Monday, May 25, 2009

Jacob's Real Turkish Doner

There was a quaint red sign near our office in Ortigas Center that got me curious. It read: Jacob's Real Turkish Doner. With kebab places growing ever so popular these days, I thought if it was just one of the dozens that have sprung out. But the one word got me curious: the word REAL. So, one evening, as I was going to 7-11, I decided to pass by this new place to finally satisfy my curiosity.

As soon as I entered, I knew I was in for a treat. The decor was out of taste: bright red dining benches and red and white plastic covers on small tables. The walls were adorned with stretched and framed tarpauline images of Turkey, and when I look up its high ceiling, I see the Turkish flag. I approached the counter, and was surprised with what I saw on their menu. A chicken shawarma.

Yes, only one item on the menu. I asked the attendant if they had something else. She just mentioned they had Baklava for the day. Beyond the short list of drinks (which includes Turkish yogurt drink and coffee), that was it. Imagine the excitement I had when I saw Jacob, the owner of this obscure spot, preparing my chicken doner which is what they call a shawarma in Turkey (it's called Gyros in Greece).

I asked Jacob why he served only chicken. His response was simple. It was healthy. I didn't want to ask more questions. He was busy preparing my meal. He lay a large rectangular piece of pita bread on the counter and topped it with chicken, cucumber, some more greens, cheese and a sauce. He folded the bread, and pressed it on what seemed to look like a panini maker. The chicken doner was served, and it was long, around a foot long, probably the longest shawarma I've seen. It was a bit flat, and looked very different from the pinoy shawarmas swarming every food court.

I took a bite. It tasted very different as well from our normal shawarmas. It didn't come close at all. I've never been to Turkey, so I guess, this is an authentic dish. It had unique spices, much like curry on a pita bread with cheese and flaming hot sauce. There was a lot of stuffing, and each bite gave you a different texture. It was a long piece of bread, so it took me a while to finish it.

This is what I love about trying out new stuff - the fulfillment in discovery. I have never tasted anything like this before, and to think it was a shawarma. The REAL Turkish doner had arrived in Ortigas Center. It's an experience I think everyone should try.  I'm just wishing that Jacob offer more culinary delights from Turkey.

Jacob's Real Turkish Doner is located beside Chef and Brewer along Sapphire Road in Ortigas Center (the road leading to Robinson's Galleria). 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Yellow Cab's Dear Darla Pizza

When I saw the ads of Yellow Cab in Galleria showing a new pizza offering that was rolled with alfalfa sprouts and arugula, I couldn't resist but try it.

I found myself lining up to order the Dear Darla Pizza. Now, if you watched the kiddie movie, Little Rascals, you would understand why the pizza was called this way. Darla was a little girl being courted by a little boy named Alfalfa who wrote letters to Darla. And thus the poster.

Now for the verdict. The alfalfa sprouts and arugula came in a separate box, and the pizza that arrived was thin crust as expected. I forgot the toppings, since I hurried to roll a slice.

The pizza was a bit difficult to roll though, so you have to do it carefully. When I had my first bite, I knew I was in for a treat. The same Yellow Cab goodness now made more pleasurable with alfalfa sprouts and arugula. I was nodding my head in satisfaction.

In fact, I finished an entire regular order. How I wished I got a bigger one! The melted cheese blended perfectly with the nutty taste of alfalfa which really excited the flavors. Yummy! I was also happy that Yellow Cab came out with a thin crust pizza with Dear Darla. Does this mean a line of thin crusts will soon come out?

Yellow Cab succeeds in delivering a new and alternative way to enjoying pizza. And I am happy that I can have this delivered straight to my home. My craving for pizza and alfalfa will now be satisfied with Yellow Cab's Dear Darla.

Punta Riviera Bolinao: Pangasinan Series

For me, the best of the lesser evil resorts in Bolinao is Punta Riviera Resort, located in Brgy. Ilog Malino, which is before Brgy. Patar. So, it's nearer if you're coming from the Bolinao Town Proper. It's the first of the big resorts in a very expensive beach strip.

