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.

Sauteed chickpeas

Sauteed chickpeasChickpeas are one of my go-to food items any time I feel like pretending that I’m a healthy eater. They’re good in salads and rice, and hummus is always a joy to eat. I make sure that the hummus I make is especially garlicky, and I could always eat it on its own, even without bread or crackers.

I was feeling hungry the other night, but I didn’t want to eat anything particularly heavy. So I opened up a big can of RAM Garbanzos, tossed the contents into a pan, and then prepared the following:

  • parsley
  • ground coriander
  • a small red onion
  • black pepper

There’s no magic or science to the process. Just heat up the chickpeas in olive oil, toss them around for a bit, then throw in the rest of the ingredients. The result: a simply, yummy, satisfying meal.

Mushroom barley risotto wannabe

I was going for a risotto as this Bella Eats recipe described it, but I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand, so I had to make best with what was available:

    • mushrooms
    • barley
    • white and red onions
    • garlic
    • thyme
    • canola oil
    • butter

I sautéed the mushrooms, onions, and garlic in canola oil and added a bit of butter, sprinkling thyme on top. I tossed the barley in after, then stirred in butter and cheese. I ended up with something that was more fried rice-like, but I couldn’t complain, really–I had a fantastic lunch.

The preparation process also marked the debut of my OXO Good Grips Garlic Press. Months ago, it was Tj who was singing the praises of garlic presses, and now it’s my turn. I can’t believe how easy it is to smash garlic cloves and have them ready to use. I thought I would stay forever loyal to mincing garlic with a knife, but this garlic press just makes things so much easier.

Smart Bacon in pasta

Lunch today was leftover pasta sauteed with garlic, tomatoes, and broccoli. I haven’t cooked the Smart Bacon we have at home in a while, so I decided to cook some and crumble them into the pasta.

Smart Bacon

I’m a lifelong bacon fan, but I was nevertheless curious to give Smart Bacon a try and I’m glad I did. If ever I decided to become a vegetarian, I don’t think I’ll be grieving for the lack of bacon, because these veggie protein strips are a pretty good substitute. Of course, they look nothing like bacon and don’t curl up the way it does–don’t be fooled by the picture on the box–but I can say that they taste quite close to the real thing and could help make the transition to vegetarianism easier to swallow.

Once the three slices were cooked (sad to say I tend to burn the edges), I crumbled them up and sprinkled them onto the pasta and mixed the whole thing. Here’s the final product.

Rotini with garlic, tomatoes, and broccoli

Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs

In my sister’s house, you’ll find a fridge packed with healthful food items: a lot of fruit, fish, lean meats, and meat-free products. It’s only because of me that the fridge currently plays host to fruit juices (which as we know is inundated with sugar) and small bottles of Coca-Cola. I’m a fan of vegetarian and meatless alternatives, though, and Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs is something I enjoy a lot.

Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs

The Meatless Meatballs are far from bland and, to me at least, it’s tasty and very meat-like. Looking at them whole or cut in half, you wouldn’t even know that they don’t contain any meat.

I had some for lunch again today, and you can see the finished product below.

Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs with red bell pepper

I cooked the meatballs in a mixture of soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, and garlic salt, and threw in the red bell peppers after a few minutes. The result was a very tasty meal and it looks like I’ll be having it for dinner as well.