Tag Archives: Philippines

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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Beets Please: California Pizza Kitchen

Food pizza restaurant manila review

I have abstained from eating at California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) for the longest time, albeit not related to utensil hygiene or rude service, but from a domestic altercation memory best left be buried in my metal abyss.

It would seem that I have gotten over that trauma—though unfortunately for CPK, it has become associated with adverse heart palpitations and childhood doom. Which partially explains why whenever someone asks about CPK, I always forget that a branch exists in Trinoma. For this idiotic lapse, I apologize.

To make up for my unforgivable food-related blunder, I have thus decided to write about CPK, but of course, expect the usual candor.

 Quezon City Pizza Restaurant

What is fabulous about the CPK Trinoma branch is that it’s located in a remote and private section beside Mango Tree Bistro, at the al fresco wing, but way quieter. Of course that peace was shattered when one of the patrons gave the shrillest squeal I have even heard—too alarming for a mouse but too short for a siren—so yes, it was certainly produced by a real girl.

Why she did that, it will forever be buried in the CPK CCTV archives, but no, it wasn’t me. She beat me to it. Boo.

Before you continue reading, let me just warn you that I went to CPK for the SALAD and not the pizza. Yes, I had on that pseudo diet mindset that evening and wanted to have my share of dessert, and so to please both my body weight and palate, I opted for salad. Blame the math.

While it’s just silly to go to California Pizza Kitchen and not eat pizza, it’s just like going to a bar and drinking water. Yes, I do that. I admit, I am not fun company.

 

And so, for the salad I will give you 2 kinds: Like and I-tried-to-like-but-just-can’t.

 

Let’s start with the bad news: Chicken Moroccan Salad.

 j.anne gonzales blog

In an effort to have “everything on it” this salad does the job. It literally has a smorgasbord of toppings, some of which you have never tasted in your life. Imagine beets. I thought beets were for old or sick people, and here they were, topping the salad like purple rhinestones on a crown of green. There were dried cranberries, avocado, almond slivers, dates (eww to the highest level) –the chicken was drowned by these festive tops.

Funny thing is, I forgot the dressing, whatever it was and the chicken, so it became a fruit-and-nut salad explosion. It also caused quite an explosion in my belly. Vroom-vroom. Biofitea, begone.

Then comes the promise of a return to CPK: The Original BBQ Chicken Chopped.

 jenina gonzales vegetarian salad

Now this one’s a winner, just by going through its name and composition (chopped lettuce, black beans, sweet corn, jicama, cilantro, basil, crispy corn tortilla strips and Monterey Jack cheese). Right? It isn’t just that it’s made up of the greatest toppings on Earth, it’s the way they’re tossed and come together in this Mexican fiesta of a salad. If all salads were like this, who needs pizza, huh?

Trinoma California Pizza Kitachen

All right, I lied a bit. I did have pizza, but the simplest kind, not the fancy, gourmet, artsy type that hipsters would order. Just the simplest version to appease my simpleton craving for mozzarella cheese. And yes, they do have that kind as well that goes by the conservative name: Traditional Pizza.

I did not make that name up.

Traditional Pizza is just mozzarella cheese on top. Rather than torture my arteries with mozzarella sticks, I went for the pizza instead. Good choice (pat on the head, lazy black me). It was chewy and comfort food tears-in-my-eyes satisfying.

The Chicken Moroccan Salad went on top of this pizza to balance its horrific and unknown ingredients. It was my hope to blanket these aliens with mozzarella presence. Kinda worked too.

sandwich quezon city trinoma

There also was another strange presence on the table, which was another traditional looking piece of homemade bread (I forgot the name of this Chicken Sandwich), but sadly was not mine. I could only click and salivate from my end. The happy diner was happy until the last bite, so I take it was a poultry success of a sandwich. It was the most Instragram-genic of the dishes as well.

Maybe next time.

But before anything else—note to self—there is CPK in Trinoma. Now don’t go driving off to U.P. Town Center for pizza. The parking there is just horrible.

