Monday, May 30, 2011

Banapple: An Architecture of Love and Friendship

The places we visit from time to time play different important roles in our everyday lives. Some may remind us of where we have stumbled down, got bruised and wounded but then learned to stand up again and continue to fight. Other places could be part of a sad yesterday, of aches from a broken heart, stressed body or even a dampened spirit. Such memories and experiences from places are the aspects in life that makes us real and inspite of all the other structures that we want to forget or even not intend going back to, I still believe that most of these places are also filled with good, heartfelt and unforgettable memories that balances our whole being, of who we really are and what we have gone through.

Places, structures and the environment that has been a part of our journey, most especially those involved in creating romantic relationships and companionship is actually called the "architecture of love and friendship". I have encountered this idea during my Social Psychology class back in college and it is an interesting topic to that opens us to a new perception of how the environment becomes a part of the relationships that we build. It could be a skyscraper, a recreation area, a theme park, moviehouse, mall or even the four corners of your humble abode. Speaking of home, there is a menage, a restaurant very close to my heart, that has been a silent witness to a life-long friendship that I am very much blessed with - a haven for my foodie friends and a sweet tooth like me known as Banapple.

Banapple has been one my favorite bakery-cafes for years now. I may have enjoyed treats from other food places but nothing compares to the homey feeling of it's ambiance, the delicious meals, mouth-watering pies and cheesecakes that is truly worth coming back. I can still recall the first time that I have visited Banapple, at their branch in Katipunan for a breakfast with my closest friends after work. Though tired and sleepy, their comfortable and cozy place (love those crafty tables decorated with marbles) never failed to make us feel revived and we even felt better upon tasting their delectable treats. This time we have visited their new branch nearer to my place in Kamuning, Banapple in Il Terrazo, Tomas Morato.

The first ever meal that I have fallen in love with is their Garlic Beef Tapa with Creamed Parsley Eggs paired up with their House Blend Iced Tea. The cured beef tasted really tender and flavorful, with hints of garlic and an interesting push and pull of sweet and salty flavors - a trademark that defines the goodness of this dish. It becomes more appetizing when eaten with their fragrant garlic rice together with the smooth and creamy scrambled eggs drizzled with some vinegar. The scrambled eggs is also another feat to consider in this dish. Its creaminess complements the goodness of the beef making it extra special. I also adore how the flavors of the meat stands out and then eventually blends well with all of the other components of this dish - an exciting breakfast meal that will give a good start of the day.

Garlic Beef Tapa with Creamed Parsley Eggs
photo credit:

Their House Blend Iced Tea is indeed very thirst-quenching and has a honey-citrusy like sweetness into it that will be very much favored by your tastebuds. I love that they have used natural flavors with this drink which as for me, makes it a homey concoction and a creation of love.

House Blend Iced Tea

Another meaty favorites that me and my friends make sure to get every time we dine at Banapple are: Crisp Pork Scallopini with Cream Barbecue Sauce, Salpicao Rafael and Hickory Smoked Barbecued Country Ribs. These dishes are truly palatable and will surely hit the list of your top favorites. The Crisp Pork Scallopini is really to die for - imagine crusted and juicy for pork cutlets fried to golden perfection and then generously covered with a savory sour cream and barbecue sauce - nothing but divine! Add some of the pork and the sauce to the garlic rice and the corn relish and it will be a scrumptious meal that you will surely order again at your next store visit.

Crisp Pork Scallopini with Cream Barbecue Sauce

Said to be named after the owners' son, Rafael, Banapple's Salpicao Rafael is made with tender rib-eye steak cubes and sliced button mushrooms, perfectly seasoned and sauteed with garlic pieces and smothered with their special brown sauce. The savory brown sauce and garlic amazingly complements the juicy meat making this dish undeniably one of a kind and a honed tandem to a steaming hot white rice.

Salpicao Rafael
photo credit:

The Hickory Smoked Barbecued Country Ribs, on the other hand, is something that me and my friend craved and raved about for days after eating it. I still can't get over that succulent country ribs that is flawlessly grilled and glazed with their homemade hickory barbecue sauce, very exquisite and delicious as it gives your mouth combinations of amazing flavors from the meat and most especially the sauce. Another thing to be noted about this dish is that the meat is so soft, it falls right off the bone. Who wouldn't love and dare refuse country ribs like that? No one.

Hickory Smoked Barbecued Country Ribs

Banapple, with its wide range of food selection also offers something for the white meat and fish lovers - the Chicken Breast Parmigiana and Breaded Fillet of Cream Dory with Honey Thyme Mustard Sauce. Nobody could ever resist the charm of this white meat dish with its lavish chicken breast fillets encrusted in a parmesan-crumb mixture, abundantly topped with a rich tomato meat sauce and mozzarella cheese cubes - its chicken smothered with a cheesy tomato-based sauce like you never had it before! The complementing flavors of the cheese and the tomatoes truly highlighted the goodness of the chicken making it very Italian and extraordinary.

