(For Katrina, and Marvin)
This is a true story. I was there, and the two others with me can verify it. Sometimes, it's not about the goal, it's about the road. Ok, enough of the deep philosophy, here's the dirt:
It all began with a text from Socky: "Anthony Bourdain will be with Claude Tayag this Thursday. CT will also bring him to Aling Lucing's to try sisig. Am so tempted to have lunch in pampanga!"
With these fateful words, three fangirls took off on a road trip to Angeles. We had been to Bale Dutung, Mr. Tayag's home bistro, on a memorable food filled day trip in 2007, and we had plans of returning to Angeles for additional restaurant trips, patisserie discoveries (Aurely's Special inverted brazo de mercedes), and general camaraderie. The last time we took off, it was the threesome of Nena, Kat, and Mila. Unfortunately, both Socky and Nena couldn't make it, so with a bit of timely maneuvering on Joey's side, we found ourselves driving on the road north in search of the salt and pepper locks of the celebrated chef/traveller/snarkman.
This was to be Joey's baptism by fire on the road, she had not driven beyond Metro Manila before, her first time to drive the smooth lanes of NLEX. I was sleep deprived from my new job, having not had a decent full 8 hours in over ten days and unlikely to do so that day. Katrina was ready with one of AB's books, not one of his normal food books either! Our plan: go to Bale Dutung, then Susie's in Angeles for food shopping, lunch at Cottage Kitchen, stop off at Coldspoon froyo, and maybe find Aurely's to get those brazo squares.
We got off on a good start, and arrived in Angeles with no problems on the road. Joey soon got into the rhythm of NLEX. We asked for general directions to the subdivision, and arrived in fine fettle. The village guard didn't ask us for ids or anything, even though we thought he might give us a hard time if he was vetted right and told to shoo away annoying paparrazi or fawning fans. When we reached Bale Dutung, we wondered if we had to make up some sort of reason for why we were there; "just passing by", "we're big fans", "please let us wash dishes while he eats" or something like that. We rang the door bell (near the post that had a sign "Maylbaks"), it was opened by one of Claude's guys, and we asked if Mr. Tayag was available. He let us in and we sort of shuffled our feet around waiting for CT. The man himself came down, dressed in a tshirt and shorts and we figured it was time to say what we had to say. Er... "you might not remember us, but we had lunch here last year." Luckily Katrina's instant recognizability (sic) was our in! Yay for not having hair! We said we were in the area and heard that he was hosting you-know-who, and he did confirm it, but to our dismay explained that AB was still in Manila! Gadzooks. His equipment was being fixed or something and he would be running late. They planned to visit Aling Lusing's along the riles, for the original sisig. In any case we knew we couldn't wait around for a glimpse of AB since we all had to be back in Manila by early evening. Sigh. Plus CT did say he couldn't have anyone around, so oh well, would we like his recoms for what to eat in town? Everybody's cafe for real kapampangan food. But we want Anthony!!
Since we knew and psyched ourselves that our chances were slim to none of seeing him and could have been shooed out by CT if he really was already in Bale Dutung, we had a plan B, a day of food in Angeles. But not having slept well in days means the navigator (me) was picking belly lint from my greycells. Spatial abilities fall apart from lack of rest. We took the long route back into town, got lost a couple of times, and finally landed near Friendship Avenue thanks to two security guards and a trike driver. Lunch first, restored our souls and spirits with grub. It was the best two hours of the day! 7 kinds of carbs (grits with cheese, cornbread, biscuits, rice, mashed potatoes, potato salads, and fried dumplings), along with a briney ham hock on pinto beans, collard greens; a hearty gumbo with andouille sausage and chicken, with tons of okra; fried catfish, softdrinks, and an overly banana tasting banana cream pie. We closed the place down; did I mention we went to Cottage Kitchen?
Anyway, down through Fields Avenue, back into the old part of Angeles for a stop at Susie's and Rosings. We knew what we wanted at Susie's - chicharon with tons of laman and their carabao milk halaya. It was not meant to be!! Both items were sold out, although one guy behind the counter raised our hopes when he told Kat to wait while he took a key down from a shelf (how special can it be when it's stored under lock and key?). Oy. I bought boxes of carabao milk caramels from Rosings to soften the blow. It then got worse when we found Aurely's along Macarthur highway, but their special brazo de mercedes squares were also sold out. Teeth gnashing commences here. Homeward Jeeves, er Joey!
There was more to come however!! We hit the highway at 5, and got to Metro Manila by 5:44 pm, then took another hour and a half touring the north and west side of the city (through dusk, traffic, and scary neighborhoods) on our way south because aforementioned navi was braindead. When I saw a road I thought would lead to the right direction, it led us elsewhere. Finally we got to Binondo (168!) and I finally figured out the right turns. Don't ask, it was not a pretty picture. If we were in Amazing Race and AB was our prize at the end of the day, we'd have been told by Phil that we were out of the race.
Consolation prize - lunch at Cottage Kitchen was good enough to satiate our cajun growlings for awhile. Aurely's is still out of reach and, as for Mr. Bourdain, we wish Ian (of Sebastian's ice cream) better luck in crossing paths with him on Sunday (while stalking the buffet at Sofitel). (Follow up: it seemed like everyone else in Manila got to see, touch, take a pic of AB! Ian did see him and got something signed, several bloggers mentioned chance encounters, from airport to hotel to walks around the city.)
Thanks Joey for driving and keeping your cool under pressure. Kat for making us think about how to moderate our lust or men's lust or something lusty, and Mr. Bourdain, you just missed three gorgeous gals who spent an entire day devoted to you!