Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sonya's (not so secret) Garden

By now, many have heard, visited and raved about this famous Garden situated near Tagaytay. Thus far, Sonya's Garden is a secret no more. If my memory serves me right, it was in the year 2000 when I first set foot on this enchanting and restful nature sanctuary. Perhaps, this garden was still at its toddler years in the business then. Nevertheless, after that, more future visits seemed inevitable. Rightfully so, in 2002 it became host and venue for our corporate planning. It was followed by another trip to entertain a foreign visitor then another just recently with some Thai friends. How was I upon seeing it again after so many years? I was surprised, charmed at the same time comforted. Really surprised on how much the garden restaurant had bloomed successfully. It's far from the relatively small, plain garden restaurant I used to know. Now, there are more other reasons why Sonya's made it to the hottest spots out of town.
The garden, complemented with some elements of water are still there to provide that soothing ambiance to the guests. Except that this time around, the landscaped area is much bigger but less brighter. In my previous visits the foliage is more vibrant and real colourful. But I am pleased to see my favorite bench and romantic gazebos where one can spend time leisurely and be utterly oblivious of things around him.

What amazed me more is that Sonya's Garden expanded into a Country B&B and a Pampering Salon. What a complete, indulging retreat indeed! They have interesting Spa packages named Lilac, Magnolia and Marigold. I'll certainly look forward to any of these flower packages (I hope soon!)

Lilac Package (body scrub, full body massage, facial and hair spa) - 2 1/2 hrs; Php 2580

Magnolia Package (aromatherapy steam bath, foot spa, manicure and pedicure, full body massage) - 2 hrs; Php 1680

Marigold Package (exhilarating foot scrub indulgence, hair spa, scalp massage, pedicure) - 1 1/2 hrs; Php 1680

Other Spa services are listed here.

The heart and soul of this garden's visit is of course the delightful cuisine that is genuinely Sonya's. It's a complete meal that will leave you happily stuffed yet guiltless of other noxious food elements. We started our feast with the appetizing homemade dips matched with perfectly baked sesame bread. I personally liked the bread, crispy on the outside, soft and velvety inside! Creamy and tasty, we asked for a refill right away. For the dips, my favourites are pesto, white cheese and creamy mushroom. I find the anchovies and tapenade a little salty. The green salad is superb and scrummy! The leaves are so fresh, sweet without any bitter after taste. (I think that's what you get from an organic produce) Although the pineapple is a little sour, the rest of the toppings are just right to make a mouth watering salad mix. The pasta is also a winner. With the salmon belly as topping, I'll definitely savour it. All three sauces (sun dried tomato, chicken cream with mango and ratatouille) complemented the linguine. With the birth of its own Panaderia, guests will get to enjoy more baked goodies at Sonya's. Hence, a moist, rich chocolate cake was added in the dessert repertoire along with unrivalled traditional filipino delicacies such as glazed sweet potato and banana rolls. The freshly squeezed dalandan juice is still ever refreshing down to the last drop. What's more, an all natural, calming tarragon tea is served last. Just perfect to harmonize all gustatory notes left in your palate ending a memorable gastronomic feast.

The next must try is the Cottage B&B (bed and breakfast). There are a total of 16 rooms, 12 cottages located further down the garden. It's open all year round with the prevailing rates of Php 3000 per pax (inclusive of vat and service charge) on weekdays and Php 3400 per pax (inclusive of vat and service charge) on weekends and holidays. Package rates include complimentary dinner or lunch and full breakfast with a bonus evening serenade.

I find the rooms very traditional with an old feel yet classy. The beds are also spacious and neatly done. The ambiance is laid-back, not picture perfect but invigorating and serene. Just right for a peaceful hideaway.
True to its claim, Sonya's Garden has sucessfully transformed into a wholly refined awe-inspiring retreat for all the senses.

Sonya's Garden Restaurant & Country Bed and Breakfast
Brgy. Buck Estate, Alfonso, Cavite
Tel. Nos. 09175335140 / 09175329097 / 09285073300 / 09285073301 / 09285073302
Fax Nos. 0464132081 / 0464132082

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thailand: Street Foods

It's already my fourth time to travel in Thailand. And because the gap of the 3rd and 4th time is just months from each other, I'm beginning to feel like it's a second homeland. With the country's sunny weather and ambiance, it's a lot like Philippines in many ways. Every visit in Thailand is an opportunity for new discoveries. The richness and immensity of Thai Cuisine alone will offer you an experience of a lifetime already. No journey will be enough without indulging into the extraordinary, tasteful Thai Cuisine. A mouthful of authentic Thai Food is sure to please any discerning palate (I believe so). The usual blend of many herbs and spices is really flavoursome that it’ll make you crave for more. However, I will not discount the fact that some notes maybe acquired and/or selective. Think of coriander, galangal, lime leaves or Tom Yum dish for instance.

But I wonder why in this country, the food carts are so inviting that most people put "Hepa or Typhoid scare" aside just so they can have a nibble of any of those delightful delicacies along the streets. As for me, not easily. I would still prefer to calculate the risk sometimes. The photos above are common sights in the streets of Thailand. They were particularly taken in the morning. In that case, people are rushing, hungry yet ought to be on the go. Thus, food carts such, as these are must pit stops for the locals. I joined with my Thai colleagues one morning to look through the lined tables of inviting foods. I blinked at the same time got wide eyed by the enormous selections right before us. From saut├ęd food to grilled ones, from baked and fried to freshly toss, I almost got lost on which food item to rightly choose. Most are tasty and affordable I must say. It's not suprising then, that this area encouraged regular patrons as well.

Food is one thing that will undoubtedly connect people around the world, whether it be prepared in a lavishly styled and most modern kitchen or in the simplest and humble food cart. We’re all assured that each has its own genuine offering and sensory experience. The only thing that will matter is whether it will leave a tasteful memory in our palate or not. Being adventurous though, is an indispensable spice of any food journey.