Chicken Breast Parmigiana
photo credit:

Breaded Fillet of Cream Dory with Honey Thyme Mustard Sauce is actually one their many delicious dishes that always never fail to impress me. Though most of time, I tend to eat more of the dark meat, I am also a self-confessed lover of seafood. I really got hooked with this meal the first time I have tried it. I cannot forget their velvety cream dory fillets blanketed with herb crust and then drizzled with warm honey thyme mustard sauce that greatly accompaniments the cream dory fish. The strong flavors of the Dijon mustard and the sweetness of the honey along with lemony and aromatic qualities of the thyme mingles with the subtle flavors of the fish creating a spectacular feast for the senses. Served with buttered sweet carrots, its adds a certain color, crunch and texture to the whole dish.

Breaded Fillet of Cream Dory with Honey Thyme Mustard Sauce

For the pasta lovers, get ready to be teased for Banapple's yummy heritage of treats and eats will surprise you of their fantastic pasta dishes that will make your heart jump out of pure joy and happiness. First on their pasta bestsellers is the Lasagna Roll-Ups. Unlike the traditional way of preparing this all-time favorite, Banapple cleverly came up with a more exciting way - wide and al dente lasagna strips are the rolled-up and filled with herb cream and parmesan cheese and then covered with classic tomato meat sauce and mozzarella cheese - an effective way to genuinely highlight the true goodness that this dish has to offer. With every bite, you cannot help but adore the herb-tasting and creamy filling that lingers in your mouth and further balances the taste of the tomato meat sauce, making it even richer and creamier. The bite of the al dente lasagna along with the delicious meat completes this very innovative ensemble.

Lasagna Roll-Ups

Next, is actually my personal favorite, something that I will honestly fell in love with over and over again - the Baked Creamy Cheesy Penne. Its simplicity hides a great deal of amazingly flavorful taste. Plainly served in a bowl with some soft bread, savor its inviting taste and aroma with its luscious white cheese sauce and meaty tomato sauce. Dig deeper into the bowl and you'll be bewildered of what you can find in it - al dente penne pasta with delightful Hungarian sausages that gives the whole dish a hint of spice and cutting-edge taste. The mixture of the red and white sauce together with the penne and the sausages really makes this pasta creation stand out and appetizingly remarkable.

Baked Creamy Cheesy Penne

After tasting all of these great-tasting food that, I think, is almost fit for the Gods, let me state more of the reasons why Banapple has become my own architecture of love and friendship; and let me do it over a pile of their luscious cakes and desserts - certified sweet tooth style! I have learned to keep Banapple into my memory and has been a part of my heart (and tummy) because of their beautifully decorated and uniquely flavored cakes that me and my friends used to share every time. Banapple is a known haven for incredibly delicious pies and cheesecakes. First on my list of favorites is the classic Blueberry Cheesecake. It is a dense, soft and smooth cheesecake over a graham cracker crust and then topped with blueberry jam. The tangy taste of the blueberries merge with the creaminess of the filling making it such a heavenly delight that no one could ever defy.

Blueberry Cheesecake

Another cake that I am always excited about is the Cherry Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake. It's the same smooth basic cheesecake only made more interesting by incorporating it with the goodness of dark chocolate truffles, chocolate biscuit crust and cherry icing, cherry jam and a cherry on top. I love how the fruity flavors of the cherries gave the rich fusion of the cream cheese and chocolate more depth and layer of flavors. The unified taste of the cherries and dark chocolates give it a sort of a taste same to the classic black forest cake but Banapple made it even more interesting my making it into a cheesecake.

Cherry Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Coffee Toffee Roca Cake, being a kid again is what this cake reminds me. The coffee-toffee flavors of it makes me recall of a candy that I used to ask my mom to buy me whenever she goes to the supermarket. The chunks of toffee candies and almonds topping the coffee flavored cake and icing doesn't just give this cake a sophisticated look but at the same time a very gastronomic feat. You can never go wrong with the partnership of coffee and toffee, turn it into a cake combined with chocolates and viola, it's a match made in heaven.

Coffee Toffee Roca Cake
photo credit:

One of Banapple's well-loved cakes and my dear friend's favorite as well, is the Snicker Fudge Cheesecake. Imagine the pleasing texture and sweetness of the snickers chocolate bar in a cheesecake - lots of nuts, chewy caramel and creamy milk chocolate - something that is more irresistible and sinful. I love how they have derived the idea of using this chocolate bar and turned it into a cake. Just look at how they have carefully layered this cake from its chocolate crust, smooth and creamy cheesecake filling (it even has a chunk of the chocolate bar in it), a thin layer of caramel and on top, a layer of chocolate ganache with chopped walnuts and almonds, mind blowing isn't it? This cake is so rich and so delish you will prefer it to eat it slowly, indulging in its every amusing components, texture and spectacular taste.

