The Armchair Critic

(Pretending to know everything)


Heaven Can't Wait

Posted by Lee i.

Yes, that's what my four year old daughter asked me when we were at Heaven 'n Eggs in Tomas Morato. We were finally able to snag a parking space right in front of the restaurant. Parking space is always a premium in Morato.

The restaurant is bright and sunshiney. The pale blue walls with cloud paintings helped give that illusion. My daughters had fun counting the number of angels hanging from the ceilings. My son had a kick out of the waiters who were wearing wings.

The menu is quite extensive, but as the name indicates, this is a place where you could get eggs, primarily. Cooked any which way - scrambled, sunny-side up, poached, baked. With it's waffles and pancakes, it's actually an all-day breakfast place.

I knew the kids won't be eating much so we ordered them the regular waffles. Not being adventurous eaters, they frown on fruits like blueberries or peaches on their food. My son (the predictable) had the kid's meal of chicken and spaghetti. My husband was intrigued by the Germany vs. Brazil item on the menu. It's a tribute to the FIFA contenders, with German sausages and barbecue cooked churarosco style. Since I have this thing about Eggs Benedicts, I had to order their version with crabs and salmon on a bagel. We also ordered Pinoy Nachos - crispy lumpia wrappers with adobo flakes, cheese and mangoes.

When we arrived, we heard the table to next to us following up their order. Half their group was already halfway through their meal. The other half's order had yet to arrive. I looked around and the place wasn't even full. I wondered what they ordered for it to take so long.

Anyway, the waffles were the first to arrive, which was fine as I had time to supervise the girls' eating. Then my Eggs Benedict came. I had a kick from the crab and the salmon but the bagel ruined the experience for me. It was tough and hard to cut with a knife. I ended up breaking pieces of it by hand to mop up the egg yolk on my plate. I know, I know, bagels are supposed to be tough and chewy. But they are best served hot and fresh from the grill or toaster. Mine were quite cold when they arrived thus the difficulty.

I had almost finished my eggs when my son's kiddie meal arrived. There was no sign of my husband's order yet. The other table finally got what looked like poached eggs. It took that long to poach an egg? My husband checked the time and it had been more than thirty minutes since we had given our orders. His eyes are now starting to glaze over. He had already followed up with the waiter but they didn't give him any feedback at all. Finally he told the waiter to just cancel his order and asked me if I minded his leaving and eating at the restaurant next door. I could see he was already very upset so I let him go. This is one instance where heaven can't wait.

A few minutes after he had walked out, the waiter arrived with his food. I asked what took them so long and that my husband had already left to get his food elsewhere. The waiter looked panicked and I took pity on him so I called my husband back on his cellphone. He had already ordered at the other place but he came back.

The Germany vs Brazil was quite good. The barbecue was tender and succulent. Unfortunately, my husband couldn't take more than two bites because he wasn't hungry anymore. Nalipasan na ng gutom. I ended up picking his plate.

The waiters were very apologetic and they gave us free pancakes. As an apology, it wasn't much because it was the cheapest on the menu and I had brazenly asked for free dessert. (Hey, it wasn't the best dining experience we ever had, after all.) Besides, the girls couldn't even finish their waffle so no one was really interested in the pancakes.

I can't say that I'm going back to eat at Heaven 'n Eggs again. The whole dining experience wasn't quite so heavenly and the food was expensive. A can of Coke costs P55.00 without VAT. Not even the Eggs Benedict was worth going back to. Next time I have a craving for eggs, I'll just make clarified butter, get some fresh milk and break out the eggs. At home - where service is at it's finest.


Comfort Food: Baked Mac

Posted by Lee i.

I love rainy weekends. I have the perfect excuse to stay in bed and cuddle with my kids under the warm blanket. When a gray curtain of rain falls ouside the windows, nothing else exists except me and my family. Nothing can compel us to brave the heavy rains and go elsewhere. We're quite warm and comfy where we are.

