Metro Manila and major urban centers in the Philippines host a big number of cafes and coffee shops and they are sprouting like mushrooms during the wet season. There were so many of them, yet we only had limited time. We went to a number of them and three stood out and impressed us — a Tagaytay institution, a cozy find in Mandaluyong, and a Makati cafe I have long wanted to visit.
Bag of Beans: Brunch with a View
It was a gloomy Saturday morning when we left our hotel in Newport City in Pasay City and took an almost two-hour drive to Tagaytay City, south of Manila. Our goal was to have some bulalo, bone-marrow soup, that the city is famous for. We failed to achieve that. Instead, we found more treats in Bag of Beans.
Bag of Beans is an institution in the ‘other’ summer capital of the Philippines despite it being relatively young. As the saying goes, you haven’t been to Tagaytay if you haven’t been to Bag of Beans.
From the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road, turning right along Aguinaldo Highway, we stopped by Bag of Beans’ Athena (second) branch. It sits along the ridge facing Taal Lake and Taal Volcano (the famous lake within a volcano within a lake within a volcano) and features a country-style interior. Despite the threat of rain, we chose a table at the veranda facing the lake. It was a brunch with a view and cool breeze. Never mind the thick fog enveloping the area and shrouding the scenery.
And here are what we had for brunch:
- Beef Steak Tagalog (photo above, top left) — tender beef slices in soy sauce, onion, and calamansi on a bed of grilled aubergines (eggplants) with rice and a generous topping of fried garlic. It is an upgraded bistek Tagalog.
- Bangus Belly with Spicy Laing (bottom) — pan-grilled milkfish belly and creamy (not) spicy taro leaves in coconut milk with rice and more garlic. My brother, Owen, gave the bangus his seal of approval and my best buddy, Andreas, had his very first taste of taro leaves.
- Home-made Pork Tocino (top right) — pan-fried cured pork, garlic fried rice, and sunny-side-ups (tocilog) that made my best friend (he’s Chinese-Indonesian) swear that it’s the best breakfast he ever had. (And he’s craving for tocino now! Haha!)
- Garden Fresh Salad – a medley of colorful veggies (tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, lettuce, cucumber, corn, turnips, and black olives) with vinaigrette dressing.
There were no complaints, only praises for that wonderful Bag of Beans brunch.
Of course, we did not miss out on the refillable Kapeng Barako (barako/Batangas coffee) and hot chocolate or chocolate batirol — a home-made, classic-style chocolate made from blocks of cocoa, locally known as tablea. Those were perfect for a cold Tagaytay weather.
It was indeed a great and filling brunch!
[Bag of Beans Athena is located along Aguinaldo Highway Silang Junction East, Tagaytay City, Philippines. They have five other branches in Tagaytay and Laurel Batangas. For further information, visit their website and their Instagram account.]
Coffee Project: The Meeting Place
July is probably not the best time to roam around Mega Manila because it is the rainy season, and when it rains, it pours; when it pours, it floods; and when it floods, it’s the worst time to be stuck in horrendous traffic jams. If you happen to be in the metropolis, where can you while away time, stay dry and remain stress-free, and be comfortably productive? Go to one of the cafes in Metro Manila, solo or with friends, until the traffic situation becomes bearable. And we, recently, just did that!
We , Owen, Andreas, and I, braved the rains and the traffic jams to meet a new friend, Mia, in Mandaluyong City. Salute to the Grab driver who drove us through the backstreets just so we won’t be arriving too late.
The meeting place: Coffee Project at 515 Shaw Boulevard — a cozy joint that brings the outdoors in (sans the rain). It has large tables that can seat six to eight people and are perfect for meetings, discussions, study groups, and brainstorming. In fact, there was a group of university students who were studying next to our table. The cafe looked cramped but felt spacious, felt warm but was cool, it’s so current, so Instagrammable!
What bowled us over was the ube cheesecake that was so heavenly, with just the right sweetness and ube-licious goodness. That is highly recommended. We had avocado cranberry frappe and Vietnamese coffee. The drinks were passable except that the Vietnamese coffee was too sweet from an overload of condensed milk. They also serve meals but we did not order any as we planned to go some place else for dinner.
We liked Coffee Project and we intend to give it another try. I feel like I will be comfortably be able to do my tasks in there with a slice of ube cheesecake. I am just afraid that I will overstay. Next time, I will try their other stores in the metro.
I heard and read good impressions of Coffee Project, even Marc Nelson, in his Instagram story recently, was pleasantly surprised upon discovering a Coffee Project close to his place. I hope that they become consistent or improve. If they do, then they could be a threat to more established coffee shops in the city.
Mom and Tina’s, At Last!
Every time I go home to the Philippines and when in Metro Manila, I often stay at a hotel in Makati’s Ayala Center. And there is a small cafe just behind Greenbelt that I wanted to try but never had the chance. This time, I did! That shop is Mom & Tina’s Bakery Cafe situated at the ground floor of Tropical Palms Condominium, 103 De la Rosa corner Perea Streets, Makati City.
After coming from the Indonesian Embassy, my best friend, Andreas, called up and told me to go straight to Mom & Tina’s, knowing that I have been wanting to go there, for brunch. Mom & Tina’s have a wide range of breads, cakes and pastries that would make anyone drool. We had the soft and melt-in-the-mouth ensaymada that could rival the more popular brands. My buddy even had two of those. It was perfectly paired with the cafe’s brewed coffee or hot chocolate. I also had chicken empanada, the baked, not the flaky, kind.
For a foreign visitor, one can’t resist Pinoy breakfast, so Andreas ordered longganisa hamonado (sweet garlicky sausage) with garlic fried rice, fried eggs, and atchara (pickled stringed unripe papaya) and requested for a coffee refill. The longsilog is also remarkable.
The Mom & Tina’s experience was worth the long wait. Food was above above average, pastry was excellent, service was prompt, and employees were friendly. It was just unfortunate that our first visit was marred by a broken exhaust system that the whole store was smokey. We left feeling like smoked bacon. But, that was just okay, accidents happen (and we showered before checking out of our hotel).
See you soon, Mom & Tina.