A cultural tour of Taal, Batangas Part 2 of 5

Here’s part two of  the Carnation Family Food Trip, hosted in cooperation with Appetite magazine. We visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay (which means kingfisher) and the miraculous Sta. Lucia Well.

Our Lady of Caysasay

Our Lady of Caysasay

We said hello to the penguin that stands outside the shrine (What the statue of an Antarctic bird is doing in a tropical country, I don’t know. It’s cute, though).

The Penguin of Caysasay

The Penguin of Caysasay

Visited the Basilica of San Martin

Basilica of St. Martin

Basilica of St. Martin

 

And had lunch at the Escuela Pia Cultural Center.

Escuela Pia Cultural Center

Escuela Pia Cultural Center

Where we were greeted by awesome Batanguenas,

Escuela Pia Greeters

Escuela Pia Greeters

And treated to lunch, which consisted of:

Adobo sa Luyang Dilaw (Adobo with yellow ginger, here quite milky because of the added milk (this is a Carnation trip, after all), though they had the original, milkless version too), Tapang Taal, Inihaw na Tilapia (grilled tilapia) and Bulanlang, a vegetable salad called Dinengdeng in the North

Bulanlang

Bulanlang

 

And various desserts, including minatamis na saba (sweetened bananas) my personal favorite being the champorado (chocolate rice porridge) served with ice cream and Carnation evaporated milk. I was fortunate to get the very last bowl. The champorado was thick, its sweetness provided by the accompanying ice cream while its texture was thinned by the milk. The rice was soft, but not gooey. I want to know who made it so I can kidnap him or hr and make her my official champorado cook.

Escuela Pia Desserts

Escuela Pia Desserts

 

But the best part of the meal was the coffee. Never have I tasted coffee so fragrant, good, you didn’t have to put sugar in it because it was naturally sweet. When I asked the servers where I could get beans, they looked at me as if I was crazy and said, “the market.” Now I know what really good coffee tastes like.

Old Manila at Peninsula Manila

I have fond memories of Peninsula Manila. I love passing the hotel’s giant fountain and my childhood included eating the lobby’s famous halo-halo.

It’s only now that I’ve realized that it’s about time I extended my attention to the hotel’s other restaurants as well. Old Manila is charming, a mix of antique and modern Filipinana.

I got to tag along on a food tasting that featured the restaurant’s Valentine’s Day offerings (unpriced as of the review) and sample its regular fare (as if anything here was ‘regular’) as well. It was one of those days where I really love my job.

Old Manila's Fresh Oysters with Caviar Creme Freche and Gold Leaf

Old Manila’s Fresh Oysters with Caviar Creme Freche and Gold Leaf

The Fresh Oysters with Caviar, Creme Fraiche and Gold Leaf is a delight of taste and texture, the salt and slime of the oysters tempered by the smooth, slightly sour creme, the whole thing punctuated by the salty (in a different way) round nodules of caviar.

Old Manila's Wild Mediterranean Red Mullet

Old Manila’s Wild Mediterranean Red Mullet

The Pan-Fried Foie Gras with Fig and Peach Chutney and Chocolate Jelly has all the elements of an aphrodisiac. The chocolate goes remarkably well with the foie gras, the deep cacao flavor enhancing the goose liver’s taste. Eating such a rich dish makes you feel all warm inside.

The Wild Mediterranean Red Mullet (Php1550) “pan seared, chive and nutmeg potato, marinated fennel, sauce vierge” was interesting because the fish was fried, not steamed or poached as I expected, going well with the white, herby sauce.

Old Manila's Wild Mediterranean Red Mullet

Old Manila’s Wild Mediterranean Red Mullet

Those with a more orientally-inclined palate can try the Pan-Fried Sea Bass Fillet (Php1750) “grillled Mediterranean vegetables, champagne foam,” which has echoes of Chinese fish in oyster sauce, but with a Western sensibility.