Rainy days also make me crave for certain food. This month I have been craving for baked macaroni. I used to have a crush on a guy who runs a snack house where their best seller is the baked mac. I loved that baked mac served with homemade pan de sal. I would finish off the very satisfying meal by mopping up the extra sauce on the plate with the pan de sal. Hmmmm...yummy. I think my love for the baked mac outlasted my like for the guy. So even when we weren't talking anymore, I would sneak into his store when I know he's not there so I can take home a bilao of baked mac. Of course, some people would think I was actually hoping to get a glimpse of my crush and was just using the baked mac as an excuse. Eh! Not really!

So the past few days had me reading recipes on baked macaroni. I found an easy recipe from Potluck Hidalgo Bonding, A Family Heritage Cookbook, edited by Jaime C. Laya and Adelaida Lim. I so heart cookbooks that evokes thoughts of family, traditions and good appetite. Already I can see myself sharing this passion for baked mac with my kids. I could only hope that the daughter who doesn't eat pasta with sauce would make an exception.

A storm is raging outside and I had never made a baked macaroni before. But I wanted to satisfy this particular craving, so I braved the rains to get the ingredients from the neighborhood grocery. I grabbed some butter too, to make cookies. No sense wasting all the residual heat from the oven.

One large pyrex dish of baked macaroni, chorizo de bilbao, vienna sausage and queso de bola goodness. Certainly more than my family can eat in a day. I will be having baked mac for the rest of the week. Nice...

One taste and I was brought back to the past. I was a young girl with a crush again. I open my eyes and see my family around me. The baked mac I made is richer, more flavorful and more exciting than the one in my past. I kiss and hug everyone as we settle down to partake of the food and make new memories.


When I turn on the oven, there's no stopping me. I also baked chocolate revel bars, choco chip oatmeal cookies, and even tried to make molten lava chocolate cake. Unfortunately, I overcooked the latter and no molten chocolate oozed from the cake. but it tasted quite good. I will try that again and if I am more successful, I will post photos on this blog. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to photograph the revel bars and the cookies before they were gone.



Posted by Lee i. more Frango mints! Somebody has been raiding my stash incessantly! Oh, wait, that was me. The next days until new supply arrives will be long and dreary. I said I would do a scrapbook page and reward myself with a bite-sized mint chocolate. Errr...make that one box of Frango mints for two scrapbook pages of the same theme. Hehe.


Heaven in a Box

Posted by Lee i.

I heart chocolates. It all started when I was a young girl and my father, a dentist, brought me home a forbidden treat. A Mars chocolate from Norma's - the only PX goods store in the province. You see in those days, imported chocolates were available only in specialty stores or in stores around Clark Air Base. Needless to say, they were quite expensive.

Just like in that old toothpaste commercial, every afternoon I ran to meet my father and perkily asked him, "Ang chocolates ko?" Half the time, of course, I dreaded that he would pull out a tube of Crest toothpaste. Imagine how crestfallen I would have been then. (LOL)

My love affair for chocolates continues to this day. There is no depriving me of these babies. But through the years, I have become quite discriminating. I always like my chocolates to be smooth, creamy and a little minty. And please don't tell me eating mint chocolates is like eating toothpaste. How pedestrian!

Yesterday, the much-awaited balikbayan boxes from my sister in Illinois finally arrived. And oooohhh....the goodies inside.

I've got spools of ribbons, stickers, metal tags, toolkits, paper of different colors...everything a budding scrapbooker could need. I am in paper heaven.

But the best part is the small green box that my sister tucked in with all the scrapbooking stuff. So thoughtful. So delicious. Her one and only addiction, and now mine, too. Frango mints. My sister rewards herself with one of these bite-size goodies after she finishes a scrapbook page. I intend to do that too to stretch my chocolate supply . (Who knows when I will get my next box?) But first, I have to check if the chocolates survived the 4-week voyage to reach me. I have to make sure they hadn't melted.

But the cool minty smell did me in. I just gottta have one! (Or two, or three...) What the hey! I can always scrapbook later. In the meantime, heaven awaits.

Thank God for sisters.


