Sunday, March 2, 2014

Weekend Escape at Lilom Resort

We had a memorable weekend getaway in Anilao, Batangas which was a two and a half hour drive from Manila via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). The website provided clear directions to the resort so we had no trouble finding our way. After arriving at the designated parking area, we walked leisurely along the rocky shore to the resort. 

Lilom is a quaint and charming family-run resort that offers full board and lodging at P2,800 per head (half price for kids) for an overnight stay inclusive of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. 

When you enter the property you are greeted by the warm and friendly staff. The first thing that caught our attention were the two small plunge pools facing the beach. The kids were so excited to take a dip. 

Lilom is a Filipino word that means "under the shade". The lush surroundings and cozy huts provided just that. We rented the Tuko and Pawikan huts (left side of the main house) for our overnight stay. The interiors were simple but the scenery and service made for a delightful stay. This relaxing retreat draws you in with its casual, laid back vibe.

We arrived just in time for lunch. They served a delicious buffet of grilled liempo, chicken tinola, pancit canton, rice and fresh fruits. The kids decided to go for a swim after lunch.

It was around 4pm when they served our afternoon snack of french press coffee / native hot chocolate with suman (steamed rice cake wrapped in banana leaf). We enjoyed our snack while admiring the beautiful scenery. 

We also loved their banana-stuffed pancakes with Muscovado butter for breakfast the next day ...

Anilao is a famous dive spot for locals and tourists alike so we decided to go snorkeling with our 6 year old daughter. The resort provided us with life vests, aqua shoes and snorkeling gear free of charge. It was our daughter's her first time to try snorkeling and she was amazed at the sight of coral reefs, colorful fish, sea cucumbers and blue starfish. Even we were excited! 

Just after sunset, we were treated to a pre-dinner appetizer of roasted tomato and basil salsa with toasted crostini and a pitcher of calamansi Mojito. The thoughtful details and friendly service really endeared us to Lilom. We had chicken barbecue, vegetable kare-kare (traditional Filipino stew flavored and thickened with ground peanuts), tilapia with coconut milk and ginger for dinner and sweet, ripe mangoes for dessert. 

When we arrived in Lilom, half of me wanted to tell everyone about this place and half of me wanted to keep this peaceful getaway all to ourselves. The feeling of tranquility and relaxation when you are here will keep you coming back for more. We are definitely looking forward to our next visit. 

For more information, check out the Lilom Resort website:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lechon Degustation at Bale Dutung

Bale Dutung or House of Wood is the residence of Chef Claude and Mary Ann Tayag. Claude is an accomplished artist, chef and author while Mary Ann is a gracious, engaging and endearing host. This talented tandem has created an out-of-the-ordinary dining destination in their Angeles abode.

Entering the Tayag’s home is a multi-sensory experience, a lush garden and the tranquil sounds of nature welcome the guests and set the ambiance for an unforgettable epicurean experience.

Photos of famous celebrity chefs and foodies who have dined in Bale Dutung (Anthony Bourdain, Simon Majumbdar, Rocco DiSpirito and Jeffrey Steingarten) caught my eye as we entered the Silong or  open ground floor area of their home where the restaurant is located. I immediately noticed that it is the couple’s attention to detail that sets this place apart, we appreciated the personalized menu on our table and purposefully placed antiques that surrounded us.

Reviewing the 11-course menu, I thought to myself, this is not a feast for the faint hearted so I braced myself for some serious eating …

We began the degustation with crackers and a trio of spreads: Basil Pili Nut Pesto, Taba Ng Talangka (crab roe) and Balobalo (fermented rice and shrimp paste) accompanied by a refreshing glass of Dalandan Juice with Muscovado ice cubes that slowly melted to sweeten the drink (I’m definitely going to try this at home!). I enjoyed the distinct flavor of each spread and how each flavor complements the other.

Next on the menu was a delightfully light Ensaladang Pako or Fiddlehead fern salad with a honey calamansi dressing, picked quail egg and sweet raw onions. I rarely find Fiddlehead ferns in my salad, apparently these ferns grow abundantly in Pampanga and are a popular salad staple.

Piniritong Lumpia Ubod sa Claude9 Oriental sauce (Fried heart of palm spring roll) was served after the salad course. We were instructed to wrap the lumpia with lettuce, this combination made for a fresh and crisp bite. I had this with a glass of Salabat Juice (Ginger Juice). 

The next dish excited my Ilonggo palate. They served Inasal na Manok at Talangka Sushi (Grilled Chicken with Crab Roe Sushi). This Visayan grilled chicken delicacy is close to my heart because I grew up in Bacolod and we are proud of our inasal recipes.  I enjoyed the well-marinated grilled chicken wing and crunchy skin. The crab roe sushi was a delectable accompaniment.

