Friday 26 September 2014

Spices: Green Pastures

When Green Pastures opened in Shangri-la last year, it always has been jam-packed with so much people every lunch and dinner. Reading great things about the food they serve, I tried to dine here but failed to do so because of the long wait. Early this year I finally got my chance and ever since I've already dined here twice.

Green Pastures

To go with our meal, I was tempted to order the organic wines that the resto carries but decided to play it safe and just ordered a bottle of a Spanish Tempranillo, a 2012 Ramon Roquetta.

2012 Ramon Roqueta Tempranillo - Php1,100

For starters, I would strongly suggest new diners to order the resto's House Made Cheese. There are three types of cheese and I got to try two. The first of which is the Burrata, a type of cheese that is made up of mozzarella and cream. Green Pastures served their burrata with organic strawberries, grape tomatoes and basil oil. Served with thick cut buttered toasts.

Buratta - Php355

I instantly fell in love with this upon taking my first bite. The creamy texture of the rich buttery cheese compliments the sweet tasting strawberries, the hint of sourness from the tomatoes and the peppery flavor of the basil oil. The thick cut toast is something that is also worth mentioning, toast is buttery, crunchy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside. Great thing that you can ask for bread refills.

Tomata, Strawberry, Cheese on Toast

The second cheese dish looks simpler but the Stracciatela is also worth ordering and trying. To those who love the gooey stretchy texture of cheese, you will surely love this. The cheese is served with fresh arugula and doused with evoo. So good!

Stracciatela - Php325

On both occasions we wanted to try the Duck You! but didn't get to because they always ran out. We asked our server  for other specialty starters, he recommended the Pinoy Egg and Chicken Fried Bacon. The Pinoy Egg is obviously a version of the Scottish Egg, a breaded meatball stuffed with a whole boiled egg inside. The Pinoy Egg version uses duck egg and longganisa, served on a bed of fern salad and tomato.

Pinoy Egg - Php125

When I cut the duck egg in the middle, a gooey bright yellow yolk oozed out. The golden yolk was beautifully rich and creamy and it really went well with the super fresh fern salad. My only gripe would be that the dish barely had any longganisa in it.

Luscious Creamy Center of the Duck Egg

Nothing really special about the Chicken Fried Bacon. Even with the cream gravy, we still find it bland plus we wished the breading was crispy.

Chicken Fried Bacon - Php195

We also ran out of the Crab Meat, Sea Urchin Pasta which was among the favorite dishes of diners. On the first occasion we settled for the Bottarga, spaghetti with dry cured tuna roe, garbanzos, garlic oil and lemon. The pasta was al dente but we found the pasta dish too salty and it had a strong fishy smell.

Bottarga - Php285/solo 

On the second occasion we tried the AL Funghi, fettucine, organic mushrooms, garlic, creme fraiche and pecorino. This time around the pasta was overcooked and we felt that it was under seasoned.

AL Funghi - Php485/share

For the mains, we got to try the Sliders, a sampling of the three burgers that they offer. It consists of the 80/20 Burger (80% grass fed beef, 20% smoked pancetta with house made straciattela), the Blue Ribbon Burger (grass fed beef blend with Roquefort cheese) and the Vegetarian Burger That Doesn't Suck (chickpea, mushroom, leeks, celery, eggplant with housemade cheddar). All of the burgers were perfectly cooked to a medium well and the vegetarian burger really didn't suck. But my favorite would be the 80/20 Burger, I loved how the burger has the smokey smell and taste plus I liked how the straciatella cheese stretches with every bite.

Sliders - Php435

The mini burgers were served with a choice of potato fries or sweet potato fries and comes with a cumin mayo dip.We picked the potato fries, it was deliciously crunchy and we loved the cumin mayo dip so much that we didn't leave anything behind.

Fry with Cumin Mayo Dip

The other main that we got to try was the Tequila Joe's Organic Beef Sloppy Cow. The dish is the resto's version of the beef salpicao. Cubes of beef chunks with oyster jus, mushroom glace and garlic bulgur. We loved how tender the organic beef was and we enjoyed the aroma and flavors of garlic that was so evident with every bite. The beef dish came with what we thought was ordinary plain white rice but to our surprise the server told us that it was actually cracked wheat. A healthier alternative to white rice.

Tequila Joe's Organic Beef Sloppy Cow - Php495

For coffee lovers, you'll love the selection of single origin organic local beans that the resto carries. They have a small counter outside where they prepare their pour-over coffee.