How To Cook Rice

Posted by Lee i.

When I was in grade school, I was assigned to cook the rice. My mother figured that didn't require too much cooking experience. One only has to measure the rice, rid it of the pebbles and unhusked grains, wash it, add water and then put it to boil.

My mother figured wrong. I could never get the right mix of rice and water.

My older brother Joie, in college at that time, taught me how to measure the water. He said, and I quote: measure the depth of the rice with your hand, palm open. Mark the height of the rice on your palm with your thumb. Then put the tip of your fingers on the rice and measure the water. The water level should be equal in height as the rice.

This resulted in rice that was always wet.

Then, my next older brother Jolan taught me another way. He said, fill the pot with water and make sure the rice is level. Then tilt the pot until the water at one end is shallow, "just like in the beach."

The rice I cooked this way, as we say in Ilocano was always nakusul. Or undercooked. Not enough water.

I just gave up. One day, after washing the rice the prescribed three times, I placed it on the dining table and left the house. Of course, I got a terrible tongue lashing from my mother - "What? You think the rice will cook itself?"

At the time, the electric rice cooker hasn't been invented. But even now, with all the modern conveniences, my rice is still hit or miss.


Tagaytay Eats

Posted by Lee i.

Last March 26, a Sunday, friends from college and I went to Tagaytay for a little sight seeing. Yes, indeed, we wanted to see again the world's smallest active volcano, the lake within a lake, and all that. But you'd realize from the itinerary we gave our driver, Taal volcano was quite incidental. He had on his head a map to Antonio's, Sonya's Garden, Sanctuario, Bag o'Beans, etc. I make no apologies for that.

Half of us purposely didn't have any breakfast before leaving Manila as we expected to eat our way through Tagaytay. We wanted to have room for dessert and more. We have read and heard so much about the many restaurants in Tagaytay that we couldn't wait. Almost. Barely out of Magallanes and our stomachs were already growling. Good thing we had some bags of Holy Kettle Corn in the van. (I chanced by the popcorn stall when I was buying drinks for our trip at Rustan's Katipunan. It was the smell of freshly popped popcorn that drew me in. The sweet-salty taste sealed it.)

Anyway, our first stop was Breakfast at Antonio's. I have heard so much about this place. There is not one blog about Tagaytay where Antonio's restaurants were not mentioned. So, needless to say, I was looking forward to my own foodie adventure here.

The first thing that struck us as we parked our car in front of the restaurant was the collection of cars. BMWs, Mercedeses, even a Jaguar, Wow! I hoped that the cost of the cars wasn't indicative of the prices in the menu. Although I have been warned by a friend that Antonio's was expensive. Well, I know that the original Antonio's which serves lunch and dinner ala fine dine, is, but one could only charge so much for breakfast, right? Uhum...

The interiors of Breakfast at Antonio's somehow reminded me of the big dining room at Ilang-Ilang dormitory. Maybe because, as I said earlier, I was with friends, more specifically, roommates from college. It was more airy with the white walls and the big screen windows but it was just as busy as our college dining room.

I perused through the menu although I have already made up my mind what to order. I just had to try the Eggs Benedict every other blogger has been raving about.

Whenever I taste something new that I really like, I would always have to have it, at least for seven days running, until I had a surfeit. I am glad this does not fall into that category or I would have had to live in Tagaytay for a week. The Eggs Benedict did not meet my expectations - made higher by the reviews I have read. The lemon flavor of the hollandaise sauce overwhelmed the flavor of the eggs and the bacon. After the first bite my tongue and brain immediately declared it to be maasim.

I hoped my other friends had better luck with what they ordered so my errant fork can do the walking.

My friend who has lived abroad for the last ten years ordered the tapa and the eggs.

She pronounced the tapa "rubbery." Okay, maybe she's been spoiled by US grade steaks and our local baka is too tough for her. But hey! Look at the edges of the eggs. Slightly burnt! Just like my yaya makes it.

