Café by the Ruins

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If you’re up for a refreshing experience sans the heavy traffic and pollution, then look no further than Baguio City. Aside from the pine-scented breeze wafting through the surrounding rocky mountains, the city is also rich with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that can surely make your jaunts rewarding and healthy.

There’s more. If you’re looking for savory treat and healthy dining, then Café by the Ruins has got it covered.

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Located opposite the city hall, this establishment is quasi-closed allowing patrons to catch whiffs of pine-scented breeze which at once becomes palpable as you enter its arc-shaped door.

Inside, a cursory look reveals several artworks collaged in every nook and corner of the café. In one corner, too, a bonfire invites customers to request to have it fired up when the temperature turns unbearably cold.

Without having second thought, one can conclude that the café is run by artists.

Indeed it is true. Ryan Chua, the restaurant manager, says it all.

“The establishment started as an art gallery, a hang-out place for artists alone. As the city started to blossom as a haven for business ventures, it later  evolved into a café that accepts people from all walks of life as customers.”

Today, Ryan added, it is being run by artists, writers, and businessmen who are already the second generation members of the corporation.

The walls of the café, Ryan said, are the remains of the headquarters of the first Benguet government during the American-Japanese war, hence the name.

The artistic displays and historic accounts of the café are just 50 percent of the experience. The other half is right on its menu.

Café by the Ruins offers an array of fresh and organic sumptuous and sometimes bizarre menu for a luscious gastronomic journey. There are no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or enhancers used for the food. The menu is not constricting as it is changed every quarter based on the availability of the season’s goods. This is to ensure that only fresh and naturally-produced commodity is served.

FOOD

While there are other food establishments in Baguio City offering fresh and organic menu, Café by the Ruins stands out not only because of its artistic ambiance but also because of its carabao’s milk-based concoctions. Because of this, the café is an A-list among thousands of patrons, a testimony attested to by netizens and by the international award it recently bagged for being “one of the best restaurants in the country”.

Evidently, one can lose his or herself in the luxury of indulging in the delight of partaking organic and fresh dishes, pastries, and drinks. These are just some of the products made richer and better by carabao’s milk offered by Café by the Ruins.

Alas! A bite of Saniculas!

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The Capampangans, who are inhabitants of Pampanga, are very much well-known for their discriminating taste for food and high regard for cooking.
This prevailing fact traces its roots to the olden times. Accounts say that every female born to a Capampangan family is exposed to the kitchen at an early age. To master her culinary skills, she is obliged to prepare her family’s dishes. This devoir continue until she passes it on to her daughters.
Lillian Mercado-Lising Borromeo, who is fondly called as “Atching Lillian”, is a living proof to this tradition. She came from a wealthy Capampangan root where her grandparents were “don” and “doña”, a status that is equivalent to business tycoons or magnates in the modern times. Thus, she grew up with the practice of meticulous food preparation.
Atching Lillian, along the way, learned that one of the secrets of the unique, incomparable taste of Capampangan cuisine is the use of carabao’s milk and dayap (lime). She recalled that her grandparents had a herd of carabaos. With the abundance of carabao’s milk, her grandfather used to drink fresh carabao’s milk while taking a sip of duhat (jambul) every morning. Her grandmother, on the other hand, uses the milk with dayap juice in most of her recipes.
“The carabao’s milk with dayap juice, when used in cooking, adds a very distinct flavor,” Atching Lillian said.
As the only female among the brood of four, she inherited a family heirloom that included 17th century cooking and baking utensils and some secret family recipes. Among these century-old recipes is the making of “Panacillos de San Nicolas” or San Nicholas cookies. For the Capampangans, they call it “Saniculas”.
According to Atching Lillian, this recipe is the most noteworthy of all because this was passed on to her by her grandmother Impung Andang (Doña Alejandra Andres David Hizon) who learned the recipe from the Dominican sisters. Atching Lillian, hailed as the “Guardian and Steward of Capampangan Cuisine”, unselfishly shared her family’s priceless recipes especially that of the Saniculas.
Saniculas, a melt-in-the-mouth goodness, is the oldest cookie introduced in the Philippines by the Spaniards, circa 1600. Its inception was born out of oversupply of egg yolks. During those times, the whole of egg except its yolk (i.e. albumen), was mixed with lime powder and sand to build churches, schools, and other government buildings. Hence, the Spanish nuns thought of using the yolks in several pastries and other delicacies.
Every family, too, was encouraged to come up with a product out of the yolks. Saniculas was one of them.
Atching Lillian, with her passion of sharing the secrets of Capampangan cuisine, gladly demonstrated how Saniculas is made.
It starts by gently mixing the ingredients that is composed of arrowroot flour, egg yolks, carabao’s milk, duhat, and enough amount of water to make the dough. The dough is kneaded and flattened using a cookie mold and a rolling pin with gradual precision. After which, the dough is ready for baking.
Atching Lillian, during her demonstration, insisted on using carabao’s milk, instead of any other milk. This, she said, gives the cookies its exact aroma, taste, and texture.

