Fonso’s pares and pigar-pigar

Fonso's

Pares is not new to me. It’s ubiquitous on the side streets of Metro Manila, but I actually discovered its makeup in Laoag (here). Pares is a Filipino word for paring or combo, so it consists of beef stew, fried rice and soup. Whoever invented it, pares has come a long way. If you are not yet acquainted with its bold flavors, you should give it a try. There’s this new carinderia, Fonso’s, situated on Paoay Road in the Northwestern University neighborhood, which serves beef pares and pares mami. Their version is very Asian, what with the distinctive star anise element and dusting of sesame seeds, giving it a bit of teriyaki-like savor. You get a good deal for just 60 pesos (pares mami is only 40 pesos).

You will also find Ilocano favorites such as hi-bol and paksiw, as well as budget meals, perfect for students and sales reps living in the vicinity. But they’ve also introduced another street food phenomenon, the pigar-pigar, a Pangasinenses dish made with carabeef, cabbage  and thick slices of onions. For those with an aversion to carabeef like me, Fonso’s uses only beef. Pigar-pigar may look simple, but it’s packed with relatable audacious flavors, ideal for rice. There’s always a first time for everything. Ate everything in the photos and ended the carinderia meal with a bottle of Sparkle.

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Went North

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Back to sacred Sundays. The family drove north from Laoag — such a cozy time to converse, refresh, go crazy and just glide. The clean roads to Pagudpud were impressive as ever. Someone abroad asked me how’s home after she sent me to the south, and I told her I was sad about the numerous campaign posters from the past election season and ratty signage waving at me on the roadsides. (If you are reading, friend, here, I take it back.)

We stopped by our favorite Bergblik for snacks, then headed farther north to Blue Lagoon. Met cute little tourguides on our pseudo trek to Bantay Abot. After the rains, the scenery was nonetheless glorious.

Pagudpud14101895_1253292878014405_250318551_nJovy and Yollys Place

A new discovery on our way home was Jovy and Yolly’s Place in Davila. Had just tanguigui sashimi. Other seafood depends on the catch of the day. Nice to know there’s a wonderful roadside place to eat between Pagudpud and Laoag.

Til my next discovery.

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Hotchick on a rainy day

14031116_10155077308170130_1791362461_nHotchick Sushi Shop 2

I can count with one hand the sky was clear and sunny since I got back from transitioning seasons. Out of the mishmash of clothes and shoes I brought with me, I’m living in shorts and flipflops, just like old times, rain or shine. Ilocos is so much about laidbackness, certainly low-pressure, which makes it the best thing about this province that has a little and more than a little of everything. What else is new here? A food park at the Valdez Center in the fast-growing town of San Nicolas. In contrast to the huge mall a few meters away, the new hangout that is actually the Venvi IT park consists of individual snack and divey bars catering not only call center workers, but also anyone who shuns mainstream culture, I think — just like this homegrown sushi shop called Hotchick that makes sushi by the “bilao”, with a menu that is an unpredictable hybrid of ramen, jap chae, cucumber cooler or beer — thank God, I am able to enjoy such places when I’m with the boys.

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Hot shoyo ramen is just the best thing to order on a rainy day. Even if the egg is not the legitimate ajitsuke tamago (marinated egg), Hotchick’s version is comforting and pocket-friendly, you can have a fill everyday and won’t go broke. Also liked the jap chae, but hated the tight boat dish. Spent only P350 for the three of us. Service was slow though.

On another note, saw Eulodogs, Barney’s Burger and Moonleaf.

Still rediscovering my home province. Be back for more.

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Filling up at The Gas(tro) Station

The Gastro Station

Just how one new food spot in Laoag could awaken memories of home in the last 12 months. At the zenith of rice bowls, I find it wonderful that LA celebrity chef Roi Choi has Filipino chicken adobo alongside kimchi spam bowl on his Chego menu, while Laoag’s prominent son, Jeff Fariñas (refreshing to know he set aside his political career to jack up a love for food and cooking), cooks Korean bibimbap along with pares and his other favorite comfort food at The Gas(tro) Station, which replaces their old gas station on busy General Luna corner Villanueva Streets.

the gastro station bibimbappepper rice

Chanced upon owners Jeff and Charisma who made me try the gastro wraps, inspired by a dish by David Chang of Momofuku fame. Well, found it an affordable rendition of Red 8’s Peking duck skin rolls. Jeff used pork to match the same hoisin sauce, and added a kick of sriracha. My baby Alexandra liked it and she loved her pepper rice and she is so finicky with food.

The big rice eater might not be gratified with just one bowl of bibimbap. It’s an intention to present it as a healthy option. To date bibimbap is their bestseller.

Charisma says it was Jeff who developed all the dishes and keeps on whipping up more like cheesesteak  sandwich while she takes care of the business side.

gastro wrap

I like the easy feel of the place. With upcycled interiors and pretenseless furniture, the food stands out. I think it’s a current global trend — commissaries, counter-service, communal seating, eclecticism and modern food.

If gassing up means this good, then make mine full tank again and again.

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