Taza Fresh Table





We recently spent a weekend at Taal Vista Hotel. My parents had been in Manila since January and since they were about to leave soon (they left a few days ago), we thought a stay in Taal Vista would be a guaranteed special time. Our last stay there was in 2012, and both my parents were with us too. This time we had an extra treat. We got to sample the hotel’s new restaurant Taza Fresh Table.


It was a foggy couple of days. We didn’t get a clear view of the volcano, but we loved misty the atmosphere.


There’s something magical about fog settling in like this.


No rain. Just dew drops and lots of mist.


This is TAZA Fresh Table, located right at Taal Vista Hotel, just off the garden.


It is a hexagonal structure surrounded by glass walls, giving diners a wonderful view of the ridge.


Before our dinner at TAZA, we got comfortable at our hotel rooms.


The rooms were spacious and comfy. The highlight was the balcony with a gorgeous view of the lake and volcano.


The hotel staff surprised me with a cake. My birthday had passed a couple of weeks before this. But I thought it was so nice and thoughtful.


A very special touch.


My dad and mom taking a selfie with the volcano behind them.


TAZA is a country garden-inspired restaurant with a 180-degree view of Taal Lake and volcano. TAZA is derived from the Arabic word “taaza” which means fresh.


The idea of TAZA Fresh Table is to offer innovative international cuisine using the best locally-sourced ingredients — duck from Laguna, lobster from Batangas, mangoes from Cebu, coffee beans and black rice from Negros Island and organic herbs and vegetables from Benguet, Cavite, Batangas, and the Taal Vista Hotel Garden.


We started with the Mezze, usually served in smaller pots. The chef gave us bigger servings because we were a family of seven. Mezze is served with glad breads and a choice of four dips/sauces. We had Spinach Bacon Jam,  Boquerones, Chorizo with Garlic, and Sauteed Chicken Liver and Garlic Confit.


The Spinach with Bacon Jam was incredible.


The kids shared a Four Cheese Pizza -Tomato sauce, Laguna kesong puti, Pato quezo de bola, Laguna mozarella, homemade ricotta, olive oil. The girls couldn’t stop raving about this.


Chef Jayme Natividad made a special papardelle that was not in the menu, for my girls. He told me he’d whip something up for them with butter and cheese. And my goodness, the kids loved this. They are asking to go back.


Mushroom Soup, Trio of Tagaytay mushrooms (oyster, shitake and button)


Duck and Mushroom Lasagna, Laguna duck, Trio of Tagaytay mushrooms, Bechamel sauce, parmesan cheese


Tomahawk Pork Chop, caramelized onions and banas


Braised Oxtail, seared and braised in red wine, onions and rosemary.


Moroccan Chicken, braised probiotic chicken with spices, served with couscous.


Cannoli with Ube Ricotta and Langka Cream, puff pastry cylinders stuffed with purple yam and jackfruit pastry cream.


Olive Oil Ice Cream with glazed Tagaytay pineapple.


Chef Jayme Natividad


The mariachi trio even sang “Happy Birthday” for me.


And we witnessed the first proposal in Taza. She said “Yes!”


TAZA Fresh Table is a wonderful addition to Taal Vista Hotel’s charming atmosphere.


The next morning we were greeted by more fog and mist, making the place seem more magical.


TAZA Fresh Table is located at that pavilion on the left of this photo, just a walk down from the lobby of Taal Vista Hotel. For reservations, call +63 (2) 917-8225, +63 (46) 413-100 or +63 917 809-1254. Or visit www.taalvistahotel.comFacebook.com/taalvistahotel, or Twitter.







Beef Barley Soup





I am far from being the expert cook. Admittedly, I only started liking to cook when I got my dream kitchen. And I only started cooking successfully last year. You Tube played a big role in this big achievement of mine. Gusteau was right when he said, “Anyone can cook.” So with my new found success, haha, I am finding courage to share with you some simple recipes that have become a regular part of our home menu.


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Barley is a staple at our house. I store them in these mason jars that I get from pasta sauce. (Why buy when you can re-use jam jars and pasta sauce jars).


I grew up with my mom’s barley soup. It’s it also my favourite comfort food in Cibo. So whenever I run out of ideas, this is the dish I whip up for my family. It’s kid-approved. So I always make sure we have barley in our pantry. Another thing that’s a staple in my kitchen is Bertolli olive oils, which is finally available again in the Philippines through Fly Ace Corporation, a leading distributor of food products. I met the people behind Fly Ace when I hosted the launch of Lotus Biscoff, which they also officially brought into the country.


