RAZZLE-DAZA Pat-P Daza – The Philippine Star

October 4, 2021 | 12:00am

Last week, I shared excerpts from my interview with Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong. This week, allow me to share thoughts and observations on my favorite things to do while in the City of Pines: Eating and going to the wet market.

During my visit to Baguio the weekend of Sept. 17 to 19, I dined at two restaurants that were highly recommended by friends.

The first one was Café Gypsy by Chef Waya, where we had dinner. Once located along Roces Ave. in Quezon City, it had to close down because of the pandemic. Last June, Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco, who hails from Baguio, made the decision to reopen it at the summer capital’s Quezon Hill road. She brought with her six of her restaurant staff from Manila and hired five more from Baguio, housing them in the property’s lower ground floor. At the back of the sprawling property are the private quarters, where she stays with her husband.

The upper ground floor is where the restaurant’s homey and spacious main dining area is situated, and it’s where our party of three was warmly greeted by the staff.

Delicious and flavorful Seafood Laksa.

The menu was an eclectic mix of global comfort meals, and we were unable to decide what to order because everything looked good. If we were a party of 10 or more, we would have probably ordered everything on the menu but that wasn’t an option this time. We began with the Smoked Duck with Sagada Orange Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing.

For our main course, we ordered the Seafood Laksa, which was served piping hot and creamy with flavorful prawns, and clams and fish cake with the delicate flavor of cilantro and spices. It was the perfect comfort dish for a cool evening.

The Salted Egg Pork Belly was quite sumptuous, crunchy outside and tender inside. Seasoned to perfection, it was the perfect companion to the Indian Butter Chicken and Cauliflower Rice.

For dessert, we had the yummy Fruit Cobbler, “cobbled” from fresh strawberries, peaches with homemade granola, and topped with vanilla ice cream and strawberry coulis.

Before going down to Manila the next day, we went to the market in the morning to buy vegetables. After all, no trip to Baguio is complete without a visit to its market.

The Baguio market is one of the cleanest, if not the cleanest wet market I’ve been to. I was surprised to see that vegetables in Baguio are at least 50 percent cheaper (and fresher) than the ones sold in Metro Manila. Broccoli, for one, sold for P300 per kilo, compared to P450 in Manila. Cabbage went for P70 a kilo, and carrots P60 per kilo. I no longer remember the prices of the other vegetables I bought like the sweet peas (chicharo), cilantro, asparagus, French beans and Baguio beans. But I do remember that I spent less than a thousand pesos for vegetables, which were enough for two households: Mine and my mom’s.

Sumptuous Salted Egg Pork Belly, crunchy on the outside, soft and tender inside.

Pre-pandemic, a trip to the market meant that you had to brace yourself for a crowd, especially on weekends when tourists were buying pasalubongs before heading home. Sadly, though, the market was a ghost town during our visit. Since Baguio is under GCQ with a heightened alert level, tourists from out of town are not yet allowed in unless they are there for official business.

After all the walking and haggling from the market, we got hungry and decided to have lunch at an Italian restaurant that has been getting lots of positive reviews: Amare La Cucina, located in Albergo Hotel along Villamor Drive near Wright Park.

Because Amare La Cucina is known for its brick-oven pizzas, we ordered the Pizza Con Prosciutto with homemade blended tomatoes, mozzarella, arugula, olives and prosciutto as a starter. With its soft crust and slightly charred, crunchy edges, the pizza did not disappoint.

Also delightful was the Burrata Salad, which was seasoned with olive oil topped on a bed of greens and cherry tomatoes.

For our main course, we had the famous Wood-fired Ribs which were meaty, tasty and tender. Their smoky flavor went very well with the tasty Truffle Pasta and Pasta ala Sardines. I made a mental note to take my kids to Amare La Cucina next time as their servings are generous and reasonable, and the atmosphere very casual and friendly.

Refreshing Smoked Duck with Sagada Oranges Salad.

The next time you’re in Baguio, consider dining at Amare La Cucina and Café Gypsy. Do try to squeeze in a visit to the market to help revitalize Baguio’s ailing economy.

Beautiful fresh vegetables.

Pasalubongs galore in the market.

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