Snicker Fudge Cheesecake

Last but definitely not the least, is the two warm cakes that will melt your heart at first bite: Apple Caramel Crumble Pie and Chocolate Chip Walnut Pie. The first is a variation of the classic apple pie. Banapple's version could actually be either warm or chilled and is made with lots of apples and an amazing streusel that has a hint of the cinnamon flavor. I was actually looking for the dulce de leche like caramel that makes this cake really special, binding the flavors of the streusel, apples and cinnamon but it seems that it has less this time. Hope they could've put more of it for it adds a certain sweetness into the cake that rounds it all up. Still, this cake is such a treat that every apple pie lover will surely come back for.

Apple Caramel Crumble Pie

The Chocolate Chip Walnut Pie is something that I've had for the first time. I am not a big fan of warm cakes and the only cake of that type that I am so amused about is the molten chocolate cake. This pie actually changed my notion about warm cakes, for this one tasted pleasingly different and ambrosial. A very rich tasting pie (for me, it was like a crossover of the baklava and date cake, really amazing!), it is composed of chocolate chips that added a certain depth of interesting chocolaty taste and spiced cookie dough filling that has all the great tasting flavors that I could find - sweet brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, butter and walnuts. Others may think that this cake leans on the sweeter side so it is best to top it with whipped to balance the sweetness out. Overall, this cake was stellar; out of the box but strikingly awesome.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Pie

Good meals and sweets become more special if shared with friends, maybe over simple catching ups or the most hilarious chit chats. Banapple is a home where the happy and magical moments of great friendship have become a vivid part of my existence, where love and comfort from family and friends is overflowing. I believe that many people, good friends and lovers have also experienced this very same things under the roof of every Banapple branch. Its walls and crafty interiors are the silent witnesses of what me and my friends have gone through - the struggles that we faced together, heartaches that we mended and cured and most of all blessings that we have acknowledged. Indeed, Banapple, is the perfect architecture, not just for a romantic love to flourish but also for a great friendship to last a lifetime.

me and my dear friends at Banapple Il Terrazo

Pies and Cheesecakes

Katipunan Branch:
225 Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City
Tel. # 4392675

Katipunan Too:
206 Katipunan Avenue, Blue Ridge, Quezon City
Tel. # 4382675

Tomas Morato Branch:
2nd Level Il Terrazo, Tomas Morato
cor. Sct. Madrinan, South Triangle, Quezon City
Tel. # 4132675

Ayala Branch:
Ayala Triangle Gardens
Ayala Avenue, Makati City
Tel. # 7562675

Greenhills Branch:
Northeast Square
47 Connecticut Street, Northeast Greenhills
San Juan, Metro Manila
Tel. # 4772675

***Dedicated to all of my friends and angels... Love you all with all my heart!***

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bread & Bean Cafe

I have considered pastries and coffee as my usual breakfast buddies. This tandem never fails to make my mornings (especially during those cold and rainy months) extra special. They're my favorite things that used to fuel up my brain cells when I was still in college, so as to now. That's why my heart totally jumped out of pure excitement with this breakfast treat that talks more about the wonders of such amazing combination of bread and coffee, at a place called Bread & Bean in San Juan.

Bread & Bean is a haven for great tasting food and outstanding customer service. Most of the time, we enjoy having our dinners at this cafe, loving their delicious meals teamed up with a cozy ambiance, but let me not talk about their hefty meals right now and instead focus more on the important things that the cafe also offers - bread and coffee! I was first politely asked of what would I prefer to drink and I've decided to try one of the classics, my favorite Cafe Latte.

Cafe Latte

The aroma of the freshly brewed coffee beans covered the place, indicating that this treat is ready to be served. Before taking a sip, I added some brown sugar for some caramel-like hint of sweetness into it and then inhaled more of its aroma, admiring it even more this time with its combination with the steamed milk. Each sip seems to warm my whole being, I can't help but love the strong and rich taste of the espresso, carefully smoothened and sweetened by the creamy milk and brown sugar.

Cafe Latte

Known as Cafe Au Lait in French, the simplicity of this hot drink makes it a great accompaniment to any of their freshly-baked breads. It delivers an added twist to every bread type that you will try it with. This Cafe Latte is truly different from the other commercialized and instant coffee variants that I used to have for it didn't only keep the purpose of having me alert but is also gave my heart some sort of happiness; a smile that further brightened the start of my day.

One of my fellow blogger friends preferred to have their Hot Chocolate instead. I have been long in love with chocolates, whether it comes in bars or in mugs, so as for me, it was a great choice and a fantastic coffee alternative. The mere smell of it already treated me with such great chocolaty flavor. Its dark appearance proved that it was made with good dark chocolates carefully heated and blended with water to produce such yummy childhood favorite drink.

