About Me

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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Valley Good Eats: The Cabin (Not The Horror Flick, But The Cafe)

As promised, TMW shall be visiting La Trinidad Valley cafes and restaurants as we try to come up with a list of good eats in the area. For this blog, we visited The Cabin.
The Cabin is a quaint, rustic looking cabin that's been tickling the locals' palates for the past two years. It's opened the whole week from 9 in the AM to 8 in the PM. We only found out about it quite recently, and thus decided to check it out.

decisions, decisions, decisions!
1. LOCATION: The Cabin is located on the left side of a side street after Mercury Drug La Trinidad (that is, if you're coming from Baguio). It's about a 2 minute walk upon entering said side street. It's quite near from the main road but hard to spot if there's a big pick up truck parked right in front of it. SCORE: 4/5 
2. MENU: The cafe offers a variety of pastas, burgers, salads and all time favorite comfort food as well as hot and cold beverages that don't include canned juices and soda.THe closest thing you could get to having soda is a wonderful creamy root beer float. Unique items on the menu offer promises of interesting flavors and somehow deliver. Prices were reasonable too. The only ish I had when we visited was that not all items on the menu were available. SCORE: 4/5.Here's a look at the MENU:

3. FOOD: I enjoyed The Cabin's food offerings! Food was made fresh, with fresh ingredients; portions were huge in proportion to the cost; flavors were great (with a little room for improvement, but taste is always a personal preference indeed) and I must say, the kitchen folks at this establishment know how to cook. SCORE: 4/5  Here's what we got - 

a. Chicken and Chips - fresh cut potato fries (you may opt to have sweet potato fries too) and made-from-scratch chicken nuggets, offered a great meal for our MAX. I love their chic ken nuggets! It's crispy on the outside but tender in the inside, juicy and lightly seasoned. The dish came with a ranch dressing dip, but the chicken (and  fries) are good on their own.

b. Jalapeno Burger - Think of a burger patty made with sausage meat and chopped Jalapeno, cooked perfectly that it was still moist and juicy, toppped with coleslaw in a lightly toasted bun with a side of fries. I though that the burger was delish, with a hint of heat pack between bites. Phil felt that the coleslaw took away from the flavors of the burger, that all he could taste was slaw. If you want more of the heat, I suggest that you ask for the coleslaw to be served as a side.

c. Tuyo at Kamatis Pasta - I intitially wanted a Po Boy, but shrimp wasn't available, so I opted to order this dish. Tuyo (or dried herring) is usually salty, so I was expecting the slat component to the dish. Sauce was nice and a little sweet, which would've been perfect had the fish been salty. Instead of tuyo, I tasted flaked sardines. The tomatoes and olives were the perfect  blend and the toasted wheat bread slices were perfect for scooping out the sauce. I just wished I had a little more of the tuyo flavor.

d. Apple-Banana shake - just a great, all natural tasting shake that's sweetened by the flavors of the fruit.

e. Rootbeer Float - made the old-fashioned way, topped with a generous helping of cream. Really good.
f. Choco mint frappe - enhanced by real mint leaves, it's refreshing, not too sweet and just a great accompaniment to any dish.

service water, just help yourself to it
4. SERVICE: the staff of The Cabin is both smart and efficient. They know what they have to offer and take pride in it too. The wait time, for the the great food quality is minimal and yes, I'd trust their judgement of recommendations. Oh, and they also have fast FREE WiFi. SCORE: 5/5

5. AMBIANCE: Decorated to look like a little shack, with kitschy mismatched decors and furniture on the inside, the place would remind you of a weird old uncle's bachelor pad, just much cleaner. Atmosphere is relaxed, not obtrusive back ground music can be heard but the place felt a bit dimly lit. They did a goo job on recreating that "Cabin" feel, so yeah, I'd give them a SCORE: 5/5.
We had a great, laid back lunch experience at The Cabin. The food was great, our tummies were happy and my husband's pocket wasn't weeping when we got back. MAX had no sensory issues with the place and helped himself with the gusto as soon as the food arrived. Our OVERALL SCORE: 4.4.
The Cabin is worth another visit (or more).
From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Happy Un-Valentine's Day: A Lunch Date At Cafe Adriana by Hill Station

As far as date places go, Baguio is blessed with quite a lot of romantic food places that come in the form of hidden nooks and crannies to great fine dining options. 

