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My neighborhood nooks and niches

By VICKY VELOSO-BARRERA, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 09, 2023 5:00 am

Though I grew up a Pasay City girl, we moved to Quezon City two decades ago and I’ve loved living here ever since.

We live in Laging Handa, a barangay where the streets are named after the boy scouts who died when their plane crashed en route to the 1963 World Boy Scout Jamboree in Greece.

Another name for this grid of quiet streets is Hollywood because of the number of celebrities that live here, being in such close proximity to the networks.

My road: Scout Tobias, Laging Handa, Quezon City

I have a very old connection to this area because my lolo Pablo Antonio was its urban planner in the time of President Quezon. My Tito Ramon tells me that Tomas Morato used to be called Tamarind Road because it was lined with sampaloc trees. Today only one such tree remains.

My mother-in-law’s family also had close ties to President Quezon and many of them built houses here, including the one I live in today. And David’s Salon, which I frequent, is a short walk away on Roces Avenue, named for my husband’s great-grandfather.

Laging Handa is a neighborhood suited for walking because the largely residential streets host many charming little nooks and niches.

My Panaderia, a source of delicious pan de sal in the morning

My favorite is to the left of my gate, the ubiquitously named Panaderia, which is not ubiquitous at all. Here we buy delicious pan de sal, not sweetened; ensaimadas topped with almonds, local honeys and the best kesong puti to be had in the metro, freshly made in Bulacan.

Almost in front of me is Mi Cocina Paella and we love to pair their paella negra with their roasted pork belly or even Lydia’s lechon, just two blocks away.

I drink my brewed, dark-roasted Arabica out of a mug I made myself at Tahanan Pottery.

A hundred meters to the right of the gate is Tahanan Pottery and last Mother’s Day we had a pottery session instead of the usual lunch out. It’s pretty cool to drink your morning coffee out of a mug you made yourself!

Then just beyond Tahanan Pottery is Papelmelroti, great for last-minute gift and gift-wrapping ideas. This being Quezon City you will likely bump into the city’s royalty, like Papelmelroti’s Robert Alejandro, at other neighborhood haunts such as Prologue.

Beef cooked in burgundy at Prologue

No other restaurant is quite like Prologue on Scout Gandia with its two French-trained Japanese chefs. Everything on their menu, which has specialties from around the world, is delicious. The truffle pizza is a standout, while my personal favorites are the gnocchi and the Malaysian beef rendang.

Soufflé pancakes with berries at Prologue

Across Prologue is Dough and Grocer, which they also own, and it’s your must-go-to for specialty French and Japanese products. Try all the butter, the cheeses, and cold cuts, but our family favorite is the range of French hot sauces, which are sold on a scale of one to 10! I can’t make it past four… but the fire-eaters in my family can manage the 10!

The Angelina Chocolate mentioned in Emily in Paris is available at Dough and Grocer.

On my road itself you’ve got Behrouz for yummy Middle Eastern kebabs and wraps plus Super Sam, the latter somewhat reminiscent of Shake Shack. Turn to the left onto Scout Limbaga and there’s the tiny Campfire Hamburgers, a favorite of my kids and their classmates.

Laging Handa is also home to two bastions of Filipino food, both two blocks from my house! The original Max thrives on Scout Tuazon while the very first Romulo’s opened on the shady, tree-lined Dr. Lazcano.

My son Joshua and I running into Quezon City royalty Robert Alejandro at Prologue on Scout Gandia

There is also a really good—if pricey by Quezon City standards—Italian restaurant hidden along Dr. Lazcano called La Spezia. It is worth looking for even as we here in QC are spoiled for excellent food choices that are reasonably priced.

Many excellent wholesalers operate in this area who also sell in retail quantities. These include chef’s secrets like My Own Meatshop on Panay Avenue, and Meat Central in Scout Borromeo where I buy the excellent steaks I use in my classes.

But it’s not all about food.

Cute pumice stone artworks on Scout Limbaga, sourced from Pinatubo, can find a spot in your garden.

Walk down Scout Limbaga heading towards the restaurant row known as Tomas Morato and you’ll come across a house selling charming pumice stone sculptures, the stone sourced from Pinatubo. They are great in gardens and aquariums.

On nearby Mother Ignacia you’ll find Cedar Hills, our source for plants, herbs, soil, pots, seeds—everything the green thumb needs.

Galleries like Gravity Art Space and boutiques like Saturday Morning sprout on the fringes of our barangay.

Other people may prefer a more central location like Makati or the sterility of a gated village.

Not us.