KEEp on Eating: WEE NAM KEE

wee nam kee

For the longest time, I abstained from ordering Hainanese Chicken, having associated it with the “sick person’s food”. With bland memories of pallid chicken – steamed, bleached and taste-free – I feared investing in food that would remind me of the days I missed school.

trinoma hainanese restaurant

Now I wonder where I got the idea that Hainanese Chicken was like that, since it offers quite the opposite: exotically spiced, tender and palatably friendly.

Having Wee Nam Kee, right at the top floor of TriNoma certainly calls for more than a wee bit of excitement. I reckon it’s the only Hainanese place in the locale which makes it a top destination, so to speak. 

Hainanese restaurant quezon city

 

hainanese chicken quezon city

While Hainanese Delights is the more convenient-food court version (though no longer in TriNoma), I was delighted to learn that Wee Nam Kee’s Hainanese Chicken can be ordered in the steamed and roasted variants! That is, if you order the larger size. Don’t that that would be reasonably available for the plated meals.

Hainanese chicken trinoma wee nam kee

Imagine enjoying this chicken in 2 versions, with the smothering of Hainanese sauce-ginger!

It makes this eating experience twice more fun. I never thought that Hainanese Chicken would be curiously sweet, with a subtle hint of hoisin and secret spices that actually make it quite zesty sans the sauce.

Did I mention it was tender without being overbearingly soft?

Seafood Crispy Noodles Wee Nam Kee

While others would love to eat this with the traditional rice, of course I would go for my kind of carbs: Seafood Crispy Noodles!

Seafood crispy noodles are always a staple in these types of restaurants, and Wee Nam Kee is no exception. The generously topped noodles are the usual Chinese seafood fare, but sans the salty surprise. The flavor from the chicken was enough to carry over to the noodles to provide that consistently mild and comforting Hainanese experience.

Wee nam Kee Hainanese Chicken

 

It was comfort food enough, without having to go through the stereotype ramen craving, which can be denting to the pocket, if you know what I mean.

 Wee Nam Kee deserves its own line, albeit beside the competitive Yakimix. Now I know what I want, in case I get sick, and it does not involve soup and asparagus! 

 

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Binondo Food Tripping

Manila food trippingBeen hearing a lot of buzz and drone on food trips, walking tours and whatnot in Binondo, Manila. Like it’s the new tourist hub of Manila, when everyone has had their fill of ramen and tonkatsu – which is kinda funny since Binondo has been there for like, forever.

Ying Ying Restaurant Binondo Manila

 

I can remember visiting Chinatown when I was a kid, and they were not food trips per se. Actually, my lola never really reached the popularity of that term, but she knew the essence of #foodtriptayo circa 80s, when we frequented Ongpin for Crispy noodles, fresh lapu lapu, century egg, and The Shrimp Balls of my childhood grease. Ah yes, and that was the time that awesome Milo Bar was sold in Manila, chunky and large, not like the ones we have today. #bestchildhoodever

Today though, Binondo remains to be the bustling center for legit Chinese delicacies and products from, where else, China. Of course 168 presents Divisoria merchandise in a mall-friendly fashion, not to mention the construction of Lucky Chinatown for those who just want a basic mall, but Old China is still very much in the air, with the kalesas, structures and of course, the food!

While I’m not food tripping addict, I just happened to pass by and eat. No walking tour or immersion whatsoever. Nothing planned, happened to get hungry so eat, pay and get out.

Binondo Food trip jenina gonzales

Ying Ying Restaurant is a multi-level restaurant that looks ho-hum from the outside, a bit crowded upon entry, and just really bustling with moving people and servers. It’s all right though, so long as you’re seated quickly to avoid headbutting beer bottles or chicken feet.

Vegetable dumpling

The menu is filled with so many interesting items, you will swear there must be an imminent visit. Unfortunately Ying Ying did not have Peking Duck (that day), but there were hordes of other dishes to discover and try, like all sorts of dimsum and single-serve appetizers in those staple saucers.

Ying Ying Binondo Review

Hakao Binondo Manila

The Hakao was delightfully fresh, while that Vegetable Roll was definitely a mysterious pocket of hodge-podge veggies. I spied mushrooms and carrots–and since it goes well with the usual calamansi and soy sauce–just great!

Toasted Noodles Ying Ying

where to eat binondo

The toasted noodles with chicken looked strange, outside its soupy form, so we enjoyed it al dente, bordering on the pancit side. The sizzling oysters is perfect for a lunch siding, or just pulutan. It was so flavorful, it may have contributed to the taste of my pancit-like toasted noodles turning it into a seafood fest.

Mix and match, and yes, end with a cup of tea–or make that two!

 

Binondo restaurant review

Tasty Dumplings is so close to the Binondo Church, it makes sense to have a tasty snack there after Mass.

Now that I’ve typed the word “tasty” twice in one sentence, I take it I’m not allowed to use it in the next paragraph or people might think my vocabulary just went down the drain from eating too much dumplings.

chinese food manila philippines

So this restaurant seems to be known for its breaded pork chop / chicken chop because people seem to order it a lot. It’s the batter, probably like those hoisiny Taiwanese batter that when deep fried, leaves off that awesome crunch. That’s it.

And it goes well with rice or noodles, the latter I purposely chose because would you just look at the size of that bowl?!

My chicken leg noodle order (seriously, the part was specified in the menu) was really filling and contrary to how it looks like, was far from gagging salty.

