MENU

Friday, May 25, 2018

Romy Roams Baguio: Where to Eat

Baguio is always a good choice when you want to get away from the heat of the city life, literally and figuratively.

Jay and I had been to Baguio twice in just four months. The first one was back in November during the APEC holiday, and the second one this February for our high school friend’s wedding. Aside from climbing Mt. Ulap and celebrating with our high school friends, our main agenda for going to Baguio was to eat—nay, pig out.

We’ve both been to Baguio several times before so we’ve gone to almost all the tourist spots. What we really wanted to do was relax and satiate our appetites. Luckily, Baguio doesn’t fall short of good restaurants and food spots.

Here are a few of old and new favorites you should try on your next trip to the City of Pines.

CHAYA

Chaya is a Japanese restaurant recommended by two of my former officemates. It’s an old wooden lodge converted into a cozy restaurant.

Chaya serves fresh, authentic Japanese cuisine. They have big servings so Jay and I almost did not finish our orders.

We started with the spicy tuna salad and chicken yakitori.


Jay ordered katsudon...
...while I had the chirashi sushi bowl, filled with sushi rice and fresh seafood.

Japanese food is one of my favorites and I loved that this was our first stop. We actually worked up an appetite because we walked from our hotel to Chaya, but our orders were more than enough!

All dishes were flavorful and seasoned well. I highly recommend the tuna salad. The fresh ingredients really made the difference.

Another must-try when visiting Chaya is their homemade green tea ice cream. We were so full we didn’t think we could finish one whole order, so we thought of skipping it. Just our luck, the restaurant gave us small samples to try. Win!

Chaya is located at 72 Legarda Road, Baguio City
Tel Nos. +0744244726/+639159054820/+639183567376
email: greenchayabaguio@gmail.com

HILL STATION

From Chaya, Jay and I walked several kilometers again to Hill Station, just so we can burn all the calories we ate.

The restaurant has a beautiful ambiance perfect for couples, but surprisingly feels like a family spot too.

We ordered a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese to share, and one slice each of their bestselling cakes, the New York Cheesecake and Deep Dark Chocolate Cake.

A post shared by Romy P. Cruz (@romyisagirl) on

If you follow me on Instagram, you'd know how much I love cake. And these ones from Hill Station did not disappoint. The cheesecake has a different crust, not graham, and the cake itself melts in your mouth.

I'm not fond of chocolate, but when it's in cake form, I am more open to devouring it, hehe!

Hill Station's chocolate cake is soft and decadent, I had to fight Jay off for half the serving, hahaha!

When we came back to Baguio in February, Jay and I visited Hill Station again to try their entrees.

Jay chose the Cambodian Coriander & Garlic Chicken.
I went for the Moroccan Spiced Baby Back Ribs.
Jay and I expected more from these entrees considering their prices. They weren't necessarily bad, but they also weren't something you'd rave about and come back for. That distinction belongs to their cakes! Still, I want to give their other offerings a chance next time.

CANTO

You mainly come to Canto for one thing, and that's their Lomo Ribs. There was a line when we arrived, and I don't normally line up for restaurants, but I made an exception for this because it's not often we come up to Baguio.

Canto was first located at the Ketchup Community but they transferred to a bigger location on Kisad Road, which is about thrice the size of their original place. That hasn't stopped the lines from forming.

We waited for about an hour and got our orders just in time before they closed. The wait was worth it, though.

Fall-off-the-bone ribs is what keeps the patrons coming back for more.
Canto is at 32 Kisad Road, Baguio City.

AMARE LA CUCINA

If you would visit a pizza joint in Baguio, make it Amare La Cucina. The woodfire brick oven-baked pizzas are in a league of their own.

You can also make your own pizza! And not just choose your own toppings, but actually knead the dough, toss it, and put your pie inside the oven! It's a really fun activity, especially for the kids (and kids at heart like us).

On our first visit we tried their Sausage Pepperoni Mushroom pizza. If saying that was a mouthful, wait til you see their generous toppings!
On our second visit we tried their Frutti di Mare, which is their seafood pizza. It was good too! But Jay loves his meat, so of course he prefers our first order hehe.
All their pizzas are thin crust and come in one size: nine inches. You can opt for the crust to have chewy or crunchy edges.

Do you know how powerful a woodfire brick oven is? Your pizza is baked in THREE minutes!

