Sunday, February 24, 2008


I don't know about you, but i like to keep my balls clean and nice-smelling, with no fluffy hairs about, just in case someone would like to touch them, juggle them about, smell them, and play with them.

Of course, what i'm talking about are my tennis balls.

While browsing for fencing gear, i chanced upon the "Gold Dacos" brand of tennis balls, being sold in cans of two (instead of the normal 3 balls per can). Turns out its a Chinese brand fairly new to the market. Priced at PHP130.00 (vs. around PHP250 - 270 for a 3-ball can), they seemed a good bargain.

So i bought one, being curious how these balls would hold up in actual play, compared to the established brands like Prince, Penn, Wilson, Dunlop, etc.
I'm a bit anal about the tennis balls i use, preferring the Slazenger brand because of their 'feel' and durability. The worst ball i ever used was Penn, which felt like a rock upon impact to my racquet.

A few hours later, i was at the tennis court, about to start playing a set vs. my friend Peaches.

I duly opened the Gold Dacos can.
As i pulled on the aluminum tab, a Psst! sound ensued as air pressure was released. Then i took the bright-yellow balls with markings intact and absent of any fluff into my hand, juggled them a bit and smelled them.
Pooey!! They smelled really terrible! Like, like. . .words fail me. . .normally, i love smelling brand-new balls, as i find the solvent/rugby smell oddly sweet and mildly intoxicating.

But this was way, way different. This was more like rotten eggs oven-baked in cow manure for a week, and then blasted with fart and petrol.

What's worse, after we finished our set, the smell lingered on my hands. Yuck! Peaches even commented that she could smell the foul odor as the ball flew towards her during our match. Yeah, it was that bad.

I showed the balls to my friends at the club, asking "Want to smell something really terrible?" Uniformly, they all took a sniff and recoiled backwards.

In fairness, the balls felt okay. They seemed a bit harder on impact compared to my preferred Slazengers, but nothing like those Penn balls.

And their cheap price makes them attractive for players on a tight budget, who are not particular about the brand they use.

But i've decided they're not for me. Ang bantot talaga eh!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

G.U.S. NITPICKS!! (V. 16)


Another year, another birthday.

Since my extensive list of Things-to-Change-for-the-Better-about-Myself-Before-I- Turn-Another-Year-Older (Item No. 1 : Stop being so grumpy) had pretty much been left unchecked and totally forgotten, why not celebrate anyway with a visit to Antonio's, widely acknowledged as THE fine-dining destination in Tagaytay?

It had been more than 2 years since i was last here, and i was curious about: whether they have made any changes in the menu / interiors / etc.; and whether the food (oh, the food!) was still up to the same lofty standards.

Right off the bat, we got some answers. Their entrance gate and parking area had been upgraded. The interiors were pretty much the same as before, which is good, since they have quite a lovely place. You will be seated either in the outdoor dining area, or near the pond teeming with koi fish, or inside the high-ceilinged dining room.
Let us let the pics below do the talking:

Onwards to the food. The menu has been expanded, with more choices of entrees and desserts.

The way it works at Antonio's is this: You order a set menu, inclusive of House Salad, Soup of the Day, Entree, Dessert and Coffee or tea. Your choice of entree will be the price of your set menu.

We started off with 2 appetizers (Note: Not included in the set menu), Portobello Mushrooms [not pictured] and New Zealand Mussels [see pic below]. Regretfully, i forgot to note down their full descriptions; but both were pretty good, especially the mussels.

House Salad, also known by its fancier name, Antonio's Fresh Mesclun Salad from the Garden

I normally steer way clear of salads (or any kind of greens, for that matter), but this was an exception. After all, rarely does one get served a salad with raspberry vinaigrette and blue cheese. Very, very good.

According to our server, they have their own farm in Amadeo, Cavite for their supply of organic greens and garnishes, which is also sold to leading hotels in Makati.

Up next was the Soup of the Day [not pictured]. From previous experience, i felt their soup is their weakest point. It is invariably a cream-based soup, whether of mushroom, pumpkin, etc., and invariably the cream overpowers the ingredient.

Today was, regretfully, exactly the same. The Cream of Prawn Bisque was a tad too salty, and had this rather off taste which didn't go down well in our table. Most everyone gave it the thumbs-down; as for myself, i just finished half before giving up. Strangely though, my niece liked it and drank more than 2 cups!

Now for the entrees. The food was generally exceptional, so to avoid being repetitive, i'll just mention if something went wrong or is of special interest:

Roasted Duck Breast infused with Truffle, Seared Foie Gras on Braised Red Cabbage (PHP1,500)

Grilled Gindara, Prawn & Scallops on Chorizo Bilbao Rice with Parsley Chimichurri (PHP1,450)

The prawn was overcooked, and there was only one scallop (not "scallops" as written on the menu), which was rather bland in taste, too.

