Things to do in Baguio after Summer (Part 1 of 3) : Spotlight on Cafe Yagam

Summer’s officially over since two weeks ago but that doesn’t mean you can no longer go around Baguio and have some fun. In fact, Baguio has a more interesting feel when it’s rainy. As proof, Azalea Hotels and Residences invited several bloggers from Manila and a couple from Baguio (I was one of them!) for an After Summer Getaway to showcase what this cool city has to offer during monsoon season.

They arranged tours for us bloggers in places typical Baguio tourists usually don’t go to and of course, there were a lot of food trips as well! What is a Baguio tour without food, diba?

Now this article’s gonna be written in three parts for an easy read. I’m gonna begin with the places we ate at outside of Azalea.

On the first night of the event, the staff organized a dinner and acquaintance party at Cafe Yagam where we ate a Cordillera-themed meal. The place is a house-turned-cafe that had homey vibe. They had a menu on the wall written with chalk. The prices were reasonable and you kinda get a hint that the place served great food. There were several other guests in the area who were jamming while having beer;  They had a lit fire place and above it was a load of books anyone was free to browse. Unlike most food places, Cafe Yagam had a variety of seating arrangements ranging from typical tables and chairs to cushions on the floor around a low-rise table.
The owner of the place gave us a quick introduction why they were serving the particular dishes they prepared that night and also explained the traditional context of the food.

She first introduced Pinkipikan — a meal prepared by beating a chicken with a stick to make its blood clot near the surface of its skin, making its meat tastier. It is then smoked and served together with sayote and soup (which you can add rice wine to if you liked).

Traditionally served to visitors to a Cordilleran family's household.

Traditionally served to visitors to a Cordilleran family’s household.

The meat of the pinikpikan was indeed tasty. It reminded me of tinola only its meat was firmer. The sayote was fresh and the soup was brothy and light; I tried it with a bit of local rice wine but I didn’t like how it tasted. Maybe there was a particular proportion of rice wine to soup that I wasn’t aware of.

The second dish was called Pinuneg or blood sausage. This dish is exclusive to the Benguet Kankanaey and is typically served when a pig was butchered during a ritual or ceremony.

This kind of sausage is made to avoid wasting any part of the animal.

This kind of sausage is made to avoid wasting any part of the animal.

The sausage had chunky bits inside of it. As a fan of dinuguan, I enjoyed eating this dish. It is paired with a red spicy sauce that is not for the faint of heart. Based on the taste, the sauce had seemed like it had a fermentation stage in the process of making it. It goes well with the sausage but I recommend that you only put a little on it or perhaps use it as a dip instead to avoid overpowering the flavours of the pinuneg.

The third dish introduced to us was called Binungor. It is a Kalinga dish that is served as an appetizer or side dish and not a viand. It is made of various vegetables found around a Kalinga household along with tenga ng daga and other wild mushrooms, and Ot-an, that spiral shaped shell-fish you suck to get the meat inside.

The spice packs quite the punch.

The Binungor had slight hints of sweetness and spiciness to it. I tried sucking on a couple of the Ot-an but I wasn’t successful. :( Oh well. The vegetables tasted fresh and were deliciously chewy. I kind of understand why it’s served as a side dish because of it’s consistency.

The last dish is called Kini-ing — a smoked or sun-dried piece of pork. The owner told us that this is different from Etag (a piece of pork also smoked or sun-dried) because it does not undergo a fermentation process. She also told us that Kini-ing is only smoked when it rains, otherwise it is left under the sun.

Or at least what's left of it. I should remember to photograph food first before eating haha.

Kini-ing. Or at least what’s left of it. I should remember to photograph food first before eating haha.

The meat was sliced thinly and had a smoky flavor. It was well done but the layer of fat was too thick compared to the portion of actual meat it had. Nevertheless, it was seasoned perfectly. After the concise background on all of the dishes served, we were then allowed to serve ourselves. I had to try everything of course! :D

I got a good portion of each of the dishes to fill my plate. Yummy!

I got a good portion of each of the dishes to fill my plate. Yummy!

I got a cup of fluffy brown rice, a hot bowl of Pinikpikan soup, and a steaming cup of coffee to go with all the dishes. At that moment, everything felt like it was where it’s supposed to be. Each of the dishes complemented each other and combining them with every bite was a fascinating experience for the palate. After the hearty dinner and tummy-warming soup and coffee, we were told that there was still dessert! I felt quite full but I was sure I had room for dinner, because who doesn’t, right?

They served a sticky-rice dish called Kiniwar (hinalo or mixed) which somehow reminded me of Biko, another sweet sticky rice dish. It was still hot but I immediately got a piece before it ran out. Talk about patay-gutom, haha.

Chewy and sticky and delicious!

Chewy and sticky and delicious!

The kiniwar was topped with two kinds of coconut: the first one was coconut with gata (coconut milk) cooked to become malapot (thick; viscous) and underneath it was also coconut but was caramelized, kinda like Pangasinan’s bukayo. The coconut toppings made the kiniwar even more delightful for the taste buds. To our luck, they served another freshly-cooked batch! Oh my goodness!

