Pinikpikan Haus, Sagada

For a couple of days in Sagada, Tj was trying to convince me to sample pinikpikan because it’s a local specialty. I didn’t want to at first, because of the method used to prepare the chickens for cooking, plus the sight of the fluffy white chickens made me go, “Awwww, so cute!” I gave in eventually because, yeah, I was in Sagada and it’s only right to try the food–and that means not only food from the popular spots.

Tj had eaten pinikpikan on his first trip to Sagada and actually saw the preparation, and he thought the dish was all right. So on our last day in Sagada, we had a light dinner at Pinikpikan Haus, which was established in 2011.

Pinikpikan Haus, Sagada

Pinikpikan Haus, Sagada

Pinikpikan Haus, Sagada

You can’t miss the place because it’s right underneath Alibama Inn, plus there’s a chicken coop right by the sidewalk.

Tj and I decided to split one order of pinikpikan (P150) which came with red rice. It turned out to be a good decision because the bowl of pinikpikan was enough for two.

Pinikpikan Haus, pinikpikan

So what do I make of the dish? It’s good, basic Filipino food, a bit like tinola, actually. Given the manner of preparation involved, the dish’s simplicity was a bit of a surprise. Portions of the meat were red, which is the result of the beating done to the chicken, and some pieces were dark–give them a try and you’ll find that they have a smoky, woodsy taste coupled with a bit of spice. I recommend trying it both for the novelty and because it’s a decent dish. Those who are squeamish can still enjoy Pinikpikan Haus because of its affordable Filipino fare. Pinikpikan Haus also serves a buffet dinner every Friday night.

Gaia Cafe and Crafts, Sagada

We saw Gaia Café and Crafts on our way to check out Sumaging Cave on our first day in Sagada and wanted to check it out, but an enthusiastic dog stopped us because we weren’t sure if she was friendly or aggressive. The same dog appeared as we walked further along the path, and she was happily bounding alongside a guide and two foreign tourists. I was getting worried when she was getting closer to me, but one of the tourists said, “Friendly dog” and the guide told me that she came from the café. So when we finally decided to stop to eat at Gaia the next day, we weren’t worried when we saw the dog again. Her name is Isis because “she thinks she’s a goddess”, according to one of Gaia’s servers.

Gaia Café and Crafts appears to be a favorite among foreign tourists, at least based on the guests we saw there every time we passed by the place. Gaia serves vegan and vegetarian food and is a lovely dining spot, featuring a nice, quaint appearance, a small shop, a library, and a great view of Kapay-Aw Rice Terraces. A brisk wind was blowing when we stopped by Gaia for a snack, so the fresh air is another plus for the place.

Gaia Cafe and Crafts, Sagada

Gaia Cafe and Crafts, Sagada

Gaia Cafe and Crafts, Sagada

While waiting for our food, Tj went down to check out the terraces, and I flipped through a copy of Death and Beyond: Death & burial rituals & other practices & beliefs of the Igorots of Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines by Dinah Elma Piluden-Omengan. I wanted a copy of that and very much regret not having purchased it.

I ordered a bowl of Creamy Potato Soup with Lemongrass (P70), made creamy with a nut-based cream. I thought it tasted a bit like arroz caldo, and the soup was tasty and warming which I really needed given the chilly wind. Tj had the Vegetarian Adobo (P100), which consisted of seitan, carrots, and potatoes cooked in naturally brewed soy sauce and organic vinegar. It tastes pretty close to the real thing. I’ve never had seitan before, but it’s a great meat substitute. We also split a plate of Gaia Camote Fries (P55) and ordered ginger tea (P30) and fruit vegetable juice (P50), which is made from carrots, cucumber, and other vegetables.

Gaia Cafe and Crafts, ginger tea and fruit vegetable soup

Gaia Cafe and Crafts, potato soup

Gaia Cafe and Crafts, vegetarian adobo

Gaia Cafe and Crafts, Gaia camote fries

Isis sat next to us as we ate. Okay, she did more than sit. She rested her head on our laps and prodded us, asking for food. She was a cute, irresistible dining companion.

