Friday, January 16, 2015

DAVAO EATS: Aling Foping's Halo-Halo + BluGre Coffee

During our first night in Davao, we decided to go to the Matina Town Square, a complex of shops, restos and bars, for dinner. I had imagined it to be a fairly upscale place, which proved NOT to be the case - it reminded me of Tiendesitas!

Anyways, I had heard of Aling Foping's Halo-Halo (via Instagram), so even if i wasn't feeling quite well with a dry cough and cold,  this proved not to be a deterrent to try their halo-halo. 

The order process starts by getting the selection list (pictured below). Basically, you customize your halo-halo by specifying which six (6) ingredients you want it to contain. If you want to pile it on relentlessly (like moi), you just pay extra - PHP20.00 for leche flan (creme caramel) and ube (purple yam), and PHP14.00 for the other ingredients. 

Then you pay at the counter, and after a couple of minutes' wait, they call your number and you get your customized halo-halo.

   And viola!

I really wouldn't say Aling Foping's is the best halo-halo ever, but it is quite good. It is chunky - you feel like you are biting into a lot of things, as compared to the more simple Kabigting's (the worst halo-halo ever, in my humble opinion) or Razon's of Pampanga. It is ideal for people who like to have lots of different ingredients. 

We also dropped by BluGre Coffee, a homegrown coffee chain known for using the exotic fruit durian in their concoctions. By way of background, the durian is known for its awful smell. 

This smell (or more accurately, stench) has been described by food writer Richard Sterling as 'pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock'. The New York Times allowed that 'when ripe, it can smell like a dead animal' Hmm, not very inspiring, huh? :D

But on the other hand, the taste has been described as 'heavenly' and 'custardy'. So it can't be all that bad, right?

BluGre has two items on their drinks list which are infused with the durian flavor, namely: Durian Coffeeccino (hot), and the Durian Arctic Blast Ice Blended (cold). 

We tried both drinks, and once you get past that distinct durian taste, they were actually good. We also ordered the Durian Dulce de Leche Cheesecake [sorry, no photo due to low-light conditions]; and it had good texture and a sweetish, pleasant taste. I wouldn't mind eating more of it in the future!

Moral of the story: (Tell your friends to) stay away from durian, but (let them) eat durian cheesecake. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

DAVAO EATS: Lyndon's World's Worst Ribs & Awful Chicken + sagingrepablik

Was in Durian City over the Christmas holidays; and of course, a large part of the trip was devoted to eating at local restos. I had stumbled upon Lyndon's on the Instagram account of a semi-famous foodie blogger, and was immediately intrigued by the name. 

 What self-respecting restaurant would call its ribs the "world's worst" and its chicken "awful"? 

Of course, yours grumpily just had to investigate. So we set off one evening, hailing a taxi which took us to the downtown part of Davao City. Truth be told, the area looked rather sketchy (i guess it's like being along C.M. Recto in Manila at night); and Lyndon's turned out to be a more unassuming establishment than we had thought.

Check out their menu pages for more imaginatively (and self-deprecatingly) named dishes. Here's the eponymous ribs, and you can specify the quantity you wanted to order:

Lyla's (Lyndon's sister, perhaps?) Awful Chicken:

"Disgusting" Tilapia, represent!

The two tasteless pancits!

Han's Horrible Spicy Mechado and Leonardo's Rubbish Caldereta:

Naturally, we asked the waiter why their dishes were named as such. He admitted that it was really to downplay or lessen the customers' expectations of the food. Hmm, maybe there is something to be said about this particular strategy.

Ah, so we quickly dug in once our food came out.  Here's my friend Nanndeau's ribs, which looked really appetizing:

And here was my awful chicken order.

Both dishes proved to be quite tasty, and definitely nowhere near being the worst in the world. And good value for money too! Another person in our group surmised that the ribs were marinated in Sprite, which helped account for its delicious taste. 

And check out Lyndon's colourful decor as well:

What can i say? There's definitely method to the owner's madness ;-D

After dinner, we hied off to nearby sagingrepablik, which we had passed by the day before and made a note to check out. We had imagined it to be a hipster-ish cafe, due to its industrial minimalist interiors, and punny name (which was a play on that American apparel brand).

It was fairly deserted when we arrived around 9PM, but in an hour's time, became packed. Whoa! Apparently, they served meals as well.

I had ordered the Gigingka Solo with queso (below), which was basically bibingka (rice cake) using bananas. So-so, it was dry.

We also ordered their signature cake, the Banana Walnut Torte. Proved to be above-average, not too sweet; and they didn't scrimp on the ingredients.

The Cavendish chips with dip were very good!

Cappuccino was also okay.

Check out the cute little bucket with stand,  where they put one's change and receipt. So cute, we thought momentarily of stealing it. Hehehe! :D

sagingrepablik has a very nice line of apparel for sale, with understated and witty designs, and comfy cotton material . I was really keen to buy a shirt or two (or three, actually), but unfortunately their sizes were really very very small (i couldn't fit into the XL, tsk tsk ;-() Too bad.

