I’m not an envious person. On the contrary, I’ve heard contemporaries say that I live “a charmed life” and that, in my generation of U.P. College of Law grads, I am probably “the happiest.” It tickles me to hear that. I was a happy homebody. Until Dan de Padua, fellow U.P. Law alumnus and fellow ex-newspaper columnist, decided to go on a crispy pata journey and chronicle the entire thing—with photos—on Facebook and with a promise for more in his blog.
Then, I went green with envy.
How could he? He was a corporate lawyer who worked in broadcast media for 25 years. I’m the lawyer who turned foodie online, on print and, occasionally, on TV. How could he be the one to go on a crispy pata journey?
I sulked. I pouted. I seethed.
But that’s life. He lives in the concrete jungle called Metro Manila where crispy pata joints—in varying quality and price range—can practically be found on every street. I live in a suburb where we have to drive for at least half an hour to get good crispy pata at Anix’s House of Kare-kare.
His lifestyle requires (or is it allows?) him to drive around the city every day, notice crispy pata signs along the way, stop whenever one caught his fancy and gorge (and, yes, make the rest of us drool with the photos he shares on Facebook).
My “charmed life” requires me to cook and write about food from the comfort of my home—often, in the same boxer shorts I slept in the night before.
Competition was fruitless. I gave up any and every dream to go on a similar crispy pata journey.
I’m kidding about the envy, of course. Well, the bitchy part of envy, anyway. The part about not being able to discover and eat at good restos more often is a case for genuine envy. The dining scene here in the suburb is different and, occasionally, a nightmare. But, truth be told, despite the lack of amenities I got used to while growing up in the city, dahling, I wouldn’t give up my traffic-and-commute-free-lifestyle for anything in the world. Still, I can’t seem to eat crispy pata these days without thinking of Dan and his crispy pata journey with a sigh.
Last night, Speedy and I dropped by Livestock Restaurant & Bar at Sgt. Esguerra Avenue in Quezon City for crispy pata at the recommendation of one of Alex’s friends. We were in the city for a couple of reasons—we dropped off the birthday cake that Alex baked for my brother then we went to the wake of Speedy’s aunt. Since there was no cooked dinner waiting for us at home, if we were going to survive until breakfast, it made sense to eat out. Why not Livestock? It wasn’t out of the way.
Parking at Livestock was not exactly a thrilling adventure. For an establishment of that size, there were parking spaces for only about ten vehicles. But it was a Sunday night, not too busy, and Speedy managed to squeeze the pick-up in one of the two remaining empty slots.
Inside Livestock, we were handed oversized menus. I said crispy pata, Speedy asked what else I wanted but I didn’t think we could manage anything beyond a whole pork hock. Beer, I said. Pale Pilsen. None of those watery light beers for me, thank you.
The crispy pata was served uncut which, to me, is the only way to serve it. I especially abhor crispy pata that has been slashed in several places after boiling and before going into the pot of hot oil. That’s a surefire formula for losing a tremendous amount of meat juices. So, 10 points for Livestock.
As we had been warned, the crispy pata was served with a bamboo spatula. Not really a popsicle stick but wider—more like a tongue depressor that the doctor sticks in your mouth to check your throat with a flashlight. No knives. For drama. It’s a wordless message that the bamboo spatula was enough to cut through the deep-fried pork hock because, yes, the puffed rind crackled and split like crisp paper and, inside, the meat was moist and THAT tender.
Oh, goodness. Despite my resolve to stop photographing restaurant meals and instead focus on eating and conversing, I couldn’t resist. The pork hock was seasoned all the way to the bone. The texture of the meat and the fat gave “melt in the mouth” a whole new meaning. To describe it as scrumptious would be an insult. It was way, way better than scrumptious. If there’s a word for it, I haven’t discovered it yet. Forty points for Livestock.
A little flick disjointed the bones. And, after peeling off the crispy skin that covered the trotters, the gelatinous fat and sticky tendons were just begging to be sucked. Yes, sucked. Much like sucking the juices from the head of a big fat shrimp. After sucking, the fat and tendons just dissolved into a delightful gooey mess as the mouth’s palate pressed against the tongue. It was unbelievable. Another 40 points for Livestock.
Speedy said the pork hock was probably pressure fried. I said, perhaps, it was pressure cooked too. Who knows?
There was literally nothing left but bones after we were done with the crispy pata. We were full and we found the experience delightful. Moreover, it was like a date night we really didn’t plan on having.
Crispy pata at Livestock isn’t exactly on the “affordable” side. At PHP680.00, it cost almost twice as much as other good crispy pata we’ve had in the past. But Livestock is a resto bar and, as these things go, the ambience is part of the price of every item in the menu.
After downloading the photos from my iPhone to my iMac, I giggled to myself thinking that, finally, I had outdone Dan and his crispy pata journey. But the giggle was short and it came to an abrupt stop. As I perused the crispy pata photos on Dan’s Facebook account, I saw one that looked familiar. Darn. He has had crispy pata at Livestock. And over a year ago too. Never mind. Someday, somehow, I’ll discover even better crispy pata that Dan has never heard of.