Gaia Cafe and Crafts, Isis the dog

Aside from the great food, eco-friendliness is another notable feature of Gaia. They use organic ingredients, serve MSG-free food, and find various ways to operate in an eco-friendly manner. For example, edible food scraps are fed to their pig, and non-reusable biodegradables are composted. They also have a rainwater collection system in place.

Gaia Café and Crafts is a little bit out of the way especially if you’re staying closer to the town proper. But there’s really no rush if you’re in Sagada, and a leisurely walk will easily take you to Gaia. It’s a great place for having some nice food and for simply sitting back and watching the day go by.

Misty Lodge and Cafe, Sagada

I don’t remember how I first heard about Misty Lodge and Café, just that it immediately struck me as such a pretty, cozy place. It was on top of my list of potential Sagada lodging options, but we ended up booking our stay with Kanip-Aw Pines Lodge. Still, I vowed to eat at Misty Lodge because good gods, the pictures of their burgers, pizza, and breakfast dishes are simply mouthwatering. Misty Lodge is located about 2 km from the town proper and is probably best for visitors who brought their own vehicles. Still, the place is worth the walk because of the food and its pretty appearance. It was all done up for Valentine’s when we were there.

Misty Lodge and Cafe, Sagada

Misty Lodge and Cafe, Sagada

The morning of our second day in Sagada was, to put it mildly, exhausting because we successfully hiked up to Marlboro Country without a guide, a map, or any idea where we were going. That’s why we felt fully justified in ordering as much food as we wanted at Misty Lodge. I had ginger tea (P25) for my drink and TJ ordered iced tea (P25). And then the menu got us all confused because everything looked good. I settled for the omelet (P125), which contains tomatoes, spices, and cheese and comes with pandesal, and TJ ordered the cream cheese burger (P185).

Misty Lodge and Cafe, omelette

Misty Lodge and Cafe, Cream Cheese burger

I then figured that the omelet wouldn’t be enough because I was hungry, so I ordered waffles with blueberry preserves (P120).

Misty Lodge and Cafe, waffles with blueberry preserves

Boy, did that meal hit the spot. The burger was delightfully beefy and well cooked, and my omelet was rich and tasty and the tomatoes were so sweet. The blueberry preserves were nice, too, something different from the usual maple or pancake syrup. Tj and I both had a cup of hot tablea (P45) after our meal.

As with Yoghurt House, one visit to Misty Lodge isn’t enough, so we headed back there on our third day. TJ had the Bacon Lovers burger (P190) and I ordered the Bacon Hawaiian pizza (P215) for us to share, and we had the garden salad (P135) for our appetizer.

Misty Lodge and Cafe, Bacon Lovers burger

Misty Lodge and Cafe, Bacon Hawaiian pizza

Misty Lodge and Café definitely did not disappoint, and it’s too bad that we didn’t have enough days in our vacation to allow us to sample more of their food. It might seem a bit out of the way for those who are staying in the town proper, but the food is worth it. And hey, the walk will do you good and help you work up a hefty appetite by the time you get to Misty.

Yoghurt House, Sagada

After years of thinking and talking about it, we finally made it to Sagada last week. I was really looking forward to it, what with all its sights and the food, which is just as celebrated as the town itself. Tj’s been talking about Yoghurt House for years, so naturally that was on top of our list of eating places.

Yoghurt House is ridiculously easy to spot. Just keep heading down the road after you pass the Sagada Municipal Hall; you’ll spot it on the right side of the road.

Yoghurt House, Sagada

Because we were hungry as a result of the long ride from Manila to Banaue to Sagada, we unashamedly ordered lots of food. We had onion rings (P90) for our appetizer.

