Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fun Ranch, Alabang

When my smart nephew and niece arrived one day with their latest stash of medals and trophies, the doting aunt in me instantly wanted to reward them. And what better way to give kids the time of their lives than to bring them to the playdium of their dreams.

The Fun Ranch in Alabang is an indoor playground with a variety of recreational activities for children like obstacles, trampolines, suspended bridges and slides. 

Unlimited Play Wristband, Php 350. Children 3 years old and below are required to bring an adult companion, free of charge. 

The tall slides are a favorite among the kids.
My son had to content himself with the mini slide since he's not yet allowed to ride the tall slides.

The tube slide scared my son a bit but he was brave enough to give it another try.

Soft foam play sets.

My son thoroughly enjoyed bouncing on the trampoline.

The play area is safe and childproof, but it may not be enough to leave adults unscathed. I went home with a bruised knee and a couple of scratches from bumping into some of the mazes and tubes which couldn't accommodate a clumsy oversized kid like me. Maybe, I'm just guilty of enjoying more than I should have.:)

After almost two hours inside the chaotic complex, I was finally able to convince the kids that it was time to go.

But not my son. He's obviously not willing to go yet.:)

We ordered some snacks at the Big Red Barn, the restaurant inside Fun Ranch.

They even have a space for children's parties.


French Fries, Php 105.

Crispy Calamari, Php 165. This was really good, amazingly crunchy and crispy.

Burgeritos, Php 205.

Nasty Nachos, Php 240. The nachos tasted more like deep fried dumpling wrappers and the salsa was worse than the bad ones you can buy in a bottle. I never would have thought they literally meant "nasty".:)

The kids had a great time.

The Fun Ranch in Alabang is definitely the ultimate place to go for kids and the kids-at-heart who seek to relive their childhood fantasies and turn them into reality.

Westgate Center Filinvest Alabang
Muntinlupa City
Tel +63 2 836 9387

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kohikan Café, Diamond Hotel

Call me "cake crazy", but I am the type of person who would shell out serious money just to add a couple of layers to a wedding cake. I have also traveled far just to get a pastry chef to bake me a Frog Prince fondant cake while following my very specific instructions from the cake's flavor down to the color of each decor.

Our wedding cake, June 2005.

My son's birthday cake, October 2010.

Cake is simply my favorite celebration centerpiece for by being able to recall its unique design brings me closer to the good times associated with each cake. I'm all for memories and if it takes a lifetime of cakes to mark all the special occasions in my life, than so be it.:)

My birthday cake, November 2011.

Last Mother's Day, I decided to try the supremely artisanal handiwork of Diamond Hotel's Kohikan Café. Admiring the meticulous craftsmanship of each French-inspired piece, I would say the 6 cakes in the box looked downright irresistible.

Supermoist Chocolate Cake, Php 250. The design is truly basic but the cake was nothing short of amazing. The chocolate frosting was perfect, not too sweet, and the cake was unbelievably moist.

Supermoist Chocolate Cake

Baked Cheesecake, Php 250. The texture was amazing, very creamy and rich, but I have had better.

Baked Cheesecake

Ispahan (A tangy mix of Raspberries, Lychee and Rose Essence), Php 250. My favorite among the 6. The delicate rose macarons were perfectly crisp and chewy. The fresh raspberries and lychee complemented each other to create one decadent masterpiece.


Vanessa (Fresh Strawberries and Cream flanked between Pistachio-Flavored Macarons), Php 250.  Pales  in comparison to Ispahan. I don't understand how the pistachio macarons' texture can be so different from the rose macarons of Ispahan. The pistachio meringue was too dry and crunchy. What's worse was that the strawberries didn't look fresh and tasted a bit sour. It left a sharp acidic aftertaste in my mouth when it combined with the cream. Yikes!


Mont Blanc (Chestnut Paste, Chantilly Cream and Prunes soaked in Dark Rum Almond Tart), Php 250. The taste of sweet chestnut paste just wasn't for me, but I can only imagine what sort of hard work it entails to turn this hard-shelled nut into a fluffy cream. While the addition of rum and prunes enriched its flavor and evoked a taste reminiscent of my favorite Christmas Fruit Cake , it's still not enough to strike my fancy.

Mont Blanc

St. Honore (Puff Pastry, Pâte à Choux and Purple Yam Ganache), Php 250. This one looked splendid but the melting pile of gooey ube (purple yam) ganache destroyed the cake even before it reached the party. Still, it was such a hit with my pamangkins (nephew and niece) who were big fans of ube ice cream. They gobbled up the poor thing before my husband was able to take a close-up shot. It's a miracle I even managed to get a bite out of the puff pastry that looked more like tiny donut munchkins topped with ube icing. Nothing so special, but lavish enough to pique the interest of our little guests.

A cake can be shared by 2-3 persons as a dessert. But for a snack, a piece would barely make a dent on your appetite.

