In the restaurant business, it’s the little details that spell the difference. Perhaps a well-thought-out ambiance that sits well in a natural setting, well chosen décor, winning color combinations, faultless table settings and arrangements that make you feel right home or gracious service that makes one feel like a queen even if only for a fleeting moment.

Forest House in Baguio has all these and more. Owners Ari and Raquel Verzosa would not have anything substandard. As a former flight attendants of PAL in the 80’s and later on, in the case of Ari, as part of PAL’S management, they know by heart what means to serve, satisfy and provide a considerable level of comfort to their customers. So when the perfect opportunity to put up their dream restaurant came, they did so with much uplomb.

“We found this perfect place in front of the previous main gate of Camp john hay and everything just glided ,in. We renovated the place and personally picked every piece of furniture and décor for the place”, Raquel recounts.

Dubbed as Baguio’s premier Bistro and café it offers a wide selection of international cuisines. For coffee and tea lovers, there is an array of Coffee Masters blend to choose from, a choice of decaffeinated brew in a variety of granules, depending on your preference of richness. This brand of coffee and tea from Chicago is by itself a blissful experience. You can also sample home baked cakes liked black forest, blueberry cheese cake, apple pie, or Belgian waffles to go with that simmering coffee.

“The menu was carefully planned and laid out that we can say it is the best of the best”, the couple adds. But they are quick to maintain that they do not classify Forest House as a fine dining restaurant or people might get the impression that It is a stiff and formal place. The emphasis is on being homey and offering comfort, focusing on the quality of food and service, feeding both body and mind while patrons experience the pride Baguio from patio: enjoying fresh mountain air and the scent of pine trees.

The café opened holy week this year and continues to enjoy a steady increase in a regular patrons, “Pinoys and foreigners alike flock to us. It is a compliment when people even compare us with the most established restaurant in Baguio that has been in operation for decades”, the couple beams.

The Verzosa are not neophytes when it comes to food business. They not only love to eat, they can be tagged in as connoisseurs, having tasted just about every delicacy in almost all parts of the world. Raquel says she could not forget the exquisite taste of ox tail when she was in Hawaii. She adapted it and made it the house specialty. At P995 it serves four and includes all-you-can-eat steamed rice, mustard greens and fruit tarts.

Find the comforts of home in Baguio’s Forest House

Besides baking their own breads, pastries and waffles, they also smoke their own Ilocano Bagnet, ham and other deli items. They also use organically grown vegetables like lettuce, enchives, basil and cilantro. The place is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and merienda. Their homemade Tuyo in oil and smoked salmon hearty breakfast favorites.

Ari’s family owns a chain of hotels in Baguio (Village Inn on Magsaysay Avenue and the Burnham Hotel) Cooks inn restaurant. And although his first love is computers (the couple also owns into, a computer rental and tutorial services), the Restaurant will not make the back seat. “How can we do that when the whole family takes its meals at Forest House!” he reveals.

Other entries, with servings so hefty they are good for two, include sisig dagat (a seafood preparation) priced at 105, pasta putanesca at 195, lamb chops with mashed potatoes and organic buttered vegetables at 260, and boullabaise soup at P90. Their grilled chicken Ceasar’s Salad at 200 is a complete meal. As for drinks, smoothies are also served here. The menu is modified occasionally to suit the preference of the customers.

So there, delightful place, good food, cool climate, almost perfect. But not yet. Check out the cordial service and the warm attitude of the owners and you have a choice of restaurant.

Diners wont fail to notice, too, its charming bathroom that has been decorated with a box of potpourri, scented candles, a square-shaped seater and a wall décor with an uplifting message, “Greet each day with your eyes open to beauty, mind open to change, and heart open to love”.

Manila Standard Today

Bounty From The Mountains

 Saturday August 25, 2001 No. 2,760

Text and photos by Tess Raposas