Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Ruins in Talisay

I had the chance to visit The Ruins in Talisay a few weeks ago, when I had to fly to Bacolod for work and my colleagues there were nice enough to squeeze in a little bit of sightseeing for us. I used to go to Bacolod for work around 10 years ago (in a different role), but The Ruins was not yet a destination then.

The story of The Ruins is quite interesting - because it's a really beautifully preserved structure that Don Mariano Lacson, a sugar baron, built in honor of the his wife Maria Braga (who died before she gave birth to their tenth child) where he and his unmarried children lived. The story gets intresting because the guerilla fighters set fire to the mansion just before World War 2 so that it won't be used as headquarters by the Japanese forces. 

The ruins was rehabilitated by Don Mariano's great grandson and was opened to the public in 2008 (so that's why I never heard of it when I used to fly to Bacolod for work before). Please take my version of the story with a grain of salt, since we arrived late for the tour, so I just caught snippets from that and filled in the blanks from different sources online.

They say the best time to visit The Ruins is around sunset, when you can see the reflection of the setting sun on The Ruins, but since we just squeezed in a visit after work - we missed that ideal time by a few minutes, and we arrived just before it got dark. Nevertheless, it was still very beautiful.

Shot in Vivid Mode on the Canon S95
Tourist Mode

The details are beautiful.

The grounds are beautifully landscaped too.

There is a Php95 entrance fee per person to enter the property, but you can explore to your heart's content, and there are free guided tours too to tell you about the history of the place.
The guy in the yellow shirt was the tour guide.
However, we only caught the tail end of this tour.
I think, the only information I got was that the initials
of Mariano and Maria are all over the place.

They even have a glass table on the garden from where you can take pics - to get the same effect as the reflection on water.  

Thanks Lycar for bringing us to The Ruins after a tiring rota day! It was definitely an attraction worth visiting. just saying.

The Ruins 
Directions available from their website

Monday, March 30, 2015

Apple Pie meets Cheesecake from Calea in Bacolod

I went to Bacolod for work last week and the main highlight of my trip was our visit to Calea, a place known for their really good cakes. 

I recognize some of Calea's cakes because they are so famous, office mates that visit Bacolod normally bring back goodies for us. At first I thought we were just getting a slice or two to share... but no! They have such a huge assortment, we ended ordering one cake each, then sharing. Hahaha.
Apple Pie Cheesecake, Floating Island, Pecan Pie,
Chocolate Cake with Mocha Filling and brewed coffee to go with it
The Pecan Pie was okay. But I can make better.
The Chocolate Cake was okay too, but their Imported Chocolate Cake,
with Caramel Filling - which was out of stock, was so much better in my opinion.
Meringue, Caramel - Yummy floating island for a change.
But the Apple Pie Cheesecake, this was the best.
Best Apple Pie and Best Cheesecake that I've ever had!

The Apple Pie Cheesecake was so good, I was craving for it the next day. I even bought a whole cake to bring home just to satisfy my craving. I even discovered you don't even need the caramel sauce (wasted calories if you ask me), because it's really good even without it.

Also goes really well with Nespresso. just saying.

Calea Cakes and Pastries
15th street Lacson st.
6100 Bacolod City

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Crepe Maker makes it so easy to make delicious authentic French crepes

When I was in Paris, there was a short period of time when I actually thought that I wasn't buying much, so I sort of panicked and looked for something to buy.
I entered the toy store to look for something for
Sofia but I found a crepe maker on sale at
half price instead. 
Needless to say, I ended up with the new toy. Sucker for a sale that I am, I really couldn't resist buying it for €12.50, and that was after I bought my Celine bag. My love for a sale and all things French made up for the excuse I couldn't use any more.
The business case was so simple. You can't say no to a crepe
maker that's cheaper than a crepe from Breizh Cafe!

Buying the crepe maker and carrying it home (while a bit of a hassle when you shop as much as I do) turned out to be the easier part.  It was much harder to find the time and energy to use it.

Good thing I finally got to use it before I forgot that I own one. (Note to self: I need to use the takoyaki maker I bought from Japan!)

I used the basic crepe recipe from my Quiche and Crepes
cookbook using eggs, milk, flour, salt, vanilla and melted butter.

The secret to making crepes with no bubbles is to let your batter rest so the flour can absorb the liquids.  Another secret if you're in a rush is 30 minutes is enough rest.
You can use this time to prepare the filling. 
Once you're ready, just switch on the crepe maker,  wait for the light to turn green, pour the batter and start spreading it quickly in a circular motion. 

The crepe vendors in Paris make it look so much easier than it really is. They say that you always need to throw away the first one, because that always doesn't come out nice. I think I threw away the first 4 I made.

Some tips so you can shorten your learning curve:
1. The crepe maker may be non-stick but the spreader isn't.  So grease, grease and grease! Otherwise, it won't spread anything. You'll just get a crumpled mess. 
2. Just spread in one one direction, otherwise you'll make holes!
3. It's all about balancing the amount of batter you put and spreading it quickly. If you pour too little,  you'll make holes. If you pour too much, it will cook before you spread everything. 
4. My most important tip: it's okay if it doesn't look perfect. Believe me, you can save it by plating it well. In fact, less crepe to fold means less carbs to eat and it will still taste amazing!
My first few crepes (that I got tired of throwing away) looked
like this. 
I was quite surprised when I made some that looked
quite acceptable.
Sof ordered a Nutella crepe. 
My mom wanted a ham and cheese crepe. 
My mom cooks really well so it was a big compliment when
she said that the crepe I made her was really good.
For myself, I made a scrambled egg, goat cheese and
truffle crepe.
It was so good with espresso. 
I love the crepe maker because you can regulate the heat, so you can fill them before making the next one, serving freshly made crepes every time, just the way they make them in Paris.