I tasted my other friends' four-cheese omelet and that was so good I didn't get a chance to take a photo before it was gone. My friend's family said that the spring crepes were good too but I have to take their word on it as I my fork didn't dare venture into their plates. We've only just met, for heaven's sakes.

By the time we finished breakfast, it was almost lunch, but none of us felt like eating more, so we ventured to the Palace in the Sky, now People's Park in the Sky. The Palace in the Sky was built for the official state visit of former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy. Although they never got to use it because they had to cancel their trip due to political unrest at that time.

Now People's Park in the Sky, people still come to visit this shell of a mansion because it offers the best views in Tagaytay. Picnic tables are also available on the grounds. I didn't take photos of the place because the ostentatious and flagrant waste of money depressed me. Besides, even if this was Tagaytay, supposedly cool with breeze aplenty, it was way too hot for me.

So now on to better things. Wasn't that a Good Sheperd sign we saw on the way here? Maybe they also had the famous ube jam and peanut brittle they have in Baguio. So following the narrow winding street to the convent, we finally end up in...Baguio! But seriously, except for the hills, the parking lot and the one-storey building looked exactly like the commissary in Baguio. Even the store layout inside was just the same. Well, if the system works, why change it?

We had the jams. Only now they don't come in glass bottles but in disposable plastic containers. But the taste is just I remember it from childhood trips to Mines View Park. And, of course, their bottled honey, which my friend from ADB swears by, as "it doesn't turn lumpy even if you put it in the ref."

We still have to walk off our breakfast (maybe we should now call it brunch), so we visited the Pink Sisters Convent along Aguinaldo Highway. For a short time in our trip we were quiet and reverent as we prayed in their chapel. Our lawyer friend, who, despite her many successes still has alot to wish and pray for wrote her prayers in piece of notebook paper so the sisters can pray over it. I was quite content with my three wishes as this is my first time in this church.

We walked through the church grounds but are we hungry enough yet? Mmmm...maybe. we decided to drive back to Sonya's Garden for lunch. By this time it was almost 2 p.m. so if we're lucky, the noontime rush would have ended. Not. The dining rooms were full so we just walked around the gardens. It was still hot but the different bowers and ponds in the gardens made the heat quite bearable.

We had the best time at the bakery where freshly baked cheese hopia were rolled and sold. The hopia is best fresh from the oven while the outside is still crunchy and the filling is hot. I asked the nice lady in the counter how long it will keep, and she said "around three days, but I doubt you'll have anything left after a day." Indeed, we ate up most of the bread on the way back to Manila.

We also had to take a look inside Sonya's cottages, which are available for rent. The rooms are very pretty but didn't quite seem like the place to take kids or beer. I'd hate to stain the white linens.

Finally, we decided we were hungry enough to eat a real meal again. And by real, we didn't mean Sonya's garden salads and pasta. (Which are very good and plentiful by the way, once you get past the initial "salad and pasta only???")

We went to Josephine's but we were too late for their lunch buffet which was until 3 p.m. only. So we ordered a plethora of dishes - kinilaw na tanguige, sisig, paella, cucumber salads, mangga't bagoong, sinigang na baboy. Again, I wasn't able to take photos of the food because before I can even say "cheese", the food was gone in 60 seconds. But I think we made the right decision to eat at Josephine's. We spent less than what we would have spent at Sonya's and gotten a variety of dishes for it. They serve really good Filipino food and have a nice view of Taal volcano to boot.

Finally, the star of the whole trip:

But what out-of-town trip is complete without the pasalubong? It was a tough decision at which Collette stall we should get the quintessential buko pie. There was a Collette stall every block or so. But a friend of a friend of a friend has informed one of our friends that's there a new buko pie in the block and asked us to keep our eyes open for Rowena's. Just as we were about to give up, there it was right in front of us. (Well, a little to the side of the road.)

Rowena's doesn't just sell pies. And they don't just sell delicacies from Tagaytay. They had pia-ya from Iloilo, lengua de gato, broas and what-have-you's. It's like a grocery of all things you can possibly want to give us pasalubong. It threw me off though. My family knows I'm coming from Tagaytay so they should rightfully expect for me to bring them home something from Tagaytay. Not dried mangos labeled "Made in Cebu."

