Flavors of the Philippines: Calabarzon Food Tour
Food tours are one of our favourite ways to travel. On one hand, they give you a taste of the best food and places to eat in. On the other, food tours also give you a unique story of how the local food scene has been shaped by the history, culture, and beliefs of the people. And vice-versa. Most recently, we went on a 2-day Calabarzon Food Tour with the QuePATTA (Quezon Province Association of Travel and Tour Agencies) and the Department of Tourism. And it left us with nothing but good memories and full bellies! So read on to check out our tour highlights of this Heritage and Food trip of Southern Tagalog.
Asiong’s (Silang, Cavite. Breakfast, 1st Stop.)
Nestled in the lush uplands of Silang, Asiong’s Caviteño Restaurant has been an icon of great food in Cavite. Since it first opened as a small ‘carinderia’ in the 1960s, Asiong’s has been serving low-key but authentic Spanish-Caviteno food to hungry diners.
And for almost 60 years now, Asiong’s has been a monumental landmark in the Caviteño food scene. That locals have extended their dining loyalty through generations. Preparing dishes that have since evolved from carinderia staples like the dinuguan, kilawin, and kare-kare. And now they also serve unique concoctions like the Pancit Pusit and the Spanish Paella Negra.
Trivia: Did you know that Cavite’s commercial activity was one of the most cosmopolitan in the world during the Spanish colonisation? All thanks to the Galleon Trade that bore precious goods and produce from Spain which were mostly anchored near the Cañacao Bay.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a rustic dining hall. One that’s with antique-looking tables, traditional Filipino paintings, and nondescript doors and decors. Then we were led to a lush zen filled with re-purposed garden tables and chairs. All waiting to be occupied for our intimate breakfast picnic.
What to Eat at Asiong’s
We started our morning feast with hot cups of ‘poor man’s coffee’ (Php 80.00).
Followed by Asiong’s Pan de Troso with quesillo spread (Php 290.00) and the Fresh Pako (Fiddlehead Ferns) Salad with homemade vinaigrette (Php 270.00).
For mains, we had the Carioca (Php 260.00). A savory dish made of ground pork, carrots, and egg paired with fried saging. We also had some local longganisa (garlicky).
Sonny Lua, the owner’s son also did a quick cooking demo for us. He served us their famous Pancit Pusit (noodles sautéed in squid ink) which you can also order for Php 380.00 for the biggest size.
We then finished our meal with Sonny’s special Sapin-Sapin (with ube and langka).
Honestly, I wish we could have stayed longer at Asiong’s. So we could savour the beauty and simplicity of the place. Not to mention taste all the gustatory treats that Asiong’s has to offer.
Everything was delicious and comforting. No wonder, its diners have been coming decades upon decades! Asiong’s definitely deserves to be the food icon that it is today.
Location: Buenavista Street, Bucal, Silang,Cavite Open from 8 AM-9PM daily. Please call +639267139400 for table reservations (recommended)
Don Juan Boodle House (Lipa, Batangas. Lunch, 2nd Stop)
Right after breakfast, we took the road to Lipa Batangas where we first stopped by Casa Segunda. Also known as Luz–Katigbak House, Casa Segunda is a heritage house museum built in the 1860s.
It’s one of the only 3 houses that survived the bombings during the Second World War. Case Segunda is located along Rizal Street, Lipa City, Batangas. And it’s owned by Don Manuel Mitra de San Miguel-Luz and Doña Segunda Solis Katigbak, Dr. José Rizal’s first love.
And because we visited a carefully-kept family treasure, it’s only fitting we dine like a kin as well. Thus the lunch at Don Juan Boodle House.
Trivia: Did you know the Filipino tradition of Boodle Fight originated from the military? Where a big pile of food (usually fried or grilled) is served in the middle of a long table, waiting to feed every hungry sold eating with their bare hands? The longstanding tradition symbolises brotherhood and camaraderie amongst the troops.
The restaurant itself looked cozy, adorned with murals of ordinary Filipino folk on the walls. Each boodle fight is good for about 6-8 persons. It’s served on a big wooden platter and eaten on individual banana leaf plates.
I personally enjoyed the creamy ginataang kalabasa at sitaw. Paired with the smoky inihaw na liempo and the savoury adobo sa dilaw (with turmeric). Don Juan Boodle House offers four (4) different options for your boodle platter.
Location: P. Torres Street corner G.A. Solis, 4217 Lipa, Batangas. For inquiries and table reservations, visit their Facebook or call them at (043) 740 1828.