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The Village Tavern: That Scrummy Supper

jenina gonzales food

The Village Tavern is perhaps the closest thing to an Irish pub that I would find in this life—unless I manage to sneak into someone’s luggage to the United Kingdom, an idea I find rather feasible given my size. I have always envisioned the authentic pub as brick-layered, partly rustic, showing the occasional football game with screaming-jostling abound. A leprechaun or Ron Weasley might make a surprise visit but other than that, mugs clicking are the staple.

bonifacio restaurant bar

The Village Tavern in BGC offers a different perspective to the classic pub theme, elevating the experience to high end, grandiose American, gastronomic experience. Perhaps relying entirely on the word Tavern is a misnomer worth welcoming, since focus on meticulously prepared food will find greater appreciation in a hunger stricken place like Manila. The meticulously prepared food also has a price, a bit too much of it. Let’s just say Ron Weasley would go all “Blimey!” once he reads the menu and might have to skimp on Butterbeer for a week.

restaurant taguig

The serving size ought to make up for the costly meals, but for those served for the solitary diner, best to credit presentation and restaurant lighting as contributing factors to the food cost.

bonifacio high street restaurant

The Tavern Nachos are the usual kind, glammed up a bit with monterey jack, cheddar, salsa, sour cream. Being the resident vegetarian, the beef was requested to be placed on the side—to which they obliged. There is nothing absolutely special to say about the nachos, since nachos are always exemplary unless topped with Kraft cheese, so as a default appetizer, nothing beats nachos. Except anything with mozzarella.

jenina gonzales restaurant article

The Onion Rings are probably the cheapest item in the menu, probably because they were more batter than onion. As an inexpensive siding, they were hmmm-kay. As a person allergic to oil, grease or trans fat, stay away.

j.anne gonzales fort bonifacio

The Jalapeno Poppers are said to be the bestselling items in the menu, frequently favored by food bloggers or anyone who loves to get creamed and spiced up at the same time. Unfortunately, the bacon prevented me from digging in, but with the sour cream cheese and fried presence, these poppers find it impossible to be everyone’s favorite. Again I’d be bound to ditch this over something with mozzarella, or the nachos for that matter—and the meat eaters will agree.

j.anne gonzales food review

Another strange and fatty concoction of Chorizo and Cheese – not mine.

food trip bonifacio highstreet

The Flash Fried Calamari was a dash of seafood splendor. Albeit a small serving, the bite size pieces found themselves all over my salad and plate. They were cute to look at and left a lasting memory in my palate. They also disappeared in a jiffy – like a flash someone ate ‘em all!

Taguig american comfort food

What I am grateful for is salad. Anywhere I go, salad is normally the safest choice. Having seen the Chicken Thai Salad served about 4 times since I got to The Village Tavern, it warranted an order – just for me! Maybe it was the towering greens or the wonton strips or the Asian allure. For me, it was the curiosity. A bit on the sweet side, but with cabbage, edamame and delectable chicken strips, this was worth the rare caloric fest.

bonifacio central restaurant

The Black Pizza is sadly not mine. Topped with meat and pepperoni, I can only stare and sniff. My, my, the black crust alone was drool-worthy so I needed a bite, at the very least! Look at those herbs; they were calling out to me!

Black Pizza Bonifacio global city

Good thing there was a meatless niche and graciously sliced for me. Ah yes, this cheesy chunk of black pizza was fantastic, chewy and teary-eyed yummy all throughout. Being a crust hater, this is one of those rare occasions I happily finished the crust. It was a mind boggling crus-terrific slice. I wish there will be vegetarian or seafood options for this one!

mussels cappellini seafood

The angel hair Mussels Cappellini is exotically named and brandished on a soup bowl. The pesto-white wine sauce complements the mussels but others, like myself, may find it on the sea-salty side. Perhaps my parmesan was uncalled for, or my palate is just unfamiliar with Chilean mussels, which is strongly the case. Pardon the seafood deficiency since my most extensive background hails from the overly bland cream dory. Overall though, the angel hair and soupy texture lighten the saline rush and we get a pure mussels madness—with all that iodine and zinc, we should be getting smarter, awright?

dessert lazy black cat

I Instagrammed my Double Decker Cheesecake, labeling it as death, or a welcome to it as such. Though double in layers, it could perhaps feed a family, a large one for that matter. The layers of Chocolate and Cheesecake make you forget that you are in a watering hole where drinks and friends are the reason for convening; with this giant slice in front of you, only the cheesecake matters. It’s brick of a cheesecake will make you forget even your BFFs, guaranteed a near sleepless night and will make you wish you didn’t order those jalapeno poppers instead.

vegetarian bonifacio restaurant

Trying to personify vegetarian in the dessert arena, ordering the Very Best Carrot Cake was imperative! The cream cheese icing was a tad too much after having a creamy salad, but a dollop here and there could be spared.

