Monday, May 28, 2007

Battle of the Buffets Part 1 (Circles)

Blogging about buffets is going to be a tough one but I thought that it would be interesting to know how one smorgaasbord would compare to another. I decided to battle it out against five 5-star hotels and hope that it may help you to somehow decide where it is worth to shell out P1,000+ and gain 5 lbs overnight.

It's going to be expensive and fattening but it's a job I am willing to take. Since the photos might be a lot, this is the first of a 5 part blog. Please check back to see how the others fair.

Contender: CIRCLES, Makati Shangri-la Hotel.
Date: May 10, 2007, dinner
Co-critics: Jasmin J, Gary J, Christine Y.T., Ylaine and Peter C.


Lobsters, prawns, mussels, sushi among others. They are fresh and abundant and is situated right by the entrance of the restaurant which is a pretty good bait for those who are just passing by. They are on a bed of ice and lit properly to make the red color of the shells come out thus making the mouth drool. The promise of seafood heaven is at hand. Sushi is even presented in a more artful way. There's one with avocado and the way it was prepared seemed too pretty to eat. The only thing missing was Uni. That would have been sushi perfection. A salad bar is also available to those who are pretending to be on a diet. C'mon, admit it, if you are eating in Circles, there's no way you are trying to lose weight. My gang skipped the salad bar completely.

Roastbeef cooked so tenderly, juicy and tasty for meat lovers. Although it was delicious, the gang and I only got a little piece to save room for the other cuisines waiting patiently for our attack.

It was Friday evening and it was LOBSTERS night. But wait, where were the lobsters? That's exactly what we did, WAIT. Since everyone was in line for it, I think that they should have prepared more and faster because it was such a drag for people to have to stand in line waiting for 1 or 2 of these crustacean to be served. Thank goodness Gary was so willing to get the lobsters for us. He is such a darling and the lobsters? Very very good.

Main course and different cuisines:
Chinese, Indian, Persian, Italian and Filipino. You can easily get full just by looking at the spread. Curry, shawarma, siopao, sweet and sour prawns, dimsum, paella, kaldereta, noodles, duck and a whole lot more. Luckily, all the food that we got were good except for Jasmin, who got a piece of steak and said that it was a bit tough. I liked my sweet and sour prawns. It was tender and the prawns were big, fat and juicy. Christine loved the chicken shawarma. Ylaine and Peter got an assortment of things but by the looks of our empty plates, there's no doubt that the dinner was a success.

The most important part of the meal, there was a whole lot of assortment of sweets for us to choose from. Icecream, cakes, pastries, candies, fruits and chocolate fountain. We had everything, even gummy worms. Not one kind escaped our need for our sugar intake.

The small tarts are not worth the fat. There's bread pudding which is not bad but again, not great. The only thing I thought was pretty good was the icecream.

Gary and I enjoyed the cotton candy, but then again, who doesn't?

Overall view, I think that it is not a buffet you should miss. The seafood is fresh, that's the most important thing for me. The dessert needs to be improved somehow. Being pretty is not enough, it should also be yummy. The service was good and ambiance is comfortable. It is not a restaurant to take your date unless, of course, you both love to eat plenty. I have been here twice and the food selection was the same for both times. This was about 2 months apart so I hope that the next time I decide to dine here, they will offer new and different cuisines.

Circles, Makati Shangrila Hotel
Dinner Sun- Thurs -P1,458
Dinner Fri-Sat-Sun -P1,688
(tax and service charge included)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Strolling along Solvang.

My little Danish village in California. Never been to Denmark but this place looks authentic enough. Founded in 1911 by a small group of Danish teachers. It became a city May 1, 1985 and has now a population of about 6,000.

The weather was perfect once again and the 2 hour drive didn't seem to be long because of the beautiful scenery along the way. We stopped briefly in a place called Summerland where there are small and quaint restaurant and shops where one can relax and enjoy the sun.

Solvang showcases horse drawn carriage, Danish pastry shops, a Hans Christian Andersen Park, gentle rolling hills, family bicycles, smorgaasbord, wineries, horse ranches and a windmill. Some shop owners even wear Danish costumes.