For the pasta, try their Frutti di Mare (yes, just like the pizza) or their carbonara. The latter is comfort food heaven.
I don't care much for drinks at restaurants, but for this one, you need to listen to me. Order their mint iced tea and thank me later. I haven't tasted something like it before, it is so refreshing! It made me want to start planting mint at home so I can just pluck the leaves and mix it into my drinks.
Amare La Cucina is at Albergo Hotel, 1 Villamor Drive, Lualhati, Baguio City.
For reservations, call +639163321522

P.S. They also have a branch in Kapitolyo in Pasig!

CHEF'S HOME

This humble restaurant used to be a small hole-in-the-wall on Outlook Drive corner Romulo Drive, with only several tables to accommodate diners at a time. That's where Jay and I ate back in November. But now, they've opened a bigger and better restaurant along Marcos Highway. We hope the food quality stays the same.

The owner, Malaysian Chef Alvin Emuang, was very accommodating with our orders. Since there were only two of us and we knew we couldn't finish one whole order of their bestselling braised whole pata, he suggested serving only half, and packing the rest so well so we could take it back to Manila.

And even what they plated for us was hefty!
We also had their Tom Yum soup, which I thought would be spicy, but tasted similar to our sinigang.
 I loved it!
Now, food is much more than sustenance for me, and oftentimes, my favorite food items are ones that trigger nostalgia. Chef's Home's tapioca is no exception.

It reminds me of the tapioca served at Mongolian Grill, the buffet at Mile Long building in Makati we used to frequent with our Dad more than a decade ago, only that one came with milk while this one is served with syrup.

But the blast of nostalgia is the same one I dug in.

The tapioca itself is bland, so you have to bathe it in syrup to get a satisfying bite.

When we dined at Chef's Home, next to us was a table full of expats and it seemed like they came to the restaurant quite often. They already knew what they were going to order, like the crispy papaya salad, which I will definitely try when we come back.

Chef's Home's menu changes depending on the fresh catch and what's in season, so it's best to ask them for their recos, and order according to your budget. If you're not good in Math like me, the price per weight in grams may be misleading haha. So make sure to clarify the number of servings for a specific weight. It's best to dine with a group because they have huge servings.

You can now find Chef's Home at No. 88 Unit C, Marcos Highway (Old Sicat Hotel), Bakakeng Central, Baguio City

You may call +639164445756 for reservations and inquiries.

FOGGY MOUNTAIN COOKHOUSE

Now this one is really a must-try when you visit Baguio. Call one day ahead because Chef Marianito "Babes" Reyes doesn't accept walk-in customers since he needs to plan out all the cooking and ingredients beforehand.

We were fortunate to get a table the morning of our return to Manila.

Again, this place is better if you're a big group, so you can try more entrees and indulge in the huge servings.

Jay and I ordered the Porchetta (upper left), served with crispy skin in red wine reduction sauce.

We also had the Crispy Squid Fries (bottom left), which looked more like chicken croquettes with their unique shape.

Chef Babes told us he flies the giant squids from Norway.

When we come back with our family, we would order their house special, the oven-roasted chicken.
A post shared by Romy P. Cruz (@romyisagirl) on

Don't forget to try their homemade ice cream! It's sooo good. I mean, just look at that drizzle. Sprinkle a bit of the pink salt on top for a better ice cream-eating experience.
You can check out their Facebook Page or call +63917674687 for inquiries and reservations.
Foggy Mountain Cookhouse is at 172 St. Joseph Street, San Carlos Heights, Baguio City

VIZCO'S

I have to include this here for those who haven't discovered the incredible strawberry shortcake of Vizco's!

Guys, especially those who love cake like I do, don't leave Baguio without trying a slice of their strawberry shortcake. The soft and fluffy sponge, the pillowy frosting, the fresh strawberries, and even the decorative glace, all come together for that perfect bite. Just looking at this photo makes mecrave one right now.

Vizco's has a whole range of other cakes too but I can't vouch for them since we always, always get the strawberry shortcake.

So yeah. Vizco's strawberry shortcake. Try it.

Vizco's has a branch on Session Road and a takeout counter at SM Baguio.

Baguio will always hold a special spot for us, so this is definitely not the last of my Baguio Eat List. I hope I can come up with another one for next visit, that's if we'd have space to eat more after coming back to these surefire hits!

Friday, March 2, 2018

How I turn my receipts into cash



Now that I'm a wife, I've become more budget conscious and eager to find ways to save and get value for our money.

I downloaded this app called Snapcart (it’s available on iTunes and Google Play Store), which allows you to take photos of your receipts and gives you cash in return.