Hot Chocolate

The morning got even more exciting when we experienced how delicious their varieties of breads are. Bread & Bean offers an amazing selection of delectable breads that will surely fit into your choices of drinks and coffee. To start, topping of their list of bestsellers is the Ham and Cheese Loaf with Pesto and Garlic-Paprika Spread. This loaf is generously embedded with bits and small slices of ham and cheese that greatly complements the creaminess and softness of the bread. It is already good as it is but if you want to make it more interesting, you can add some of the pesto or the garlic-paprika spread and I'm sure, a single loaf will not be enough. I must say that between the two spreads, I eminently fell in love with the garlic-paprika, making it my basic spread for all the breads that I have eaten on that day. In fact, instead of spreading it over bread slices, I instead used it as a dip. It gave out a certain nutty, buttery and appealing garlic taste that will make you crave for it over and over again. Putting it over a simple slice of the ham and cheese loaf made it way better than the traditional garlic bread that we eat at some restos. It was such a perfect mate to make our regular breads extraordinary.

Ham and Cheese Loaf with Pesto and Garlic-Paprika Spread

Few more breads namely the Cheesy Pork Floss, Pork Floss (regular), Cheesy Logs and Grilled Ensaimada were then presented, variants that everyone, most especially the kids will surely fall for. These breads were served hot from the oven and you can immediately tell it by its inviting smell and distinctive warm feeling to the palate.

Their version of the famous Cheesy Pork Floss and the regular Pork Floss is very interesting for they use imported and flavorful pork meat floss to top it plus they have smothered each bread with their own delicious recipe of home-made mayonnaise. The soft, fluffy and warm bread is a feat to consider in savoring these mouth-watering breads. The floss added a certain meaty taste into it that blends really well with the mayonnaise.

Pork Floss (regular)

As for the cheesy variation, the thin slice of cheese made it really stand out, giving the already satisfying regular pork floss an added creaminess with a very mild salty taste. The subtle flavors of the melted cheese also rounded up the taste of this bread, making it even more complementing with the meat and the mayo. It was an ensemble that is genuinely to die for. Add to that its very affordable prices compared to the ones that is already in the market.

Cheesy Pork Floss

For the Cheesy Logs, I adored the butter that covers its top part as well as the soft bread that hides a cheesy and appetizing surprise. I think B&B has mastered the art of making these kind of breads for its taste is truly remarkable. It was made even better with the balanced taste of butter, bread and cheese. I also love the mild sweetness that lingers in your mouth, together with the cheese and butter at every bite.

Cheesy Logs

The moment I've heard that they will be serving us their Grilled Ensaimada, I immediately became curious about it. As we all know, the usual way of consuming this bread is either to have it at a room temperature or have it heated at an oven just enough for the cheese toppings to melt. I was totally surprised when I saw and tasted this another wonderful treat! The burnt part of the bread gave it an added crunch and bite. It stayed soft and tasty, with a more distinct and vivid butter and cheese flavors - an ensaimada like you've never had it before.

Grilled Ensaimada

Another delight that is readily available at the counter for take-outs is the Bacon and Cheese. I love that the bread is still soft, very pleasant to the palate and appealing to the taste buds. The combination of the meaty, smoky flavors of the bacon together with the nutty and creamy taste of the cheese made this bread truly stand for its name. It's a delicious and healthy snack at any time of the day.

Bacon and Cheese

Moving forward with more of Bread & Bean's offerings is the Adobo & Pesto Sandwich. Just by the mere sound of its name boasts how scrumptious this B&B classic is. I have never expected that the combination of the very Filipino, adobo and an Italian sauce, pesto, would be this toothsome and pleasing. Imagine a soft and warm ciabatta bread filled in between with chunks of savory and meaty adobo, fresh-tasting pesto spread, crunchy lettuce greens, some herbs, spices and cheese - a true Filipino-Italian innovation that everyone will surely rave about. It was also served with an adequate amount of crispy potato chips that added more fun and twist into it. As for how I enjoyed this sandwich, I scooped out some of the adobo and pesto filling with the potato chips, making it some sort of a salsa or dip and not just a palatable sandwich.

Adobo & Pesto Sandwich

On the other hand, the Harbor Bridge Burger Supreme amusingly exceeded what I have known about some designer burgers that I have tried before. It is made with 100% beef burger patty (see how thick the patty is), smoky and juicy bacons, fresh lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, button mushrooms and cheese - ingredients that jives well in your mouth and gives the palate some sort of an excitement, great flavors and nice texture. Add some of the garlic mayonnaise or the garlic-paprika spread to make it even more appetizing and tasty (of course, I have added the garlic-paprika more often... ^_^). I love the fact the the patty is perfectly grilled, for it remained succulent and juicy. The bacon added some smokiness to this burger dish and the veggies kept the balance of taste and freshness. It's one great deal of a burger, good and healthy alternative to the usual rice meals for lunch or dinner. Friends can also have this burger sliced into smaller portions for sharing.

