Apps I love

August 27th, 2014

 

While most parents cringe at the thought of letting their kids use gadgets and other hand-held devices, I guiltlessly let my sons play their iPad.

 

Working at home as a writer with no fulltime help, iPad is one of the best things to my existence. I used to ban gadgets during travel but now, it comes in handy when you want 15 more minutes in bed at a fancy hotel.

I think it depends on the guidelines you give to your kids – and stick to it. So far, my kids and I are in zen when it comes to their iPad usage.

Likewise, I’m sort of semi-homeschooling my preschooler. While he plays, socialize with other kids, and do crafts at school, I am introducing him to reading and writing at home. Interactive and educational apps are one of my tools. So far, I love the educational apps from KIDS ACADEMY.

I discovered these apps since April and so far so good. Liam, my preschooler loves his “study time”. I would like to share to you their three apps that I personally use with Liam.

We first started with this app. Basic reading and writing. Click here to download.

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And interactive workbook to test your little learner. The apps are very user-friendly, your child can easily navigate. It goes without saying that you have to “play” the apps first for a few times with your child before letting him do it on his own. Click here to download this app.

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We just started with this app. Number tracing is more than developing motor skills but letting him recognize the digits- visually and orally. We love the games.  Much more, the Parent Mode – every app should have a parent control/mode feature. Here is the link for download.

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We’ve been using Kids Academy for a few months now and you’ll surely love these apps as much as we do. If you are looking for new educational apps for your child, download them all now!

Thanks for reading!

Discovering Laughlin

August 25th, 2014

 

Hello everybody! What’s up? Sorry for my hiatus – kid’s exam week and some magazine writing assignments.

So here I am on the last day of the long weekend. No travel, not even a quick road trip to a nearby beach; instead, husband and I spent lazying around thinking of his trip to Spain next month and planning for our next travel.

Surfing the net and checking hotel sites like Booked.net for travel inspirations,  I found myself getting to know the town of Laughlin in Nevada. My apologies that I am more familiar with other places in the state but Laughlin is actually the third most visited casino and resort destination in the state of Nevada!

I love hotels, my kids love them more. I explored Booked.net looking for hotels in the area and  read from previous visitors that you must stay at Laughlin hotels on the river . One of the hotels I found is Tropicana Laughlin.

Nevada can be costly, my husband wants to visit his friend there so I want my travel inspiration to be a little bit realistic.  I think Tropicana Express Laughlin fits the bill!

Here is a photo I found in Flickr

The Tropicana Express

 

This hotel has a total of 1,495 rooms and has its own casino. I don’t gamble but I enjoy those slot machines. I find them really cute. :)

Here is one photo of  Tropicana Express’ room. I love the color scheme. This is one retreat from the buzzling activities around Laughlin.

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You do wish to be here right now. This is a bedroom peg for me. Calm and cozy.

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 As a 4-star property, it offers a myriad of activities for guests courtesy of its worldclass amenities and facilities. Getting to know Tropicana Express Laughlin makes me learn more about Laughlin particularly when it comes to attractions.

This hotel as I read from Booked.net, is close to sights like Lake Mohave, Colorado River, Davis Dam as well as Edgewater Casino and E Center.

All these information want me to discover Nevada and the rest of the United States. I guess Laughlin now goes to my bucketlist.

Thanks for reading!

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Lighthouse Resto + Bar

August 8th, 2014

 

I had the most stressful lunch last Sunday at the highly-hyped Horizon Cafe that I was wishing to be in a different place while dining. One of them is Lighthouse Resto + Bar. It also reminded me that I forgot to blog and share this new restaurant in Iloilo.

I visited it twice and the photos here were taken last June 12, all photos by Antoine Greg of Cafe Ilonggo.

Lighthouse Resto + Bar is located on General Luna Street, once the busy part of the city. In fact, if my memory serves me right, the place use to be a party place called Tijuana.

Lighthouse is a family restaurant, it is spacious but I recommend you have a seat near their drink bar — cozy with big plushy pillows. We didn’t take photos because there were many diners.