Valentine's Day has come and gone, and as late as this post seems, we'd like to feature a relatively new "date" place : Cafe Adriana by Hill Station.

Hill Station has been a great go-to place for our get togethers that TMW has a feature of it from when it first opened  at this link: SU CASA, NUESTRA CASA (VALLEJO).

Cafe Adriana, which opened in the latter part of 2016 has brought new flavors yet keeping it close to the owner, Mitos Benitez-Yniguez's food vision.

Let's breakdown our Cafe Adriana experience:

1. LOCATION: found on the ground floor of the Outlook Ridge Residences at V delos Reyes St., Outlook Drive; the area is still a good 5-10 minute drive from the city center and most of Baguio. From Outlook drive, it's a 2 minute walk down to the said residential condominiums that houses Cafe Adriana. I'd still give, as with most of the restaurants in the area, a SCORE of 5/5.

2. MENU: as it goes with good sense, the menu that Cafe Adriana offers is mostly different from the other sister restaurants. Classic Spanish dishes are prominent on the menu with the old time fave dessert options. They also serve all day breakfast. Check out their menu, as published on BOOKY. SCORE 5/5

3. FOOD: OVERALL SCORE 4/5 Here's what we got and how our senses reacted to the dish -

a. Costillos ( Pork Baby Back Ribs, Dark Chocolate Barbecue Sauce) -  this dish comes with 2 side dish options (mashed potatoes, sweet potato fries, green salad, grilled vegetables, garlic rice or steamed rice). We opted for mashed potatoes, which MAX immediately wolfed down. The first time the dish arrived at our table, we found the rib a bit tough and dry. We had it sent back and was rewarded, 5 minutes later, by a more succulent plate of meat. 

The dark chocolate sauce was, as was expected, velvety in texture with that slightly salty yet perfectly rounded flavor that ends with a hint of dark chocolate. Our MAX had no trouble finishing the 2 good portioned ribs on the plate, plus the two scoops of mashed potatoes.

b. Paella Negra, good for 2 ( all seafood and squid ink) - there is a 30 minute wait for this rice casserole, but it was well worth it. Perfectly seasoned and served with delish aioli, the squid ink coated rice was cooked perfectly! The seafood mixed inside were squid rings(some were a bit chewy) and clams,  topped with a reasonable amount of peas , bell peppers and sliced eggs was a good meal to share. 

I just wished there was shrimp or prawns in the mix and it would have been a dish made in heaven.

c. Spicy Chorizo and Aligue Pasta -  at first, I found the dish a bit bland with a slight bite from the spicy chorizo. That is, until Phil told me to dig deeper into the dish to scoop out more of the aligue, or crab fat. This is my idea of comfort food, if only the chorizo were chunkier and more visible than little "grains" of spicy meat.

orders taken within 5 minutes of arrival
drinks served, son after our orders were taken

4. SERVICEfast and friendly service was clearly evident at Cafe Adriana. Phil was still a bit miffed though as to why the chef sent out the first tough plate of ribs. SCORE: 4/5


5. AMBIANCE - We absolutely love the way this place was put together, not to mention the spectacular view that one would get at the huge veranda at the back of Cafe Adriana. Very good use of space and use of furniture was incrporated to fit more tables without feeling crowded. Cafe Adriana embodied what a cozy bistro ought to be. SCORE: 5/5

Our OVERALL SCORE: 4.6 / 5

So there you have it, our un-Valentine's Day impression of Cafe Adriana. Aside from being a date place, I'd like to think of it as a great cafe to enjoy a warm cuppa with family and friends or that special someone. 

If you're from out of town, it's a spectacular place to feel and see the Baguio vibe, distancing yourself from the hustle and bustle of the city center. 

 From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

One Afternoon At Le Vain - Korean Bakery, Home Of Daily Baked, Healthy and Slow Cooked Bread

It's been a little under a week since The Mediocre Wanderer was in the Outlook Drive Food Street. 

It's not an official street name, but I do believe that with all the restaurants popping up in that area, it should be called so. But anyway, I digress. Back to the Outlook Drive Food Street.