Snapcart only accepts certain kinds of receipts, like those from supermarkets, drugstores, cosmetic stores, and department stores (for cosmetic purposes). Then depending on the amount on your receipt, you get a cash equivalent.

The app is very easy to use. Once you've downloaded Snapcart, just open the app and create your profile. Read the FAQ section to better familiarize yourself with it, and then, snap away!

When you open the app, it takes you to your dashboard, where you can see your level (mine is Silver), your cashback balance, and the snap button so you can easily take photos of your receipts. The bell on the upper right is for notifications (whether your receipt was accepted) and announcements.



When you want to cash out, just tap on the cash out button. You have the option to give your bank account number and they automatically transfer it to your account, but this has a transaction fee of PHP20. The bank transfer used to take 5-7 working days, but Snapcart just announced that they've made the process shorter.

I was so happy when the transfer came through to my account. I wanted to make sure the app was legit before I recommended it to you guys!

Other cash out options are prepaid phone top up and e-vouchers, but I chose the bank transfer option because that's the most convenient for me. Other users said Snapcart also used to give out Zalora credits, but I guess that was for a limited time only.

You must also remember to snap your receipts within 3 days of purchase or else they will no longer  be accepted. The best thing to do is to snap your receipts every night so you won't forget. I do it whenever I edit our accounting spreadsheet.

You should also make sure you snap clear photos, and take a photo of the entire length and width of the receipt. There’s a button to press when the receipt is long and can’t fit in one snap.

You are only allowed to submit 3 receipts per day, so it's best to divide your receipts in case you've made several purchases.

Here is what my notification page looks like. It takes 1-2 days to know whether your receipt was accepted or not. So you must really snap immediately, because in case your receipt gets rejected, you can snap it again and resubmit before the 3-day window is up.



As you can see in my receipt history, I've had several receipts rejected because the photo was either blurry or the snap was incomplete.

Most of those were also duplicates. When they often rejected a complete snap, I started submitting duplicates to be sure. But fortunately they were able to fix the bug.

It's better to take your photos in the morning and do it with as much natural light as possible.



Another valuable tip is to split your receipts for large purchases, especially at the supermarket. As you can see in the cashback tier of my level (Silver), receipts with total value of PHP2,001 and more has an equivalent cashback of PHP30.00.



So whenever Jay and I do the grocery, I ask the cashier to split the receipt once it reaches PHP2,001. That way I get more receipts and higher cashback!

If you're wondering why an app would want photos of our receipts, I thought about that too. When you answer the demographic survey in the app, there's a note before you start. It says they use your answers (and your receipts) as data in aggregates for market research purposes.

So just think of it as being a market study subject and your cashback is your payment for being a willful participant.

I think it's genius, creating an app for the brands' market research. It's easy, convenient, and data comes in real time because users snap their receipts within three days of purchase.

Snapcart was first launched in Indonesia and it reached the Philippines in 2016.

Are you using Snapcart too? How was the experience? Do you have other tips? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Romy Roams Tokyo: Where to Eat

Happy 2018, dear readers! I know it's been a while since I last wrote a post, but I've been busy with the life of being a wife and finishing projects on the side too, so the blog took a back seat. 

Hopefully with the new year comes a new drive to write more regularly. Please don't get tired of dropping by!

So, let's get on with my first post for the year. :)

Now that you've read where to go in Tokyo, it's time to let you in on all the good food we ate! 

Japanese food is something I grew up eating. My brother and I inhale a plate of sashimi within seconds. 

My family and I frequented Kimpura, Sugi, and Saisaki when they were the only choices in Manila. When we grew older, we tried other restaurants to get our sashimi fix and other Japanese food staples. 

So to say I was excited to finally try Japanese food in Japan is a major understatement. 

Here's my Tokyo Eat List! Hope you enjoy these restos and dishes as much as I did. 

1. Ichiran Ramen 

Ramen is the one of the latest Japanese food crazes that hit our country in recent years, and it's a craze that's here to stay. Ichiran is a franchise that has yet to reach our shores, and it was really on my list of restaurants to try. 

This chain of ramen joints is unique as it has cubicles instead of tables for its patrons. Groups of people won't be guaranteed to sit together, and the ramen experience is enjoyed on your own. 



A plus for introverts, this place is not where you take a leisurely meal. But! With how good the ramen is, you really won't have time to talk anyway! 

Ichiran has a creamy, milky broth, and noodles that melt in your mouth. I have been trying to replicate their noodles with my orders in ramen places here, but to no avail. 

What you do is you fill out a form for your order, and when you still want extra noodles (called kaedama), you can press the buzzer and they will refill it for you for an extra charge. You can't order more soup though.

