Sunday, January 31, 2016

Simple pleasures in laidback Dasol, Pangasinan

A month ago just before 2015 bid us goodbye, our family went on a short vacation to Dasol in Pangasinan. It was one joyous trip with my sisters, our mom, my kids, nephews and a niece. Two of my sisters had just flown in from the US and Canada the night before we headed up North, so you could just imagine how happy and memorable our trip was. 
Dasol is a third class municipality and tourism is its fast-rising industry. According to the caretaker of the resort where we stayed, fishing used to be the main source of livelihood of the locals but because their area has been declared a marine sanctuary and large-scale fishing was banned, the local government encouraged the residents to shift their focus to tourism-related businesses. As it is, Dasol's beach resorts are still in their "development stage" and I believe there is still not even a three-star establishment here, only small facilities that are more in the homestay accommodation category. For this reason, I received some dressing down from two of my "ates" (elder sisters) once we've settled inside our rented rooms (one for us adults and another for the kids). Not that they're snooty (haha!). They just did not like the kind of accommodation 
that I had booked for our trip.
 We stayed in Pantalan Resort, which only has four air-conditioned rooms and with the two not even having their own comfort room. There are two CRs outside, however, and four more (two are shower rooms) downstairs, near the two other rooms where we stayed for two nights.  
For one thing, my sisters were concerned about our security as there was no security guard, and really, the place is simply a typical rural neighborhood where some elderly men gathered for beer when we arrived at 9 pm. Secondly, they (even me as well) were a bit disappointed about the rooms, which had only one bed each with and with no hot and cold shower 
and no TV nor refrigerator, nor wifi. 
And oh yes, this place was a looong drive from Manila! We left at 12 noon and spent nine hours on the road (minus the two hours of lunch and merienda stopovers) with the last hour of travel spent on the unlit, winding road that seemed uninhabited on both sides from Burgos town to Dasol. It almost felt like a scene from a horror movie as we sat there in silence and impatience on the van that was traversing a dark, eerie road. 
I was just thankful we arrived in Pantalan all in one piece, and we were welcomed by our kind but shy host, Joey, the caretaker of the resort. We asked where and what we could have for dinner and were told that he and his wife, Weng, cook for their guests, but they did not have any stocks and would only buy from the neighborhood store upon request. At that time of the night, the only thing they could offer us was canned goods and so corned beef was our dinner that first night. Not so bad for our growling tummies!  
Meanwhile, as I said, each of the rooms only had one huge bed (double size, maybe) so we requested for two mattresses for each room. We were six in our room and seven kids in the other. Joey had assured us that Tambobong Beach (where Pantalan is located) was safe so we slept soundly that night. After all, we were all tired from the long travel.
And then, morning.....

I woke up to the aroma of fried fish and found our host cooking our breakfast.
Fresh fish from the sea smells so good while it sizzles on the pan. 
I think this fish is called "biluan".

As we waited for breakfast to be ready, I took the opportunity to walk on the shore and take some pictures. This place is lovely! There are caves around here but we didn't have much time to explore. At this early, we had the beach all to ourselves but later, people came in, most of whom didn't stay but boarded motorboats, presumably going to Snake Island.
Breakfast is now ready! Fried fish with sliced tomatoes and tortang talong (eggplant omelette). By the way, we had our brekkie inside a bahay kubo (nipa hut) on the seashore.
 Simple but yummy breakfast on the beach is just heavenly!

My son found a starfish on the beach. I took a shot of it at the bahay kubo together with some colored stones that I had picked up from the sand.
Afterwards, I put the starfish back on the water.
These are the two air-conditioned rooms that were our home for two nights here in Dasol. There are two others inside the compound of Pantalan Resort.
Our hosts cooking fish sinigang for lunch.