Chocolate torte lazy black cat

That St. Barths Chocolate Torte at the background was not to be messed with. Sweet through and through and only with the vanilla ice cream to counter the sugar kick, this was the devil in disguise. Good and evil on a plate. You ought to consider confessing after this uber-sweet-treat.

If there’s a reason to go back to the Village Tavern, it’s to eat all those blasted desserts. Big enough to feed a village—so that’s where the reference comes from, mate!

restaurant bar fort bonifacio

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Piece of Cake

cake dessert manila

Of course we know that nothing in life is just a piece of cake. Either it’s a box, a giant slice, a mouthful – but never a wee bite!

Turns out I’ve been hoarding photos in my phone (you hoarder!), which have never seen the light of day. Oh those calories! They need to be let out, to tease and to torture others, not just me!

And so here’s the cake collection as of late, a bit of gelato, but mainly sweets and those treats that keep you up at night.

Starbucks Classic Chocolate Cake: Always a classic, decadent and available. The best pick-me-up for doomsday. Isn’t that everyday?

Manila philippines best desserts

Starbucks Toffee Nut Slice: Invented that holiday name since I forgot its ultra long name that even the barista cannot remember. Cheap and not too sweet, Starbucks’ budget friendly response to the hungry Scrooge–that was me!

lazy black cat manila blog

2nd’s Frozen Hazelnut Cheesecake: Topped with a Ferrero ball, it gets creamier and creamier after every bite. More foamy than hazelnutty, feed only to the underweight.

2nd's Bonifacio global City

Village Tavern Carrot Cake: Oozing with cream cheese, the cake is carrot comfort saviour. Moist and chunky, rabbits will go wild and die of OD – on sugar. Good thing I’m more of a cat, you know.

dessert bonifacio highstreet

New Orleans Bourbon Street Mudpie: Zero ice cream, 100% cake.The sweetness level goes overboard so either have the beer or the cake; make no mistake of having both, especially on date night!

fort bonifacio bar dessert

Starbucks Guilt Free Cheesecake: Looks bland but the amusing layers offer vanilla, chocolate and oreo. For a sugar free creation, that’s quite a spectrum and a let’s-pretend-I’m-on-a-diet treat!

Sugar free cake

Caffe Ti Amo Waffle and Gelato: For an often-overlooked joint Caffe Ti Amo has become a haven for the hiding, criminals and anti-socials who linger in Greenbelt 5. The gelato is spectacular, simply because they offer Green Tea. That’s it. Oh, and they have a rocking chair. Beat that.

Greenbelt 5 dessert

makati food

That’s it for my recent phone uploads. It’s been a blast and I look forward to more leviathan servings of cakes this year–starting tomorrow!

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Throwback Baguio

lazy black cat philippines

My last Baguio trip was such a #tbt, I was young, naturally black haired and still a carnivore.

In my recent trip, I had to summon Dora the Hexplorer and take on the defensive, as it was my first time to ride a bus alone, to the north (#whattaloser). Still, with the promise of vegetables and that December chill, 6+ hours of Victory Liner was worth the pain in the butt, so to speak. 

Baguio travel j.anne gonzales

If you are expecting photos of mountains, camps and a lion’s head, sorry to burst your bubble, but I can be the pain in a butt of a tourist—too lazy to take out my phone and too indifferent to Mother Nature and her call for a #selfie.

Besides, with all the Baguio tourists doing the cliché and falling for the tourist traps, Google is sure to be flooded with #myawesomebaguiotripphotos and #baguiowiththebarkada or #ilovebaguioiwannalivehere. I wanna live in Baguio too but I can’t live with only one mall, which happens to be SM.

 Baguio travel trip

Prior to this journey, I managed to read a blog or two on where to eat and unconsciously remembered 3 names in my mental meal list: Bliss, Oh My Gulay and Azotea (OM, or is is Azalea? Apathy?) You can probably guess that the last item was not the one we visited. For the love of all things green, this may have even been named Amber! Not.