Old Manila's Pineapple Semolina Tart with Ginger Mint Sorbet

Old Manila’s Pineapple Semolina Tart with Ginger Mint Sorbet

The Pineapple Semolina Tart with Ginger Mint Sorbet (Php320) is basically a glorified pineapple upside down cake, which I didn’t mind since I love pineapple and, well, I love cake. The sorbet needed some getting used to, as it tasted like mint cough syrup, but I found myself enjoying it the more I ate… Just like cough syrup. I wonder if I can get more.

Old Manila's Lemon Souffle with Caramelized Bananas and Passion Fruit Sorbet

Old Manila’s Lemon Souffle with Caramelized Bananas and Passion Fruit Sorbet

The Lemon Souffle with Caramelized Bananas and Passion Fruit Sorbet (Php380) was lovely, the souffle light and heavy, sweet and tart at the same time. The caramelized bananas were a delightful bonus, as was the sorbet, which was rich and sweet and decadent. Just the type of dessert you’d like to end a romantic meal with.

It’s hard not to be charmed by Old Manila. The restaurant’s got a lot of surprises for the discerning diner.

Old Manila
8872888, 8123456
The Peninsula Manila
Corner of Ayala and Makati Aves.
1226 Makati City

Cav

I accompanied a friend to a magazine food tasting assignment at Cav, the wine-themed restaurant in The Fort. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. Fortunately, Chef Mark Gfeller was there to save the day.

We went in the afternoon, when there were barely any people. You’d think that the staff would be more attentive then but, as I’ve discovered with a lot of restaurants, this is possibly the worst time to be dining out. Despite coordinating with the restaurant’s PR, my friend had a hard time confirming that yes, he did have a reservation.The service, even though there were no people, was horrible. There was only one bored waitress who couldn’t even be bothered to serve us water. To make things worse, Chef Mark came by and said that he hadn’t been informed of my friend’s arrival. He kindly implored us to reschedule the tasting because he wasn’t ready. My friend had no choice but to agree. We felt bad because we wasted an afternoon but Chef Mark was so nice about it, and it wasn’t his fault, really. We thought that since we had been by already, we would get better service from the staff when we returned.

We were wrong.

We were back again after a week. Same bored waitress, same lackluster service. In fact, she seemed annoyed that we were moseying in on her work time. She didn’t seem to have a problem serving the more tisoy and tisay customers that wandered in though. We were given food to try, one of each dish plus one glass of wine to be shared. The food wasn’t bad but the service had already left an awful taste in my mouth. It was hard to get dinner rolls, even harder to get a smile from the staff.

Again, Chef Mark wandered by, asking us how we were. He was very nice, so we just nodded and didn’t really say anything. He insisted that we return later that night because dining in the afternoon was boring, and that we should really see Cav during dinnertime, when the Chef was in his element.

How could we say no?

When we returned, we were met with a completely different experience. The place was crowded, you couldn’t get from the main door to the dining area without having to weave around someone. Yet the staff was alive, smiling and cordial to everyone. We were shown to our table by a nice young man who would, throughout the evening, make sure that all our needs were met. Even the food was different, and not because we were served different things. Food served in a lively restaurant by a cheerful staff tastes better. I looked around. We weren’t getting special service because we were now guests of the chef. We were getting the same service everyone else got. The night staff was simply better at their jobs. I found all my complaints about the afternoon melting away as dish after dish of sumptuous food was served.

