Morning Alug•bati

This morning’s breakfast was not something special.  No it’s not some continental brekky nor any Asian morning delight. It’s salad alright, one of my mother’s kitchen concoctions. Fresh from her garden she tossed and turned a delightful salad.


Basella alba is an edible perennial vine in the family Basellaceae. It is found in tropical Asia and Africa where it is widely used as a leaf vegetable. It is known under various common names, including Pui, vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach, malabar spinach and ceylon spinach among others.  – Wikipedia


Mother’s salad is not for all.  Her’s was made of the local green called Alugbati. Savory and flavorful that is natural for the northern taste buds.

alugbati salad marked

Mother’s Alugbati Salad

Blanch some Alugbati tops until the stalks are soft. Remove from the water and set aside.
Slice some cherry tomatoes and toss it in the bowl of blanched Alugbati.
Throw in  some salted egg(s) and drizzle with some Ilocano flavor called “bagoong” or fish paste.  

 

Like I said, mother’s salad is not for everyone. If you are squeamish and does not appreciate the tangy flavor of the greens and the fish paste, you can find some substitute.

  • Camote tops to replace Alugbati
  • Iodized salt in place of bagoong

Because the bowl was colorful, I decided to post in my Instagram account and surprisingly created a bit of rave from friends in the urban jungle. Some have asked for the recipe and I was glad to share. The same reason I am posting it here today.

It’s local…cheap…fresh and healthy!

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Volante: a Pizza Party for One

salmon pizza by pizza Volante

After the sweet kind of breakfast from Tsokolateria, the rain did not stop this birthday boy (man) from wandering around Session Road. Armed with a flimsy umbro from Watson’s, a fleece jacket, hiking sandals and a mobile phone, I ventured into the ever busy street… I silently offered my heart’s eternal ache to the Lord and asked for His grace at the Baguio Cathedral. It wasn’t long and I felt like my small intestine was about to devour the larger kind (not that it can seriously happen but it felt that way!).

With a grumbling tummy, the descent from the Cathedral hill was agonizing yet grounding. Every step down the stairs was a moment of reflection (drama). That one last step opened the doors of heaven. When I looked up, the signage across the street was a welcome greeting! “Volante“…a word from one of my online searches the night before resurfaced from the subconscious! (visit OpenSnap to easily find a place to eat around Baguio CityVolante…Pizza VolanteI was in total joy stumbling on the talked/blogged about pizza place along Session Road I just have to try ’em! What better time but on my birthday!

I learned that this store is like Store #1…the place where it all started. It doesn’t look like it was engineered for dining though. The ground floor space looked small as the biggest part was consumed by a grand stairway. Pizza Volante along Session Road is a recycled cinema/movie house (that explained the stairway). Now on to the pressing matter – my angry tummy!…

Volante! (spoken like a true European…LOL) sounded and felt like a screaming Italian! It spells pizza, pasta and coffee!

I wished for a window seat(wish granted)… I liked seeing the rain pour over the busy street. I wanted to thank the sky for weeping…for sharing my heartache…

This day felt like an eternal loop of irony. After the Frozen Hot Tsoko, Coffee Volante was an irony on its own.  It was piping hot to ease the coldness of my heart. The dark elixir’s soothing warmth and distinct bitterness brings life to the gloomy sky and damp weather…it awakened my thoughts…rekindled my hope for love…

Against the darkness that was Coffee Volante was their Pasta Alfredo. The white sauce was nothing but creamy and savory. The pasta was cooked al dente while the sauce did not fall short of the expectation. Joining the merry-ness of the creamy sauce were other flavors that gave this pasta dish a festive mood. There was roasted chicken strips, button mushrooms, bacon bits and some generous dots of shrimps and herbs!

shrimp pasta alfredo at pizza volante

The pasta alone was filling but I could not let the opportunity to pass without trying at least one of their pizzas! (spell gluttony!) I asked for another round of dark elixir before I start with something bolder…

I said bolder because I went for the kind of pizza that has never crossed my mind nor my taste buds. I’ve seen anchovies on some pizzas (they were never my cup of tea) but smoked salmon? I said “this I got to try!“.

salmon pizza by pizza Volante

This 6-inch pan pizza was perfect! It’s a solo party for the broken-hearted birthday boy! (weh!). The rain kept pouring and the wind brought the chill to match the coldness radiating from my heart. The warm aromatic bread was comforting.  It has brought some reprieve like a chicken soup to the sick. The pizza has nothing but the mouth-watering slices of smoked salmon, onion rings and molten cheese. That distinct salmon taste cannot be missed in every bite! I say they were a generous host. A 6-inch pan costs only P 110! There was nothing to regret in this boldness…

