I have been craving for Milky Cakes and Sweets’ matcha mille crepe as soon as I saw some photos of it on their Facebook page. So I finally headed out to their stall at the ground floor of SM Lanang this morning after I finished with my errands. I bought a slice for take out and had it after lunch.
There are three things in matcha mille crepe that I love — matcha, crepes, and layers. But there is something about all of them together that did not quite work for me. I could taste the matcha and the crepe which is good. And yet there is something that I seem to be missing. Maybe it is all about the layers. My choices in cakes have always been simple. Maybe all that layering made it complicated for me. It got me thinking why I like layers in the first place.
When it comes to sweet treats, Davao has its share of the best ones in my book. I’m a bit picky with desserts and sweets. Anything that doesn’t have chocolate or green tea in it isn’t high on my list. But I’ve tasted a lot of Davao’s delicious durian everything – candies, coffees, cheesecakes, jams, pastillas, pies, and yema among others. I think that anyone who visits this place or knows anyone from here should give them a try. Here are some of what I usually give or recommend to friends:
I like everything from this brand. But it’s the 65% Dark Chocolate that really got me hooked. My first taste of it was a pleasant surprise. The quality was better than some of the artisanal local brands of chocolates I’ve tried in the past. The more recent ones I’ve tasted though are even better. I don’t know if they improved on it or not. All I know is that there’s something about its texture now that I really love.
Where to buy: Visit their website for a list of retailers or shop at their online store.
Cacao Davao Durian Filled Dark Chocolate
Cacao Davao has a wide range of products that include unsweetened 100% chocolate callets, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, and cocoa butter to name a few. But it’s their durian filled dark chocolate that makes me go the extra miles, literally. The store where they sell them is not along the usual routes I take or pass through when I’m downtown. But I find myself making the effort to go there, especially before I travel. It’s usually one of the pasalubongs or gifts I give to friends I’ll be meeting in my travels.
Where to buy: Cacao Davao, San Pedro Extension, Davao City (in front of Phoenix Gas Station)
Apo ni Lola Assorted Durian Candies
Apo ni Lola is one of my most recent discoveries. I didn’t even know that there was such a brand. I haven’t come across it before in my visits at the fruits stands in Magsaysay. I’m not sure if I just didn’t notice them or the fruit stalls I’ve been to don’t sell them. Apparently, this brand is an offshoot of the popular Lola Abon’s brand and is owned by a third generation member of the family. It was when I spent a night with my aunt and cousin at the Royal Mandaya Hotel that I found out about this. There was this small souvenir shop at the mezzanine that sells them at factory prices. I like their assorted durian candies, durian piayaya, and yema durian sandwich spread. I haven’t tried the durian hopia, but if it’s as good as the piayaya then I’ll probably love it as well.
Where to buy: Apo ni Lola, #28 San Miguel Village, Matina, Davao City; Souvenir shop at the Mezzanine of the Royal Mandaya Hotel, Palma Gil St., Davao City
The naive sixteen-year old probinsyana in me was shocked the first time I went to the market with my aunt the first few days after arriving in Manila several years ago. I was surprised at the prices of bananas and calamansi among others. Spending most of my early years in my grandparents’ home in the province made me clueless to the workings of a highly-urbanized city life.
I grew up in a place where a lot of things I wanted or needed were found and picked in my grandparents’ backyard. I lived in the midst of fruit-bearing trees like avocado, banana, cacao, guava, mango, pomelo, santol, and star fruit to name a few. I learned about drying and roasting coffee beans and cacao seeds after watching and helping my grandmother. My first taste of tablea and hot chocolate prepared in batirol was at my grandparents’ home.
Fast-forward to that day in a market somewhere in Manila, I stood there processing what I saw as my aunt paid for the things she bought. I think it was then that I realized that I was truly far from home and from everything that comfort represented. That moment gave me a glimpse of what my life would be in college and the years following that as I stayed in the big city.
