Eating Tagaytay Beyond Bulalo

When I was a kid, Tagaytay felt like Baguio to me.  It’s cold, far away, and very unlike Manila. With the chill and the occasional fog, it felt like countries away from Manila. Ever since I could remember, my family’s default go-to restaurant is Leslie’s. Of course what else could be more suitable to the cold than a hot soup of bone marrow, aka Bulalo, with the cholesterol glazing your upper lips and the area above it? Mmm… But this post is not about that. This is about salad, pasta, coffee, and pie. 🙂

Days before I left for a short vacation, James tried to surprise me with a mini despedida. This was our first road trip.

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Despite the heavy traffic, we arrived at around lunch time in Sonya’s Garden. It was a Wednesday so there were very few people. We were seated in one of the air-conditioned pavilions. The pavilion is big and natural light streamed everywhere. On one side, tables and chairs; on the other, an indoor garden with a waterfall backdrop. The linens, chairs, plates, and even the light fixtures were mismatched. The overall theme was shabby chic and the overall atmosphere was chill.



The food was served sit down buffet style.The first course was a make your own garden salad. Description from Sonya’s Garden’s website:

Our freshly picked lettuce and arugula are organically grown in our own greenhouses. Garnish them with a selection of fruits in season and an assortment of fresh flavors. Drizzle with Sonya’s Secret Salad Dressing or Balsamic vinegar/extra virgin olive oil and top with Parmesan cheese.

For drinks, we had freshly squeezed dalandan juice and tarragon tea. I enjoyed the juice very much. It is surprisingly sweet but not so much.


Then the bread.

Newly baked whole-wheat sesame bread from the Panaderia with an array of freshly made dips & toppings: basil pesto, white cheese, anchovies, tomato salsa, mushroom pate, black olive tapenade, and fresh green peppercorn in olive oil.

My favorite ingredient? The white cheese. It’s soft but tender and it wasn’t tangy or salty. I discovered it’s perfect for the garden salad. I made my own salad of greens, mangoes, white cheese, and Sonya’s secret dressing. Mmm…

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Then for the main course we had two kinds of pasta: tomato-based and cream-based.

Enjoy it two ways: red with tomatoes, garlic and onion simmered in olive oil and white with bits of chicken bubbling in cream and mango. Top with ratatouille, salmon belly, shitake mushrooms, black olives, capers and grated Parmesan cheese.

The pasta was al dente. I tried both sauces but maybe I was just really full but I found them both too thick. The salmon was overcooked and too oily. I did like, however, the shitake mushrooms and ratatouille.

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For dessert:

End your meal on a sweet note with glazed sweet potato (enjoy it with mint leaves), banana rolls with sesame & jackfruit, and the smashingly sinful homemade chocolate cake from the Panaderia

Everything about the dessert is cute. The turon and the chocolate cake slice were tiny. But I guess it was intentional because we could only finish a single serving.

Part of the experience of Sonya’s Garden is to go around the place. The walk was relaxing; it was a commune with nature.


After going around Sonya’s, we arrived at around 6pm in Caleruega. But since it was late, the ponds and picnic grounds were already closed. We were only allowed inside and outside the main church.


Soon after we arrived in Caleruega, rain started to pour. But not wanting to go home yet, we went to Bag of Beans. The rain was pouring but we had a warm slice of my favorite pie and cups of coffee that kept us warm. The famous Buko pie of Tagaytay cannot even hold a candle to Bag of Bean’s Shepherd’s pie. Seriously, that is the best pie ever! Cheese and beef… Mmm…


While enjoying our coffee we played pusoy dos and tong its. We were having so much fun we didn’t realize it was already 9pm. We continued our merrymaking by singing our hearts out to songs from my iPod from Santa Rosa to Quezon City. 😀

Looking back, I think this was his way of making sure I would miss him. And of course it worked. It always do. 🙂



Three of the googolplex reasons I love about James and why I think we are very much compatible are: (1) we both like to try new things, (2) we both like to eat, and (3) we take celebrations seriously. Every month, depending on whose turn it is, I or he would research for days or some times weeks in advance where to celebrate our monthsary (and some times birthdays, Valentine’s, new work, etc.). I know how difficult it is. So I’m sharing posts like this in the hope it would help couples like us or anyone who just wants to go somewhere special. Be it in a carinderia, a fancy-shamcy restaurant, or wherever, anything date and food related I’ll classify under “Date Food“. 🙂

All pictures were taken by James Mendoza.


One response to “Eating Tagaytay Beyond Bulalo

  1. Looking back, I think this was his way of making sure I would miss him. And of course it worked. It always do. 🙂 -> hihi i love you mahal!

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