It became my temporary office in Bontoc. The cozy sofa and chairs, the tasteful interiors heavy on the travel theme coupled with beautiful photos of the rice terraces and people of the Cordilleras is truly inviting. My almost weeklong stay in Bontoc finds me at Goldfish Cafe catching up on work and the online world. For Bontoc standards, Goldfish Cafe is the fanciest cafe in town. For a town whose local coffee culture is quite predominant already how does Goldfish Cafe’s specialty coffee offerings fare?
One of life’s hidden blessings is living a short walk away from nice eating places. It doesn’t always have to be fancy, swanky places or franchises of big chains. Personally, we at Happyfoodies are big fans of small establishments, hole-in-the-walls and mom-and-pop operations whose offerings defy their size and relative obscurity. Stumbling upon BonBanhmi along Mayapis in Makati is a good example, a small nondescript shop operated from the house. If it weren’t for the small sign, it’s fairly easy to miss. The giveaway sight is the usual display counter. For an eating area, it has a converted garage furnished with monobloc tables and chairs. But if the place is simple, the food is anything but.
Years ago, a popular donut brand advertised its croissants to the strains of French music to convey authenticity. In the same vein, a popular coffee brand showed a couple sipping their instant coffee in lieu of café au lait with Paris in the background. Then, there was also a time when two French-themed bakeries went head-to-head to stage their version of the French Revolution, armed with baguettes and French bread. You’d think by now a lot of Filipinos would be more familiar with French cuisine but ask the casual foodie what his/her favorite French food is and most likely you’d get a blank stare. Or pray you don’t get “French fries” for an answer.
Well, that must be because we don’t really have French influences in our culture, including our cuisine, much in the same way as our neighbors such as Vietnam and Cambodia have, being French territories in the past. Much of what the casual foodie knows about French food points to either the ‘Filipinized’ taste of French breads and pastries or the gastronomic treats that sound intimidating to the ear and even more so to the pocket. Which is why an invitation to sample French comfort food at Cuillere in Serendra at Bonifacio High Street, came as a refreshing and welcome experience, sans pretensions and intimidation.
Mention Cagayan de Oro and on top of the list associated with this City of Golden Smiles is its famous ham. And when it comes to hams, the overwhelming favorite among the locals is SLERS Jamon Cagayan de Oro, which has been around since 1969. What makes their ham different is the natural juiciness and tenderness of the meat. This is due in large part to the fact that the swine from which they are made were fed with pineapple, a fruit laden with the enzyme papain, which has natural tenderizing properties. Over the years, SLERS hams have become a part of tradition among CDO locals as well as guests all-year round and especially during Christmas-time. SLERS have also ventured into the quick-service restaurant and more recently, the café business.
We chanced upon the newly-opened SLERS Ham & Café while looking for somewhere to eat for lunch on our way back to Manila. The small but charming café is warm and inviting, with a wall decked with goodies ready to tempt the diner.