Excellent Filipino Cuisine at Provenciano

Karen’s here for Christmas and we met up with her for lunch. She lives in the UP Village, so we chose to go to Provenciano to avoid the horrible December traffic.

Provenciano is one of the restaurants along Maginhawa Street. They have their own parking space in front of the restaurant. There is a quaint little stall outside the main dining hall, where a lady cooks puto bumbong and bibingka. Don’t forget to bring home some after your meal.

The main dining area is quite big. It is very tastefully-decorated. But even though the restaurant is spacious, the place got filled up very quickly soon after we arrived.

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We ordered the Crispy Pata, Sugpong Bataan (fresh prawns simmered in coconut cream and crab fat cooked the Bataan way), Sinigang na Baboy, Pinakbet, McArthur’s Rice (garlic fried rice with crab fat and smoked fish flakes), Leche Flan and Turon sa Sikwate.

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Everything we ordered was delicious! Provenciano serves Filipino food in an excellent setting. This is one place where you can bring your guests to proudly show off Filipino cuisine.

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Checking Out Another Burger Place: Grind Burger

There are a lot of new restaurants in The Block, SM North EDSA. We saw a burger place called Grind Burger. It’s located right in front of the Hypermarket at the Ground Floor.

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Interiors are simple and pleasant to the eyes. The space is quite small, so there is no room for unnecessary clutter.

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We ordered the Grind Burger, described as having “100% USDA house ground beef, brioche from the oven, vine ripe tomato, iceberg, sweet onion, American cheese and tiny’s secret sauce”. We were intrigued by the Deep Fried Mac and Cheese Balls, so we got that too.

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The burger was a winner! The beef was juicy and the bread was delicious! They make their own brioche buns and they complement the burger wonderfully.

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I liked the presentation of the mac and cheese balls. It gives a different twist to an old dish. But I wasn’t too crazy about it. I don’t think I’ll order it next time.

We enjoyed our burgers in Grind. It’s really great that they have delicious buns too.

 

Eggs For Breakfast: A Garden Oasis

Not too many restaurants are open at 7:00 am. Even those that serve breakfast usually open at 8:00. We were lucky to find Eggs For Breakfast one early morning.

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Eggs For Breakfast is a small and cozy restaurant within a compound of an events place. They have manicured lawns, a pretty gazebo and a small koi pond. It was beautiful with the early morning sunshine.

Collage_Fotor_FotorThey have a wide range of breakfast options – omelettes, egg dishes, sandwiches, pancakes, rice meals. We had the beef tapa, Vigan longganisa and omelette. Everything tasted good! Serving size is adequate. Lovely place for a date or a quiet meal.

Checking out Landers Superstore

There’s a new warehouse superstore in the area – Landers Superstore. It is located along EDSA, further north from Congressional Avenue. They just opened last month and they have a promo offering discounted membership fees, from Php800 down to Php640, until September 2016.

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One whole side of Landers is made of glass, giving the place a lot of ambient light, so the place doesn’t feel like a warehouse. It’s a lot like S&R, but Landers feels airier and brighter. The selection is pretty much the same but each store has its own unique finds. Landers has bigger spice and cheese selections, but there are better meat options in S&R.

The dining area of Landers is bigger and roomier than that of S&R. The food options are the same – pizza, roast and fried chicken. Our verdict: it’s a tie with the pizza, S&R has better roast chicken, and Landers has better fried chicken.

Archery at Gandiva Archery Range

My nephew is visiting from the US and I wanted the kids to have a unique activity. I had heard of Gandiva Archery from a friend whose kids had gone. I asked the kids if they wanted to try archery and they said yes. I made reservations for a weekday slot, just to make sure the three of them would be able to go together.

The Gandiva Archery Range is located on the 7th floor of One Corporate Center, Julia Vargas corner Meralco Avenues. The range was empty when we got there, it being a weekday early afternoon. I got them one hour sessions each, which included a set of archery equipment, target face, and safety gears, plus the instructor.

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The kids had fun channelling their inner Katniss, Legolas and Hawkeye. Their arms felt sore afterwards, but they had a lot of fun.

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Comfort Food in My Old ‘Hood

When we were growing up, our area in Marikina was purely residential. We had to drive elsewhere if we wanted to eat out. Nowadays, Lilac Street is lined with restaurants with various food choices. We decided to try out Miguel & Maria for dinner when my brother and his family came over to visit.

