BAKERĒ Café Introduces us to Butuan-Style Lechon as a Hearty SandwichJanuary 24, 2018
The 70’s witnessed the birth of Sweet Expressions: a home-based baking venture owned by Eleanor Galang, which would be known for its takes on classic baked goods including Food for the Gods and ensaymada. Fast forward to 2013, Eleanor’s son RJ had left his job in advertising and sought to continue Sweet Expression’s legacy, employing his skills to revamp the company with a new name, logo, and overall branding. The culmination of these efforts is BAKERĒ—a cozy bakeshop-café at the heart of Kapitolyo.
BAKERĒ primarily offers Eleanor’s well-loved baked creations, including the fan favorites from way back (cookies, bars, and the famed ensaymada, among others) as well as some newer favorites (most prominent of which are the cult-favorite cheese cupcakes), ready to be enjoyed for dine-in with specialty coffee care of Toby’s Estate. Moreover, BAKERĒ serves as RJ’s tribute to Eleanor’s legacy as a mother. Working in tandem with cousin Miko Calo (whose many achievements include having worked the kitchens of the prestigious L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon alongside the great chef himself), RJ serves dishes that reincarnate the home-cooked specials they’d enjoyed growing up; dishes inspired by Eleanor; and dishes that pay homage to the family’s Butuanon roots.
[We want it to feel] like my mom had fed you.”
The resulting short-but-sweet lineup includes hearty sandwiches, filling pasta dishes, and other comfort classics great for noshing on any time of the day. Though seemingly simple in their approach to food, BAKERĒ stands apart from the metro’s many run-of-the-mill cafés with the use of quality ingredients, making as many parts (sauces, dressings, and the like) from scratch and in-house as a way of relaying Eleanor’s own philosophy: no-frills, but done well, and always made with love. Here are our favorites:
BXU (Butuan Lechon Sandwich)
Butuan might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of lechon, but the region makes a distinctive version of the roasted pig that natives stuffed with lemongrass, bell peppers, garlic, onions, and a local red pepper called atsal—resulting in lechon with tons of flavor. BAKERĒ executes a more streamlined (but no less tasty) take of Butuan-style lechon with the same flavorings, but done porchetta-style with pork belly. Shredded and stuffed inside a sandwich, the juicy meat is served with a piquant bahalina vinegar-pickled radish and carrot slaw that adds a welcome crunch and refreshing zip and cuts through the meat’s robust-tasting profile.
Grilled Ensaymada with Chocolate
BAKERĒ turns day-old pieces of Eleanor’s bestselling ensaymada (which tend to have more body, RJ explains, unlike freshly-baked pieces that can be too soft and delicate) into grilled “sandwiches”. Stuffed with dark chocolate (care of local bean-to-bar maker Risa Chocolate) and grilled toasty, melty perfection, it evokes the classic Filipino pairing of ensaymada and tsokolate. You get a hint of saltiness from the cheese, bittersweetness from the chocolate, and butteriness from the bread base, all given depth from the caramelized bits of sugar that glisten on its slightly charred edges.
RJ pays ode to the Bicerin, an espresso-based drink originating from Turin, Italy which enjoys immense popularity in New York—and which RJ would make a point to indulge in every time he visits the Big Apple. Made with layers of espresso, chocolate (also from Risa), and heavy cream in a shotglass, you’ll want to drink it straight up as is, without mixing—to fully experience the change of mouthfeels and temperatures as the thick cream transitions to smooth, bittersweet chocolate and concludes with the full-bodiedness of the espresso.