We started with the Pierogi (tumeric. pumpkin velute. rocket sprout). The arugula blended well with the smooth, sweet pumpkin. The pierogi itself – with a texture akin to a flat, doughy gyoza -wasn’t needed because the pumpkin was already good on its own, but was a nice surprise.
Next came what was going to be my personal favorite, the Lamb Ragu (eggplant. zucchini. portobello. mushroom foam). The lamb all but melted in the mouth, its dense, slightly gamey flavor contrasting brilliantly with the lightly-flavored, airy foam, which tasted like a cross between pumpkin and mashed potato. The mushroom’s already meaty taste was infused with a deep, adobo-like flavor that married beautifully with the meat. The dish is surprisingly kid-friendly, and is one that must be savored to be truly appreciated (also an excuse for my tendency to eat very slowly). I wanted to lick the plate after.
My friend’s favorite was the Wagyu, which he talks about to this day, his eyes glazing over at the memory (lemon risotto. portobello. haricot vert). The daintily-presented dish may look small, but it sure is filling. I love that the meals are served in warm plates. I sort of wish I could order the plates on their own so I could press my cheek to them. Anyways, the wagyu is soft, tasting slightly of foie gras, the accompanying risotto smooth but with bite, the hint of lemon surfacing through the creamy rice.
We ended with the Chocolate Souffle Cake and the Banana and White Chocolate Brulee, the Valhrona-made souffle cake rich and – I seem to be using this phrase a lot in this entry – melt in your mouth, the accompanying raspberry coulis providing just enough tartness to keep the chocolate from getting too cloying. The brulee is creamy, with a slight, almost imperceptible tang; an elevated banana pudding complimented by a citrusy syrup that rounds up the flavors nicely.
We didn’t have wine with dinner, but we didn’t mind. While some libation would have enhanced the meal’s flavors, we were happy to savor the dishes by themselves, letting them bask in their own little glories.

I was all set to write my Cav experience off as horrible, untrained, snotty service not making up for the food, no matter how good or expensive, but I’m glad that Chef Mark turned what started out as a bad experience into a pretty neat one.
Prixe Fixe (not necessarily what’s above) goes for Php 1,800, for a wine pairing, add Php 1,300.

Cav

Lot 5, Quadrant 8
Bonifacio High Street
Fort Bonifacio Global City
+632-8561798

Pia y Damaso

Pia y Damaso in Greenbelt 5 may look slightly intimidating, but once inside, you’ll find a few dishes that will take you back to the era of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

This is because a lot of the dishes are taken directly from the books (remember the tinola scene? And the Tsokolate Eh?) or inspired by Noli and Fili characters. The dishes are a delicious mix of Filipino with accents from overseas.

The house drink is the Tubig ni Maria Clara (P300), a pitcher of water flavored with cucumber, ginger and citrus fruits. The drink is sweet, with a hint of cucumber coolness and the kick of ginger. It’s refreshing and slighlty peppery.

The Kua Pao Pan de Sal (P225) is a marriage of the Chinese Kua Pao and the Filipino Pan de Sal. Two big pieces of roasted pan de sal filled with braised pork belly in sweet sauce, roasted peanuts, sweet mustard confit and fresh cilantro leaves. The Pan de Sal is soft, the pork a nice mix of fat and meat. The sandwich is savory and strangely lumpia-like (the fresh kind, probably because of the wansoy, which keeps flavor from getting redundant), with the peanuts adding punch.

Kua Pao Pan de Sal

Kua Pao Pan de Sal

The Black Olive, Cerveza Negra and Tuyo Pasta (P275) is an oil-based pasta with a subtle but deep flavor that’s slightly salty, slightly smokey. The tuyo bits give the dish extra flavor.

Pia y Damaso's Black Olive Cerveza Negra and Tuyo Pasta

Pia y Damaso’s Black Olive Cerveza Negra and Tuyo Pasta

The Nga Nga Beef Salad (P250) was named after the betel nut that was extremely popular with the old timers. The salad is divided into sections: salty-sweet beef flakes, green mango pickle, red onions, Haw flakes, cilantro and arugula that are to be piled on lettuce leaves rolled like betel nut chew and eaten with one’s hands. The result is a sweet, crunchy starter that for some reason tastes very 80’s. Assembly required!

An iconic dish in Noli is the tinolang manok. Pia y Damaso’s version, Tinola Chicken (P300) has a dark, flavorful broth and a sharp aftertaste, which is a nice surprise for a usually mild soup.

Now for my favorite part of a meal: dessert.

The Diablo (P150) is a bittersweet chocolate souffle flavored with spices and red chili peppers. I am a big fan of the chocolate and chili pepper combination and this dish did not let me down. The chocolate tempers the chili’s heat while the spices round everything out.

I love, love, love Sisa’s Dementia (P160), which I have been searching for for two years, having tasted it when it was still “Dementia.” It is a “truffle cake with white chocolate almond pastille, dark chocolate mousse and ganache,” layer upon layer of differently textured chocolate to create a dense, addictive cake. Notice how I’ve refrained from making any references to Sisa’s mental state. That’s restraint, that is.