Tasty Dumplings Binondo

We had that kuchai (?) vegetable siding which looks like dilis but in reality tastes like fermented sweetened stems. Might be an acquired taste, but not for now.

If I were to come back, it would be for the dry noodles or more dumplings this time. As you can see, I am a sucker for dry noodles / pancit, or maybe it’s just the heat.

I know that there are so many other joints to discover and conquer in Binondo, so I should probably call this the first leg of the food trip. Chicken leg. Yeah.

Ah yes, there really should be more than that first leg huh. Maybe some duck, soy milk and like real vegetables. #WillStopNow

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Skippy’s Bar and Grill: Ripper Tucker, I Reckon!

the forum bgc australian bar restaurant

If you bludgers want to bog in and get some Ozzie grog and footy, Skippy’s (The Forum, BGC) is the boozer for you.

It’s a spiffy joint for earbashing, billiards and booze. There’s a roo on the wall too—so give it a burl why don’t ya?

Skippy's Bar and Grill Sports Bar

Seriously, Skippy’s Bar and Grill located at the Forum BGC is the dinky-di (real thing) if you are looking for Aussie grub and drinks. It’s the place you go to after work to unwind, grab a pint, watch a game or just get the billiard table humming. It’s at the GF of The Forum, BGC, so if you want to run on the grass or just get some sun, you’re at the right place!

What’s ripper about Skippy’s is that they’ve got nightly bands too on a rotating basis, so if you’re tired of balls and bar fights, you can just chill or sing along (if they let them blokes). The place is practically adorned with Australian relics, road signs and whatnot, it’s like taking a dive Down Under, and that’s even before the grub came.

Skippy's restaurant fort bonifacio band

Skippy’s Bar and Grill specializes in Australian food, which I knew nothing about beforehand. I had imagined skewered roos or beer battered vegemite—or anything with vegemite for that matter—but they’ve got the usual fares, like pizza, salad and meats with some Australian flare—deep fried, heavily battered and big on breakfast!

australian food manila philippines

If you’re big on drinks, Skippy’s menu will also not disappoint. It probably allots a half its menu pages on drinks, cocktails and liquor. Non alcoholic drinkers (like me!) will go crazy too over the choices on fresh fruit shakes and juices.

Personally, that freshly squeezed lemon juice was just so “Good onya” it went well with the deep fried fares.

drinks bar forum bgc

Skippy’s is not just a bar with a billiard table; its TV screens are dedicated to showing sports shows, including the World Cup. Did I say World Cup?

Indeed the bar intends to stay open during the wee hours to show the 2014 World Cup because there are a lot of fans, and heck, a lot of them who are already sick of streaming and eating just popcorn!

aussie food drinks manila taguig

 

But back to the food. As mentioned, Skippy’s has this whole barrage of Aussie food and snacks, it’s not just a footy affair. It’s got breakfast, salad and even rice meals; craving of any sort, including lamb or tapa, is guaranteed to be solved.

Here’s a quick peek on the roster (in no particular order):

breakfast menu fort bonifacio global city

Breakfast platters for the hungry!

Big Breakfast has 2 eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, tomato, mushrooms, hash brown, toasted bread, and butter. Basic Breakfast is, well, a subset of the big one, as it depends on your appetite. Not limited to mornings.

 j.anne gonzales blog review Skippy's

Drinks Galore! Too many to mention but personally, as a boring drinker (aka non alcoholic), the fruit and juice selection is sufficiently well stocked.

The Greens are in. Part vegetarians and dieters have something to rejoice about with the salad selections.

salad bgc forum fort

Skippy’s Salad – Fresh lettuce, veggies with egg, grilled chicken and cheese, served with homemade dressing.

vegetarian fort restaurant bgc

Green Salad – Fresh lettuce mixed with assorted green vegetables and tossed with cheese, ham and egg, served with home made dressing.

lazy black cat food review restaurant

Spicy Chook Fingers – Coated breast chicken fillet fingers. Best served hot and eaten with… your fingers!

j.anne gonzales lazy black cat blog manila

Potato Scallops – Such wondrous deep fried spud creation. Golden crisp and sprinkled with sea salt, it’ll be your number one spud serving!

food where to eat fort bonifacio

Chicken Parmigiana – Tender cheese and crumbed chicken are topped with homemade tomato sauce and grated cheese. This one was a winner since it combined all that cheese and chicken goodness with chunky fries–comfort food variety!

Here’s more to feast your eyes on:

pizza pasta skippy's bgc

Shawarma Pizza

australian food manila philippines review

Aussie Burger

food review the forum fort bonifacio

Shepherd’s Pie – Homemade pie from fresh ground lamb and vegetable, oven baked

appetizer skippy's bar and grill

Dim Sims

Skippys baby back ribs

Baby Back Ribs 

Skippys Sirloin Steak

Sirloin Steak

It’s a lot to bog in, yeah?

Give Skippy’s a burl and while at it poke some balls or chill with the band. It’s a sport bar for real, right in the middle of BGC–with a live band inside and grass outside, so it’s got all the elements of fun and frolic.

If, like me, you insist on having Vegemite Sanger (Sandwich) on the menu, you can make suggestions in their FB page or Instagram account.

I reckon, with Skippy’s own set of sanger, desserts and whatnot, you’d forget about Vegemite entirely. I sure did.