 

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Their menu is the usual – pasta, steak and the likes but they have good choices for drinks. A plus point for me. I asked the waiter, what is their specialty and he recommended Crispy Belly. My reaction was, ” nothing new“, but I ate my words after that. This is one yummy crispy belly. Very soft meat with crispy skin.

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Greg also ordered their Oyster Rockerfeller – baked talaba.

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and Spanish Chorizo.
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This one was a little bit tricky. In the menu, it didn’t mention that it will come with rice. It was fine if the waiter didn’t give us an “warning” because we are big people (haha!),  but when we told the waiter if we can return our other rice, he refused at first.

We had like 4 cups of rice in total! We said ok too but it is not comfortable because even if Greg and I are big eaters, 4 cups of rice is gluttony. haha. So we asked again and showed their menu, he must be scared of our persistence that he accepted our request.

Food was great and I love the little cozy restaurant. Again, I wished I brought my family at Lighthouse Resto + Bar last Sunday rather than spending time and money at Horizon Cafe.

For dessert, Greg and I had Sans Rival. It was fine but I have tasted Dumaguete’s, which is so far the best of its kind in the country.

For drinks, have the mint cooler ( I forgot the exact name). Greg told me to get it and it is really refreshing. I would like to try their others mixes. I paid 700+ for 3 dishes, 2 cups of rice, one dessert and 2 drinks – very affordable.

 

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Home Sweet Home,Camiña Balay nga Bato

August 2nd, 2014

 

How are you getting by this cold and rainy weather? Heavy rain can be a hassle but this season means yearning for an extended bed time, or warming up with something hot to sip. How about a chocolate drink?

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The continuous rain reminded me of all hot drinks -coffee, tea, and chocolate. Many have spoken that the best tsokolate( chocolate drink) in the Philippines can be tasted at Camiña Balay nga Bato in Iloilo. Now that brings me back to our visit last summer with my parents.

 What I admire about  this ancestral home in Iloilo is that they offer to tourists and travelers not just a heritage home in Iloilo, but it is also an antique shop. And now, a food trip destination. Isn’t it brilliant for tourism?

It is easy to find this house. It is located along the highway, a few steps from Arevalo plaza, going to southern Iloilo.

My parents in front of the house, after our tour.

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The activity kicks off with a tour of the house. Naturally, you will see their antique shop from saint statues to local spiced vinegar called sinamak. You will also be acquainted with few facts about this attraction in Iloilo.

At the ground floor, which is the storage area in bahay na bato, you will see the original pillars that not only give a strong support to the house but also a status symbol of the Camiña Family.

Another interesting fact that sets it apart from other ancestral homes not just in Iloilo but throughout the country is that the family still resides in the abode.

Presently, 4th generation Luth and Gerard Camiña call this house, home. If you are curious if there are ghosts or if this is a haunted house in Iloilo, sorry..I didn’t feel anything.

To enter the living quarters, that is at the upper floor, you will climb its very steep stairs. Just like other houses, I have visited, you can see vintage pieces and hard wood.

Its tin ceiling is very interesting. They also have nail-less door and you will learn about the defense features of this house.

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Without a doubt, the highlight of the tour is the tsokolate..to be accurate, tsokolate e..the stronger version of the hot chocolate. Our visit was on a hot day but it was a refreshing drink. The very well-ventilated azotea of the house, invited the breeze to come inside.

Feeling donya si mader..

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The tour only costs Php150 per person, and that already includes the chocolate drink and some biscuits. It goes without saying that my folks had a great time.

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You can also purchase the tsokolatera ( the kettle) and the batirol ( the stirring rod) as well as the chocolate tablets. My mom bought one pack for my tsokolate addict sister-in law. You can ask the staff for the measurement to make your own chocolate drink at home.

The staff will serve the hot beverage but my mom, insisted to do it herself ( for our refill). It reminded her of my grandmother..awww..
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We were lucky to be the only visitors. We took our time and had great conversation, forgetting for a second that it was not our home.

