Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hotel Review: Meranti Hotel, Quezon City

Last week, we received late notice that there was going to be a power interruption in our village. The notice from Admin said it would be from 11:30 p.m. to midnight and 4 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. the following day. I was willing to bear it so I decided to stay at home. At nearly 1 a.m. however, power still wasn't restored. By 2 a.m., I was already uncomfortable from the sweltering heat. It didn't help that I was suffering from severe allergic rhinitis. By 3 a.m.,we decided to pack some clothes and drive to Meranti, the nearest decent hotel from our place.

Meranti Hotel is owned by the Max's Group, the company behind Max's Restaurant, Krispy Kreme and Yellow Cab, among others.

The lobby was a fair size for a small hotel and tastefully furnished. I was a little worried about the room because I had been warned that they were small and had thin walls. The receptionist offered us a deluxe, a higher room category, because all the standards were booked for the night.

When we got to the room, we were pleasantly surprised. It was a good size at 35 sqm. with a king size bed that was very comfortable.

The decor was subdued, even stylish. Every corner was clean. Most importantly, there was no musty smell, which could have made my allergies worse.

I slept very soundly that night, until I was woken up by the phone ringing. There was no bedside phone extension so we had to get up to answer. It was the receptionist reminding us that breakfast was only until 10 a.m., which meant we had 10 minutes to go down and get served. We decided to forego breakfast.

It was a little hard to go back to sleep by then, because the heavy drapes weren't fully blackout. We stayed in bed just the same, maybe even dozed off for a few minutes.

Checkout was painless. The staff were extra helpful, processing everything while we ordered our lunch at Meranti Cafe, also located at the lobby near the check-in counter.

They also offered these graham cookies, which were so good! I wonder if they're available at Max's Corner Bakery, which makes those divine caramel bars that you can order with your Max's fried chicken. This bakeshop churns some fantastic baked goodies and is largely underrated in my belief. I am a fan of their meringues.

I was happy to discover that the Max's Group also owns Maple Restaurant in Shangri-la Plaza whose food I truly enjoy. Some items from Maple are included in the Meranti menu but not the buttermilk pancakes (boohoo). I made do with the French toast, which was also good.

Pros: One of the better hotels in Quezon City (there's not a lot)
         Helpful Staff
         Bread and baked goods        
         Good value

Cons: Rooms are not fully blackout
          Phone has no bedside extension
          Breakfast calls should be upon request
          Some noise from passing cars (we were on the 9th floor)           

Friday, April 1, 2016

Easter Break 2016 (Part II): Dean & Deluca

I’ve always liked the pizzas and pastries at Dean & Deluca so that’s where I took the pamangkins for dinner.

Dean & Deluca is a popular chain of upscale grocery stores that started in New York in the ‘70s. The lone store in Manila, however, is more a restaurant than a culinary emporium.

I was curious about these flavored sugar
The first time I visited the restaurant, I ordered its honey-glazed pork ribs and all-American grilled cheese sandwich, both of which were good, but not as memorable as its banana quinoa bread and carrot cake. I’ve also had the occasion of trying the Parma pizza, which earned my approval.

This time around, we got to try a wider selection because I knew my foodie troupe were up to the task of polishing off everything that was served on the table.

The girls, Joanna, Jenna and Julia, started with the slow-roasted pumpkin soup, which earned three thumbs up but with the qualification (by Joanna) that it’s still not as good as Cibo’s.

The crispy calamari was exactly that, and the squid was tender, not at all chewy.

This was Joaki’s choice, the herb-roasted chicken au jus. The slow roasting was evident in the tenderness of the chicken, which was deliciously seasoned. However, I found an off-putting alcohol-like taste in the barley chorizo risotto.

The skillet meatballs stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t expect to find the meatballs of my dreams at Dean & Deluca. The Angus beef ball falls apart in your mouth and it goes exceptionally well with the rich flavor of the arrabiata and peppery arugula. An exceptional bite. We loved it so much we ordered another plate.

The butifarra con salsa funghi e tratufo
Of the pastas, the butifarra con salsa funghi e tartufo was highly recommended but I’d say go for the good ol’ carbonara. Granted, it is not traditional because the noodles are slicked with cream, not egg (although there’s a poached egg on top). On the merit of taste alone, this is a winner. And, mind you, it’s hard to find good carbonara (our favorite is the one of Manila Peninsula, which we ordered by room service during a stay).

The carbonara topped with poached egg

We ordered two pizzas, my favorite Parma and one we haven't tried, Sausage duo. I am no snob when it comes to pizzas and I enjoy the occasional Shakey's thin crust and Pizza Hut pan pizza as much as the next person, but seeing a well-made crust like this, all puffy with raised blisters, buoys my spirit. 