On our way home from our lunch with the in-laws, we passed by another newly opened establishment in the area, right beside Villa La Maja/Villa Silvana. 

It's a place called Le Vain and it has nothing to do with Vanity. In fact, it's a Korean Bakery (I'm guessing it's a play on the word Leaven , a baking term that means "to cause dough to rise using yeast"). At first, with my limited grasp of the French language, I thought it was pronounced as Luh-Van like the way bread is pronounced in French (luh-pan). Luckily, I was enlightened by the staff as it is pronounced as Le-vayne.
The new place doubles as a cafe / bakeshop that serves fresh, slow cooked and healthy bread. At least that's what their signage says. To satisfy our curiosity, we decided to check the place out. Here's what we discovered:

1. LOCATION: as with our restaurant review of DECADES (click link to see post), this location is quite accessible and is a good 5-10 minutes from town. On can take a jeep to Mines View or Tuding, and just get off in front of the Baguio Townhouse. From there, it's a three minute walk inside Outlook Drive and to Le Vain. SCORE: 5/5

2. MENU: What you see is what you get. Just grab a tray and a pair of tongs and pick out various breads from the shelves and display table. The menu on the counter offers hot and cold drinks that may be equated to the price of drinks at Starbucks. The place offers a nice selection of baked good and drinks. SCORE: 5/5

Here's a glimpse of what else they have at Le Vain: 

3. FOOD: We loved the bread at Le Vain!! MAX was particulary fond (and that's an understatement) of their pizza baguette. Served fresh from the oven, tasty and topped with fresh veggies, sliced kani sticks, ham, a cream sauce and mozzarella cheese, our son just couldn't get enough. It was so good, that we had to get another to go, just so he can eat more of it at home. It was a pretty big piece of bread too!  

SCORE: 4/5 (just because we wished the fillings were tastier. The bread dough though is a 10 all the way!!)

Here are the other things that we tried out:

a. Black Sesame Ball - a toasted version of a dinner roll.

b. Curry Croquette - the bread is seriously good!! It's soft in a fluffy kind of way with little crunchy bits of dough that somehow brings a good contrast to the pillowy texture of the bun. We're curry fans at home, but I did find the curry filling a bit bland. Maybe it's because we're used to spicy Japanese curry or that we had our bread served cold that affected it's flavors, we're not sure. I'd still recommend it though, with just bread bun.

c. Pizza Croquette -  a variation of the Curry bun, we had this piece heated up. Not really sure if that was a smart move as the heated filling somehow made the wonderful bun a bit soggy and oily. Keep in mind that we are big fans of the bun alone, without the filling. Expect a more "Asian" type of pizza filling. It's quite similar to the Japanese kind - the ones with corn kernels on top.

d. Butter Cream Bread - one of my favorites whenever I'd get this from Breadtalk. This versions a bit smaller with a a smaller cream to bread ratio. Not bad, but I wish there was more buttercream.

e. Pizza Baguette -  this was, in our opinion, the star of our tray (see description above, right beside 3. FOOD :)

4. SERVICE: Le Vain employs self service. For food that requires the staff's attention, we felt that the staff was friendly, knowledgeable of the products and accommodating. From the cashier's counter, you can get a glimpse of the kitchen and the bakery's equipment. Everything was commercial grade and quite organized. They weren't also kidding when they called it a Korean Bakery. Aside from Korean bread, the baked goods are also made by a Korean baker. SCORE: 5/5

5. AMBIANCE: the bakery's exterior was still under construction when we checked it out. The inside though could be counted as cozy, well-lit and furnished well. 

Music was non-intrusive to conversations, bordering on Muzak (as Phil commented), that it was super ear-friendly to our son MAX's hypersensitive ears. 

MAX is getting acquainted with the place
The huge picture windows looking out on the street allows you to check out the horses that the tourists hire from Wright Park. 

The place is soothing, peaceful and a great place for some coffee and conversation. SCORE: 5/5

Le Vain has more good points than bad. Given that it's on it's soft opening and they've got 98% of their stuff down to a "T", we'd recommend this place for folks who want a nice place to chill at, get away from the city centre's crowd and for those who just want great, freshly baked bread. Enjoy life's simple pleasures. Head on out to Le Vain. OVERALL SCORE: 4.8/5

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!