Baguio City Food Trip 2020: Tatler Visits Top Dining Spots In The City Of Pines
Baguio has always been a quick getaway for those of us in the Metro who are in dire need of an escape from the towering buildings and the very hot and humid weather. But this year, even a four to five-hour roadtrip to Baguio wasn't possible. Not until 22 October, when the City of Pines finally opened its doors to travellers outside the province.
Because of it being a popular tourist destination, the small city has become home to some of the most iconic dining spots in the country, and we were able to have a taste of the wonderful flavour this city has to offer.
We started our day at the first and only five-star mountain resort in the Philippines, Baguio Country Club. There, we were treated to a lovely meal in their Japanese restaurant, Hamada. It was such a wonderful and therapeutic experience, taking a bite of the warm teppanyaki amidst the view of the towering pine trees. Of course, to keep you warm and cosy, they also have a "street side" set-up outside Hamada, where you can take a sip of the warm shio broth while taking a fresh breath of air.
We then made our way to the Choco-laté de Batirol, an alfresco restaurant just a few minutes away from the Baguio Country Club. Chocolate de Batirol, as its name suggests, prides itself in its traditionally made batirol chocolate drink. Batirol is served steaming hot and has a thick texture, making it a perfect dipping sauce and accompaniment to their fluffy bibingka and sweet suman. The drink itself, as you can expect from its dark colour, is highly concentrated and has a hint of nuttiness to it. During the lockdown, Choco-laté de Batirol came out with delivery and takeout options for customers at home. For the first time ever, they released flavoured Batirol iced drinks, from the classic to mocha, hazelnut, and even matcha!
A few kilometres away from Choco-laté de Batirol, just before you reach the city proper is the Secret Garden. The location is not much of a secret, but the restaurant, located on the second floor makes it quite discrete, with its exteriors looking almost like a rustic treehouse within a flower-filled area just beside the South Drive highway. Contrary to its name, their menu focuses on Mediterranean cuisine like salads, pastas, and pizzas. Its points make the pasta extra to-die-for, most especially the vongole with a generous serving of clams and very flavourful garlic-infused olive oil-based sauce. If you are more of a red sauce fan, their bolognese might do the trick. But be sure to come here with an empty stomach because their servings are big!
For a light snack, one should always visit the very Vizco's restaurant along the ever-busy Session Road. They have a lot of meals to offer but what makes them a must-visit destination in Baguio is their cakes. Light and airy, their cakes have the perfect amount of sweetness and are made with the freshest fruits locally-sourced in Baguio and nearby provinces in the Cordillera Region. A fan-favourite is their strawberry shortcake that has loads of sweet strawberries – something Baguio is known for. If you are a fan mangoes, give their mango cake a try.
Because many weren't able to travel to Baguio due to the virus and travel restrictions, Vizco's partnered with select Metro Manila retailers to bring their famous cakes closer to you.
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For a light grub and a photoshoot session, Glenn 50's Diner is your best bet. As its name suggests the interior is a nod to diners in the '50s with its neon lights and a collection of framed 1950s to '60s film posters. Their menu is also reminiscent of that of a regular diner, with the inclusion of burgers, fries, and of course, milkshakes.
Taking a break from all the delicious food, Baguio is also home to museums boasting the beautiful weaves from the tribes in the north. One is Museo Kordilyera located in the University of the Philippines Baguio Campus. At first glance, one would think that the exhibit is underwhelming, but an impressive collection of weaves and tribal outfits await as you tour around the three-level museum. The entrance is actually on the highest floor, with the major exhibits located in underground floors. Aside from the colourful weaves suspended from the ceiling of the museum, guests can also get acquainted with artefacts from the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera and Northern Luzon. Complete with lengthy descriptions and origin, each item in the collection shows a vivid picture of the lives and culture of the tribes.
A few minutes walk from Museo Kordilyera is the Baguio Museum. Baguio Museum has been up and running for three decades since its opening in 1977. Here you can see ethnolinguistic exhibit of the Cordilleras and a historical gallery of Baguio city starting from the1900s. It details the arrival of the Americans to the mountains, as well as the havoc caused by World War II. It also houses a library for researchers. Currently, Baguio Museum remains closed due to the ongoing renovation.
A true art aficionado cannot visit Baguio without making his/her way to the BenCab Museum. A true gem, this four-story museum houses some of BenCab's finest works. It may be a bit of a drive away from the city proper, but it is definitely worth it. Upon entry, guests are immediately greeted by the National Artist's impressive 'Anito/Ninuno' painting. By the stairs, a massive portrait of BenCab's famous Sabel awaits (a recurring theme within the museum). In total, the museum houses nine permanent exhibits, including BenCab's collection of tribal artefacts and indigenous crafts. Exhibitions of other artists are also held from time to time within the BenCab Museum. Meanwhile, the picturesque view of the farm and mini-forest on the surrounding mountains prove to be the perfect background against the fine collection of art in the museum.
If you find yourself wanting to grab a bite after touring around the museum, you can dine al fresco in Café Sabel – the museum's café. It has quite the selection of breakfast meals, pasta, paninis, desserts, and drinks such as teas, shakes, and BenCab's own brew of coffee. Much of the veggies, herbs, and even the coffee is sourced from the farm behind the museum. The ambience is just perfect, with the café overlooking a lush garden with a duck pond and an eco-trail walk.
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A good spot for get-togethers is Café by The Ruins. After its renovation, the old bamboo interiors were replaced with a more chic and modern design but is still very warm, earthy, and cosy. Tables are still made of wood, but the walls are now made of cement and the light fixtures are painted black. The café-slash-restaurant also now has a second floor that also doubles as an alfresco dining set-up with its open-air deck. As for the food, breakfast staples such as champorado and arroz caldo are still part of the menu as well as local dishes. Of course, the incorporation of local ingredients and flavours that made Café by The Ruins famous is still present.
For a romantic dinner, head on to Craft 1945. At night, this restaurant may be a tad difficult to find with the pitch-black streets leading to it. But it is all worth it when you reach this restaurant that is sitting atop a hill. The place is quiet and is surrounded by towering pine trees. The ambience is spectacular and the food is just as amazing. Oddly enough, the appetiser section of the menu has the most spotlight-stealing dishes such as the crispy calamares, classic gambas, chorizo, almejas, and Spanish wings. We suggest you take a sip of Baguio's craft beers too while you're here! They have quite the selection, but not as complete as the menu in Baguio Brewery.
If you are a beer aficionado, Baguio Craft Brewery is not something you'd want to miss. Located along Ben Palispis Highway, they offer more than 15 different kinds of craft beers from ales, pilsner, fruit beers, wheat and stout, so you can easily find something that is perfect to your palate. Plus, you get to drink while basking the beautiful view overlooking the city.
However, if you don't have the time to drive up north, you can have their craft beers delivered straight to your home through The Beer Curator. They carry all beers from Baguio Craft Brewery and other local beers from the country.
Baguio, as small as it may be, has a charm unique within its mountainous borders. Maybe it has to do with the beautiful and tall pine trees surrounding the city, the cold fresh breeze, or the stunning view from hills. Maybe it is the welcoming locals, the fresh produce, or its beautiful and vibrant flowers. Whichever it is, Baguio has been a place for many to recharge and reconnect with nature. And it will continue to be for years to come.
NOTE: Tatler Philippines went to visit Baguio earlier this year, prior to the pandemic and travel restrictions imposed by the government.
- Photography Angela Arcega