Harbor Bridge Burger Supreme

Harbor Bridge Burger Supreme sliced into smaller portions

This breakfast would not be complete without tasting some luscious desserts. Bread & Bean, aside from their delightful breads and hot coffee variants is also known for their delish cakes and pastries that you can pair up with their wide selection of cold coffee concoctions. What we had are their bestsellers - Banoffee, Dark Chocolate and Peppermint for the cold coffee drinks and the Chocolate Ganache and Mango Cake for the desserts.

L-R: Banoffee, Dark Mocha and Peppermint

The Banoffee tasted really refreshing. I am not an avid fan of bananas and one way for me to actually eat it is by making it into a smoothie or turn it into an interesting dessert. Bread & Bean succeeded in making me love their Banoffee smoothie for the sweetness of the bananas blended really well with the chocolate, coffee and cream. For the Dark Mocha, what I like about it is the balanced yet strong taste of coffee and chocolate. It was a simple and uncomplicated drink that you will have to grab at every store visit. My favorite, the Peppermint has this sort of cool and minty flavors that greatly rounds out the rich taste of the coffee and cream mixture. Drinking it made me feel like I was a kid again, excited for all the good things that life has to offer.

The Chocolate Ganache is composed of layers of sponge cake dipped into some espresso and coffee cream filling. It was then covered and topped with glossy chocolate ganache which is made from rich, melted bittersweet or dark chocolates whisked with heavy cream. This cake is a great tandem to the black coffee that I've had. I do not usually drink black coffee for I find it very strong and robust but with this cake's right sweetness and chocolaty goodness, I was able to enjoy my black coffee even without adding some cream or brown sugar to lighten it. It's one of those cakes that even at first try easily made its way to my heart.

Chocolate Ganache

Black Coffee

If you're craving for something sweet and fruity after having a savory meal, B&B's Mango Cake is a perfect catch. It is made with vanilla sponge cake layered with mango cream, bits of sweet and ripe mangoes and whipped cream. The top is generously decorated with more mango syrup, small mango chunks and cream, making it look very sophisticated and impressively pleasing. If you think that this cake looks good wait until you have tried it and I am sure you will be in deep affinity with this fruity dessert.

Mango Cake

To wrap it up, it was truly an amazing morning, a start of the day full of sunshine, great tasting breads and comforting coffees. Just like what I have mentioned, Bread & Bean does not only offer varieties of breads and coffees but also meals that could fill you up without sacrificing your value for money. What I also love and the reason why me and my friends prefer to lounge and eat at this cafe is their amiable staff and excellent customer service. For me, those are the aspects that completes the whole dining experience and you can find it all at the Bread & Bean Cafe.

photo credit: Bread & Bean's Facebook Page

Bread & Bean Cafe

Unit 3 Citiplace Building 8001
J. Abad Santos, San Juan, Metro Manila
(near Wilson Street in Greenhills)

***Special thanks to Ms. Kaye and to friendly staff of Bread & Bean for warmly accommodating us.***

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Strolling Spoon Goes to Ilocos Part 2: A Summer Getaway & Gastronomical Trip

It was our last day in the historic Ilocos Region but that didn't stop us from visiting more heritage sites and exploring additional great-tasting food that the warm Ilocano people has to offer. We started out our day very early, had the usual yet still very uplifting breakfast of Laoag longganisa, sinangag (garlic fried rice) and sunny side up eggs paired with a cup of coffee. Afterwards. we then packed our things quickly and embarked on another journey heading to Ilocos' most famous tourist spots and landmarks. Our first stop for this tour is the Marcos Museum in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte.

Marcos Museum

Said to be the birthplace of the late president Ferdinand Marcos who was born on September 11, 1917 to Mariano and Josefa Edralin Marcos (both school teachers from a well-off family), this traditional bahay na bato houses a lot of memorabilia and things owned by the Edralin Marcos Clan which is considered as important artifacts that traces the roots and childhood of the said late president. Located in the same town is another heritage site that is truly worth visiting - The Sarrat Church.

Sarrat Church

bell tower

brick-bridge and staircase leading to the convent

Formally known as the Sta. Monica Church, Sarrat Church in known to be the largest church in the entire Ilocos region and was built with a neo-classical style of architecture way back 1679. Part of this structure is a bell tower, a convent and a museum that used to be the death chamber during the Spanish colonial period. Made entirely out of red bricks, this church has buttressed walls, roof trusses and a 3-storey brick-bridge and a staircase that connects it to the convent.

