The sumptuous Laguna and Quezon cuisine of Everyday Eden Lifestyle + Cafe
The sumptuous Laguna and Quezon cuisine of Everyday Eden Lifestyle + Cafe

With the hustle and bustle of city life in the metro, the Southern Tagalog region is often forgotten in terms of vibrant culinary scene. More specifically, Quezon Province, including Laguna, has been left out of this conversation.

Little do some people know these areas boast a unique mix of local flavors, dishes and products that are often underrated.

From distinct local food experiences that one can find in small towns to contemporary ones offered by mushrooming restaurants, Laguna and Quezon are a must-go for true foodies.

To help bring Laguna and Quezon Province's prized food culture to the fore, San Miguel Foods Culinary Center organized a two-day gastronomic tour down south titled "Rediscovering Kulinarya Tagala."

"As we celebrate National Food Month, we bring you this delicious experience," said Llena Tan Arcenas, manager of San Miguel Foods Culinary Center (SMFCC) – the food creative arm of San Miguel Foods, a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation (SMC), at the beginning of the road trip.

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"The last time we did a food tour in the region was back in 2012. Hence, this is an exciting time to once again discover the unique flavors of Southern Tagalog cuisine as well as new destinations along the way, some of which surprisingly popped up during the pandemic. Talk about the resilience of Filipinos during such challenging times," she proudly added.

Arcenas further related that the tour is aligned with SMC's unwavering efforts to help boost economic recovery.

That said, The Manila Times Lifestyle duly reports these hidden gems and flavors of Laguna and Quezon Province that truly deserve to be explored.

Aurora Filipino Cuisine, just inside the charming Ted’s Bed and Breakfast compound.
Aurora Filipino Cuisine, just inside the charming Ted’s Bed and Breakfast compound.

Aurora Filipino Cuisine. Located in Santa Cruz, Laguna, Aurora Filipino Cuisine is nestled inside Ted's Bed and Breakfast compound.

Founded by siblings Chef Theodore Day Salonga and Pastry Chef Gel Salonga-Datu in 2016, Aurora Filipino Cuisine showcases local and heirloom dishes such as Chicken Adobo sa Dilaw, Inalamangang Baboy, and Sinugno na Tilapia Fillets.

When the pandemic hit, the Salonga siblings had to temporarily close the restaurant, previously located in a repurposed ancestral house and pivot to offering their menu favorites in frozen vacuum-packed formats. As quarantine measures eased, they resumed serving their well-loved menu for small groups and functions.

Today, they are on full blast anew as advocates of the rich culinary tradition of their beloved province.

Pancit Lucban of Linang ni LK
Pancit Lucban of Linang ni LK

Linang ni LK. Located in Lucban, Quezon, Linang ni LK is a farm resort owned by Chef Francis Ocoma, a.k.a. the Lakwatserong Kusinero or LK. Combining his love for cooking and farming, Ocoma introduced his farm-to-kitchen concept in April 2019, using local ingredients to ensure guests a genuine farm-to-table experience.

In 2020, he expanded his vision by building accommodations within the farm, creating a unique farm-cation experience.

During the tour, Linang ni LK served Ube Taw, glutinous ube-flavored rice balls served over ube ice cream, glazed with caramelized coconut milk, and Pancit Lucban, a flavorful and colorful noodle dish topped with the town's famous longganisa and garnished with edible flowers.

This dish is served on banana leaves and eaten without utensils. Refreshing and aromatic coffee drinks, Kape Salay and Kape Pandan, complemented the menu.

Floral Spring Rolls of Bukid Amara
Floral Spring Rolls of Bukid Amara

Bukid Amara. Just an eight-minute drive from Linang ni LK is Bukid Amara. This stunning farm boasts an impressive landscape of edible flowers, a man-made lake and greenhouses featuring flowering plants, herbs and edible greens, all with the magnificent Mt. Banahaw in the background. But while Bukid Amara is sure to attract visitors for its picturesque landscape, which owner Michael "Mike" Caballes aptly describes as resembling an Amorsolo painting, the place is also fast gaining recognition for its innovative farming solutions.

