I have a soft spot for Bicol. And I have a big appetite for Bicol dishes. Oh, not just dishes. Of late, I have discovered and loved their exotic shakes and ice cream! (Ice Cream Photo Borrowed From FlipNomad)
We found this cozy place called Bicol Blends Cafe in Daraga , Albay — right along the Rizal Road connecting Legazpi City to Daraga all the way to our previous destination, Donsol. First time we chanced upon it, we were actually at 1st Colonial Grill which is right beside this cafe. Now, 1st Colonial Grill was what brought us to this neck of the woods. The Tinapa Rice and Buko Chopsuey there are good reasons for a visit. Over and above that, we were longing to try that famous SILI ice cream. SILI???? Yes, sili as in chilis as in peppers as in HOT and SPICY.
It didn’t look threatening at all. In fact, it can pass for strawberry ice cream at first glance. But wait till you taste the last drop. The spice kicks in. Your tongue feels the “burn”, and so does your palate as you finish up with that last lick. So be sure to have a tall glass of water at arm’s reach. But wait, there’s more than just the SILI ice cream here. Right beside 1st Colonial Grill is a coffee shop cum pastry shop owned by the same family. Bicol Blends Cafe soon took over as our favorite coffee place in Bicol for its exotic pastry items and even more exotic shakes.
There is the pili shake. And the sili shake. Just like the sili ice cream, the sili shake can be quite deceptive. It starts off like your typical, standard milk shake. But the finish! Oh, the finish…….will remind you to take your food “slowly” as our elders would often say when we were younger. Chew slowly. Drink. Don’t slurp. Savor every bite. Relish every sip. And give your taste buds the chance to discern the variety of flavors each food morsel offers!
And the baked stuff offered quite a variety. Pan de Bicol Express? This is a big pandesal stuffed with bicol express. Don’t be fooled by the “mini-pan” description. It is a big pandesal. Had it for breakfast along with my favorite brew. Whoa! Did that perk me up! Understatement of the year. I love the dough, just like the way I want my pandesal. But the filling shook me up crazy with all those spices so early in the morning. Besides, it takes an acquired taste to welcome coconut cream-based fillings at this early hour. I dare the brave ones to try it.
The second breakfast I had in Bicol Blends Cafe, I tried the Pili Bread. Now this one is as mild as seeing majestic Mount Mayon first hour of the morning. Pili nut abounds in Bicol and is a regular take-home or pasalubong item. I love it. I find it quite expensive but it is a nut truly our own, so flaunt it. Eat it. Buy it! Many modern and fusion restaurants in the area have actually found ways to get that nut into their Bicolano cuisine, accompanied by the unforgiving sili and drowned in the usual coconut cream. Mixed into their bread, or shaved like one would with almonds to garnish a pasta dish, the taste of this pili nut is never obscured by the other flavors.
If we were spending a few more mornings in this place, I would have tried their Laing Offerings. Perhaps next time? For sure, I will be making a visit to this place not just for my sili and pili fix, but also for the cozy ambience and wifi connection the place offers. Maybe I’d also try their Malunggay Ice Cream and Tinutong Ice Cream. All those crazy ice cream flavors! For your info, you can dine in either 1st Colonial or in Bicol Blends Cafe and order from the menu of either since both are owned by the same family. Nice :)
Craving for more Bicolano food? Check out this blog. More yummy photos too. Oh, take me back. Take me back!
This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for July 2011 with the theme “Awesome Food Experience While Traveling In The Philippines” hosted by Anton Diaz . Bon apetit!