Museo Ilocos Norte

fruits and vegetables that grown in the Ilocos Norte region

clay pots and other traditional Ilocano cooking utensils

After being so amazed with the Sarrat Church, we headed straight to the heart of the Ilocos Norte's rich culture and tradition, the Museo Ilocos Norte. Established in 1878 and known as the Tabacalera Building, this structure was originally designed as the Administrative Center of the Tobacco Monopoly in Ilocos Norte during the Spanish colonial times. Now, it serves as a provincial museum that showcases the vast cultural heritage of the people of Ilocos Norte. Inside this lifestyle museum, you will find a traditional Ilocano house during the 1940's, old furniture, conventional farming and kitchen utensils plus the accustomed clothing of every Ilocano ethnic tribe; almost anything that you need to know to familiarize yourself to the Ilocanos. After that very informative attraction that undoubtedly inspired us all to appreciate the richness of Ilocano culture even more, we decided to head to the official residence of the late President Marcos in Ilocos Norte, the Malacanang of the North.

The Malacanang Palace of the North

an exquisite view of the Paoay Lake from the palace garden

This lavish and spacious two-storey structure overlooks the legendary Paoay lake and was designed to resemble a 19th Century bahay na bato. Complete with bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, bathrooms and a very sophisticated living room and a second floor ballroom all adorned with beautiful lamps and chandeliers. Even just for a while, we had a great time experiencing how is it to live at one of the most famous residences in the country. We then continued to drive in the picturesque town of Paoay, until we have reached the famous Paoay Church and Herencia de Paoay Cafe.

Paoay Church

More formally known as the St. Augustine Church, this UNESCO World Heritage Site played an important role during the Spanish-Filipino Revolution. Its coral stone bell tower served as an observation post for Katipuneros in 1896 and by the Filipino guerillas during the Japanese occupation in World War II. The church is a unique combination of Gothic, Baroque and Oriental designs. The Gothic affinity can be seen at the church's facade, its gable show Chinese elements while the niches topping the walls that made it look like a reminiscent of the Boroboudur temple. Also known as the "Earthquake Baroque" (it has survived many strong earthquakes and other calamities), the Paoay Chruch is built out of baked bricks, coral rocks, tree sap and lumber and has 24 massive buttresses for support. The overall details of the design were said to be inspired by the seal of Saint Augustine, the emblem of the king of Spain, the logo of the Pope, the sun-God and stylized Chinese clouds.

Just a few walks from this majestic landmark is a cafe that doesn't just serve delicious and authentic Ilocano dishes but also great meal creations that will truly surprise your senses, no other than the Herencia Cafe.

Herencia Cafe

Address: McArthur Street, Barangay 14, Sangladan, Paoay, Ilocos Norte
(in front of Paoay Church)
Contact Numbers: 077-6140214

Me and my bestfriend, Bherry at the cafe's entrance door.
photo credit: Gideon Ian Grefalda

Hailed as the "Edible Landmark in Ilocos Norte", Herencia de Paoay Cafe or simply Herencia Cafe boasts its scenic and perfect location to further admire the beauty of the Paoay Church. Imagine having highly acclaimed good food in a very flamboyant backdrop - very dainty and truly incomparable! Herencia which literally means "heritage", is a restaurant which has remained dedicated to the classic Ilocano cuisine as in their authentic and delicious servings of pinakbet and bagnet. Aside from that, this cafe is also known for their fusion cuisine and pizzas that everyone will surely be hooked and get excited about. Lets start with their bestseller, the Pinakbet Pizza.

Pinakbet Pizza, my friend Angela Nava's favorite

Taking the quintessential Ilocano, Pinakbet, to a higher and new level of culinary excellence, Herencia Cafe indeed made a revolutionary trademark in the local Ilocano and Filipino food business. This very intriguing and appetizing treat is made with a thin, hand tossed pizza crust generously topped with mozzarella cheese, native bagoong (in replacement of the more commercialized anchovies), some okra, eggplants and longganiza meat - ingredients that when combined all together creates a harmonious and pleasing taste that is genuinely one of a kind. This pizza is rightfully one of the greatest fares that I've had in my gastronomical trips.

Another outrageously scrumptious pizza that we had is the Ilocandia Pizza. Made with the same hand tossed, thin crust topped with lots of mozzarella cheese, white onions and most importantly its main topping, Ilocos Longganiza. I love how the cheese adequately marries the meaty and garlic flavors of the longganiza, it's so good it tastes better than salami or pepperoni. It even becomes more tasty by sprinkling some freshly ground black pepper and hot sauce.

Ilocandia Pizza

The Ilocandia Pasta, on the other hand, has the similar ingredients as to what its pizza counterpart has. The only difference is that this time, the longganiza is used as a ground pork and then combined with rich tomato marinara sauce to get that meaty and flavorful pasta sauce. Its color also suggest that the oil that was used to cook the sauce is the same oil that came out of the longganiza while frying. I love the al dente spaghetti and that they incorporated this dish with some native mushrooms or "tengang daga" which added additional meaty taste and texture so as to the parmesan cheese that created a nutty and creamy touch to the dish.

