14 July 2014

Events | Norbert Gandler's Final Salute to the Mandarin Oriental, Manila

As you might have heard, the Mandarin Oriental Manila will be closing sometime September.

The hotel is closing one establishment at a time. Kiplings closed a few weeks ago. Tin Hau bid us goodbye yesterday. There will be a final party at Martini's led by Boyet Sison on the 18th. And Tivoli will close on July 25.

Last Friday, July 11, the Mandarin Oriental Manila's most renowned chef Norbert Gandler starred in the Tivoli kitchen once again to kick off a Best of the Best series at the Tivoli.  The "Best of the Best" is a celebration of Tivoli favorites from menus since the restaurant opened in the '80s, to be served until the 25th. Also part of this series is a collaboration between Tivoli Executive Chef Rene Ottlik and Margarita Fores, who will be cooking at the Tivoli for the first time on the 18th. 

Chef Gandler, for those who don't know, mentored Antonio's Chef Tonyboy Escalante and Lolo Dad's (now closed) Ariel Manuel when they were starting out, working under Gandler at the Mandarin.

Mandarin Executive Chef Rene Ottlik and former Mandarin Executive Chef Norbert Gandler
I can't believe that the doors to this lovely restaurant will close in a couple of weeks.

Fortunately, this man Teddy Montelibano, was fast enough to get the fun foodie group "Lamonation" seats for both events.

 I wouldn't have missed this dinner for the world as it was my first time to try Norbert Gandler's cooking. Although I have eaten a few times at Aubergine, you don't always catch him in the kitchen. Last Friday's dinner made me understand why he is so respected and loved.

Amuse "baboosh!"
 With Sous Chef Kenneth Cacho, they created a menu that we will never forget.

They started with a Millionaires Salad whose pressed mud crab with salmon roe would have been impressive on its own but whose foie gras ice cream made our noisy table fall silent, wishing the moment would never end.

This was followed by The Tivoli Bouillabaisse whose perfect broth made it evident that a lot of work was done to create this perfect bowl of soup.

Third course: port wine braised Mulwarra veal cheeks. So soft. And the green pea risotto was light and delicate and I could've finished a whole cup of that. "Best veal cheeks I have ever eaten!" my very knowledgeable seatmate Katrina Lagman said, who later added it was so delicious, every bite almost made her swoon. "This is much better than the Veal Cheeks Ravioli in [bleep!], which was too salty and nakaka-umay ... Totally worth breaking my no-veal rule for!"

But the chef at this point was just getting started. The veal cheeks were followed by scallops and mushrooms, dubbed a "taste of land and sea"; and Australian Bultarra Saltbush lamb.

At this point we were full. I took the little break before the finale to check out who else was enjoying this amazing 9-course farewell dinner for the Tivoli. Aside from ANC's Boyet Sison, who was with our group, I found a table of some of the country's best food writers, including the Adobo Queen Nancy Reyes Lumen; Country Cooking author Micky Fenix; and Philippine Star's Ching Alano; Martini's very own Javy Berenguer Testa and gorgeous wife Lexi Shultz; and the Irishman who brought us Le Souffle,  now The Manor's Billy King.

And then the piece de resistance: roasted Nebraska Prime Angus Beef Strip Loin and Butter-poached Baby Lobster. Each piece was heavenly but hiding behind the scenes is a tart tatin with a surprise blue cheese kick.

The night ended on a sweet note care of The Mandarin's former pastry chef Ernie Balbaran, who created the perfect dessert of buttered popcorn ice cream and "textures of Valrhona". Note the white chocolate Mandarin fan.

Oh, Tivoli. You will be missed. 

A final toast! To the Mandarin! Cheers ... til we meet again ...

PS. Most heartfelt applause and STANDING OVATION to the most beautiful rose among these hardworking, talented thorns: Mandarin Oriental Manila's Director of Communications Charisse Chuidian.

Pay your respects and book a table before Tivoli closes on July 25!!!
Mandarin Oriental Manila
Call landline: 750 8888 for reservations
Until July 25: Tivoli's Best of the Best
July 18: Margarita Fores and Mandarin Executive Chef Rene Ottlik
July 18: The Final Chapter @ Martini's

11 July 2014

Travel | Misibis Bay Part 2: Island Playground

My first zipline! Whee! (Photo: Tricia Tensuan)

Misibis Bay: Island Playground 

Misibis Bay is not just about the beach. Bicol seems to be all about energy and this is evident not only in the fact that its volcanos are active but also from the various activities that Misibis Bay presents to its guests.