And the last slice was gone!…the fun, the happiness and that short reprieve from the darkness of a sinking heart finally dissipated. The rain quickly washed away the smile as I stare at the window…again, wondering if this heart can still mend…

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How my Birthday started at Tsokolateria

menu tsokolateria

It’s been almost a month now…

Just when the celebratory mood for my birthday started to go down the drain with the seemingly unending shower in Baguio City last July, I began to see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Actually, it’s more of a pot of chocolates!

Tsokolateria is a small al fresco dining on the famed Igorot Stairs along Leonard Wood Road. The artisanal cafe is part of the bigger chain of restaurants from Happy Concepts where Barrio Fiesta belongs.

The nipping cold woke my rather lethargic self. I was feeling cold and rolled in a ball on my bed staring at the door thinking “happy birthday!…what now?” And as always, when my mind was about to escape reality, you come barging in with that unwavering smile. You asked if I wanna have some breakfast. And there I was, bedazzled. I asked for a couple of minutes to wash away the stains of the cold evening.

Surprise! You took me upstairs. Just a couple of steps up where we were staying. It’s almost mid-day yet the sun refused to smile. Then we were in for another surprise! Tsokolateria doesn’t open until 10 AM! It didn’t dampen the already sour birthday morning…so we wait. I don’t smoke…you don’t either, and that little nook we were sitting on was way too perfect for a morning puff!

menu tsokolateria

The al fresco nook was just perfect! Artisanal Cafe it was called because they only serve hand-made kitchen creations of high quality ingredients. Eveything in that quaint cafe is, for the lack of a better word, cute…from the space it occupies down to the serving trays! One thing to note when you ask for the menu is that it is heavy! It’s a compilation of laminated sheets where the menu is printed. What made it heavy yet adorable was the woodworks! It is held by a wood block with that instrument you typically use to make/stir the perfect hot choco!

The menu has chocolates written all over you’d think it’s a dessert haven. It was a surprise that they actually serve real meals. The catch? Savory as they were, all meals did not escape the cacao invasion!  Since we were the first customer of the day (we literally opened shop), savory brekky had to wait.

For starters we had an interesting irony – The Frozen Hot Tsoko.

Tsokolateria - frozen hot tsoko

Frozen Hot Tsoko is a pot of hot hand-crafted cocoa and vanilla ice cream. So how do you consume an irony? Well, you take that scoop of cold vanilla ice cream in that small cup and pour over the hot cocoa, then you use that cute stirrer that comes along with the cups! The smoothness of the cold vanilla ice cream complements the bitter-sweet bite of that hot cocoa. Deliciously interesting for the irony of a couple that we were. The damage for this morning potion was P 200.

While we were savoring the ironic starter, they were prepping our breakfast…err…brunch.

bacon pork belly - tsokolateria - baguio

So you can’t really escape the cacao fever here. Our breakfast was one of their “all time fave” – Bacon Lechon Kawali Cebu Style & Cacao Nibs. The Menu described it as “Tanglad (lemon grass) marinated, bacon cut liempo (pork loin) cooked in peppercorns, bay leaf and cacao nibs”(and there’s that nagging bit that say’s I may be savory but I can be chocolatey)

The dish was served with native garlic mountain rice, Pinoy salsa, native orange yolk omelet and sinamak and cacao nibs.

Dissecting breakfast was what we did. We devoured whatever the pots, pans and plates have to offer while having some candid convo on the merits and demerits of our chosen meal. The native garlic mountain rice was served in a terracotta pot. It was native and therefore it has that unrefined taste. It was grainy yet flavorful and filling. The earthy flavor was teased by the mix of savory lechon kawali, spicy sinamak and the freshness of tomatoes and greens. So much for the famed mountain rice! The star of the meal was the bacon cut pork loin that was pan fried to perfection! It was as crispy as pork crackling minus the oozing fats. Crispy made tender by the mild kick from the sinamak with cocoa nibs. The total damage for this satisfying breakfast was P 250.

The bill came as a surprise (err…how many times have I used this word!)! How can you resist paying. I even asked if I can keep it!

tsokolateria bill tray

Everything became interesting that morning…even the rain! It was a bit forgiving that allowed me to wander a bit on Session Road.

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