Three types of Bertolli olive oil, available in leading supermarkets in the Philippines, exclusively distributed by Fly Ace Corporation.


Bertolli is the “World’s Best Selling Olive Oil”.  There are three types of Bertolli Olive Oils –Extra Virgin, Classico and Extra Light. In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing recipes using each of the three variants. Basically, Extra Virgin olive oil is best used for marinades, dressing and dips. You don’t cook with it. For cooking, use Classico olive oil. Its is perfect for sauces, roasting or grilling. Then there is the Extra Light olive oil, with its mild taste, making it perfect for sautéing, frying and even baking.

For my barley soup, I used Bertolli Classico olive oil. I based my barley soup on Ina Garten’s basic recipe but reformulated it based on what was available in my kitchen pantry. I also altered the process a bit and it worked fine. I hope you find my easy version to work for you too.


Celery and leeks


Bay leaves, onion, garlic.




Here’s my recipe for Beef Barley Soup

1 Bertolli Classico olive oil
1/2 kg beef shreds (oxtail tastes better but you’ll need time and patience to make it tender)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped leeks
1 cup diced carrots
3/4 to 1 cup chopped onion (white onions work best, but I only had local red onions so I used less)
1/2 to 1 cup diced celery (I like celery so I placed 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
8 cups canned beef broth (or homemade from beef or chicken bones)
3/4 cup pearled barley


1. Heat the Bertolli Classico olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. I’m using my new Le Creuset, which I feel I have finally earned and deserved.


2. Add the beef strips, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally, for at least 10 minutes until browned all over. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and set aside.


3. Add the leeks, carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to brown. Throw in sprigs of thyme and bay leaves.


4. Return the beef to the pot and add the broth, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Once boiling, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. You may discard the thyme sprigs (if you bundled it) and the bay leaves, and skim off the fat.


5. Add the barley. Let it simmer for another 40 minutes. This is where I altered Ina Garten’s recipe. She recommends boiling the barley separately, draining it, then adding it to the soup mixture. I placed my barley directly into my soup.


6. That’s it! Beef and Barley Soup!


You can change the ingredients based on what you have in your fridge. If you prefer a heartier meal, choose bigger chunks of meat with bone. If so, you may not even need beef stock. Just use water.



Maria Luisa’s Garden Room



Garden Room


When our family friend Mrs Ruby Roa invited me to dine with her and her friends at the Makati Garden Club, I couldn’t resist. I had heard about this little pocket of paradise from friends. It is a membership club that caters to (mostly) women who love plants, gardening, and greenery. I had to see it for myself. So glad I did.


The Makati Garden Club sits in a little patch of green right at the corner of EDSA and Ayala Avenue.  You can see the MRT (or is that a bus) on the upper left corner of the photo.


The restaurant is called Maria Luisa’s Garden Room. Named after Maria Luisa Perez-Rubio, the founder of Makati Garden Club.


Around 1955, Maria Luisa persuaded her good friend Enrique Zobel, to “donate a bit of earth” for the Makati Garden Club. She led this informal organisation of women who strongly believed in preserving the environment, conserving open spaces and encouraging the community to do the same. Source.


For over 40 years, the club cafe remained a small discreet place where a few women members would meet. Now there are over 1000 members.


The Garden Room went through a makeover and is now under the management of Sandra Fernandez.


The restaurant feels very homey, like a little cottage with mismatched furniture.


They’ve extended the garden room to accommodate more tables.


Click to see more…


Spinach and Ricotta Tarts





I used to cook with fillo back when I lived in Toronto with my roommate who was very domesticated. I honestly didn’t have the interest in cooking until last year. But as part of my roommatey duties, I helped her with food preparations. Anything in fillo tastes great. All you need is patience, speed, and lots of butter. I suggest you watch some You Tube videos on how to handle fillo if you’ve never worked with it – watch this video.

I am sharing with you a tweaked recipe that I picked up from the packaging of the fillo pastry. I mentioned this in Instagram. And here it is, as promised. Sorry that my photos aren’t top quality. I really don’t know how people who blog about recipes do it. I had to work fast with the fillo and my hands were always covered in butter and filling.


Spinach and Ricotta Tarts


6 sheets fillo pastry
1 red pepper
1 ½ to 2 cups of spinach leaves. (If using frozen spinach pellets use 6 to 9)
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 12-cupcake pan





1.  Cut red pepper into quarters, remove seeds. Rub lightly with olive oil, place on oven tray and roast for 25 minutes at least 180 degrees C. Allow to cool then remove skin. Cut into thinner strips. Set aside for later.