The dessert paired very well with their coffee from Sagada which was smooth and light just like the blues nights the Cafe occasionally hosts. If you enjoy black coffee, this is a must try. It also tastes good with sugar and creamer, if you’re that kind of person. :)

This is how black coffee should be.

This is how black coffee should be.

We played a couple of get-to-know games several minutes after dinner. I had some more coffee while others had tea and before the night ended, they served us Tapuey (rice wine; similar to the one you can mix with the pinikpikan soup) made from Mayuyao, Ifugao. The owner of the cafe told us that tapuey from that particular area had a sweeter flavor compared to other rice wines in the Cordilleras.

Cafe Yagam's Tapuey

Cafe Yagam’s Tapuey had a smooth texture and had no after-taste unlike most mass-produced alcohol. It was also a great night cap for a tiring and fun evening together with our fellow bloggers. We thanked our hosts and left the place happier and closer to each other. It’s the kind of place I would definitely go back to (alone or with friends) especially on a cold and rainy day.

Cafe Yagam is located at  25 J. Felipe St., in Barangay Gibraltar. They also host poetry slams and open mic events for Baguio’s thriving arts and music community. For more information, reach them through +63 948 9585 157 or +63 946 4550 364.

Cookout by Size Matters

(Woohoo-  This is Jhapes’ first entry for Eats in Baguio! Many more to come! – Krish)

I heard of this place about a week ago through social media while my friend and I were looking for someplace new to check out. After attending my schoolmates’ graduation rights, we decided to have dinner there. We hailed a cab and told our manong driver to head to Albergo Hotel. Cookout is hard to miss since it’s along the facade of the building.

We were greeted by the staff who were all smiles as we entered the place. I’m not quite sure what to call the theme of the place but it felt appropriate for the kind of food their name suggested.

Cookout's light-up signage along with framed photos of some of their meals.

Cookout’s light-up signage on exposed brick along with framed photos of some of their meals.

Cookout's wooden logo singage under warm lighting.

Cookout’s wooden logo singage under warm lighting.

I sometimes have this thing of asking the people who eat with me to order different things so I can have a sampling of a restaurant’s meals. Luckily my friend happily obliged to do so. We placed our orders and several minutes later, they served us our food. You know how food advertisements look nothing like the real thing? Well, Cookout isn’t part of that “truth.” :D

For appetizers we got a for sharing-sized chili cheese fries. The fries were crispy, the mayo was creamy and light, the cheese was gooey good, and the salsa (maybe it’s not salsa? I’m not quite sure) had enough savory flavor to it. Oh and the pickled jalapeno slices tied everything together.

The pickled jalapeno peppers perfectly complement Cookouts' Chili Cheese Fries.

The pickled jalapeno peppers perfectly complement Cookouts’ Chili Cheese Fries.

By the time our main orders arrived, this is how our tables looked like:

We already ate half of the fries1

We already ate half of the fries!

I ordered a 1/4 lbs “The Italian Burger Job” and my friend got a 1/4 lbs “The Bacon Cheese Burger”. Both were served on aluminum plates with a piece of “burger paper” (haha) to hold their food with.

Smoky flavors with every bite.

Smoky flavors with every bite.

Crunchy deep friend onions ftw!

Crunchy deep friend onions ftw!

My burger had great smoky and grilled flavor but it remained quite juicy nevertheless. The lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and the caramelized onions on top of the grilled beef patty weren’t too sweet for my taste.

Look at that juicy goodness!

Look at that juicy goodness!

I kinda expected that the beef patty in the Bacon Cheese Burger would also have a recognizable grilled flavor similar to my burger but it was more subtle. It was still good, though! The bacon and deep fried onions were crunchy and the veggies were also fresh.

The buns for both burgers were made of white bread topped with toasted oats. I wish the buns were toasted a bit but it wasn’t a deal breaker.

For our pampatulak, we ordered a glass of iced tea and wintermelon milk tea. It was delicious and not too sweet but there was nothing really special about it. Their tea tasted like it was brewed and not powdered so that’s a plus. Their milk tea pearls were soft and chewy like it was meant to be so that made me happy as well. They had beers on their menu but I’ll try that along with their other meals next time.

Overall, I was very delighted with my first experience at Cookout. Their staff, although always busy, were very attentive and seemed happy to serve their customers. This added to the chill vibe of the whole place. They had clean facilities (yes including the restrooms) and you can also get a peek at how your food is prepared.

Cookout's busy staff plus a view of their kitchen.

Cookout’s busy staff plus a view of their kitchen.

Our total bill was almost Php 600 but it was definitely worth it. As an added bonus, they had a mini stall of Glyco Sweetshop cupcakes near the entrance — perfect when you need a quick dessert fix. I’m sure this is not the last time I’ll be going there. :D

Cookout caters for events as well! Check them out on their facebook page here. They posted their menus and contact details there, too.