Collage_Fotor_FotorWe ate there twice in a week and both times, the place was full! The ambience was homey, perfect for family gatherings. The food can be described as comfort food, food that is familiar, but given a new treatment. Serving sizes are quite generous. On our first visit, we had the tomahawk steak, spiced shrimps and baby back ribs. All of those were delicious! On this particular night, though, we had the roast herbed chicken, the stuffed pork chop and the mac and cheese. The mac and cheese was the best of the three. The chicken was good, but the pork chop was a disappointment. It was tough and dry.

For dessert, they had “home crafted ice cream” with unique flavors. We tried the butterbeer and it was yummy! The brownie ala mode, chocolate cake and blueberry cheesecake were also delicious.

Eating in Miguel & Maria is like having a family reunion in your grandparents’ house – good food, homey ambience, great company.

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Quick Day Trip To Nagcarlan

We are firm believers of domestic tourism. We try to bring the kids to a new town/province/region in the Philippines every year. With the change in the academic calendar, vacation was pushed to the rainy season, so we didn’t make plans to go far. I chose Nagcarlan, Laguna as our local destination this year. Our good friend, Amie Malabag-Hernandez, was recently elected as the Vice-Mayor of Nagcarlan. I got in touch with her and she agreed to meet us.

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With Vice Mayor-elect Amie Hernandez

Amie first brought us to the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. It is the only underground cemetery in the Philippines. During the Philippine Revolution, the cemetery served as a meeting place of leaders of the Katipunan. It also served as hideout during the Philippine-American War and World War II.

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Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

We also visited a candy-making factory and the vegetable tram which was high up in the mountains.

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For our last stop before lunch, Amie brought us to the Nagcarlan Forest Resort. Aside from the usual swimming pools, this one had a stream of running water. The water was cool. Too bad we weren’t ready for swimming.

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Nagcarlan Forest Resort

By then, we were famished. Amie brought us to what used to be an abandoned warehouse, but is now a “boodle fight” restaurant. Boodle fight is how soldiers eat – the rice and viands are placed on banana leaves in the middle of the table and each one gets from there and eat with their bare hands. The food was delicious!

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Boodle fight!

Our last stop in Nagcarlan was the San Bartolome Apostol Parish Church. It is a beautifully-preserved church. The original floor tiles from Talavera, Spain are still there on the walls. This church was used as setting for “Kampanerang Kuba”, the movie which starred Vilma Santos, as well as the television series which starred Anne Curtis.

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San Bartolome Apostol Parish Church

This trip was very educational and fun for all of us. Thank you to our very gracious host, Amie, for a day of discovery.

 

 

In Love With Japan

Just recently, my family and I went on a trip to Tokyo, Japan. Like in our other previous trips, we did not join a tour group. We made our own itinerary based on what we want to do and see. We did not want to be confined to a pre-set schedule and preferred to do the exploring on our own. We got lost at times, but that was part of the adventure. From the minute we landed in Narita, we loved every minute of our stay in Japan. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1.  Weather

Coming from a scorching summer in Manila, the cool weather of Tokyo was a welcome breather. Days were cool and nights were chilly. Even during the early afternoon hours when the sun would be at its peak, it was still cool enough for a thin jacket. It rained on our second day there, but we did not let that get in our way.

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Going around shortly after arrival

2.  Efficient transport system

To get around, we took the subway, the train or the bus. Cabs are expensive in Tokyo. There is an extensive network of subways and trains, so there’s bound to be a stop near your destination. The trains arrive on time and leave on time. That way, you can schedule your activities more effectively.

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On our first day there, we got the Tokyo Metro 24-hour ticket (JPY 600) for each one of us. That allows unlimited rides on the Tokyo Metro for 24 hours. Aside from that, we also got Suica prepaid cards for everyone. Suica is a reloadable card that can be used to pay for train, bus or subway tickets. It can also be used in convenience stores. It is very easy to use and saves you time, since you don’t have to line up to buy tickets.

3.  Food

Everything we ate in Japan was delicious. Prior to the trip, I was not a big fan of ramen. But I became a convert after eating ramen in Japan.

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Ramen and gyoza in Ippudo

We also enjoyed the katsudon, gyoza, tempura, sushi, Harajuku crepes and Japanese cheese tarts. It didn’t matter where you got them – from big restaurant chains, mall food courts, department store basements, train stations, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. They were all delicious!

4. The sights

There’s much to see in Tokyo. There are temples and parks and gardens. There is a huge Gundam statue outside Diver City in Odaiba.