The Hito and Balobalo Sushi (Catfish with fermented rice and shrimp paste wrapped in Mustard leaves) is a modern Filipino take on the Japanese maki using native mustasa leaves to wrap the rice and catfish. The combination of the Balobalo, catfish and rice was deliciously different. 

When the Balat ng Lechon at Liver Sauce (Roasted Pig Skin with Liver Sauce) was served, I realized this was the reason we drove two hours for our Sunday lunch. The lechon skin was perfectly golden brown and crunchy complemented by the homemade sweet and savory liver lechon sauce. The whole roasted pig was displayed in all its glory. We excitedly approached the carving station as Chef Claude served the lechon.

Fried Lechon Flakes Binalot sa Tortilla (Fried Roasted Pig Wrapped in Flour Tortilla) was one of my favorite dishes of the day. Guests were invited to make their own lechon taco. You can’t really go wrong  wrapping deep fried pulled pork strips in a flour tortilla. I topped my taco with cilantro leaves and a drizzle of the cilantro-basil sauce. It was a flavor explosion! the cilantro-basil sauce and fresh cilantro brought this dish to another level.

Siningang na Lechon was also served to the guests liking, with an assortment of vegetables to go with this popular pork soup and a side of white rice or brown rice wrapped in banana leaves (nice touch). A side of tamarind juice was available for those who wanted their broth extra tangy.

The Inihaw na Tadyang na Lechon at Ensaladang Talong (Grilled Lechon Ribs with Eggplant Salad) was my favorite dish of the day! The ribs are the best part of the lechon and at Bale Dutung they kicked up the flavor another notch by grilling the ribs.  Needless to say, I went back for seconds.  

Our lechon degustation would not have been complete without Pampanga’s famous pork sisig. Bale Dutung’s Sisig Ulo ng Lechon (Lechon Head Sisig) is less fatty because excess fat is removed from the head before it is chopped up and fried. Sinfully sumptuous served with a side of roasted pig’s brain and liver. These crispy, chewy bites of pork heaven were to die for!

The Kare Kareng Laman Dagat (Seafood in peanut-based Stew) was beautifully presented to our table. This famous Filipino fare was included in our menu upon special request with some oohs and aahs from other guests who were wondering why we had another course when they were all enjoying dessert and coffee. This kare kare was one of the best I’ve ever had.  The cuttlefish, mussels and prawns were cooked to perfection in a rich broth of ground peanuts, coconut milk, crab roe and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). 

Our 11-course meal came to a close with a serving of Paradiso (Paradise) which was a dessert sampler featuring three popular native delicacies: Ube (purple yam), Yema (milk and egg custard) and Macapuno (coconut) served atop a thick crème brulee custard made with Carabao’s milk. We savored our dessert with unlimited cups of Sinaunang Kape (Old-fashioned coffee) with fresh Carabao’s Milk and Tsaang Pandan (Tea made with Pandan leaves).

There's a delightful tradition at Bale Dutung where all guests are asked to take a photo with Chef Claude and Mary Ann. We were then invited to write a message in Bale Dutung’s guest book to immortalize this memorable Sunday lunch. As I mentioned earlier, it’s really the attention to detail that impressed me about this place.

Chef Claude and Mary Ann Tayag wowed us one plate at a time. This was definitely worth the two-hour drive and an item to be added to any foodie’s bucket list.

For reservations:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Goin' bananas over Yonanas!

The kids and I had a blast trying out our new Yonana Healthy Dessert Maker. I found this at SM Makati supermarket, strategically displayed near the banana stand at the fruit section. 

We froze some ripe bananas (as instructed) and excitedly put them into the Yonana Dessert Maker ... 

What we got was banana soft serve ice cream with a smooth and creamy consistency.. Perfect for summer! 

We had to eat it right away because the ice cream turns a bit slimy when it's fully melted. The bananas give the smooth and creamy base and the berries add texture. 

For our next batch, I want to try bananas with mangoes or pineapples. The trick is to use very ripe fruits for sweetness because we don't add any sugar. 

Yonanas lets kids and adults enjoy fruit in a fun new way! 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

No ordinary cup of coffee ...

I haven't been this excited about coffee in a long time ... until I walked into Green Bean Organic Coffee located inside Manila Ocean Park. 

This hip looking coffee shop caught my attention when I passed by on our way to H2O Hotel. I liked the vibe of the place so I checked it out ...  