Seven years after coming back to Davao for good, I still marvel at a lot of things that I used to take for granted — especially the fruits. Davao City may be urbanized, but it is not hard to find the finest fruits fresh from farms. And if you are lucky to find yourself in the city in August, you can have your fill of a wide array of fruits for cheap.
Fruits are among Davao’s treasures. This is why I was excited like many other Davaoenos when I heard about the Asian Fruit Market project. But I forgot about it until recently when I noticed that they have already initiated it. I passed by the area earlier but did not have time to explore the stalls. I noticed that at 11:00AM many of the booths were still empty. But I expect that things will be livelier later in the day. I think AFM is still at its initial phase. I cannot wait to see how it will look and feel like several weeks or months from now.
I love going to supermarkets when traveling. They are easily the best places to find necessities that I opt not to pack when I want to travel light. I also find it comforting to find familiar items which remind me of home.
Staying for three months at The Hague entailed a lot of cooking and grocery shopping. This meant frequent trips to the nearest supermarkets like Albert Heijn, Aldi, and Konmar. There were also visits to the open-air markets that I always enjoyed.
It has been years since that short stay but I still miss some of the items that have special spots on my list of favorite things:
Nothing prepared me for my first taste of these delicious treats. And they quickly became part of my daily life while I was there. The chewy confections were the only snacks I made sure I had in stock. I took a particular liking to one brand that has the finest (at least in my limited experience) small-sized and scrumptious stroopwafels. I found them at the first supermarket I visited. Thankfully, they were also available in the other supermarkets and small grocer stores so it was easy for me to get them. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of the brand. But I still have a picture of the packaging in my head.
I was not a cheese person before that trip. But I became a convert during my time at The Hague. Not only because Holland/The Netherlands is the home to the famous Goudse kaas. It was also because it was the first place where I found a wide array of cheeses almost everywhere. The supermarkets and open markets were veritable treasure troves of so many cheeses in all shapes and sizes. I could not even pronounce or read the names on the labels of some of the cheeses I found at the supermarkets. I just grabbed whatever looked good to me. Later on, I decided to sample as many kinds and that has been one of the best things that I did in my brief stay there.
This sausage is not only tasty. The cooked variety is also the most convenient and easiest to prepare. It is excellent for meals any time of the day. And I even loved making sandwiches out of them — with whatever cheese I had on hand.
The supermarkets’ chocolates aisles are little slices of heaven on earth. The Hague’s close proximity to Belgium and its other European neighbors famous for their chocolates meant there was no shortage of delightful treats to try. I opted for brands that were unfamiliar to me. And I was never disappointed with my picks.
5. Ice cream
I am ambivalent about ice cream. I could probably live without it. But I developed an appreciation for it in my sojourn at The Hague. It was probably because of the many Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs selections for me to choose from.
There is more to the city than these items that makes me yearn to go back. I may not have been to many places yet. But The Hague will always have a special place in my heart.
It is not every day that I find a Happy Place to add to my list. Maybe it is for lack of trying on my part for I do not venture out much. Or maybe, that inexplicable feeling that hits me when I find it does not surface easily. I prefer places away from the crowd or big enough to give me plenty of personal space where I could experience simple joys.
Among my happiest places in the world include the lakes where rowing has brought me over the years, the parks where I do my daily runs in The Hague, the pathways of Tokyo, the quiet roads of Aioi, Aizuwakamatsu and Minimi-aizu. The tree-lined streets of Jongno-gu, the old post town of Ouchi-juku, the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao, and the old village inside the vast park in Mungyeong likewise give me that deep feeling of contentment. The quaint cafes and restaurants found in towns and cities I have wandered into are also on that special list.
Manga Toshokan is a new addition to my happy place list. I have been planning to visit it soon after it opened last year. But I never got around to doing it.
