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24 June 2008

Jetsetting Foodistas | Baguio: Wanderings in the Summer Capital

JoeyJoey's Wanderings in the Summer Capital
Jetsetting Foodistas: A Travelogue by Joey
Part 2 of 2: Cafe by the Ruins, Forest House & Choco-laté de Batirol



My second day in Baguio was spent on a mini quasi-tour of the city. Our first stop was Café by the Ruins (23 Chuntug Street, Baguio City), a coffee shop that my auntie's friend told her about. We were all curious about what ruins the cafe claims to be by.

Café by the Ruins is located near Rizal Park and city hall. It claims to be a meeting place and the venue of many canaos (rituals to please the gods), as well as poetry readings, art exhibits and dance performances. The ruins they speak of are apparently the remains of the home of Phelps Whitmarsh, the first governor of Baguio.

Their menu boasts of a selection with ingredients natural and local to the region. Much as we would have wanted to try their food, we were all still full from breakfast. But since it's a café after all and the highlight of their menu is their beverage offerings, we ordered two cups of Ruins Coffee (their specialty, said our server, Nestor), a cup of Rizal's Tsokolate-eh and a pot of salabat (native ginger tea).

While waiting for our orders to arrive, I gazed around to appreciate our surroundings. The café had a very warm, serene ambiance and even its furnishings boasted of the style of the region. Even their tissue holder had a lot of character.

Ruins coffee is described to be "filtered with cardamom, topped with whipped cream, mozcovado sugar and cinnamon powder." My cousin and I noticed a twig-like thing that came with the coffee, and my mum, seeing it, exclaimed, "Tira-tira! These were what ruined my teeth as a child, haha!"

Tira-tira was one of my mum's favourite snacks as a kid. It's very hard and very sweet. It's basically caramelized sugar candy, kind of like a candy cane only, in my opinion, much better. My mum said they used to sell these when she was younger. (Do they still now?)

My cousin had the Tsokolate-eh, which seemed a bit more like tsokolate-ah, since it wasn't as thick as we expected it to be. The salabat I had was, of course, very spicy and refreshing, like good ginger tea ought to be. It came with a small glass of honey, if you want to have a little more sweetness in your tea.

Cafe by the Ruins really has a certain charm to it. It's too bad I wasn't able to try their other offerings, but it gives me a reason to come back, doesn't it? :) This place is great place to pop by for a nice hot cup of tea, coffee or chocolate (or all three?), especially on a particularly chilly day.

Cafe by the RuinsCafe by the RuinsCafe by the RuinsCafe by the RuinsCafe by the RuinsCafe by the Ruins

Our next stop was the Lourdes Grotto on Mirador Hill to climb the 252 steps to the shrine of the Lady of Lourdes. The grotto is one of Baguio's main tourist spots, with many devotees and, well, tourists climbing the steps either as an act of sacrifice/devotion, or just to say that they have.

After stopping by Easter Weaving Room, we were ready for lunch. I had a list of restaurants to try, but a friend of my mum's (my mum was born and raised in Baguio) recommended Forest House Bistro & Cafe to us. Forest House is a quaint restaurant along Loakan Road, near Camp John Hay. Entering it feels like entering someone's cozy country home, with the furnishings and homey ambience.

We ordered their sari-saring inihaw from the Our Family Feast section of their menu, which consisted of grilled pork belly, squid and tilapia, farmers salad, garlic and tofu soup, and steamed rice good for four. We also ordered one of their specialties, the Forest House homemade bagnet (crispy fried pork belly with papaya chutney).

Although a rather simple lunch, everything was perfectly cooked, from the steamed vegetables to the grilled food. I especially liked the grilled pork, which was very flavourful without being too heavy. The garlic and tofu soup looked unassuming but was quite salty.

Bagnet is one the signature dishes of the Ilocos region. Deemed the "Ilocano Chicharon", bagnet is one of the key things I remember most from our trip to Vigan ages ago. It's crispy, though not as crunchy or light as your regular chicharon. The Forest House bagnet was a bit like crispy pata bites for me, probably because of the sauce it was sitting it. Not to say that it wasn't good, which it was. Mmm cholesterol :9

Forest HouseForest HouseForest HouseForest HouseForest HouseForest House

We were tempted to try one of their cakes for dessert, but I remembered one of my favourite places in Baguio: Choco-laté de Batirol.

