Sunday, October 18, 2015

Loco for Coco at Coconut House in Quezon Memorial Circle

A memorial and shrine dedicated to the Philippines' second president happens to be one of the few open spaces in this congested metropolis.  The Quezon Memorial Circle along Elliptical Road in the capital city is also a national park, set on 36 hectares of prime land.  
I hope no one ever thinks of chopping it up and selling it for commercial use as it is a wonderful, large recreational space specially for residents in the area.
While I had passed by the place many times, I am embarrassed to say that I had never bothered to 
go in. 

One week day, a friend who frequents the park invited me to go with her, with a promise of a visit
to a unique store cum restaurant called Coconut House, purveyors of all things coconut.
My husband tends his "farm-den" (too small to be called a farm,  too big to be called a garden) in Lucban, Quezon where there are coconut trees.  I thought it could be a source of inspiration as to what other wonders could come from this versatile and prolific tree.
It was also a great opportunity to see the monument to President Manuel L. Quezon, up close and personal as I had only seen it partially and from the road.
Truth be told, it was quite a stunning piece of architecture, the three pillars that represent Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao stood tall and stately against the horizon -- without any buildings or skyscrapers to mar the view.

There are quite a number of small restaurants and stores along the periphery of the park -- you can bring your car and park by the roadside.  Coconut House was our target and we easily found it -- it's near the Commonwealth entrance of the park.
The restaurant is not too big but it is well lit and clean and at mid morning, the lunch time crowd had not yet arrived giving us the run of the place.

For a small place, the menu was quite extensive and featured the buko or coconut as star.  There were all kinds of noodle dishes  -- buko palabok, buko spaghetti, even buko mami, all of which had very budget friendly prices.

It's semi-self service at Coconut House, you line up and place your order and they bring it to your table.  With the colourful and attractive photos of the menu items, it was just so hard to choose.

In addition to the inevitable buko pie, there were also familiar home cooked dishes cooked in gata or coconut cream -- they even have a laing pizza!

How about coffee, infused with coconut water?  And sweetened with coconut cream. If you want it cold,  you can have it with a scoop of coconut ice cream!

We wanted to sample various novelties on the menu -- but first, we had to have fresh buko, served cold with nuggets of chewy coconut bits on the side.

How about a buko "tuna" sandwich on coconut pan de sal?  Sweet buko strips topped an herbed scrambled egg with a piece of fried coconut meat, slightly smoked and salted to simulate the taste of fried fish.

The pancakes were made with coconut flour which is essentially dried powdered coconut.  It was a bit on the dry side and the butter and syrup certainly helped.  Because this uses no wheat flour, this is  a gluten free alternative for those with gluten allergies.
I didn't ask but perhaps Coconut House sells coconut flour on the side.

My friend and I were so intrigued by the Buko Dinuguan which was on the menu.  It turned out to be a type of porridge with black rice and malagkit or glutinous rice, cocoa and buko strips.  It was garnished with boiled eggs, ginger and green onions and toasted garlic.  No meat at all so this is a good dish for lacto-ovo vegetarians.  

I also ordered buko pancit which I have had in other restaurants.  This is cooked ala Pancit Canton using lots of buko strips along with the noodles.  The buko added a sweetish and fresh taste -- and makes a light and refreshing (and healthy) dish.  

After taking in the unique coconut culinary creations, we headed out to the small store attached to Coconut House where they sell all sorts of coconut by products, including bags made of coconut shells and skin care items like coconut soap, coconut lotion and coconut shampoo.

There is  VCO or virgin coconut oil which they say is the miraculous cure all to everything that could ever ail you.  Jay has been taking a tablespoon a day for many years so I guess it does work.

There is coconut vinegar spiked with chilies and garlic and bottles of coco cider vinegar.  If you believe in taking cider vinegar for health reasons, try coco cider vinegar instead of the frighteningly expensive imported variety.  
Cocos Cider Vinegar at Coconut House is just P100 a bottle, and it tastes good too.  I also use it for cooking and as salad dressing.

For those who can't take too much  salt, there is a CocoNotSoy Sauce.  And a Coco Syrup for those avoiding sugar.  Everything is all natural, as it says on the labels.

Do you have a sweet tooth?  Coconut Sugar claims to help control diabetes and weight gain. I wonder if it can be used as a sugar substitute in baking or cooking?

And of course, there is lambanog, now packaged as Coconut Vodka.  This is the local wine made from coconut sap which is the favourite of drinkers in Quezon and other major coconut producing provinces.
Lambanog packs a hefty 80 proof wallop and yet I find it deceptively easy to drink.  But beware,  one glass can find you under the table, drunk and dead to the world.

We couldn't leave Coconut House without dessert -- a freezer is stocked with all kinds of coconut blended ice cream in different flavours -- they come in single serve cups and bars and half and one gallon tubs.  It was a  cool and delicious way to end our coconut discovery tour.

After enjoying a meal at Coconut House,  you may want to hop on any of the exercise machines scattered around the park, right across the restaurant.  There are all sorts  -- from cardio machines to weight training machines  -- I thought it was a great way to shed all those coconut calories plus
these machines help incorporate exercise into the daily routine of the regular park goers.

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