As published in my GMA column:
The next day, we were treated to a Manor breakfast. This was your typical hotel breakfast, a buffet with everything from bacon and eggs to pancakes and waffles to breakfast congee with different toppings, all kinds of cereal, and champorado. I gravitated towards the fresh yogurt, which I had discovered on my last trip to Baguio. Though actually more the consistency of yogurt drink, it nonetheless contains a creaminess not found in commercial yogurt. You can buy bottles of the stuff in the Baguio market, or have it to drink in a lot of the restaurants around Baguio. I find that I like mine to be a mixture of the strawberry variety (flavored with fresh strawberries, as expected) and plain, since the flavored ones tend to be too sweet for me.
After breakfast, some delegates went on a tour of Baguio’s tourist attractions such as Mines View Park to shop for pasalubong. I decided to stay at the hotel so that I could recuperate from breakfast.
Before I knew it, it was lunch time. Chef Billy King served up another feast, this time for food inspired by traditional Filipino home cooking. For appetizers, we had Sliced Tuna Ceviche with Coconut Milk flavored with Tanglad. Ceviche is like the Central American version of kinilaw, except that meat is sliced thinly and is not marinated in vinegar, like our local variety. We also had Sisig and Buffalo (Carabao) Cheese Quiches, both of them bite-sized. I liked the Buffalo Cheese one more as I found the Sisig too tough, at least for a quiche.
We had Chunky Vegetable Salad with fresh fruits and a variety of dressings, as well as fried okoy, a Filipino snack favorite. One of the things I especially enjoyed was the Creamy Monggo Soup, which your basic monggo soup infused with a healthy dose of cream (or in this case, Carnation evap). Accompanied by warm Cibatta and bread rolls with butter, the soup was a wonderfully heartwarming comfort food that delivers a one-two veggie-dairy punch.
We also enjoyed fried whole fish whose crispy texture was complemented by sweet-sour green mango salsa. Other guests partook of Baked Chicken Pastel, Assorted Seafood in Tanglad Coconut Sauce, Pork Menudo with Carnation Milk, Beef Adobo Caneloni and Bringhe Rice. I passed on the said dishes partly because I was still full from breakfast and partly because I was saving room for dessert, which was Creme Brulee, Brazo de Mercedes and Apple Jalousie with French Cream. The first two were rich and sweet and creamy, great when paired with sweet and hot coffee. The last one was a mix of textures, stewed apples soft against flaky pastry, the whole thing complemented by a dollop of fresh cream. If I could live in The Manor’s buffet area, I would. Unfortunately, we had to move on to the next and last activity. Fortunately, that involved eating as well.
Next stop was the Grand Handaan, which was held at Burnham Park. Apart from us delegates from Manila, the event was a free-for-all. Everybody enjoyed sampling dishes from Vigan, La Union, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, Benguet and Bulacan, with each province represented by a booth that promoted its culinary specialties. Sweets from Bulacan and Pangasinan, empanadas from Ilocos Sur, bagnet from Iligan, sisig from Pampanga and of course, vegetables from Benguet.
Afterwards, we headed back to Manila, our bellies full of food, our minds swirling with the memories and experiences that our food trip to the North has brought.