I cannot say just how much I adore this place enough. Whenever we head up to Baguio, it is imperative(!) that I have a mug of chocolate de batirol before our return to Manila. They also have a branch in Serendra, but there's nothing quite like drinking piping hot chocolate de batirol in cool Baguio weather.

For those of you not yet familiar with what exactly it is, I'm going to cheat a little and provide you an excerpt from my own blog from almost a year back:
Chocolate de Batirol is just about the best thing you can have when you're cold. It's a very thick, sweet, rich chocolate drink made from tablea, which are chunks of blended cacao and ground peanuts, which give it its trademark gritty texture and hints of nuttiness. You can get them either sweetened or unsweetened at supermarkets and in the palengke (wet market). I particularly love the ones from the palengke, since the texture from their tablea are thicker and grittier — yum!

If you have read Noli Me Tangere (Rizal), I'm sure you still remember the Chocolate eh! and Chocolate ah! If you're visiting someone and your host requests their help to make you some Chocolate eh!, it means that they like you. If they request for Chocolate ah! to be prepared, then it means quite the opposite. As I'm sure you can deduce, Chocolate eh! is the preferred preparation. It is thick, rich and sweet while Chocolate ah! is much more watery. That was back during the time of the Spanish Colonization. I don't think anyone still has Chocolate eh! (or ah!, for that matter) prepared for their guests anymore. That's a pity :(

You prepare it by taking a cup of evaporated milk (or regular or low-fat milk for those of you who don't wish to be that sinful :P) for every 1-2 tablea you use. Once you've mixed the paste (tablea + milk), you pour it into a mixing bowl (or a traditional tsokolateria), add some hot water, and then whip it into a foam using the batidor by rubbing your hands together with the batidor between them (thus rolling the batidor!). Of course, if you don't have a batidor, you can use a whisk or a fork -- but you won't get it all nice and foamy (that's okay tho; will still taste v. good).
We wanted some of their always delicious bibingka to snack on, but it was late in the afternoon already and they had a great many customers by then, a good lot of whom apparently also had the same freshly cooked bibingka-craving. Instead, I ordered us a plate of suman sa lihia, which came to us still steaming.

Suffice to say, it was "¡Muy delicioso!" The suman was very soft and sticky, topped with a generous amount of coconut and sugar. When you go and try this out for yourself, try and dip a bite of the suman in your chocolate de batirol — a little piece of heaven, right there. All in all, it was the perfect late afternoon snack combination.

Choco-laté de BatirolChoco-laté de BatirolChoco-laté de BatirolChoco-laté de BatirolChoco-laté de BatirolChoco-laté de Batirol

After yet another round of bumper cars and an hour of roller skating, we went back home to our cottage for more mahjong. Unfortunately, I have no restaurant to feature for our dinner meal, since we prepared it ourselves. But, as much as dining out and trying out new and interesting food stuffs and places, it's still a good, hot home-cooked meal I most look forward to any day. ♥

Thus I conclude my two-part Baguio travelogue. It's not quite over yet though. Watch out for the review of Isdaan, the Halfway to the North Floating Resto-Park, to be posted soon :)


Joey in Baguio
Baguio 08: Day2Baguio 08: Day2Baguio 08: Day2Baguio 08: Day2Baguio 08: Day2Baguio 08: Day2


See many more photos of my Baguio trip on my flickr.

11 comments:

  1. I think you can still find tira-tira in some wet markets. I think I saw it in the grocery once. SM Megamall, I think. I enjoyed that as a little girl too :)

    Your writing is always very enjoyable :) And your photos always beautiful. You are very gifted. Keep on writing and taking photos :)

    God Bless!

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  2. Baguio is always a nice place to visit. It's too bad you didn't get to try their food in Cafe by the Ruins. It's quite good. :)

    I like how you write and how you wrote this post :) It's a little lengthy, but easy to follow and your transition is obvious without being abrupt. :)

    Beautiful photos like always.

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  3. Hey Joey! Don't know if you remember me. We met through Ada?

    I really like your blog! I was wondering if you can give me a ring (I'll ask Rafa for your yid - if that's okay with you?). A friend of mine is looking for food photographers and checks back on this blog and your photo account regularly. It's nothing final yet, but we were wondering if maybe you would be interested?