The place is a book cafe with an extensive collection of manga as well as some good selections of classic and contemporary novels. The omurice I ordered was delicious and filling. The desserts were tempting. I opted for the chocolate chip cookies, which I found satisfying. The iced cafe latte could have been better. But I had no complaints. I was there for the manga. I did not do much reading though. There are plenty of time for that in future visits. Instead, I soaked in the simple pleasure of being there.
I do not know how different the experience would have been if the place was busy. But the quiet time I had there was a big draw for me. I can imagine myself spending hours there. I just have to time my visits well to avoid the crowd.
Manga Toshokan is located at Doors 4 and 5, Belfran Bldg., Palma Gil St. cor. CM Recto St., Davao City
For someone who loves tea, I have to admit I know little of the proper way to brew it. All I know is that I am not supposed to let the loose tea or a tea bag steep for 5 minutes or more as this will leave a bitter aftertaste. Last night’s attempt to prepare a drink from the Mountain Tea Leaves my sister brought home from Sagada made me realize why I have always been fascinated by the Japanese tea ceremony. There is so much to learn and enjoy from the process of preparing tea.
I have tried preparing loose leaf tea before. But it was the first time for me to brew one using full leaves so I had no idea what to do. I made the mistake of adding the leaves into the boiling water and letting it simmer for a few minutes. Once done, I somehow forgot to quickly remove the leaves. I got busy doing something else that by the time I remembered, the tea was already too bitter for me to enjoy. This later prompted the overthinker in me to ponder about the things I learned from my failed tea brewing experience.
1) The quality of work and effort you put into doing something is directly proportional to the quality of the results you get.
2) There are things you have to do slowly.
3) Paying attention and being present in every task increases the chances of success. And it creates a sense of fulfillment.
4) You do not always get it right the first time.
5) There is nothing much to be gained in dwelling on certain things for too long. Imagine life events like tea leaves that could produce bitter drinks if left to steep longer than they should. It is best to enjoy things or ponder on them for as long as you can then let go.
6) Take time to slow down. The best things in life, like a cup of tea, are best created or prepared slowly. So be mindful and give it all you’ve got.
It has been over a year or more since I last had kinilaw. I usually eat the dish when we prepare one at home. I tend to avoid ordering it in restaurants. In my almost 20 years living in Manila, I do not recall having kinilaw there. I just waited for the holidays or Christmas breaks I spent here at home to enjoy it.
I finally had kinilaw again last night at a restaurant near us. I once wrote something about how there seems to be grilled restaurants everywhere here in Davao. And that you have not truly experienced the city if you have not dined in one of them. The fact that there is now a Penong’s branch within walking distance from our village goes to show that their business just keeps growing.
Penong’s is one of my favorite value-for-money restaurants in Davao. It has been a while since I visited the place. Some of the selections on the menu were new to me. I quickly ordered the kinilaw and tried some of the new dishes they have.
My sister also ordered the i4 (2 pcs pork belly strips with unlimited rice) which tasted a lot like bacon. We also ordered the ice cream shakes. My sister picked durian while I opted for ube. The durian shake was good although she said she will ask them not to add condensed milk the next time she orders it. As for my ube shake, I was perfectly happy with it.
It was a good dinner. I was happy with the ambiance and service. I am looking forward to dining there again.
Lunch with friends a couple of weeks back was at a new place (at least to me). One of the said friends who had been there several times before recommended it. It was near Abreeza Mall so she told us to meet her there so we could all go together to the restaurant.
Wynward Valley Organic Vegetables Garden is only a few meters away from the exit near Italianni’s and TGI Friday’s in Abreeza. A friend and I arrived decided to walk there instead of taking her car. We went ahead because our other friends said they will be coming late.
I like the place though it was a bit hot. But there were wall fans near each table. I did not like my food getting cooled by the fan’s breeze so I chose to sit away from it. But since it was a humid day, it got a bit uncomfortable at some point. Still, it was not that bad. I think the interior and overall set-up matched what the garden bistro is about so I had no complaints. I just wished that the hot food was served much warmer. I do not know why they were already a tad cold when they reached our table.
