Taal Vista Hotel Tagaytay: A Relaxing Escape from Manila’s Summer Heat

Aircon on full-blast and electric fans on their maximum speed, yet here we are still soaking wet in a pool of our own sweat. It is days like this that a quick getaway to some place colder like Tagaytay is more than a welcome respite from the scorching heat in Manila. And that is exactly what we did last March when we packed our bags and fled to spend a weekend at one of the oldest and quintessential hotels in Tagaytay City, Taal Vista Hotel.

Facade of Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay City Philippines


Taal Vista Hotel, Tagaytay City

From the year it was established in 1939, Taal Vista Hotel has been recognized for having the best vantage point to enjoy a mesmerizing view of the Taal Volcano—famous for being the world’s smallest active volcano within a lake, which is within a volcano in the middle of a larger lake. It’s truly a breathtaking sight that has never failed to amaze foreign and local tourists alike.

Taal Lake View at Taal Vista Hotel Tagaytay Philippines

The English Tudor Mansion-style hotel perfectly marries timeless architecture and design with modern amenities. The spectacular view of the Taal Lake and the crisp, cool climate of Tagaytay just add to the magical appeal of Taal Vista Hotel, making it the top choice for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of Manila.


Rooms at Taal Vista Hotel

The rooms of Taal Vista Hotel are divided into two areas – the Lake View and the Mountain View wings. The Lake View Wing, the older between the two buildings, boasts of rooms with a gorgeous view of the Taal Lake.  The Mountain View Wing may not have a view of the lake from its windows, but it makes up for being located closest to the hotel’s amenities like the outdoor swimming pool, gym, playroom, spa, game room, the view deck, and it’s only a short walk away from Taza Fresh Table Restaurant.

Lake View Building and Viewing Deck of Taal Vista Hotel Tagaytay City Philippines

We stayed at the Deluxe Queen room in their Lake View Wing. Our room had one single bed and one queen-size bed with clean linens and plush pillows.

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Claude’s Le Cafe de Ville for USPB Potato Safari 3

Last December 2015, I was invited by the US Potato Board (USPB) to join their Potato Safari 3 in Davao City. After a brief introduction to frozen US Potatoes, we were then into vans, traveled back in time, and landed at the front gate of Claude’s Le Cafe de Ville Restaurant.

Facade Claude’s Le Cafe de Ville Restaurant Davao City

Claude’s Le Café de Ville has become a household name in Davao City and Davaoeños recognize it as the quintessential fine-dining restaurant in the city. A colonial house transformed into a dining spot, its atmosphere evokes a laid back and relaxing feel. It is known for its unparalleled French and Mediterranean cuisine and excellent service.


Chef Claude Le Neindre

After looking around this Instagram-worthy locale, we were introduced to owner and chef, Claude Le Neindre, from Loire Valley in France. He started his culinary career at the Hotel de L’Univers and the L’Etoile d’Potel in Paris. He soon went on to work with five-star chains such as the Hilton, the Inter-Continental, and the Sofitel and Novotel of the Accor Group. After a short three-year stint managing a 16th century property called Hotel Du Dauphn in L’Aigle, Normandy, Claude sold his shares and decided to settle down in Davao City with his wife. He worked for two years as the resident manager of Pearl Farm Resort before he started building his namesake restaurant in November 1995. The restaurant officially opened on the 1st of May 1996.

Chef Claude Le Neindre of Claude's Le Cafe de Ville Restaurant for USPB Potato Safari 3

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My US Potato Board (USPB) Potato Safari 3 Experience in Davao City

While everyone was busy with their holiday preparations last December 2015, I, together with other Manila food bloggers, flew to Davao City to join the Potato Safari 3, coordinated by the US Potato Board (USPB), the organization who handles the promotion and marketing for US Potatoes across the globe.

United States Potato Board (USPB) Potato Safari 3


About US Potatoes

The third of the Potato Safari began with the Global Marketing Manager of USPB, Susan Weller, giving us a brief and informative introduction to US Potatoes.

Susan Weller Global Marketing Manager of USPB

The potato is an integral ingredient used in cuisines all over the world. It is so versatile that it can be used in appetizers, soups, main entrées, or even desserts. But do you know what the world’s favorite way to eat potatoes? Of course, as French fries!

The most important thing I learned from Susan was that it’s NOT true that fresh local potatoes are superior over frozen potatoes in terms of quality and nutritional content. Frozen US Potatoes are, in fact, a whole lot better because they meet strict FDA and USDA specifications—a reason why they have become the top choice of renowned chefs all over the world.

