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.

Honest Stitches of Patch Cafe

Before heading home, by coincidence, cousins and I ended up at the newly renovated and renamed cafe at Bloomfield Hotel, the Patch Cafe. Forgot what it used to be called but I do remember what it used to look like. In all fairness, the renovations plus new concept and chic decors changed the atmosphere. Along with the change in space is the change in the menu items and service. All better. Much, much better from what I remember dining there some two years ago.

Their sweet Cappuccino

Was handed the menu of 3 print-out pages on a clipboard. Cute. Selection range includes all-day brunch, sandwiches, pasta dishes and hot and cold beverages. A true cafe. Nice. Although, not on the menu are their displayed selections of cakes, cupcakes and pastries, which i didn’t notice ’til later. Note to self: need to check those out another time…

While sipping my cappuccino, I checked out more of the menu and thought, “I’m hungry”. Among the sandwich choices, the “Bleu Burger” stood out. According to the menu, it’s their “signature beef burger…” and what made it “bleu” (french for the “blue”) was the blue cheese infused into it. Interesting, yeah?

Served in a grilled store-bought burger bun (no judgement, just an observation) with fresh vegetables and a simply dressed potato salad on the side, I’d say it’s one of the good and tasty burgers I’ve had. Juicy, seasoned just right, filling and you can say it’s freshly made – no “frozen patty” vibe. I’m sure the blue cheese was in there somewhere, but since it’s mixed in with other ingredients, the blue cheese-ness was toned down, which I think is fine. Blue cheese can be overpowering, sometimes. What i appreciated on that plate, in general, is the simplicity and honesty. It’s a burger and the burger stands out, as it should.

No added grease or condiments, no fluff, no messy sauce...I like!.

No added grease or condiments, no fluff, no messy sauce…I like!.

Went back two days after to meet with friends. It’s a nice and convenient hangout spot and was kind of impressed with the burger, so, I wanted to try more of their picks. This time, had brunch…at 1 in the afternoon. It’s unhealthy, I know.

Eggs Benedict, in the strict sense, is poached egg served with bacon on an english muffin and hollandaise sauce (savory, thick, creamy, butter-based sauce). Haven’t had eggs benedict in a while, so i tried the “Patch Benedict” – their version of it. This time, it came as a poached egg served with bacon and lettuce on a perfectly toasted slice of good bread and delightfully cheesy sauce. Although I found the egg a bit overcooked, I still enjoyed the balance of velvety yolk with crisp bacon, cheese sauce-soaked bread and the lettuce gives a refreshing effect to every fork-full (which I devoured with gusto).

Because benedicts are not common breakfast menu items, this was a treat!

Also, Benedicts are not as common breakfast menu items around town, so, in a way, this was a treat!

I asked my companion to order the “Chili Tuyo Pasta”. It’s the item on the pasta menu that wasn’t common. I thought of ordering for myself but I was already full from my own plate, so, I asked him to get it so I can have a taste off of his. Thank God for enablers! Haha!

Has local zing and zang, this one.

Has local zing and zang, this one. Love it! Although, would have liked it more with garlic bread (hint, hint)

Visually, it’s linguine pasta in olive oil with flaked tuyo, chili flakes, topped with Parmasean cheese and slivered green onions. On the tongue, it’s a delightful bit more. Simple as it is, pasta dressed with oil tend to turn out with a greasy feel. I was happy that this was not. It’s neutral pasta, salty tuyo and parmasean, spice coming from the chili flakes and a dash of chili may have been infused into the olive oil. Could feel the tingle on the lips. But wait, there’s more and it’s a kicker. It’s subtle, but the tangy-ness of lime pops up wonderfully. I loved the blend of honest flavors in this!

A nice and hip hangout for small groups, pairs or for individuals to just sit and chill. It’s right smack in the middle of town so, it’s convenient. I like that each dish I’ve had, so far, had no pretensions and didn’t try too hard. It was refreshing. The build-up of expectations was subtle, it was impressive. Nicely played!

Like stitches, I hope they keep it consistent, to keep the patch in place.

(Krish note: Notice the awesome writing on this one? I could only do a fraction of what’s done here – and that’s me being optimistic :) Thanks to my favorite eating buddy (Chef) Aguinaya for this post. We indeed are happy to have Aguinaya write more delicious posts on Eats in Baguio.)