Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hilagang Kanluran

Happy New Year, all!

I'm starting off the year with our recent road trip to the north east of Luzon--- Cagayan Valley! This isn't technically our first road trip for the year. We went up to the mountains on the first day of the year to check out the much buzzed about Zip Zone in Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich Bukidnon. We had some Grilled Chicken Steak at the Cowboy Grill, but I wasn't able to take pics. It was good though :)

So, back to this post. Mark had to attend a hearing in Buguey, Cagayan Valley which is just "next door" to Aparri. We were psyched to be able to drive that far, so we packed our bags and drove away...

On the way up, we saw some major fast food establishments along the highways, which just means that business is good in these areas. There weren't too many fast food joints in Region 1, so Region 2 got me excited... I wasn't going to get hungry!Yey!

We stayed at Tuguegarao City, and went food tripping as soon as we arrived! :P First stop, dinner at Kainang Pilipino. We initially wanted to go to Kusina Cagayana but they were closed that evening. The place had an old feel, but not Ilocos old. Just 1980's old, with garish green paint on the walls. Not very appetizing. I started ordering signature Ilocano dishes like:

I like this dish. Mark agrees too. It's very much like Pinakbet, only it's not oily. There isn't any visible bagoong, but the watery sauce is highly flavored with non- red bagoong. Yum!

Truth is, I've been wondering how this dish tasted ever since my cousin, who's mother hails from Tuguegarao, was craving it.

Halabos na Hipon
Mark's order and the restaurant's Catch of the Day.
It was good, but I was distracted by the Dinengdeng. :P

Nilagang Baka, compliments from the restaurant.
I love freebies, and I really liked their Nilaga :) Perfect for tired bums.

Another Ilocano specialty, which resembled a non-sizzling Sisig.
It's fried pork and slathered with lemon and onion sauce.
I'm not a big fan of it, but Mark really liked it. :) So there.

This was one of Tuguegarao's nicest restaurants, and for that plus our drinks--our bill totalled P600plus. Not cheap, but the food was good.

I was doing a lot of Googling the night before we drove off, and found this blog, the name of which I wasn't able to write down. Boo. I'm sorry.But I was able to write down it's contents. He recommended Dock's Panciteria for breakfast, and for the best Pancit Batil Patung in the city. We drove to Pengue Highway for breakfast (since our hotel didn't include breakfast in our accomodation), to search for Dock's (pronounced as "doks"). Being the maarte that I am ( now i admit, regrettably!), I wasn't too keen to eat there when I saw the place. Mark didn't want to force me to eat there either, so we went to the next best place, as recommended by Anton of Our AwesomePlanet in his blog. We searched for Gretchen's, and found it in a cramped corner of Magallanes Street.

Pancit Batil Patung @ Gretchen's
This is Tuguegarao's specialty noodle dish. Almost every corner in Tuguegaro pays homage to this dish, as panciterias abound everywhere! The egg noodles are topped ("patong") with vegetables, eggs and meat. At Gretchen's, they have the Pancit Batil Patung and the Gretchen's Special. The latter is topped with beef, and the former is topped with carabeef. We ordered both. Each order is P60-P70, and they were very generous with their serving.

The pancit is accompanied by an egg soup- which was very creamy and salty.
Good, especially on a cold day, but too salty.

We had a long day after that, as we checked out the Callao caves, drove off to Aparri to check on Mark's work, after which we drove off to Port Irene in Santa Ana. We arrived in Tuguegarao in time for dinner, and headed straight off to Kusina Cagayana, and ordered the following:

Pinoy Salad
This was composed of steamed leafy greens such as talbos ng kamote, seaweed, spinach, pickled papaya (atchara), tomatoes and onions. It had a dressing of Bagoong.
Verdict: WE LIKE!

Pancit Malabon
They highly recommended Pancit Malabon on their menu.
Which was weird, but we still tried it. It was good. We also ordered
some Bulalo Soup, which I didn't really like. Just don't order it.

For our last meal in Tuguegarao, we ate at Michelle- the hotel's restaurant. We ordered some of their signature garlic longganisa, and garlic fan that I am--- was happy enough :P

Along the highway, we could see men planting rice. Charming.

Plus, while cruising through the winding Dalton Pass, we saw some vegetable vendors with these adorable greens--- fresh talbos ng kamote. These are so good steamed in the pan. They have a crisp and nutty flavor.And at P10 for the whole bunch, these are awesome!!

And now, for the piece de resistance, G&B's Buko Pie. This is one specialty Nueva Vizcaya should be very proud of. This is, for me, the BEST buko pie. Let me show you why...

At P135 for 3 boxes

Oooh, look at that. Not soggy.

Barely an inch thick, the filling is only two or three layers high
and glued together by sweet milk. Sweet!

Even my Mark likes this. And he's not a buko pie fan.

There's just so much to see and so much to eat in this region. I can't wait to discover more beautiful and yummy things, Philippines! Dios Mabbalos :)