Caballes is dedicated to modernizing agriculture through his flagship brand, Grab & Grow. The brand offers courses on Hydroponics and Greenhouse Production to interested farm owners, infusing modern farming techniques and precision agriculture.

During the property tour, guests were presented with various melon types from around the world, all grown on the farm.

Additionally, they were treated to Floral Spring Rolls filled with Magnolia Chicken Breast, edible flowers, egg omelet and vermicelli noodles. Cucumber and Citrus Quencher completed the menu.

Juliet Rodillas of Rodillas Yema Cake
Juliet Rodillas of Rodillas Yema Cake

Rodillas Yema Cake. A popular pasalubong brand from Tayabas City, Rodillas Yema Cake by Monica and Jett Bakeshop — owned and operated by Vincent and Juliet Rodillas — is one of Quezon's best destinations for iconic local delicacies.

Now made using a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant built in 2014, products include cheese ensaymada, coconut macaroons, chocolate cake, ube cake, yema de fruta and brownies, among others.

Paella Pollo of Jardin de Pio
Paella Pollo of Jardin de Pio

Jardin de Pio. Also in Tayabas, Quezon is Jardin de Pio, a charming restaurant close to the Padre de Pio sanctuary in Barangay Gibanga.

Founded in September 2022 by Mafel Lagos, Bernard Sollestre and five other friends who share a love for food, the restaurant pays homage to Padre Pio's heritage by using the finest ingredients to create beloved Italian dishes.

Must-try are Pan de Ajo, Antipasto Jardin Salad, Gambas Aligue, Aglio Olio Pasta, Jardin De Pio Pizza, Paella Pollo, Panna Cotta and Silvanas.

Seves Hotel & Resort. Situated in Sariaya, Quezon, this new and modern establishment opened in August 2022 by the province's pristine beaches.

Seves features world-class amenities and accommodations, integrating artworks and designs reflecting the area's flora, fauna, people, and traditions.

Guests enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast featuring local breakfast and staples using Magnolia, Purefoods and San Mig Coffee products.

Sitio de Amor Farm Resort. Located in San Pablo City, Laguna, this breathtaking farm spans several hectares and is adorned with priceless antiques, heirloom pieces and wooden furniture crafted by the owner.

Upon arrival, guests were warmly welcomed by the owners, Amor and George Bondad, who led the group on a property tour. The tour included visiting the Caluag House of Tomas Morato Sr., which was built in 1920 and initially located in Calauag, Quezon.

The owners shared the inspiring story of how the farm was conceptualized before treating them to a feast at Café Gaudencio, below the Caluag house.

Local breakfast staples using Magnolia, Purefoods and San Mig products
Local breakfast staples using Magnolia, Purefoods and San Mig products
Antonas Bread and Pastries assortment
Antonas Bread and Pastries assortment

The sumptuous al fresco Laguna and Quezon lunch included Pako Salad, Sinigang na Hipon sa Buko, Sinantolan, Sinaing na Bangus, Sinaing na Tulingan, Chicken Inasal, Inihaw na Liempo paired with Kulawo, Mustasa Salad and Atsarang Kamias.

For dessert, guests enjoyed Puto Bumbong. Everyday Eden Lifestyle + Café in Barangay Bungoy, Dolores, Quezon, owned by Beth Amat, took care of the meticulous food preparation and the beautiful tablescape at Sitio de Amor.

Amat, who also runs Eve & Co Floral and Events Styling, founded Everyday Eden during the pandemic to create an organic garden that promotes sustainable food production.

The feasting at Sitio de Amor continued as Antonas Bread and Pastries, owned by Emmanuel "Hobbie" Enriquez, brought over its delicacies from Lucena City.

The menu included Chicken Empanada, Taco Turnover and Crème Brulee puff pastries, Cheese Rolls and Eclairs. To remember the wonderful Southern Tagalog trip, each guest received a pandan bayong made by weavers of Luisiana, Laguna.

Inside the bag were some of Quezon's Best products from Pasciolco Agriventures in Tiaong, such as Organic Coco Aminos, Organic Coco Balsamic and Coco Sap Vinegar, and of course a helping of San Miguel products for recreating the delicious dishes of Southern Tagalog.