 

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Have Some NomNomNom

nomnomnom blog review lazy black cat

It took me years before I could finally eat at Nomnomnom Happy Food, never mind if I live in the very same Quezon City. Actually, it was THAT long since they moved to their new posh location along Tomas Morato, which is quaint, dainty but still small.

 comfort food vegetarian manila

Of course during predictable circumstances, I would do the impulsively dumb-founding, and in this instance, NOT order salad. Why I did that, I still cannot fathom. But with Nomnomnom’s exquisite and gluttony-inducing menu, a few might understand the behavior.

Going back to gluttony-inducing, I believe the all-white interiors and book pages-cum-wallpaper décor, have created my inept and deprived state. Hence, fried food!

 mozzarella sticks nomnomnom

We had 2 appetizer choices, both of which are fried! Not a sign of happiness; more of stresssssed!

The Mozzarella Sticks were served with 2 kinds of slurpy sauces that seriously make you scoop, slurp and scoop even more! There was a lot of that sour cream and salsa to get us till the next appetizer.

Oh darn I forgot to describe the mozza sticks! They were chunky cheese rolls, made chunkier by the batter. Hmmm-kay would’ve been OKAY! if they had served this right after cooking. In short, the cheese did NOT ooze at all, which is the benchmark for cheesy perfection, in general.

fried ravioli vegetarian appetizer

It must be the NomnomNORM to serve the appetizers with 2 sauces/sidings – which I cannot complain about. The Fried Ravioli (Cheesy Kangkong and Shrooms inside) was just as deep fried as the mozza sticks, and went well with the chopped tomato salsa and yogurt (?) sauce. You can actually mix and match the 4 sauces and still enjoy your mishmash meal.

The ravioli had that musty taste about it, which I blame the shrooms for! Either that or the Kangkong did it. Still, the cheese saved the day; oozing not needed in this scenario.

restaurant vegetarian quezon city

For a change, I ordered Seafood Cartoccio all because I wanted my pasta to be baked and served in foil! I don’t get that a lot at home, except for leftovers. That Seafood Cartoccio came with tomato sauce, shrimp, clam and squid. If I were a clam lover, this dish will disappoint. About half the shells were closed and experience tells me never to pry open these nasty shells.There are no girl-opens-clam-and-gets-the-pearl stories that happen in real life, just a messy plate and tomato splattered dress!

Good thing I like shrimp more – but the shrimps were hmmm-kay too, not so fresh but at least they were easily de-shelled! The pasta was warm and cuddly, the type you eat after a long day at work and intend to eat un-hurriedly. What wonders foil makes!

seafood pasta nomnomnom tomas morato

The Tomato Aligue Pasta was not mine but gleamed its orange hue for the world to see! The pasta though took long to serve. At first we thought that Aligue has become a complex cooking ingredient, but it would seem otherwise, it came in a breeze! Waiter forgot about the order, I think, or perhaps he just hated saying the word Aligue.

What is it even, crab fat?

Still, despite its jaundice appearance, the pasta was more tomato and less crabby and was topped with what looked like Eden cheese. If you’re gung-ho for aligue, don’t expect that crab fat to jump off the plate. If you want a creamy aligue-tomato pasta though, go for it–and make sure the waiter jots it down.

 A-li-guet it?

dessert nomnomnom

To make my stay worthwhile, I needed a a full course, and so it was imperative to order dessert. Since I have been staring at the chiller the entire time, I had made up my mind to order the Turtle Pie. Of course earlier, I thought it was just some Chocolate Mousse type sans the cream but no, Turtle Pie it was!

Great, more “slow” references.

I opted this over the crepe cakes that the girl claimed were the bestsellers. The cakes looked plain and too pale, and the mango-cream combination did not seem to suit my palate after the tomato-on-my-dress episode! The Chocolate Cake looked like a little devil, but the Turtle Pie looked maleficent–so we know who the winner is!

The Turtle Pie was just a chocolate cream over an Oreo crust. Topped with some walnuts and caramel and chocolate sauce, that was it! I was glad to have brought it home (yes, I still had some EQ left) and stored in the fridge for a mega breakfast dessert. It got better and more firm. Would I try it again? Not sure, not with Banapple and others over at Il Terrazzo and it would seem that sweets are not the core products of Nonnomnom.

drinks food nomnomnom

Anyway, Nomnomnom has so many other dishes and creations that I WANT to try. Forget dessert.

I could actually live off on its appetizer listing alone – with all those ravioli offerings! Plus, with pasta and pizza, this definitely necessitates future visits.

Oh dear, I even forgot to mention. They have salad! Uh-oh, who to invite next? :)

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Swensen’s Ice Cream Brings Summer High

opening swensens Sm the block

As implicitly outrageous as it sounds, Swensen’s Ice Cream brought me to an absolute #SummerHigh given its recent opening at SM North The Block.

SM the block ice cream

 

Ice cream sundae sm north

Imagine a hop away from home, and we get instant access to Swensen’s lovely and positively sinister sundaes and cones.

Right at the 2F, near Forever 21 *sigh* and the parking lot – logistically perfect!

philippines food blog

The Swensen’s stall at The Block was launched this May and was well attended by bloggers, shoppers, kids and all sorts of passers by.

Seriously, passers by were not only curious, they got their free cones (first 50) while others really dug in and savoured the various flavours that Swensen’s has to offer.

swensen's sm north line

ice cream flavors swensen's

When we say “flavours”, yes, I mean like loads of choices, you can’t possibly settle for with just one scoop! They have Green Tea, Cantaloupe, Strawberry Cheesecake, Reversible Chocolate, Cookies and Cream and a whole aisle more!

swensen's ice cream quezon city manila

Swensens ice cream flavors

 

swensen's review ice cream

Swensen's ice cream sm the block

Since the place was fairly new though, we had to christen the event with photos, face paint (for the kids) and the usual ribbon cutting ceremony.