After lunch, we requested for bananacue, which we had for merienda. This was really delicious. Talk about simple pleasures!
At 4 in the afternoon, our group split and went on board two motorboats that took us to Snake Island, which was about a 20-minute ride from the shores of Tambobong Beach.
Snake Island was named as such because it used to be inhabited by a lot of sea snakes which could be seen gliding on the sand and swimming on the water, the boatman and guide told us. As time passed, however, the snake population dwindled, such that we didn't see any (thank God!). Snake Island is partly rocky and walking around was quite difficult on one side. But the sand here is whiter and finer than in Tambobong. The girl in the picture, by the way, is my green-haired daughter. No, she wasn't born with that hair. Haha!
Snake Island has lots of "treasures" - beautiful, colored stones and shells. My sisters and I enjoyed picking these up, which we took home.
Sunset on Snake Island.
After sundown, it was time to return to Tambobong.
On the boat back to Tambobong Beach.
And then, dinner! Pinakbet Ilocano and grilled tuna. Yum!
   At dawn on our last day in Dasol, just before we hit the road going to our next destination  -   
 Monasterio de Tarlac.

Despite my sisters' initial fears, we had a relaxed, peaceful and happy stay in Dasol - a quiet, small and peaceful town in Pangasinan. The place was worth all the hours of travel, being endowed with beautiful beaches and shy (I think they all were. Hehe..) but friendly people. Joey and Weng, our hosts, couldn't be any more accommodating, granting our every request (for food, water in our rooms, mattresses, hot water for our bath, etc.) and making sure 
we were comfortable. 
Although Pantalan Resort is not one of those nice beach hotel-resorts that our family had been to in the past whenever my sisters abroad went on vacation to the Philippines, it nonetheless gave us an enjoyable, more laid-back and comfortable stay. No fancy food either but everything 
we ate was fresh and delicious.
If you're interested in staying at Pantalan Resort, you may contact Joey Bobis at 09489264248. Each of our rooms, by the way, cost P3,500 per night and each meal was around P1,000. We were 14 in the group, excluding the driver of our rented van, who preferred to sleep in the vehicle. Meanwhile, we paid P1,000 for each boat that took us to Snake Island.
Enjoy Dasol, Pangasinan on your next out-of-town trip, won't you?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cara Mia Cakes and Gelato

What's your favorite comfort food? Cake is in my short list! For me, it's the best thing to have to beat the blues. Last Sunday, cake was just what I needed to "uncelebrate" my sister's departure back to the US, ending her as well as mine's almost one-month vacation from work. Just 10 days earlier, my other sister who lives in Canada also left after 2 1/2 weeks of Philippine vacation. I felt a little sad as both of my sisters had gone home and needed some perking up. Cake and coffee to the rescue at Cara Mia Cakes & Gelato! Fortunately, there's a store at the second floor of Robinsons Place Manila (Padre Faura wing), which is just a few meters away from our church on Taft Ave. I was there with my daughter after worship service and had:

Mango Sans Rival Gelato Cake, P135.

Blueberry gelato in waffle bowl, one scoop, P90.
 Iced latte, P75.
Check this out, AlDub fans!
Cara Mia Cakes and Gelato at Robinsons Place Manila

I originally wanted to have either the Mango Passion or Rouge gelato cake but neither of these were available by the slice so I settled for the Mango Sans Rival. And no regrets! It was the perfect marriage between cake and ice cream -- deliciously sweet (just rightly saccharine, not cloying!)! It was the best thing to have with my iced latte. Oh, yes, sadness simply melted away as I enjoyed my cake and coffee till the last mouthful. Hehehe.. My daughter, meanwhile, 
had the blueberry gelato, which she enjoyed eating, too.
Gelato, by the way, is the Italian word for ice cream. If you love both cake and ice cream, you can have them at the same time at Cara Mia as they have several varieties of gelato cakes aside from what we had, the Mango Sans Rival. This place doesn't only serve desserts, though. Also on the menu are rice meals, pasta and sandwiches. I would love to be back there soon to try them! Hope to see you there, folks! 
Happy eating!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Maginhawa St. Gastronomic Walk #11: Fat Cousins' Diner

When I first read about this diner's name, I thought it was kinda funny. And then I tasted the food and found out there wasn't anything funny about Fat Cousins' Diner. In fact, I took this small restaurant very seriously that I ate there three times last December! Now isn't that proof I loved Fat Cousins' Diner? Food is good, prices are great and the deals are the best! What am I talking about? The unlimited drinks and unlimited rice that come with every meal! Now, what could be a greater deal? 
There isn't much on the menu - just four main entrees which I've all tried and loved. These are the Australian T-Bone Steak (P199.), Hungarian Sausage (P129.), Home Style Roast Beef (P149.) and 1/3 Pound Beef Burger (P99.). I can't tell you which one is my favorite because as I said, I loved them all!

