26 May 2011

Holiday Land, San Fernando, Pampanga

I went home very very tipsy last Friday night. But I woke at 5 am Saturday morning remembering the Salcedo Market and that we needed to get the goods from Bulacan – suman, kesong puti, pandesal – to the market. Realizing I couldn’t drive, I woke up dear old mom. After all, she was closer to Nana Meng than I was – she should do her part to maintain the business, hehe!

So she drove me to Bulacan. Only to realize when we got there that I had given instructions the night before to our messenger to go to Bulacan at 4am and be back in time for Salcedo Market by 6.30 am. Our maid in Sta. Maria told me that the boy had already picked up the goods and had already left an hour ago!

With nothing better to do, we decided to wake up her brother, Louie. Now by this time I was HUNGRY. And was craving TAPA. So I had the fancy idea that we should get some tapa … in PAMPANGA!!! Happily, Tito Louie and Mom were game. We literally just drove to Pampanga and looked for a resto to eat at.

margauxlicious, d Babe and Tito Louie

We almost went to Pampanga’s Best, although it’s really more of a take out place. We also considered Cely’s because Tito Louie said it is frequented by some politicians he knows. (I have learned in the course of my political PR work that politicians know how to eat well!) But after a few rounds, we settled on Holiday Land, as Tito Louie built up their adobong balut and a sign outside also said that they serve tapa.
At first I was hesitant because I’m not a big fan of Barrio Fiesta., which is kind of what it looks like from the outside. But once we got to the buffet table, I was darn happy with our choice. Later, I realized from the responses to my Twitter and Facebook queries, that Holiday Land has been quite a hit word of mouth.

We had the following :
Tapang Damulag (Carabao Tapa). This is not on the buffet table and must be ordered separately. It was sooo soft, so beautifully cooked. BUT too sweet, which ruined it for me. Tito Louie says that Pampangenos really cook on the sweet side.

Beefsteak Damulag
One of my favorites on the menu. This beefsteak marinade was the perfect mix of soysauce and sugar. Sarap ng timpla! And the carabao beef was tender yet tasty. I love carabao beef! This made the trip to Pampanga absolutely worth it.

Balot a la Pobre
I could not eat this. It was seasoned well. Just like adobo. But anyone who is crazy enough to eat this must be suicidal. Imagine all those yellow balut parts floating adobo-style. What surprised me was the softness of the white part, which is impossible to eat otherwise. You could totally have this dish with rice. But I wasn’t about to experience death by balut so I just gave it a taste. I would not recommend this to others either.

Buro with Hito
The messages from Twitter and Facebook mentioned this as a favorite. Indeed, you can’t go to Pampanga and not have buro with mustasa leaves. First of all, I’m all nuts about bitter leaves. Then to have the crispy hito and the salty buro (fermented rice) wrapped in it … Yum! This is my favorite Pampango dish. Yes, more than chicharon.
Homemade Chicharon
HolidayLand’s chicharon is excellent. And I say this as a chicharon connoisseur. I will concede to other authorities on wine and international cuisines but my chicharon I know. And the ones served here are outstanding. First of all, they use full back fat. (Others have semi-back fat or … sadly, just air.) Secondly, the skin was made to burst just right. Third, it is not too salty that you would need a ton of beer to balance it out in your mouth.

 The ambiance is simple. It’s a pitstop more than anything. But the food will make you full and make you smile. When it comes to food, the Kampampangans must be given a warm round of applause.