atching
The making of San Nicholas cookies back then, she said, was a lot more interesting. The nuns or the women making it, had to pray three Our Father, three Hail Mary, and three Glory be to the Father. After which, one has to put her hand inside the oven to check if the cookies were already cooked. In some instances, if the cookies were still not properly cooked after the three prayers, they would pray the Salve Regina also known as the Hail Holy Queen.
The baked cookies back then, she quoted others as saying, were perfect in its taste and texture as the prayers served as their timer. Interestingly, too, the Saniculas is imprinted with the image of San Nicholas, the great miracle healer.
But the cookie’s interesting facts don’t end there. Every 10th of September, the feast day of St. Nicholas de Tolentin, the Saniculas cookies are blessed and distributed to devotees for it is believed to have a curative effect. This practice was said to have been passed on by the Spanish friars to the Filipinos. Other than this, the cookie can also be crumbled and scattered on rice fields to ask for a bountiful harvest.
Needless to say, every bite of Saniculas does not only satisfy one’s cravings. It also represents a tradition of love, devotion, peace, and miracle.

Sweets haven in Bulacan

Looking for sweets treat this Christmas season? Then go buy assorted pastillas de leche in San Miguel, Bulacan and savor them alone or with your love ones.

Pastillas de leche is basically a candy made out of milk and sugar. It is rolled into thumb-size pieces, wrapped in white paper and then packed in different colorful papers.

The best thing about the pastillas de leche is that once popped inside the mouth, the partaker finds the grits of sugar and the slow, gentle melting of it in the mouth and offers a heavenly goodness of pure carabao’s milk. It gives not just sweetness but also creaminess and softness of a candy that one would crave for more.

Coming in different varieties, this delicacy in San Miguel town has become an addiction to travelers and most especially to its locals.

A gateway to Nueva Ecija and Cagayan Valley region, San Miguel town is a favorite stopover for travelers who crave for mouth-watering pastillas de lecheout of carabao’s milk.

According to Rafael Payawal, popularly called as “Ka Ape”, who is one of the oldest living residents in San Miguel, the pastillas industry in the town traces its history to the Spanish period.

“San Miguel as an agricultural area has many carabaos. Because of this, people thought of capitalizing it for other uses aside from farming activities. And so they came up with collecting its milk and developing it into pastillas,” Payawal said.

Due to growing demand, pastillas has become at par with farming as the main livelihoods in San Miguel.

Now, the number of commercial pastillas makers is growing in number. Among these are Ocampo Sweets, Sevilla Sweets, Andrea Sweets, Garcia’s and Ricmar’s. Their common secret? It’s the freshness of the carabao’s milk, which is pasteurized immediately upon delivery and uses it for pastillas making.

The Sevilla and Ocampo sweets products include the following:

  • Pastillas de leche. Soft and creamy milk candies made of pure carabao’s milk and sugar. Available in boxes containing 25 jumbo pieces and plastic bags with 24 smaller pieces.
  • Flavored pastillas. Pastillas de leche with langka (jackfruit), cheese and ube (purple yam) flavors. These are packed in plastic bags with 24 pieces each.
  • Assorted pastillas. An assortment of flavors in plastic container, namely; pastillas de leche, pastillas de yema, pastillas de ube, pastillas de langka, and pastillas de keso.
  • Ube pastillas. Thumb-size morsel rolled in sugar and wrapped in clear cellophane with ube as its main ingredient made tastier with carabao’s milk.
  • Pastillas de yema. A sweet, sticky delicacy made of condensed milk, egg yolk, cheese, sugar and lemon. Available in plastic bags containing 24 pieces.
  • Pastillas stick. It is composed of 12 sticks of yummy pastillas bound by festive yellow ribbon.
  • Cheese candy. Consisting of 12 sticks of cheese-flavored tied with yellow ribbon.

Other products include special polvoron, polvoron de pinipig, assorted polvoron, assorted macapuno balls, dried fruits, cashew tart, pili tart, lengua de gato, turon de casuy, pacencia white, uraro, and minarka.

Aside from being used as a favorite dessert on the locals’ and travelers’ tables, the pastillas products are also used as a present (pasalubong) or a gift during special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and Christmas because of its delicate, colorfully wrapped goodies.

“These milk products continue to live because of the strong patronage of the locals in San Miguel,” says Mayor Roderick DG. Tiongson.