Pour Over Coffee

What I really liked was the description or tasting notes written on the menu for each cup. I already got to try out four kinds and I must say each description was accurate. My favorite would be the Hinelebah from Bukidnon, strong, smooth and fragrant.

Coffee from different regions with tasting notes on the menu

Cups of Coffee from different regions - Php105/cup

After eating at Green Pastures, I understood why the resto is always packed with so much diners. The quality of each ingredient is superb and excellent. Dishes were well thought of and prepared really well. Though there were some misses, we enjoyed dining here and I can't wait to go back to try out their bestsellers. Hopefully next time around, they'll be able to save some for me.

Green Pastures
Address: 4th Floor, East Wing, Shangri-la Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong City
Tel No: 654 3219

Friday 19 September 2014

Sights: The Gentle Sea Turtles of APO ISLAND, NEGROS ORIENTAL

Apo Island, an island frequented by divers because of the rich marine life. But I'm no diver yet. Though the water is crystal clear there's not much of sand and the shore has sharp rocks that it's painful to go barefoot. Electricity comes and goes throughout the day and there's no flushing toilet. Why come here? Pawikan or Sea Turtles!!!


Journey starts with a flight to Negros Oriental, from the airport take a cab to the Ceres Bus terminal. Take a bus that is bound for Bayawan and asked the conductor to drop you off at Malatapay Market. Walk the whole stretch of the market until you reached the end.

Boat Pier at end of Malatapay Market

You have to hire a bangka or motorized boat to reach the island.

Boats for Hire

Boat Rates

The boat ride takes around 30 minutes and if the waves are strong, you'll surely get drenched with sea water. As we were just about a few meters away from shore, the boatman pointed to a turtle peeking out of the water, it felt like the turtle was welcoming us into the island.

Almost there...

As soon as we docked, we led to a small office and we paid 100php fee for the conservation of the island and the rebuilding of the marine sanctuary. We were also told about the do's and dont's of interacting with the pawikan. Look but No Touching! Feeding them is also Prohibited!

Apo Island

Apo Island Office

The huge rock boulders on the side of the island caught my attention.

Rock Boulders

We settled and had lunch at Liberty Lodge. While eating we enjoyed staring out of the open sea and taking in the fresh cool breeze.

Enjoying the view at Liberty Lodge

After lunch, we spotted a group of people who were already snorkeling. We could hear them shouting ecstatically, we followed suit and made our way to the waters. As I mentioned above, there isn't much of sand and the shore was filled with crushed corals and sharp rocks. I would suggest people to wear booties or sandals while walking around the shore and when taking a dip in the waters.

Rocky Shore of Apo Island

As soon as I dove down. I spotted two turtles near me and there were at least five turtles we saw on our first swim. I swam towards them and they kind of sleepily looked at me and just continued minding their own business which was eating. As we've been told the turtles liked to swim around the island because it is filled with sea grass, algae and seaweed, this is basically what the sea turtles eat.

Swimming Beside A Turtle

This Turtle was HUGE! The biggest among the bale.

It was amazing swimming with them, they even won't mind if you go near them.  They look so calm and gentle that it instilled a feeling of peace and calmness to me.

From a distance, I was trying to watch how they swim. They would flap their flippers and go up for air and as soon as they do, they would nose dive back down to the bottom of the ocean. This reminded me of big predatory birds who are hunting for food.

Flapping Flippers

Don't they look like Birds Flying?

After watching the turtles, I tried to look around for fish. There weren't much but I spotted a few, I even saw a sea snake that we stayed clear off.

After swimming, we walked towards the marine sanctuary, it was on the other side of the island. As we were told, the sanctuary was once filled with colorful corals and reef fish but sadly after the island was hit by typhoon on 2011 and 2012. All the corals were destroyed and all that was left was a pile of rubble. The Marine Sanctuary is now temporary closed as they are now trying to revive it to the way it was before.

We headed for the lighthouse and along the way we were greeted by the warm smiles and hellos of the local kids. It started to get dark so we just decided to view the sunset from afar.

Sunset at Apo Island

Before leaving for the island, we didn't waste the opportunity to swim with the turtles again. Here's is a short video clip of the experience.

I've heard stories of divers spotting turtles in the deep ocean, more often than not they would see one or two at the most. Moreover, they usually would spot them from afar and seldom times that they are able to go near them. I felt so lucky to be able to see, watch, swim and go near the gentle sea turtles. The experience is something that I'll cherish and never forget.

We got to talk with foreign divers on vacation and when asked how the marine life was below. They would smile from ear to ear and reply that it's one of the most amazing places they've seen. I'm no diver yet but once I learn and get the certification, Apo Island is part of my must 'go-back' list.