IN THESE past few days of the holiday season I am sure you, if you were invited by an old Kapampangan family most likely you were treated with those tsokalate sa batirul with matching tamales prepared in Bacolor town or the many dishes like bulanglang, ginisang munggo with chicharon, delicious asadong babi, and so many other gastronomical delights. Hmm. Eat all you can. But don’t get fat. Don’t forget to exercise. May that as your New Year resolution.
It is the Kapampangan’s bragging right. Pasensiya na. We, Kapampangans are not only artisans but are excellent cooks, male and female, if compared to other ethnic groups in the country. Maybe the Ilongos will come second. We love to eat.
The number of restaurants in Pampanga are good basis for that claim. I think we have the most number of restaurants among urban centers outside of Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao. In our youth there was the popular Everybody's Cafe by the Santoses in San Fernando. And it’s still there with a branch in the Nepo Mart area in Angeles City. (Just recently the two popular Dennis Uy, one from Davao and the other one an Angeleno dined there).
In Angeles City there was the Iniang's Place of the Floreses which served the best Jambalaya in this part of the world. The food preparation was mostly likely a combination of Spanish Arroz Valenciana, bringhe style with Filipino touch. Sorry, the small restaurant was closed after the death of the owner, Virginia Flores, grandma of Clark Development Corporation President Noel Manankil.
Early evening you stroll down along the Fields Avenue or any of its spine roads, you can make a lot of choices among the clustered restaurants there that mushroomed over the years. My favorite is Picolo Padre, an Italian restaurant where you can savor the best ragu de mare coupled with their well-prepared steak with fresh oysters as an aperitif while having your red Montes de Alfa. Or at the Korean town where samgyupsal and bulgogi are the common dishes served. There are also Vietnamese and Japanese restaurants in that area.
My out of town visitors 'will kill me' if I won't treat them to the Filipino cooking of Binulo, a restaurant inside the Clark Freeport run by Maricar Angeles. The homemade pititsan, rice cooked in bamboo, paksing bangus, asado, and bulanglang are the most ordered viands. Gourmet Rico Guilas served as the quality control manager. For lunch Lomi House at Philippine Air Force area is another favorite.
Many local officials and executives of industries inside the Freeport are regular patrons of Cafe Mesa not only because it offer the best sumiyaki coffee but long legged young girls with their fitting pants served it with a smile. The cafe is owned by Aritake, a former UPS country manager, the fellow who helped me carried my bag when I travelled with him in Lousville, Kentucky some years ago.
Seafood Shack is a destination restaurant inside Clark and located beside Flying V service station. It draws the crowd who loves food. Their sea food shack is a smash hit. Masarap pero mura. Eat with a group. There’s a steak street in Barangay Ninoy Aquino in Angeles City for those who are carnivorous. Moderately priced.
There’s also Ningnangan of former Sto. Tomas Mayor Naguit. It is patterned after the famous Aboys of Bacolod City, where you make your choices of uncooked items and cooked and served fresh in your table.
Angeles City is getting the tag as the capital of gastronomy in Central Luzon. Happy New Year!