Tagaytay road trip? 5 must-try destination restaurants (Rappler)

Bawai's

(This feature was published in Rappler.com last February 22, 2015)

Apart from the picturesque Taal Volcano, there is another reason for the surge in popularity of Tagaytay. From a sightseeing spot, it has turned into a dining destination, thanks to the variety of food establishments that have mushroomed in that area in the recent years.

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Where to go when food tripping in Baguio (GMA News Online)

Fresh Baguio strawberries

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last February 7, 2015)

Baguio comes top of mind whenever there’s an upcoming long weekend or holiday in the metro. Its lush landscape and cool climate make it an attractive destination for city dwellers. It’s also my preferred destination because of the fresh food finds there and because it’s home to one of my favorite fruits: the strawberry.
I always make it a point to buy fresh strawberries from roaming street vendors, roadside stalls, or the public market. I like the sweet and tart combination of this crimson berry that has found its way into other foodstuffs. Whenever I see a taho vendor, for instance, I always order a cup of strawberry taho or two. The strawberry syrup replaces the usual sugary brown syrup and gives it a fruity punch.
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Puñta’s Latin American food won’t put a hole in your pocket (GMA News Online)

Start your meal with some anticuchos like Pincho de Cerdo and Higado de Pollo

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last January 28, 2015)

I’ve been hearing about this new Latin American restaurant making waves in the local food scene ever since it opened last October. As I wasn’t familiar with its location, I had to ask around for directions and the restaurant’s name didn’t roll off the tongue quite easily—for me, at least.

Puñta (pronounced pun-ye-ta) is an oasis in the heart of Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong. As I made a left turn inside the establishment’s parking space, I was bowled over by the restaurant’s site and ambience. The place was huge, with an al fresco area that could accommodate around 50 seated guests. The interiors were another story. I was intrigued at how they were able to juxtapose the sleek industrial look with the homey vibe of the wooden accents and customized seats.

I couldn’t wait to have lunch in one of the tables outside so I could take in the cool breeze while enjoying the big, bold flavors of Puñta.

The birth of Puñta

Puñta is the first resto-lounge of television personality Paolo Bediones, who put up this venture with partners Adrian Capunfuerza, EA Tejada and Anj Valencerina.

The team decided to create a good mix South American fare—getting inspiration from the cuisines of Peru, Brazil, Patagonia, Colombia and Mexico.

The names of the dishes may twist the tongue, but their flavors please the palate. I started my lunch with some anticuchos—skewered meats or innards that are traditional Peruvian street food.

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In Michigan: Discovering Frankenmuth and Mackinac Island (GMA News Online)

Frankenmuth is perfect for sightseeing

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last December 27, 2014)

Cold. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word Michigan. The destination may not be top of mind for most Filipinos visiting the US—not like sunny California—but I have been to this Midwestern state a couple of times already and I can say that I actually enjoyed exploring it.

I admit, I have an ulterior motive for going there—my sister. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t even think of taking a trip there. I’m glad though that she’s there to take us around and show us what Michigan has to offer.

A winter wonderland

There was a little bit of snow on the ground when we landed in Detroit, but this girl from the tropical isles came fully prepared. I covered myself from head to toe, wearing a hat, wool scarf, overcoat, leather gloves and even knee-high boots. It was my first time to travel there during this time of year. I didn’t expect snow though—well, not this early, but it was nice to experience it even for a short while.

We had a flexible itinerary, which pretty much centered on shopping. There are a lot of outlets in the area that would take the whole day to explore. Shopaholics would revel in the fantastic deals at the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets and Birch Run Premium Outlets that both feature discounted high-end brands. In between our shopping trips, we did some sightseeing to satisfy the tourist in us.

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#Throwback2014: A fulfilling year for foodies (GMA News Online)

Ippudo's world-class ramen

This feature was published in GMA News Online last December 26, 2014)

It was indeed a year for foodies. 2014 was the time when we saw a lot of happenings in the food scene—from trends to international restaurant franchises, and everything in between. It was the year when our palates rejoiced at new offerings like authentic ramen, organic food, juice bars and Latin American cuisine.

Let’s review and look back at 2014.

Hola, Latin American food aficionados

Filipinos have welcomed the big, bold flavors of Latin American cuisine with open arms. We’ve long been familiar with Mexican food, but now we have the flavors of Argentina, Puerto Rico, Chile and the like. We witnessed the opening of new establishments such as Brasas, La Cabrera, Sofrito, Gaucho Cocina y Vinos Argentinos, and Puñta. Thanks to these establishments, we have now expanded our Latin American vocabulary to more than just tacos.