My dad, went back touring the house and took photos like his favorite archangel, Archangel Michael.

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You may ask what I think of the tsokolate. Well, I can’t really say it is the best because of my personal preference of something bitter. I’m a coffee drinker and they added milk so maybe pure tablea (cocoa tablet), water and sugar will be perfect for me.

But compared to other chocolate drink I had, Camiña’s tsokolate is richer and more flavorful. I trust my father’s reaction, ” Lami, Lami ( delicious) ” while smacking his lips like an expert taster.

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For inquiries, visit their Facebook page.

 

You like ancestral homes? Here are heritage homes you can visit..

The Grandiose Nelly Garden

Night Tour at Casa Mariquit

Iloilo’s Old Houses and Mansions

Of Motherhood and Gratitude

July 29th, 2014

Since June, I was contemplating on what to do to mark another year of freelance writing. Planned on throwing my first blog getaway for you dear readers or treat myself to a solo trip. After all, I will be turning 6 this month as a freelance writer. I have paid my dues and I am extremely satisfied of my hard work.

Then last Tuesday, our pediatrician advised to have my second child, Liam, for a hospital stay after seeing initial result of his X-ray taken a day before after our check-up.

Liam was sick since Friday with fever and he had a very bad cough. I was in denial because of my two boys, Liam is the “healthy” one – exclusively breastfed for 6 months and he never had fever for more than 24 hours.

No full-time help, with my husband working out of town, I was alone but not complaining- there is no reason. As long as  we can provide the best medical care to my child, I’m fine.

Went home, packed our bags, planned on Aki’s ( my eldest) schedule while I’m away at the hospital, and spent an hour conditioning Liam on what to expect for a hospital stay. My fear was Liam screaming as nurses complete all tests and procedures. Thanks to Google for giving me cute images of children in the hospital.

Liam was physically fine that day, he walked with me around the hospital, processing his admission and all those stuff but his eyes were weary and his voice gloomy.

Taken after his IV insertion, blood test and skin test. Not a single tear, thus, explaining my smile. You’re a trouper Liam!

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Nebulizer at the emergency room.

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Whenever my kids get sick, I’m always reminded on how I became a freelance writer. That 6 years ago, I prayed what I thought an impossible thing to ask – to spend more time with my son yet still earn money. So here I am, an epiphany that what I should be doing for my 6th anniversary working at home is to remain that gratitude in my heart.

It is not just the gratitude to earn while at home, but to find the thing what I really like to do. I believe that you will naturally excel if you love what you do.  Never in my consciousness that it occurred that I will make a living with words and images.

After 6 days in the hospital due to bronchopneumonia, Liam finally went home and my heart was full of thankfulness to other moms who helped me with my eldest child, Akira – buying school requirements to reaching out to watch over him. It’s a wonderful feeling that fellow moms show their support.

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Those days staying at the hospital was a reminder to be thankful each day to have the financial means to be with the kids. To be thankful of the people around you.

I don’t earn that much but it’s okay. Someday, my kids will have their own appointments but while they are little, I just want to be with them.

How about you? What are you thankful for?

XoXo,

Valerie

 

 

 

Staycation at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu

July 22nd, 2014

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A couple of weeks ago, my family went on a long drive back home in Cebu for a family get together. My sister flew in from Japan with her family and it was almost 7 years since my parents gathered all their five kids and increasing number of grandkids.

When looking for where to stay in Cebu, there is only one hotel in Cebu I want to stay with my family – Marco Polo Plaza Cebu. An imposing structure in the hills of Cebu long before other tall buildings were sprouting in the Queen City, I have  wonderful memories of this hotel. We had our Junior Prom back when it was then Cebu Plaza Hotel and I’m honestly curious on what it’s like to stay at this hotel.

Tight schedule and lots of things to accomplish, I chose to just have a staycation and skip touring Cebu. Anyway, we can go back to Cebu anytime we want to, I want to maximize our time and enjoy the facilities of the hotel.

