Warning: Photo-heavy and very long post

Three days before my birthday, I got sick. I spent the night feverish and shivering under a thick blanket, sweat pants and sweat shirt over my sleepwear, and a pair of socks. By morning, it was clear that all my plans for the next two days had to be canceled.

On the morning of my birthday, I contemplated whether we should cancel our lunch and dinner reservations. I still had sore throat, cough and colds. I’m glad we didn’t. I had a wonderful time spending the whole day with my hubby.

Our first stop, Sonya’s Garden. I reserved a table for lunch. I’m glad I did because Sonya’s was full that day. They had two weddings, which left only one dining area for lunch guests.

The menu was nothing new. We were first served with a pitcher of fresh dalandan juice. Then we started off with salad which is what I like best at Sonya’s. We were served with a bowl of lettuce mix and arugula (which Ariel hated and I loved) and small ramekins filled with sliced veggies and fruits, nuts and other toppings.

The dressing is pretty good – tastes like honey mustard. I also like the pop beans which add a bit of crunch to the salad. The greens are grown in their garden and are guaranteed fresh all the time.

I also like the warm freshly-baked bread from their own bakeshop. The bread is served with an assortment of spreads – white cheese, anchovies, tepanade, pesto, etc.

The main course is pasta. A bowl of linguine is served along with a variety of sauces and toppings – sun-dried tomato sauce, chicken cream sauce, ratatouille, olives, capers.

After the main course, dessert is served with a hot cup of aromatic tarragon tea. Dessert consists of a small slice of chocolate cake, which I skipped because of my cough, a plate of camote-cue (candied sweet potatoes), and turon (deep-fried banana roll) . The tarragon tea is the perfect companion to these sweet delights because of the mild flavor that sort of cleanses the palate.

It wasn’t our first time in Sonya’s. In fact, we’ve been here on several occasions. It’s not the food that keeps us coming back. In fact, the food was good but not spectacular. The food experience is something that can easily be recreated at home specially since the salad and bread are sold in their store. Oh, and I can make a better pasta than what is offered in Sonya’s. What keeps us coming back is the total experience. We love the shabby chic feel of the interiors – the wooden mismatched furnishing, the white embroidered table linen, the colorful glass bead chandeliers, and best of all, the lush garden setting of the main dining area.

After lunch, Ariel and I relaxed in the garden and killed time by taking photos. I used my brand new 35mm f2 lens – Ariel’s birthday gift.

Played with my lensbaby, too!

I enjoyed shooting the flowers in Sonya’s garden. So colorful and pretty!

Couldn’t resist taking a photo of this tourist
And a photo of myself taken by Ariel at our favorite spot.

By 3pm, we decided to leave and kill time somewhere else. Dinner was set at 6pm so we had about 3 hours to kill. We decided to drop by Residence Inn to check out the mini zoo. Ariel and I both love animals so we thought we’ll drop by to while away time.

We were surprised to see a good assortment of animals including several tigers and a few lions. However, the cages are too small for these cats to really roam around and get their exercise. There was an assortment of birds, a llama, some boars and mini-horses.

The place wasn’t that big and it took only a few minutes for Ariel and I to cover everything. One popular attraction is the zipline. We saw a lot of families try it. Ariel and I weren’t really in the mood so we just went around the zoo to check out the animals.

After a while I got tired and felt my body yielding to exhaustion. It was too humid and I was starting to feel bad. We decided to head to Starbucks to rest and relax as we wait for dinner time. I got a cup of Full Leaf Chamomile Tea while Ariel opted for his usual Cafe Mocha.


By 5:30, we decided to head off to our dinner destination – Antonio’s. It’s our third time to eat at Antonio’s. This is one place we go back to for the excellent food. It never disappoints. We got a table outside the main dining hall, by the koi pond – the same table we got the first time we dined there. The weather was perfect, the ambiance just beautiful.

 Our table overlooks the main dining hall below. We prefer our spot as it is more private and affords us an unobstructed view of the garden.

Ariel ordered dalandan juice while I opted for warm water. Pathetic, but at least our dinner was awesome. We started with the house salad. Very colorful. I had no idea what the greens were but they were fresh and crisp. The dressing was just heavenly, with a good balance of tartness and sweetness, and a bit of texture from the chopped nuts. The paper thin slices of red radish added bite to the salad. And of course, my favorite arugula (which Ariel hates) added a bit of bitter-nuttiness. Each mouthful  is like an explosion of flavors and textures.

Then came the Cream of Cauliflower with Gorgonzola cheese. Rich and creamy, not too heavy. Soothing to my aching throat. Delicious. I could use another serving of this flavorful concoction.

For our entree, we opted for grilled steak. Each order is good for two people. We asked to split ours in half with Ariel preferring his piece well-done while I wanted mine to be medium-well. It would have been great with wine but given my health condition, I didn’t feel up to it. So I just stuck with my warm water for the duration of our dinner.

First, they served the condiments – pickled garlic, lemon wedges, and Antonio’s special steak sauce.

Then came the plate of mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. After a while, the waiter came back with a sizzling plate containing our steak. He served the steak onto our plate and topped it with crispy, thinly sliced caramelized onions. Just looking at our meal made my mouth water in anticipation.


The steak looked charred on the outside but when sliced, the center was still pink – just the way I like it. Juicy, tender and bursting with flavor. Paired with the side dish and the steak sauce, each bite was pure bliss. The pickled garlic sounded weird but it was actually wonderfully good. And the onions… a bit of crunch, a touch of sweetness – a delight to my senses.


For dessert, I chose the panna cotta for its light flavor. Ariel never liked panna cotta as he finds it too bland. I, on the other hand, enjoy the subtle flavor.

Ariel picked Dulce De Leche Cheesecake. It’s a caramel-enveloped cheesecake – sweet and rich.

We got coffee to go with our dessert but I didn’t drink too much as I was afraid it will aggravate my cough. Anyway, the panna cotta is already a perfect ending to a superb dinner.

The perfect ambiance further enhanced our dining experience. Dim lights from tea light candles. The symphony of cascading water. Koi fishes swimming by the pond beside our table. Soft piped in music.

And of course, the perfect date. I felt so pampered and loved.

What better way to spend my special day than a full day date with my special guy? I had so much fun despite not feeling physically well that day.

Overall, I’ll give Sonya’s garden a 7 out of 10.
Residence Inn – maybe 5 out of 10, mainly because I feel it’s more for families with small kids.
Antonio’s would be a 9 out of 10. Why not a 10? Well, it’s kinda pricey, and is mainly suited for special occasions.

Written by Alby Laran

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