There's this place where all the food is only $1.00. Items like cheeseburger, BBQ chicken, noodles soup, icecream sundae, hickory burger steak, hawaiin cheeseburger, soda and icecream sandwich. Simply cheap and attractive especially for a city like this where most of the visitors are tourists.

What caught my eye was this really nice bed and breakfast place. It is small, only 4 bedrooms and they have this really sweet patio where you can just sit, have a cup of tea and watch the people shop and enjoy themselves.

I would definitely go to Solvang again but next time I do, I will make sure I have my European date with me (yeah, you know who you are).

Velkommen til Solvang!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Disneyland revisited...

It's been 11 years since my last trip to the World of Disney. A lot has changed within those years and it is amazing how progressive this amusement park is. There is now a 2 mile long row of restaurants and bars and shopping stores outside the main park which means you can now have the feel of Disney even without going inside. This new strip alone is enough to fulfill the childlike wonder in you. Toys, lights, songs and the smell of freshly popped chocolate popcorn fills the air. You can hear children laughing, crying, screaming and singing. Even adults seem to shed off the years as they walk hand in hand with a stuffed Mickey in between them. It was like a scene from a movie where the weather was utmost perfection, moon was bright, stars twinkling and people are generally happy.

The main park is awesome. Even now that I am 30 something, I am still amazed by the effort Disneyland makes to bring out the kid in each and everyone that visits. Of course, being a Disney fan, I know all the characters, stories and movies that are featured in the theme park which makes it great for me to see a "real" life Samba and Nala, Belle and the Beast, Ariel and others. The garden parade is still a favorite because of the upclose and personal experience that one has with the famous heroins, heroes and villains. I mean, from cartoons to actually being able to touch them, a kid could go crazy with joy!

The rides are still exciting especially since they are often upgraded or add a new twist to it. I must tell you that the Haunted House that we all rode as kids? Still exactly the same. The half moon black chairs, the swing to the left and ride, up and down, the ghosts, paintings the noise and smoke, same same. I was a bit disappointed since there's just so many things that they can do to send more chills up the spine with this ride and still keep it child friendly.

Pirates of the Carribean, now this is number 3 on my list. Since the movie came out, they have incorporated Jack Sparrow and some scenes into the ride which connects the old PoC as we oldies now it, to the one that we all know now. The ride is longer as well which makes standing in line worth every second. There is also an added attraction to this ride which makes it even more interesting. As you enter, they have now a restaurant inside the structure so people who have just sat down on their boats to take the ride, can see people in a romantic and beautifully set up dining area.

For my 2 top ride, It's a Small World. There is something about the boat ride of IaSW that makes me feel warm inside. The memories perhaps that I was only 8 when I first saw these adorable dolls wearing their National costumes singing and dancing to a tune that almost every kid knows. The vibrant colors and the urgent need to find the doll that represents your country is almost like searching for gold. There is only 1 doll that's a Flipper, by the way, and she is dressed like Imelda Marcos. A crown, gold full on dress with butterfly sleeves and diamond studded shoes. We know it's a Flipper because she has got a bit of an Imelda hairstyle. It's a bit sad that we only have 1 doll in small corner of the whole ride because other Asian countries like Japan, India, Thai have their own gallery with backdrop and even own version of the song sung in their own language! Oh still funny how all the Flippers in the ride points out to Imelda when they see her. Guilty!

My number 1, Indiana Jones...what can I say. One of the best ones ever. Even better than rides in Universal Studios. I don't want to have to say anymore about this except "Harrison Ford" is in it and that for me is already enough to take my number 1 spot.

Other rides are also still running as it did when I first visited 27 years ago such as Autopia, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder (love this), monorail, and other small rides. There is also Star Tours, which to me, can be improved on since Star Wars is all about the future, it is only a hydrolic space car and video monitor deal which only makes me dizzy! Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster is fun. It is interactive so as your ride is on it's way, you get to shoot on targets and if you hit it, your points go up. You don't know it but your photo is taken while you are shooting away like there's no tomorrow and as you exit, your photo is on a monitor and if you want, you can email the photo to your account, for free! Now, that's what I call ingenuity.