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The highlight of our trip was seeing the majestic Mt. Fuji. We were really hoping to get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji while we were in Gotemba. Cloud forecast that day wasn’t very encouraging. So we were surprised that the peak of Mt. Fuji was visible throughout the day that we were there. Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain peak in Japan and is a famous symbol of Japan.

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5.  The lack of noise

Tokyo is a very vibrant city, with lots of tall buildings, cars, busy people walking along the streets, but it is relatively quiet. Even with all the tourists crowding around in Nakamise Dori or in front of the Senso-ji Temple, there is no shouting or yelling. There is no mad honking of horns or loud music in malls.

6.  Cleanliness

Tokyo is a very clean place. Most restaurants observe a “clean-as-you-go” system, where diners are expected to bring out their plates and utensils and wipe the tables clean after eating. The streets, train stations and even public bathrooms are clean.

7.  The Japanese people

Everywhere you go, Japanese people are very polite. Even if they do not understand English, they will try to help you in any way they can.

All of us enjoyed our stay in Tokyo. This early, the kids are already asking if we can go back.  There are so many other places in Japan that we’d like to see. Until the next adventure.

Travelling

I enjoy travelling. I like going to new places, discovering new restaurants, seeing the sights. I like preparing for a trip, awaiting seat sales on different airlines and beating everyone to the punch when the clock strikes 12. I enjoy preparing our itinerary, researching not only on the usual tourist spots, but also other interesting places or things that are not hyped about. Travelling gives us a chance to be together, away from work and school, on our own. Bong hardly goes on a day off when he’s in town so it’s only when we travel that he is really on vacation. He and I know that before we know it, our children will grow up and embark on their own adventures. So while we can, and while they still want to go with us, we try to travel as a family.

Revisiting Makati (Part 2) – Dining Around

Makati is known to have a lot of good restaurants so we were very excited to try out some of them. Our first stop was Lulu for dinner. We almost didn’t find it. We used Google Maps to locate it but the address it gave us was wrong. It turned out to be on the next street instead. Anyway, we found ourselves in Lulu in time before the dinner crowd came in.

Ambience was great – lovely place for a date. They had an open kitchen design, so you can see your food being prepared and hear the chef calling out what dishes need to be done. Service was good, too. We ordered Caesar Salad, Lulu Burger, Lulu Pasta and the US Certified Angus Beef Bolognese. The bolognese was excellent, very tasty. The salad and the Lulu Pasta were mediocre, not bad but nothing great either. The burgers were disappointing. The center of the burgers were raw and the burgers had that raw taste. Not a very good way to end our day.

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For breakfast, we went to Pablo, which was located on the ground floor of the Picasso. We ordered the Bangus with Rice, Chicken Adobo Flakes with Rice and the Sardines in Oil with Rice. All these orders came with eggs the way you want them. From the buffet, you could get cereals, fruits, cheese, deli meat, salad, bread and fruit juices. Not too many choices in the buffet. We found the food to be of average taste. Serving size for the bangus and sardines were quite small. The adobo flakes had a burnt taste. Again, quite a disappointment.

Later on that morning, we went to the Salcedo Saturday Market. What an interesting place! There were so many stalls to choose from, with a wide range of cuisine available. There were homecooked meals, specialty food, fresh produce, flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables. We would have wanted to buy some of those dishes but we didn’t have the proper storage to prevent spoiling. We did try out the ice cream. We were choosing between Carmen’s Best and Adam’s Seriously Good Ice Cream. Unfortunately, the flavors we wanted in Carmen’s Best had already been sold out. So we ended up with Adam.

Adam’s Seriously Good Ice Cream was just that – seriously good! We had a hard time choosing which flavor to get. Adam was there to make the sales pitch (not that we needed any convincing). He explained how they make their ice cream, what makes them different, and how they use only the best ingredients for their ice cream. We got the First Lady’s Fantasy (“the best sugar-free chocolates sweetened with organic coco sugar and  bit of honey”) and the Ambassador’s Butter Cream (“a rich buttery cream with pieces of home-made almond brittle candy”).

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Both flavors were absolutely delicious! They more than made up for the disappointing food choices we’ve made recently. I hope they find more distributors soon – so we can have a follow-up fix 🙂

Our last meal in Makati was at Bugsy’s Bar and Bistro. It was also walking distance from the Picasso. We had the Buffalo Wings, Buffalo Tenders, Bugsy Siegel and some mashed potatoes to go with them. The chicken was good – flavorful with just the right amount of spiciness. Not too oily, too, compared to other versions. The steak was okay, a little bland but still okay and reasonably priced too. It was large enough to split into two orders. The mashed potatoes were nothing great.