Personally, i liked sagingrepablik and was, in fact, kidding Nanndeau to franchise it in Manila. However, if the establishment is to go beyond being a curiousity and becoming a regular fixture, the food has to live up to the interiors - in terms of taste and variety. 


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

INTREPIDLY, FROM BERLIN TO VENICE (Part 6): Second Time's Still the Charm in Venezia

(This is the final post of my Berlin to Venice trip series via Intrepid Travel. Do send me an email at for any questions or requests for travel tips - i'm perfectly willing to help)

So, we come to the final stop of our trip, Venice. This was the only city in our tour that i had previously visited (two years ago); but i was still giddy with excitement as we boarded the train from Bled, bound for Venice. 

Yes, Venice is crowded, expensive, easy to get lost in, very touristy; and depending on the time of the year, flooding at Piazza San Marco is a very real concern. Yet, it has so much charm, and is unlike anywhere else on earth. 

Throngs of tourists at Piazza San Marco

Feed the pigeons at your own risk (in front of Doge Palace)

Unfortunately, our stay in Venice this time around was very short (it was the last night of the tour, and we all went off our separate ways the morning after) So, total stay was less than 24 hours. Tsk tsk. 

Unlike my event-filled first time in Venice, wherein i rode the gondola (a must-try for first-timers, in my humble opinion), visited the outer islands of San Giorgio Maggiore (best to go on a weekend and join the tour inside the monastery), Murano and Burano (colourful houses and general lazing around), and joined the Secret Itineraries tour of Doge Palace (worth the money), this time i opted to just walk around and take in the sights and ride the vaporetto (i.e. public water bus with fixed routes and time schedules) and get down on the stops that seemed interesting. I did have a list of establishments that i wanted to try, too.

The (in)famous Bridge of Sighs

Entrance of Hotel Danieli - where Angie and Johnny stayed in the movie "The Tourist"

Gondoliers waiting for tourists like YOU!
I had mentioned that taking a gondola ride is a must for first-timers to Venice, not that it is the greatest thing on earth. Far from it, actually. It is expensive and unromantic (the gondolier does not warble 'O Sole Mio' unprompted), and one is probably better off walking. But one cannot really form a definitive opinion about it, unless one actually tries it. So, try it!

5 Gondolas in a row

Empty gondolas with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the background

Speaking of gondoliers, these guys sure do know how to have fun. :D Check out this photo taken by my tour mate Maia: 

The timing of our stop in Venice was rather auspicious, as the Venice Art Biennale (a biannual celebration of art, architecture, music, theatre, dance and cinema) was ongoing. Here is one art installation in front of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church:

(Our stay was also a week after the lavish wedding in Venice of that actor who appeared in 'Batman', 'Oceans Eleven' and 'Monuments Men', Clooney whats-his-name)

Venice is perfect for taking long, aimless strolls - you will definitely get lost. But not to worry, just check out the brown signages on the streets to orient yourself and know which direction you should be headed. 

To Piazza San Marco

To Piazzale Roma (square where the bus station is) and Alla Ferrovia (railway station)

To the over-rated tourist spot, Rialto Bridge
As for buying souvenirs, caveat emptor! i'd guesstimate that most of the trinkets, accessories and leather goods being sold in stores along the main tourist strip probably come from China. And if you see African-American men peddling designer bags on the streets, these are definitely 100% fake and it is illegal to buy from them.

In fact, some shops have taken the step to put explicit signs regarding the provenance of their wares:


And eat as the Venetians do. Rather than a full sit-down meal, you can try as many cichetti bars (known as 'bacari') as you like. These are similar to Spanish tapas (small plates), and you eat standing up in a bar. Just point to whatever you fancy (the food is typically displayed on plates behind glass shelves), and move on to another one afterwards. There are many of these establishments in the small streets surrounding Rialto Bridge. 

Calamari on the go
One discovery (thank you very much, New York Times!) was Suso Gelatoteca, located at Calle Della Bissa. It is very hard to give exact directions on where it is, but it is quite near Rialto Bridge. 

As it was 11AM and there were no other customers, i was able to have a brief chat with the owner (the lady above), and she said this was their first and only branch in the world. 

They supply some other gelaterias with the regular flavors - fragola, tiramisu, vaniglia, limone, etc.; but some flavors are their exclusive creations, and only sold here.These are the more expensive ones priced at EURO2.00 per scoop - Manet (salted pistachio with chocolate-hazelnut gianduia), Opera, Napoleone, etc.

I ordered a scoop of the Manet. The flavors just explode in your mouth! Really rich and tasty! I would have brought home a gallon if it were only possible. 

Here's the link to their website - they don't seem to have Facebook, Instagram or other social media presence.

If all this proves to be too tiring, dear tourist, i would recommend riding the vaporetto (buy a day pass to save money!) and sitting back and let your mind adrift as you sail along the Grand Canal. Take in the chilly weather, historical buildings, general atmosphere, etc. 


You are in Venice, after all.