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.
Back to the Unclassified, the remaining untackled Laoag restaurants were chosen out of hunger and logistics: Johnny Moon Café and La Preciosa.
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!
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.
C-O-O-L. I will admit, even I hadn’t thought of that!
Still awed, we walked to Johnny Moon for dinner.
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, 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
We had more fish for dinner, the fried Bucto (appetizer), Boneless Bangus and Crispy Dinuguan (for the meat eater).
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!