Expensive strip of resorts. We chose Punta Riviera because it offered the most value. Our Sunset Room cost P5,500 for 6 people, which is not that bad we thought. But when we saw how small the room was and how basic the furnishing were, I didn't think it was enough value. We were previously booked in another room, slightly bigger, but still with the same cheap furnishings. We opted to stay in the Sunset Room because it had a cabana and was even cheaper than the other room. Now that was weird, since the Sunset Room had a view of the sea and was bigger now because of the cabana.

Our room was also beside the beach access and the river. Now, this gave the bathroom a very funky smell of sewers. The non-tiled bathroom was small and had a lot of molds. Really, this wasn't value at all. The room we got in Anda for a day was almost the same in size and it cost P1,500 per night. Moving on, the huge resort had an infinity swimming pool, probably the best in the area as well. It had nice dining areas, and even a conference rooms for events.

However, it was the river that gave Punta Riviera an edge amongst the other resorts. You can kayak there for free for 30 minutes. Because we were there during the May Day weekend, the resort was packed, and there was a long line at the kayaks.

All the resorts in Bolinao are along this beach road, which extends all the way to Treasures of Bolinao (around 15 minutes away by private car). When I got to Bolinao, I was surprised that the coastline was long and divided into several beaches. I didn't know the name of the beach where Punta Riviera is situated, but it's a long and wide one as well.

Though the sand was not that fine, I was satisfied with its cleanliness. There was also a bar beside the beach, which was pleasant, sans the loud videoke music playing the whole day.

The shoreline was wide, and the water was clear and shallow. There was a breakwater far away from the beach, so the huge waves crashed far away, echoing deep rumbling sounds to the shore.

Despite the expensive rates, yucky meals (we were served the danggit and the worst hotdog for breakfast everyday), and below standard rooms, Punta Riviera is the safest choice in Bolinao. Yes, after seeing Treasures, and passing by the other resorts, I thought, Punta Riviera was the lesser evil. I do hope the resorts in Bolinao lower their rates and improve their standards. Compared to South East Asian resorts, Philippine resorts are way expensive and below standards. I really don't understand why.

For more information, visit the website of Punta Riviera Resort.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Matabang Beach Resort at Tambobong: Pangasinan Series

As of this writing, there's only one resort in Tambobong: Matabang Beach Resort. If you're coming in from Dasol, it's the first establishment to your left as you enter the beach road. If you're taking the Burgos route, then it's at the end.

Since Tambobong is not developed, you can either choose to stay in Matabang or stay in one of the houses in the barrio. I've heard there are some residents who open up their homes for guests. Matabang Beach Resort is owned by a very friendly retired couple.

The accommodations here are very basic, as you can see on their website. There are open air cottages for picnics or for day trips. I highly recommend you stay overnight though, since Caiman Cove (the entire area) has a lot to offer.

There's also a fishing pond at the back of the resort, that makes the ambience of the place more relaxing and soothing. With towering rocks and coconut trees as backdrops, the pond has a fresh water fishes that you can cook.

Truly, Tambobong is a gem in Pangasinan. I haven't stopped raving about this place ever since I arrived in Manila. I asked the locals there if there were still lots available, but they said most of the ones for sale are inland where the meadows are.

Matabang has a beach front, and just 10 meters from its gates, the sea meets the sand. It's a nice place to swim in the late afternoon, when the sun is not as harsh, and when the sun begins to set. The place is quiet, though you can see a lot of people.

So, with that, how do you get to Tambobong? Well, Tambobong is located in the town of Dasol in Pangasinan. The best way to go here is via the Alaminos - Mabini Route. In Alaminos, turn right going to Mabini (there's a short diversion road and a sign to guide you). From there, it's straight to the town of Burgos. In Burgos, ask around on how to go to Tambobong via the rough road. It seems difficult to go, and I couldn't even remember the turns. So, just ask around. You can also go straight to Dasol, which is after Burgos and take another rough road to Tambobong. Just ask where the turn is in Dasol, but from what I remember, it's on the curve before the bridge after you enter the sign post of Dasol. Both rough roads will set you back an hour of travel, totaling the entire journey from Manila at 5 hours average.

But believe me, it's worth it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Colibra Island: Pangasinan Series

Well, now that my search for the best beach (mainland) in Pangasinan is over, I deserve to explore an island right? So, after getting ecstatic at beautiful Tambobong, I just had to hop on a boat to dock on an island that was calling me from a distance. The name of the island is Colibra or Snake Island as it is more popularly known.

Snake Island got its name because of its huge resident population of sea snakes. Well, for some reason, those snakes are not there anymore (maybe because of climate change). The locals say they came out at night, but now, there hasn't been one in sight after sundown. Well, who's complaining?

The island reminds me of Quinamanukan in Camarines Norte. It is deserted, uninhabited and small enough to be trekked in less than an hour. Quinamanukan is just bigger and had more beaches. Colibra has only one sizable stretch of beach, and a great swimming beach for that matter.

On one side, the waves are strong, while on the other, the water is calmer. So, take your pick. Enjoy being swept away to the fine white sands, or float in peace on the other side.

If you go up the island, you'll see that it's really small, and the top of it has a flat piece of land with few coconut trees. I wonder if the sea snakes turned into land snakes.

I saw a path going down to the other side of the island. It was the rocky side, pounded by the force of waves coming from the South China Sea.

Anyway, I gave everyone only an hour to relax and enjoy, since we had to be back by 4PM to leave at 5. I was worried of going back on the rough road with the sun down, so paradise had to be cut short.

But, as usual, we extended our time, lying on the sand, rolling with the waves and just wishing we had a whole day here. After all, it felt like it was our island. Nobody else was around, and it was Summer!

We went back to Tambobong, and the strong waves made some of us panic. We were supposed to pass by a cave at the end of Caiman Point (this is what they call the entire area), but the tide was high, and the waves would make it difficult for us to dock. So, we headed back to calm Tambobong, and managed to swim a bit more there. I glanced upon Colibra at a fading distance, with the sun setting against it. The island called again, come back....come back.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tambobong: The Search is Over

Don't you just love it when you set foot on beaches like these?

Oh, it's also located here in mainland Luzon, a total of 5 hours drive from Manila. Welcome to a wonderful discovery, one of the best, if not the best, mainland (non-island) beaches in Luzon. It goes by a lot of names: Osmena, Matabang Beach, and Tambobong. Whatever they call it, it's paradise to me.

Okay, let me stop these senseless expressions of love. Let's call it by its original name, Tambobong Beach. Located in Western Pangasinan, in the remote barrio of Osmena in Dasol, Tambobong Beach was actually part of the barrio of Tambobong, which was split up recently. Now, from what I heard, two barrios govern the area.

What surprises me more is that this is a fishing village, meaning, a lot of locals live on this beach. There were a lot of houses along the road, but the beach was spotless. This is something you don't see in any other beach in the country.

One would think, there must be a governing tourism office that keeps the place in tact, but the truth is, there's none. When I asked our boatman why the beach was clean, he didn't know what to answer. It's just the way it is. I wanted to praise the entire barrio for doing so.

Coming here, we were warned by the people from Dasol that people in Tambobong are rowdy. They warned us of drunkards and kids throwing rocks at cars. Well, we didn't experience any of those, and the people here seem very friendly.

Tambobong Beach extends to around 1 kilometer of powder white sand. It may not be as fine as Boracay's, but it is definitely above average, and perhaps the best I have seen so far in Pangasinan, better than the ones in Hundred Islands.