The Parma

The Sausage Duo, Joanna's preference

We capped off our meal with Joanna’s choice, the Hokkaido cheesecake. What a heavenly pick it turned out to be. I enjoy the occasional cheesecake but I usually gravitate more towards sponge cakes and meringue-based cakes like sans rival. This though, I totally dig. It’s lighter and less sweet than the NY variety, and its texture more akin to a soufflé or chiffon cake. Pillowy, velvety, ethereal--everything a cheesecake should be.

Happy diners
On more than one occasion, I have complained about the slow service at Dean & Deluca, especially at the takeout counter. I think this has been addressed somewhat. We did experience a snag when one of our additional orders wasn't placed but this was attended to immediately.

Dean & Deluca
Edades Tower
Amorsolo Drive,
Rockwell, Makati

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Break 2016 (Part I): Aruga By Rockwell


Since it was the end of the school year for my nieces (my nephew Joaki will have his by end April) and the eldest, Joanna, is graduating from High School, I arranged a staycation with them at Aruga by Rockwell this Easter break. As anticipated, there was hardly any traffic, the only time of the year that we Manileños get such a respite.

I booked a two-bedroom suite. It was a good size at 107 square meters with spacious living, dining and kitchen areas. It even has a laundry room with washer and dryer, which is practical for long stays.

The fully equipped kitchen
The rooms were rather small. The master’s bedroom has a king bed that can fit a couple and a child (or maybe a slight teen). The second room has a double bed that is good for two. You may request for a rollaway bed but since the rooms don’t have enough space for one, I assume it will be set up in the living area.The kids loved the soft beds so much they hardly noticed they were cramped. They slept so well they almost missed breakfast.

The master's bedroom
The second room
There were two bathrooms, one inside the master's and another beside the second room. I was expecting to find a bathtub but neither had one.

Probably one of the best things about staying at Aruga is getting access to the Rockwell Club. Aruga has its own pool and gym but the Club's are much bigger.

Aruga's pool area
The Rockwell Club also has more amenities to offer including a spa with its own Jacuzzi, steam bath, and sauna; a wider selection of restaurants such as the topnotch Chef Jessie; sports courts; and, dance and fitness studios. From Aruga, we took a buggy to take us to the Club (it was close by but we were on staycation mode).

The Rockwell Club's pool area
Julia at the pool
The Clubhouse all lit up when evening set in
The teens trying to earn their dinner

For dinner, we opted to go to Dean & Deluca (next post), which the kids haven't tried and is right beside Aruga. We had reservations at Powerplant Cinema for the 10:30 p.m. screening of Batman vs. Superman. I booked and paid for our tickets and chose our seats earlier in the day using their very convenient online payment system.

The following day, we had breakfast at Aruga's cafe. Since it was small and we were having our meal very close to the 10 a.m. cut-off, I anticipated it would get packed. I decided to advise guest services that we will be needing a table for five. They called our room when our table was ready (it didn't take  long). They had to set up our table at the lobby just outside the cafe entrance but we didn't mind.

The cafe
Inside the cafe
The buffet selection was spare but it had all the breakfast favorites of the kids such as cereals, beef tapa, corned beef, eggs, and pancakes, and bonus treats like lady fingers with nutella and chocolate eggs.

Aruga By Rockwell
Waterfront Drive, Rockwell Center,
Makati City, 1200
Metro Manila, Philippines
PHONE (632) 818 0000
FAX (632) 230 6732

Pros: Location and proximity to shopping and a great selection of restaurants
         Access to the Rockwell Club and all its facilities
         Attentive Service
         Tastefully decorated and fully equipped suites
         Late checkout until 2 p.m.
Cons: Relatively expensive
          No bathtub
          Check-in was quick but the room wasn't ready even if we arrived late (we had to wait about 20 minutes)
          We spotted a roach in our living room but it was most likely an isolated incident because every corner of the suite was spotless

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Kikki.K: Paper Love

I love paper with the same passion as I love food. Pen and paper were my constant companions growing up.

My parents bought our first desktop computer when I was in junior college, but hardware could not take the place of my usual pen and paper.

In high school, like most girls my age, I collected stationery. I would swap pages with friends. I would buy journal notebooks regularly and wrote on them using scented pens. I spent hours browsing paper products at Learner’s Shoppe across my school, St. Louis, or at Co-Ed near St. Paul. Every time we went to Manila, I would go to Gift Gate and National Bookstore to add to my collection. It was only in college that I discovered Tickles and Regina’s.