2.  Blanch and refresh spinach. Strain and squeeze out excess moisture. Puree spinach in food processor, add eggs, bread crumbs, and stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper. Add half a cup of ricotta cheese and manually stir it in.

3.  If using frozen spinach pellets, you can skip the food processor. Just melt the spinach and squeeze out excess water. You can then just manually mix in the eggs, cream, bread crumbs, ricotta and salt and pepper. Original recipe used breadcrumbs in between layers of fillo, but I didn’t do it that way.




4.  Now it’s time to work with your fillo pastry. Make sure to work with it fast. Watch a few You Tube demos if it’s your first time to handle fillo. Brush your cupcake tin with melted butter.

5.  Work with 2 fillo sheets at a time. Roll up unused fillo or cover with damp cloth. These pastry sheets dry out really fast.

6.  Lay down first fillo sheet on a flat surface and brush lightly with butter. Get the second fillo sheet and brush with more butter. Cut the 2 layers into 12 squares of equal size. You can use a sharp knife, pizza cutter or scissors. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

7.  Place the two cut fillo squares into each of the 12 the cupcake tins. Repeat the fillo layering until you have at least 6 layers of filo for each tin cup(cake). Place the fillo squares at different angles. This ensures the fillo to be flaky once baked. Brush each layer with melted butter. You can also substitute butter with olive oil instead.



8.  Fill each filo pastry cup with the spinach-cheese mixture up to 2/3 of the cup. Sprinkle each cup with the remaining ricotta cheese and decorate with red pepper strips.

9.  Bake at 180 degrees C for 20-25 minutes.


nawwTy with O&M Home



Home of Trish Panlilio


Last week I received an invitation for lunch at Trish Panlilio’s home. Unbeknownst to many, the very fashionable Trish has developed a love for cooking. It began as a simple hobby of cooking for friends and as a daily labour of love for her sons. By October 2013 Trish introduced “nawwTy’s kitchen” to her public with home cooked meals on order-basis. nawwTy’s kitchen not only offers homemade a mix comfort food like roast chicken and decadent meals like crab fat paella and prime rib roast, they also can deliver straight to your home and custom cater your events of up to sixty people. For info on how to order, see directory at the bottom of this post.

Trish’s luncheon at her home was also the setting of lovely tableaus showing pieces from Oliver & Maude Home, an online seller of all things monogrammed — acrylic trays, carved tangile cheese boards, pillows, placemats and napkins.


With the pretty hostess, Trish Panlilio, who was hands-on at the kitchen while making sure all the guests were comfortable and well-fed.


With Javi Martinez, Tessa Valdes and Vicki Zubiri


This is the only photo I have of the ladies at the table. Sorry if we all look like we are attacking the paella. Haha. Seen in photo, Grace Barbers Baja, Cheryl Tiu, Rory Manzano and Rica Lopez de Jesus of one of my favourite local blogs heart2heart. So, about the paella, from left to right, crab fat paella, paella valenciana and paella negra.


The very aromatic T’s pollo arrosto


Prawns thermidor


Prime rib roast


Herbed butter logs


I couldn’t resist taking snapshots of Trish’s homey place.


I loved her accent pieces such as this wing chair


I was charmed by all the little pops of colour


That blue chair!


Every woman needs a glamorous reading corner.


Interesting mix of textures


Her pool bar and garden was the showcase for Oliver and Maude’s pieces.



Acrylic tray


Julia Morales of O&M Home


Personalized napkins, glass


Placemats and napkins can either be monogrammed or have your whole name embroidered on it. Same goes for the wooden boards.


So ya, in my future next home, I want an outdoor bar (as well-stocked as this).


More monogrammed placemats, napkins and hand towels


The acrylic trays are sturdy and can be engraved with any design or logo.


Monogrammed glassware. This season O&M Home also has a gold santol bowl.


Wooden chopping boards were a very popular gift item last Christmas. I received a couple with “PAEZ” carved on to the boards. Now I have a “Daphne” and a “D”. Next on my list is to have a couple of those acrylic trays.


Thank you Trish and Julia for a lovely lunch!


For more information on nawwTy’s kitchen check out their Facebook page here, email nawwtyskitchen@gmail.com or call (0918) 936 9854 or (0920) 907 9122

To order O&M Home, email oliverandmaude@gmail.com or call (0917) 809 7287