Ariel has been inviting me to spend a weekend at Clark but I just couldn’t see the merits of the place. That is until I got to spend a few days there on business. I realized that Pampanga offers some of the country’s best culinary experiences. Not to mention Duty Free shopping.
So, now it’s my turn to bug Ariel to spend a weekend there. What better time than our 114th Monthsary? Fortunately, the 18th of October fell on a Saturday, perfect for an overnight weekend out of town.
We had an itinerary and we planned to make a stop at Mely’s Sisig – said to be the best Kapampangan Sisig in town, located at San Fernando. The web information said that it’s a very small carinderia that has no sign. Well, it must have been well-hidden so we completely missed it.
Our alternative was RFW, home of the best Tokwa’t Baboy, as well as Palabok and Halo-Halo. As I have been there a couple of times already, it was pretty easy to locate it. I wanted Ariel to taste the tokwa’t baboy but unfortunately, it was unavailable. Just our luck!!! So, we proceeded to Zapata’s instead for our lunch. It’s one of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve tried – better than those in Manila – and I want Ariel to experience it as well.
The interior of Zapata’s is quite cozy. The lighting is slightly dimmed and the interiors a rainbow of Mexican colors. The walls are painted a sunny yellow and the entire restaurant is decorated with colorful ornaments like Mexican hats, chili peppers, and colorful textiles. Some parts of the walls are painted with phrases written in the Spanish language. We picked a table near a window so we would have enough natural light for taking photos of the food.
The selection wasn’t long. It was just a page of food options, the usual stuff – Nachos with salsa, Tacos, Fajitas, Burrito, etc. Since it was my second time here, it was easier for me to order – I just made sure I tried a different one from my last visit. Ariel, as usual, took a bit more time to order. He’s not very adventurous with food but I could see that he wanted to venture out of his comfort zone. If we came for dinner, we would have ordered some alcoholic beverages. But it was midday so we just opted for some sodas – perfect for the Mexican-spiced dishes we ordered.
Ariel ordered the Mahi-Mahi with Mexican Rice. Between the two of us, Ariel is less experimental and would tend to get the safe option. The Mahi-Mahi is already an adventurous choice for him. On the contrary, while I am more adventurous when it comes to food, I opted for Beef Fajitas which is among my usual fare. I love the act of putting together the Fajitas on a piece of pita bread. A bit of salsa and sour cream, some grilled onions and bellpepper, add the strips of beef and the Mexican Rice. Roll and enjoy! After our main meal, Ariel ordered a slice of American Apple Pie. Yummy! Thus officially begun our Pampanga food and shopping trip.
After lunch, we checked into Oxford Hotel. We got a room with King Sized bed. This is the cheapest hotel we found inside the Clark Freeport zone. We figured we just need a place to sleep as we will be out most of the day anyway. We quickly realized why it was affordable. Customer service is practically non-existent. Nobody greeted us at the entrance. No one helped us with our bags. We only had one overnight bag but I brought my DSLR and my laptop so we had a few pieces of luggage in tow. After checking in at the front desk, no one ushered us into our room.
The hotel, though still practically new at 2 years old, looked unkempt. The hallway was dreary and there was a musty smell. Our room was quite large, but sparsely furnished and decorated. There’s a ref but nothing inside – though we got two bottles of complimentary water. There’s a dresser table but no lighting above it. The bathroom had basic amenities – bath & hand towels, toilet paper, bath soap and shampoo, and a hair dryer. There was no trashcan in the bathroom so I just got the one under the dresser table. Because we started the day early, we were quite sleepy by the time we checked in. So we spent the better part of the afternoon napping in our room.
At 4pm, we were ready to conquer Duty Free Shopping! We were able to buy an assortment of household stuff, sporting goods, and imported canned goods and confectionery. By 6pm, our SUV was filled with shopping bags. The only thing we weren’t able to buy at that point were the Christmas ornaments I saw at my last visit. Oh well, there’s still tomorrow, but at that point, we were raring to have dinner. We didn’t have snacks so we were a bit famished.
After a quick shower, we got dressed for our Monthsary dinner. We had a reservation at 7:30pm. C Italian Dining was just a few minutes away so we made it in time. We opted to get seats inside the air-conditioned room rather than al fresco at the garden. It was a bit humid and we wanted to be comfortable. The interior was tastefully done, with modern furnishings and adequate lighting. Framed paintings line the wall. The table setting was quite casual. The guests were mainly adults with some families with small kids.
We started with some wine. We were very hungry so we waited for the toasted bread and pesto dip before taking a sip of the Sauvignon Blanc. They have an extensive menu and we can only try so much for the evening. Good thing I had friends who recommended some of the bestsellers.
C Italian Dining’s claim to fame is their unique Panizza. We opted for the Kristina Panizza which came highly recommended by friends and even our very helpful waitress. The Panizza base is made from very thin crust pizza with 5 types of cheeses. Kristina Panizza has ham and bacon toppings, as well as caramelized onions and roasted mushrooms. It is served sliced in long strips with a bowl of arugula and alfalfa sprouts. Then you put some arugula and alfalfa on the panizza, roll it and enjoy the explosion of flavor and texture in your mouth. Ariel doesn’t like arugula at all, so he started with just the alfalfa sprouts. But seeing me enjoy my roll of panizza convinced him to try and he enjoyed it immensely. We were able to clean up our plates along with the bowl of greens.
We also ordered a pasta dish called Penne Roberto. It’s a cream-based pasta with Gorgonzola cheese, roasted chicken and garlic and sundried tomatoes. We ordered one serving split into two plates. The serving was huge, even at half order each plate. It was served with toasted bread, and they did not scrimp on the chicken. Since we are already almost full with the panizza, we set the chicken aside and just ate the pasta soaked in the creamy sauce.
Ariel and I both had a second glass of the Sauvignon Blanc, which made our dinner even more enjoyable.
After dinner, we had some drinks back at the hotel. I had a glass of margarita while Ariel opted for his usual San Mig Light. We checked our emails and just spent a few minutes chatting.
We had a leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning. The breakfast buffet wasn’t good and we finally decided that the extra cost of staying in a nicer hotel is really worth it, on account of the breakfast buffet. Nonetheless, we still had a good time so it was ok.
After breakfast, I met with a scrapper friend who showed me some yummy stuff fresh from Scrapbooks Hawaii. Then it was off to more shopping. We bought some Christmas ornaments for my winter inspired Christmas tree this year.
We had lunch at RFW in Angeles City. It was abit disappointing as their Tokwa’t Baboy was still unavailable. We just settled with the Palabok and Halo-Halo which were very good, though we were really hoping to have the tokwa’t baboy here.
Anyway, our weekend ended with an hour of full body massage in the comfort of our own bedroom courtesy of our usual pair of masseuse – Rose and Ivy. They come to our condo every Sunday for our weekly massage and I couldn’t think of a better way to soothe our travel-exhausted bodies.
Til our next road/food trip!