Heading to Baguio from Manila on a six-hour trip can leave a traveler famished, to say the least.
(Read about the trip and Forest Lodge Hotel where I stayed: http://www.interaksyon.com/lifestyle/how-to-survive-a-trip-to-baguio-city-all-by-your-lonesome)
Which was why the outdoor wing of Le Chef in Camp John Hay was such a welcome sight for this writer, who did exactly that over the weekend. As the fog descended, so did dish after decadent dish.
Deep-pink roses were the centerpiece of every table, and if the perfectly arranged plates and cutlery didn’t signal that I was in for a fine dining experience, then the waiter who helped me to my seat did. Even the maya birds flitting to and fro were plump from all the gourmet dishes left over by the guests.
First on the menu was baked aubergine in filo pastry, with cucumber salsa. A colorful salad greeted me, one that was a pleasure to eat. Some salads can be too bitter, but these greens were complemented by the sweet, vinegary drizzle over the leaves. It also helped that the vegetables were fresh; we were in Baguio, after all. The winner, though, was the aubergine itself—soft and creamy when bitten into, you can also enjoy the crunch of the flaky filo pastry.
Next was the seafood chowder, which was accompanied by crisp, thick slices of ciabatta and butter. I had to stop myself from eating too many slices; there was still the main course to make room for!
The main dish was baked chicken Parma ham in garlic thyme jus, with pasta à la pobre, tasted as good—and as indulgent—as it looked. Think meat and ziti bathed in tomato, cheese, and the juices from the chicken and ham.
Then came dessert, which was crêpe suzette à la mode with a cup of strong brewed coffee. The mango, unfortunately, wasn’t as sweet as I wanted it to be perhaps because it’s not in season during this time of the year.
Still, the food made us more than happy and the only thing that can top it all off is a long nap.
Chef Billy King—of Manila’s Le Soufflé fame—was there to welcome us to the restaurant he heads at The Manor.
Aside from good food and drink, he is passionate about the land or where the produce is raised and harvested, having grown up in a farm, he shared to our group. It must be why he’s an advocate of organic food. The man likes to live healthy, eating his chemical-free veggies and drinking red wine.
Refusing to disclose his age, he said he felt like he was 27. Just a few days before, he and his team had to dish out 9,000 plates of food for an event. He said he liked seeing something difficult come to fruition.
The Irishman began his gastronomic journey in London. Locally, he first worked at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati City and that’s how he ended up staying in the Philippines “for a long, long time.” Today he is also in charge of The Twist, a restaurant at the nearby Forest Lodge hotel. Mediterranean, Asian, Italian, and other influences are his inspirations in this dining establishment.
“I think I’m already Pinoy,” he said. The chef has been cooking for the Filipino foodie for around 35 years. “Thereabouts.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked in the Philippines. I’ve been having fun cooking a long time. Like more than ten years, more than twenty.
“I like to travel, but this is home. When I come back to the Philippines, I’m coming home, really,” he shared.