Check out my mom and dad really getting serious with this ride.

Still very popular and a favorite, the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Yes, the 2 white Big Foot monsters are still there with red angry eyes. Sound effects are same and you still get a little bit wet at the end.

There is also a theatre for Prince and Princesses where kids are taught how to curtsy, dance and get to see all the famous Princesses like Sleeping Beauty, Belle and Mulan...but wait, Mulan is not a princess!!!! What the....(don't mess with a Disney freak like me!). Better write them a letter.

One thing you might find useful to know is that Disneyland allows you to bring in food so if you don't want to spend $8.00 on a dry bacon cheeseburger and $2.00 on a drink, you might want to pack something. The lines for the restaurants are also quite a wait, so as long as you don't bring a ricecooker and tupperware filled with oily chicken and pork adobo, it might be wise to bring in your own lunch. Snacks like banana covered with chocolate and pretzels and churros are available if you get hungry in the afternoon. Since the park closes at 8 pm on weekdays, dinner outside the park might be fun because there are more choices and for sure better quality food.

Also, try to go on a weekday during school months, preferrably April to May. The lines are very short, weather is great (don't forget to bring a sweater as it gets chilly night time) and the risk of losing your kid is lessened because it's not so crowded.

All in all, if your kid is old enough to remember, make it a priority to take them because it builds great memories that they will surely take to their adulthood. As for me, I think I will follow my mom and dad's footsteps and revisit Disneyland only when I am 60+ because after all, Hakuna Matata.

M-Th: 9 to 8 pm
Fr-Sun: 9 to 12 am
Kids under 3: FREE
3 to 10 yrs old: $53.00
Adult: $63.00

Monday, May 21, 2007

I left my heart in Santana Row...

Street cafes, restaurants, specialty shops, a sidewalk drawing competition under perfect weather are some of the things that Santana Row in San Jose, California welcomed us with. A new city has been built within a city and although it reminded me a lot like Serendra in Fort Bonifacio, I somehow felt more comfortable in Santana Row because basically, over here, the people are a lot more friendly than snobby Manileneos.

We had lunch in Sino's, a Chinese dimsum bar/restaurant. I found it funny that I travelled all the way here only to eat Dimsum and Siopao. It was good though and service was fast and efficient. Of course, nothing beats Summer Palace in EDSA Shangri-la. After lunch, a stroll around the place made it seem like I was in the French Riviera minus the beach or a street in Italy.

Even the sidewalk was decorated with magnificent drawings. Each artist was represented by a store in the area and you may vote what you think is the best drawing by visiting that particular store. The artists were on their hands and feet the whole afternoon making sure that their work was at its best only to be washed away the very next day.

I was told that the Mexican restaurant, Consuelo, should not be missed. If I still have time, I will make sure I have my fill of burritos and enchiladas. YUM. Santana Row also boasts of 7 brand new cinemas, soon to open H&M, Mango, Borders, Kenneth Cole, a very quaint hotel and a lot more upscale shops for the A-B market it caters to.

Like Serendra, there are also units here for sale. But the condominium is a building that stands separately from the stores so the noise and activities from the restaurants and bars do not affect the quiet and peaceful surroundings a home should have. A loft in this area costs about $1M but according to my aunt, her investment has already gone up since the time she bought her unit 2 years ago.

Of course, leaving Santana Row was not so easy, especially since I was with great company including another tourist from Europe (yeah, you know who you are). If you should be in the area of Northern California, make sure you stop by Santana Row. It is a good 1 hour drive from SF but very much worth the trip.

Gotta go to Getty!

J. Paul Getty. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, into a family already in the petroleum business, he was one of the first people in the world with a fortune of over $1 billion U.S. dollars. He was an avid collector of art and antiquities, and his collection forms the basis of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.

