Early Monday morning is when I make the long trek from my home in Paranaque to the Ateneo de Manila in Katipunan, almost 20 kilometres away. The once a week class that I teach does not start till 9 a.m but I leave very early so as to beat the rush hour traffic.
I leave the house without taking breakfast and am always on the lookout for a place along the way that's open and that serves good coffee.
Starbucks used to be my usual stopover until I discovered Conti's in Blue Ridge.
Open at 7 a.m., it serves a variety of breakfast choices ... and coffee comes with free refills.
You can't get a better deal than that.
Since I've made it my weekly "almusalan" I have tried almost all their breakfast items .... and then some.
I can never pass up longganisa and Conti's Mom's Garlic Longganisa served with fried rice and egg are bite sized but hearty morsels of deliciousness. If you have aswang (vampire) blood, don't be put off by the name -- the garlic is not so overpowering but balances well with the other spices. The ubud atsara served on the side is an ideal counterpoint.
I come from Malabon where the best tinapang bangus comes from. Conti's serves a very good version (I am sure it's from my hometown!), an entire tinapa, deboned and perfectly fried. The accompanying tomato and egg salad is a delicious alternative to the usual fried egg.
If you do not like smoked fish, you can opt for the boneless daing na bangus. It's a sizeable piece so you won't miss the fact that you are not eating the entire fish.
Before I ordered the beef tapa, I asked the waiter if it was sweet and he assured me that it was not. The beef is shredded and fried till almost crisp. I like the soy-vinegar-pepper mix that it must have been marinated in.
One Monday, I tried the American breakfast -- bacon, two eggs, homemade mango jam and slices of their toasted brioche bread. I regret not telling the kitchen that I like my bacon soft but if you like your bacon well done then you should order this.
How about Conti's version of Eggs Benedict? These are two poached eggs on top of creamed spinach on a buttered and toasted brioche slice. A creamy cheesy sauce completes the dish.
This is more of a brunch item, I guess. I found it a bit too rich for an early morning meal.
When you visit Conti's at 7 a.m, you can only order the breakfast and sandwich items on the menu. I did have their very filling Clubhouse sandwich where the bread was lightly buttered, dipped in egg then fried. I couldn't finish this and had the rest of it for lunch making it a very economical choice -- two meals for the price of one!
By the way, the shoestring potatoes were crisp, hand cut and freshly fried -- better than any canned variety!
Since I was showing up every Monday like clockwork, the early morning crew knew me well enough. The waitstaff would always have welcoming smiles when I walked through the door.
One morning, the waiter asked me to try their new sandwich offering ... barbecued chicken with bacon on brioche bread.
Conti's sandwiches are better for bigger appetites, I could only finish half.
It's back to rice meals for me! The pork tocino is thankfully not a bright red or pink. The pork slices were fork tender and the sweetish glaze reminded me of teriyaki sauce.
Yes dear reader, this post is an (almost) complete list of Conti's breakfast menu. The only dish I have not ordered is their Bangus Belly Adobo simply because I do not eat bangus belly.
The photo above shows Conti's Batangas pork adobo -- chunks of meltingly good pork belly cooked with atsuete, garlic and vinegar. My father used to make this but he called it adobong pula.
Conti's version is almost as good as his.
For a sweet ending to breakfast, you can order any of Conti's signature cakes. My particular favourite is the mango torte -- light, not too sweet and fragrant with the scent of ripe golden mangoes.
It puts a smile on my face and I'm ready to face Monday and the week ahead!