Since my sister and I are ovo-lacto vegetarians, we dread family get-togethers because we often end up with few food options (there is always at least one vegetarian-friendly dish, but it’s always a far cry from the carnivore feast the rest of the family are having). So what we often do is we eat before leaving the house. This way, we can make do with the salad or dessert at the party. But when the get-together spans two or more meals, this trick no longer works. So short of bringing our own food, we usually avoid this type of gathering.
About a month ago, our oldest cousin started texting us about a family outing she was organizing in honor of another cousin and an aunt who were vacationing in the country. It was going to be a daylong affair in a small resort spa in Antipolo with swimming and massages and, of course, eating. Maybe my cousin could sense my trepidation because she was quick to reassure me that there will be vegetarian food for us. In my head I was picturing vegetable lumpia or gluten barbecue, so what met me at the resort was quite a surprise.
On February 6 my family trooped to Antipolo to spend a day at Laya. It took some doing finding the place, but when we got there, it wasn’t difficult to sense quickly that the effort was well worth it. The clean, Balinese/Thai-inspired resort was relaxing. This Budhha-blessed-purple-Vanda-orchid-on-raw-silk silliness often annoys me, but I was ready to make Laya an exception. We were the last to arrive, and the kids were already splashing in the pool and the grownups were all lazing in the main house’s cool veranda. We, apparently, had the palce all to ourselves. As usual, when they spotted me, my older cousins started fussing about my food. They said the chef was preparing vegetarian food for me, and introduced me to one of Laya’s owners who showed me my menu card. A welcome greeting with my mother’s surname was printed on top of the beige and puce card. This attention to detail gave me hope that I was in for a treat.
And what a treat it was. For breakfast I had white cheese, tomatoes, and basil on toast and banana croquettes washed down with cups of coffee and basil tea.
For lunch, the chef prepared two menus—one for the carnivores and another for vegetarians. The meal started with a preview of all the flavors to come. Served in a stoneware soupspoon, the preview was a cantaloupe ball and a cherry tomato stuffed with seaweed and rolled in rock salt.
Next came a trio of appetizers: nori vegetable roll with mango papaya aioli, fresh Vietnamese salad roll in hoisin peanut dip and Malay-style curry puff.
Four soup I was served vegetable dumplings in ginger mushroom broth. This was followed by Asian Caesar salad sticks with ginger garlic aioli.
To help clear the palate in preparation for the main course, a ball of ginger calamansi sorbet was served.
My main course was spring vegetables in spiced coconut curry with saffron cashew rice pilaf.
The meal was ended with heavenly suman rolls with caramelized mangoes in latik sauce with mantecado ice cream.
Laya was definitely worth going all the way to Antipolo for. Next time, aside from eating, I’ll try getting a massage or maybe a foot spa.