"We're an island playground," Lisa Zakharka, Resort Manger, said over dinner that was capped with Bicol's famous sili ice cream. "We want people to know that aside from enjoying the beach, there are a lot of other things to do here as well."


I had never ziplined before this and I kept telling the harness guy, "Safe ba ito? May concert pa ako mamaya!" Not only was it safe, it was soooo much fun!

I felt like Tinkerbell flying over Never Neverland as I "flew" to the other end of the line.

Tricia Tensuan, the lovely lady below posing like she has wings, says she has done many ziplines before but this one at Misibis Bay is the smoothest. "It's the break that gets rough," she explained. "This one is smooth."

Photos: Tricia Tensuan


The property is huge. To make touring even more fun, instead of going around in a car, you can rent ATVs. I thought it would be hard, like driving a motorcycle, which for me is painful on the hands. But this is super easy. To drive, you just need to press the handle. Or you can take a guided ride, ie with a local guide as driver, but it's more fun to drive!

One of the stops is the ampitheater. I would love to sing kundimans on this stage someday ;) I was told that a lot of proposals take place here too. The view is breathtaking during the day but the ampitheater, completely lit up, is also a sight to behold at night. 

Thanks for this photo, Tricia!
I took this shot at around 3pm while touring the grounds on ATV.
The  Misibis Bay ampitheater at night. Photo from MisibisBay.com.


If that isn't enough of a thrill for you, you can also do the Luge. It's like a sled but on concrete and you control your speed just using a handle. It felt like racing and going down a giant slide at the same time!


You can also drive up to the chapel. It's a simple chapel, very elegant. Love the pews with their white accents.

Sunset Cruise

At sunset, we were whisked away on a speedboat across the bay to check out the scenery by water. In Misibis style, there was wine on boat. It was very Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous!

It was a fitting ending to a beautiful day!


Check out the villas:

Part I: Misibis Bay, Paradise

Misibis Bay 
www.misibisbay.com/ Cagraray Island, Bacacay,
Albay Province, Bicol Region, Philippines
Landline (632) 661 8888 Loc. 3001
Mobile (63917) 599 1606
Email reservations@misibisbay.com

10 July 2014

Travel | Misibis Bay Part 1: Paradise

I got a taste of paradise this week: we were given a press tour of Misibis Bay.

It was beyond breathtaking.

Five Views

As the amuse bouche for our three day stay, we were treated to a picnic on the way to the resort on a hill called Five Views. Seated on colorful bean bags, we had wine and cheese while taking in the view of five volcanic mountains: Mt. Mayon, Mt. Isarog, Mount Masaraga, Mount Malinao, Mount Iriga.

What a pit stop! Wine and cheese before Five Views. It was reeeeallly windy, as you can see from our hair!
The elusive Mount Mayon. We came just as Typhoon Florita (international name Neoguri) left the Philippines for Japan. So there will still strong winds that prevented us from seeing the perfect Mayon Volcano cone. A sure message to return!


Upon reaching the resort, we were greeted by these dancers.


With this music still LSSing in my head - iiiibaloooon, iiiibalooonnn - I had to find out what it means. Now I know: Ibalong is a sixty stanza Bikolano folk epic composed by a minstrel named Kadungdung, mentioned in the epic, and documented by Franciscan missionary Fray Bernardino de Melendreras. Kadungdung was also referred to by another friar as Homero de Ibalon. (See the Wow Legazpi website.)

Luxury Villas 

We were then brought to our "home for the next three days": the luxury villas. Which made us want to just skip dinner and go straight to bed.

(The published room rates are in the Misibis Bay website: HERE. The rates, however, depend on the season (not fall/winter and spring/summer but peak and non-peak); as well as on special promos. For special promos, try contacting the resort HERE.

But the comfort of the beds could not keep me in once the sun showed itself ...

The outdoors called. Especially this view ...

So, to fully absorb the view while appreciating the villa, I decided to wake myself up with coffee the Misibis way ... while taking a dip in the villa's private pool!

What a great way to wake up and smell the coffee!

What to do when you're in Misibis Bay 
(aside from getting a tan and walking down the beach):

Part II: Misibis Bay, Island Playground

Misibis Bay 
www.misibisbay.com/ Cagraray Island, Bacacay, Albay Province, Bicol Region, Philippines
Landline (632) 661 8888 Loc. 3001
Mobile (63917) 599 1606
Email reservations@misibisbay.com

08 July 2014

Events | The French Invasion: Sofitel is bringing in 101 cheeses from France for Bastille Day!

No need to go to Lyon this year. Sofitel Philippines is bringing in cheeses - a hundred and one varieties! - from farms around France to Manila.

I imagine this is what they are bringing in ... 

