Monday, February 18, 2008

Northern Exposure: My favorite bites in Ilocos (part2)


More than just delicious dishes, eating in Ilocos was also about the experience. So I decided to divide my gustatory highlights there in two – one for just the dishes themselves and one that includes the people and places. Well, that and I didn’t want to bore you to tears with too long a post…


Batac Empanada at D’Original Glory’s – Much like the dishes I named in my last post, Ilocos is famous for their empanada. A savory “meat pie”, a filling of longanisa and various vegetables (shredded unripe papaya and monggo) surround a cooked egg (hard or soft can be requested) and is ensconced in a bright orange dough…the lot of which is then deep fried. Woo! Touted as Vigan empanda, it is actually sold in many places around the Ilocos region. We didn’t have much time for taste trials though, so we asked our guide to lead us to the best. And he did…in Batac. Here you will find a grouping of empanda stalls under one roof. At the back end of this group you will find D’Original Glory’s. And it is here where you will find the best empanda your money will buy (of course this is a matter of personal opinion and taste). We wolfed ours down, the steaming filling spattered with generous shakes from the bottle of basi (sugarcane wine) vinegar. I can’t say I tried all the empanadas Ilocos had to offer, but this one was the best I’ve tried…so good it almost made us miss our dinner! D’Original Glory’s - Riverside Centro, Batac City, Ilocos Norte.


Midnight Hot Chocolate at Sitio Remedios – We checked into our resort after dinner, tired but exhilarated from a day full of sight seeing. After lazing around in our canopy beds (yes! more on our dreamy resort later…), we decided to get showered, explore the grounds, and perhaps relax with a glass of wine. As we ventured out of our villa, we were met by the resort’s charismatic owner. “Come have some hot chocolate and biscocho with us!” A session of cozy late night sweets? The answer to that question is always yes :) So we followed him to an open-air eating area facing the sea. Soft warm lighting revealed a table strewn with native sweets, including the aforementioned biscocho, a pitcher each of hot chocolate and coffee…and sitting among the other guests, another local blogger! We excitedly introduced ourselves and immediately began chatting about anything and everything. Conversation, and hot chocolate, flowed easily around the table. We sat nibbling on the crunchy biscocho and sticky rice in banana leaf packets which had been boiled in a sugar syrup mixture, listening to another guest regale us with the riveting tales of Juan Luna’s life (Juan Luna is a national artist who hails from Ilocos). A night full of pleasant surprises :)


Biscocho from Pasuquin – Now, more on that biscocho. It was a crunchy golden swirl which made for good dipping (as in the hot chocolate). As we talked the night away, the guest who had brought the biscocho mentioned that he got it from a town two hours from our resort. Another guest also mentioned that they had a soft version, which is basically the bread before it gets toasted to crisp biscocho-ness. Our interest piqued, we made a mental note to see if we could sneak a visit to this town during our next day’s activities…and we did! When I saw the fluffy white buns that were the soft biscocho I already knew I would love it. It is a soft, chewy roll with just the very slightest hint of anise. We ate from our communal bag all day…the rolls keeping us fortified through intensive sight-seeing. Chewing on these soft buns and staring dreamily out at the Ilocos countryside had an almost hypnotic effect on me. I could have eaten a mountain of these! Pasuquin Bakery - Poblacion #3, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte.

Dinner at Sitio Remedios – I’ll going into more detail about our resort in the next post, but for now let me just say that it totally won me over in the ambiance and vibe department. I only wish our trip was longer so we could have spent more time there, lying about and day-dreaming…because if you had been there, you too would see what a perfect spot for day-dreaming it was. It was in this setting that we had, what was in my opinion at least, the most magical meal of the trip – atmosphere-wise. The courtyard was awash in the warm glow of a multitude of candles, on one end was the small stone chapel all lit up, on the other end was the sea with its waves providing their calming symphony. We had Ilocano specialties for dinner, some of which I have already mentioned in my last post. To think we were just two tables (one table with the 3 of us and another with a group of 5 or 6) amidst all this loveliness! This meal was truly a sum of all its parts – good food, gorgeous setting, and great company :)


