Sonoma County’s Balik Tanaw Fiesta: Mesquite-fired Lechon by Floyd Ponce, Cheese Pimiento, Pancit Palabok, Polvoron
Filipino Fiesta in Fulton
When I arrived close to noon, the sight and scent of two whole hogs on a spit grabbed my immediate attention. Floyd Ponce, the man behind this custom-built mobile rotisserie, was cranking them up a little higher above the mesquite coals for the final minutes of cooking. Each pig was about 50 pounds before cooking. He buys them in San Francisco Chinatown and has the shoulder and large leg bones removed for more even cooking. They’re seasoned and marinated overnight, trussed, then cooked on site for catered parties. Cooking time is about two hours.
I wandered off to take a look around the grounds and the other booths. But then I noticed the long line waiting for lechon and figured I better return for my share. Ponce was down to the last half of a hog by the time it was my turn.
For the event, the lechon was chopped and portioned out by the pound. $10 per pound and a container of sauce was included.
The line formed behind Ponce. When it was my turn, he motioned me to stand to his right where I had a better view of the roast pig in order to point to the parts I wanted and could see them go into the styro box on the scale.
I wanted just a half-pound, some from the collar/jowl and some from the loin. The mahogany skin was crispy, unlike almost every porchetta I’ve tried. Well-seasoned with just right salting for me, the meat was very juicy and deliciously tinged with smoke. The fruity, garlicky lechon sauce provided tart/sweet/salty notes.
Here’s his card (cell, 707-318-5511). He said he has a wedding gig almost every week during the summer.
I also tried the annatto orange-tinted pancit palabok offered by these smiling ladies.
The orange-colored, fishy sauce with chunks of meat and rubbery shrimp topped the bed of rice noodles. Then garnishes of hard-cooked egg, scallions, chicharon, shredded cabbage, and fish flakes were added. This was the first time I’ve had palabok made with thick cylindrical noodles like this.
In the “learn something new every day”, I had no idea that the South’s pimiento cheese was also a Filipino thing. Called “cheese pimiento”, I regret that I didn’t buy this jar to taste for myself.
For something sweet, I bought some polvoron, wrapped in colorful tissue paper, five for $1. Very buttery and more toasty than any I’ve had before, the touch of salt added a pop. Now I’m wishing I had more.
Though most of the area was shaded, the (unusual) heat of the day was tiring and I didn’t stay long. I did glance at more than a dozen food booths, mostly run by clubs or church groups, and was amazed at the variety available for sale. Next year I’ll bring a shopping bag to load up with home cooking. Here are more scenes of the event.