Quezon’s Best House of Pasalubong and Restaurant (Tiaong, Quezon. Meryenda 1, 3rd Stop)
Next on the list was a quaint restaurant slash pasalubong center in charming Tiaong, Quezon. At this point, we were still a little full from the boodle fight. But we all could use a cold dessert to drain the summer heat away. So while waiting for our special halo-halo, we went around the pasalubong section.
Quezon’s Best is actually a brand of organic products made from coconut such as VCO, Coco Jam, Massage Oils, etc. Which I found all very affordable. So I bought myself a bottle of VCO x Chamomile oil and VCO Rub for just Php 100.00 each! They also carry a wide array of local delicacies from Quezon. Like Broas, Nata de Coco candy, pancit habhab, and of course, the lambanog.
As for the halo-halo, it was delicious and refreshing. Despite the simplicity of ingredients. I think it only had sweet kamote paired with a sweet spoonful of coco jam on top.
We also had their buttery macaron and cupcake. A must visit in your Calabarzon Culinary Tour!
Earthkeepers’ Garden and Restaurant (Tiaong, Quezon. Meryenda 2, 4th Stop)
As if our meryenda from Quezon’s Best wasn’t enough, we just had to make a quick stop at Earthkeepers for a second snack. And it’s undoubtedly one of my favourite stops on the Calabarzon Culinary Tour.
Earthkeepers is a lush garden and restaurant that promotes organic farming and sustainable dining.
Sinulbot + Buko Juice
We actually had our meryenda at Earthkeepers’ in the main shop. Featuring a creative display of local products and handicrafts for sale. And as the meryenda came in, I couldn’t help but feel excited with the fragrant aroma of toasted coconut whiffing through the air. Alas, a huge bowl of what seemed to be ‘palitaw’ swimming in some brown sauce was placed on the table.
Apparently, it’s not palitaw at all as it’s called Sinulbot locally. Sinulbot is a local delicacy candidly called “pre-kalamay”. As it’s cooked in the same process as kalamay. Giniling na bigas (grounded sticky rice) boiled in a rich latik sauce mix of coconut milk and brown sugar. Only difference is it’s not cooked until the latik sauce dissolves the grounded sticky rice cakes. The fresh buko juice paired perfectly to balance the sweetness of the Sinulbot.
Trivia: Did you know that the Sinulbot is a very special delicacy amongst locals in Quezon? As it’s only served during special holidays like Christmas because it takes a lot of time and effort to make? It’s also seen as a symbol of unity of the family.
Location: Km. 101, Tiaong, Quezon. For inquires, call (042) 545-7112.
Ouan’s The Farm Resort (Lucena, Quezon. Dinner and Breakfast, 5th Stop)
Our Calabarzon Culinary Tour took us next to Ouan’s The Farm Resort in Lucena, Quezon. Nestled on a quiet 2.5 hectare property, Ouan’s became our refuge for the night.
Tagay! An Authentic Quezon Dinner Feast
After a warm welcome by the owner, we then proceeded to freshen up for dinner. And it wasn’t just any ordinary dinner at all. It was a special feast prepared by Kulinarya Tagala, QuePATTA and Ouan’s for our group.
We had a candlelight boodle fiesta with escabeche, pinais na hippo sa gata, adobo sa puti, and tulya at hipon sa buko as soup. Everyone’s personal favourites were the Pinais (creamy and really addictive) and Adobo sa Puti (no soy sauce). We had Nilupak with peanuts afterwards for desserts. We concluded the night with the traditional ‘tagay’ session hosted by Kulinarya Tagala’s Ms. Tina.
Breakfast at Ouan’s
For breakfast, we woke up to a buffet of longganisa, tinapa (smoked fish), scrambled eggs, and fried rice.
It was the perfect meal to jumpstart our Day 2 of our Calabarzon Culinary Tour indeed! (Note: Our meals at Ouan’s were specially prepared for our group but can be prepared for public upon request and availability).
Location: Km 133 Diversion Rd, Kanlurang Mayao, Lucena, 4301 Quezon. For inquires and room reservations, call (042) 373-4728.
Luisa and Daughter Restaurant (Lucena, Quezon. Morning Snack, 6th Stop)
Now on our second day of the Calabarzon Culinary Tour, we visited a restaurant frequented by locals. Diners at Luisa and Daughter can either choose to buy from the cooked viands. Or order a la carte.
As for our group, owner “Chuchay” Campmanes-Marasigan prepared a household favourite- the Pancit Chami and the mini turon.
I loved that the Pancit Chami came in two variations. One sweet and the other a little salty (my favourite). Other must try’s in Luisa and Daughter include the Beef Minanok, Tacos, and the very unique Thai Pancit.