He purchased the 64-acre site in Malibu in 1945. After 9 years, he opened the J. Paul Getty Museum to exhibit his collection, of which Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities are important elements. In 1968, Mr. Getty decided to recreate a first-century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri. The Getty Villa opened to the public in 1974. It is one of America's finest holdings of ancient art.

The Getty Villa's setting, collections and programs are woven together to create an interesting and educational experience for students, scholars and basically anyone who is interested in art, history and beauty. A must go to when you are in Malibu in LA.

Getty's Villa
Malibu, CA
10 to 5 pm.
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
Tickets are for free but are required in advance.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

5 Beautiful Black Babies!

Allow me to start with my favorite. If you are looking for the ultimate status symbol with a sports car look and a luxury car ride, this is the sweetheart for you. I know that there are much more expensive cars out there but this one seems to have Candy written all over it. It is quite pricey for a 2 seater car but an eye popper like this has very comfortable seats for long or short trips. With a press of a button, the top down operates and sends the roof into the the trunk. Make sure you do this in a crowded place to receive the proper recognition of such beauty. If it were in red, I would literally be selling my arm to take this baby home with me.

This beast will spit out upwards of 465 horsepower from its supercharged 5.5 liter engine and do the 0 to 60 blast in the mid 4 second playground without losing the luxury ride. A true winner.

Mercedes Benz SL500

I admit, I don't know much about cars but I do know how to drive fast and let me tell you that this darling sent chills up my spine when I took it out for a ride. First, the look is amazing. The only word to descibe it is SEXY. It is half my height and I literally have to bend down low to be able to get in, but once you are seated, you somehow automatically feel that you are a Hollywood star and the moment you step out, the paparazzi are out waiting to take photos of you.

It's 350 hp and295 lb-ft lightweight torque, twin-overhead cams and 48 whirring valves resonating through two mufflers makes it a sensational sounding machine, all the more stimulating when getting on the throttle.

LOTUS Esprit S4 Twin Turbo

The queen of all Mercedes Benz, this doll will spoil you. Once you purchase this beauty, your thumb is imprinted in a computer and downloaded to the car so only the owner may open the doors and even start the car without the use of a key. No need to slam the doors or trunk shut because it automatically closes it for you. The voice activated sound system brings your listening pleasure to a new height. Speed? Think 354-hp handbuilt 5.4L AMG power. And don't forget its 391 lb-ft of torque at just 3000 revs.

Although this car is absolutely magnificent, I think my dad or mom would look better in it than I.

Mercedes Benz S55 AMG

A classic and traditional looking Benz, this sweetie has all the comfort that Mercedes is known for. Under the hood of the C280 lies a responsive 2.8 liter inline six-cylinder engine. It features four-valves per cylinder, dual-overhead cams, direct ignition, sequential port fuel injection and electronic engine management. It develops 194 horsepower and delivers all of the power needed at any speed. It is equipped with dual air-bags up front and three-point shoulder harness on all outboard seats, as well as anti-lock disc brakes on all four wheels and knowing this made me feel secure when I took it out for a relatively speedy spin.

Mercedes Benz C280 Sport

A 5 seater BMW is a show stealer. This convertible does have a slightly broader focus than the coupe. It's perfectly happy to have the top dropped (quickly, at the touch of a button, no manual latching or unlatching necessary, thank you) for a spirited but not excessively fast drive on a sunny day. With 333 horsepower to the rear wheels from its unique high-revving 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine by way of a six-speed transmission, and a precisely-tuned sports suspension that is also quite comfortable on less than perfectly-paved roads, plus room for four people and a bit of luggage - or two and plenty - it's a grand car for touring less-explored and more interesting roads.

After all that high tech talk about the engine and technical stuff, all I can say is that I felt like a winner in it!

BMW M3 Convertible

Thanks to the private collection of Chad Dizon, my blog just garnered a sure 10 male readers. I also picked his brains for the information about each car, otherwise, what do I know about the engines. To me, it's all about how I look in them and how fast it will take me to where I am going. A great fix when I feel the need for speed!