Yes, it is true this was only my second food tour in my teenager existence.
It is also true that I got notably ill after the experience because never in my life had I eaten so much food within a period of 12 hours.
Nevertheless, this Pampanga Food Tour was an unforgettable experience! And it was led by the one and only Spanky Enriquez-blogger of Manila Boy, “The Pampanga Expert” (clearly stated in the Yummy Magazine of the Philippines), and last but not least, a favorite godfather of mine. He happens to be one of my genuine inspirations that has me aspiring to be a writer. Now, Ninong Spanky (Ninong means godfather in Filipino) is part of a group called the Ultimate Philippines tour company. He and three other men show others the true essence of the Filipino culture that only they can personally provide through their experience and travel.
Now, Spanky Enriquez is your everyday quirky, loafer-wearing, DVD-obsessed, gregarious, adventurous food lover always decked out in black and white attire. Cool, right? And since he’s bffl (best friends for LIFE) with my mom and dad, our food tour was really very casual and fun. And he knows what he’s doing because he does this thing once a month with about 30 people, maximum. My gawd if I had to handle 30 people………I can’t even handle my baby brother.
Right. So before we actually started the tour, we did a quick pre-empanada stop on our way to Pampanga. Ninong Spanky got the empanadas himself while we waited in the car. He was back inside before I even knew what happened, and then all of a sudden I had a cute little pocket of food in my hand.
Wrapped in wax paper, I quickly revealed the flaky and buttery crust of the thing. What makes it good is the lard, of course. Which is probably why the meaty filling tasted so sweet and savory, paired perfectly together like pb & j or grapes and cheese.We got these from the Echague Bakery at Manila.
First stop: Everybody’s Cafe (McArthur Highway in Pampanga)
Here, we got some juicy crickets (camaru) and stuffed frogs (betute). The crickets are very delectable because people have to catch those bouncy little critters back out in the fields. (Which I’m sure is extremely laborous) Then we had the classic pairing of chicharon (fried pig’s skin) and achara (pickled grated green papaya)
The halo-halo (literally translated to mix-mix) here isn’t your average colorful conundrum of mixed Filipino sweets topped over shaved ice, oh no no no. In fact, it has a very beige color to it, but it tastes A THOUSAND TIMES BETTER then all those rainbow ones. And who says you need ube (purple yam jam) and jellies in your halo-halo? The people here at Razon’s know that the simpler the better. It’s only composed of five perfectly portioned ingredients: leche flan, crushed ice, milk, sweetened saba, and macapuno.
Soon after, we took a drive on the side of gracious plains blanketed with rice fields and bordered by rolling mountains. From there, we ended up at the the San Guillermo Parish in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Also known as the church that’s halfway buried in lahar. Yup. A volcano practically devoured it, but thankfully left the top most part of the church, which was later cemented and turned into a church once again. When inside, you can tell how the windows and entryways look like they’ve been submerged, and the ceiling of the church is only meters from your head.
Fourth Stop: C’Italian Dining
The original Panizza from the genius mind of the welcoming Chef Chris!! He greeted us and everyone else so warmly at his restaurant, and most of all, served us great food. Now, the panizza is more like a fun “pizza sushi” finger food. What they do is that they bake the pizza in a rectangular shape, and then cut it into strips. After putting a good dollop of arugula and alfalfa sprouts, you roll it up, dip it in oil, and eat! We got two kinds of panizza: Millionario, which is their famous cheese sauce infused with tomato sauce sauce and white truffle oil and then topped with shrimp and herbs, and Stefano, which is plain cheese with parmesan, garlic, and fresh rosemary.
At the entrance of their restaurant they have a wall armored with dozens of autographed plates.
Quick stop for some frozen yogurt.
And finally, we finished off with some tocino barbecue and what Ninong Spanky calls “The best sisig in the Philippines: Mely’s (in San Fernando) is grilled to order while Mila’s (in Angeles City, the one we went to) is the fried, crispy kind.” An awesome way to end the day.