A trip to Tagaytay always starts or ends at Sonya’s Garden. This once secret garden has since expanded to a more commercial-looking place but the salad and pasta spread, though unchanging, have always remained plentiful, delicious, and fresh. And then there’s Sonya whose sincere charm in greeting her guests have made the place legendary and unsurpassed. However, yesterday, she was without her trademark white linen dress and big straw hat. She seemed “less” Sonya. Perhaps Sonya’s Garden was changing. I just hope whatever change takes place does not detract from the secret garden ambiance.
A very welcome change though was the panaderia churning-out all sorts of home-made goodies fresh from its ovens. By the time my sisters and I headed to the parking lot, we were armed with bags of goodies. The cheese hopia is especially to die for. The thin crisp crust is oozing with cheesy goodness. Bite into it fresh from the oven and the sweet-salty taste of cheese is just heavenly. The last time we were at Sonya’s together was three years ago when I treated them for my birthday. The panaderia had run out of cheese hopia then so this time we made it a point to buy some first before heading to the conservatory for lunch. Another favorite is a soft butter cookie with a generous chocolate center that comes with the name of “Globo De Oro.” The Chili Bread which was soft and generously stuffed with bacon stood out among the raisin bread, spanish bread, and adobo bread. I had a couple of rolls plus some cheese hopia and leeks hopia all freshly heated in an oven toaster for breakfast this morning—a wonderful (and gastronomic) way to greet my quiet home-bound Sunday.
I’m not a fan of chocolate cake but a slice of it is a welcome addition to the dessert platter of banana turon and fried camote. The trick is to eat it with a sprig of mint and wash it all down with tarragon tea. It had always been salad and pasta at Sonya’s Garden ever since I can remember. Some of my friends have criticized it for its unchanging menu though I remembered a time that an additional cost gets you roasted chicken. I used to go to Sonya’s a lot especially when I still had car and when Tony was still here. We even used to go there every weekend and Sonya once gave us a complimentary lunch. I never minded that the greens were with the usual accompaniment of pineapples, melons, pop beans, and whatever fruit is there in season and topped with Sonya’s Secret Sauce. The pasta had always come with the sundried tomatoes, white sauce with chicken, capers, and black olives. The shrimp had since been replaced with salmon belly (they should have steamed it rather than fried it). Always yummy was the freshly-baked bread with spreads like olive tapenade and pesto. Everything was always fresh, delicious, and plentiful. Sometimes a little surprise like black peppercorns in olive oil or jackfruit made a nice diversion.
There weren’t that much people dining at the conservatory yesterday which made it all good as it was quiet and cool.
With the pot of basil Joy bought from the garden scenting the vehicle, we drove along the ridge while munching on some cheese hopia. We love to eat so there’s always room in our stomachs for more in spite of all the refillable plates of salad and pasta we had.
We stopped at one of the stalls along the road and loaded the pick-up with pineapples, chayote, and papaya and since the back was uncovered we had to put everything inside. We would have picked-up some raisin bread and English pot pies at Bag O’ Beans but it was kinda traffic and there wasn’t any parking. Yna wanted some mushroom burger so next stop was at Mushroom Burger. The place was flowing with people and there was a looooong line at the counter so we bought fresh white mushroom instead for Php 90/pack. I did notice that they were serving potato fries in place of the mushroom fries.
Numerous restaurants had since sprouted along the ridge turning it into one ugly congested place. Bed and breakfasts of all kinds were also on offer but they lacked the charm of Sonya’s.
I missed the turn-off to the road leading to Manila so we detoured to the Maryridge Convent for Good Shephered ube jam, orange and lemon jam, and alfaro cookies. We came just in time as vehicles were arriving and the narrow road that led in/out of the convent was a tight squeeze.
Along with all the food, we were crammed inside with fresh flowers from the stalls near the corner of the road along the ridge.
The final stop was at Rowena’s for her pies. This tiny place has since grown and she now has a spacious parking lot and a cafe with outdoor seating. There were shelves of all kinds of pasalubong including Thai snacks that have been repackaged. We bought boxes of ube pies, buko pies, and sylvannas. The latter was a big big big disappointment as it tasted dry and burnt. No wonder they looked kinda brown. The small pies were still delicious though with crisp tarts, generous fillings, and crumbly tops.
Back in Manila, we bought some burgers at Good Burgers along E. Rodriguez for dinner at Yna’s house. The best of the three varieties we got was the Mediterranean burger with its tangy dressing. Good Burgers has always had really juicy burgers grilled just right. They also have the best vegetarian burger which tasted almost as good as the real beef one.
Tagaytay makes a wonderful day trip to escape Manila though the heavy traffic and the crowds can be a major let down at times but the food stops make it all worthwhile and you can munch your way through the traffic with cassava chips and cheese hopia. Oh and by the way, our lunch at Sonya’s was supposed to be a meeting to discuss our plans. We spent about 30 minutes discussing our next project and spent the rest of the day eating. Now that’s what you call business with pleasure.