Thursday, October 13, 2016

TLC Foodsteps: A Gastronomic Journey

If there is anything that makes me want to attend a 7am call time, it would be because of food. Kidding aside, a few weeks back, I had the time of my life as I trailed the culinary wonders of the local scene to try out the best delicacies Pampanga has to offer. So I packed my bags and began my best food experience to date. Welcome to TLC Foodsteps!

With the swanky Luxe Bus, we set off to follow the footsteps of world-renowned food warrior, Anthony Bourdain, in the hope of experiencing Kapampangan cuisine at its finest. Without much knowledge on the destination, I was already filled with excitement—contrasted with an empty belly, of course.

But before anything else, let me tell you, the bus we rode was definitely the best bus I've ever ridden here in the Philippines. The Luxe Bus can feel like a world class airplane that's equipped with courteous stewards that consistently serve food and beverages. I wasn't even at our destination yet and I was already food spoiled, ha!

Our first stop was at Kusina ni Atching Lilian. Like a wooden museum built for culinary education, the food haven pretty much speaks of heritage. Everything in the “Kitchen” of Atchin Lilian was definitely something you can take an education out of.

Breakfast was in order as I got to try delicacies like Lagat Paro and Quilayin. I was immensely impressed by the Kapampangan authenticity of the dishes. Each dish was definitely different from my “city-based” taste buds, but like I said, it’s a delicious education.

The owner herself graced us with one of her most renowned creations, the San Nicholas Cookies, or simply known as Sanikulas. The cookies are creatively made with personalized wooden stamps that can reflect the province’s love for folklore and religion—just how the locals like it.

Our next destination is known by many as the best restaurant in Pampanga. Bale Dutung (House of Wood in Kapampangan) is no stranger when it comes to executing excellent cuisine with local roots. It is one of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in Asia and is ranked as one of the best by the Miele Guide in 2009. 

The ancestral themed restaurant holds quite the title but from the ambiance of the place, it feels like the real deal. Oh, we had a ten-course meal, by the way.

Chef Claude Tayag of Bale Dutung occasionally opens his restaurant’s doors to the public for pre-arranged lunches—which is to be reserved up to six months prior. 

People line up on this restaurant to experience the concept of degustation which is complemented well with impeccable service. It’s a standout winner when it comes to local tourism.

Before our ten-course experience. We were given frozen melon shakes and frozen towels. Oh! in case you guys didn't know, frozen towels are considered as the air conditioners in Pampanga. It's definitely a cultural eye-opener.

Introducing the "Anthony Bourdain" ten-course menu:

Ensaladang Pako

Piniritong Lumpiang Ubod

Inasal na Manok with Claude 9 Talangka Sushi

Adobong Pugo

Hito with Balo-Balo Sushi

Fried Lechon Flakes, Wrapped in Tortilla with Claude 9 Oriental Sauce (Lechon Taco)

Bulanglang Kapampangan na may Tian ng Bangus, Ulang at Tadyang ng Baboy

Begucan Sisig Babi with Ensaladang Talong

Kare-kareng Laman Dagat


We capped off the epic ten-course meal with Sinaunang Kape. Now, I'm not really a coffee person (I know, right? shame on me) but this one is by far the best provincial coffee I've tasted. I'm not really sure what beans they used, but they did use carabao milk. I got hooked so I spoiled myself with 3 cups.

By this time, I was already at the edge of a food coma but the journey had to continue. Our last stop was a cozy restaurant nestled in an old building that offers a modern take on the Pampanga Food Scene. Enter Café Fleur. The cafe takes on a very antiseptic look which complements well with its homegrown atmosphere.

Sophistication mixes in "homey" in Café Fleur. Visionary chef, Sau Del Rosario shares his Kampangan dishes with the infusion of a french technique. This hybrid skill makes the cafe very new amongst the old traditions.

As an Avant-Garde Kapampangan cuisine of some sorts, I enjoyed dishes like Tamales Pampangueña and modern Kapampangan Sisig. Like a true all-around cafe, the place also served streams of dessert that went straight to our hearts.

After much effort to haul our bellies to the Luxe Bus, A provincial surprise from Susie’s Cuisine gave us delicious Pampanga Kakanin and other pasalubongs! I don't have photos of the delicacies but it was really good. Do check them out whenever you guys plan to buy pasalubong from Pampanga.

Our gastronomic journey ended with hauled but happy bellies. I've never been immersed in the food scene of Pampanga so this is definitely one for the books-- I guess it's hard to top this experience. Thank you, TLC and Sky Cable, for such an epic event!

Catch Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown every Tuesday, 9PM at TLC (SKY Channel 62 and SKY Direct Channel 32). For more information, follow their social media accounts:
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