Local travel can be made fun, especially if you have great food to look forward to
The Department of Tourism through our hardworking Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat has started the revival of local tourism. With all the required safety protocols in place, they are slowly encouraging travel to jump-start the economy.
A lot has changed since the lockdown happened. Skies are bluer, air is fresher, birds I have never seen before are flying around and landing on our trees in the garden. Our country is indeed God’s creation and the resurgence of this beauty is a great reminder to all that our Father above does love and care for us.
My team and I are trying to do our tiny part to help make travel under these most unusual circumstances most enjoyable. How we do it? When traveling to all these places reachable by car, we point out, “This is where you go to eat. And these are what you order.” Fun job!
We started in Metro Manila dining places. Since we can’t travel by plane yet, we let our taste buds do the traveling. And what a pleasant surprise we have for you!
Our last out-of-town trip took us to Subic. I have been to Subic many times before and I only go to one place—Texas Joe’s House of Ribs. To me, they have the best ribs around! I also drop by for their chicken tacos and carrot cake. But I am told by a friend, Tammy Campos, that their rib eye steaks are to die for. My sights are zeroed in on that steak next visit.
I was shocked that Subic had other dining places unknown to me. At meat plus cafe, they have steaks of all kinds, but I enjoyed the slow-cooked, super tender, and tasty beef belly with gravy and the uniquely baked apple pie. The crumble above the apple pie had morsels of cheese. The apples were still crunchy and I was surprised with this new and unique version. This is a creation of Apples Pelaez. Yummy!
Then there was Urban Deli, which is owned and run by a Belgian family. Damien, the owner, introduced me to something new. It was a Belgian sandwich called beef mitrailelette. It was served at their own home as a freshly baked and crusty baguette filled with Belgian fries, beef chunks, bell peppers, onions, and a curry sauce. It reminded me of a Philly Cheese steak sandwich. But this was unique and delicious. They also have a chicken version that I am eyeing next time. I also had a croque monsieur, which was authentic and also delicious. I love discovering unexpected places like this.
That evening, we were at another place that was new to me. It was called Rali’s. Here, we had blinis or smoked salmon over pancakes with sour cream, fresh dill and caviar, Bacalao balls, mussels in a saffron broth, and a few others. Each was worth the three-hour drive.
But what caught my attention was a dish called tuna nicoise. It was a pepper-coated superior tuna filet, seared on the outside and raw or sashimi on the inside. The sauce was a vinaigrette dressing with all French sidings of capers, olives, mini potatoes, cherry tomatoes. French beans, and perfectly cooked poached egg. The combination and idea were unique, such a surprise and this invention just worked. Sarap! Galing!
Of course, we went to Texas Joe’s House of Ribs, where I had my usual ribs, chicken tacos, and carrot cake. I tried the onion loaf and, as expected, it was also a winner.
But what floored me was a place called Gourmet Garage. It was early in the morning and it was our first stop. I usually don’t have breakfast at the hotel for I know I have the rest of the day to indulge in a lot of food. And because I have to sample dozens of dishes, I have to pace myself. The huge problem starts when the food presented before me is so good, I am left without a choice but to let go. By the end of the meal, I am already seated sideways from satisfaction.
But Gourmet Garage came as a huge surprise. I was served three bento box breakfasts all complete with garlic rice, chopped tomatoes and onions, perfectly runny scrambled eggs, and the main dishes of tapa, boneless bangus sardines, and smoked fish flakes over scrambled eggs. Each dish was not only beautifully presented, it was all also very good. Then came the main dishes. Omg is all I can say. Each one was a masterpiece in appearance, carefully thought of. I could see the creative mind of the chef at work. To top it all, each one tasted outstanding. I was floored when I tasted the lamb Madras over biryani rice, authentic Middle Eastern tasting and so so delicious. The salmon tamari was glazed with a yellowish sauce and healthy quinoa underneath. The salmon covered with bubbly raclette cheese, served with garlic green rice and mushrooms with asparagus on the side, was such a discovery! There was heat under the dish. When it arrived, the raclette was still bubbling. I had to shake the hands of the chef. He took great food to another level.
I’ve learned that the place is run by the family that owns Rustan’s. I had to text Rica De Jesus to congratulate her on such a wonderful experience. There are many other things on the menu. I will come back. In fact, I have not stopped talking about it with friends. Our village badminton group is already making plans for a day trip to Subic.
Local travel can be made fun, especially if you have great food to look forward to.
Subic just got listed as a food destination on my Foodie list. I’ll bring my kids here just for the day. Thank you to the Department of Tourism for suggesting the idea of culinary tourism. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find locally! Now, on to Region 1 in La Union, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte. Abangan!