 Baguio session road vegetarian

Oh my Gulay! (Seriously!)

jenina gonzales food review

 Positioned on a rooftop along Session Road is Oh My Gulay! A green-ish habitation-cum-art-gallery, it is a resting place for vegans, hipsters, artist wannabes—and lost bloggers. For a monstrously named restaurant, it looks like Alice in Wonderland meets Goth meets Misty Day, which makes it oh-so-cool in my Baguio eats list.

 baguio vegetarian restaurant

baguio restaurant

The price range is also so-sooooo-cool, perhaps being in Baguio, with P100-200 per “pwede na” serving size of pasta or entrée. Since we had the habit of walking to and from places—feeling Hong Kong—we skipped the cab, burned calories and had every excuse to load on carbs!

 onion rings baguio

The Onion Rings came with this savory Asian (tempura) dipping sauce that I wanted to finish with a teaspoon. Lightly crisp but a bit on the oily side, I’d say onion lovers would cry in delight with the size of the onions inside!

 Oh My gulay vegetarian

The Mushroom-onion Crepe was a strange choice, but was filled with stringy mushrooms and topped with this fabulous yogurt-garlic sauce. The crepe is a bit on the sweet side so treat it with dessert-ly reverence and it will pay you back with healthy digestion.

 Food trip baguio

The simple sounding Tomato-pesto pasta is the plain Jane in the pasta list. Still, it was a hefty serving for two, came with a bit bloated noodles and had that sweet tinge of—strawberry or sugar?  The slight chunks of tomato and basil strips made this one chunky vegetarian fest.

 Oh My Gulay Baguio

All in all, being part vegetarian, it is a comfort to find places such as this. Not having to ask if there is meat in the dish or if it’s vegetarian—ah yes—now that’s living the life, vegetarian style!

 baguio nice restaurant

Forest House (More of cabin in the woods, sans the horror, gore and bad acting.)

The Forest House is located near Camp John Hay (or within it?) and true to its name is a house-cabin that will welcome you with wooden interiors, thick carpets, a real life burning fireplace, families singing, warmth, joy and hope—you know what I mean! They have a veranda that exposes you to the natural cold, so if you don’t have a sweater at hand, you really should not have visited Baguio—or better yet, just stay inside. I don’t think they allow guests to roast s’mores but you can try.

 restaurant camp john hay

Baguio restautant

I was tempted to order soup but realized that I was better off having dessert (that’s called compromise), so the appetizer ended up being something as normal as Calamares. The drawback of sitting in the veranda is that food gets cold before they even reach you, so I suppose ordering calamares was not that bad of an idea.

 camp john hay restaurant

Main course was Baked Fish with Spicy Ginger Paste and mashed potatoes on the side. For a part vegetarian, I am bound to lose in the guess-that-vegetable game, since I learned that I am actually a vegg-ignoramus. Well, carrot is a given but that white one is so not turnip. What the heck is labanos?!?

The dory was a bit on the salty side so good thing the mashed potato was unsalted. It suddenly felt like Forest House – Asian edition. Good enough.

Dessert Forest House 

For dessert was the Black and White Torte, which I chose over cheesecake and chocolate mousse. This came in 3 layers of monochrome madness, the middle layer being the best. The top portion is not cheesecake but was like a creamy vanilla yema, if that makes sense. Very filling, I dare not think of the calories. Still it was an awesome way to cap my chill meal!

 j.anne gonzales travel

Other Baguio treats were present but did not warrant photos (#tootamad) such as the staple Good Shepherd sweets (I bought chocolate chip oatmeal cookies—how mainstream, I know!), Solibao (Filipino restaurant but I had Fish and Tofu in Tausi Sauce), Baguio Country Club raisin bread (ate it for 3 days straight) and the freshest strawberries in the Philippines.

Philippines market

philippines baguio travel

 Baguio Lazy Black Cat

Ever heard of Sno Cone? Well you’ll never taste it, but it makes a great vintage photo.

