(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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(This feature was published in ClicktheCity.com last July 9, 2012)
Sometimes the best food discoveries are not found in malls and other big commercial establishments but in quaint, hole in the wall places. My latest food finds are served at the Italian restaurant called Bistro Casanova, which is located in the quiet side of Burgos Circle at Fort Bonifacio Global City.
This charming resto-bar opened in early 2011 and it is the second branch of this now six-year-old brand. The secret to its success is that it offers authentic Italian cuisine. Diners may choose from a variety of appetizers, soups, salads, pasta, risotto, entrées, and desserts. Nearby condominium residents would probably enjoy eating there regularly, as the menu has a wide selection of fine Italian dishes.
A slice of Venice
The warm atmosphere welcome me as I entered the establishment. I glanced around the cozy restaurant and my eyes stopped at the focal point of the room—the hand painted mural of the canals in Venice. The vibrant artwork adds to the dining experience, as well as the little décor accents such as the genuine Murano mirror and lighting fixtures.
Most of the dining tables were indoors but the restaurant also has an al fresco area where some regulars enjoy hanging out. Bistro Casanova also has its own telescope, which diners are welcome to use especially on a clear night out. Unfortunately, it was a rainy night when we visited the restaurant so we were not able to go stargazing. But the telescope was not the main attraction, it was the food.
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(This food feature was published in ClicktheCity.com last November 7, 2011)
There was a sense of familiarity as I entered Daniele’s Casa Mia. The set-up seemed very familiar as well as the homey ambience, and there were a lot of artworks that adorned the space. The paintings on the wall showed colorful scenes from Italy, but the eye-catching pieces were the miniature replicas of famous attractions such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Colosseum in Rome.
I voiced out my thoughts saying that the place looks so similar to Bellini’s, the Italian restaurant in Cubao X. When one of the staff overheard my comment, she mentioned that the owner is, in fact, the son of the Bellini’s restaurateur. So that’s why the atmosphere seemed so familiar, as well as the menu.
Tasting authentic Italian Cuisine
There were some items in the menu that I didn’t recognize, much less correctly pronounce, but our knowledgeable server was happy to answer our questions. He even offered an appetizer that was not listed on the menu and we happily agreed on trying it.
While we waited for our food, the real-life Daniele popped up on our side of the restaurant and said hello to us in his native language. I thought it was a nice gesture for the owner to personally greet his diners.
It wasn’t too long when our orders started to arrive. For starters, we tried the grilled porcini mushroom cap that is served with arugula leaves, slivers of Parmesan cheese, and a dip made with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I tasted a little bit of everything in one bite and thought that the serving was just good for one. I would have loved to finish the whole plate but I had to share some with my family.
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