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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Friday, June 30, 2017

CALLE UNO - A Baguio-Born, Volkswagen-Based, Food Truck Park

taking a break from with the boys
In the grand scheme of things, regardless of one's status in life, food is often the expression of love and affection. So much so that the term "wine and dine" has been used to express how one was treated lavishly. Whether it be a special occasion or meal shared with our loved ones, food always plays a part in setting the mood. However, it's rarely free. If you want to treat someone to good food but are low on funds, check out Baguio's Calle Uno Food Hub.

Here's our two cents on the place:

1. LOCATION : located at #3 Escoda St., Corner Naguilian Road, Quezon Hill, it's quite accessible via public transportation as well as private vehicles (yes, they have a parking lot). It's roughly a 5 minute ride to and from the city, which makes it near. SCORE: 5/5

2. AMBIANCE: Being Baguio's first food truck park, and the first Volkswagen-based food truck park in the Philippine, the place is an an outdoor haven of food and quirky genius!

Volkswagen Beetles and Combi Vans have been re-purposed into food service machines. It's al fresco dining.

We went there one late morning. Sun wasn't a problem as a parachute/tent was there for shade. We had issues though with the a couple of flies dive bombing our food. Perhaps investing in a couple of industrial grade outdoor bug zappers would be great. Other than that, the place was relatively clean and in order. SCORE: 3/5

3. SERVICE: everyone we dealt with that day was polite, pleasant and efficient. Food was quick, delicious and serving portion vs the price was just right. SCORE 5/5
Munchiez' Menu

more stuff from Road Grille

4. MENU: There are now 8 concessionaires in the area- Munchiez, Brrgrr, CheatDay, Road Grille, Pendong, LiveLong, Binge Beetle and Yamashita. Here are their food offerings: I loved the variety and the prices! SCORE: 5/5

5. FOOD: we arrived at the place around 11 ish. The place was labeled as a food park that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. However, not all of the food trucks were opened. Before we left (a little past noon, some folks were still getting ready to open shop). This limited our options, so we ended up getting (review below pics): SCORE: 4/5

a. Yakiniku Don from Yamashita - big bowl of beefy love. Hits just the right spot as far as taste and size goes.

b. Steaks (Ribeye and Porterhouse) from Munchiez - small to average steaks, but nice, tender and flavorful. Props to the place too for having a great beef supplier. Order the double steaks. You won't regret it.

c. Spicy Wings, Poutine and an Italian Soda from Road Grille - spicy wings came back bloody, so we had to have it recooked. It was good buffalo wings, minus the bleu cheese dip. Was expecting cheese curds to  cover the poutine. Instead, it was served with gravy. We're gravy people, but somehow, Road Grille's gravy was lumpy, and quite frankly, tasted like raw roux (flour and fat cooked together to thicken sauces).

I loved their green apple Italian soda though. Quite refreshing and light. 
*we weren't able to try all the stalls as they were not yet opened at the time of our visit


Our overall scoring for Calle Uno was 4.4/5.

We had a good time checking out the food offerings, would go back if given the chance to do so and would probably recommend some of the food trucks in the area.

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

XIANGHE: Beijing Food At A Table In Baguio

In our household, Chinese food almost always spells comfort food. This was why I was so excited to try out the latest Chinese resto in the city.

Xianghe, home of the famous Beijing rice noodles (and a food franchise from that city) opened it's doors earlier this June,  much to the delight of those who have tried it out. It's opened from 10 AM to 9 PM daily. Here's what I discovered when I dropped by for a visit:

1. LOCATION - found at the ground floor of Cedar Peak (see our blog on the other food offerings of the place), Xianghe can be found fronting Mabini Street and accessible too via General Luna Street. It's right smack in the middle of downtown Baguio, allowing us to give it a SCORE of 5/5.

2. AMBIANCE - modern and tastefully decorated, I love how they managed to fit in so many seats, without making the place appear crowded. In all the times I've visited, the place was always peaceful and clean. SCORE: 5/5

3. MENU - the menu is still being updated, feeling out how the preferences of the Philippine market (it's the first franchise in the Philippines). Prices are super affordable. There's a good variety of rice toppings, cold and hot appetizers, various drinks, savory and noodle dishes. I scored it 5/5. Here's what they have in store for you:

***RECENT ADDITIONS TO THE MENU INCLUDE: fried dumplings, sweet potato balls, Chinese pumpkin pie, scrambled egg rice noodles and boiled dumplings

4. FOOD - I have, so far, tried out 4 items from the menu. Portions are good sized, even good enough to share. Here's what I got, and what I thought of the dish: SCORE: 5/5

a. Dry Egg - think cold dried bean curd in a sesame oil/soy sauce/chili oil/scallions sauce. Great appetizer, even better as a snack!

b. Chicken Poppers - not exactly Chinese, but these nice and juicy balls made with chicken tenders (and  had cheese powder on the side) were nice morsels of yum

c. Beijing Braised Pork Ribs - sweet, spicy, salty and complex! I loved the savory goodness of the sauce and the tenderness of the ribs. Was glad too that they didn't bury the meat in so much veggies. It doesn't taste like the average braised beef/Korean beef stew (admit it, restos tend to interchange them) here in the Philippines. Worth a try!
d. Abalone Mushrooms - thin slices of abalone mushrooms, served cold, in a chiu chow oil/scallions and soy sauce. Delish!!