Lastly, a trip would not be complete without my personal souvenir. Ah yes, weapon of choice: the wooden Kershaw! Thanks Gambit! :)

 baguio kershaw

Till next time, Baguio! May I still have the same hairstyle during my next journey.

lazy black cat baguio

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Let’s Play (Fair): The Payatas Experience

j.anne miji gonzales blog

Confessions of a Payatas Volunteer

Back in my scholastic days, I always succeeded in circumventing activities involving outreach and social involvement. Volunteerism was outlawed in a calendar filled with academic priorities and officer duties. Today I chastise myself for this absurdity. For selecting geek-ness over charity, immersion is the only way to check if I do have a soul. I fear I lost it when I first rode the Ikot.

 And so for the infamous Payatas—my first time came in the most unusual invitation of all, a Payatas Football Club clinic and Grand Opening of the FFA drop-in center. More on those strange terms later.

football charity philippines

Join the (Payatas Football) Club

Partly representing Global FC, I came to Payatas in my most fail-safe get-up, dreading to co-facilitate the football clinic because in all honesty—despite owning a legit Lazy Black Cat jersey—I do not play football. Still I went there with the expectation to help, try to teach, to make up for my decades of social complacency and lastly, to learn what in the world is this Payatas Football Club.

miji gonzales blog football

At least prior to this, I already knew that such a club exists and no longer felt the shock when I spotted a barangay of children playing barefooted football in a basketball court. I don’t even walk barefoot at home, and there they were, hordes of little ones playing football on their feet like nothing else mattered in the world. Welcome to Payatas.

football poor children philippines

As it turns out, the Payatas Football Club is coached by British but Payatas dweller Roy Moore. It seems that Roy exemplifies the genuine volunteer’s life; he lives in Payatas and holds this clinic on a weekly basis—no setbacks. Shame on those who’ve never even heard of Payatas.

football volunteer philippines

With 60+ children populating the court, the group was divided into 2 age groups and instinct made me gravitate me towards the little ones—and boy, were they little! It was rather amusing to watch these kids (I’m guessing 7 and below, but I could be wrong because they were all small for their age) kick the ball which was half their size. They wanted to learn football and did the drills with almost perfect compliance. They performed the burpees so effortlessly, it seemed that they were filled with air.

I repeat, they were so great with their burpees, so impressive, that I lost my self-esteem for a minute. Okay, make it a day.

tattoo philippines football

Of course the “Club” isn’t complete with the children alone. The “others” (a.k.a. volunteers, friends, supporters and Roy’s friends) also make up the party. There are some staple Kaya FC faces and followers, a few from Global FC and little kids who join in the drills—and manage to do the burpees too!

Families are most welcome to join in the volunteer fun and foreigners are common sights. Roy’s mate, Chris became a newfound acquaintance as the chat on tattoos became a topic of interest. That, and why Lexton Moy decided to go barefoot during the exhibition match. Make friends, not war.

football global fc jenina gonzales

Let’s go, Global!

The exhibition game that followed was action-packed with a bit of drama of scraped knees and a bloody forehead on the side. Being there with Global FC (not for or on behalf of ) I should’ve cheered on their side, but with their opponents made up of barefoot and sando-clad kids who kicked harder than my Muay Thai classmates, oh dear, my cheer went straight to them.

How hard was the kick, you might ask? A horribly strong kick—my wrist hurt from deflecting it! If not for my defense tactic, I’d have one less tooth today and you’d have one less whiny food blogger. And please don’t say, “Keep the balls coming!”

global fc kaya football club

Global FC, represented by Miji Gonzales (not a player but looks like one) and Amani Aguinaldo (the player and U-23 Azkals) played in separate groups alongside new allies from Kaya FC. This made it more of a Friendship Game as they played against the toughest from Payatas FC.

As earlier mentioned, their toughness and strength are unquestionable and so if you are in need of those traits, outside the area of football, you know where to find them.

No wait, I know where to find them, but I won’t just tell you. (Hint, hint)

 payatas football clinic

Play Fair or Fair Play?

Apparently all these activities fall under the umbrella of this Foundation I just learned of. Everyone kept on referring to The Foundation, I felt like I was in a Resident Evil movie, sans the umbrella and zombies. Turns out they were talking about the Fairplay for All Foundation (FFA) which was printed on the shirt of Lexton Moy, which I was staring at while he was chatting away with Miji.

