New blood of Baguio’s food scene | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

My recent trips to Baguio were revelatory. In the past, food choices were limited to the restaurants my parents used to frequent (think Rose Bowl, Star Café, and Café by the Ruins); now, a younger generation has put their entrepreneurial caps on and is pumping new blood into the scene.

Smoked meats

Among them is Pil-od Acop Ano, whose Farmer’s Daughter Restaurant surprised everyone when it landed a spot in the Essence of Asia list by the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant’s group.

Among the other Philippine restaurants mentioned in the elusive roster, it was the least talked and written about before the recognition, yet it emerged from the pack by serving Cordilleran cuisine in the most accessible manner.

Alfresco dining at 113 Wagner Café

“We started the Farmer’s Daughter back in 2015,” says chef-owner Ano. “I have always aspired to open a small pwesto and be my own boss. The name was a tribute to the women in our family—my mom, aunts, my wife, most especially my grandmother, as they have been very influential in my way of cooking. They were all daughters of farmers.”

His dishes celebrate the food he grew up eating. “Cordillera food is in my blood. My siblings and I were fortunate to be raised in the presence of our grandparents. My grandfather was a hardworking farmer, so we had vegetables and farm animals that we could consume and butcher. My grandmother was a stay-at-home mom and she did all the cooking. Cañao and other family celebrations were also a common occurrence. My mom is also a great cook, and we helped in her small canteen. My formative years were highlighted with food.”

The extensive menu at Farmer’s Daughter is based on the traditional cooking procedures of the Ibalois, which are smoking, boiling and grilling. Kinuday means smoked meat in their dialect.

Smoked “longganisa”

Since there were no refrigerators to preserve meat in the old days, Ibalois smoked it, resulting in a distinct savory flavor. Ano does this with pork, beef and chicken and serves them in the restaurant with rice, vegetables and beef broth. He also has versions of it as a wrap with green salad, a dip and pita bread.

Sendad refers to boiled dishes and he does two kinds—beef ribs with veggies and pork legs with beans.

And then there’s kindot for grilled dishes. The à la carte lists Kindot jen Bangus as a weekend special, and beef and pork as regular items.

Cordillera cuisine is pretty basic and simple. Ano’s menu beautifully translates this, and I’m sure he is doing his grandparents and the rest of his family proud.

Garden restaurant

113 Wagner Café opened its doors to family and friends in July. The Pantaleon family has lived in the house since 2007 and dreamt of converting it into a bed and breakfast, when the kids started leaving the nest.

“But we never got around to it as I was busy running the day-to-day operations of our restaurant, Everything Nice,” says mom Techie Maravillas Pantaleon.

However, because of the pandemic and numerous rounds of lockdowns, their business suffered immensely, forcing them to think of something to mitigate losses. That’s when 113 Wagner Café, an alfresco private dining concept, was finally realized.

“dinakdakan” from Farmer’s Daughter

Chef Rudolph Cabuay has prepared a repertoire of classic comfort food, while Francis “Kiko” Villalba, who is recognized for his landscaping work, styled the plants in the garden to create a welcoming and picture-worthy backdrop to their alfresco dining areas.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and only accepts by-reservation guests to maintain the privacy of the place. “This is our home after all, and we are sharing it with those who wish to visit,” says Techie. With the rest of her kids in Manila, daughter Holly helps her run the café.

French pastries

Baguio’s cool climate makes it conducive to baking croissants and playing with dough layered with lots of butter. It’s something Donna Aldana realized after she finished her pastry program at the Heny Sison Culinary School and went back home. She took advantage of the setting and dove deep into the world of French pastries, which was convenient since she manages a bread manufacturing commissary as well.

Armed with confidence and enough experience, she opened the Rebel Bakehouse together with partner Danica Santos in July 2020. It’s a cloud boulangerie and a rebrand of her Epicure Craquelin, which sold cheesecakes back in 2017.

“Kinuday” wrap set from Farmer’s Daughter

“We connected with ‘rebel’ because we wanted to offer something different from what is available in Baguio. Also, we wanted to do something different, to ‘rebel’ from our day jobs and other responsibilities,” says Santos.

The croissanterie uses only high-quality ingredients. No margarine or butter compounds; only 84-percent butter in their pastries. They are made using French techniques with Filipino flavors.

They have Dayap Leche Flan Danishes, Peach Danish with Dayap Custard, Dark Chocolate Croissant with Pistachios, Yema Cashew croissant, and the limited-edition Chocnut Croissants and Calamansi Custard Croissants.

Fortunately for the metro folk, their items reach Manila twice a month via special delivery. One has to order in advance, though. INQ

Special thanks to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and her team.

Follow the author at @fooddudeph on Instagram.

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