We just came back from a long week-end in Vigan City, a place I had specifically chosen to celebrate a milestone -- turning 60! Where best to celebrate my official status as an "antique" than in a place
that just reeks of antiquity?
Cobblestoned Calle Crisologo is Vigan's Main Street. Stretching for about 400 meters, it is lined
on both sides with immense, gorgeous, ancestral stone houses -- the famous "bahay na bato".
While you can find these residences in various old towns and cities, it is in Vigan where so many
of them are clustered together -- nearly all of them prime specimens of this architectural style that dates back to Spanish colonial times.
These "bahay na bato", most of them remarkably well preserved, maintained and still in use, are a major reason for Vigan's having achieved its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
One of the older hotels in Vigan is Cordillera Inn along Calle Crisologo. The building dates back to1880s. It was converted to a basic hotel but has recently been spruced up and renovated again a few years ago.
The hotel has two dining rooms - the one on the ground floor is called Cosina Ilocana and has authentic Ilocano cuisine with an honest, home cooked taste.
Even if the hotel is right along Calle Crisologo, not too many tourists wander in to have a meal. Which is such a shame since this is a first rate local restaurant, so much better than the more popular ones down the street.
It may be December but it is a warm December noon. Cosina Ilocana's San Miguel beer is
thankfully and blissfully ice cold.
Poqui poqui, that Ilocano staple of roasted eggplant sautéed soft scrambled with egg, tomatoes and onions is one of my favourites. You can eat it as a side dish or a light main course. Peeking at the top is our only non- Ilocano order of Fish Croquettes which was fresh and tasty (did I detect a hint of tinapa flakes?).
One cannot go to Ilocos and shy away from bagnet. Systolic and diastolic be damned!
Bagnet is accompanied by a platito of Kamatis, Bagoong and Lasona (shallots) also called KBL. Since we were shortening our life spans anyway, we decided to go whole hog
and ordered Sisig na Bagnet. This is bagnet, chopped, quick-fried with chilies and onions and
served on a hot sizzling plate. A fresh egg yolk on top of it all is the coup de cholesterol!
Let the clean and empty serving plates tell the story. Cosina Ilocana is certified G.I ...
Genuinely Ilocano. I could just imagine Manang, lovingly cooking the dishes in the kitchen.
Next time you're wandering around Calle Crisologo, step into the gracious and elegant lobby of the Cordillera Inn. The true flavours of Ilocano cuisine await you at Cosina Ilocana.
Naimbag a Pascua!