Thursday, February 26, 2015

Photobooks by Photobooks Philippines

The photobooks and customer service are great but the hidden costs are annoying.

6x6 Photobooks Wrapped in a Thick Paper Envelope

I'm a fan of photo books and am always on the look out for the best ones. (Check out my 2013 review of Fotosnaps here). This review is about Photobooks Philippines and my recent purchase of a pair of 6x6 photo books.

1. I used their offline designer. It's software that you download and it allows you to easily layout your photos and arrange them using templates. I suspect that both Photobooks and Fotosnaps license their software from the same makers because they both look and feel the same, the only difference being the branding.

2. Uploading and paying for the order is a breeze. Plus points for their well design website and the email notifications that inform you on the status of your book.

3. When they let you choose the delivery option, choose carefully because standard delivery will take twenty days and will not even deliver direct to your home. Standard delivery means that they'll send it to the nearest post office where you'll have to pay extra Php100 standard customs fee per package since it's an international package from Malaysia. I don't know about your post office but mine was only open between 8 and 11am from Monday to Thursday so you'd need to find someone to pick it up for you or you'll need to take an expensive day off from work.

Plus if you're ordering more than one book, Photobooks can't bundle them together so you'd end up paying an extra P100 per book.

I guess it's just a matter of proper setting of expectations but I suppose we can't expect them to know our local postal regulations right? If Photobook made the difference between the shipping methods clearer up front then I'd probably bump the rating up by one pawikan point.

Would I order from them again? The standard books I ordered were well made and look like they'd last for a long time on my coffeetable. Knowing how expensive the shipping fees will be, If I ever do order from them i'll just order a single, large photobook with multiple pages instead of multiple small ones.

Rating: 0

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Mamou Restaurant: A Home Kitchen, Serendra

photo by Table for Three, Please
photo by Table for Three, Please
We celebrated mum's birthday dinner at Mamou Restaurant, Serendra. Good food but not a place conducive for conversation as it's too noisy on a Saturday night!

Reservations for dinner are necessary and they have two sittings-- one that starts at 6:30pm and another at 8:30pm. The process was painless and the phone was answered promptly with my details correctly listed. I even got an SMS confirmation. I was a bit pressured because they SMS'd me twice an hour before my reservation to remind me to release the table at 8:20pm. (I hate being rushed for my meals...)

We had the cracked cheese with fuet and truffle honey as a starter. To my uneducated palate, it tasted a bit like queso de bola chopped into french fries sized bits perfect for dipping into the honey. I couldn't taste the truffle in the honey though but it's the first time I had a cheese/honey combo and it was good!
For drinks, the birthday girl ordered the frozen mojito. She said that it lacked flavor but by the end of the meal, she was chattering and lively so I think it still packed a punch.
I like my beers ice cold, specially on these muggy Manila evenings but the best they could do was "cool". The glass was barely chilled but points anyway for trying.
I tried a variety of main courses, but none of them were outstanding:
photo by dementia
photo by kareninblack
  • Fish Katsu sandwich - I'm not a fan of fish sandwiches but I agree with Agent A's remark that the fries were awesome. Nice and crunchy with a rough and slightly ridged texture but soft and fluffy inside.
  • Lamb chops - Four chops served simply on a white plate. I would've enjoyed a small sprig of green for a bit of color but hey this is "a home kitchen" and who bothers with food styling at home right? The lamb was ordinary, seasoned and grilled evenly. Birthday girl liked the mint jelly sauce. 
  • Truffle Cream Spaghettini - This was my favorite. Perfectly al dente noodles and a pronounced truffle flavor! No skimping with the truffle oil on this one. 
  • Citrus rub chicken  - Tender and falling-off-the-bones chicken. Good comfort food paired with rice, saba and black beans.
In hindsight, seeing that the specialty of the place is steak, maybe I should have ordered one. The portions were too large for me to eat alone and no one wanted to share. 

For dessert we had the frozen hot chocolate which we ate like ice cream but as we were halfway through, the manager came over to mix it. Apparently the correct way is to drink it instead of eating it with a spoon. (It should come with instructions!). I didn't think it was a good idea because it was neither frozen nor hot. After mixing, it became a lukewarm chocolate drink overloaded with whipped cream. 

I have high standards for sans rival since I grew up eating the stuff. Their dark chocolate sans rival was decidedly chocolatier. Not for the purists. 

I think i'm getting old but I must agree with mr mekeni's comment that it was too noisy inside. Not that the patrons were particularly loud, I think there's something wrong with the acoustics of the place. Maybe sitting at the table nearest the bar and kitchen wasn't helping either. 

Rating: 0
Plus points for the prompt service, attentive wait staff and red velvet cupcake for the birthday girl. However this was an average (but reasonably priced) meal. Come here for a casual group date with friends. 

For a different point of view, check out more reviews by munchpunchmisslovelytan and food blog Table for Three, Please.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Photobooks by Fotosnaps Philippines

My recent encounter with Fotosnaps Philippines leaves much to be desired.

1. The voucher I purchased from their Facebook page arrived in my email 5 days after I paid for it instead of the advertised 2 days. (To work around this problem, you can upload your project and use payment method as "other". Then when you get the order number, mail their customer service and explain your situation to them. They have a way to start the process while waiting for the voucher number to be generated.)

2. I uploaded my photobook on May 31 and to this day June 13, it is still "in production".

3. When they find perceived errors in the resolution and brightness, they'll tell you to fix it yourself and even charge you a Php150 reprocessing fee! I asked their customer service via email how bright I should adjust it to but they could not answer. So even if I knew how to fix it, I had no idea if it would work until I reupload it.

To me, the concept of paying them a Php150 reprocessing fee for perceived errors they would like the customer to fix seems absurd.

