There’s this saying that goes “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are,” and just like that other familiar saying about friends and how birds of the same feather, food plays an integral part in one’s life.
Obviously it’s because we need food to survive. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re from – you have to eat. But eating isn’t just about existence, the food we eat is intertwined with our culture.
Have you ever wondered why people from different parts of the world eat different types of food, or why certain foods often reminds you a lot of home?
Food may actually be the one of easiest way to explore a different culture because you can never fully understand a culture without a nod to their cuisine. That’s why every time we travel to a new place, whether its a different province or a different country, one of the first things we look for are the places which serve their “authentic cuisine,” right?
Just like you can’t talk about Baguio without mentioning Ube Jam, Lengua de Gato, Strawberry Taho, Watermelon or Strawberry Sinigang, and fresh highland vegetables and as I discovered recently, there’s a lot more dishes to love from our Summer Capital.
Last Monday, we traveled up north to sample some of the staple food of Baguio City and try out a few new twists to some classic Filipino dishes.
Our host was the Holiday Inn Baguio City Center, the first major international hotel chain to open in the City of Pines. It’s the newest venue for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) events as well as for vacationing tourists.
To highlight the fresh and bountiful produce of the highlands of the Cordillera region, Holiday Inn Baguio City Centre come up with a unique farm-to-table buffet experience for their breakfast and weekend special lunch & dinner.
“Our farm-to-table concept promotes that Cordilleran flair, but with a twist that is far different from the colorful market that Baguio city is known for,” says General Manager Joanne Acott.
“We hope that our guests enjoy the world-class standard of Holiday Inn from the food to the accommodations, and that during their stay they experience the Joy of Travel at the Holiday Inn.”
At the hotel’s all-day restaurant Lamisaan Dining & Bar, an array of fresh Cordillera produce are incorporated in most buffet and ala carte offerings.
The Larder section of the buffet, for instance, includes locally-sourced fresh greens, an assortment of cheeses, cold cuts, and breads. The restaurant’s November special even features three kinds of homemade highland pandesals infused with beetroot, squash, and watercress. Even the artisanal hand-cut pastas, which the chef says go well with their special sauces, are given a fun Cordilleran spin with a creative infusion of these three vegetables.
At the buffet’s Carvery section there’s a wide array of meats, from homemade Baguio Corned Beef to Air-Fried Bagnet (same great crispiness and juiciness, less the guilt!), and sausages made from locally sourced meats.
And then there’s Holiday Inn Baguio’s wide array of sweets and desserts, made even more special by the hotel’s signature breads; sweet & savory, choco-banana and carrot-walnut, all freshly baked by the hotel’s well-trained bakers.
But the sumptuous breakfast buffet spread weren’t the only specials Chef Alwin prepared for us, as he also gave us a preview of their ala carte menu called Pinoy Nouvelle—classic Pinoy favorites infused with the fresh ingredients from the Cordillera and given some thoughtful novel touches.
For lunch we started with Sinigang na Salmon sa Sampaloc with Watercress. Instead of big slice of salmon this had smaller diced cuts which I liked and had just the right amount of sourness. For salad we had Carpaccio di La Trinidad Carpaccio of beetroot topped with fresh, handpicked Baguio Salad greens with wild fem, Watercress, Sagada Orange and Feta cheese dressed with Honey Calamansi dressing.
The dish that brought all that Cordillera flavor was the Grilled Baguio Vegetables with Creamy Bagna Caoda—it had grilled broccoli, cauliflower, shallots, zuchini, carrots, squash and cherry tomatoes tossed in umami filled creamy yogurt infused with bagna caoda.
Our main dish featured Air Fried Bagnet (less guilty!) but served in three ways. My favorite was the adobo version–Drizzied with classic Adobo Sauce, sewed with 64 degrees egg and pickled Watermelon skin. I also loved the crispiness of the Bagnet KareKare with Classic Peanut Sauce and as Chef told us they make their own alamang bagoong. And if you love bagoong you’d want to try their Binagoongan Bagnet which is also paired with local vegetables.