Antonio's Trio, Beef Fillet on Plancha with Black Pepper Sauce, Grilled Sea Bass on Truffle Mashed with Salad Relish, Honey Glazed Lambloin Gratinated with Goat Cheese (PHP1,600)

Looks like something you'd see on Iron Chef America, huh? It was almost like a degustacion menu-type of dish. My sister felt the portions were just right, and you get to sample the best of what Antonio's can do.

Grilled Marinated Lamb Cutlets with Lemongrass Chimichurri (PHP1,450)

The drinks (Note: Not included in the set menu) were equally faultless. Their House Dalandan juice (PHP150, refillable) is simply superb, with just the right balance of flavor and sweetness without being cloying; and the Fresh Herbal Tea (PHP100, one pitcher) was not bad, either. It came in this really nice-looking pitcher, which had my other sister inquiring where it can be bought.

Ah! Now for our favorite part of the meal, desserts!

Panna Cotta with Fruit Coulis

I thought it was almost too pretty to be eaten, hehe. Extremely good! I only wished the portion was 3X larger!

Profiteroles with Chocolate sauce

Not really that special, according to my sister-in-law, who takes her desserts very seriously.

Antonio's Flourless Chocolate cake

We also ordered the Caramel Cake, Vanilla ice cream with roasted Pecan; and
Dark Chocolate Souffle with Cardamom Creme Anglaise [both not pictured].
The former was just so-so, while we were more divided in opinion on the latter. I thought it was really tasty and satisfying, but not everyone else appreciated the synergy between chocolate and cardamom.

After such a hearty meal, nothing's better than to laze around and relax (and ponder the meaning of life? Haha). Check out this really cool sofa:

To wrap things up, a visit to Antonio's is pricey (expect to spend between PHP1,500 to PHP2,000/pax) and takes more than the usual amount of effort. I'm talking not only about the long drive from Manila, but also the fact that you have to reserve ahead (they will NOT entertain walk-in customers under any circumstances).

But so what? The place is charming and romantic (i attended a wedding here before, and it was as perfect as can be), the Tagaytay breeze balmy; and most important of all, the food lives up to its billing, and is amongst the best you can find.

A return visit BEFORE my next birthday is definitely in the cards!

(Antonio's is at Bgy. Neogan, Tagaytay City. For inquiries and reservations, call +63 917 8992866)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

G.U.S. NITPICKS!! (V. 15)


My much-delayed get-together with charming J., R. and XQ was finally all set and pushing through. R. and i decided on a non-mall-based resto in Makati (one can only take so much of Greenbelt and Serendra), and settled on Apartment 1B due to the good reviews we've read on some blogs about it.

And the place does have extremely nice decor! (see photo above) It gave off this comfy vibe, as though you were dining in the house of a friend, who just happened to be a gifted interior designer. Something like that.

As for the food, Apartment 1B calls its cuisine "Gourmet Comfort Food". I personally had no idea what this phrase exactly meant, but never mind. Scanning the menu, i was taken aback by how pricey this resto was. This had better be good, i inwardly grumbled.

For starters, we had the Baked Samosas (mushrooms, spinach and cheese) [not pictured], which proved to be quite flavorful and crunchy. At PHP260.00 for 4 pieces, not such a bad deal. I wouldn't have minded eating all four pieces!!! :D

The Roasted Half Chicken (PHP370.00) was, for me, by far the best entree we ordered. Meat was tender, and you could taste the herbs & spices.

Grilled Pork Chops (PHP430.00), with apple sauce and potato-corn gratin, was okay, nothing great. XQ liked the apple sauce, though.

But really, for this price, you would expect at least 2 pork chops, right?
And bigger-sized ones, at that!?

This Whole Wheat Spaghetti (PHP350.00) looked rather hideous, and i didn't bother to take a bite. Forget to ask what my friends thought, but at any rate, around half of this dish went unfinished.

Overall, i felt the entrees were somewhat lacking in presentation. Its like, when you see the food being served on the table, there's no "WOW!" factor and you wouldn't feel excited about tasting them.

Anyway, let's talk about the desserts. We ordered the Frozen Pie (vanilla ice cream, Oreo crust, chocolate & caramel sauce) at PHP170.00; and the vanilla bean Creme Brulee (PHP160.00).

The Frozen Pie was nothing short of fantastic! An absolute steal for its price!

However, the Creme Brulee was a total let-down.
Let me count the ways: R. and i agreed it should have been served a bit colder; it had squishy texture, almost half-liquid; and it tasted cloyingly sweet. Definitely NOT good!

With drinks, soup, etc., i would estimate an average bill per person would run to PHP 700 - 850 at this place; which isn't good value for money, since the food was just okay, nothing particularly great.

So, now i know what Apartment 1B means by "Gourmet Comfort Food". It's simply a fancy way of offering ordinary food at inflated prices!

Apartment 1B is located at One Lafayette Square, 132 L.P. Leviste St. corner Sedeno St., Salcedo Village, Makati City. Tel. no. is 843-40-75)