Ilocandia Pasta

This next meal that we had was one of my well-loved dishes from Herencia Cafe. I tend to only eat this recipe when it's my mom who cooked it or if I got it from my trusted and preferred restaurants; I am talking about Dinuguan or Pork Blood Stew and Herencia Cafe gave me all reasons why I should put their version of this classic Filipino chow into my list of favorites. First, instead of the usual pork meat, they have used the bagnet (air-dried & deep-fried pork) as its main meat ingredient, which is why they have called it Crispy Dinuguan. Its amazing how the meat chunks absorbed the flavors of the sauce and retained its distinct charm to the palate. Secondly, its clean, thick, hearty and sour-tasting sauce with a hint of spiciness from the green chili appealed to me a lot; love to mix most of it with steaming hot white rice!

Crispy Dinuguan

Of course, no Ilocano meal is complete without the Bagnet with KBL. Herencia Cafe's version though, when it comes to the KBL is with chopped onions and not the native lasona (spring onions or chives) which has a different and milder flavors compared to the white onion. Still, it complemented the goodness of the pork meat really well and served as an appetizer an a native salad for everyone. The bagnet was cooked to perfection - crispy yet tender pork meat and melt-in-your-mouth fat plus the super crunchy pork skin - it was a true Ilocano delight that no one could ever resist.

Bagnet with KBL

With Herencia Cafe's old world elegance consisting of its Florentine glasses, antique wood and wrought iron furniture and other artistic interiors and the superb view of the famed Paoay Church, it was definitely one of my unforgettable gastronomical experiences. There's no better place to eat all of these meals and practice the art of fine dining than at the Herencia Cafe.

Herencia Cafe's refined interiors and classic appeal
photo credit: Gideon Ian Grefalda/Danyoela Mapagu-Grefalda

wood-carved signage at the side of the entrance door

After having that hefty lunch we continued on our journey and then headed to Badoc, Ilocos Norte to visit another historical landmark - the Juan Luna Shrine. It is a reconstruction of the two-storey brick house wherein the patriot and famous Filipino painter was born (the original house was burned in 1861). Born to Joaquin Luna and Laureana Novicio on October 24, 1857, Juan Luna was known to be the instrument in placing the Philippine art and culture on the world map.

Juan Luna statue

This museum houses things that were owned by the Luna Family and some replicas of Juan Luna's famous paintings which includes the "Spoliarium", "La Batalla de Lepanto" (special gold medal, Barcelona Exposition 1888) "Death of Cleopatra" , and the controversial "The Parisian Life" which does not only embody intangible idea of the Filipino national consciousness but also Luna being a talented artist and a indefatigable painter of women. Through this painting, Luna was able to portray our country's condition at the hands of the Spaniards in a very playful and relaxed mood.

Juan Luna Shrine

(gold medal, Madrid National Exposition for Fine Arts in 1884
which depicts a chamber beneath a Roman arena
where bodies of dead gladiators are dragged in a shadowy area)
photo credit: Gideon Ian Grefalda

Death of Cleopatra
(Juan Luna's graduation work and won a silver medal at the
1881 Madrid National Exposition for Fine Arts, his very first art competition)

Juan Luna's The Parisian Life (Interior d'un Cafi)

We spent most of the time at the Juan Luna Shrine (that house is truly pretty and amazing, very cozy too!). The moment we're all done with the tour and after taking some more pictures, we all agreed to finally head south to the heritage town of Vigan, Ilocos Sur where we will be buying all of our pasalubong and souvenirs (Vigan bagnet and longganisa) for friends in Manila. Upon arriving at this very historical town, we made sure to take some time and explore its main tourist attractions namely, Padre Burgos House, Vigan Hidden Garden and Pagburnayan, Chavit Singson's Baluarte and of course the much-awaited stroll at the Crisologo Street or the Vigan Heritage Village.

Padre Jose Burgos' Museum: Hall of Fame for Ilocano Heroes & Achievers
photo credit: Gideon Ian Grefalda/Danyoela Mapagu-Grefalda

Fr. Burgos Museum is the ancestral house of the martyr-priest Padre Jose Burgos. Built in 1788, it was owned by his grandparents, Don Juan Gonzales and Dona Florentina Gascon. This two-storey house has maintained its 19th century interior and has a well-preserved kitchen. It also houses things owned by the family, memorabilia of the martyr priest Jose Burgos along with an excellent collection of archaeological and ethnological finds. It also features Tingguian cultural artifacts and records of the native reactions to colonialism. Antique pieces, collections and dioramas of local historical events are also very well preserved and presented.

