Friday, July 22, 2011

A Bacolod Week-end

I just had a chance to revisit Bacolod again, after more than twelve years.
It had changed so much and I was completely bowled over.
Thanks to a dear old friend, an ex-officemate now a licensed DOT tour guide, I saw a Bacolod
that I had never seen and experienced before.

I traipsed through historic ruins....

Rediscovered heritage sites...

Caught glimpses of a faded and glorious past...

And of course, this being a food blog, I ate ....

And ate a lot more.

The week-end was about culture and it was also about cuisine.
After all, each defines the other.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sunset Bay Beach Resort, La Union -- Caught between the Tarmac and the Sea

Just as we do on the first leg of our Northern Road Trip,  we break the journey to give rest 
to my (by now) road weary husband. The 630 kilometers from Pagudpud to United Paranaque 2
is a bit much for one stretch.  Previous years saw us stopping and staying the night 
inVigan, Ilocos Sur.   However, Jay said that since it was a scant 2.5 hour drive from Pagudpud, 
it was too soon and  too near for a rest stop.  We also used to drive up to Baguio taking 
Naguilian Road or Marcos Highway but this time, we wanted to try a La Union stop over. 
San Fernando, L.U. is exactly the midway point between Pagudpud and home.

And so, I found Sunset Bay Beach Resort on the web.  It is located between San Fernando and Bauang, La Union and  we had to ask for directions as it's pretty well off the main highway.
Where it is, is right in between the runway of the San Fernando airport  and a stretch of sandy seashore.
Thankfully, the airport is not used as much so there wasn't any
noise from airplanes landing and taking off that day.
A long way across from the resort, you can see the headlands of Poro Point, where
the old US base has been converted to the
Thunderbird Resort and Casino.
Sunset Bay resort is owned by a foreigner (as most
resorts in La Union are) and has bungalow rooms around the resort
set amidst a charming, nicely laid out garden.

Pricier accommodations are on the second floor of an apartment style building with balconies that overlook the small pool.  There is a separate open air cafe where you can  eat al fresco, under the trees and overlooking the sea.

The rooms though have seen better days but at least, the air-conditioning
worked well and there was cable t.v.  And the view of sea and sand was worth looking at.
And after all, we were only staying for that one night.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Herencia Cafe ...Ilokano Fusion that works

When it comes to food, I don't like fusion --
I think it's an overused word.
It also usually doesn't work, is more pretentious than
progressive and often leaves much to be desired.
What I do like though is inventiveness and finding new
ways to cook a traditional dish, yet retaining its
integrity and over all taste.
Herencia Cafe has become a culinary landmark in
Ilocos Norte and it is in their kitchen where I think
some sort of "fusion" works.
Take pinakbet, that standard of Ilokano cuisine.
Herencia made pinakbet contemporary by using
it as a topping for pizza.
All the ingredients are there -- the bitter ampalaya,
the tomatoes, the ilokano string beans and yes, the
fish bagoong. Blended with cheese, piled on top of
a crisp pizza crust -- it's a new way to enjoy this
traditional favorite.
On this road trip, we stopped at the new
San Nicolas branch of Herencia Cafe.
In addition to the pizzas, we ordered their traditional Ilokano
fare. My favorite is their fish soup,
naleng ta ikan -- sour like sinigang,
so simple yet so good.
We also could not resist an order of poqui poqui -- while it did not
seem to match our other orders, this creamy eggplant dish
is another favorite of ours.
Herencia Cafe is near the San Nicolas church and is by the
plaza and the police station.
Because we were early for lunch, we had the place to ourselves.
I wandered around to the back and
caught the cook in his kitchen where he gamely posed
for a photo -- by the stove where Herencia's culinary
magic is made.

Bagnet Redux

While I have blogged about bagnet in a much earlier post,
it's such a well entrenched part of our Northern Road Trip that
I'd like to write about it again.
This year, I have stopped eating meat but that didn't
stop us from indulging in our annual bagnet buying frenzy
at the Laoag Public Market.
As I do every year, I made a beeline for my suki's
stall. I have been buying bagnet and longganiza from Maan Acorda ever since we started our annual
Ilokos vacations.
Bagnet and longganiza are both sold by the kilo but
I always ask for X number of pieces.
This year, in deference to my semi-vegetarianism,
I "only" bought 18 humongous chunks of bagnet
and 60 pieces of longganiza.
Believe me, I have been known to buy so much more.
Whatever do you do with it, you might ask.
Well, I bring back some for pasalubong and I freeze the rest.
Maan's bagnet stays crisp and crunchy
and doesn't dry out, even after many weeks.
Her longganiza is also very good and
while I don't eat it anymore, the smell of it being fried for breakfast
is a sure fire way to bring back memories of our Ilokos road trip.

