Flora and Food

It is the  private residence of Claude (pronounced "cloud") and Mary-Ann Tayag.  A known "must-visit" for food lovers, gluttons and food bloggers. For avoidance of doubt, I belong to the first group.

People who know me well know that food is another passion of mine.  A passion thankfully shared by most family and friends.  It is therefore surprising that it took two long years for this visit to have finally come to pass.

The biggest hurdle was that the Tayags do not open their home to a group of less than 12 people. Secondly, it only opens on weekends.  Thirdly, it's at least 2 hours drive from Manila. Finally, I'm on a diet.

This was a 4-hour food experience.  To call it simply "lunch" is such an understatement. Feast is more like it.

I did not read other blogs prior to our visit and so it was a pleasant surprise to be welcomed by plants as well. Had it not been for the plants, I might not have blogged about this visit.  Mine is a plant blog after all and the food likely given better justice by food bloggers who had gone before me.

Bale Dutung (House of Wood) is located in a quiet residential area in Angeles City.  From the street the place looks no different from its neighbors.  Only a colorfully labelled narrow gate is the sign of things to come.

Bale Dutung exterior by Jay Cheng of Sights and Spices. Used with permission.

The first sight that greets you upon entering is a bonsai plant and a wooden sculpture.  Beyond these are glimpses of a pond and the Tayag home.  It then hits you that this place is so much bigger than what it initally seemed.

Moving further into the compound, one gets a better view of the lotus pond with the tall Balete tree (Ficus sp.) in the background.

The pond is guarded by a sculpture of a tikbalang, an evil mythical creature with the head and feet of a horse and a humanoid body. In Philippine folklore, the tikbalang usually lives in a balete tree. The sculpture is Steel, by Solomon Saprid.

The walkway to the house is lined by ferns ang bougainvilles.  The lower level is mostly an open dining area looking out to the garden on one side and apparently leading to the kitchens on the other side.  It was as if each step led one closer and closer to food nirvana.

The menu we chose had previously been praised by Anthony Bourdain, an American food writer/chef; Tom Parker-Bowles, a British food editor/writer for Esquire UK and numerous food bloggers.  The long drive out of the capital city was more than enough to whet one's appetite.

Claude was in charge of the kitchen and Mary Ann was in charge of the dining area.  A very warm and gracious hostess she made each guest feel welcome.  She knowledgeably led and paced us through the meal, introducing each course to us with anecdotes and personal requests.  "Give the first bite of each course to Claude and me.  Taste the food the way we like it to taste.  If you don't like it, then there are condiments for you to use.  But please give us the first bite."

Even before the actual menu, Mary Ann offered us a trio of crackers and spreads.  "Start with green and end with white."  The green spread was basil pesto made with pili nuts.  The yellow spread  was taba ng talangka (fat from small shore crabs).  The white spread was Balo-balo (fermented rice and shrimp).

First course:  Ensaladang Pako.  Fiddlehead fern salad with a honey/calamansi vinaigrette, more specifically not to mention scientifically, Athyrium esculentum.  Second course:  BBQ Paldeut at Claude'9 Talangka Rice.  BBQ chicken tails with lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) marinade and crab fat rice.  Third course:  Adobong Pugo.  Quail - Adobo Style).


There was an intriguing bonsai made of coconut palms (Cocos nucifera).

Huge Alocacia sp. that can double as a golf umbrella.

Highly ornamental Ananas sp. that is too pretty to be eaten.

Another view of the giant and eerie Balete tree. Good thing the tikbalang did not show up in this photo.

Fourth course:  Two kinds of sushi. Talangka Sushi. Sushi roll made of pure crab fat and topped with a slice of kamias or Averrhoa bilimbi. Hito at Balo-Balo Sushi.  Sushi of fermented rice and shrimp with fried hito or catfish wrapped in mustasa or mustard greens.  Fifth course:  Lechon Tortilla.  Crispy roast pork flakes on a tortilla.  Sixth course:  Bone Collector.  Bone marrow in XO Adobo sauce.  Straw provided. This is not for the faint hearted. You could almost feel your arteries clogging up but it was so good you couldn't stop. Mary Ann likened it to a drug addict sniffing Meth.

The Buddha belly bamboo (Bambusa ventricosa) trees also provided a welcome shade.

Seventh course:  Sinigang Kapampangan.  A sour, tamarind (Tamarindus indica)-based soup with okra, taro, milkfish belly, green chili pepper, water spinach and spareribs.  It was also served with crayfish, steamed rice wrapped in a banana leaf, fish sauce, Bird's eye chili pepper and calamansi (Citrofortunella microcarpa), a kind of local lime.    Eighth course:  Kare-Kareng Buntot.  Oxtail Stew in Peanut Sauce. 

Pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius) is widely used in Asian cuisine.

Philodendrons making themselves at home in the Tayag's residence.

Ninth course:  Sisig Babi. Sizzling Pork in onion and liver sauce.  Tenth course:  Tibok-tibok.  Pure carabao's milk maja blanca.  Sinaunang kape.  Coffee prepared the traditional native way.

Wonder of wonders, we reached the 10th course and got a bonus course too. Thanks Mary Ann for sharing your Chicharon Bulaklak or deep fried pork intestines.  Our bellies were full and we were all satisfied.

Even better, as I was walking off that feeling of fullness, I found that the Tayag's had Tillandsias (Tillandsia paucifolia) and . . . 

. . . cycads.  Here is a fine specimen of a Zamia furfuracea.

I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon in Bale Dutung.  Being with family and friends, eating great food in beautiful green surroundings.  I guess the way to a man's heart is not just through his stomach but also through his green thumb.



For more information on Bale Dutung, visit their official website.

Videos are also available on YouTube:  here and here.  Click away.



As mentioned in my previous post, I will be away for some time.  My posts are scheduled to be auto-published while I am away so please do not think that I am neglecting to reply to your comments.  Rest assured that I will try to approve comments and reply as soon as I am able.  

Again, please take the time to answer the poll posted on the sidebar at the top of the page.  I have very limited time in each place and would appreciate help deciding which of the 3 gardens I should prioritize.


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"Are You From Cairns?"

No, I am not from Cairns.

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Although I am also from Queensland, I am from the Newcastle Range in the north-east.  Cairns, the city, is in Far North Queensland.  Both the city and I are named after William Wellington Cairns who was governor of Queensland from 1875-1877.  I am also known as "Mount Surprise" or "Champions Blue Surprise" while the city is not.  

My full name though is Cycas cairnsiana.

I was described by F. Mueller in the 1800s.  Unfortunately there was a lot of mistaken identity.  Other species were being called by my name!!!  The indignity of it all.  Thankfully, in 1992, a Mr. Kenneth Hill cleared my name and bestowed it upon me alone.

I normally live in open woodland and prefer a hot, dry climate.  I've even been known to survive a bushfire.    No humidity for me, please.  I can also live in the cooler climates because I am relatively frost tolerant.

Below is a picture of a younger me growing out of the ground.  No obvious caudex.  Should I be dug up?

A shot of me from above.  Note the fronds coming from my caudex.  My pinnae (leaflets) along the length of the rhachis (axis of a compound leaf to which the leaflets attach) will become keeled (V-shaped) with maturity.


I'd like to think of my trunk as pear-shaped.  My bottom being more prominent than the rest of me.  Notice the orange-brown tomentoes (dense wooly/hairy covering) which eventually become leaves.

My petiole (stalk below the lowermost leaflets) is covered with spines.  This is my defense mechanism together with some of my parts not being fit for ingestion.

My most stunning feature is my blue foliage.  The blue coloration, covers both surfaces of my leaflets.  My leaves are glaucous (bluish-gray waxy surface) but will eventually turn glabrous (smooth surface without any hair) with age.  My leaves are soft when young but become stiffer as I grow older.

Unfortunately, I may not be around much longer.  I've already been classified as a Vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.  This means that I face a high risk of extinction in the wild.  To help me survive, I have been put under protection by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  I've been placed under CITES Appendix II which means that I cannot travel between countries as easily as before.  Now I need export and import permits to travel.  I am also being propagated artificially in commercial nurseries to help my conservation.  In my case, I was born in a nursery and was subsequently adopted by Plant Chaser.

Have a good look at me now.  I do hope you remember me after this introduction.  If you forget much of what I said, at least remember this: I am not from Cairns.


Pronunciation Guide:  sī-kəs  kernz-ē-ˈa-nā


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Turning Japanese (Part III - Rooftop Garden, Oasis in the City)

Turning Japanese (Part III - Rooftop Garden, Oasis in the City)

Osaka City is a concrete jungle.  For most of the day, I was surrounded by concrete, steel, glass and don't forget Japanese food which was actually not so bad.   

However, in the third largest city in Japan, after Tokyo and Yokohama, there is an oasis in the form of a rooftop garden.

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Turning Japanese (Part I - Osaka Castle)

Turning Japanese (Part I - Osaka Castle)

Knowing that there would be no cherry blossoms on this trip to Japan, I decided to keep an eye out for other interesting plants instead.

First up was the Camelia sasanqua, a most welcome colorful sight after surfacing from the Osaka subway on our way to the Osaka castle.

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