Where and What to Eat at Sagada
Sagada is a culinary surprise. For a small mountain town that seems worlds away from movers and shakers of the culinary scene, Sagada has a wide array of world-class, topnotch dining. Be forewarned, the chefs here take their extra sweet time chopping your yummy vegetable and cheese omelet.
Sagada’s haute cuisine is reigned supreme by the Log Cabin’s Saturday night buffet by its resident French chef, Chef Aklay (real name Philippe), a chef who has worked and lived in 27 countries and decided to live and settle down in Sagada. It has a lovely and warm interior that looks like well, a log cabin. The furniture was tasteful and it even has a quirky arrangement of cutlery on the table. The fireplace and the candle lighting add a bit more drama without being campy. Food must be pre-ordered and a deposit is required (except for us that time). To serious foodies and fans, his sample menu (this changes on a regular basis) on his buffet are pork and beef pie (with watercress, walnuts and blueberries), strawberry black forest truffle at chocolate raisin flourless cake (with strawberry cream topping and chocolate shavings) and wheat foccacia are some of his oeuvre. We got there however a little late, the Saturday dinner buffet was fully booked.
For Log Cabin, reservations are imperative. This is not your local fast-food joint. Friday dinner (ala carte) was booked as well, but the Filipino chef that night was able to squeeze my group in (not most travelers were lucky- so thank you). I had a pork steak, with sidings of steamed vegetables and mashed potato. Another friend ordered Chicken paprika and another Shredded chicken with potato crisps. The chef forgot to ask me whether how I wanted my steak, and I forgot to tell him as well – I ended up with a dry, well-done steak on my plate. To my companion’s disappointment, the Shredded Chicken looked like a white mush sitting on a plate of well-arranged potato thins – definitely not the right meal after all that heavy walking and hiking. The Chicken Paprika meanwhile was a pleasant surprise. I am willing to let Log Cabin redeem itself when I come back next time in October 2009, we will definitely book our place at the Saturday Night Buffet a week in advance. Buffet is at PhP500 while ala carte meals start at around PhP250-300.
Rock Inn & Café
Rock Inn & Café (www.rockfarmsagada.com), about two kilometers before Sagada town proper, is another clear favorite. Usually after the trek to Bomod-ok falls, travelers have their late lunch here. Rock Inn & Café has a charming ambience, with its own beautiful gardens and the orange orchard at its back. It also has some dap-ays for guests staying in at its inn to relax and an all-weather bonfire area to warm at night and roast marshmallows. During the season of oranges, one can go picking and frolic in the orchard. Stock up on the orange preserves, they run out fast. The next orange picking season is in September 2010. Food from the café is pre-ordered, we tried out the famous dish of the Cordilleras, the Pinikpikan (photo left), which is prepared by beating a live chicken with a stick prior to cooking. The beating bruises the chicken’s flesh, bringing blood to its surface which coagulates, it is said to improve the flavor after cooking- the etag- a salted, and smoked piece of pork is further used to enhance the flavor – which is akin to a smoked, barbecued chicken soup. Another equally delicious dish of the café is the Chicken id Ambasing with locally grown red rice which is a more haute and flavorful version of fried chicken and definitely a must try. Prices of meals are around PhP150.
Lemon Pie House
For Pushing Daisies fans, we all know that it has been very hard to find good fruit-based pies in the Philippines, but tucked in Sagada is its very own Lemon Pie House, a lemon colored house of heavenly pies.
The Lemon Pie House (sagadalemonpiehouse.blogspot.com) which is more like a Lemon Meringue Pie is delicate while the Blueberry Pie is just simply a taste of heaven for the taste buds. Not a lot of tourists know about this place, and I may actually regret divulging this secret to everyone. A slice of Lemon Pie is a measly PhP30, and a pan for only PhP220. Blueberry pies sell for PhP30 a piece and a cup of good mountain tea is only PhP15 and a cup of organic, homegrown Arabica is PhP25. If one is a fussy gourmet, one should not order the chocolate drink though as these are only packets of commercially prepared chocolate powder. The Longanisa (Philippine sausage) meal was a big disappointment – the sausage was just a single thinly sliced piece. The homegrown cherry tomatoes that come with it though– were just too delicious, and literally bursts in your mouth with mountain and organic freshness.
Sagada is almost synonymous with Yoghurt House, having the Hiker’s Delight with freshly brewed mountain tea is pure gourmet joy. Hiker’s Delight is a crepe with banana smothered with a huge dollop of home-made creamy yoghurt and finished with strawberry preserves on top. It also comes with a choice of organic coffee or mountain tea, two eggs (cooked anyway you want them) and a piece of toast. The vegetable and cheese omelet is also notable too. Each meal is not over PhP200 and the big downside is the long wait. We waited for 50 minutes for our order, and the wait list was long.
Salt and Pepper Diner
Another one of my personal favorites is the very cozy Salt and Pepper Diner. The diner, apparently according to one of the guides that we met there, is actually the oldest house in Sagada. The interior is definitely Igorot-style with the customary dapowan and the low tables and chairs. The meals are cheap (starts at just over PhP100) and good but mostly mainstream Filipino (pork chop with rice and vegetables and similar combos.) and of course pinikpikan. Thanks for the good company of Daniel, one of the guides, and over a bottles of commercial rice wine (which tasted like sweet red wine) and San Miguel, our two-hour wait flew by quickly. Dining in Sagada involves a lot of waiting, so be prepared to wait- they certainly love to take their precious time preparing the dish- so order food in advance! While waiting, the vibe in Sagada is so friendly that one can strike up a conversation with almost anyone.
Aside from the restaurants and diners, the Saturday weekend street market is both a visual and culinary feast. Check out the locally made rice cakes, agar-agar in cream and coconut-pandan desserts, a selection of fruits like blueberries, strawberries and passion fruits, fresh vegetables, etag, and smoked fish amongst others. Valencia oranges, lemon, and lime were introduced from Spain by Jaime Masferre to provide the needs of the mostly American missionaries and employees of the Mission of Saint Mary the Virgin.
Ryan supports socially and environmentally responsible and sustainable tourism, as well as the promotion of the Philippines as an alternative Asian tourist destination.
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