Their customer service respond quickly via email but the delivery of the final product is unreliable. I was supposed to give mine as a wedding gift but the couple has already returned from their honeymoon and I still don't have the photobook!

 I will reserve awarding any pawikan points at this moment until I receive the final product. If the book itself is good, then i'll just give a few minus points for the service and advise you to place your order weeks ahead of time.

Update: And so it finally arrived exactly two weeks after the order was placed. The layflat book was wrapped in bubble wrap, in a cardboard box inside a plastic bag. The photos were superb and the earlier email asking me for an extra P150 to reprocess the "low resolution" and "dark photos" were certainly unnecessary.

Rating: 0  
The photobook itself was exactly how I designed it. Vivid colors on heavy paper, overall a good build quality. Minus points for the lousy order placement process. I would use them again but reset my expectations on speedy service.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Genting Jazz Festival 2008 (part 2 of 2)

This is the last part of my two part review of the Genting Jazz Festival 2008. (Read the first part here).
Let me continue with my pawikan awards (eh?):

Best keyboard duel: Mario Canonge on the piano vs Tangora's Hammond organist. It's a pity I didn't get the organist's name-- whenever he'd turn on the volume and hit the big chords on the Hammond it was just so grand! And Mario, oh Mario! After he played, I'm sure you could light a cigarette on the piano strings because they'd be smoking hot!

Hottest female performer - This is without a doubt petite South African saxophonist Shannon Mowday (Here's an interview of her)! Her skirt and boots outfit, fantastic hairdo and subtle dance moves-- so cute!!! Coming in a close second is uber-tall Karin Hammar, trombonist from Sweden. (Here's a sample video of her playing.) How many female trombonists do you know?

Most unexpected song
- This would have to be Singapore's acapella band, Key Elements and their version of the theme from Spiderman. Plus points to the sounds effects (BIFF! BAM!) and their quaint choreography! (Video courtesy of earthxavier below.)

Best on-stage chemistry and crowd favorite
- Neanders Jazz Band from Denmark. Their big band old-sk00l New Orleans blues got my head bobbing. Their on-stage antics were very endearing, reminded me of daddies having fun.

They got the most awwws and cheers when Neander Kristensen channeled Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World' (video below) in their encore performance. When the audience started singing the chorus to the song, that's when I thought-- hey these Malaysians are really getting into it!

Best bassist - Definitely Schalk Joubert! Check out his solo below. Pay attention between the 7th and 8th second when he sticks his finger in his mouth to make a small pop! to punctuate his music. Yeah!

Best dressed band - These would have to be the boys from Jazz Jamaica. Skinny neckties, leather beret, the well tailored pants and heartthrob Kevin-Federline-look-alike drummer (with diamond stud earring!).

: 5/5
Five pawikan points! Minus points because the alcohol was expensive. MYR64 for a bucket of five Heineken bottles! Ridiculous!! Bonus points for the impromptu all-star Jam during the last night of the festival. Here's a video courtesy of d7b9. Pay attention to the riff from "Flight of The Bumblebee" at 0:58 which melds into theme from the Flintstones on 1:19 which drew approving roars from the crowd.

I'd definitely be back next year!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Genting International Jazz Festival 2008 (part 1 of 2)

Great selection of top-notch jazz performers, excellent sound engineering and an efficient crew made the 2008 Genting International Jazz Festival a success.

I had the good fortune to attend the International Jazz Festival held at Genting Highlands in Malaysia. Everything was perfect! The efficient crew took only 15 minutes in between sets to setup the stage, the room acoustics was top-notch and the performers-- let's just say that there was a party in my ears and everyone was invited.

For what it's worth, reviewsbyp is awarding errr pawikan awards (eh?) to the performers:

Best solo
- Hamilton de Holanda's "Disparada" (full version here) on the 10 string mandolin. Imagine this big guy with a shaved head who looks like Dominic Purcell (from Prison Break) playing an instrument as small as a banduria. His fingers flying through the small fret board, each note ringing true and full of emotion. This alone was worth the MYR112 admission price. more videos here and here.

Best duet - Hamilton de Holanda again on the mandolin with Gabriel Grossi (?) on the chromatic harmonica. This performance gave me goosebumps. (Ang OA ko!) But it's as if both instruments were lovers intertwining.

Strangest Fusion - A cross between salsa and celtic music by Salsa Celtica. (Salsa with bagpipes!) They had an unconventional entrance by walking to the stage from behind the auditorium while playing their celtic tunes. Watch this sample video of Salsa Celtica. Their music was also livened up by the spontaneous dancing of salsa students from Havana E Studio.

Best vocalist - This award definitely goes to Tangora (video below). Her scat improvisations were breathtaking and although I barely understood a word of what she was singing because it was all in French, she just proved that her music could cross languages. She also had the best backup band!

The guy (what's his name?) on the steelpans was amazing. In the first place, I didn't even know what this instrument was! It looks like a giant snare drum, sounds a bit like a xylophone but not quite. Check out a the video of his steel pan solo below taken by earthxavier. (Here's another solo taken by d7b9 at the festival itself.)

I'm also awarding the steel pan guy and Jazz Jamaica trumpeter Abram Wilson the best duel! During the last performance of the festival, a lot of these jazz greats went on stage for a huge jamming session and these two really stood out trying to outdo each other with their riffs.

It started out innocently-- a few bars of the trumpet here, a few bars of the steel pan there; but then it got faster and faster and more intricate and the crowd went on their feet and started cheering!

Who won?

Well, the steelpan guy took the pan off its rack, placed it on the floor and started to spin it like a roulette while playing it. That's badass! And it was beautiful musical mayhem!

I wanted to scream "we're not worthy! we're not worthy!"
Find out reviewsbyp's sexiest performer, best dressed band, most unexpected song and more-- continue reading the second part of the review...