Will Travel for Food: Sampling Sagada’s Specialties
Head north to the Mountain Province and indulge in homegrown specialities found in rustic Sagada.
While most head for chilly Baguio City in search of the perfect strawberries, ube jam and peanut brittle, there's a whole cultural and gastronomic haven that awaits them further north. Take the road passing through the scenic Banaue Rice Terraces and brave the roads leading to the charming town of Sagada.
It was a little over a year ago when I vowed that I would make each year a traveling year. So when two friends of mine happened to cancel a trip to Sagada, I jumped at the chance and declared, "I'll take your slot!"
It wasn't hard catching up on some much needed shuteye during the travel aboard the Florida bus from Manila. Nine hours later, I step out and breathe in fresh Banaue air. We rented a van to bring us straight to Sagada and my heart raced as I took in the majestic Banaue Rice Terraces and its tranquility.
After passing through busy Bontoc and weaving our way through steep mountainsides and dusty rough roads, the engine chortled to a stop and we finally arrived in Sagada at noontime. After registering at the tourist center, we check in at Rock Farm and we found our tummies looking forward to some much anticipated Sagada grub
Cafe Bodega at Rock Farm
Rock Farm, which started as an orange orchard in October 2003, is located about three kilometers from the town proper. Run by the owner's sons Bang and Gao, this inn has become a favorite among Sagada backpackers, families, lovers and barkadas for its distinct charm.
At Rock Farm's Cafe Bodega, surrounded by orange trees, pine trees and overlooking a valley, you can choose to dine al fresco or indoors where there's cable TV. There's even a stage for performances from local musicians.
Cafe Bodega's breakfast menu includes traditional Pinoy classics such as beef tapa or tocino for breakfast, along with other breakfast options, from pancakes to bread and omelettes. A must try is their pancake with yogi (yogurt) and their house yogurt lassi mixes, mixed fruit and yogurt smoothies. Try their Crazy Four or "C4" lassi, which combines apples, bananas, mango and yogurt, topped with strawberries.
Servings are good for two to three persons. I personally recommend their dinengdeng, an Ilocano recipe of boiled vegetables such as okra, ampalaya, squash, tomatoes together with onions, served with a broth seasoned with bagoong.
A two-story house with a veranda and inviting interiors, Yoghurt House, by its very name, is famous for its homemade yoghurt. Although yoghurt is generally served throughout Sagada as a specialty, Yoghurt House has become famous for its yogurt dishes, served with your choice of either banana, granola, strawberry preserves, or other fruits in season. Meals are also served, and we were able to sample their baked chicken with cheesy pasta and French toast, which is heavy enough for two people. Their yoghurt cake, a sponge cake topped with yogurt and strawberry preserves, hits the spot for dessert. Also recommended are Yoghurt House's roasted eggplant pasta.
Lemon Pie House
The Lemon Pie House serves freshly baked pies, pastries, rice meals. Their specialties, of course, are their lemon pies and egg pies, served with brewed coffee or mountain tea.
Although we had to wait for around 30 to 40 minutes for our food, and we were the only customers there at the time, it was well worth the wait. We especially enjoyed our chicken adobo with fresh vegetables and rice (with a cherry tomato placed charmingly on top of the rice). The lemon pie was a bit sour but it wasn't overpowering. The dough was quite tough to chew but all in all, it was a delightful dessert which left a sweet aftertaste in your mouth.
Log Cabin Bar & Cafe Restaurant, open during evenings, serves a special European buffet every Saturday night. Customers have to pay in advance to reserve a slot. Run by husband and wife Dave and Janice Gulian, the establishment serves meals prepared by French chef Phillip Heyer, a.k.a. Aklay.
During our visit, we were able to experience a European feast that included awase chicken with European spicy sauce; mashed potato-style squash, sweet potato with parmesan; chicken with whole wheat noodles; carrot julienne soup; salad with olive oil-lime juice and strawbery dressing; whole wheat walnut foccacia bread with olive oil; and dark whole wheat sourdough bread, among others.
Gabay Fruit Wines
Gabay Fruit wines are made from processed berries, roselle flowers, rice and fruits. Given Sagada's low temperature, and the Gabay store's offer of a free taste of their wines, who could say no? Just one sip and the alcohol, 11 to 13 percent at that, biting yet tempered by the fruity sweetness, instantly warms you up. I just had to buy one of their blueberry wines as pasalubong.
Other Sagada specialties
Pinikpikan, a Cordillera and Igorot dish, is prepared by beating a chicken to death with a stick to bring the blood to the flesh before being cooked. The feathers are then plucked, and then the chicken is roasted over an open fire until its skin is burned. In Sagada, though, pinikpikan is traditionally served with etag or innasin, otherwise known as Igorot smoked pork.
I was able to ask a local seller how etag is prepared. The pork is first soaked in a salt mixture for three days to cure it. It is then hung to have the juices drip. Once dry, it is smoked in a special room for five days. Given the saltiness of the etag, it is served with a broth or pinikpikan.
Due to the labor required to prepare pinikipikan, it has to be pre-ordered and is rather expensive, costing around P600 and above.
Set your sights on a different culinary adventure and head north. Comfort food coupled with rustic charm awaits you when you head to Sagada.