So we spent a day in Marco Polo Plaza, just went out to shortly meet my soul sisters – my best friends since high school.

We arrived just in time for check-in. Looking a little bit unkept but happy because we love traveling with the kids.

Hello Marco Polo Cebu! Reminiscing high school days..

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While I checked-in, Aki found a good spot to finish his peanuts. :)
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Boy they’re happy! They’ve been bugging me for weeks to stay in a hotel.

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Our accommodation was upgraded to Grand Deluxe Mountain View Room. Spacious and spoiled with amenities. Carpet is very plushy, neat and well cleaned.

Bathroom has a tub and my requirement – hair dryer.

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My husband was the de facto babysitter for our trip because I also packed some work to do over the weekend. Just a few minutes after we settled in our room, my kids begged to go to the pool.

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From my previous post, I shared our wonderful Marco Polo Cebu dinner buffet experience featuring Sabores de España. My kids went ahead and I skipped dessert at the buffet. Instead, I enjoyed a few minutes of me time at the Continental Club Lounge.

The venue is just great that I called my family to join me. My kids have their dessert and my husband and I enjoyed cocktails.

The next day, I let the babysitter aka my husband sleep in and I joined my kids for breakfast at the Continental Lounge at 6:30am.

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Undoubtedly, this is may favorite part of Marco Polo Plaza. Located at the Penthouse, access is given to selected guests. Here you have more privacy with highly personalized service.

At the Continental Club Lounge, you will enjoy a la carte breakfast along with other offerings from bread in hand to bottomless drinks. I had my second coffee even before we started our breakfast. While waiting, I ushered my boys to an open space just outside the lounge to run and play.

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Maayong buntag Cebu!

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How Liam says grace before meals. :)

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After breakfast and while their father feasted for an hour at the breakfast buffet, we toured the hotel. We missed the Playroom, great for family visiting in Cebu.

Before checking out, I let the boys swim for the last time while I packed our things. Checking out was quick and it was indeed a nice time for my family. A wonderful time to jumpstart our weekend trip in Cebu.

Until now, my kids are raving about Marco Polo. ” Marco Polo is a special hotel because it is one of the best hotels“, Akira once told me. And I concur.

Till next time Marco Polo Plaza Cebu!

Marco Polo Plaza Cebu
Nivel Hills, Apas
Cebu City, Philippines
(63 32) 253-1111
(63 32) 234-8170

 

You may want to check out these hotels

Park Inn by Radisson Davao

Microtel by Wyndam Davao

Zempkamps Chalet, Guimaras

Marco Polo Plaza Cebu’s Sabores de España

July 16th, 2014

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My husband asked me weeks ago to research on what he should be doing for his September trip to Spain. My prompt reply- ” eat paella and tapa“. Seriously, Spanish cuisine is something I want to discover. As much as I seem to be familiar with Spanish cuisine, we don’t have that much venues to enjoy authentic Spanish dishes.

It was just perfectly timely that we stayed at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu last weekend and they were featuring a culinary journey featuring Spanish cuisine called ” Sabores de España” or Flavors of Spain.

When you ask where is the best buffet in Cebu? Seasoned travelers and diners will always recommend Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

And now, one of its in-house restaurants, Cafe Marco will sweep you to Spain with every bite. Headed by Ms. Gema Pido, Cebu’s Spanish cuisine expert, enjoy and feast on authentic and delectable dishes.

My family had the chance to enjoy the feast with Ms. Kyra Cabaero, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu’s Media Communications Manager. And of course, for my husband to get acquainted with Spanish dishes.

Spain in a plate..
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Here are some tasty dishes waiting for you at Sabores de España buffet by Marco Polo Plaza Cebu..

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Calamares Rellenos
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Appetizing bites

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Ah, these scrumptious Bunelos de Chorizos Austurianos ( Chorizo wrapped in puff or filo pastry)
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Tortilla de Patatas ( Potato Omelet) 
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As the best buffet in Cebu, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu offers myriad choices on top of the featured buffet like Asian and Japanese.