I admit, this was my induction in the blogger event realm, and it couldn’t have been better!

Swensen's opens at Sm north the block

swensens old couple

Swensen's kids forever 21

What could be more exciting than having ice cream for lunch?! IKR.

Swensens Manila Philippines

swensens SM north ribbon cutting

The owners and manager were accommodating and just as excited as everyone around. I was tempted to run to Forever 21, but the cling of the ice cream was more intense.

Ice cream fever beats retail therapy. Anytime.

Swensen's launch manila

Swensen opening ice cream sundae

But the real scene stealers were the staff. They were enthusiastically gracious and cool under the pressure of simultaneous orders and inquiries.

SM Swensen parfait

Swensen's happy staff

No, they didn’t flip the whipped cream canister or juggle the Maltesers – although sometimes I wish they slammed the ice cream scooper to announce the next order – but they were efficient and prompt.

Managing crazy orders while prepping the sundaes, floats and what-not was an acquired skill, and they fairly succeeded, on their first day! Bravo!

Swensen's sundae on the spot

Swensens oreo sundae in the making

Swensens oreo waffle blast

The ice cream-bar-man was so used to the clicking and stop-right-there-let-me-Instagram-your-work-in-progress that this outside chaos did not hamper his cream-splashing, nut-sprinkling world of ice cream creation.

Seems like Willy Wonka’s protégé has found better employment at Swensen’s.

Swensens ice cream toppings

Agile and courteous, the sundaes were served fresh from the ice cream bar and still pristine in its frozen state.

Swensen's the earthquake sundae

The Earthquake was massive and everyone that it passed by literally fell off their seats.

When it reached its destination, it certainly caused quite the uproar—but I am happy to report that it left the table in still one piece. I believe the lady who ordered this was never the same, after having left the store, in a state of chocolate high.

Swensens menu 2

Other varieties cater to different flavor and size preferences. Swensen’s Ice Cream has the kiddie servings for the little ones who like their sundaes pink, adorned or just wee enough to carry around! With names like Little Prince and Sweet Princess, I had to stop myself from ordering one for myself.

Swensens the hurricane

The Hurricane is perhaps next to The Earthquake, in terms of size, but don’t underestimate the secondary tempest.

The usual faves Banana Split and Coit Tower are just as resplendent and offer alternatives to the massive sundae bundles.

Swensen's frozen choc malt fantasy ice cream sm

With the signature whipped cream and chocolate dipped cherry and Swensen’s wafer, each serving is sealed with the Swensen’s seal of superbness.

swensens ultimate sundae experience menu

Other creations are sure to haunt you, and first timers will have to go through the menu several times. We understand. I had to take photos to help me decide, remember, change my mind and finally decide!

Swensens menu 1

Imagine that there is one page devoted to Chocolate Fantasy! Decisions to be  made.. More on that later.

Swensen's ring a ding sundae

Swensen’s has the Supreme Sundae poised on supremely tall glasses, one of which is Ebony and Ivory Sundae (ice cream layered with toppings and syrup) which looks so magically glorious. That Ring-A-Ding at the top is neapolitan-inspired, can’t wait to get a taste of all those colours!

The Waffle Sundae offers a break from the usual fruits and nuts with its awesome waffle siding—perfect excuse for breakfast!

Swensen's waffle sundaes manila

Ice cream floats and sundaes are offered to traditionalists and prefer to chill on the “light” side, while there’s the Walk-away sundae for those on the go and need a quick ice cream fix!

Swensens menu 3

The Basket Sundaes are perfect for the basket case as myself—one who wanted a lot going on in her sundae! I went for my usual favorite companions in the world: Oreo and brownies = Oreo Brownie Basket Sundae.

On a bed of waffle cone, Oreo and chocolate ice cream aligned with chewy brownies and topped with Oreo bits. What a wonderfully crisp affair!

The brownies were just perfect and almost stole the act—until the ice cream merged everything into a flavorful creamy show.

Oreo waffle blast sundae swensens manila

Last but not the least comes the Chocolate Fantasy Sundaes, a whole page devoted to chocolate and other complementing toppings.

Enough with the Oreo, my other weakness seemed to be waving at me: Maltesers. Oh my Maltesers!

Swensen's Frosted Choc Malt Fantasy

 The Frosted Choc Malt Fantasy is chocolate everything and topped with Maltesers. Enough said.

Nothing beats chocolate except for chocolate with Maltesers. Chocolate lovers will go nuts (they have Chocolate Crunch, by the way) with the choices, and the creations will not disappoint. You will find yourself licking the spoon and wondering when your next visit will be. Why not next serving, while you’re still at it?!

Swensen's toppings ice cream review

Swensen restaurant blog review

The Swensen’s menu is certainly a dessert trove of delightful ice cream treats. One visit is never enough and like me, you will find yourself planning what to eat on the next visit which is probably tomorrow.

The place may be small—easy to locate though at The Block—but is big on serving sweet joy and creamy serenity. There’s something about a Swensen’s sundae, that finishing if off gives you a kind of high—the good kind though. Maybe it’s summer or my childhood memories. Or maybe it’s a Swensen’s Ice Cream secret.

In case you find out, do tell.

