June 2, 2023

A meal for one isn’t exciting at all because one can only eat so much and try the food in increments. The treat comes in taking the food home to enjoy it a little more. These little eats were sampled over a period because there wouldn’t be much conversation if one took a meal once a week in some Baguio nook. So, here goes some eats that you might want to try sometime. Pardon this simple palate that goes here and there.

The adventure begins in the taxi driver’s quick meal stop place called Raff’s Fried Chicken House which has become a legend for the fried chicken.

A classmate once said that the place to get good chicken was along Military Cut-Off. Some five or six years back, she warned that the chicken was only available in the afternoons and these disappeared quickly.

Not quite an avid fan of chicken, it took six years to brave eating alone. A rule of thumb when you want to enjoy your meal is to go early or let the lunch hour pass. The chicken is indeed with some secret spice that one faintly savors in the crispy edges or the chewy skin. For those who like eating pretty this isn’t for you, this quarter thigh is deep fried and slit in some parts to make sure you don’t get a bloody piece.

This has no pretense of tender and juicy on the inside because this follows the tenet of Pinoy gourmet preferences of well done and crispy. The sauce that pairs off with this is a mix of soy sauce, catsup, and a hint of chili. Sweet, salty, and spicy is down the alley of the Pinoy taste bud. Today, there is so much more than the chicken in Raff’s. They have ventured into the crispy fried pork lechon kawali to pair off with the chicken or as solo meal with a cup of rice and soup. With so many pork meat parts available in a whole carcass, there are: dinuguan or chocolate meat that uses the fatty portions cooked in blood sauce; dinakdakan with the ear, cheek and brain (ideally); silet or fried pork intestines; Bicol express that challenges your endurance to spice with the meatier parts; mix-mix with pork liver and meat chunks; or the pork steak with lean meat; not to forget the paksiw na pata with the hocks, among some of the preparations.

Yes, in these times when pork is more expensive than beef, you can still enjoy a little pork in this joint. Not to forget that for one viand, a cup of rice and a cup of soup, the budget is P80 with unlimited soup.

Session Road is one strip that ought to satiate the craving for the fusion foods and millennial delights.

I chose to escape to a level above the road and ventured into the favorite haunt of the Baguio Burnham Walkers’ Club once upon a Covid 19 times, Beans Talk.

It is no wonder that they opted to converge here after several circles around the Burnham Lake. It is above the din of the traffic where the sweet tooth sinks into cakes and pastries to replenish lost energy from the early morning stroll or brisk walk and city gossip.

I often wondered why everywhere you go in the world, there is breakfast all day, until that was what I ordered for lunch.  Or is it because somewhere in the planet someone is having breakfast? My choice was tocino with fried rice and a fried egg. It was unusual of me to choose papaya-passion fruit shake for my drink instead of sampling their coffee in many ways.

I sought the tarty and gritty texture of the passion fruit that I sampled once at the Camdas garden courtesy of manang Luz Camdas or the lip-smacking sourness of the passion fruit popsicle in Taiwan which never came.

The brain-freeze was what I got but these are the tempered flavors of today because the fresh fruits are hard to come by.

Nonetheless, it was a break from the first hot day of the year. I just wanted to check on the chili fries and the dynamite in the menu to satisfy my curiosity. There is something alien in the fries because it transported me back to America where the Idaho potato fries are not starchy like those that they have in Buguias,Benguet but fluffy.

The cheese is melted and chewy, the way I like it with a cold bottle of beer. The ground beef that accompanied this was the chili one. The dynamite was not as mean and angry as some green chili peppers that I encountered in Raff’s Bicol Express. The spicy bite was overcome by the bacon or meat that accompanied it in a rice paper wrapper. The crispy texture of the wrapper and the mayo-like dip would have calmed the taste buds if one encountered one hot chili pepper in the batch. How I wish that I could have sampled some of the sweet cakes but I was too full to have any other thoughts of food. But if I am right, this is where one should sample the finer sweet cakes of Victoria’s Bakery.

Once upon a hungry day, my eyes were arrested by the advertisement of the bibimbowl at Bon Chon. My taste buds went into retro mode of the bibimbap of Korean Airlines and Aseana Airlines. I could pretend to be on a plane instead of Session Road during the Covid 19 times. And so, I sat and waited for my special meal of the rice-bowl that has warm rice with slices of seaweed, carrots, meat, soy bean paste or gochujang, and soy sauce.

I actually got thrilled with the colors that presented themselves atop the bowl and would have wished to eat with chop sticks. But this was my chance to fill my face with spoonsful of rice just like Park Min-young in “What’s wrong with Secretary Kim” or Yoon Eun-Hye in “The Coffee Prince” contest or were those noodles? It would have made my K drama bug and flight come full circle. I could only chuckle as I ate the last spoon of rice daintily because I was alone and would have looked funny without an audience to demo it to.

Here and there, actually, everywhere in the world is where food takes me. My most memorable episodes in life are linked to my stomach. Enjoy the adventure.