Two weeks before Christmas, me and my perpetually craving friends climbed the stairway to foodie heaven that is Baguio in an attempt to stretch the limits of our seemingly unlimited appetites. Despite the city’s disappointing temperature that weekend, our band of four slowly crossed out names of the restaurants on our carefully planned checklist as we ate our way to some of Baguio’s finest. “Magkakaalaman na kung sino talaga ang #foodie”, Love said confidently.
We know how to appreciate good food!
We like to tease each other as ‘foodies’ for our natural desires for food yet everyone’s in denial of it even though our appreciation for quality food exceeds everything else. And when I say ‘quality food’ I mean mouthwatering dishes cooked with love that is sure to make me utter bedroom noises on the first bite. Or something to that effect.
After dropping off our luggage at the guesthouse, it took us little time to hail a cab and tell the driver to take us to Camp John Hay for our first food stop: Chocolate de Batirol. Because of it’s rustic outdoor cafe atmosphere, the place has always been a staple every time I visit Baguio, especially when I’m craving for a cup of hot chocolate during afternoon siesta. I had mine topped with mallows that looked like soft rainbow-colored icebergs floating on a tiny pond of steaming chocolate and paired with a bowl of hot arroz caldo to warm up my stomach interiors before ending the wonderful brunch with a small plate of bibingka.
We’re never gonna get tired of Chocolate de Batirol’s quaint space while surrounded by a garden.
Choco Mallows <3
We then made our way to the stalls near Mine’s View Park just so I can buy another beautifully handwoven cardigan, eat a stick of grilled corn on the cob, and buy some of Good Shepherd’s famous homemade jams and snacks. I took a risk in buying a jar of Guava Jelly but I discovered several hours later that it too sweet for my aging taste.
Tired, we dragged ourselves back to The Forest House, our now official go-to guesthouse when in Baguio because of the staff’s great service and its overall cozy vibe that made us feel like Christmas came too early this year, to officially check-in and get our much needed rest from the overnight trip.
That weekend, Good Shepherd had run out of stocks of Strawberry Jam.
With refreshed spirits, the couple (Love and Pao) led us to one of Baguio’s busiest restaurants: Good Taste! I can still remember the first time I took a bite of the famous Garlic Buttered Chicken at their Dangwa branch so it took me no second thoughts in ordering an entire platter of it and two cups of rice for myself. Because ang tunay na lalaki eats extra rice.
Unfortunately, this time around, the first bite brought disappointment. Although it was still delicious, it no longer packed the powerful punch that knocked me out on our first fight three years ago. Still, Good Taste offers a huge serving of good food within a student’s budget which is probably the main reason this establishment is always filled every hour with loyal patrons. Plus, they cook vegetables perfectly, too!
A platter of chicken for P160! Lomi was so-so but those vegetables on the side were cooked perfectly!
Far from its old flavor, I blame their previous chef who was said to have resigned his post already :(
Our collective cravings for something sweet brought us to a twin restaurant along Session Road known for having the best Strawberry Shortcake in the city: Vizco’s. We were only there for desserts but upon a quick glance at their menu we decided to come back for dinner the next day, crossing off Ketchup Food Community from our list. Each of us were eager to pick personal favourites the moment four plates of cakes landed on our table. But despite the shortcake’s reputation, Pao and I chose the Decadent Chocolate Cake as the night’s winning dessert.
Moist and glistening Strawberry Shortcake. Hands down, the best in Baguio!
Clockwise: Decadent Chocolate Cake, Lemon Torte, Mango Torte, Strawberry Shortcake
Month’s from now, this new coffee shop in Gibraltar will be filled with hipsters visiting Baguio. Cafe Yagam is a newbie in the Benguet food community and has that artisanal vibe fused with Cordilleran culture. But aside from the art + coffee ambience, the place actually has decent, affordable food and one of the best cocoa I’ve ever tasted in my existence. My friends say their medium roast Benguet coffee is top notch as well.
Still full from the plateful of buttered chicken, I shared a plate of mouthwatering Chilli Cheese Fries with Love while we wait for a couple of Baguio-based friends. Looking back, I wish I had found a way to make room inside my already bulging belly to try their other dishes whose names and ingredients sounded foreign to my ears. My palate took a sampler of Kathy’s Blood Sausage and instantly hated myself for being busog. There will be a next time!
The hip and cozy interior of Cafe Yagam
Those Chilli Cheese Fries were amazing! Right, Love? Hahaha. And the best hot cocoa ever!
Being an early bird, I was the first one to wake up the following morning and was already excited for our morning feast. Pao phoned in our orders while I graciously dumped everything I digested the day before into the toilet. Less than an hour later, the food was waiting for us by the diner overlooking a great view of pine trees and city roofs. Five pieces of bagnet and a lump of scrambled eggs sat on my plate at the table, accompanied by pickled papaya strips and spicy tomato relish to add some kick to my fatty breakfast.
One more thing to love about The Forest House is the selection of good food they serve for breakfast. I mean, who else makes bagnet in the morning? And yes, bagnet for breakfast makes sense.
I woke up to this rustic view of our room in The Forest House.
Bagnet for breakfast? Yes, please! :)
Big breakfast, check! Amazing view, check! Good company, check!
But the highlight of our gastronomic adventure is an hour’s drive away from the city of pines: Eve’s Garden. They are are only open for reservation from 11:30 to 2:30 and the set lunch will cost each person a whopping P650, but the food is worth every peso, I tell ya. Tita Eve’s all-organic menu will change how you look at healthy food! You can feel all the love that went into the dishes in every spoonful
We were greeted with a refreshing iced tea composed of lemon and pineapple juice, mint, sage, and Muscovado sugar. Then the server brought in soup with a base of onion and squash topped with croutons and parmesan cheese. My eyelids involuntarily closed, my head tilted, and my shoulders relaxed as I exhaled a breath of contentment after the first mouthful. It was a bittersweet moment for me after seeing the empty bowl of soup sitting in front of me minutes later.
Then came the salad platter. “Per person yan?!?”, I asked in surprise after seeing the gargantuan plate of greens. My eyes remained wide open for five more seconds, ignoring the beautifully plated vegetables adorned with edible flowers. It came straight out of the Garden of Eden. Too bad I was only able to eat half of it and I blame myself for eating a McChicken burger an hour earlier.
And the award for most photogenic salad goes to…
Pao, Love, and Karen with our friends from Baguio, Kathy and Grace.
I barely survived the salad when the main entree arrived: Steamed Norwegian Salmon with caper dressing, a pairing of two of my favorite ingredients cooked in perfect unity. We ended the meal with an oatmeal dessert and cup of hot ginger ginseng mint tea before leaving Eve’s Garden with a full stomach and a happy heart.
A perfect marriage of salmon and capers <3
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking off the extra pounds along Session Road and since the girls wanted to take home some fresh vegetables back to Manila, our feet brought us to Maharlika Market where an abundant supply of produce can be found. As for me, I just couldn’t bear leave Baguio without a box of strawberries and a couple of walis tambo for my mom.
I’ve always fancied the Baguio Cathedral for its symmetry.
Lakas maka Avril Lavigne album cover.
I belong! My fellow halamans!
Most of us were already having stomach problems by the time we climbed the front door steps to Ili-Likha Village, the host of our friends’ quaint restaurant, Urban Kamote, that serves Balbacua, a dish that takes almost an entire day to cook! From what I know of it, the meat is cooked on an open fire for several hours. I had one partnered with miswa, a glass of iced coffee, and a cup of batirol. The rich stew was perfect for the cold night but the gelatinous texture of the oxtail and boiled cow skin was not my cup of tea. I blame my gluttonous self for not being able to finish what I ordered especially the Balbacua whose tasty flavor massaged my palate like no other, but my body was already warning me that I needed to have a moment with the toilet.
The artsy Ili-likha Village, an alternative to Oh My Gulay! regulars.
Balbacua with miswa at Urban Kamote. This’ll heat up your cold, lonely nights!
Urban Kamote, the baby of our friends Grace and Kathy.
We went back to the hotel to get our bags and to release some unnecessary baggage. An hour later and it was back to regular programming! Another episode of ‘Who’s the Ultimate Foodie?’ commenced as we went back to Vizco’s for dinner. This time around, I failed to take photos for documentation as the two pizzas and a plate of Sundried Tomato Pasta disappeared minutes after the kind waitress dropped them at our table.
Baguio will always be that comfort place where I can loosen my belt for some guiltless food tripping. Where the morning sunshine complements the cool temperature that the surrounding mountains bring. Where fog is not a phenomenon, culture and tradition mixes with modern life, organic food is in abundance, and great ukay gems come in cheap. Regardless how many times I come back here, the city will never run out of new things to show me.