In fact, Bulacan celebrated the first Pastillas festival on May 5-7, 2005 which highlighted the importance of pastillas in the lives of its locals. According to Mayor Tiongson, the province of Bulacan will set another pastillas festival in May 2011.

In 2008, San Miguel tried its best to be included in the Guiness Book of World Records for producing the “longest pastillas in the world”. The efforts involved the use of 12,800 liters of carabao’s milk and 1,600 kilos of sugar that produced a 200-meter long, five-inch diameter pastillas. The finished product, when cut into pieces, resulted in 500,000 thumb-size pieces morsels.

The effort, though, was not officially recognized due to some reasons.

Nobody can really claim where pastillas has originated.

But according to Caridad Sevilla, her mother-in-law Olympia Sevilla, more popularly known as “Lola Impiyang”, was said to be the very first resident of San Miguel who started the pastillas business.

Caridad relates that Lola Impiyang was then a vendor of coffee with fresh carabao’s milk. At the end of the day, she still has overflowing liters of milk. With this in hand, she applied what she has learned from her ancestors, and that is cooking the carabo’s milk into pastillas. At first, she would just give it to her neighbors but eventually turned it into a family business when more and more locals became patrons of her pastillas.

Today, more than 200 households in San Miguel town are engaged in pastillas making. They sell their products in the town and other places.

The production of pastillas de leche in San Miguel, as a business enterprise, is expected to grow, not wane, as the years go on.

https://joahnadiyosa.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/sweets-haven-in-bulacan/

https://joahnadiyosa.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/pahiyas-festival-2011/

I have always been constantly curious with things, foods, or anything that is new to my vocabulary and list of experiences. And to quench such curiosity, I dive into it and plunge straight in. I dwell on the excitement and fulfillment it provides me so as not to live with regret that I let the very chance slip my hands.

When I first went to India, I told myself I should try every single delicacy available on the table (as there is no other option anyway). Most of my friends, however, don’t really like Indian foods because aside from its super spicy flavors, its smell is also very likely to lose your appetite.

Until I tried it myself. And guess what? It’s not really that bad at all. In fact, I loved Indian foods! And when I went there the second time around, I loved it more, especially the masala dosa (perfect for a snack) and gulab jamun (best dessert ever!).

Below are some of the photos I took during my unforgiving food quenching in New Delhi. I put every single kind of menu on my plate and finished it up to the last bite! I still have to research on the names, though. But to give you an idea how these foods look (and taste), here are some of it:

For lunch: Vegetable pasta. Chicken biryani, Makki Paneer Panora, vegetable kebab, papad (super spicy crackers) and Basmati rice. Mind you, the rice is also spicy hot!

For dinner: Bhelpuri (Vegetable pasta), Puran poli (like a pan cake), and other chicken and mutton recipes.

To be honest, papad is the only food (a cracker) that I never got enough with. It was delectable and sumptuous!

Spices and more spices. And yes, they are served fresh and in unimaginable large cuts! I tried eating the fresh onion cuts. And it wasn’t bad.

Masala Dosa (Photo from google). I can’t find where I put my photo eating masala dosa but anyways, this and papad, are my sought-after Indian foods.

You can see a lot of this along the streets of Connaught Place in New Delhi especially the road going to the Sarojini market. And yes, they are spicy, too. These are like chips. And corn bits.

Of course, some sweets to relieve the spicy tongue. Ice cream  and Gujiyas (it taste like a sweetened dumpling).

Lastly, a Gulab jamun (photo from google). This was the best dessert ever! I got so much indulged with the dessert that I forgot to take a photo. This one was amazing, so awesomely sweet that you’ll crave for more once you tried it!

And yes Indian foods are super spicy all over but they are great nonetheless!

(https://joahnadiyosa.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/indian-foods-are-nothing-but-spicy-and-spicy/)

My Durian-eating challenge in Davao

Davao City is known to be a dazzling cornucopia of things to see and do. It offers a wide range of exciting and extraordinary adventures and activities that any tourists, even locals, won’t dare to miss.

Davao has been very well-known in housing the tallest mountain peak in the Philippines which is the Mount Apo. It is also home to the very rare and exquisite orchid—the waling-waling. Aside from these, it has also been inherently identified as the haven of the Philippine eagle.

But among all these treasure-trove offerings, the most exciting and must-try experience (for me) is eating the durian fruit. In fact, Davao City has been dubbed as the “Durian City of the Philippine” for this exotic fruit grows abundantly in this city.

As to why eating durian became a very extraordinary and really a-need-courage-all challenge for first-timers is because of its foul odor that would make you puke the moment it is stuffed into your mouth. The odor is like a fume from the unknown jungle (I might be exaggerating here but really the odor is no good at all). After eating, too, the smell in your breath won’t give up that easily. It would last until the morning even after having mouthwash or bubble gum.