Then there was Chicken Supreme de Cordillera—french chicken stuffed with Cristacean farce, served with Highland Pilaf and finished with homemade organic Yogurt Garlic dressing.
We finished lunch with Sagada Orange Souffle—light and fluffy classic French Soufflé flavored with Sagada Orange and Grand Manier, finished with café Mocha Sauce.
“Our favorite green here is watercress because it’s yummy, it’s peppery; it has a lot of character in it, and also, it symbolizes the color of Holiday Inn,” explains Executive Chef Alwin Mantuano., “There’s plenty of it in Baguio and it’s expensive in Manila, so we really make use of it here.”
The featured products in our new dishes are sourced only from the Cordillera region: LA Trinidad, Baguio, and some nearby towns. We make sure we know the source and that they pass the standard that we have set for dining,’’ Chef Alwin told our group as spent the afternoon at the La Trinidad farms and the Baguio Public Market where Chef says he usually makes his rounds to purchase ingredients from local farmers.
Dinner was a special 6 Course Dinner that featured the flavors and textures of the Great Cordillera beginning with Rustic Roasted Tomato Soup; comforting roasted tomato soup with cinnamon croutons.
The Highland Greens ala Nicoise was served next with fresh salad greens and Baguio Garden Vegetables tossed in classic lemon vinaigrette with pepper-crusted seared tuna.
Now the Raviolo al Fuso was perhaps the biggest surprise of our meal. It was simply delicious. Served with Sage perfumed hazelnut butter, Kiniling Capers, Crispy Sage and Parmesan cheese.
To ready our palate for the main course they served us frozen margarita mocktail and followed by our main course, Pastrami Spiced Beef.
Slow cooked premium angus Flat iron steak crusted with pastrami spiced in red wine-chocolate reduction, served with beef tajine cromesquis, watercress emulsion, and a side of butter fried carrots and broccoli. A fresh fruit platter was served for desserts.
For lunch the next day Chef served us classic Beef Nilaga with Choy Sum soup; beef was fork-tender Bukidnon Wagyu in flavorful beef broth with leaves and flowers of Choy Sum.
Cordillera greens again were the star of the Highland Greens ala Greco salad–Classic Mediterranean Salad with Feta Cheese, Olives, Cucumber, and Capsicum, with their very own Calamansi-Honey Dressing.
For our main course there was Beef Tajine which is again Fork tender Bukidnon Wagyu beef cooked Moroccan way, spiked with Cordilleran preserved lemon, accompanied with Raita; and Sagada-Rubbed Pork–Sous Vide Sagada Coffee rubbed Capocollo, the most marbled part of pork, served with pommery Mustard Sauce, smashed young potatoes, cherry tomato confit and arm Baguio salad.
Chef also showcased his Angry Pasta with Seafood, mild-spicy tomato sauce with shrimp and squid.
All our meals were accompanied by their trademark Highland Pilaf brown rice.
Of all the food that were served, my favorites, and the ones I suggest you try are of course the Air Fried Bagnet trio (any of the three will do) the Raviolo al Fuso, for salad go for the Highland Greens either ala Greco or ala Nicoise. The angry pasta was also quite good, and the Beef Tajine was so tender.
Located along Legarda Road, Holiday Inn Baguio City Centre is right in the middle of the city’s most popular attractions, only being a short distance away from Heritage and Nature Park, Burnham Park, Session Road, and Camp John Hay. Guests are treated to free scheduled shuttle services to key city destinations.
Buffet Breakfast andCordillera-inspired dishes at Lamisaan
Holiday Inn hotels are committed to providing family-friendly travel options, and kids ages 12 and under stay for free when sharing their parents’ room, which means it’s easy to bring the crew along for some fun.
Experience the Joy of Travel for All at Holiday Inn Baguio City Centre.
Holiday Inn Baguio City Centre, is an IHG Hotel (InterContinental Hotels Group), a global organization with a broad portfolio of hotel brands in its name. To learn more about Holiday Inn, visit www.holidayinn.com/baguio or call (074) 620-3333 or (632) 571-6079.