Forest House Bistro and Café in Baguio city is worth making a trip to the city of pines.

I run my fingers across the wooden walls of Forest house Bistro and Café(FHBC), Feeling its texture as if I am reading Braille. The walls need not talk in order for me to appreciate the warm country feeling it is tends the place. It is a kind of warmth that is not emanated by the fireplace.

The well-thought décor can convince that, not just for a moment, one is indeed in an old Baguio House, if not in some European countryside home. And all these provide the perfect backdrop to appreciate the kind of food it serves. As a matter of fact, there are several reasons why I regard the food here as “the treasures of the forest”. Why? Let me count the ways.

 1. Food are served in big portions. Take for example the Three dip Forest house special salad, a huge mix of fresh lettuce, strips of crisp cucumber, carrots, turnips with nuts, raisin and cherry tomatoes. The salad is served with a homemade strawberry dressing, blue cheese and honey vinaigrette. It is beautifully arranged in large oval platter filled to the edge . One then proceeds to hand wrap the vegetables dip it in one’s dressing of choice. With a little participation, healthy eating can be a lot of fun. The serving is good for three persons.

2. Food is given the attention and cares it deserves , no shortcuts. The owners of FHBC, Ari and Raquel Verzosa, could have easily opted to buy ready to eat Bagnet (Ilocano deep-fried pork) to serve its customers, but that is not the way they do things around here. Forest House goes the extra mile to make its own Bagnet. In fact, only belly portion of the pig is used, as it has minimal fat and no bone. Those who order this dish can really compare the difference of their homemade Bagnet as oppose to the commercially produce kind. The quality of their Bagnet is a hands-down winner., making it the specialty of the restaurant. Their best selling dish gave rise to Dinuguang bagnet and sinigang na bagnet. Aside from the Bagnet, the restaurant shows its passion for food as it also bakes its own bread and cakes.

3. Food are varied. There is something for everyone on the menu, since the restaurant serves quite a number of international cuisines alongside local favorites. No less than US ambassador Harry Thomas has dined here three times , and he goes for the fillet mignon, as I have learned from Ari Verzosa. FHBC in the past had a reputation of being a steakhouse, though it was never marketed as one. Steaks are just among entress listed in their extensive menu.

4. Food are plated hotel style. How true is that we eat with our eyes? Food, even before it appeals to the palate, must catch one’s attention. It has to look good before it can taste good. As a matter of fact, at FHBC, desserts seem to have taken a life of their own. Those who plate the dessert have taken their sweet time in making it into a lovely eye candy. Their creative control over the appearance of the dessert is a sight to behold. I chanced upon a blueberry cheese cake served with a flower and a tiramisu with a ginger bread house design. Order the sesame crusted fish fillet, pan seared creamy dory fillet crusted with black sesame seeds and topped with asian mango salsa, and one would think he or she is in a fancy hotel restaurant.

5. Food is only the beginning. Good food is not the only thing one has got to taste here. And the ambience is not only thing one has to drink in. it is one of the few places out of there to experience a level of service at the brink of extinction. I was quietly reading Nasty Bits by the fireplace when a staff brought a lamp to my side. His action brightened my reading corner as well as my day.

Also, it is a delight to know that Forest House Bistro and café, which have been recognized by the prestigious Philippine Tatler for four years now among tha countrys best restaurant’s, have grown into an intimate Bed and Breakfast place with four rooms. The rooms exude a rustic elegance unmatched by the modern and streamlined look of most hotels in Baguio.

So, how does one turn a dining destination into an unforgettable experience? Well, in my case, it is when I got to do a certain food combination I thought of. I got slice of bagnet and topped it with blue cheese, strawberry dressing and honey vinegrette. Wrapped them in lettuce and finish it off in one big bite. Imagine the explosion of flavors- the goodness of pork, tangy sour taste of blue cheese, plus the sweetness of strawberry and honey. It is a Mardi Gras in my mouth I wish would not see the light of the day. My taste buds have found delight in the “forest”.

Business Mirror
Forest Finds

By Cesar M. Cruz Jr.

Sunday, December 11, 2011