And even though some of their creations weren't able to successfully satisfy my taste buds, the overall appeal of each one was enough to wow this cake connoisseur. If only for the "Ispahan", I would say Kohikan Café has turned me into one loyal customer.

Mother's Day, 2012.

Kohikan Café 
Ground Floor, Diamond Hotel
Roxas Boulevard cor. Dr. J. Quintos St.
Manila, Philippines
Tel. +63 2 528 3000

Baguio Burnham Suites

Baguio City, also called the City of Pines, has always been my dream vacation spot. Two decades ago, when the average person couldn't afford the luxury of air travel and before the rapid influx of world-class resorts in the country, the nearest place one can go to for some affordable yet memorable R & R was Baguio.

Lion's Head along Kennon Road. Baguio City's most famous landmark.

Widely-known for its cool climate, strawberries, Ube (Purple Yam) Jams and fresh produce, Baguio City still holds a place in the country's list of most visited tourist destinations. After all, it wasn't called the "Summer Capital of the Philippines" for nothing.

Strawberries from La Trinidad, otherwise known as the Strawberry Capital of the Philippines. The town is just a few kilometers away from Baguio City. 

Mountain Maid Ube (Purple Yam) Jams, Php 140/small jar. Each bottle is manufactured by nuns of  the Good Shephered Convent. Sales proceeds are used for charity projects. 

Last May, we drove north for 6 hours to experience the beauty of this city nestled high above the mountains. Since we have kids with us, we chose to stay at a downtown hotel. Apart from accessibility, we also prefer fully-airconditioned rooms. Hotels and transient homes farther up the province usually do not come with air-conditioning units. Instead, they take advantage of the cool mountain air which I do not believe to be totally  reliable these days with global warming on our doorstep.

The Baguio Burnham Suites is conveniently located right in the middle of Baguio, overlooking the scenic Burnham Park, one of the city's most popular attractions. The hotel is quite new and there's an available underground car parking space for guests. It's just a little disappointing that they do not accept requests for an early check-in. We arrived an hour before the indicated check-in time and was refused entry until the exact time, not a minute less. Quite harsh for guests who just had a long drive and were desperate for a  much-needed respite.

Photo from the Baguio Burnham Suites website.

Without a choice, we waited at the lobby which to my relief, is really spacious and clean. 

My son loitering in the lobby.

Beside the reception area is a small but charming dining place called Azzurro. Having seen their company logo, I immediately remembered the heavenly mango crepe which I was able to try in their branch at the A. Venue Hotel Suites in Makati. So, we decided to order some snacks while waiting for our room.

Mango Crepe, Php 132. Quite sweet because of the cinnamon, but the pleasing aroma gave it an extra-delightful spin.

Spaghetti Bolognese, Php 330. The rich meat sauce is just right and absolutely delish.
Mango Shake, Php 132. Wonderfully smooth but a little more mango and a little less milk would have done the trick.

At exactly 2:00 PM, we were assisted up the elevator to our De Luxe Studio Room at the 2nd floor. The room looks really nice and its size rather exceeded my expectations. It's almost as big as a suite, except for the absence of a living and dining area that usually go with one. 

The bed is comfortable. However, my husband had a ghostly experience which is very much common in eerie Baguio City.:)

The room is expansive and can accommodate around 4 adults.

A small counter with a sink and mini-bar.

Shower area.

Since we chose a room with a view of Burnham Park, this is what our windows revealed.

A De Luxe Studio Room-Park View costs around Php 3000/night. It also comes with breakfast buffet for two. But though breakfast was served at Azzurro the next day, it was obviously not prepared by the restaurant's chef for the food tasted bland and the buffet selection, far from satisfactory.

Macaroni Soup.

Scrambled Eggs and Garlic Fried Rice.

Bean Sprouts and Pancake. I'm seriously wondering what the bean sprouts are doing in this breakfast setup.

Pork Ranchero and Vinegar-Marinated Milkfish (Daing na Bangus). The Pork Ranchero tasted really bad and totally wrecked my appetite.:( 

My dining expectations are modest by standards. That's why I am truly disappointed by the hotel's lack of effort to please their guests' palate.

Taking advantage of the proximity of Burnham Park, we went for a morning stroll and were almost instantly drawn to the bicycle lane. It's been a long time since my last visit to this place, which reminded me at once of a few beautiful childhood memories.:)

Bike Rental: Php 40 for 30 minutes.

A trip to Burnham Park won't be complete without a boat ride on the man-made lagoon at the center of the park. 

Boat Rental: Php 200 for 30 minutes.

A view of the Baguio City Hall from Burnham Lake.

Going back home, a feeling of gloom suddenly struck me...just like before when I was but a kid leaving this majestic place behind. An attack of nostalgia? Maybe. For I'm almost sure it's the same thing that leads me back to Baguio time and time again.

My son on his first horse ride, his most remarkable experience during our short stay in Baguio City.

Baguio Burnham Suites
No. 6 Kisad Road
Baguio City, Philippines
Trunk Line: +63 74 4242211 to 15

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