Located at the heart of Vigan is a hidden garden of lush greens boasting different species of flowering and decorative plants, fruit-bearing trees and bonsais at a very low price. A true green thumb's haven, strolling around this place actually gave me a refreshing and cool feeling that I really miss whenever I am stucked at the metro. Another thing that I admire about this place is the beautifully done landscapes that they also offer services for, the shady cove and wooden benches that is surrounded by even more plants and flowers.

Hidden Garden

photo credit: Gideon Ian Grefalda/Danyoela Mapagu-Grefalda

The Pagburnayan, on the other hand is a jar (locally called "burnay") factory that allows every visitor to witness how clay pots and jars are made. From the "putik" or clay that they mold into different shapes and sizes to the process of fireblasting it in a huge kiln, it was a true craft that the people of Vigan are truly proud of. Some actually go to Vigan not just to visit the Heritage Village but to buy some jars and vases that is mostly used for landscaping as a decorative garden ornament.


photo credit: Gideon Ian Grefalda/Danyoela Mapagu-Grefalda

The Baluarte, owned by Gov. Chavit Singson is not just a zoo but is an interactive wildlife sanctuary and facility of 80 hectares of gently rolling terrains, hills and mountain slides. Baluarte's aim is to forge a bond between people and nature by providing a free, family-oriented experience by advancing quality animal care, education, science and conservation. Also through their interactive activities (like the one that we have tried, riding a small calesa with a pony), they have enlightened people about the important bond between people and animals.

mini calesa ride with pony "corina" at Baluarte
photo credit: Angela Nava

With all of those activities and different tourist attractions we didn't noticed that it's almost time for dinner so our driver dropped us to one of Vigan's famous restaurants, Cafe Uno.

Cafe Uno

Address: Grandpa's Inn, Vigan City
#1 Bonifacio Street cor. Quirino Blvd.. Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
Telephone Number: +63 (077) 7222118
Fax Number: +63 (077) 6320987
Mobile Number: +639175802118
Email: /

Cafe Uno's signage and interiors

Cafe Uno is a small quaint corner coffee shop inside Granpa's Inn, the first in Vigan City. With its very homey and cozy interiors and good Filipino and Ilocano food, its the best place to eat together with friends, a place for intimate conversations and a relaxing destination to unwind after a day of strolling around the city. Aside from their traditional Filipino and Ilocano dishes, they also offer a variety of pasta, noodles, sandwiches and light Mexican snacks and desserts to fill every hungry tummy. To start with the feast let me intorduce you to their house specialty, Pansit Palabok. This dish is teeming with fresh veggies and seafood ingredients such as shrimps and mussels as well as some pork chicaron, fried tofu and wedges of hard boiled eggs. Its yummy sauce coats and flavors the vermicelli noodles very well. I love its presentation so as to how its distinct taste play with your mouth at every spoonful. Add some of the calamansi and surely make you crave for more palabok, Cafe Uno style!

Pansit Palabok

Next on our order list is their Native Tinolang Manok (chicken ginger stew with vegetables). With the use of native chicken, the soup tasted really flavorful and delicious with a mild hint of ginger that undoubtedly wakes the flavors of the chicken and add a layer of goodness to the soup dish. What differs their version of tinolang manok is that they have added solidified and cubed chicken blood with rice - a new and pleasingly unconventional way of preparing chicken ginger stew with vegetables. Also, the chicken itself tasted really fresh so as to the veggies that remain succulent though it is soaked into the hot soup.

Native Tinolang Manok

Last but definitely not the least is Cafe Uno's take on the traditional Bistek Tagalog or Beef Steak. The beef strips stayed juicy and tender and its flavors blended perfectly with the savory sauce. I love the hint of calamansi everytime you will try this dish, for me that's what a true bistek is all about. The caramelized onions also added a depth of flavor to this dish; eat it with the beef, sauce and hot rice and you will be surprised how delicious it is.

Beef Steak

And to finally end this summer getaway and gastronomical trip, we strolled at the famous cobblestone street of Calle Crisologo at the Vigan Heritage Village. It looked really dreamy and amazing at night. I love how the street lights transforms the old Spanish houses and whole place into an era way back hundred of years ago. It gave my lenses a perfect sepia tone, goes very well with its rustic and old world charm and beauty. Established during the 16th century, most of the materials used for this planned Spanish colonial town - adobe, pebbles, bricks and posts - were said to be brought from Europe through the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade. The construction work was done by Chinese laborers, thus, reflecting a unique fusion of Spanish European and Chinese culture. In November 1999, it was then hailed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Site commemorating its cultural significance to the world and to every Filipino.

painting of the Heritage Village
found at the lobby of Grandpa's Inn

Calle Crisologo, Vigan Heritage Village at night

***Special thanks again to my very dear friends, Gideon Ian Grefalda and Danyoela Mapagu-Grefalda for lending me some of their pics for this write up (visit their travel site at so as to Angela Nava for the Baluarte pic. love you guys!***