We loved Ichiran so much we ate there one more time during our trip. We also tried another ramen joint, Tonchin, where you order through a machine that dispenses a ticket that corresponds to your choice. It was good, but Ichiran is better. 

2. Sushi Zanmai

To eat sushi in Japan is any Japanese food lover's dream. I waited days into our trip before this dream came true, and I'm thankful Jay came with me on a breakfast sushi run! 

The rest of our companions weren't too keen on eating sushi so our trip to the Tsukiji Market was taken out of our itinerary. It was a good thing there was a Sushi Zanmai outlet near our apartment that was open for 24 hours! So off we go in freezing weather to eat raw fish.


A post shared by Romy P. Cruz (@romyisagirl) on

The experience will always be imprinted in my memory. The taste of fresh toro that melts in your mouth (there really is no other way to describe it) sent my eyes rolling in happiness

We ordered two plates, one nigiri+maki and one sashimi. Nigiri are the ones composed of Japanese sushi rice with a topping. Sashimi pertains to fish with no rice (my personal favorite). 


A post shared by Romy P. Cruz (@romyisagirl) on

We had the Kashimori (no. 66 on the menu), a special assortment of raw fish good for two persons. That's the platter in the photo above. It costs Y2,980. That's Php1365.89 in today's exchange rate. 

We also ordered the Uruoi Sushimori Special (no. 59 on the menu), a platter with 13 pieces of assorted nigiri and maki. 

I wish we could've eaten sushi more than once during this trip, but it's a good reason to come back to Japan!

3. The Gindaco Takoyaki

This isn't a meal but more of a filling snack. We chanced upon the Gindaco stall while strolling in Harajuku. A quick Google search told me it's one of the recommended shops for takoyaki so we grabbed the chance to sample their fare. 

My only previous takoyaki experience was from food stalls in the Philippines, and they always involved way too many flour and very little octopus (I don't even think it's real octopus but most probably just squid haha). 

So it was a revelation to find out what authentic takoyaki tastes like. The soft coating is thin but filling (also piping hot), the octopus stuffing generous, and the sauce tasty. 



Check out the geotag on my Instagram post (and follow me while you're at it! hehe) to see the exact location of the Gindaco stand in Harajuku.

We chose two variants. The first one is the Original with Gindaco sauce, green seaweed and bonito flakes for toppings. It's umami-filled and perfect for my salty-loving tastebuds! 

The other one we ordered is the Teritama, which is pictured above. It has teriyaki sauce and Japanese mayo, egg salad, dried green seaweed and bonito flakes, plus sprinkled with Japanese 7 spices. Equally good, but this one has a sweet touch because of the teriyaki sauce. 

I wish our takoyaki stalls here step up their game!

4. Ikinari Steak

We ate steak for our first meal in Japan. Ikinari Steak was recommended by a photographer friend, and I'm glad we decided to try it out. The concept is simple, choose your cut, choose the cook, and wait for your order!

They have small outlets and most of the customers eat their steak standing up, but when we came in the server showed us to an area with stools. There are also a couple of booths for groups dining together.

A post shared by Romy P. Cruz (@romyisagirl) on

Jay, Efra, and I were all satisfied with our orders. It made me wish I chose to have my steak medium rare, though. I always go for medium well whenever ordering steak, but when I tasted Jay's order it changed my mind. Next time!

The owners of Ikinari Steak in Japan also operates Pepper Lunch. The latter is already in the Philippines (the franchisees are blogger Chuvaness and her family), but I wish they bring this concept here too. There's a shortage of places that offer great steaks at mid-prices.

5. Luke's Lobster

This last place was an item I didn't get to cross off my list, but I'm still posting it because you might be able to drop by. Tell me if it really is worth it!

Well to be honest, you don't have to convince me. I mean, look at how gorgeous their lobster rolls are (photo not mine).


A post shared by SteVen Sbb (@stevennsbb) on

Luke's Lobster has two locations in Tokyo, one in Shibuya and one in Harajuku.

Okay now that I know how close it was to the Gindaco stall, I'm disappointed we didn't go! I really need to plan out our food trips better. But like I said, it's an added reason to come back, so all good.

So there you have it, my Tokyo Eat List. There are A LOT of good food places in Tokyo and I'm sure I'll have more for you when we come back in the future, but a good rule of thumb is go where the locals eat. If you see a spot with a long line of locals, there's a great chance you won't be disappointed.

Have you been to these food spots? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments!