Baguio

Eating Real Food in Baguio

I call this my Baguio Real Food post because you won’t find the chic or chill dining options that Baguio has become famous for in the past few years. In the 6 days since arriving last Tuesday morning at this cold city, I purposely shied away from the Instagrammable places as I was scrimping a bit for my European trip coming-up in two weeks. The 3-day conference I attended also came with lunch and snacks so I didn’t really go out much to eat. If you’re the “I just wanna eat good real food” this is for you. Of course, I only went to local places (always always patronize locally-grown businesses).

Luisa’s Cafe

Back in those days when there was a toss-up between Luisa’s and Star Cafe, I’ve always been partial to the latter mainly because of their delicious curry pies. Unfortunately, Star shut its doors some years ago.

Nothing’s better than a bowl of very tasty broth with the signature chewy home made noodles.

The dumplings, however, were the tiniest I’ve ever seen. Quite good, though. The bola-bola siopao was forgettable. It arrived lukewarm and had more dough than meat.

Though, the soup and siopao combo satisfied my appetite, I’m not quite sure it was good value as the servings were small. Perhaps, consider it a snack rather than a meal when you come here.

Luisa’s is old-school Baguio and amidst the city’s culinary gentrification, I hope it doesn’t suffer the same fate as Star Cafe’s.

Sizzling Plate

Another Baguio old-timer. The double pork-chop (Php 219) was chunky and sizzled perfectly. The signature gravy was thick and savory. It’s the kind of meal that made one feel so manly. They could have used better quality rice for their Java rice, though.

Nevertheless, it was a dinner that hit all the right notes— filling to the tummy, satisfying to the taste buds.

Jack’s Baguio Restaurant

The lechon on fried rice (Php 80) was cheap and filling. Amidst the tourist-oriented prices in Session Road, Jack’s is a haven for the budget-conscious.

Unfortunately, the sorry-looking fried pork and the bland fried rice makes me think that’s all Jack has going for itself– cheap and filling. Maybe, I’m being too harsh. Jack’s, however, always has a steady stream of patrons everytime I pass by so I guess it’s not so bad.

Central Park Restaurant

The cool evening weather brought Chinese noodle soup cravings again and since Good Taste was full, I crossed to the other side of the road to this restaurant that always had a good number of diners inside everytime I passed by. Surprise! There was a dimsum cart. Unfortunately, only the “snowball” (meatballs with chorizo and egg white, Php 80) seemed tasty. The rest of the dumplings looked like they came from some dumplings factory. True enough, when my dumpling noodle soup (Php 110) arrived, the siomai was a mashup of flour and extenders wrapped in thick sickly yellowish wrapper. I’d take Master Siomai over it anytime.

Good soup and noodles though but not as tasty as Luisa’s. The taipao (Php 90) was hefty and chock-full of meats. Good points on this one.

The price is good value considering the big bowl of noodle soup and large taipao. Glancing around at the other tables, the plates of a la carte orders held generous servings. Perhaps next time, I should have some rice meals and just skip the dumplings. This place deserves another chance especially since the service was quick.

So I went back for dinner and had the lechon rice. 2 slabs of pork belly and a big cup of rice.

It’s just okay. The meat was tender but the skin wasn’t crisp. Also, by the look of the dark-colored meat, it didn’t seem to be too fresh. The service, however, was excellent again.

Good Taste

I finally snagged a table here even if it meant having lunch at 10am on a Sunday. Good decision as the place was brimming with people and by 10:30, large groups were arriving. Of all the rice meals I’ve had, the lechon chopsuey rice (added Php 30 to upgrade to fried rice) was the best value. It only cost Php 140 and the serving was huge. I’m not a chopsuey fan but I wanted some vegetables with my pork so I ordered the combo. Wise choice.

The vegetables were cooked just right– still crisp. It was tasty and mixed well with the large cuts of crispy skinned lechon kawali. It made me regret why I only ate lunch here just when I was taking the bus home to Manila. Now I know why people are willing to line-up here.

Pinares Pagkaing Pilipino

Such a pleasant surprise! This was just at the ground floor of my hotel and I headed here as the reviews on FB promised good Pinoy food. Promise fulfilled! The place had satisfied diners digging on heaping plates of food. My bagnet express was delicious. The pork belly was tender and fried perfectly and served over a heaping mound of Bicol Express.

You know that feeling when you’re happy putting spoonfulls of food in your mouth? Plus points too for the professional and super attentive service staff.

A Little Indulgence

I needed to work so cafes with strong coffee and even stronger wifi was my go to.

Cafe By the Ruins

It’s back and it’s just across my hotel. After dropping my luggage at 8 in the morning, I needed to stay awake. The cafe’s unique take on coffee (cardamom and cinnamon) did just that. For Php 80, you get heaven in a cup. I didn’t like the kamote bread, though. Store-bought dinner rolls were better.

Hill Station

So I rewarded myself with its decadent chocolate cake (Php 150) and good Cordillera brew (Php 80).

Because, I wanted to stay forever, I had the spinach and cheese dip an hour later. I came in around 4pm and had the place almost to myself. Bonus points for the electric outlet by my corner table by the window. Hill Station is still impeccable. Made me feel truly rich and handsome.

Il Padrino Cafe

I came here mainly because I needed to work. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The club sandwhich was hefty and had bacon!

Coffee was also good and strong. I especially liked the outstanding service. Smiley faces and staff refilling your glass with water without you needing to ask for it. Oh, and some of the tables have sockets.

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Baguio on a Weekday

Ever since I discovered Sagada and the surrounding areas in the Cordilleras, Baguio has meant nothing more than a stop to refuel a grumbling stomach, buy some stuff for the people back in Manila, or a transport hub.  Sad because in my childhood we always looked forward to Baguio for its cool climes, greenery, and delicious pasalubong.

Through the years, Baguio has turned from greenish highland retreat to greyish concrete jungle.  There are still no real high-rsies (god forbid!) but the surrounding hills seem to be cloaked more and more by houses rather than grass.  Pollution from public transportation choke your lungs.  Session Road is no longer the bohemian place to be.  Gone are the bars that nurtured a whole generation of local bands and singers.  In its place are fast-food chains and clothes shops competing space with ukay-ukay.

The last time I was in Baguio for a short break and actually stayed and slept there was during Lent a couple of years ago.  It was utterly horrible!  The streets are crowded with people and vehicular traffic and it was just so hot!  Never ever again!

I was in Baguio from Tue-Wed this week for a short Christmas outing with the company head office.  There were no crowds and there was a more local feel to the place.  Even at the Baguio Country Club where we stayed, there weren’t much people.  By the way, the buffet breakfast was delicious!

My bed

If you’ve been to Baguio once, you’ve been to it forever.  There really wasn’t anything new to see nor do except to just stroll around and eat.  Burnham Park was surprisingly quiet with only a few people having a picnicking or boating. We did go to Camp John Hay but only as far as The Manor and the px shops as we just walked from the club. On the way out, we had to wait several minutes as some golfers were teeing-off.  I wonder how it feels to have a golf ball slam on your face.  Must be really painful.

The tablea in this cafe is ground to a paste then bottled. Just mix with water for your chocolate eh!

Lunch was at Rose Bowl which had since transferred to Gen. Luna st.  We had hototay, fried chicken, lechon kawali, pansit canton, lumpiang shanghai, and ampalaya with beef.  For Chinese food, it was quite bland.  Disappointing.

Tragic best sums up Mines View Park.  At least as recent as a couple of years ago, there was still a view to be had.  But the souvenir and photo stalls seems to have taken-over the place.  As you make yourself down to the viewing platform your are then regaled with magnificent views of the countryside overrun by houses.  You can even see the road.  It’s no different from the view you get at SM.  We did have fun at one of the photo stalls where you can get dressed in Cordillera garb and have your photo taken.  Others had theirs with one of the St. Bernards.

Where are the mines? Where is the view?

We dropped by Good Shepherd for the mandatory foodies to bring home.  I skipped all the bottled stuff and bought some torta, ensaymada, and potato bread.  Nothing fantastic.  I remember the torta to be really good and soft when I first tried it way back.  It was buttery soft and really yummy.  It was still tasty but the texture was dry like an old monay.

Really delicious is the cassave cake at Everything Nice a small bakeshop-cafe near the entrance of John Hay.  Soft, smooth, and milky—it’s the best cassava cake I’ve ever tasted 🙂

This art-deco building has seen better times.

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Baguio again

I was in Baguio again last weekend, this time for a workshop with FitPhil at Teacher’s Camp. It’s been decades since I last visited Teacher’s Camp and it still looks the same—old but quaint. It reminds me of the Baguio of old–green, quiet, and with just the right touch of small-town littleness. Baguio is ugly now. It’s nothing more than another city bursting at the seams. Downtown is especially horrible with all the pollution. Nevertheless, for all its flaws (and there are numerous of them) this City of Pines still has its charms.

Meat Pies at Star Cafe. This old Baguio institution has got to have one of the best meat pies. The all-meat filling is generous with the savory taste of curry. Oven-baked rather than fried not only makes it healthier but keeps the yummy buttery crust fresher. For only P 25 per piece, it’s definitely worth it.

Ukay-ukay no more. My first venture into ukay-ukay shopping was at a large large store along Session Road a couple of years ago. For about a thousand bucks, I was able to get loads and loads of quality clothing that was hardly used. The Bodywear briefs I got (they were sealed, brand-new, probably old stock) at 3 for 100 were definitely a steal. However, last weekend, I left the store empty-handed. Prices were unbelievably sky-high for second-hand clothing. I pair of trek shorts I wanted was going for 680! Not even Ed, the ukay-ukay master got hold of anything. “People don’t buy much anymore,” said one vendor. Need they wonder?

Greens and Greens.Well, I wasn’t sure if it was really a bargain. Compared to Manila prices, I was at least confident they were much lower. But the manangs at the public market who sold me all those vegetables packed in clear plastic bags said I was getting them cheap. 3 packs fo broccoli for P 200 seemed reasonable. In less than 20 minutes, surrounded by all the manangs , I had 3 braids of garlic, 3 packs of broccoli, 3 packs of cauliflower, 1 pack of lettuce, 2 packs of red bell pepper, 3 packs of large tomatoes, and a kilo of strawberries. I forgot to buy my red rice, black rice, white onions, and potatoes.

Sculpture by Clinton.  If Mines View Park is a must in your itinerary, then at least drop by the shop at Clinton Aniversaryo, a local artist who does wonderful wood sculptures.  Clinton’s shop is located at near the back, close to the viewing decks.  It willbe quite easy to find as it stands-out amidst all the shops selling 4 for 100 food, wooden sandok, and souvenir shirts.  Bam and Ed, particularly like his clocks with indigenous motifs.  I couple of year back, for 500 bucks, I got a lovely carved foot stool.

Torta at Good Shepherd.    Tortas ar sweet little cakes not unlike the mamon but with a little more character. The Torta de Argao (from the town of the same name) is made with the local wine and anise that gives it a little bite amidst all that sugar.  This is staple pasalubong ever time Annie comes home to Manila.  One of the best torta I’ve tasted is by the makers of the best empanada—San Lo’s Famous Empanada.  Absolutely soft, buttery, and really really good, especially the version topped with quezo de bola.  Adding to my list of delightful is torta is Good Shepherd.  Yup, that beautiful convent known for its Ube Jam and Strawberry preserves.  Since I wasn’t really keen on getting any of the jams, I settled for a little piece of tortas (P 35) .  After a bite, I bought 2 large ones (P 70/piece) . Really good.

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