5. SERVICE - service is seriously fast and efficient and the staff were friendly, polite and informative. The  chef is from China and only speaks Mandarin, so the staff has admittedly remarked that translators are now being used to communicate with the chef. I had ordered braised pork rib rice toppings and got it to go. They gave me the braised pork ribs sans my mi fan (steamed rice in Mandarin - one of the handy dandy words I learned before we visited Beijing). Oh well, it's a work in progress. For the no rice boo-boo however, I'll have to score them 3/5 for the mistake.

So there you have, my Xianghe experience. I gave them the rating of 4.6/5. I shall definitely come back, and encourage those who love good comfort food, to do so.

For updates and more info on Xianghe, visit their Facebok page at: https://www.facebook.com/XIANGHEBAGUIO/?ref=br_rs

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Air BNB and Pico De Loro : How To Save A Little, Despite Splurging

except for 3rd son, we are off!!!
School's officially out for my boys, except for the eldest, as he enrolled for the summer term at his University.

With a few days to kill between the younger kids' vacation and the start of college boy's classes, we decided to embark on a quick vacation to Batangas, specifically to Pico de Loro in Nasugbu.

Nasugbu has always been known for it's great beaches and coves. It's a popular diving spot and attracts both local and foreign tourists. It can also be pricey.

Pricey doesn't always translate to having the BEST.EXPERIENCE.EVER. After all, we are The Mediocre Wanderers, so we often prefer places that give us good impressions in the ff areas:
cooling off as the sun sets
Carola A and B
Fast forward to me checking out places in Air BNB(link here) - (yes, we swear by this website).

Found and booked a condo unit that's within the confines of Pico De Loro. Click on the link above  to see what we picked:)

FYI - there are many units and price ranges to choose from when boking via Air BNB. Everything is close to each other in Pico de Loro. You can't go wrong with any choice AND the fact that there's a free shuttle that goes around Pico de Loro.
At the country club

Here's a review of our stay (most of which I posted on the Air BNB's review section), should you opt to rent out a condo, rather than get a room at the Pico Sands Hotel (Pico De Loro's only hotel).
free shuttle around Pico de Loro
a. LOCATION and ACCESSIBILITY - Jimmy's unit is at the 3rd floor of Carola A. There's an elevator in the building, so accessibility and/or climbing to the top will never be an issue.
no long lines to get on the elevator

Ample free parking was available. All outdoors, so you just have to pick a shaded parking space, if those things matter to you.
Carola A's parking lot

Since there's a free shuttle service in Pico de Loro (ask the guard in your building to call one for you, if there isn't one in sight), you're never far away from any of the places on the map that they provide when you register.

on the shuttle...no walking for this crew
Carola is also a short walk to the country club and the facilities that one might enjoy there (pools, game room, convenience store, resto, gym, etc)
there's a pull out bed under the bottom bunk and a sofa bed tucked at the side of the queen sized bed

b. VALUE FOR YOUR MONEY - For the same view that we got in our rented condo, Agoda.com prices a 35 sq. m. hotel room for Phil, MAX and I at 6000 - 9000 PHP / night. Jimmy's condo was around 45 sq m, but comfortably fit 5 of us - 5 adults and a 9 year old.

There was only one bathroom (after the walk in closet), a small dining area, a kitchenette and a veranda with a 4 seater outdoor dining area for the total cost of 4000 PHP / night.
the view from the unit's balcony

We stayed there for 4 days and 3 nights. Air BNB charges a service fee and the unit owner does charge an extra cleaning fee too, which amounted to 15,000 PHP total for our stay.

5 people, 3 nights and the option to cook. Staying at the hotel would have cost us more, as we would have had to get another room for the bigger boys.

c. CLEANLINESS - if it smells funny, looks like it could breed more than it's fair share of bacteria; then it's a no-go.

Jimmy's unit, albeit the minor signs of wear and tear (cracked tiles in the dining area from the last Batangas earthquake) was wonderfully clean. Our beddings were freshly laundered. The kitchen, it's utensils and appliances were also spotless. The bathroom wasn't stained or moldy.
guest registration
d. AMENITIES and SERVICES - as with all the guests in the condos and the hotel, a one-time guest registration fee for the duration of your stay has to be paid for, when you arrive at Pico de Loro. 

Rates vary based on the time of the year or week. (1200-1400/adult and around 400 for kids 4 years and above was what we paid for). Upon payment of said fees, you are required to purchase a cash card for 50 PHP and top it up with a 1000 PHP initial load.It's reloadable, but not refundable.

