(PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - No matter how many times we go to Cavite, there are always good eats to find.
Only two years ago, we visited and came home with happy tummies and wonderful memories.
Among the good places we remember was Chateau Hestia in Silang with its fine European cheeses, wines and excellent lasagnas, cannelloni and other pastas. Also, Marcia Adams restaurant in Alfonso with its beautiful architecture and excellent Italian cuisine.
In that same tour, we discovered Bawai's Vietnamese Kitchen, also in Silang. The restaurant is tucked away in a quiet village, far from the madding noise of the town proper. We enjoyed authentic Vietnamese cuisine such as steamed prawns and gha gio, or fried roll filled with chicken and pork.
A recent tour would yield more surprises.
Authentic Italian cuisine
The first stop was Casetta Del Divino Zelo, an excellent place to find good Italian cuisine in Silang. It is run by an order of nuns. The head nun is Italian herself, so the cuisine is as real as you can get.
The pizzas are baked from authentic brick ovens. The prosciutto con arugula pizza is particularly good, with light tomato sauce and Parma ham, and garnished with arugula. The pizza is chewy and has a woody-smoky flavor imparted by the wood-fire oven.
The pasta bolognese is refreshingly light and not too sweet, truly an authentic Italian variant compared with the tweaked sweet recipes in many restaurants in the metro. For dessert, the tiramisu and coffee is a perfect combination.
The restaurant is nestled in an airy complex where diners can enjoy the clean, fresh air of Silang.
Apart from the good grub, guests can try homemade delicacies also prepared by the nuns. The peanut butter is good, with a pleasantly sweet and thick, chewy texture.
Lime and Basil Thai Restaurant in Alfonso meanwhile, is nestled in a sprawling property where the owners grow the herbs used in the dishes.
The Tom Yum Goong is the definite must-try dish. It is similar in some ways to sinigang, but spicier, and has a zesty flavour imparted by lemongrass, a signature herb in Thai food.
The Fresh Spring Rolls are good, along with the signature Lime and Basil Salad, a mixture of fried egg, basil, lettuce, peanuts, shallots and sour tamarind dressing.
Another new discovery is Rekados Cafe and Restaurant in Tagaytay. It serves Spanish cuisine with a Pinoy twist. Among the choice entries are Lengua Sevillana, Bulalo ng Tagaytay and Baked Eggplant.
Another must-try is the Paella Negra, a Valencian rice dish with squid ink, then generously topped with various seafood delicacies such as squid and clams.
For dessert, the churros con chocolate is a favourite of diners.
Next up was Hybrid Project in Imus, located in a turn-of-the-century house. At night, the entire place is filled with smoke coming from the numerous grills at the patio.
Diners can order various Pinoy street food such as pork barbecue, isaw, betamax, and more. Bestsellers include Sisig Rendang, Crispy Pork Kare-Kare, Baby Back Ribs, Chorizo Salisbury Steak, Pesto Pinakbet and the Bulaklak sa Sarsang Buffalo, or chicharon bulaklak coated with buffalo sauce. Also worth sampling is the Binagoongang Beef Bulgogi.
In Trece Martires City, there is Republic of Cavite restaurant, a destination for those looking for fine Caviteno cuisine. The interior of the restaurant has pictures and images of historical events and figures of Cavite, making the place a haven for history aficionados as well.
Taal Vista Hotel
For this tour, our home base was the iconic Taal Vista Hotel. Staying again in this all-time favourite Tagaytay institution felt like revisiting an old friend. The rooms are consistently clean and well-furnished.
Cafe Veranda, the hotel's in-house restaurant, is newly renovated and now has a brighter ambiance. Machuca tiles, the famous Moorish-inspired tiling from Manila, dominate the floors of the restaurant.
Of particular note is Taal Vista's Taza Fresh Table, which serves hearty meals made with organic, whole-food ingredients.
The Ceasar Salad is made with farm-fresh romaine wedges and topped with locally produced ricotta cheese. The signature Taza Salad is also good, with quinoa, cherry tomatoes, arugula, micro-greens, Cebu dried mangoes, radish and beets splashed with white wine vinaigrette.
The top main course entries are the Tomahawk Pork Chop with caramelised onions and bananas with pork jus, T-Bone Steak and Four Cheese Pizza. The French toast topped with bacon is an indulgent breakfast option, but something one needs to try when in the restaurant.
For new places to visit in Cavite, the Gingerbread House in Alfonso is top of mind.
It is a theme park inspired by the fairy tale of Hansel And Gretel, with the scent of gingerbread wafting in the in-house restaurant. Kids will surely love the Christmas vibe of the place.
For nature lovers, the Riverfront Garden Resort in Maragondon, Cavite, is an ideal destination. The resort offers quaintly designed accommodations for staycationers and a wonderful view of the clean river beside it.
The ubiquitous SM Malls are also present in Cavite. SM City Trece Martires hosts premium shops such as Miniso, Seattle's Best, Tous Le Jours and The Body Shop. SM City Molino has BreadTalk and Lady Christine's, which serves tasty baby back ribs.