My global plate of Cebu lechon, roast beef, tempura and paella de valenciana.

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Savory choices only at Cafe Marco.
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Thank you for that delicious Spanish dinner Marco Polo Plaza Cebu!

Sabores de España is a month-long culinary offering until July 20 and available for lunch and dinner. For inquiries and reservations, contact

Cebu: (63 32) 253 1111
Manila: (63 2) 887 1263

 

 

You may also like to read..

Mr. A’s Restaurant in Cebu

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Entrepreneur Magazine July 2013: Designer Brews

July 10th, 2014

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Published my article this month for Entrepreneur Magazine! This is my fourth contribution for Philippines’ #1 business magazine. If you’re a regular reader, you may notice that the magazine revamped a little. They now have a feature entrepreneur every month and for this issue, it’s Generics Pharmacy’s Benjamin Liuson.

Here is my article..

entrejuly2014

Under the Start Up section ( page 42), I wrote about Urban Island Winery Inc. This assignment was an eye opener, I was educated in the world of artisan winemaking. Likewise, the potential of local fruitwines from Marang (bread fruit) to Mangosteen. I think it is really awesome.

To know more about Urban Island Winery and the craft of making artisan wines using U-Brew Technology and get inspired as well from other articles to be your own boss, please do grab a copy of Entrepreneur Magazine. Available in bookstores and magazine stands for P140.

Check out my previous contributions

Entrepreneur Magazine: Make a Living With Freelance Writing

Mabuhay Magazine: Isla Gigantes

Couple’s Retreat in Isla de Gigantes

July 6th, 2014

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There are many reasons to visit Isla de Gigantes or why you’ll love the place. Blogs that you might have read all celebrate the beauty of Isla Gigantes which of course I agree, but  I prefer to hail Isla Gigantes as a destination for couples.

Romantic? Absolutely yes but that the massage-by-the-beach type or those sunset cruises, but personally, our weekend trip was a fruitful time between husband and wife. You may ask why and I have a rather offbeat answer…..

there is no celfone signal and a 24-hour power source in Isla Gigantes.

And that my dear readers make Isla de Gigantes one of the most romantic destinations in the Philippines. :)

Now what makes it romantic?

If you are married to a corporate slave who seems to go crazy without checking his laptop or calling people, then you know what I’m saying.

I can’t blame my husband, it is natural now for people I guess, but when you are left with a destination that doesn’t offer this now-basic services, then you will be “forced” to maximize your time together. In other words, he was forced to throw all his attention to me ( insert wicked grin here).

And I’m not innocent either. I often find myself at the mercy of social media and our trip to Isla Gigantes gave me some social media weekend detox. Funny because we went there to work on my assignment for Mabuhay Magazine, but there was no pressure. We just enjoyed it like we were penniless in college. haha!

Though the weather was not that perfect, we had the place for ourselves. No phone call interruptions while enjoying this view. Husband was enjoying taking shots even if it means climbing the rugged cliffs of Tangke.

Tangle4   This is actually our first stop, Gakit-gakit island. Strong potential for pre-nuptial shoots.. Gakit-Gakit Island   And the most popular attraction in Isla Gigantes – Cabugao Gamay. Untitled

We were lucky that our guide was not intimidated with our bulky camera. It is really rare  for us to have couple photos because either one of us is the designated photographer. Again, the weather was not that good as you can see from the photo above, but a little prayer and God sent me a spotlight of sunshine. For 10 minutes. Just enough for me to get better shots for my travel article.

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It rained when we went to Antonia Beach until we back to our base camp, which was was fine, we didn’t take the kids along anyway. There was one room with air conditioner but we opted to stay in a fan room. Isla Gigantes is not humid, and as I said, it is nice to rekindle our times when we still can’t afford to stay in hotels.

For our meals, we feasted on seafoods during our overnight stay at the island. Queen scallops harvested from the “wild”.

Queen scallops growing in the "wild", not cultured

We also had saltwater crabs and the mister was an eager slave to get all the meat for me. haha! The next day ,before we left, we visited their lighthouse. It was not far, just as I like it.