They were out of the pies that my friend wanted. Apparently they sell like hotcakes (haha - kill me) so the trick is to order them on the way up to Tagaytay and then pick them up when you're coming back to Manila. My friend instead got a box of their fudge brownies, but she asked me to taste one first. If it's good, she'll get more boxes. Suffice it to say, she left with only the one box and a heavy heart. The brownies didn't taste anything like chocolate and the fudge was really more like chocolate condensed milk. Also, as she herself declared, I make better brownies...


Please Kiss the Cook

Posted by Lee i.

Guess that won't be me because I don't cook. Well, maybe if all the restaurants close down and the economy improves so much no one needs to work as house help anymore, then maybe, just maybe, I will have to cook. But don't bet your life on it. No, really. You might not survive my cooking.

Everyone in my family cooks. If there is a cooking gene, it wasn't passed on to me. I have terrible childhood memories of cooking. I remember we used to have this kalan, a clay stove where we used firewood for fuel. It will take me hours just to get a good fire burning - girl scout training or not. We also had a pipe where I would blow air to start a spark until I was literally breathless. I especially hated it when the ashes would fly into my eyes or into my nose. I would have tears in my eyes from the ashes and the coughing.

The worse part is, the soot from the pots would transfer to my hands and face. They are so difficult to wash off, even with Ajax, so I would sometimes go to school like an Indian with black war paint.

I guess we moved up in the world a little when we finally got a two-burner gas stove. I came home from school one day and there it was - sitting in a corner of the kitchen, the white enamel faintly glowing. My heart sang with joy. Imagine, no more gathering firewood. No more blowing air until I deflate. No more having to clean out the ashes from the stove. And best of all, no more uling on my face.

I couldn't wait to try it. For once, I actually looked forward to actually cooking something. Since I was too small to see what was cooking, I would climb on the sink so I could have a good view of the pot or the pan. From that precarious position I would try to fry an egg.

But I hated that stove with a vengeance, too. It was one of those where you had to push the knob and turn it while simultaneously holding a lit match to the burner. I was warned that I shouldn't leave the knob turned on too long without lighting it as gas would escape into the air. So everytime, I would push and turn the knob while simultaneously trying to light a match with two hands. It rarely worked. And on the few times it did, the gas would burst into flame with a very loud "boof." The sound would always startle me out of my perch by the sink.

The last time I fell, I made a deal with my siblings that I would do their laundry as long as I never had to come near a stove again. They actually believed they were getting the better end of the bargain.


About the Armchair Critic

Posted by Lee i.

I am a reader. I read everything I could lay my hands on. There is no one genre that I like but I find that I am predisposed towards books where the authors create entire new worlds. Thus, I love J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, Jean Auel's Earth's Children Series, and yes, I will have to admit, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books.

I am a TV addict. It stemmed from my childhood being hooked with Flordeluna and Sesame Street. I think television is the greatest home appliance ever invented. I was a couch potato then. I am still a couch potato now. Although I think I've grown roots.

I am a movie fan. I used to be bothered by sticky floors and chattering patrons inside cinemas. Now that movie theaters are cleaner, I am bothered by mobile phones and chattering patrons who give their seatmates blow by blow accounts of what's happening on-screen.

I am a foodie.
I can't say that I am an adventurous eater but I will try anything once. I love to eat and I know what I like. So many times you will see me going back to the same restaurant over and over again. I want to taste everything that my budget allows. You will find reviews of expensive as well as hole in the wall places here.

I am a consumer. There is always one product that I will try and keep using. And there are some things that I will never even write about.

I am Lee_i.
You can contact me at

The Armchair Blogs:
The Armchair Scrapper - All About Scrapbooking
The Armchair Chronicler - My Photography Project 365
The Armchair Traveler - My Travels and Travails Journal
KiDS Meet World - About Raising a Family