The Cheesy French
Around this time a couple of years ago, I went to France and got to see Mussidan (home of Cyril and Anna Soenen of Brasserie Cicou) where I got to visit a farm where monk trappist cheese was made, Lyon where the Paul Bocuse Hall is, Bordeaux and Paris. 

Paris was beautiful but for the cheese, the best places were Lyon for the choices for cheese and Mussidan for the uber fresh cheese. 

If you get to visit, make sure to head over to this giant deli by the airport, Les Halles de Paul Bocuse.

Not so far from the entrance is this cheese stall: 

Check out their selections: 

All. That. Cheese.

That you can't fit into your luggage. :P

Good news for this month: Sofitel is bringing cheese from all over France to Manila starting this week.

J'Adore le Fromage 

On Thursday July 10, they are having a wine and cheese buffet at Le Bar. 

Le Bar is the hotel's kinda sorta lobby lounge on the ground floor. Fell in love with this bar since Sofitel opened and if this were near my house I'd probably be here everyday. Thankfully, traffic into Manila seems better nowadays so by minutes, it has become much nearer! 

The wine and cheese buffet event is entitled J’ADORE LE FROMAGE AT LE BAR which simply translates to "I love cheese at Le Bar". 

The best thing about it is that it comes at just PHP 1,800 nett per person. For a cheese buffet that is not expensive. Plus, you get 20% off if you use your Visa.

Note though that the wine and cheese buffet is only on July 10, 2014 (Thursday), 7pm to 10pm. 

But if you miss that, here are other options to indulge your love for cheese: 

1. Wine and cheese tasting lessons

This runs from July 10 to 13 by wine and cheese "masters". Pierre Marie David from France will be around (at various events).
4.30 to 5.30 p.m. at the Spiral Cheese Room 
Maximum of 8 persons per class only
P1500 net

2.  The Cheese Room

If you miss the wine and cheese buffet on the 10th, don't worry. 101 - yes, one hundred and one - types of cheeses are being flown in. However, since there are only 31 slots for cheese in the Cheese Room, only 31 will be presented everyday so you have to be wise in choosing which days to come - ask the chefs to make sure you don't repeat cheeses! These are all from different farms across France. 

Count on Sofitel to bring a taste of France to us instead of having to fly all the way there just to get a taste of cheese! 

As Marius said: May the wine - and cheese - of friendship never run dry! 

Sofitel Manila
02 551 5555
Barangay 1, Ccp Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay - Manila

To book a table for the wine and cheese buffet, call or visit  https://www.facebook.com/SofitelManila/app_324616744236031.

12 June 2014

Restaurants | Your Local

Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati
Today's Inquirer review is on Your Local. Review HERE.

I came across Your Local because we were in Makati Med a lot recently for a dear person. I had heard of Yardstick from Instagram addicts to find a door that leads to a resto. Saan yan pumupunta? I asked the waiter. He shared that it opens to Your Local, a restaurant also owned by the same owners (some) as Yardstick.

I tried to pay a visit that night but was shooed away because "these are reserved for Ms. Margarita Fores," the waiter explained. True enough, there was Gaita at the end of the bar. We left and had dinner instead at La Grotta, which has become dead awful - but that's another story.

Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati
If you are an aspiring chef, grab a seat by the bar to watch the "show".
The next day, I tried my luck again, this time with my sister, and had an amazing lamb rendang. Captured my heart. I vowed to return.

My next visit was on a Saturday morning, having just come from the office of Atty. Estelito Mendoza (don't ask why). It broke my heart to find out that the lamb rendang is served only for dinner. I had to settle for a very sparse menu of sandwiches.

Nevertheless, I was won over by this: a burnt onions and chorizo sandwich. It was hearty, filling, romping with flavor from the chorizo.

If you're taking your time to read the morning papers or what have you, the sandwiches also come with these parmesan and chili fries that are really addictive. I wiped them out. 

Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati
Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati

Noticed they also like to use wild rocket.

Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati

For dinner, make sure to have these beef rendang buns. They are unlike the flavors we are used to but so good.

Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati
Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati

The salmon donburi is also good. Although I prefer the lamb rendang.

Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati

The roast beef pasta is really interesting. It's like Chinese-Italian. Is it Chinese or Italian? I figure it's just its own thing.

Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati

The Hainanese chicken ... ummmm ok lanag :)

Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati
Your Local Nikko Santos Denny Antonino Philippine Restaurants Makati

Hoping they will have laksa soon ...

106 Esteban St., Legazpi Village, Makati City.
Reservations recommended, call 8236206.
Wheelchair accessible.
Major credit cards accepted.