this is that I lost 2-3 pounds. How is that possible? Did I lose muscle mass? The fact that I am holed up at home means that all I do is sit, lie down, and eat. And I have eaten a lot more sweets these last few days to bring some additional comfort LOL - marjolaine, apple pie, and concorde from Sugarhouse, choco fudge cupcake and mango walnut torte from Mom and Tina's, Chocolate Obsession from Kitchen's Best, Royce chocolates, and Curly tops. Eep! If anything I was fully expecting to gain some weight. Maybe I'm doing better with portion control?

The timing of this ankle injury also sucks because I was hoping to start training for a marathon this year. I wasn't able to run last year and I recently bought a couple of new sports shirts to motivate me to run again but alas, I am hobbled. I do hope that continuing to rest my ankle will get me back in full health soon. I want to get back on a treadmill, if not to run another marathon then at least to get back in shape. Plus, I have a couple more vouchers that are expiring this week. :) In any case, I should stop blogging and elevate my ankle now...

Sunday, May 20, 2012


I guess advertising does work sometimes. A couple of months ago, Fox kept advertising one of their new shows, 'Missing', that stars Ashley Judd as ex-CIA agent Rebecca Winstone whose son is kidnapped while studying in Europe. All those TV placements piqued my interest so I started watching the show when it came on the air a few weeks ago.

Now while marketing can go only so far, if the product is pretty good, you get hooked. And that is the case here. While the advertising got me to watch, the way the story has unfolded has kept me watching. I've been tuning into this show regularly and I am enjoying all the twists and turns. The good thing about it as well is that you get enough answers at the end of the show; it's not one of those cases where there are so many questions that remain unresolved and you just feel more and more confused. The progression is pretty good and it makes you interested to see what happens next.

*** Spoiler alert ***

The only problem with this series though is that ABC canceled the series after its first season. I guess this is the crappy bit about TV shows. If they don't get good enough ratings, the network can drop them just like that. I do hope that there is enough of a resolution in the end.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jessica in the finale!!

I'm incredibly pleased that Jessica Sanchez made it to the top 2 of American Idol. Way to go, Jessica!

After watching the show last night and seeing the reviews, I was almost certain Jessica was going home. The fact is, Joshua is the judges' favorite (or, well, Randy's and JLo's), and Phillip is this year's WGWG - white guy with guitar - which means he's practically a lock for the top 2, if not the title. Aside from that, I felt the songs given to Jessica were not good. 'My all' and 'I'll be there'? Jimmy Iovine's comments indicated that he himself felt the songs given to Jessica - including his own - were not good choices. To top it all off, sources say Jessica was suffering from a sore throat but no one bothered to mention it or even alluded to the fact that she wasn't in the best condition.

I think Jessica herself felt that her time was up. Not because of her reaction when Ryan called her name first. But because of her demeanor right before. In past weeks, she always looked nervous or tense when waiting for Ryan to call her fate. But this time, she seemed relaxed and was even smiling. I am guessing she may felt like she was living on borrowed time, given that the judges had to save her a few weeks back. Add to that the feedback she got from the judges and from Jimmy, I think she mentally readied herself to go. Which makes the fact that she is still standing and now in the finale even more amazing!

Of course, being up against the WGWG almost guarantees that she will lose next week. The last four winners - David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee Dewyze, and even Scotty McReery to some degree - all fit this description. Nevertheless, I am still pleased at how far Jessica has gotten. Here's hoping that she ends up with moderate success post-Idol. (Of course, if she comes to the Philippines, she will surely be a big hit. :))


And before I get accused for being a Jessica fan just because she has Filipino roots, I didn't really root for a lot of past Pinoy-blooded contestants. Of the past idols with Filipino heritage - Jasmine Trias, Camile Velasco, Sway Penala, Ramiele Malubay, and Thie Megia - it's only Camile who I supported (although I do feel that she really lacked confidence and while I think she should made it a bit further, her 9th place finish in Season 3 was fair.). Good luck to Jessica and I hope she can finally snap the WGWG dominance of AI.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Piliin mo ang Pilipinas