The restaurant just turned 30 last May 1. Many thanks to visitors and local patrons. We then visited the Provincial Capitol before heading off to our next stop: lunch.
Location: Carmelite Lane, Lucena City, Quezon.
Kamayan sa Palaisdaan (Lucban, Quezon. Lunch, 7th Stop)
One of most delightful stops in this Calabarzon Food Tour is the Kamayan sa Palaisdaan. The whole restaurant is set in a man-made lagoon in Lucban.
There were about 60 plus balsas or huts turn into cozy dining halls for customers at Kamayan. The restaurant has been a must-eat destination by hungry local diners and visitors since 1991. And while you have the option to also catch your own fish (tilapia), take delight in the restaurant’s wide array of fresh seafood and meat offerings.
It was a hot day that day but we were quickly relieved when we saw the banquet prepared for us.
We had all the bestsellers of Kamayan sa Palaisdaan. We indulged in the Ginataang Pako with Suso, Inihaw na Liempo (Php 335.00), and Inihaw na Tilapia (Php 255.00). I loved the Ginataang Pako with Suso as the creaminess of the coconut mixed well with the exotic flavour of the suso (snail).
While the sweet-savory flavour of the liempo and the fresh taste of the tilapia were perfect with rice drenched in gata.
The best part of the Kamay sa Palaisdaan experience? You get serenaded by their in-house band while eating. A total dining experience indeed!
Location: Brgy. Dapdap, Tayabas City, Quezon, Philippines. For more information or table reservations, check out their website http://www.kamayansapalaisdaan.com.ph/.
Kape Kesada Art Gallery (Paete, Laguna. Meryenda, 8th Stop)
As we made our way back to Rizal, we passed by Paete Laguna. We were actually still full from our lunch. So t’s good that we had a quick ‘fruit carving’ demo at the municipal hall.
Now it’s no secret that Paete is famous as the Wood Carving Capital of the Philippines. But in the recent years, locals of Paete Laguna have expanded their creative craft into other mediums. Like fruits, vegetables, and even ice! After a good 20-30 minutes, our 2 artisans were able to produce some impressive carvings. Including an eagle, flowers, and a sailboat!
We then took a quick 2 minute walk to a charming coffee shop called Kape Kesada Art Gallery. It’s essentially an Art Gallery showcasing the local crafts in Paeta. As well as a restaurant that serves local delicacies, coffee, and refreshments. That day, the jovial owners prepared a delicious meryenda for our group.
We had Minaning Cassava, Kalamay na Malagkit (Biko), and the Laksa (mixed vegetables dominated by banana blossoms cooked in coconut milk).
I super enjoyed everything on my plate. Especially that Kafe Kesada had an al fresco dining area sat next to the river/creek. (No foul smell, I promise!)
The cassava had an addicting salty garlicky taste. While the kalamay was surprisingly perfect with the gata! Definitely one crave-worthy!
Location: Quesada St, Paete, Laguna
Balaw Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery (Angono, Rizal. Dinner, 9th Stop)
Last but definitely not the least on our gastronomic Calabarzon Culinary Tour is the Balaw Balaw Restaurant and Art Gallery in Angono, Rizal.
Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Perdigon Vocalan, Balaw-Balaw Restaurant offers authentic Filipino food with a blend of popular exotic entrees. They also have a wide collection of carvings, paper cache, and paintings as decor and for sale.
Trivia: Balaw-Balaw is actually the name of the dipping sauce local to Angono. It’s made from fermented rice, shrimps, and bamboo shoots.
To say we had a dinner feast at Balaw-Balaw is a total understatement. I’ll tell you why.
For starters, we were first served an enormous platter of appetisers and sides. Including the nilasing na hipon (alcohol-infused shrimps), ensalada, and binalot na itik sa pita (native duck wrapped in pita bread).
Then came the biggest surprise of the night. Two huge baskets of the Minaluto Dish. One in yellow rice and the other in squid ink. Minaluto is sort of a local version of the Spanish Paella.
A rice dish mixed with seafood, fried chicken, and pork. Balaw-Balaw’s take on the local delicacy was hearty, tasty, and filling. We also had their famed Beef Lauya Soup (a sweet version of Nilaga). As well as the Sampaloc Juice for drinks.
Truly a delightful way to end a fun-filled, jaw-dropping, mouthwatering food and heritage tour of Calabarzon. Thank you QuePATTA, Culinary Tagala, and DoT Region IV-A for the authentic Calabarzon Culinary Tour experience. Until the next!
Location: Doña Justa Street, Angono, Rizal Province. For inquiries or reservations, call (02) 651-0110.
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