Right. Now it makes sense!

global fc advocacy

Foundation. Football. Fairplay. Empowering kids on and off the pitch. You can read about them in their Facebook page, but I prefer to quote Miji Gonzales of Global FC:

There are so many CSR and outreach programs out there, but this (FFA) is the one that I support because for some reason, it just feels right for me.

Awww.. As they say, birds of the same feather rock together.

fairplay for all foundation philippines

Roy Moore, the famous face, is just a co-director of the FFA and a lot of people and families are behind this Foundation. They support and organize the activities and campaigns for the Payatas children. A lot has already happened and I feel like such a late bloomer, only learning about this foundation last week.

I’m sure I share this sentiment with a few other football advocates, but fret not. We are not losers in this field; we can make up for lost time. I mean, you can make up for lost time since I’ve already been there.

It doesn’t matter if you’re late, that you can’t play football or are too cholesterol laden to participate in the drills (I didn’t, don’t worry, and they won’t judge you). What matters is that if you volunteer, you won’t regret it and yes, it’s a free pass to get to play football every Saturday!

Good deal huh—I thought so too!

fairplay for all foundation

Drop in, not Drop out!

Last thing on my list was the opening of the drop-in center. I earlier envisioned a rummage sale or an evacuation site for dropping off donations, but that does not make much sense when tied to Fairplay and Football. Again I was wrong—as expected.

fairplay foundation

Calling it the drop-in center was quite an understatement. It’s the “FFA Headquarters” which hosts a school and play-welfare center for the children. It has teachers (Math and English), a playroom and a rooftop with one heck of a view. It sells various snacks, like those awesome pizzas and vegan burger, and for a small institution, it has a vision that involves getting children to learn, to have a live and gain access to a future.

j.anne gonzales football

We planted seeds as a symbol of the FFA’s quest and I do hope my plant lives to see these children prosper.

If you ever drive by Payatas out on a whim, do drop by that place. The pizza is only P15, the place is fab and the kids + Roy will surely make your day!

V for Volunteer

 Having avoided the V word (volunteer) all these decades, it felt as if I crammed all my years of lost charity into this half day at Payatas, to be capped off with my run in the typhood-floodwater with Amani and Miji. It was also my first time to run (not bathe) in the rain, and it was NOT fun despite what everyone says. Actually I will never understand why people find joy in this activity because what I got from this was load of soiled clothes. From Payatas with love was the note. Joy.

global fc volunteer work

Still, the Payatas Experience sans the floodwater run-in, was striking, heartwarming and will be the theme of my dreams for many more nights. I may be a food blogger but this encounter warrants a post from my blog and yes, a spot in my newly found soul. I guess I do have a soul and somehow it surfaced when the football nearly gave me a concussion in the head. “Wake up!” it seemed to scream in my face.

Uh-huh, I am now.

Photos, despite their abundance, will not be able to capture the essence of the situation in Payatas, but I will try my best to express them in words:

Traumatized by corruption in the country, I have never been a proponent of charity, considering this a venue for political gain. However my actual duty in Payatas—albeit brief—rendered a lasting impression of the actual situation of poverty. The children’s longing runs beyond the physical which we already are aware of but touches a different realm—one which necessitates an emotion that no Peso equivalent can match. They yearn for company, for laughter and parental love. They need actual caring and affection, not just a pat of a random stranger who will forget them right after. Clothes, shelter and food form basic needs, but nothing will match the comfort of a real home and a mother’s warm touch. These are things we as volunteers cannot give them—but the simple joys we can provide, even for a couple of hours are enough to give them lasting smiles. As volunteers we are not expected to replace an existing family, but instead, give hope to these children and bridge them to a future. These drills and games are transient but the support and inspiration we give, will give them a tomorrow.

football clinic payatas

I guess it doesn’t matter that I don’t play football. While I do support the game and write about it—here’s another chance to show my love for it. The real kind, where fairplay and football are promoted—with a promise of a future. I think that’s fair enough.