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered Kikki.K. I must have read about them in Chuvaness’s or Daphne’s blog since those are the ones I follow regularly. I also remember Kim Jones mentioning the brand in one of her Instagram posts. So when I came across their store at ION mall Singapore last year, I went crazy. I bought notebooks, stamps, pens and what-nots for my nieces.

When I got back to Manila, I started watching videos at the Kikki.K Planner Love  page and was completely entranced. It was then that I decided I would get a real planner for the new year. I stopped using planners years ago, making do with Google Calendar and Evernote. I also keep a Moleskine notebook to write on.

Months passed, a lot of things happened, but I couldn’t get Kikki.K out of my mind. So, in December, I ordered my peach-colored Be Brave planner along with a Paper Lover’s Book, a mini stationery kit and a vision board kit. Since I met a certain minimum order, Kikki.K threw in a free accessory pack loaded with goodies, namely a sticker book, gold and silver washi tapes and gold spiral paper clips, nicely presented in a cute drawstring bag.

My package arrived in Manila in the first week of January but was held by Customs. I finally got hold of it this week, just in time for Chinese New Year. Not funny, Customs people.

I started customizing my planner as soon as I got home. Here’s a glimpse of what it looks like.



 It's almost Valentine's Day. Tell me what you love.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hotel Room Review: Marco Polo Hotel Ortigas

 I celebrated a special family gathering at Marco Polo Ortigas recently and stayed for two nights at a Premier Suite.

Prior to this stay, I’ve had the opportunity to visit three times, twice to dine at Cucina and once at Cafe Pronto. The attentiveness of the staff made a great impression on me. So did the tastefully decorated check-in lobby at the 24th floor. Other common areas are equally well put-together.

Even more impressive were the rooms. The Premier Room is 51 square meters, with floor to ceiling windows, a king size bed (you can request for 2 doubles instead), a lounge chair, a bench chair at the foot of the bed and a round glass table with two chairs for dining.
The water closet has separate bath and shower areas, lavatory, and double basins so you and your companion can get ready at the same time. So much space!

The room is also equipped with a cute Nespresso machine and three capsules in a variety of flavors.

Even better are the price points. Because we were booked for an event, I got the room at P7,500 net. The most affordable rooms are the superior rooms, which were offered to me at P5,000 net. All rates are inclusive of buffet breakfast for two at Cucina. The buffet spread, both for breakfast and dinner, has a substantial selection of continental and Asian fare that has enough variety yet is manageable and well curated.

We booked a total of four rooms for our family but, as expected, my nieces invaded my room. JM loved soaking in the tub. I had to request for housekeeping service three times to keep my OC self sane. The staff were always obliging.

The banquet services attended to all our needs without any hassle. I expected to be badgered with paperwork and approvals but, to my delight, there was none!

The most trouble I had was figuring out which elevator led to the parking since there was no direct lift from the rooms. But I got the hang of it eventually so it didn't dampen my impression of the hotel.

A Long Overdue Thanks to 2015

It’s already three weeks into 2016 but I have yet to bid 2015 a proper goodbye and give it the recognition it deserves. This early, my 2016 is turning up to be quite eventful, largely because of the curveballs 2015 threw my way.

Here are the highlights of my 2015:

1. My Mama’s 70th birthday

We celebrated the occasion with a small gathering of family members at Heat restaurant in EDSA Shangri-La. I enjoyed the food as usual but nothing gave me more joy than seeing my Mama’s beaming face.

2. JM’s Junior Prom

My darling niece JM went to the prom so we went agog getting her prepped for the ball and welcoming her escort.


I panicked when the makeup artist applied heavy foundation on her that was at least two shades darker than her skin tone. I had to call it out. Thank God, it was fixed just in time, although I still think I would have done a better job doing her makeup myself. But I am happy that she had a superb time.


3. Madrid Fusion Manila

With Asia's Best Female Chef, Gaita Fores
What a feast! And a proud moment for Pinoys! Read the highlights of my Madrid Fusion experience here.

4. Travels Near and Far

We took a respite from the Pope Francis fever with a stay at Domicillo Hotel in Tagaytay. Nothing restores the spirit like some quiet time and a priceless view.

For the first time in a long time, Badette and I were able to travel together again.

I enjoyed my moment in the sun with Casa Artusi and Gaita Fores.

I had a rare chance of bonding with relatives in Tuguegarao including those based abroad for Uncle Angel and Auntie Linda’s wedding anniversary. We all had a lovely time.

A most wonderful time in Tokyo and Kyoto with our dearest friends, the Sarmiento couple.

5. The Most Unexpected Birthday Gift Ever

6. A New Home

7. A Tiring But Joy-Filled Holiday Season

It felt like Valentine's Day in December.

8. The Best Gift Ever, to be unwrapped soon

Thank you, 2015. You won’t ever be forgotten.


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