Monday, October 18, 2004

Recipe for a Food Trip

So you’ve eaten at Sonya’s and at Antonio’s. You’ve hauled home buko pie from Colette’s. And you’ve been to Josephine’s more times than you care to count. Where to next?

1 free day
1/2 tank gas

Wake with the dawn to beat the Sunday morning exodus from Manila. Drive down South Expressway, exit at Santa Rosa. Drive to Tagaytay and turn right at the junction. Keep going past the rotonda, past Taal Vista Lodge, and past Mendez. Just after the commercial area of Mendez, you’ll see Bag of Beans café on the right side of the road. You can park right in front of the café.

Take the stairs down to the garden. The best place to sit is in the little yellow room, to your left as you come down the stairs. There’s a couch and coffee table where you can relax with a magazine while you’re waiting for your food.

Bag of Beans is an English café and serves a whole menu full of pies: shepherd’s pie, steak and kidney, steak and mushroom, chicken, and a handful of others. They have several excellent breakfast choices. We had the porterhouse steak, which was good, and the blueberry cheesecake, which was fabulous. The chilled cheesecake has a wafer-thin graham cracker crust and is topped with delicious cream and blueberries. Take your time over dessert – you don’t want to be too full when you get your massage.

Buy a loaf of banana bread on the way out.

Turn back the way you came and drive to the rotonda. Turn left and drive through the fastfood-filled area (you’ll pass a Jollibee and a Chow King). Drive down Aguinaldo Highway towards Silang, roughly 1.5 km.

Watch out for Recuerdos Crafts on the left side. Just before Recuerdos Crafts, turn left into Barangay Maitim, then follow the road past Villa de Oro and turn left just before Tagaytay Memorial Park. Keep following the road (and the occasional sign) until you get to Nurture Spa.

If you’ve been pacing yourself well, you should arrive ready for a massage. We called two days before and booked the Romantic Interlude package (an hour-long Masing-Irog couples’ massage, two facials, a spa set meal and four hours in an Ifugao hut). Have a leisurely massage and then have lunch or take a nap. The soups are all good; we recommend the Pollo Tagaytay and the herb-crusted grilled blue marlin. The mango slush is yummy and tastes exactly like an iced version of the fresh mango you’ll be served at the end of the meal.

Wrap up your visit with a facial and you’re ready to go!

Visit highlights: We both relaxed with our facials, done outdoors. The treatment started off with honey for cleansing; every once in a while a curious bee buzzed by wondering what its honey was doing on my face. Next up was an almond scrub that smelled uncannily like cream cheese. Then I chilled out with a cool mask of sliced cucumbers (talk about vegging out!) while John had his pores minimized with a protein mask. Hand and arm massage, a quick nap, a fine scented mist, and then jasmine tea. All tucked into a corner of Nurture’s garden - beats those marble and tile spas any time.

Extended food trip: Pack a picnic breakfast and spend the morning enjoying the view. Have an early lunch at Bag of Beans (11:30 AM), go slow over your courses so you finish around quarter to two. Drive to Nurture and check in (book a 3:30 pm massage in advance, and book your facial for 10 AM the next day). If you’re lucky, someone will have checked out early and you can nap in one of the Ifugao huts; if not, settle into one of the comfy chairs in the outdoor pavilions. Wake up in time for the massage, finish in time for another nap. Have the spa set meal for dinner, sleep early. Wake up at 8 AM, enjoy the set breakfast. Settle yourself in an outdoor pavilion and read a book until it’s time for your facial. After you’re done, head back out, turn left back onto Aguinaldo Highway, and drive in the direction of Silang. Stop at Gourmet’s Café for lunch, then continue down Aguinaldo Highway and the coastal road back to Manila.

Bag of Beans Café: 3650 Aguinaldo Highway, Mendez Crossing West, Tagaytay City. Phone (046) 413-2724.

Nurture Tropical Spa and Café: Pulong Sagingan, Barangay Maitim II West, Tagaytay City. Phone 830-0876 (reservations) or 0920-910-6522 (Tagaytay).

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