Pia y Damaso's Sisa's Dementia

Pia y Damaso’s Sisa’s Dementia

The De Espadana Quezo de Bola Cheesecake (P220) is a feat of culinary engineering. Named after Kapitan Tiago’s social climbing wife, what looks like your everyday blueberry cheesecake is actually an edam-based cheesecake with santol, prune and fig compote. The cake retains the quezo de bola’s sharpness, the topping tasting like marmalade. Probably the only time I voluntarily ate prunes.

A ligther dessert would be Salvi’s Canonigo (P100), a meringue-based dessert named after the novels’ thinnest priest. The vanilla creme and fresh mangoes it comes with add texture to what would otherwise be continuous clouds of sweetness.

If you’re like me, you probably sweated through Rizal class. Pia y Damaso makes Rizal fun to revisit. Like the books its food is named after, it turns Filipino food inside out, but in a good way.

Restaurante Pia Y Damaso
2/F Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center Makati
+6327295511

101 by ADF+Enderun

Located in the hard to get to Enderun Colleges is 101 by ADF+Enderun, a casual, laid back restaurant where Enderun students get to try out the skills they learned in the classroom, and where regular folks can try gourmet cooking at the fraction of the price.

From 101’s PR: “101 by ADF+Enderun is the application restaurant of Enderun Colleges. It is managed and operated by Enderun’s Culinary Arts and F&B faculty and students, in partnership with Alain Ducasse Foundation of France. 101 features signature Alain Ducasse Formation dishes with am Asian twist, served in a collegian atmosphere of comfortable elegance.”

The management will warn you that because it’s an application restaurant, you’d better be prepared to be extra patient, as food may take a while (the chef instructor isn’t going to let inferior fare leave the kitchen) and student servers may be a bit nervous. Also because it is an application restaurant, the menu will change at least every quarter, depending on the Chef that’s set to supervise, so you could have French fare for a few months and Thai the next. All this makes dining at 101 makes for an interesting, mostly delicious, experience.

Gensan Tuna Belly

Gensan Tuna Belly

The Gensan Tuna Belly (P180) “delicately poached in olive oil, aubergine caviar, roast bell pepper and parsley sauce” is friendly towards eggplant-averse people, as the aubergine caviar is tasty and does not have the texture associated with the vegetable.

Treasures of the Philippine Seas

Treasures of the Philippine Seas

I rather liked the Treasures of the Philippine Seas (P360) “king prawns, cuttlefish, clams, scallops and mussels on lemongrass and guava jelly.” I thought that the jelly was a bad idea at first, but that was before I actually tasted it. It’s got a sweetly subtle flavor that enhances the fresh seafood taste. Plus, I enjoyed the big, fat scallops.

Baked Davao Goat Cheese Tart

Baked Davao Goat Cheese Tart

One of their bestsellers is the Baked Davao Goat Cheese Tart (P220) “with tomato coulis, goat cheese, Ligurian olives and fresh arugula” is a flaky tart, the toppings resting on phyllo pastry much like a pizza. The goat cheese gives the strongest flavor, and is tempered by the other ingredients.

The Angus Beef Rib (P1680) “grilled to your liking, served with braised red wine shallots annd bone marrow” is soft, the meat tasting better without gravy. The sweet shallots keep the beef taste from becoming tiring, while the marrow slides readily out of the bone, a big chunk that makes for a lovely heart attack.

The 101 Chocolate Delight (P135) “chocolate chips, ganache and praline bar” is like a high class candy bar. Its inside is packed with ganache perched on crunchy praline, the whole thing encased in beautiful dark chocolate.

101 Chocolate Delight

101 Chocolate Delight

Considering the restaurant, the ambiance and the staff’s willingness to serve, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the whole thing is run by students. The best part of the deal? By dining in 101, you’re helping eager students learn real world skills.

101 by ADF+Enderun
Enderun Colleges
1100 Campus Ave
McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio
Taguig City 1634
+632-8565000 loc. 101