I saw this video earlier today and was impressed by it. The video is so visually stunning and El Gamma Penumbra do a spectacular job with the shadow play.

video uploaded in youtube by choosephils

The only bit that I don't like here is the rap part LOL.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nadal drops to #3

Chalk it up to the strange, blue clay. Rafa Nadal lost to Fernando Verdasco (a bad loss since he was up 5-2 in the 3rd set and he had never lost to Verdasco in their previous 13 - or is it 14? - meetings) in the third round of the Madrid Masters. With Roger Federer winning the title after taking out Thomas Berdych in the final, he edges out Rafa Nadal for the #2 ranking.

This is not good news. Rafa still has more points to defend than Federer leading up to the French Open, which means Rafa is almost certain to be seeded 3rd for Roland Garros. If this happens, there is a chance Rafa runs into Novak Djokovic in the semis. And while Rafa finally snapped his 7-match losing streak to Novak in Monte Carlo a few weeks ago, I'd still prefer that Rafa run into Novak in the final instead of in the semis. Of course, even if he is ranked #3, there is still a 50% chance that Rafa meets Federer in the semis instead. Hope that happens.

I do hope that Rafa can regroup in time for Rome and Paris. I guess mentally he can blame the loss on the strange court surface and he can be happy about the fact that he already has two red clay titles this year - Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Those wins also cemented Rafa's status as the best clay court player in history as he is the only player to have won an ATP event eight times (Monte Carlo, and he did that consecutively!). He is also the only player to win an ATP event seven times (Barcelona). No other player in history has won a title more than 6 times so his 7 Barcelona titles and 8 Monte Carlo trophies are an achievement that may never be matched again. In any case, I'm definitely keeping my hopes up that Rafa can win the French Open again.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I went to a volleyball game earlier today but I was about an hour late. When I got in the game, my reception was so awful that after the set, I asked a teammate to do some passing drills with me. So it definitely sucks that it was during this drill - and not during the game - that I twisted my ankle. Ugh! Now I have a badly swollen ankle and I'm having difficulty walking. I guess it didn't help that after my mishap, I still played 3 or 4 more sets. Plus, I participated in spiking practice that obviously required me to jump. Clearly, I'm the only one to blame for my current condition.

The last time I twisted my ankle like this, it was out of commission for about a week. That was during a basketball game that I played back in around 2004. I guess with all those added years, my recovery time now will take a bit longer LOL.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

And with that, summer is over.

I remember as a kid how the weather throughout the year was fairly predictable. Summer was March to May and it wasn't until June that the rains would come. The rainy season would then hang about until September, and as Christmas would draw near, the skies would remain clear for the most part.

This is clearly not the case anymore. The last dozen or so years have shown that the heavier typhoons come in during the 'ber' months: Sendong, Pedring, Juan, Quiel, Pepeng, Ondoy, and Milenyo all hit the Philippines in very late September (20 onwards) to December.

But apparently, not only does the rainy season end later now, it also starts earlier. Practically every afternoon and evening this week, we've had some rain. We haven't even gotten to mid-May yet and now summer is over. Thankfully, I was able to go on my island holidays already (Batanes and Cebu/Bohol which I have yet to blog about...) so at least I don't feel too bad that summer has been cut short.


And while we are on the topic of summer, I find it interesting to see the traffic enforcers wearing shorts. While it's not the most flattering look, it is definitely a lot more comfortable. I always felt bad for those public servants who have to stand under the intense heat of the sun while wearing those heavy traffic enforcer clothes. At least now, with the shorts, they get a bit of a reprieve from the heat. Whoever thought of doing that deserves a pat on the back. Function over form isn't always the best way to go, but in this case, I think it is.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Relaxing video on youtube

Interesting what you can find on youtube. I've been quite stressed our recently so one day, instead of listening to the calming music I have in my ipod, I decided to search for 'relaxing voice' on youtube. As I kept on clicking on related links, I ran into this:
video uploaded in youtube by yanghaiying

I've checked out a lot of yanghaiying's videos and I really do find that her voice and her videos are quite calming. Perfect to listen to right before you go to bed. :)

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Avengers!