Australian T-Bone Steak
This steak came in a huge serving. At its price, don't expect it to be a prime cut but hey, it's a lot better than you would expect. That day, the gravy was on the salty side, though. Still, this T-Bone steak is delicious and probably the best that your 200 bucks could buy. 

Hungarian Sausage
This was my friend's order on our second time here. She loved the sausage and let me taste it. It was spicy and just rightly salty. Good! I would love to have it more with toasted bread rather than with rice, though. I wish Fat Cousins would offer that as an option for all-day breakfast.

Home Style Roast Beef
I had this on my second visit. On my third when I brought with me one of my kids and two nephews, the kids ordered this one, too. Tender slices of beef poured over with gravy are the perfect accompaniment to rice, along with the mashed potato. Yummy!

1/3 Pound Beef Burger
At its price, I didn't have much expectations about the burger. Remember that at just P99, it comes with fries and unli drinks! Surprisingly, the burger was really good with the patty thick, juicy and rightly spiced. There's even veggies and yup, fries on the side. 
It's perfect for an afternoon snack.

Iced tea
Pepsi products for the soda

Inside Fat Cousins' Diner

 Fat Cousins' Diner at 114 Maginhawa St., Teachers' Village, Diliman, QC
So what's not to like at Fat Cousins' Diner? There is no dessert here and no coffee either. And the menu that you could see when you Google, it might as well be called a hoax! I looked up the menu before we first visited and had the resolve to order a banana split for dessert but once there, the crew lady that took our order looked surprised! I also ordered coffee but they didn't have it either, I was told. So why do they put those on their menu that is shared on the web? They might as well have a new menu published to avoid confusion and frustration on the part of their clients. 
Still, I love Fat Cousins' Diner and recommend it to anyone for the good food, 
efficient and polite service and pocket-friendly prices. 
Check it out, folks! Happy eating! 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Costa Coffee at Robinsons Place Manila

In the middle of 2015, another coffee industry player from abroad arrived in the Philippines, much to the excitement of ardent Pinoy coffee aficionados. It's Costa Coffee, which is said to be the No. 1 coffee chain in the United Kingdom. Is was founded in London in 1971, and according to an article I read, it offers cheaper coffee that's better in quality than Starbucks'. Costa Coffee now has 2,900 stores in 30 different countries. The Gokongweis of the Robinsons group of companies brought it to the Philippines. By this time, they could have opened five branches 
in Metro Manila and Antipolo City as they have planned. 
On the Saturday after Christmas, my two girls and I went to Costa Coffee at Robinson's Place-Manila for dessert and yes, coffee, right after our whole family had lunch in Wok Inn - that iconic Chinese restaurant near Malate Church. Inside Costa, I literally saw red - it's the dominant color. But even before coming inside, the color red is what strikes you, with their signature telephone booth that's present, I think in all of their stores in the Philippines. The interiors have a very homey and relaxing feel, it made me want to linger, which I did, just to think and clear my head of the many stuff concerning work that I had to finish before my three-week vacation from work started. The cappuccino that I ordered helped me do some pondering..
Our orders:

Cappuccino, P120. (primo size)
Strawberry Pavlova Frostino, P175. (medio size)
Raspberry and White Chocolate Cream Frostino, P175. (medio)
Christmas Ube Flan cupcake, P95.
Original London Cheesecake, P150. 
An array of cakes and sandwiches
This Red Velvet Cupcake must be so good Santa couldn't help but bury himself in it.

Preparing the stencil art for my cappuccino


Costa Coffee at Robinsons Place Manila
My cappuccino was bold and delicious. Costa indeed serves good coffee! The girls likes loved their Frostino. The London cheesecake was not too sweet, thankfully, and firm though still soft and moist. Yummy! We didn't like the Christmas Ube Flan cupcake, although it was such an eye candy. If it was indeed ube, the flavor didn't make itself distinct. All in all, it was a delicious, relaxing first visit to Costa Coffee. I'm looking forward to more visits this year to try their sandwiches and other sweets, and hopefully see more items on the menu. Meet you there, folks! 
Happy eating!