SM Swensens ice cream review

Swensen’s Ice Cream has branches at SM Mall of Asia and Eastwood Mall—so you know where to find me.

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Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)

 

ilocos norte travel laoag

Last in the Ilocos Series comes a smorgasbord of food—by smorgasbord, I mean like a hodge-podge of delicacies, best to name then Unclassified.

To spare you from more chaos, I have refrained from making breakfast posts, since they are not particularly interesting and are eaten out of obligation. And they could bore the city lights out of you.

 johnny moon la preciosa review

Back to the Unclassified, the remaining untackled Laoag restaurants were chosen out of hunger and logistics: Johnny Moon Café and La Preciosa.

 Pagudpud Blue Lagoon

As a finale/bonus/more Unclassified, there is also our Pagudpud Paluto Take Out Lunch Special—a name so long can only describe the choice left for travelers who never plan!

 review johnny moon ilocos

To start off, here’s a bit of trivia we got from the Juan Luna House tour guide:

The restaurant Johnny Moon is not an attempt at creating a cool-sounding joint; it’s an alias for Juan (Johnny) Luna (Moon), who is an Ilocano local.

Juan Luna Self Portrait ilocos

Here’s Johnny!

C-O-O-L. I will admit, even I hadn’t thought of that!

Still awed, we walked to Johnny Moon for dinner.

 Johnny Moon Review Ilocos Norte

Because of a parade (Ilocos Norte-cum-Flores-de-Mayo-cum-local-fiesta), most roads surrounding the Capitol were closed so we had no choice but to walk to Johnny Moon.

We actually had no idea where we were going and asked nearby vendors—who magically brought out a crumpled map of Laoag and directed us spot on. Amazing, these northern folk.

 Johnny Moon Cafe Ilocos Interios

Johnny Moon, as per the tour guide, boasts of the bagnet sandwich and bagnet empanada, which sadly, I met with a pork-er face. If she only knew I was after Juan Luna, she could’ve made up a Spoliarium Sandwich that could’ve gotten us to Johnny Moon sooner.

Having walked to Johnny Moon was a perfect excuse to have double carbs (or triple, including dessert), for dinner! I don’t regret choosing this place for our finale dinner in Laoag; it was Luna-art all over and the food just affordable!

 ilocos pasta

First was the Laureana Pasta Verde which is malunggay pesto with tinapa flakes topped with what seems to be danggit.

Fishy never became this awesome, seriously.

I absolutely love the texture that the crushed danggit provides, while the pesto gives off that comfort food vibe perfect for Juan Luna’s ‘hood. The serving is good for one—but enough to tackle other dishes—wink, wink!

 bagnet empanada

The Ilocos Empanada has 4 variants, if I recall. Two, I can’t really eat but must be bestsellers (longganisa and the winner, bagnet), the plain one and vegetarian. The difference between vegetarian and plain is the egg, and since I love breakfast for dinner, plain it was!

A newbie in the Emapanada-eating society, I had no mighty expectations and just recognized that orange-y crust that can only indicate something interesting inside its crisp, deep fried shell. For P40, I can afford the letdown.

A letdown is certainly was NOT, though. Oil aside, the empanada was delectable and the uncanny ingredients (papaya shavings, bean sprouts and egg) were a melancholy combination. Supposed to go with catsup (no thanks) or the famed Ilocos vinegar (amazing!), I savored it in its bare glory—yummy! This was my first empanada ever and I’d say, I’d be back for more—if Ilocos wasn’t so darn far!

Oh and if you were to ask me to design my own empanada, it would be the plain jane with cheddar cheese. Awesome! I can just imagine the melted cheese erupting after the first bite—purr-fection.

 dessert laoag

Being the finale, dessert cannot be overlooked. While I was already full from the carbo loading, I still went for the Johnny Moon Banana Split with Dragonfruit Ice Cream.

It was a creamy and fruity break from the oil and sodium, and it was a delectable ending for a tiring evening. While I can’t say that I can actually detect the full flavor of the dragonfruit from that wee serving (approximately a scoop), the entire experience was artfully satiating.

La Preciosa Laoag Review

You will notice that organization and order do not exist in my world, since I started with Johnny Moon (last dinner) while I neglected the 2nd dinner, so here goes: La Preciosa.

La Preciosa was chosen for its logistics, and more importantly, because it was recommended online—somewhere with a photo of a huge slice of carrot cake! Sold!

Of course before dessert, dinner had to be served.

 La Preciosa Ilocos Menu

We had more fish for dinner, the fried Bucto (appetizer), Boneless Bangus and Crispy Dinuguan (for the meat eater).

 seafood restaurant ilocos

The Bucto was meant to be a giant version of fried dilis, but I found it absolutely so huge, I think I only managed to eat a handful. Or maybe because the fish head did freak me out and reminded me of well, severed fish heads. I try not be visually un-inspiring, but even the lazy black cat knows when to say “no” to too much fish heads.

 Crispy dinuguan La Preciosa Review

fish ilocos laoag

The Boneless Bangus was my main course and was just so-so. I mean, how else could I possibly describe boneless bangus, huh?!

Don’t remember picking stray bones, so that makes this worthwhile, but the opposite of adventurous.

If any, you should be chucking a book at the monitor for the boredom I may be causing you. I’ll understand.

 la preciosa dessert

Which brings me to the highlight, the Carrot Cake.