Yoghurt House, onion rings

I ordered sauteed beef with onion (P200) and Tj had the pan-fried beef (P200):

Yoghurt House, sauteed beef with onions

Yoghurt House, pan-fried beef

The onion rings were pretty huge, and we thought the batter was perfect. I want to say I’d go back just for the onion rings, but the meals themselves were great–enormous portions, tasty beef, ridiculously fresh vegetables, and I love the slice of beet on top.

Naturally, we had to get their yogurt, and we opted for the one with banana, granola, and strawberry preserves (P95, as I recall):

Yoghurt House, yogurt with banana, granola, and strawberry preserves

The yogurt was tart as hell, which makes it absolutely perfect. I was already stuffed at that point, but I couldn’t resist scooping up every spoonful of yogurt.

Of course, one visit to Yoghurt House wouldn’t be enough. On our last day, we headed there after dinner and sat up in the balcony overlooking the street. We had some cheese sticks and a bowl of yogurt with fruits in season (P140): apples, papaya, melon, banana, and mangoes. There was supposed to be some kiwi in there too, but it was noticeably absent.

Yoghurt House, fruits in season yogurt

This was a pretty hefty bowl of yogurt, and all the fruit made it much sweeter–great way to end a meal and a day. I thought our Yoghurt House experience was pretty good. Tj was pleasantly surprised to find that their service is a lot faster now, which shows that they’ve adapted to the needs of tourists. It’s easy to see why the place remains popular among Sagada’s tourists.

Rustic Mornings by Isabelo

The last time I ate at Isabelo Garden Restaurant was in 2009. Back then, the place was difficult to get to because the street where it’s located (Isabelo Mendoza St. in Marikina City) is tiny and poorly lit, and the restaurant wasn’t marked by any signs announcing its presence. I suppose it was one of those delicious little secrets of Marikina at the time, and delicious was right, because the food was of very high quality and was prepared only for those who made reservations and placed their orders hours before dropping by to eat. Three years ago, my mother and I had the Spinach Artichoke Dip, the Grilled Salmon Steak, and the Parmigiano Carbonara, all very tasty. It wasn’t just the food that would entice you, but the place as well, with its quirky decor and soothing lighting. The setting makes it great for small dinners with family, romantic dinners, and a laidback gathering with friends.

It’s too bad that I hadn’t the chance to return since then–until today. A few months ago, I heard about Isabelo’s daytime self called Rustic Mornings by Isabelo which promises brunch, pastries, and coffee. Today wasn’t a particularly hectic day for me workwise, so had time to drag my parents there for brunch. The place looks lovely as ever.

rusticmorningsbyisabelo

Rustic Mornings by Isabelo

Rustic Mornings by Isabelo

Rustic Mornings by Isabelo

Rustic Mornings by Isabelo

I ordered the Country Omelette (P185): three eggs, bacon, cheese, potatoes, and green bell peppers served with ciabatta, herbed butter, and strawberry jam. I felt the ciabatta wasn’t enough for the available spreads, so I asked for an extra slice of rye bread (P20). I ordered a glass of fresh apple juice (P50) to go with my meal, and it really was freshly made and didn’t come out of a bottle.

rusticmorningsbyisabelo_countryomelette

My parents had corned beef (P215) and boneless bangus (P180) which both came with two free-range eggs, garlic parsley fried rice, red wine vinaigrette with red onions, and tomato wansoy salad. I ordered an extra serving of that salad, which cost P20.

rusticmorningsbyisabelo_bonelessbangus

Everything was very filling and nicely cooked, and I adored the flavors of my omelette. My parents noted that the eggs and the rice weren’t particularly salty, which is great for people on a low-sodium diet. All in all, it was a satisfying brunch, and I’m already planning my next trip to Rustic Mornings. I’m not yet sure what I should order though–should I split the koftas with Tj? have pancakes? have a sandwich? The number of scrumptious choices will have your stomach grumbling.

Rustic Mornings by Isabelo is open from 8 a.m to 4 p.m.