    I enjoy reading your articles :) You've really got a knack for writing. You can really do something with your skills, if you wanted to.

    Hope to get in touch with you soon. Good job to you and your blogmates! This is a really cool project and your execution is awesome. I hope you guys keep at it! Myself, I'm looking forward to more of your reviews, especially around the Ortigas, Libis and Katipunan areas. :)

    (Btw, the post before your Baguio travelogue? The one with the cakes. Nice photos too :) I think I got a toothache just from looking at them.
    And your travel photos are really something. Browsed through your Baguio ones earlier and your Thai ones before. You can start a photoblog, if you wanted to. I think it's a good idea. Haha. I'm just saying though :) There's a lot to be had here.)

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  4. Harrell
    you would :P

    Tessa :)
    ohh really?? such an interesting sort of candy! we honestly thought it was a twig or something hahahh!

    and thankyou! ♥ i'm really happy whenever people say they enjoy what i do, because it's really all that i do it for :) so people can read and enjoy, and maybe find it helpful hahah :9

    hello sunshine
    we were all still so full from brekkie! :( maybe next time we go there, we'll actually have a hot meal there? there was a big group of photography enthusiasts there when we were, and they had their brunch there. their food did look appetizing, even with a stomach full of my adobo brekkie, haha!

    Ryan
    hi! yes, i remember :) really big thankyou to you for all the nice things you said ♥ and, yes, will wait for your message then :)

    the photos are by sean tiu, a friend of some of the Foodistas :) his multiply is linked on the same post, if you're interested in seeing more of his photos.

    and re: photoblog, i've actually thought of it before, but never really followed through :P i've got quite a bit in my hands right now tho, so prolly not a good time for me to start anything. plus, i'm the co-founder of MF, so i'm devoting most of my free time to write, etc on this :)

    but i'll think about it again? maybe as a personal thing, no longer about food, haha. :P but, again, now's not really the best time for me :)

    yes, definitely talk to you soon. thankyou again! ♥

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  5. Great post! nice pictures

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  6. I think you're great :D Good luck with your Influential Blog nomination!

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  7. anong nangyari sa personal blog mo? parang maganda siyang basahin. nice post :)

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  8. jakedharrison@gmail.comJune 28, 2008 at 9:19 AM

    Joey, you have a solo blog? :) I would love to read that, if you don't mine sharing its location.

    I'd have to echo Ryan's opinions :) I think it's a great idea for you to have your own photography blog - not just about food, of course. I've seen your photos on Flickr, and food photography is definitely not your only talent ;)

    You do have a knack for blogging. I hope you never tire of it.

    Great travelogue, as always. Beautiful photography as well. The Philippines really sounds well-worth a visit, based on what I've read on this blog :)

    Good luck with all your endeavors :)


    -- Jake

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  9. GM
    thankyou :)

    Anonymous
    thankyou from all of us ♥ we're still crossing our fingers.

    B
    wala na yung blog na pinagkuhanan ko niyan haha :) sorry. at medyo private akong tao eh haha :P so if ever, nakaprivate lang ang personal blog.

    Jake
    well. if i had one, it wouldn't be public haha :) sorry. beyond writing about food, i like keeping my personal life private :) i'm flattered you're interested to read my personal blog tho.

    and thankyou! unfortunately, i have a lot of commitments as it is already. i can't really see myself maintaining another blog haha :P personal or not. although it would be nice to have one :)

    i'm starting to think i should actually have one lately tho haha. you and ryan aren't the first ones to encourage me to make one :P but, really, even if i wanted to, i've kind of got a lot on my plate atm. so i guess we can say that endeavour is a no for now.

    thankyou so much :) we're all very fond of your comments -- always so nice! and yes, the philippines is a beautiful place ♥ i wouldn't replace it for any other.

    you too! thankyou again for your thoughtful comments!

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  10. This blog is so poorly written, with so many redundancies, cliches and feeble descriptions that do not even capture the tip of what is supposed to be registered on the palette when encountering new dishes. I don't understand why it's being put up on a pedestal.

    Your blog, and the writing skills of your bloggers as well as the quality of criticism given, needs a lot of work. As a tip, you should probably research more on what to order in the restaurants you visit. A lot of the dishes you have ordered in some of the places you've tried are so lackluster, which is probably why it doesn't thoroughly highlight the good points of the restaurants you've reviewed.

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