Though some upscale resorts offering couple’s retreats do not offer Wi-Fi unless requested or do not place TV in guest rooms, in Isla Gigantes, it is naturally that way. People especially couples are busy making a living and you forget to just enjoy each other’s company. Because Isla Gigantes is a humble fishing community, you will be reminded that being together matters the most, not the material possessions or career positions.

Talking with the locals was also a treat for both of us, a break from negative people you often deal in your daily life. Enjoying light conversations over unlimited instant coffee never felt so indulging…that’s why we love Isla Gigantes!

If you are couple who wants to spend time with your significant other, pick Isla Gigantes. There are posh couple destinations but if you want an off-the-beaten path or backpacker type, Isla Gigantes is a good choice.

Have you visited Isla Gigantes with your loved one?

Related posts

Isla Gigantes’ Tangke

Isla Gigantes for Mabuhay Magazine

Restaurants in Davao: Claude’s Le Café de Ville

July 3rd, 2014

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Two things that I’m really weak at – heritage homes and food. Combine these two and I’m on a sweet surrender. Claude’s Le Café de Ville is the only full-service French restaurant in Davao City and I personally think this is one of the best restaurants in the country from ambiance to food.

I am fortunate to dine at Claude’s as part of Davao Food Appreciation Tour 2014. The restaurant is housed at The Oboza Heritage House. While sipping coffee offered by Chef Claude Le Neindre, he gave us a short history of the house and their business as well.

It is actually their second location, their original restaurant was just across the street and they are currently leasing the house. Chef Claude is such a sweet fellow and no wonder, the Oboza family, one of Davao’s prominent and pioneering clans entrusted their home to the Le Neindres.

The interior of the house impressed me so much. I’m sadden though remembering my favorite restaurant in Iloilo, Afrique’s, used to be in an old house. Iloilo City is home to many heritage homes and attempts to make them into restaurants sadly failed.  Just sad because it really adds charm to your restaurant.

Enough of the sad vibes and let’s go back to this Davao City foreign restaurant.

After coffee and short background of the house, Chef Claude then toured us to their kitchen and met his lovely wife, Tess and their granddaughter. We then started our French dining in Davao with bread served with butter and salsa, followed with Shrimp Cocktail and Baked Imbao Clams.

 

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In Davao, I learned other recipes for imbao – not just for soups. Likewise, the poor girl in me never thought that salsa goes well with bread.

Next we had Jambalaya Gumbo Soup and Mussels Mariniere ( see picture below). It is very creamy but not too greasy  like what other restaurants serve.

 

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We then went to the main course. Claude’s is famous for their steak and oh boy, look at this Claude’s Pepper Steak!

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Another main dish is the light yet delectable Grouper Fillet ala Meuniere with Rice Pilaf.

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Both beef and fish are juicy and moist – perfectly cooked. For dessert, Chef prepared us fruits with cream. He said he decided to give us a light dessert because he knew we’ve been eating all day for our food tour. Now I remember the French paradox!

This is one of the best restaurants in Davao! If you love wine, this is the best place to enjoy a glass or two.

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Meet Chef Claude Le Neindre with the Oboza family portrait.

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Do you also find yourself loving a restaurant because of its owners? Same feeling with Claude’s. Chef Calude is such a sweet gentleman, he is very lively and jolly, personally taking care of all his diners – even bussing tables! He lets you enjoy your meal and treat each one as his guest.

Claude’s Le Café de Ville is a highly recommended place for those asking where to eat in Davao. French dining set in a cozy lovely ambiance – this is a must!

Claude’s Le Café de Ville
The Oboza Heritage House
143 Rizal Street, Davao City, Philippines
Tel No. 222-4287/227-9405
claudes_cafe@yahoo.com
wwww.claudescafedavao.com

More on Davao

Day 1 Davao Food Appreciation Tour 2014

Japanese Tunnel in Davao

Aldevinco Shopping in Davao

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