Only electronic payments are accepted in the area. This means debit and credit cards and the required cash card are your only forms of tender in Pico de Loro.
poolside snack time

Paying the guest fee allows you to make use of the resort's facilities, except the members-only Beach Club. Here's a look at what's there to do, go to and eat at when inside Pico de Loro:
where to eat
what to do 1

Of course, we weren't tied down to availing the resort's slightly pricey and somewhat mediocre cuisine.

the resto in the country club's menu

pool bar drinks menu

homemade post NBA finals game 1 snack pizza made with maple ham, salami and mozzarella cheese

We stocked the unit that we stayed in with ingredients for quick meals and snacks.

don't forget to bring cooking oil if you plan to do any cooking

Here's a look at the price list of items in the Grab and Go store at the country club (tip: the ready-to-cook tapa is quite delicious). BTW, just for comparison's sake, a can of soda at the Grab and Go costs 80 PHP. The same can of soda, one floor down, by the pool area, costs 130 PHP.

250 gms tapa 170 PHP. They also have pork tocino and Quezon longganisa


these guys didn't have to share a bed
Sleeping area: the room, which was a studio unit, was quite spacious for our group of 5. My older sons are 5'10 in height, and had no problem with ceiling heights, bed lengths etc. fully air conditioned, Jimmy provides fleece blankets that may come handy as the AC is amazingly strong. Longer blankets may be more helpful though, as the shortest in our group was my 4'4" 9 year old son. Cold feet wasn't all that fun.Bring socks, just in case.

beach and pool towel rentals  cost 50 pesos/day. Bring your own if you're going there for just a day.
The bathroom: water pressure was constantly strong and the water heater worked 100% of the time for all the faucets and showers. (Tip: the round part of the shower tap has to point to the right for a hot shower). Bring toilet paper, towels and toiletries. This will not be provided for you. There are also no bath mats. Ended up using one of our beach towels as one, to prevent possible accidents when one gets out of the shower.
beef salpicao from the country club's resto

The Kitchen: all the basic kitchen tools are there - knives, spatulas, pots and pans. No chopping board though. Was worried that I might scratch the Formica counters and didn't want to chop on the wooden surface of the utility cabinet, as the surface wasn't stable.Plates, cups, spoons and forks are provided too.

pork sinigang
A water dispenser (bring your own water or buy from the receptionist a 5 gallon for 50 pesos. There's alsoa bottle deposit of 200 that's refundable when you bring back the water container).

pancit habhab

There's a fridge, that has a pitcher provided for your water. The unit also has a toaster. Not an oven toaster, but one to cook pop tarts on; a one burner induction stove with compatible pots and pans , a rice cooker and an electric kettle. The fume hood over the burner is fully functional. Use it when you cook to prevent smelling like food for the duration of your stay. Cooking food that have strong fishy orders is also prohibited.

Adobo sa gata king prawns
Dish washing paste and sponges were available along with brooms and mops, just in case. It's not a serviced apartment so I'd advise you to bring paper towels too for both your food and to use as a rag for water tracks in the floor, spillage or what have you.

The Balcony - has a small table and chairs set for 4 and a portable clothes hanger/dryer for your wet stuff. Hanging your laundry on the balcony is strictly prohibited.
if you find yourself at the pool area, you can use their lockers for free. Just get the key from the person manning the recreation center. You can take a shower and get ready from here, instead of making your way back to your condo. The lockers are fully air conditioned too

Others - WiFi in the condo was fast and reliable, the condo complex wasn't teeming with people, so noise wasn't an issue. In fact, the greenery in the area seems to attract a lot of birds, based on the sounds you'd hear in the morning and probably through the early evening (yes, my mild ornithophobia was triggered).
pool area bar

Prior to renting out the unit, I read reviews from people who stayed  before us. Some commented that there was a blatant discrimination felt as to who the members were vs the guests (we're differentiated by the bands attached to our wrist, upon registration. Blue for condo guests, White for hotel guests and no bands for unit owners).

Our whole family did not feel any such treatment. The staff at the resort was pleasant, efficient and accommodating. The other guests and property owners were minding their own business and having their own fun, so no strange looks from them either.

After all, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Plus, with all the payments and charges costing you a pretty penny, you won't feel poor while you're there, but may feel so, after your stay ends (lol). :)
Phil and the boys at Pico Beach
We loved the freedom of renting out a unit and being able to make our own meals, not tying ourselves down to the hotel nor the country club's limited and expensive food options. To be fair, we did try the snacks and dinner at the club too. It was ok.Nothing drool worthy, but not horrible either.

We did however, love the facilities. Despite my doing chores while on vacation, we all had a great time as a family. The place and it's surrounding vistas are a sight to behold.

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!
BB8, our youngest family member
PS I did a review of our Air BNB experience rather than that of the resort as I felt that this was a road less traveled and that this blog would serve folks better by showing this particular option. As a final tip, check out user reviews every time you're looking into a unit you'd want to rent. A little research never hurts. Feel free to send me a query too, as I'd be more than happy to answer your questions. :)