I have observed from the durian eaters, though, that they would eat the fruit with their bare hands. This, they said, makes durian-eating all the tastier. Of course, I thought, the odor of the durian would stick on to their hands. The folks, though, gave a very simple hint that could wash the odor away. And that is by pouring water in the durian’s shell and washing your hand in it. Same thing goes with relieving the smell from your mouth. Pour water in the durian’s shell and use it as a gargle.  I did not try this tactic but these folks attested its wonders. I might try this when I get a chance to eat another durian fruit. I promise! It is not the most appetizing description to a fruit, yes, but certainly a Davaoeño favorite. In fact, it’s Davaoeños famous dessert.

And to give you an idea how this durian fruit looks like and how I struggled to stuff it into my mouth with all the super powers I can summon, take a look at the photos below.

I was able to finish four huge chunks! Yehey! And for an adventure-seeker, must-try-it-all person that I am, this is one of the challenges I’ll forever cherish. It wasn’t really easy to keep stuffing it in your mouth but indeed it’s worth a try.

After surpassing such challenge, for sure you’ll say: One more!

(https://joahnadiyosa.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/my-durian-eating-challenge-in-davao/)

‘Bulcachong’ is unlike your ordinary ‘bulalo’

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From exquisite landscapes to extraordinary treasure-trove experiences, Davao City speaks of nature’s beauty and the trappings of modern life all at the same time. And when it comes to unique, extraordinary food offerings, the city has a long list of must-see restaurants that can sate the rumbling stomach.

The long list includes various seafood cuisines and other delectable nourishments that one can choose from without having second thoughts.

One particular eatery in the downtown area which carries an intriguing name stands out as it has become a talk of the town for locals and tourists alike. It has become a favorite stop-over for travellers, too.

The name of the eatery is “Bulcachong”. It carries a tagline that says, “Rapa sa Toro, Sarap para sa lahat.” In Pilipino that’s “delicious carabao dish for everyone”.

The restaurant offers a unique dish that one must partake to capture its essence. The dish is also named bulcachong, a concoction whose secret is known only to its master chef—Chong.

Bulcachong is a buffalo meat recipe which can be similar to bulalo (Filipino beef shank and bone marrow stew) but is uniquely different when it comes to appearance, aroma, and taste.

The chunks of meat are meticulously cooked for three hours until it becomes very tender. It is then mixed with various ingredients that include atsuete (lipstick plant or annatto); a natural coloring, and a minute amount of flour which makes the soup orange and thick. It has a strong aroma which fills every nook and corner of the restaurant.

But what makes bulcachong particularly different and loved is its gingery taste which gives an extra spicy kick that lingers in the partaker’s mouth for at least a minute. It is not the most appetizing description to a dish but certainly a Davaoeño favorite. In fact, it has become a must-try exotic food like that of thefamous durian fruit.

For a first timer, the first reaction is to back out due to its strong aroma, but as the thick soup slushes down the throat and the extra soft meat melts in the mouth, the wonders work by itself where the partaker finds himself or herself keep stuffing more into his or her mouth until his or her stomach can take no more.

And what’s the other secret? The calamansi juice which can be poured over the soup which makes it all the more mouth-watering that one opts to order again.

The master chef, Chong, commonly mistaken as a Chinese, is a Filipino. He is a gourmet cook and he likes preparing esoteric dishes such as the bulcachongwhich have gained popularity among locals and tourists alike over the years. He cooks the way he lived his life—meticulously and very properly.

The bulalo special which is good for 3-4 persons is sold at Php300. For thebulcachong, which serving is normally good for one person, there are two dining options. One can choose to dine outside the restaurant amid fresh air at Php75; or inside with an air conditioner which is served at Php90.

The main store is open for 24 hours. Its peak hours is from 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. It has become very popular among locals who look for a hot soup to bring them back to a sober state after a night of drinking session.

While there are many restaurants and eateries that mushroomed all over Davao City, the Bulcachong restaurant continues to thrive because of its secret ingredient that no one has succeeded in imitating yet.

Since the Bulcachong restaurant was built, many locals would tried to mix and blend several ingredients just to come up with the exact exotic but delightful taste of the bulcachong but only to no avail. The secret ingredient, Chong said, will remain a “secret” in him and his most trusted co-chef who have worked for the restaurant for 18 years now.

After dining at Bulcachong, one, for sure, leaves with a satisfied and delighted stomach and exclaim: “Lami ah uy!”

That means: “unbelievably delicious!”

(https://joahnadiyosa.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/savoring-bulcachong-an-exquisite-davaoeno-delicacy/)