US Frozen Pototoes from USPB

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VIP Experience at Chef’s Table in Finestra of Solaire

One might wonder why Italian food thrives in the Philippines when most of our cuisine’s influences resulted from years of colonization or inter-country trades, neither of which the Italians were ever involved. However, there’s one possible answer: Filipinos and Italians are both innately family-oriented. Cooking and eating are always a family affair, and the servings are, more often than not, geared to accommodating big families. And that was exactly what the Chef’s Table of Finestra Italian Restaurant in Solaire Resort and Casino aimed to do – to submerge an intimate group into a one-of-a-kind culinary experience.

Chef's Table at Finestra in Solaire Resort and Casino



Finestra Italian Restaurant

Solaire Resort and Casino brings the authentic colors and flavors of Italy closer to home at Finestra Restaurant. Among the four world-class food establishments that are housed in Solaire, only Finestra has a breathtaking panoramic view of Manila Bay – the best place to enjoy a sumptuous meal while watching the sunset.

Finestra Italian Restaurant in Solaire Resort and Casino

Aside from the big smiles and courteous greetings, the bar welcomes you like an old friend, egging you on to try their imported wines and special drinks that are not available anywhere else in Manila.

Bar at Finestra Italian Restaurant in Solaire Resort and Casino

But the real center of attraction in Finestra is their show kitchen, where you can see your chefs hard at work in preparing exquisite Italian dishes.

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A Luxurious Lunch at Spiral in Sofitel Manila

Our family loves eating at buffets. It all began when our Nanay finally decided that she’s too old to throw grand parties at home. We can’t blame her though. She painstakingly handles everything from planning, shopping, cooking, and even cleaning up. Since then, buffets have become our go-to place when we’re celebrating something special. We’ve tried a number of buffet places like Yakimix, Café Jeepney, Seoul Garden, 7 Corners of Crowne Plaza, F Restaurant at F1 Hotel and our recent favorite, Viking’s. But one place we’re dying to try is Spiral at Sofitel Manila. We were supposed to celebrate our nanay’s birthday at their restaurant earlier this year, but she had something else in mind.

The new Spiral buffet restaurant


The New Spiral

After the devastation Typhoon Pedring had caused, Spiral had to close for 13 months as it went under an $11-million renovation. They took inspiration from the Filipinos’ resilience and viewed all that has happened as a blessing in disguise. They were given a clean slate and a chance to start all over again. And as the saying goes — “When you’re down, there’s no way to go but up.” Boy, did Spiral soar high! The old Spiral was already great, but the new one definitely blew all competition out of the water!

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Your All-Time Favorites at Flapjacks

A good restaurant values its customers’ opinions and suggestions. A way of showcasing this is when a certain dish makes a re-appearance on the menu due to popular demand from their avid patrons. And this is exactly what Flapjacks is doing now, by re-introducing four (4) of their signature dishes with Back…Better…Best!

You can start your meal by experiencing a nice play of textures and flavors with a plate of Mango Exotica. It’s a light but quite filling meal with a delightful mix of Romaine lettuce, sweet bites of California raisins, croutons, succulent grilled chicken slices, with almond slivers for that extra crunch, all tossed in a tangy and sweet mango vinaigrette.

Mango Exotica - Flapjacks - CertifiedFoodies

Mango Exotica (Lunch Php 195 | Dinner Php 325)

Another dish that is making a comeback is the Chicken Stuffed Parmigiana. It’s a plate of tender chicken breasts, stuffed with fresh cheddar cheese which are breaded then fried and topped on a bed of linguine pasta and marinara sauce.


Chicken Stuffed Parmigiana (Php 325)

This one is a personal favorite. The Lemon-Pepper Pan Seared White Fish is a plate of heavenly flavors with its mildly seasoned white fish with freshly squeezed lemon and pepper, pan fried in olive oil. It is served with herb rice and chef’s veggies.


Lemon-Pepper Pan Seared White Fish (Php 295)

The Original Hashbrown Burger closes the list of dishes for Flapjack’s “Back…Better…Best.” This huge burger is made up of mouth-watering pan-seared all-beef patty with fresh tomatoes and lettuce, topped with golden fried hash brown and American cheese, served with potato fries on the side.


Original Hashbrown Burger (Php 350)

And of course, aside from the “Back…Better…Best” selection, there are lots of other dishes, desserts and beverages you can try at Flapjacks.

For our beverages, I ordered the Ginger’s Lemonade, which was an amazing discovery. I’m a huge fan of lemonades, but this interpretation was surprisingly good and very refreshing. And come on, I used to hate ginger, but now with this drink, I don’t think I’ll ever want my lemonade without it.

My sister Mhel opted for the Granny’s Favorite probably because she’s ancient and all that. 😀 Kidding. I pushed her on ordering this because I was very intrigued how a combination of apples, oranges, and grapes would taste like. And again, the drink was such a revelation. You would think it’s a smoothie of a single fruit if you don’t stop and really taste what’s in it.