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Mexican Mayhem: Orale Taqueria Mexicana

fort strip mexican

The only thing I hate about Orale Taqueria Mexicana (Fort Strip) is that it is so freakishly far from where I live, that I cannot eat there whenever I want to. Which is like everyday.

orale mexican taqueria fort strip

Logistics aside, Orale is like a modified Ristra’s where chili and salsa are abound and the place looks more like Mexico than a Philippines-trying-to-be-Mexico. It smells like a Nacho Libre setting too.

manila fort strip mexican restaurant

The Nachos are home (or is it store?) made and are crispy grande. By that I literally mean BIG crisp, one where your teeth totter on the brink of falling, but the freshness and queso mucho make up for this headbang. In the end you stuff yourself silly and find the crunch so memorable and yes, earth shaking.

j.anne gonzales mexican food orale

The Pollo Asado Quesadilla and Pollo Asado Enchiladas denote how much we love chicken, yes I know. What a poultry killer. Back to the comida, the chicken is so flavorful and piquant, we don’t regret ordering 2 chicken dishes. Mixed with the vegetables and cheese and loads of carbs, this is one Mexican meal that is far from Third World.

fort strip food mexican manila

They give you all sorts of salsa, it becomes a sauce fest. Even for a minute or two, poverty is eradicated from the world and everything is just grande. Grand, huh.

food fort strip philippines orale

The Burrito seemed just as filling. Ah yes, the diner was at loss of words which should be translated as… zzzzz. Death from beef.

In Mexican food-deprived Manila, Orale is the only haven for authentic Mejicano meals. This makes Mexicali, Agave and Baja Mexican Cantina seem like half breeds. After a visit to this place, Orale has become the new benchmark for Mexican mayhem.

Unless Chipotle comes over to the Philippines. Then that would be just sweet. Grand. Susmaryosep.

j.anne gonzales blog

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So Slap Me! (Slappy Cakes)

eastwood slappy cakes j.anne gonzales blog

Cooking pancakes is a skill I am least capable of, next to sign language and texting while driving. Even with Aunt Jemima’s big motherly love, I have created poorly shaped, stiff as cement and just “blech” quality pancakes, if there is any quality at all to my work.

So finding myself in Slappy Cakes, make-your-own pancake mecca, remains to be a conundrum.

 pancake menu slappy cakes

However I found myself not being a fire hazard to the place and painstakingly spending time with my  fancy creations. Perhaps it was that nasty griddle that made cooking life an easy peasy task.

blog slappy cakes

Yes my dear Watson and readers, there is available syrup on the table.

jenina gonzales pancake 

Slappy Cakes is that place wherein you actually pay a premium to make your own pancakes (your choice of batter, fixins, syrup and toppings). The result is a dish you can never complain about—because you made it yourself! That’s the catch!

 buttermilk whole grain pancake batter

They give you a 225 oz bottle where you squirt, slap and paint the griddle with whatever you fancy. Splatter it with your choice of toppings and eat like a messed up kid.

slappy cakes manila

philippines slappy cakes

Being plain weird, I chose the whole grain batter with chocolate chips. The result is a chocolate chip-digestive pancake that was not too sweet but was soft (and slightly undercooked as I was hungry). Many may dislike my multigrain choice for its gritty and slightly salty taste but I liked it just fine.

lazy black cat manila pancake

I may be lazy, but I make a mean Chocolate Chip Digestive.

The buttermilk batter with combo #1: Blueberry and Lemon Curd seemed to satisfy my companion but claims it was enhanced by the toppings and syrup (there is free syrup on the table which will do if you are not from Canada anyway and in demand of the real maple syrup). Hence, without these sweet add-ons, the batter on its own might be on the bland side.

 pancake multigrain blueberry manila

I agree. If the batter was so good, then this should be batter heaven and Slappy Cakes would not make as much money from its bacon, sour cream, white cheese, maple syrup, blueberry, bananas, etcetera. Mr. Slappy would go poor from selling batter alone and as they say, a pancake isn’t a pancake without the “others”.

Okay I just made that up.

pancake manila slappy cakes make your own

J for “Jemima Wannabe”

There is a vegan batter that is also available, not to mention eggs and potatoes. Back to the vegan batter, I wonder how it will taste and if I could pair it with mushrooms and white cheese. If ever that concoction proves to be a gastronomic success, then it would be my turn to slap anyone!

make your own pancake philippines

When we TRY to be creative, we end up eating raw, burnt or just oddly shaped items.

Seriously, that vegan batter—I JUST HAVE TO TRY! I will be getting green dreams until then.

Philippines quezon city slappy cakes

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