Of gastropubs and charcuteries

The simple restobar has evolved into a more high-end lounge that offers first-rate food and even craft beers. People are willing to pay a premium for libations and the bar chow (usually European classics or American grub) that go with it. One of the pioneers in the scene is Draft, which has imported beers on tap and quite a selection of drinks. Find beer-matched food concepts in other notable new players like Tipsy Pig, Wolf & Fox, and The Perfect Pint. Another dining destination that made waves this year was the charcuterie The Black Pig, with its menu of prepared meat products, cheese, steak and wine.

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An afternoon in downtown San Francisco (GMA News Online)

Ride the iconic cable car

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last December 21, 2014)

San Francisco is not a new destination for me, as I have set foot in the Bay Area a few times already. Somehow though, I seem to discover new experiences on every visit. My recent trip this autumn was no exception.

For one thing, it was my first time to visit the place during this time of year. My past trips happened during the summer when the weather was fine, but this time, the air was a bit nippy. In fact, I saw that the Union Square Ice Skating Rink was already open when my college friend and I strolled along the area.

Sights, sounds and taste of San Francisco

Before we embarked on our downtown excursion, we made a stop to SOMA StrEat Food Park for late lunch. Being a foodie at heart, I made a special request to check out the food truck scene in the area so we headed to that location where several trucks were parked alongside each another.

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Coming Up Roses (Calyxta.com)

Calyxta

(This feature was published in Calyxta.com last December 2014)

Calyxta page 1Calyxta page 2

Chez Deo: A stopover for Italian cuisine in Balayan (GMA News Online)

Cozze e Gamberoni - A big serving of seafood pasta

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 16, 2014)

Balayan in Batangas was an unfamiliar destination to me until I met my future husband, whose family hails from there. He would bring me there on road trips at least once a year. The town is popularly known for its Feast Day of San Juan, which coincides with the Parada ng Lechon Festival every June 24.

On any other day, though, there’s not much to do except maybe treat your taste buds to something special from Chez Deo Ristorante Italiano @Gliceria.

It comes as no surprise to see ancestral homes and similar structures in this quiet little town, but it’s amazing to see contemporary establishments like Chez Deo, which is situated in a renovated house and is probably the most “upscale” restaurant in the area.

My first impression was that it felt out of place in this rural location, but when I dined there I felt right at home in the comfortable setting. As we entered the gate, I saw a sprawling lawn that was beautifully landscaped—not too manicured, but not shabby either. The open-air but tented dining area on the ground floor featured simple furnishings—stylish red plastic chairs and tables covered in checkered cloths. From my seat, I had a clear view of the brick oven where they bake their bread and pizzas.

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Traipsing through Taipei (GMA News Online)

Maokong Gondola

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 1, 2014)

Taiwan’s unique food culture is what made my hubby and I book a trip to this bustling Asian city. We planned to eat our way through Taipei but we discovered that there’s more to it than food alone.
During our three-day stay, we explored the top main attractions by foot, bus, train and even a cable car! It was so easy to get around there that we intentionally got lost so we could see more of the city. All we had to do was to get a TaipeiPass that allowed us unlimited use of the MRT and city bus.
We created our own itinerary so we could tour at our own pace, and our first agenda was to ride the Maokong Gondola. From the city center, we took the MRT to the Taipei Zoo Station, which had a walkable distance to the cable car entrance. We went there on a Saturday and the crowd was organized and manageable. As first-timers, we made sure to line up for the crystal cabin so we can see through the bottom as we go up to the Maokong Station.
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Dinner and drinks at new gastropub Wolf & Fox (GMA News Online)

Double Deck Burger

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 1, 2014)

My hubby and I have different tastes in food. I veer toward healthy vegetarian fare and he’s a typical carnivore. While I’m attracted to a plate of greens, he can’t live without meat in his meal—which is why I liked the idea of Wolf & Fox, one of the newest gastropubs in town that opened in May 2014.
We went there early on a Saturday night and it was a good thing, because the place became packed a few minutes later. Instead of opting for one of the tables outside for an al fresco dinner, we decided to enjoy the vibe inside. The wooden interiors and the muted lights made the atmosphere a bit dark, but the high ceiling compensated for it. The walls were adorned with framed portraits of human bodies with animal heads—a bit too bizarre for my liking, but then again, I came for the food and not the artwork.

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