Once in a while, don't you just wish you're outside of the city. Away from the stress, the hustle and bustle and the endless worrying? This is one reason why I love taking weekend trips as it allows me to relax and recharge myself for another busy week ahead. I also love taking in the cool fresh air and enjoying the beautiful sceneries that nature has to offer."Wellness is a state of mind..." - Chef Teresa Loob, Terazzas de Barako
I'm lucky that I just got my quick break recently. It was upon an invitation to visit Terrazas de Barako in Lipa, Batangas that I found myself on the road with Paul and fellow blogger Richard and his lovely family. Initially, I thought the ride would take more than 4 hours which was why I packed my bag with a fully-charge iPod Touch, a book, a huge bottle of water and some crackers. I was ready for the long drive battle!
I was surprised though that it only took us a little more than an hour and a half to reach Lipa coming from Makati. Thanks to the very helpful Star Toll! In no time, we entered the highly secured gates of Hacienda San Benito and our van made its way in until we reached a beautiful structure surrounded by a Koi Pond and even has a grape vineyard beside it.
"Welcome to Terrazas de Barako.", said a pretty lady who offered a simple garland to each one of us.
The restaurant was not air-conditioned but there's really no need to install one as its design allowed Lipa's cool wind to come in through the shutter-like roof and its huge screen doors.
We met British Chef Teresa Lobb who used to be the personal chef of different personalities and royalties in the United Kingdom (hello Prince William!). It was truly an honor that she's preparing our lunch for that day. Chef was very busy when we arrived that's why our organizer decided to take us on a quick tour around the farm.
Terrazas de Barako is part of Hacienda San Benito which is a real estate property offering farm lots to people who are in the look out for a weekend home away from Metro Manila. We also found out that Lipa is actually the 3rd coolest city in the Philippines following Baguio and Tagaytay. Interesting!
Hacienda San Benito boasts of raising their own animals such as chicken and fishes (Tilapia) as well as having organically-grown vegetables as well.
We had Richard's daughter Lauren with us that day and it was so fun to see her learning about animals and plants by seeing them up close. We saw a couple of ostriches, two rams and a couple of herons too! It was also the first time for me to see a carrot directly from its roots! Very educational indeed!
Paul also had a blast as it reminded him of his life in the farm a couple of years ago.
On our way back to the restaurant, we also passed by the Capilla de Sagrado Corazon which was designed by Arch. Jason Buensalido. This is an open-air circular chapel that once again maximizes the wind movement making it very cool inside.
It was already 1PM when our short tour ended and we can actually feel our tummies growling. We headed back to the restaurant and luckily, Chef was ready to serve us.
Our meal began with a huge basket of freshly baked breads. We were told that Chef Teresa makes and bakes her own bread. There were three types of breads served that day: dinner rolls, bread sticks and Chef Teresa's very own Caramelized Onions and Garlic rolls. I can't really pinpoint which one I love the most as each type was so soft, fluffy and flavorful. Lauren tried the bread sticks and exclaimed that it was so soft! The Caramelized Onion rolls was a surprise though. I normally am not so fond of onions but after hearing Richard's raves about this, I took a bite and agreed that it was indeed very good.
I also enjoyed adding a thin spread of homemade butter in my dinner rolls which I was told that both was made with Malunggay leaves. We all enjoyed the selection of breads that we wished that we can buy some to bring home.
In addition to our bread basket, we also had some crostinis with Chicken Pate and homemade Mango Chutney. So yummy! I love how the sweetness of the chutney went perfectly well with the savory chicken pate.
Then our real appetizer came : a trio of Fresh Malunggay Lumpia filled with Prawns and Crabmeat + Cream of Roasted Vegetable Soup drizzled with Basil infused Olive Oil and Goat's Cheese Croutons + Fillets of Tambans encased with Herbed Bread Crumbs and wrapped in Crispy Bacon.
This is just a perfect example that healthy dishes can actually be very delicious! I enjoyed our appetizer platter very much that my plate was very clean after a few minutes!
Our appetizer was followed by Spinach and Water Chestnut Roulade spiked with Mixed Lettuce topped with Spicy Chili, Tomato and Coconut Salsa. Upon hearing the word spicy, the three of us except Paul proceeded with caution. I was the first who took the plunge and quickly reported that the spicy salsa was pretty much bearable. I guess this can be attributed to the sweet tomato that has tamed the spiciness of the chili. The Spinach and Water Chestnut Roulade reminded me of eating a Quiche. It's delicious but can be very filling after a few bites.
For our entree, we once again has a HUGE plate filled with Free-range Organic Roast Chicken Breast stuffed with Longganisa and Garden Herbs + Pan Fried Red Tilapia + Oven Baked Rack of Lamb with Minted Jelly.
I tried the chicken first as Lauren, who had her own plate of Roasted Chicken once again exclaimed that it was "ho tsia" (delicious). Likewise, I found the meat very tender and the sweet longganisa just added the right touch to the entire dish. It was so good I fought the urge to ask Chef for more. :)
As for the Tilapia, after seeing that there were just too many bones in it, I immediately chucked it over to Paul's plate. Really do not have the talent in de-boning fish meat. However, Paul liked it very much and commented that the fish was very fresh and the meat sweet and tender.
The lamb was also very juicy however I prefer my lamb to be on the salty side. This one was a bit too bland for my taste. Not even the mint jelly helped in perking up the flavor for me.
We were starting to feel so full already but of course no meal if complete without dessert! Chef Teresa came out with another platter presenting the following: Mini Hot Chocolate Fudge + Chocolate Chili Ice Cream + Dairy Free Chocolate Parfait.
I first tried the Chocolate Chili Ice Cream which initially tasted like a regular creamy Chocolate Ice Cream but after a few seconds, the chili kicked in and I had to take a sip of water to calm my frightened taste buds.
Next was the Mini Hot Chocolate Fudge. All I have to say was it was LOVE at First Taste! I love the rich chocolate syrup matched with the buttery pancake-like cake. It was soooo good that I just couldn't stop digging in until my bowl was sparkling clean.
Last was the Dairy Free Chocolate Parfait. Irene was the first who tried this and commented that it was too bitter for her taste. I followed suit and she was right. I couldn't even finish an entire teaspoon. I wasn't really sure what Chef have included in this tiny shot glass but the bitter taste was just too much. This was the only thing that I didn't like.
The surrounding of Terrazas de Barako was just amazing. I just love the provincial feel where I can hear the leaves from the tree rustling, the sound of the cow mooing and the majestic view of Mt. Malarayat located just behind the restaurant. We even befriended a beautiful black Labrador named Brando.
Located right below the restaurant is Hacienda San Benito's Organic Pool, we were told that no chlorine was added in here and all they use is clean running water. Perfect for those who do not like the smell or are allergic to chlorine.
We had such an amazing time dining at Terrazas de Barako and touring around Hacienda San Benito. We were told that the restaurant accepts reservations and they actually have set menus priced no more than Php. 1,500 per head. What a steal! :) This is definitely perfect this coming Valentine's Day.
Make your reservations now! Call Terrazas de Barako at 806-2580 or (0927) 909-1867. You may also fill up their online form here.
Hacienda San Benito is located at Brgy. San Benito, Lipa, Batangas.
*photo credit: Paul Ang