Biscocho from Pasuquin Bakery. A Must-Stop on the Northern Road Trip

Aside from the aforementioned salt industry, Pasuquin is also famous for
the biscocho baked by the Pasuquin Bakery.
Slightly flavored with anise (which a
friend of mine says is how biscocho
tastes in Spain), Pasuquin biscocho
comes in soft and crunchy varieties.
The soft biscocho is amazingly squashy and cushy
and really really good. You can
eat it with butter, cream cheese, jam
but I like to have it just as it is.
It doesn't keep for long, three days at most.
The crunchy variety, they say can last a couple of
months without ever turning stale (although
I usually finish all that I buy within a week or two).
As you drive past Pasuquin on the national road,
look out for the sign at the turn that reads
"Biscocho Pride of the North".
You will not want to miss this stop.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Road Home -- the salt flats of Pasuquin

After four slothful, splendid days in Kapuluan, it's time to face the drive home.
Just as on the road up to Pagudpud, we have ritual stops along the way.
A few towns away from Pagudpud is Pasuquin which is a salt producing town.
Since it's by the sea, there are salt flats and a thriving salt industry.
Just on the outskirts of the town are stalls selling bags and sacks of salt.
A large P100 plastic bag lasts us for a year -- just in time to replenish on the next
northern road trip!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Meanest Margaritas in Ilokos at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Right after checking in at Kapuluan, you are offered a welcome drink --
the best ever margarita this side of the North!
One sip of this frozen stress buster and all the tiredness (from the long drive) and
worries (how are things
back at the office?)
melt away.
This sudden decompression must also be because of the
atmosphere and ambience of
where your margarita is
Kapuluan has a
breezily casual
restaurant that adds to the over all
relaxed and relaxing vibe of the resort.
The high thatched ceiling makes for cool surroundings even with a blazingly hot sun
outside. Potted blooms and blossoms floating in bowls are on the tables,
a view of the swimming pool is right in front of you and a small cozy lounge area
is off by the side where you can sit on the sofa and choose a book to read from
the shelf.
The waitstaff are attentive and efficient but never intrusive or obsequious.
The owners' poodles have the run of the place and are charming mealtime companions.
There is a menu with a few well chosen items that range from
native to Cali-Mex to
fusion ... all beautifully
While my favorite Ilokano dish, insarabasab is not offered, they do a
very good dinakdakan.
Bagnet and pinakbet
are also present.
And their version of the
Ilokano empanada seems
healthier with a crisp, puffy, flour based crust and crunchy vegetables from the
organic garden.
Do you want something more western? There are juicy burgers. Pastas.
And fish and chips. But you must try the burritos. A nod to the owners' Southern California
origins, the burritos come two to an order, are big enough to share and
come with a
side of the owner's addictive home made hot chili sauce.
If you want lobster or any special kind of sea food, just give the kitchen some time to
source it from the neighborhood fishermen -- and enjoy it in
time for dinner.
On work days, aside from the daily double dose of caffeine, I hardly have time for a proper breakfast
but in Kapuluan, this is a not-to-be-missed event.
In addition to the Filipino breakfasts of native longganiza or crunchy-as-chicharon daing na dilis you can have mini pancakes with fresh bananas and syrup.
They don't have commercially made pan de sal or "tasty" in this resort.
The chef bakes his own yummy loaf which you can have as french toast or
just plain buttered, with creamy scrambled eggs garnished with fresh herbs.
Coffee is strong and native and freshly brewed but I love the
tea that they make, with herbs just picked from the garden.

A Blue Lagoon Picnic

If the word picnic conjures up visions of adobo,
hot steaming rice, liempo grilling on a
portable barbecue pit, sliced green mangoes with bagoong,
tupperware upon tupperware of home made goodies ...
Well, then you obviously haven't seen how we go on a picnic!
Food is the last thing we think of bringing, save for some munchies to
stave off hunger pangs. Our stash contains essentials like sunblock (Jay's) and
tanning oil (mine) and books and magazines.
Blue Lagoon in June, with hardly anyone around, is the perfect picnic spot.
All you really need is a beach hut to shade you from the sun and some
friendly creatures to share the day with.