Seaside lunch at Pagudpud – Although yummy, I wouldn’t say our food at Pagudpud was the highlight of our meal there. It was good yes…we had bagnet, which of course I thoroughly enjoyed (again!) and kilawin, a fish ceviche, which was pleasantly cool on that sunny day. We also had fried fish and grilled eggplant salad…food that tastes extra good when you have it by the sea. We washed everything down with fresh coconut water, sipping from coconuts that were just cut down as we placed our order. Yes, a very good lunch. But the highlight for me was having it all in a hut by a pristine white beach, without the masses of people that crowd our more popular beaches, knowing that I was at the Northern-most tip of the Luzon mainland, the waves crashing on the shore with the energy of currents very different from those of the sheltered coves I’m used to. It was very calming but at the same time had a kind of final-frontier-ish feel about it – not the kind of ambiance you can find at a city restaurant.


The Markets and our take home stash – My food highlights would not be complete without mentioning the markets we visited and the bounty we brought back home with us. At the Batac market we picked up native hand towels, table napkins, and runners made with local Ilocos cotton. To get a small glimpse into the local food shopping scene, we went to the San Nicolas Market. There you can find everything from fish and meat, to piles of fresh vegetables (and local seaweed!). They have a special room for the stalls selling bagnet and longanisa. I think I got a little star struck from seeing so much bagnet in one place! Mmm :) We didn’t buy anything there as we had already commissioned the kind staff at our resort to buy bagnet and longanisa for us to bring home. Among our loot were also garlands of garlic and shallots, sacks of sea salt, and liter-bottles of basi (sugarcane wine) vinegar – all typical specialties of the region. Now I can enjoy a little Ilocos at home :)


I’ll be posting my non-food highlights next…I wouldn’t want you all to think that all I did there was eat, now would I? ;)

25 comments:

Manggy said...

I was wondering why Ms. Empanada cook was so far from the pan... It's probably smarter that she is, haha :) Do you know what makes the dough orange? I've never had one like that. I haven't had too many Ilocano empanadas in my life, as I'm not much of a vinegar-dipper.. I may convert soon, though :)
That "raw" biscocho looks yummy! Anong say mo, we have our own twice-baked "biscotti." I wonder if anybody eats a once-baked biscotti.

Veron said...

ooh...wow...drool. what I would give for that hot chocolate and the biscocho for dipping!

Socky said...

Your guide is right: best ilocano empanada is in batac! Looking forward to your post on Sitio Remedios. I remember marketman had a not-too-good review of the place.

Midge said...

Hi, Joey! Goodness me: all that achuete-orange empanada just fresh from the pan! Biscocho and hot chocolate! I knew I should have had a proper breakfast before reading your blog today. Now, I'm soo hungry...

katiez said...

You're holiday sounds wonderful! I would love to hear those crashing waves...and sleep in the canopy bed...sigh....

SteamyKitchen said...

what a feast!!!

Rasa Malaysia said...

Colorful pictures...I love them. Love those empanada and the two freshilicious coconut! I drink fresh coconut juice whenever I go home to MY...so good! Here I have to opt for frozen ones. Bleh.

Carina said...

i've been to the ilocos region a number of times already and i always enjoyed my stay. yes, the empanada, dinengneng, lato, bagnet, chichacorn...have you seen the windmills? nice no?

katrina said...

I know just what you mean by the ambience and company contributing just as much (or even more) as the food to the entire meal experience. I had a dinner just like that in Bohol (by the way, Part 1 is already posted, Part 2 coming up). I live for those moments! :-)

That picture of the soft biscocho calls out to me! Look at all those layers inside it! Yum, yum...bread... Do they really call it biscocho before it's been toasted, though? I mean, doesn't biscocho mean bread that is twice-baked and crunchy, therefore it should be called something else when it hasn't been?

Megumi's Mumbling said...

First timer here and I'm so impressed with your pictures! They are all artistically taken. Ang galing ;)Your blog is great too. Very interesting topics. A good read!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Manggy! Haha! We wouldn't want to be too close to a pan full of hot oil either :) I'm not quite sure what makes the dough orange...I suspect it's the same food coloring used in kwek-kwek because, c'mon, it is exactly the same color as kwek-kwek and they also sold kwek-kwek in the same stall ;) I like the "raw" biscocho better than the toasted one :)

Hi Veron! It was good :) I'm craving some hot choco now...