(Left) Ginger’s Lemonade – Php 75   |   (Right) Granny’s Favorite – Php 125

And to feed my obsession with hot wings, we ordered their Traditional Buffalo Wings. These are chicken wings lightly breaded, cooked to perfection, and served with bleu cheese dressing. Just the way I like it, the wings were very spicy and tangy because of the cayenne pepper hot sauce. And I loved how spooning out some bleu cheese dressing helped lessen the spiciness on my tongue.


Traditional Buffalo Wings (Php 295)

We also ordered the New Orleans Seafood Gumbo, which is a plate of  sautéed cajun spiced shrimps, calamari, and dory fish, served with garlic rice. And a little running tip for those who would like to try this dish: Don’t forget to squeeze the lemon. If not, the dish would come off as too salty.


New Orleans Seafood Gumbo (Php 265)

My sister and I really hope that this Bacon Wrapped Pork Medallions will never leave Flapjacks’ menu. It was so good that my sister can’t stop raving about that Tex-Mex (Texan-Mexican) rice giving a nice complement to those moist and tender pork medallions.


Bacon Wrapped Pork Medallions (Php 345)

Lastly for dessert, though I was really craving for some cheesecake, we ordered a plate of Bread Pudding. This dessert was just of the right sweetness. And it would have been better if the bread pudding was warmer than it was to provide a nice contrast in temperature with the vanilla ice cream. Not Flapjacks’ fault though. It took me over 10 minutes to get the shot that I want, so it went cold.


Bread Pudding (Php 195)

We dined at Flapjacks’ in Robinsons Place Manila Midtown. I loved the look and feel of the interiors, especially those light fixtures on the ceiling.




And this is me drinking Granny’s Favorite. It was my sister who took the shot. I was busy thinking of what to say about the drink, hence the serious face. 😀

Me seriously thinking about what to say about Granny's Favorite

Flapjacks made our wishes come true by bringing back our all-time favorite dishes with “Back…Better…Best,” and now it’s our time to drop them a visit and indulge.

Flapjacks restaurants are located in Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center; Theater Mall, Greenhills; Al Fresco, Midtown; and UP Ayala Technohub. To receive special news and deals from Flapjacks, sign up at mybistro.com.ph or visit their website at flapjacks.com.ph.

Plates of the Caribbean: Surf and Turf Goodness from Fish & Co

Fish & Co - CertifiedFoodies.com

Ahoy, mates! Fish & Co., the Singapore-bred restaurant that has enticed the Filipino palates with their best-selling seafood fare, had set sail across the Atlantic Ocean and captured the flavors exotic to the islands of the West Indies in their latest menu addition the “Plates of the Caribbean”.

Plates of the Caribbean - CertifiedFoodies.com

Being a Filipino, I’m accustomed to having rice and meat combinations in most of my meals, so a dinner of merely “fish and chips” may deem unsatisfying to my appetite. Relatively, Fish & Co. recognized the need to introduce more meat dishes in their menu as a strategy to reel in more rice-and-meat-loving Pinoys.

Early this year, they launched the Fish and Ribs as a means of testing the waters to see how their meat dishes will fare in the market. The dish was well-accepted by their guests, thus resulting now to the creation of the Plates of the Caribbean, which promised to incorporate more fish, seafood, chicken, pork, beef, and vegetables into Fish & Co’s menu.

The Plates of the Caribbean presents 5 new surf and turf dishes named after five island destinations in the Caribbean. They are the islands of Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Montserrat, and Saint Lucia. And to complement these five sumptuous fare, three new refreshing beverages were also added – the Juice Almighty, the Cool Cucumber Breeze, and the Veggie-Fruit Blast.

Fish & Co's Plates of the Caribbean - CertifiedFoodies.com

From Top Left: Saint Lucia, Montserrat, Dominica, Barbados,Bahamas, Juice Almighty, Cool Cucumber Breeze, and Veggie-Fruit Blast.


For Sharing or for the Lone Pirate?

The Plates of the Caribbean are available in Regular and Just For Me portions. Regular is enough to feed 2-3 hungry pirates, while the Just For Me portion is for those pirates dining alone, or for those who prefer smaller servings of the dishes.

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Start Your Culinary Dreams at Global Culinary and Hospitality Academy

I dream to be a full-fledged chef someday soon - CertifiedFoodies.comAfter I came back from my “short vacation” in Singapore, I was determined to pursue my passion in cooking. And with a little badgering help from my ever-supportive sister, Mhel, we were able to convince my Nanay to finance my culinary education.

I scoured the internet in search of the best culinary schools in the Philippines, but making sure to prioritize affordability and quality of education above all other criteria. I was able to narrow down my choices between two schools. There is one institute offering a concise culinary program that lasts for a short period of 7 months (4 months of lecture and 3 months of OJT), which grants students who successfully finish the course with only a Certificate in Professional Culinary Arts. While my other choice, Global Culinary & Hospitality Academy, for almost the same price, is proud to offer a program considered a major first in the culinary industry – the Grand Diploma in Professional Culinary, Baking and Pastry Arts.