Since I made a whole batch of crepes anyway, I also made some dessert crepes.
Dulce de leche works really well, especially if you make it on
the grill because it melts and becomes more spreadable.
I also made one with fresh strawberries and cream. 
Then I topped it with home made berry jam. 

My aunts even came over for merienda and they gave the crepes
their stamp of approval too.
I made auntie Stella a dessert crepe, then I used the crepe maker to reheat the crepe which I used to make Ninang's savoury crepe. It looked so good when I was making it, Auntie Stella asked for one too.

I'm so happy with my crepe maker.  I'm glad I managed to justify to myself that I had to buy it. Just saying. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Revisiting Line, in my home away from home in Paris

One thing I love about using Airbnb when I travel is meeting new friends. Last year, I was brave enough to travel through Europe alone (which you can read about here), I stayed at Line's studio apartment in Montmartre and I absolutely loved the apartment and Line herself, my wonderful landlady. You can read about why here.  

I loved it so much, I said I will always stay with Line whenever I get a chance to go back to Paris, so when Ady and I were planning our trip, as early as 8-9 months away, I already checked Airbnb to reserve Line's studio, but even that early, it was already booked! Good thing we kept in touch through facebook, so I was able to drop her a note and ask her if her studio was available and she was nice enough to offer us her extra room for bed and breakfast.

I love Line's apartment in Montmartre.
She lives on the top floor, on the other side of the studio apartment that I stayed in last year.
She prepared her extra bed room for us.
It has it's own Toilet and Bath.
This is one side of the room (taken from the side with the window).
Line's small touches makes it feel like home.
and a view similar to that of the Studio apartment,
but a bit better because from here you can see the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The set-up is because Line makes you feel welcome, but at the same time both of you have your own privacy.
The door on the right is the Apartment entrance,
while the door on the left is the guest bedroom.
On the other side of the doorway, there's a washing area/
storage room where you can leave your big luggage,
then the farther door leads to Line's apartment - which she
opens for breakfast, and closes at other times for privacy.

Line welcomed us to Paris with a light dinner of zucchini soup (made with Boursin) that was so good.
She also always invites for glass of wine to relax at the end of the day.
Her cat, Tali, is well behaved too. 

Line also prepared breakfast for us everyday. We just agree on a convenient time (for us it was 9am), and she'd just leave her door open and we'd meander into her kitchen when we were ready to eat. Everything she fed us was really good, I also enjoyed watching her prepare the food because she made it look so easy to prepare good food. She was even willing to let me cook one dinner with her but we just had too little time in Paris for this trip.
On the first day, we had crepes.
The secret to this breakfast was Creme de Marrons
(chestnut cream) as the filling, and liquid cream as sauce.
If you want to buy some, they sell it by the tube in Angelina.
Day 2 Spread
On the second day, Line served really good Pain au Raisin from the
neighborhood patisserie.
I think the really good Pain au Raisin came from here,
an artisanal patisserie on Rue Lepic.
Florist on Rue Lepic.
You can read more about the area here.

I kept on telling my sister that Line made really good homemade berry jam, so while we were there, Line got pressured to make some for us.
Day 3 spread was scrambled egg galette (buckwheat crepe).
but the star of the show was the homemade berry jam.
So yummy with artisanal  baguette and butter.
On our last day, Line made another favorite of mine, authentic
French Toast.
Day 4 Spread
Line was totally disowning whatever French part I claimed to have in me
when I started eating the French toast with the jam... because
it was just so good, and we were already leaving so I needed to get my fill.
She was so nice, she even wrapped up a bottle for me to
take home to Sofia and the family.

Aside from the food and the warm hospitality, I love staying at Line's because of the area. In the 1900s, there used to be 14 windmills scattered around Montmartre - where wheat was milled. Now, there are just 3 left standing, and all of them are an easy walk from Line's flat. 

I'd say the most touristy one would be the Moulin Rouge, which is
right across the Blanche Metro.
Moulin Rouge selfies.
A corner away from the apartment is Cafe des 2 Moulins, where
Amelie worked in the movie. I even watched the movie before our trip.
Walking up the hill from the flat, will take you to Sacre Couer.
Selfie on the uphill climb...
You'll pass by Moulin de la Galette, made famous
by Renoir. 
Prerequisite selfies.
The weather was so bad on that day, it was drizzling such a fine mist, that it wasn't exactly necessary to carry an umbrella, but then you'll just realize too late that you're already very wet.

It's so easy to feel at home because even (the nano version of) my favorite
Supermarket- what used to be beside my Paris flat, also has a branch nearby.
I'm so used to staying with Line, I even know where the neighborhood
Poste is, because that's one stop I always visit to send Sofia's postcards.

View from our room at night.
I loved sleeping with the Eiffel Tower as my night light!

We enjoyed our stay so much, we bought Line a plant (with flowers) to
thank her for taking good care of us. She was laughing at my crazy French
when we gave it because I ended up telling her that She will miss me,
instead of the other way around, which I meant to write. Hahaha.
Thank you very much Line for the lovely stay! I can't wait to visit you again.
just saying.
You can find the link to Line's Airbnb Studio Apartment here, or drop me a message if you need to get in touch with her to ask about bed and breakfast in her extra room so I can drop her a note for you.