All it took was a few sips of their house brewed coffee (P80) and I was hooked. The brew was smooth, nutty and creamy without the sour / bitter aftertaste usually associated with brewed coffee. 

I asked the barista what makes their coffee taste so good and he told me that they only use freshly brewed USDA-certified organic Arabica beans (supplied by Irving Farms Coffee Co). They make each cup of brewed coffee with a specific amount of creamer and Muscovado sugar unless you prefer to have it black. He even showed me how they brew the coffee in small batches. 

I also ordered an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie (P50) to go with my coffee ... I was blown away because the cookie was to-die-for! This cookie had everything you could ask for in a cookie. I couldn't get enough of the moist, chewy, marshmallow-y texture with slivers of chocolate accenting each bite. Eating this cookie with the brewed coffee was an awesome combination!

My new favorite coffee place may not be as accessible as the other coffee giants but I would definitely go all the way to Manila Ocean Park just to have another cup of their brewed organic coffee and a piece of their heavenly oatmeal chocolate chip marshmallow cookie. 

I hope Green Bean opens a branch in Makati soon! :) 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Shopping in GUAM!

It was our first trip to the island of Guam so my hubby and I didn't really know what to expect.  I did a bit of research online at I was looking forward to shopping at the Duty-free malls, sightseeing around town and checking out the world's largest K-Mart (according to Wikipedia) which is open 24 hours! 

Guam was a four-hour flight from Manila. The weather was hot and humid when we arrived. We checked in at the Hilton Resort and Spa, the view of Tumon Bay from our balcony was breathtaking. For a while I thought I was in Hawaii. 

We kicked off our first day by taking a ride on the Guahan Shuttle which was a practical and convenient way to see the sights and to hop on and off from one mall to another for only $25 for 5 days. It beats taking a cab which can become quite pricey (unless you're going back to the hotel from K-Mart at 2:00am in which case a cab ride would be necessary). The only downside is that the shuttle stops at major hotels along Hotel Row to pick up and drop off passengers. We didn't really mind.  

The major shopping destinations are: DFS GALLERIA where you can find popular designer brands such as Gucci, Prada, Hermes, Chanel, Burberry, Ferragamo, Tory Burch, Tod's, Louis Vuitton, Dior and so much more. DFS also has a wide array of makeup brands like MAC, Benefit, Urban Decay, Clarins, L'Occitane, Shu Uemura, La Mer, Bobbi Brown and Clinique.

TUMON SANDS PLAZA is another duty-free mall that offers several luxury brands but is relatively smaller than DFS.

Across the street from DFS is THE PLAZA where you can find Gucci, Cole Haan, Anna Sui, Bottega Veneta, Furla, Rimowa to name a few. My personal favorite: Godiva Cafe.

We ended our first day at K-MART because it's open 24 hours and there were no lines at the check out counters when we got there before midnight. I loved the selections at K-mart, I wanted to bring the whole store home with me. I took my time going through the massive selection of clothing, toys, kitchen and house ware, linens and grocery items. Needless to say, this was our last stop everyday for the next 4 days!

The next day, we decided to go to the GUAM PREMIER OUTLETS. I always go to premium outlets when we're in the US so I was excited to see what the Guam Premier Outlets had to offer. I found some of the best bargains at ROSS, IZOD, Nine West, Naturalizer and Famous Footwear. GPO was smaller than what I expected though. 

ROSS may not be for everyone, it takes some time and patience to go through aisles and aisles of  merchandise. Some people say the lines alone discourage them. In my case, it was a fun and rewarding shopping experience.

While you're in the area, you can walk over to COST U LESS beside GPO which is similar to S&R or Costco for grocery shopping at great prices minus the membership fee. 

Next stop was MICRONESIA MALL, which is similar to the malls in Manila. The main attraction at Micronesia Mall is MACY'S. I also liked GAP, Payless Supermarket (which rivals the grocery section of K-Mart) and Denny's.

The next morning, we visited the AGANA Shopping Center. We had to check out the SM Store located here. It was fun to see SM all the way in Guam. They had some US products that I wish they sold here.

Payless Supermarket was overflowing with my favorite US brands. The selections here were worth the trip to Agana Shopping Center which was the farthest of all the malls we visited. 

To sum it all up, Guam is the closest you can get to the US in four hours and the SHOPPING is worth the trip. Anything you buy here will be cheaper compared to Manila retail prices, especially if the items you purchased are marked down and tax-free. 

Let me put it this way, the long strip of white sand beaches and crystal clear waters along Tumon Bay are just a bonus after a long day of shopping!  

Coming Soon: Guam EATS and Grocery Finds ...