(STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit - Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.” From where I sit right now, in front of a charming wood and stone fireplace in a romantic log cabin overlooking the majestic Taal Volcano and Lake, I can truly say I am successfully happy.

My childhood buddy, Pamboy Pastor, and I excitedly hied off to Tagaytay over the weekend to find respite and solace in a stately and exquisitely adorned chalet of bliss and peace — Discovery Country Suites located along Calamba Road, San Jose, Tagaytay City en route to the highlands.

The cozy, rustic ambience of this bed and breakfast evokes a feeling of warmth and grace. For those desiring rest and tranquility, there is no other place to be. Discovery Country Suites’ country charm goes hand in hand with the quaint appeal of Tagaytay. The stately ambience, fine accommodations, personalized service and the surprisingly excellent menu selections available at Restaurant Verbena are comparable to the finest B&B’s in New England or Carmel in San Francisco.

We were welcomed by gracious host and resident manager JR Cacho, who explained the history of this luxurious four-year-old bed and breakfast. We learned from him that the property was formerly a private home. The Discovery Leisure Company, which owns and operates Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center and the plush Discovery Shores Boracay, acquired the property in 1995 and developed it into the first luxury B&B in Tagaytay City in 2005.

A tour of the seven indulgent suites showed that each has a distinct theme inspired by travel discoveries around the world. Our room was aptly called Siam as it was decorated with furniture, antiques and woodworks from Thailand and Southeast Asia. Entering our room, we found a jar of mango rind candies and Chocnut, which immediately evoked warm memories of our childhood.

Throughout our stay, we were treated to thoughtful treats including a warm glass of milk with chewy cookies before we turned in for the evening. Like crossing the Indian Ocean, one finds the exotic élan of the Ceylon room with divan chairs and accessories of eastern charm. The Oxford Suite is the most spacious and elegantly furnished suite, very reminiscent of Victorian charm while the Nantucket transports you to the beachfront tiers of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.

The Saint-Tropez suite brings you to the glamour and glitz of the French Riviera and the serenity of the Tuscan valley while the Andalucia room evokes images of the Spanish countryside. The Nara room is inspired by Japanese sensibilities, while all around impeccably landscaped gardens, age-old trees and outdoor Jacuzzis brim with additional treats and pleasures. Worthy of note is that Discovery Country Suites is now part of the Kiwi Collection — the most comprehensive listing of luxury lodges, inns and resorts in the world and is widely recognized for the exquisite properties in its distinguished roster.

The sun had just set as the fog hovered around covering everything in its path with cottony white mist. Piped-in jazz music lulls you to swish and sway as you savor their fine red and white wines complemented with an array of fine cheese, candied figs and jams. You almost forget the time and space you’re in, as you giddily toast to only the best that life offers.

Pamboy and I reminisced on our childhood days — we were classmates since the third grade and although much may have changed, many still remain strong as ever — our kindred friendship. Pardon the cliché, but there is veracity to the saying that like fine wine, the best things in life are definitely worth preserving.

Restaurant Verbena in the main lobby of the chalet is definitely another reason to keep returning to this mountain sanctuary. Featuring contemporary country cuisine created by chef David Pardo de Ayala, one must savor their creamy oyster fricassee in caviar sauce where the most fantastic combination of spices and flavors is an epicurean delight. The plump, freshly shucked Aklan oysters served with refreshing ginger-shallot granita leave a wonderful icy sensation on your palate, the piquant spicy cocktail sauce has a delicious kick while the classic mignoette is a peppery vinaigrette burst of flavors. The pan roasted foie gras with pancetta prunes, figs simmering in flavorful cognac sauce melts in your mouth while the warm scallops salad with fried quail eggs, roasted potatoes and creamy truffle vinaigrette is divine. For the main course, there are mouth-watering steaks grilled to perfection in their natural juices or fresh seafood like Chilean sea bass with shiitake, garlic confit and a delicate mushroom broth to choose from.

Sumptuous pasta and risotto will make you forget your name as you indulge in their dessert Bouchon’s Chocolate Marquise where the decadently rich and silky chocolate with vanilla custard sauce will leave you spellbound. As if that wasn’t enough, you must savor Café Enrico, a concoction of Kahlua, tequila and Illy coffee, fresh orange pulp, caramelized sugar flambéed to perfection.

Each Discovery property tops the charts in terms of ambience, architecture, exclusive atmosphere and exceptional way of life. My dear cousin Carmela Bocanegra, group director of sales and marketing for the Discovery collection, enthused that the story of Discovery began in the late ‘90s when two distinguished Filipino companies formed HSAI-Raintree.

This beautiful synthesis redefined the concept of full-service luxury accommodation in the country. At the core of this trail-blazing enterprise is Annabella Santos-Wisniewski, the first Filipina to graduate from the prestigious Cornell Graduate School of Hotel and Restaurant Management in New York. An entrepreneur with a heart and soul, Annabella radiates the vision of the Discovery group — one whose mission goes far beyond profit but rather seeks to provide Filipinos with renewed hope, pride and a new way of life.

Here, there is a distinctly conscious effort to make every moment count starting with visual fulfillment, harmony of the décor, perspectives in lighting and design, and colorful touches provided by subtle floral arrangements. The harmony of impeccable taste is omnipresent in their restaurants, lounges, bars, suites, well-appointed rooms, every nook and cranny. Not only your eyes, but every sense is given the royal treatment: the place is living, lively, gently persuading you to sit back and relax.

Soothe your weary muscles as you submit to a rejuvenating massage at Discovery Country Suites. As the masseuse kneads your back, feet, neck — the languid movement gently commands your senses to relax, and you find yourself transcending from here to a place and time you have been dreaming of. You finally admit that eternity is now. Tomorrow is yet to come.

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For more information regarding Discovery Country Suites, call (046)413-4567, or the Manila reservation office at 683-8383. You may also log on to www.discoverycountrysuites.com.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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