The carrot cake can be spotted from a distance because it literally floats in a crown of shredded carrot. The cream cheese frosting holds all those carrot stays into this boulder of beta carotene goodness. Further scrutiny shows that the cake itself is studded with walnut and not much of carrot (seriously, no orange in the batter), but not that it matters—unless you hate raw carrots!

La Preciosa shines in the dessert-pasalubong department, and that carrot cake continues to radiate its orange shreds in my phone archives. Impossible to delete.

La Preciosa has other interesting looking cakes in its menu, just as visually resplendent, but I regret having been born with only one stomach. Maybe in the next life—9 stomachs too?!

 Welcome to Pagudpud Sign

Last but not the least is the longest entry in this post: the Pagudpud Paluto Take Out Lunch Special!

The story behind it:

Blue Lagood/Pagudpud was utterly filled with people; no cottages would take us in and we had to seek shelter in the remotest resort (so remote, its name is negligible). The only recourse for hunger is to go to the main “Paluto” section (near Hannah’s) and take out whichever fish we fancy.

 Blue Lagoon

It was a kilo of Dorado that caught our eye, grilled—with an awful waiting time of 45 minutes! Someone got extra hungry and bought a paluto-longganisa from a nearby vendor, while I had a banana. Boring, as ever.

paluto where to eat pagudpud

The Dorado was decently sliced and grilled, with a siding of tomato and onion—on the house. It tasted fresh and self-sufficient on its own, though a bit of kalamansi-soy sauce on the side did wonders as well.

From my tone (and awe), it may seem that I do not frequent Dampa in Manila—you got it!

Still, eating freshly grilled fish by the sea—in that remote cottage—was just so zen-inspiring and calming. Lunch on the sand, sans the unruly tourists, turned this Pagudpud meal into a stellar picnic.

pagudpud food

So this ends my Ilocos Series. It was a grand adventure, that turned me into a lazy BRONZE cat.

The color will pass, but the memories, always online and in my mental map of things to remember.

 Rocks shadow selfie

There were a lot of wrong turns, lost moments and spacing out while driving (not to mention a Buscopan incident), but all in all, it was a Labour Day Weekend, wonderful and well spent!

Now, back to reality, mates! Till the next holiday!

 

Ilocos Series: 1. The Sights

Ilocos Series: 2. In the Brick of Time

Ilocos Series: 3. Ilocan-Pizza and More

Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)

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Ilocos Series: 3. Ilocan-Pizza and More

 

laoag restaurants review

Enough with this fasting! I have obligingly posted the sights and structures, I may now proceed with the grand-tastic portion of my ILOCOS SERIES: Food!

laoag restaurant

Sorry epicurean seekers. The highlight of my Ilocos food trip was not the empanada.

Instead—drum roll please—the envelope reads: P-I-Z-Z-A!

As biased as it may sound, being the constant proponent of #pizzanight, it was the pizza that gave me the gastronomic bliss, the shivers and the *sigh* moments. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I would like to tackle 2 places where the celebrated local pizzas have graced our dining table: Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant (Laoag) and Herencia (Paoay).  

Laoag restaurant review

Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant was the first destination because it was in my #1-to-eat list, and because it has pizza and pasta, which I can’t bear to live without.

Let me add the word “fusion” so as not to label me a boring blog which shuns gastro-adventure.  

Saramsam Laoag Interior

The fact that an Ilocano restaurant serves pizza is a telltale sign that it’s got some fusion fares worth tasting. And that maybe brick ovens are the kitchen norm up North. Perhaps—I didn’t ask for a tour.

Saramsam moved to Balay da Blas and has a strict reservation-cum-starts-serving-at-7pm-only scheme, so patrons had to wait outside till the clock struck 7:00. Being deviants—tired and lazy deviants to be exact—we asked to be seated inside, as we waited for the clock to strike 6:59.  

That’s when we ordered the Poque-Poque Pizza (LARGE), Saramsam Pasta and Pork Dinakdakan (not mine).

 talong pizza laoag saramsam

The Poque-Poque Pizza, in its 11-inch glory, was a crazy-messy-lovely sight to behold. It’s got mozzarella cheese, deconstructed tortang talong (eggplant), onions and tomatoes, hence the shambolic appearance.

The waitress instructed us to pour chili oil and their diluted bagoong(fish paste) sauce—and what wonders these did! Imagine that I do not eat bagoong, but that watered down condiment just turned the pizza into an exotic surprise! Seriously, they all went together—fish paste salty, creamy cheese and that smoky eggplant.

I finished 75% of the entire plate.  

j.anne gonzales food blog

The Saramsam Pasta was a combination of basic kitchen ingredients like red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, shrimps (a bit small for me), ripe mangoes, and last but not the least, cilantro. That cilantro added to its oomph factor and turned this pasta into a summer pasta fare.

The components fused into a harmoniously sweet and salty affair—that complemented the awesome pizza.

 Saramsam Ylocan Review Restaurant

Lastly, this Dinakdakan was not mine (it’s pork) but looks just picture friendly and tastes (as I was told) just as remarkable. A perfect pulutan to go with beer!  

Herencia Paoay review restaurant

paoay restaurant

  Herencia Café is hard to miss; it’s in front of Paoay Church and posters are abundantly strewn in the nearby streets.

Its claim to fame is serving the “First” Pinakbet Pizza—and I am not quite sure if being first actually translates to yummy, delicious, to-die-for or just hmmm-kay.  

Herencia Menu ilocos norte

A sucker for pizza though—you guessed it—this was a mandatory destination.

