We had two meals and a merienda at Sitio Remedios and we were generally pleased with all. A mid-afternoon merienda of miki noodle soup made with chicken broth, shredded chicken, fresh miki, achuete and bagnet was a pleasant surprise and something they apparently do for all guests. The soup was flavorful, filling, satisfying and made richer with the addition of chopped bagnet. I was so taken with this merienda that I immediately tried to make a version of this soup when we got back home, post here. The soup was also served with gipang, a crisp fried dough that with a hint of sweetness and it paired nicely with the miki. For dinner, we had texted a day or two ahead that we wanted them to prepare a dinner for us with all the best specialties of the region that the cooks knew how to make…
Knowing that we wanted to put Ilocano food through its paces, we asked that they prepare a meal for 6 (even though we were only four) and asked that they cook whatever they though might be best represent the region’s cooking. They had no idea how serious I was about getting a heavily laden table, nor did they know I was from Marketmanila. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed with the spread that eventually materialized as I expected more… though what did arrive was generally quite tasty and delicious. Perhaps the concept of cooking up enough for 8-10 people when they only saw 4 humans was just patently counter to the Ilocano mindset. At any rate, from worst to best, here is what we had for dinner that evening. Oh, instead of a romantic outdoor setting with candles, a dark ominous cloud and rain meant that we had to have dinner indoors instead, and the staff brought the food to our Balay na Batac.
Oddly, the worst dish we had that evening was their pinakbet. We had several spectacular pinakbets earlier in the trip so it wasn’t like we were tasting genuine Ilocano pinakbet for the first time (the genuine version might surprise lovers of the modified tagalog version with squash or kalabasa). This version was surprisingly sweet and incorporated a lot of tomatoes; this was the least liked of the dishes offered. We also got some bagnet with the requisite KBL (tomatoes, onions and fish sauce) that was pretty tasty. We had some wonderful Ilocano rice from the “mountain areas,” it was fragrant and substantial… my kind of rice. We also had a steamed fish (timakong?) with soy sauce, onions, green onions and cornstarch, which I am not particularly certain is an Ilocano specialty… or my notes are just not complete… we also had a surprising native tinola that included native chicken, sotanghon and surprisingly, very thin slices of ampalaya… this soup had superb flavor, the broth heartwarming and redolent with the goodness of native chickens… Finally, the surprise hit of the evening was a chilled katuray and kangkong salad that may have been one of the top 2-3 dishes that we tasted on the entire Ilocos sojourn. Made with blanched kangkong and white katuray flowers that had been shredded first, then after blanching, chilled in the fridge, they added tomatoes, vinegar, fish sauce and other unidentified ingredients that resulted in a wonderful cold salad. It was colorful, had a terrific texture and a surprisingly good mix of flavors. This was definitely my personal favorite. This dinner for 4 cost PHP1,600 or PHP400 each, definitely one of the priciest meals we had on the trip, and probably our third best meal.
The following morning we had a breakfast of chorizos, eggs to order and rice with some juice. Not much to write about, really. We were in a bit of a rush at this point as we just wanted to get on our way and were faced with a 9-10 hour drive back to Manila (including stops for tons of chorizo, garlic, bagnet, kalamansi, roadside guava purchases, etc.).