Probably the movie I was looking forward to seeing the most this year is The Avengers. I heard really good reviews about it and it broke the previous record held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 for the biggest opening weekend ever. It's racked up more than 600 million dollars in ticket sales globally, and the fact that it was released in the US later than in a lot of other countries means that the Avengers is easily on track to break the 1 billion mark very soon.

Which should be expected. Films based on Marvel characters have always had solid blockbuster success. And in this case, it helps that most of the main characters were introduced separately: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk all had solo flicks released over the last few years. As such, it natural that people would oh so eagerly anticipate all these alpha-male heroes coming together to see what would happen.

The action, the fight scenes, and the special effects are definitely what make this movie worth watching. Add to that a script that is witty and fun and funny, which helps cut the intensity, making for easier viewing. My only issue with the script: while most people loved the "he's  adopted" line - you'll understand it when you see it  - I can't help but feel that adopted people who hear that line won't be too pleased about it. I do have to say that I think Tom Middleston put in a superb performance as Loki (just as he did in 'Thor'). Of course, as the film closes, it yet again whets the appetite of its fans with that short clip of Thanos. The Avengers versus Thanos in part 2? You can surely expect a lot more fireworks. :)


And while we are on the topic of movies, guess who seems to have found a bit more time to go to the movie theater this year? I managed to see 'Battleship' a few weeks ago as well. Unfortunately, that was a bit of a let-down LOL. When I realized it wasn't going to be all that good though, I somehow readjusted my expectations immediately and just enjoyed its lack of coherent storyline and the fact that it wasn't great. Hahaha. I also saw it in Newport Cinema in Resorts World on a Saturday at 1:30am (the cinema stays open for 24 hours during weekends).While it's a new experience, the strong bass from Republiq and Opus below can actually be felt and sort of heard in the cinema LOL. So I have now realized that watching a film here during party hours here is not advisable. :)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Not a good season

Liverpool are currently stuck at 8th in the Barclays Premier League and with two games left, the highest they can go is 7th. Thankfully, they have the Carling Cup to provide some consolation. They had a chance to double their trophy haul if they managed to take out Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Unfortunately, they lost, 1-2. If it weren't for the Carling Cup, this would've been the most dismal Liverpool season since I started following them about a decade ago. Oh well, better luck next season.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Hanging out in Eastwood

Anna was in town this week and and I haven't hung out with the gang - including Mitch, Ferg, Iona, JP, and Joyce - in a few months so we decided to catch up. Mitch said she kept seeing Cookbook Kitchen in Eastwood Mall whenever she would drive by and it was always full so she figured the food must be good and she suggested that we have dinner there. It was everyone's first time there so we went by the recommendations of the waitress on what the best sellers were. I can't really recall what we ordered - obviously the focus of the day was catching up hehe - but I do remember we got the Pasta Al Adobo,the CBK Chicken, and the Gen's steak and all of them were pretty good.

Iona's kids were asleep when we got there so it wasn't until we moved to Italianni's for dessert that Jelo, the latest addition to her family, woke up. It was my first time to meet him and he was really cute! We ended up in Italianni's for dessert since Joyce joined us late and hadn't had dinner yet so we had to go somewhere with good dessert and coffee as well as savory food. Joyce ordered salad and we got the New York Cheesecake (it's been ages since I had that and I forgot how big the cheesecake slices were!) and the Chocolate Eruption.

We should all get to see each other again in a few weeks' time for Jelo's baptism. I'm definitely looking forward to that since hanging out with gang is always fun.