Let me be clear though. Despite my vegetarian tendencies, I’ve never been a fan of the pinakbet-bagoong tandem. But, to yield to foodie adventure, we had the pizza combination: ½ Pinakbet and ½ Mushroom (boooring, I know)—for a hefty premium of P70.  

Ilocos Pizza Pinakbet

I chose the Mushroom Pizza because other options were MORE boring like Tuna and Does Queso (2-cheese) Basil. Imagine, 2-cheese! Sadness.

The Pinakbet-Mushroom half-and-half was a splendid cheesy sight, but my bias told me I would like the mushroom more. Correct.

After Saramsam’s Poque-Poque Pizza episode, my pizza expectations went Paoay sky-high, but the Pinakbet Pizza’s toppings were not as copious (compared to the photo). I could count the sitaw (stringbeans) and ampalaya slices, and they could not possibly be a significant source of the day’s recommended veg serving.

It was a bland offering, despite another watered down bagoong condiment on the side. I highly enjoyed the Mushroom Pizza, though with just button mushrooms (and a wee onion slice), this fared badly as a foodie adventure. Just comfort food variety.  

paoay restaurant where to eat

The Pasta Ilocana looked glorious with its cheese and longanisa toppings.  

Please note the olives. Olives in Paoay–cool!

Paoay Herencia Menu

The Tuna Pomodoro Pasta was a creamy-milky affair, but loaded (or redeemed) with chunks of canned tuna. This gets another comfort food award, and went well with the mushroom pizza. If you hate the cloying feeling of too much creaminess, go for the Pasta Ilocana, if you eat meat anyway!

All in all, attempts at the gastro-adventure fares backfired as I found solace in my comfort food staples of tuna and mushroom.

Ah well. It must be the heat.

Still, pizza is pizza and #pizzaisthebest.    

Stay tuned for the last food post of the Ilocos Series, D-E-S-S-E-R-T-S and MORE!

Ilocos Series: 1. The Sights

Ilocos Series: 2. In the Brick of Time

Ilocos Series: 3. Ilocan-Pizza and More

Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)

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Ilocos Series: 2. In the Brick of Time

Ilocos trip review blog

Ilocos Series #1 focused on Mother Nature and everything carved by the wind and sea; now it’s time to shine on the arts and artifacts and everything else unclassified.

 laoag attraction site

 

that onimous sinking bell tower ilocos

It is quite obvious that Ilocos, ostentatiously evidenced by Imelda’s fondness for the arts, is a hotpot for bricks, Baroque structures and grandiosity.

Aside from the usual empanada and sand, which are just stereotypically mainstream, the flair for bricks (redundancy intentional) cannot be ignored, as well as the towering belfry.

 ilocandia travel philippines

ilocos norte philippines

The awesome part of the journey is that I “heart” structures and Spanish-inspired architecture, and they are everywhere!

Laoag ilocos norte

I absolutely adore the Ilustrado era and wouldn’t mind reliving scenes of this period, of Elias and the like.

Of tsokolate-eh and the hope of getting invited for a tsokolate-aaaaah!

 Juan Luna Status in front of his house

Whilst I leave the rest sans the unnecessary text, worth a special (albeit biased) mention is the home of Juan Luna at Badoc, Ilocs Norte.

A gung-ho for this part of Philippine history, I very much enjoyed the tour of his (and General Luna’s, his brother) home.

Juan LUna House Badoc

Replicas of paintings adorn the house, not to mention a quarter size copy of the Spoliarium.

Juan Luna Spoliarium Ilocos

His self-portrait marks the first #selfie, while his code name Johnny Moon is to be tackled in the next food tripping blog post.

Juan Luna Self Portrait ilocos

Ah Senor Luna, what joy it was to traverse the steps and brick walls of your old abode. Surreal!

Juan Luna Bed

Juan Luna Badoc Kitchen

Churches are very much part of history and the Spanish dominance. They lord over the towns, but not as much as the belfry/bell towers!

Paoay Kumakaway

Paoay Church: Old Stone Marvel

Paoay Church Interior

Architectural rule of the north: belfry towers over the dominion, next is the church and everyone’s favorite prayle (friar).

Domeless bell tower church

Bacarra Church, Beside the Domeless Belfry

Domeless Bell Tower Ilocos

Beside the Dome-less

Tagudin ilocos sur fiesta 2014

Tagudin Town Fiesta

Tagudin Church

Inside the Tagudin Church, Ilocos Sur

Batac Church Ilocos Norte

Batac Church, Birthplace of Marcos

No such thing as wood in this brick laden society. Take that, big bad wolf!

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse from Afar

The Cape Bojeador Lighthouse would’ve been a break from the religious artifacts, but of all days, this was under construction.

And so best I could reach was the bottom of the stairs or just a view from below.

 Cape Bojeador Lighthouse Ilocos

ilocos cape bojeador lighthouse

Lighthouse cape bojeador philippines

 History and culture, showcased in the many marvelous attractions and structures in Ilocos, will always be my the best parts of travel.  

Malacanang of the North Ilocos

imelda marcos dress

MArcos Malacanang of the North

Still in Malacanang

Lazy Black cat travel ilocos

And a bit of bonus for the weary travelers.

laoag travel philippines

Laoag May Festival

philippine fiesta

This concludes the 2nd part of the Ilocos Series, which now brings me to the more exciting part of the trip. FOOD!

As a teaser, here’s the sundial souvenir in our first stop, Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant.. to be posted next!