I am ecstatic about Tambobong, if it was truly the Tambobong we were told about. Whatever the name of this beach is, it is by far the best beach in Pangasinan. The locals told me that this part of Pangasinan had the best beaches, but of course, theirs is the best. And I must agree. The vibe, the atmosphere, the beauty of the place, all have surpassed my expectations. I could spend an entire weekend here. I've been told of secluded caves, shipwrecks, other beaches and backyard rivers all in the area. And if you read my previous entry about getting here, you can imagine what else lies beyond.

Oh, and just on the horizon, I could see a lonely island, calling to me. Too bad we only had 4 hours total to explore; just enough time to heed to the calling of that island.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Road to Tambobong

We left Bolinao at 11 AM to find our next beach: Tambobong. We just knew it was in the town of Dasol, which was a little more than an hour away. We reached Dasol at 12 NOON, and asked for directions in a gas station. There was a carinderia in the station that seemed to have good food, so we ate there first. The food was home cooked perfect, something that I have been missing. We got our directions to Tambobong, which was still an hour away because of the rough road. We were given other beach options, but all of the locals told us that Tambobong was the best. So, we took the risk and went into the plain fields of Dasol. We didn't know we were in for a pleasant surprise.

The plain fields turned out to be gorgeous meadows, sprawling green fields extending to the horizon. Cows grazed the fields, while rocks stood out of this Batanes-like landscape. We sensed we were going up a hill, and as we reached the peak, we were treated to great views of the sea.

The road was mostly unpaved all throughout. We were worried we were getting lost at some point, because there were intersections that had no signboards. We had to stop and look for signs of life to ask for directions. Finally, we reached the town of Osmena, where a paved road surfaced. It was a fishing village, still with few locals. I wondered if they were all in siesta.

We finally hit a beach. We hurried down the car and asked if this was Tambobong. There were 3 locals there, one selling halo-halo and the other two fishermen. They told us Tambobong was 4 km away. The beach we were in was a small one, sitting on a cove. The water was so inviting, as it was sparkling in different hues of blue. The sand was also white and fine. I was already happy with this beach, and told the others we could stay for a while here.

But the rest wanted to find Tambobong. So, we boarded the car again and hoped for a better beach. We were told that there were many people in Tambobong, so we decided to go back here IF Tambobong disappointed us.

After less than 10 minutes, we saw a long stretch of white sand beach. We had to park the car before entering the beach, since the road seemed impassable already. Some locals were headed our way as well, so we were worried that there were a lot of bakasyonistas.

As we raced down to the beach, it didn't take a minute for us to realize we found what we were looking for. We weren't sure it was Tambobong, but we were pretty sure, it was one damn good beach.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Patar Beach: Pangasinan Series

We passed through Treasures of Bolinao to get to Patar Beach, but since I don't recommend that anymore, turn left at the junction at the end of the road from Cape Bolinao. Patar Beach is accessible from there.

What I like about Patar Beach is its landscape. Gorgeous rock formations jut out of the sea. Rock beds form holes that seem to drain the sea. And the sun bids farewell in style, revealing a solemn hue.

Patar Beach has soft coral sand, meaning the grains are not that fine. It's hard walking on dry sand, as your feet get submerged. There are a lot of cottages along Patar Beach, some of them who could rent overnight I think.

It is also a pretty long beach, perfect for a sunset stroll. The water was full of sea grass, but was refreshing and clearer than in Tondol. Since it was getting dark, there was less people (the way I like it). I couldn't swim since I wasn't in swimming attire, but my shorts got wet from the splashing of waves.

We spent almost an hour just taking pictures and walking on the shore. The sunset was nice, but nothing compared to Boracay, Coron and Davao. Patar Beach looks very laid back to me, a long stretch of soft sand that feels nice to the feet. So far, Patar beats Tondol.

Day One was done. This was probably one of the longest days of my life. Anyway, we would be traveling to Dasol the next day to search for the next beach, Tambobong.


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