To be honest, it wasn’t a tough decision to make at all. Global Academy surely had this one in the bag!

Global Culinary and Hospitality Academy - CertifiedFoodies.com

My Nanay and I went to Global Academy’s Timog branch, which was most convenient for it’s nearest to our place. There we met their very accommodating marketing team, who gave us a short tour of their facilities, explained to us in detail the various programs they offer, and informed us of what my Nanay was dying to ask from the moment we got there – payment plans.

Global Culinary & Hospitality Academy boasts of their affordable TESDA-accredited programs for Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts, Certificate in Professional Baking & Pastry Arts, and their Grand Diploma Program that I mentioned earlier. And for those who prefer a more fast-paced and concise course, Global Academy also provides Fast-Track Programs for either Culinary Arts or the Grand Diploma Program.


Since it’s my goal to learn and experience as much as I can to master the art of cooking, I thought it’s only proper to enroll in the Grand Diploma Program. It’s a combination of the two courses, Culinary Arts and Baking & Pastry Art, which ensures graduates of the program a better edge in landing a job here and abroad, especially now that employers prefer having well-rounded people skilled at performing multiple functions in the kitchen. And the tuition fee for the Grand Diploma Program is definitely a good deal, since it would cost much, much more if the two courses were taken separately.

Open House at Global Academy's Pasig campus - CertifiedFoodies.comMoving forward, as part of the admission process, I was required to take a short exam, followed by a one-on-one interview with their marketing representative. Our conversation got really interesting when I mentioned that my sister and I share a food blog where we write about our food adventures and discoveries. The representative was quick to inform me that their Pasig Branch has moved to a new and bigger location and that they are planning to host a Blogger Event to showcase the branch’s new facilities. No date has been set yet for the event, so she promised to update us as soon as everything has been settled.

Sure enough, we received an invite for Global Academy’s Pasig Branch Open House Event, scheduled June 8, 2011. We opted to attend the second batch at 2:00PM because the first was set too early (for us anyway) at 9:00AM. The new Pasig Branch is located at the 4th Floor of Millennium Place,Meralco Ave. and Sapphire Rd., Ortigas Center, Pasig City. It’s a couple of buildings away from Robinson’s Galleria or just a short jeepney-ride if you’re coming from EDSA.

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The Art of Cheese : Perfect Italiano Second Mystery Dinner

I heard about Perfect Italiano’s Mystery Dinners (aka guerilla dinners) from fellow bloggers and I was hoping my brother Ken and I would get to join next time around. So, when I found out on Perfect Italiano’s Facebook page that the signups for the second Mystery Dinner was open, I immediately informed him and my blogger friends to try their luck, too. Fortunately, Ken and I were picked to join their upcoming Mystery Dinner. And on May 13th, we were both excited about it, especially after we received the invite a day or two before. The only clues we received were to wear something artsy or with loud prints. Plus, this: A clue to the theme of Perfect Italiano's Second rMystery Dinner - CertifiedFoodies.com We were told to be at Starbucks Magallanes and we’ll be “whisked away” to the mystery location for the dinner. After we met a few more people who got invited, including Richard from Tales from the Tummy, we headed off to the house of the mystery host somewhere around the area of Magallanes. Aside from the lovely people from Perfect Italiano, we also met Chef JJ Yulo of Pinoy Eats World, chefs who organize mystery or guerilla dinners and food tours in and around the Metro. Here he is, telling us briefly about the host. Chef JJ with a few words before we were let inside the house for the Mystery Dinner - CertifiedFoodies.com Inside, we were greeted by the lovely Aleth Ocampo-Mapa. She’s an artist and loves to cook and bake, too. We were also introduced to Chef Namee who is a part of Pinoy Eats World. She and Chef JJ prepared all 8 courses for our dinner that night.

The lovely host Aleth with Chef JJ and Namee who prepared all the delectable food - CertifiedFoodies.com(Photo from Perfect Italiano’s FB page)

Wait, did you read that part when I said we had an 8-course meal that night?! YES! If we only knew we’d  be eating that amount of food, we wouldn’t have had anything before dinner! 😀

All of us who were at the table - CertifiedFoodies.comOur fellow diners at the table, smiling for the camera while waiting on our first course.

(Photo from Perfect Italiano’s FB page) We were all seated at a long table. In front of us were the menu and info about the different cheeses of Perfect Italiano. The menu and the theme of the Mystery Dinner was revealed - The Art of Cheese - CertifiedFoodies.com Continue reading The Art of Cheese : Perfect Italiano Second Mystery Dinner