Davao City may be my hometown, but it is still mostly unexplored territory to me. I spent most of my childhood days in my grandparents’ home in Davao del Norte. I only stayed in our home in the city when I started high school. Then I left for college in Manila soon after I graduated. In the four years I was studying in Davao, it was basically home-school-home for me. I did not really like going out for as long as I can remember. So I do not know much about our city.
I have been rediscovering Davao since I came back from Manila in 2009. I am still far from learning as much as I should by this time. But it is fun for me to discover new things about it as they come. Just this Friday night, I had a chance to experience the nightlife at Roxas avenue. I am familiar with the place since it is along the area where the college campus of my high school alma mater is located. From what I understood before, the street comes to life at night. And I finally got the chance to see it for myself.
I was expecting a place bustling with activity given all the things I have heard about it. But nothing prepared me for the huge crowd and traffic. It was because of all the days my friends and I could meet there, it had to be on a Friday night during the week of Kadayawan Festival. It was also a holiday and the day before the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan event. I imagine that most of the people I saw there were local tourists from different parts of the country. My friend told me that he had a hard time booking an accommodation since all the hotels and inns were fully booked.
The whole stretch of Roxas street was teeming with people and vehicles. Traffic was crawling. It took me some time to reach our meeting place. It was a lot like being in Myeong-dong sans all the awesome shops that draw people there. But what gave me the same vibe were the makeshift stalls selling clothes, food, trinkets, and a wide array of souvenirs. There was also that sea of people walking along the street. It was fun and overwhelming at the same time.
One of my friends led us to Lyndon’s World’s Worst Ribs and Awful Chicken. It was one of the many commercial and food establishments there. We arrived during dinner rush so I was not expecting much from our dining experience. The three of us met while working for a chain of a well-known group of restaurants. So we understand how crazy it gets once the rush begins.
Surprisingly, everything went smoothly. The service may not be at par with the standards in the restaurant we worked for before. But it was not bad either. It was several notches better than some I have experienced in the many restaurants I have been to here in Davao. The names on the menu were a misnomer. There was nothing bad about the ribs which the three of us had. It was tasty and tender. The shrimps we ordered tasted fresh.
I now understand why some people say it is one of the local restaurants to visit when in Davao. I was happy with the food we had and it was worth what we paid for. It is one of the places in the city where you can find good food at great value for your money.
I love August. And I’m loving it even more since I came back to my hometown. Here are the three best things about this month which are on top of everything that living in Davao entails.
1. In-Season Fruits
It’s the season of fruits. Mangosteen that costs as much as Php150-200/kilo during off-season are everywhere. Several makeshift stalls and parked vehicles sell them for as low as Php35/kilo. There’s also plenty of fruits like marang, rambutan, and durian. I usually have a limited list of fruits I like (i.e. ripe mangoes, avocados, marang, and lanzones). But even I get excited and have so much fun eating these colorful and delicious fruits.
It’s a festive time for the city. The events leading to Kadayawan week add to the build-up of anticipation and excitement. It’s a fitting festival not just to appreciate and highlight nature and bountiful harvests. It’s also a time to pay tribute to the city and region’s different indigenous people.
3. Sale and Big Discounts Everywhere
I’m more of a foodie than a shopaholic. I know that there are sales everywhere but I’m still surprised by the big discounts I get when I end up shopping. Yesterday I went to an eye center to have my eyes checked. It turned out my eye grade increased by .75 since the last time I had it checked. I had to have my eyeglasses’ lenses replaced while there. I was surprised that it was cheaper than I expected. I even got a surprise gift of colored contact lenses with my eye grade. It seems like all stores in the malls take part on the city-wide sales that last for weeks.
I may be biased about this since I live here. But I’ve been gone for almost 20 years before coming back so I’m still discovering a lot about this city. If there’s one thing I can say, it may not be perfect. But staying here doesn’t make me regret leaving Manila.