Tagudin Sundial Souvenir

Ilocos Series: 1. The Sights

Ilocos Series: 2. In the Brick of Time

Ilocos Series: 3. Ilocan-Pizza and More

Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)

 

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Ilocos Series: 1. The Sights

ilocos travel philippines

As a newbie tourist in Region 1, as part of my initiation, I had to climb rocks in flip flops, overtake tricycles en route to Pagudpud and bake in the Paoay sand dune sun. Taking quick photos was acquired in time, as well as reading maps for navigating purposes and differentiating the fat red line from the thin red lines!

ilocos sur first sundial

Sundial at Tagudin, Ilocos Sur

While I’m no travel blogger (Ilocos food trips in succeeding posts), best I can do is publish the awe inspiring and never-thought-I’d-see-these-in-the-Philippines sights and attractions. 

vigan philippines

ilocandia trips travel

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

It’s a series of photos from the Ilocos Region, Philippines. And there are just instances, like now, that the pictures can suffice on their own.

Region 1 philippines

currimao ilocos norte

Currimao Fluvial Parade

currimao philippines

Currimao Rock Formation

This post is dedicated to nature’s bounties and the like, mostly rocks that really are more inspiring when viewed for real. Never been a fan of rocks and sand, but when you see them clumped together, bathed in the sunlight, in all odd shapes and angles, not one of these photos can really capture their scenic uniqueness.

kapupurawan rock philippines

Hermit Crab on Rock

philippines travel ilocandia

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

Slanted rock formation ilocos

Looks like a jedi scene

And here is what seems to be “Middle Earth” in Ilocos. There already are windmills spotted in the Kapupurawan Rock Formation section. Rock and Windmill!

Still Middle earth amidst rock formation

Ilocos norte kapurpurawan

Burgos, Ilocos Norte’s own version of Middle Earth

Ilocos Windmills sand

Windmills Still

Ilocos Norte Windmill up close

Burgos, Ilocos norte

This rock in Pagudpud just stood out like a polo, the rock with a hole.

rock witha hole pagudpud

Pagudpud Rock and Hole!

Blue Lagoon

Rock Formation Philippines

 

Of course, I have to end with what seems to be the sport of the North – well actually anything involving the sand dunes.

When trying to be dauntless, the choice activity is driving around in an ATV with no supervision whatsoever.

Drive, get dirrrrrty and worry about the tan later because when in the dunes, you can only think of surviving!

Paoay Sand dunes bayad first

Paoay Sand DUnes Ilocos Norte

Paoay Sand dunes ilocos philippines

Best time to visit the Paoay Sand Dunes would be early morning or sunset. Any time in between, like what we did, will give you a tan of a lifetime!

Sand DUnes ATV Philippines

 

Paoay Sand Dunes Jimny

 

That’s it for this part. Stay tuned for more of the Ilocos Series!

Ilocos Series: 1. The Sights

Ilocos Series: 2. In the Brick of Time

Ilocos Series: 3. Ilocan-Pizza and More

Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)

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Brasas de SM Aura

sm aura food court

Despite receiving an “Excellent” grade in Spanish throughout high school, all my classmates know that was a joke. So haha! Or better yet, jajaja! For the life of me, I would not survive in Spain, or New Mexico with my current diction, and my Spa-galog will not help feed me either.

 brasas latin american street food

Which will explain, why, when I read Brasas, the first thought that came to mind was of an “arm” (for brazo) and then “braces” (out of desperation). Discontent flooded my head and so to put an end to this seemingly infinite guessing game, I googled the damn term: Hot coals. Muerto.

 Brasas SM Aura

That’s why everything is grilled and involves a kind of barbecue set-up, plus the “Street Food” title giveaway. Whilst there were no real coals in SM Aura, which would be really amusing considering that it was the SM AURA PREMIER, there was that stir fry mechanism that was good enough, I suppose.

 Brasas Latin American Street food

I ordered the only thing that the diet would allow, which started off as difficult since a lot of terms involved carne, patacones, pulled pork and more carne, was salad—chicken salad specifically. Even the fries are topped with meat, so it’s salad or hunger for me!

 lazy black cat review

The chicken salad is topped with tortilla chips and carrots, and I opted for Cilantro Lime vinaigrette because it seemed to be the healthiest choice (over orange walnut and honey lime Dijon).  The dressing actually tastes like its name which was terrific because I love both cilantro and lime, so their combination makes it even better. Unfortunately it came in a wee serving, so I had to scrimp on the dressing, rather than slather and slurp, which I normally do on rare occasions when the dressing is fantastic!

 jenina gonzales food blog

The chicken is supposed to be the “brasas” highlight, and it was in fact really tasty, smoky and quite plenty!

The flavor went well with the dressing and for its mediocre portion, was good enough for a hungry me. I’ve had other similar chicken-topped salads, but by far, this was surprisingly a decent choice for its price.

Not to mention after a sad experience with my Chicken Salad at Chihuahua for 2x the price, I’ve been quite down—so this new find has redeemed the chicken salads of Latin America! Ole!

 j.anne gonzales food review blog

So for those who may find it difficult to find tables and seats in the regular SM Aura restaurants (damn you Yabu, Todd English, Ramen Nagi), do visit the generic food hall. It does not disappoint.

It has Sbarro, Four Fingers, Slice, Pepper Lunch, that Chinese dimsum place and yes, Brasas.

Find a comfy spot and let the Brasas warm your appetite, not your wallet.

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