I never had any second thought about getting the full-board package at Casa San Pablo. I was there for relaxation and rejuvenation, so I didn’t want to be out in the city looking for food during mealtimes. And it’s most economical, too. The overnight charge includes breakfast, but for just an additional P200 per person lunch and dinner will be included. That’s an unbeatable deal, considering a hundred pesos per meal per person when eating out these days will not get you anywhere near something decent.
And it certainly will not get you anywhere near what Casa San Pablo serves for meals. Served family-style, on huge platters and in arrangements that stimulate lively conversation, each meal is a nourishing and soul-comforting experience. Nothing fancy there – whatever is available and bountiful at the market that day, coaxed to life using time -bound recipes from lola. So it’s not fiesta fare, but home-bound food you grew up eating, that you miss, and crave, when you’re away.
Unlike most hotels and inns, check-in time at the Casa is 11AM, and check out time is 10AM the following day. So when you get the full-board package your three meals start with lunch and end with breakfast the day after.
Refreshments begin with this cool, refreshing, power-booster of a pink drink upon check-in. Danica the receptionist waited until we all finished our glasses – the kids asking for seconds – before telling me what the welcome drink was made of, wrongfully thinking we wouldn’t take it if we knew. Other guests must have balked upon learning, and prospective guests may, too, so I’m not broadcasting it here, so the secret remains with me and with those who have been to the Casa. All I can say is, it’s a common ingredient across these isles, and I can easily replicate it at home.
Our lunch proceeded with warm macaroni soup sporting a green cap of what looked like pesto, but which turned out to be blitzed malunggay leaves. I forgot to ask if it’s fresh, because I’ve cooked enough malunggay leaves in my lifetime to know that the leaves turn dark green with heat, and these are still bright green. I’m thinking maybe they’re the powdered kind. The soup also tasted of chicken cubes.
After the soup, though, and after the minor shortcomings, it was all homey and country-style. There was lemon-grass scented roasted chicken, cooked through but still moist, and almost adobo-like.
And there were thin slices of tambakol in a thin gata, the banana leaf wrapping perfuming each steak. I don’t buy tambakol at the market for I rarely find them fresh, and I get queasy with the red flesh. But the steaks we had for lunch tasted like they were freshly caught, with no hint of lansa. I could not detect ginger in the dish, as is common in many ginataan to cut the fishy taste. Here it was not needed, and it was one of the most delicate fish steaks I’ve had. Skill, and home-cooking expertise, was evident in the preparation and execution of this dish.
A side of ensaladang talong – grilled and peeled eggplants that were diced along with some tomato wedges, in a sweet vinaigrette – paired nicely with both chicken and fish.
Rounding the meal off was ginisang kangkong, which tasted differently from the ginisang kangkong we have weekly at home. There was something aromatic in there, without the somewhat acrid, though very subtle, note that I’ve come to associate with kangkong. I was enjoying it so much I forgot to ask Danica what was in it. Perhaps it was just the freshness, and the waters from which they grew are not as polluted as in Cavite, or elsewhere.
The only available drinks were softdrinks, which my family does not consume. I found the kitchen short in this aspect. Don’t people in Laguna drink local fresh fruit juices? Or herbal teas? But a pitcher of the pink drink can be ordered, so I was appeased. And there was free-flowing purified water, too, which was enough.
Dessert was an entire llanera of the smoothest, chewiest ube halaya on earth. I’m not sure if malagkit, maligat properly translates to chewy, so if it does not then it is not the right word. Not sticky, either, though it does stick to your gums and molars. However short my vocabulary is, it does not diminish the qualifications of this halaya. Or perhaps it leaves me speechless. I suspect powdered glutinous rice was mixed in it, to make it so malagkit. We finished it off, and the kids were eyeing the remains of the entire llanera a couple at the next table was not able to finish (it seems one entire llanera is served per room), so I sent them out to ride the bikes.
Casa San Pablo
Casa San Pablo Dinner
Casa San Pablo Breakfast