Hi Socky! Yay! Glad to have a second opinion :) I loved the empanada from Batac! I believe the owner of Sitio Remedios has changed/improved some things from when MM stayed there...although I must say, give me an ancestral-looking cottage by the sea and I really won't ask for more :)

Hi Midge! Haha! I got hungry just writing this post! :)

Hi Katiez! It was :) I love the sea…

Hi Jaden! No matter where I go, I always look for a feast to devour…heehee :)

Hi Bee! Thanks! I love fresh coconut juice too (here we say buko juice)…you should try it with a bit of rum for an island-style cocktail…yum!

Hi Carina! I’d love to go back and see more of it :) Yes, we saw the windmills…one of my favorite sites! I don’t think I was expecting to get as impressed as I was…

Hi Katrina! Just saw your Bohol pics…really lovely! Yes, I love those meals when the good vibes (due to good company) is just so palpable so feel you can almost taste it along with the good food! And of course the atmosphere plays its part too :) I loved that soft biscocho – when you ask for it you just say “soft biscocho”…as in you can buy hard biscocho (which is redundant) or soft biscocho (which is contradictory) – whatever the case may be…it’s yummy, so I’ll call it whatever they tell me to call it :)

Hi Megumi! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice comment :) Glad you enjoyed the post!

Dhanggit said...

hi Joey, tell me the truth how many pounds did you gain hehehe :-) seeing all those yummy food I'm jealous!
these posts on ilocos that you've made is a heaven sent online travel foodie guide :-)

oggi said...

Beautiful photos! I love the candy floss machine with the vegetables and fried stuff.
Hot chocolate and biscocho, nakakagutom!:-)

Marvin said...

keep these posts coming joey! I am actually beginning to plan my trip now and I get more excited as i read your blogs.

How far is Sitio Remedios from Badoc? Maybe I can work in a visit to that resort if it is close enough.

p.s. does katrina have her own blog now?!! Where is it! I must see it! oooohhh, you girls and your inner circles! ;P

tinymango! said...

oh my lord, how pretty that empanada picture is. and they sound delicious. sausage and papaya. and in a bright orange dough! yum. gorgeous entry, yet again.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Dhanggit! A lot! Haha! :) I'm not counting calories this year ;)

Thanks Oggi! You want to know something funny...I actually don't eat candy floss...but I like the way it looks :)

Hi Marvin! Badoc (which we passed) is in the southern part of Ilocos Norte. It's next to Currimao (which is where Sitio Remedios, is)! I don't know how close time-wise but I can find out (pretty close though because it is closer to Currimao than Laoag is, which is where we landed). If you guys have a car, you can hit most of the places we went to easily :) The furthest would be Pagudpud which it at the northern tip of Ilocos. Katrina doesn't have a blog...although we all try to convince her! That's her multiply :)

Thanks Tiny Mango! :) I think I must have eaten my weight in food on this trip!

Sakai said...

the empanada looks really tempting...

MikeMina said...

Joey,

Great post and photos . . . I'm too far behind my Ilocos Norte post na and here I am looking forward to my 7th visit next month :-)

Manngy,

The colour comes from annatto (atsuete) but I think most empanada makers now use food colouring . . .

MikeMina said...

Marvin,

Badoc is the southernmost town of Ilocos Norte and 15 minutes away from Sitio Remedios . . .

Joey,

Did Gani tell you about Mino's - that Italian Chef based in Badoc? He operates an al-fresco diner in his garage in Badoc serving Italian dishes . . .

Remil said...

I’m originally from Malabon, and they have what’s called “Que-Que”. They’re deep fried whole eggs. And they’re also as brightly colored as those empanadas. The eggs can range from the little quail eggs to the regular chicken eggs. Sometimes you can even find fried balut. Yummy!!!!! I’m going home in April and I think I’ll pass by Batac.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Sakai! It was really delicious! :)

Hi Mike! Thank you! And thanks for all the information :) Lucky you...you're back to Ilocos! Please send my regards to Doc Cuanang, Rene, and Gani if you see them! I think either Gani or somebody else did mention that...sigh, all the more reason to return! :)

Hi Remil! That sounds like our "kwek-kwek"...I like the quail egg ones! :)

ela-kocht said...

beautiful....

ChichaJo said...

Hi Ela-kocht! It really was...

yhen said...

hmmmm... imiss my hometown Batac! thanks for posting your experiences!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Yhen! Glad you enjoyed the post! Batac...yummy empanada! :)