NORMALLY, when you do food tours, you go to a certain province or region and visit the local eateries there to sample the local cuisine. You do it one province or one region at a time. But there’s a unique food tour launched last July 24, 2013, that lets you sample the different cuisines of the Philippines from different eras with culinary significance – right in the comfort of one restaurant. It’s called Philippines on a Plate, and it’s the brainchild of the power couple behind XO46 Heritage Bistro, Andrew and Sandee Masigan.
The unique food tour was launched at Whitespace along Pasong Tamo Ext., Makati City, to coincide with the 46th birthday of Andrew and the third anniversary of XO46 Heritage Bistro, the restaurant the Masigan couple put up after selling Dimsum ‘n Dumplings (DnD).
The cocktails cum 8-course dinner that took place at Whitespace last week were a simulation of Philippines on a Plate, albeit on a much larger scale. The evening began with Tuba cocktails and Bihod pica-pica, just like it would when Philippines on a Plate actually takes place.
Designed to be a food tour of heritage Filipino dishes that starts with how the natives enjoyed their food long before the Spaniards, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese and Americans came, settled and influenced Filipino cooking traditions, Philippines on a Plate takes diners in groups of 25 to 30 persons on a food tour like no other, presented dinner theater style, with a guide – comedian and host Gabe Mercado – telling diners what they’re eating, how the dish came to be, and when and how it was enjoyed at its time, what major ingredients went into the dish and where they were sourced. There is also a video screen showing each dish as it is served to the guests
The featured 8-course dinner, which is available for dinner bookings every Saturday and Sunday for Php2,800 per person, starts with Kinilaw Trio as appetizer. It’s three different ceviches – Tanigue (fish), Kambing (goat) and Laman-dagat (seafood) – on sea shells over a bed of blue sea salt. The fish is ‘cooked’ in citrus, while the two other ceviches make use of palm vinegar. This combination platter shows one of the many ways by which we Filipinos cooked our food, and kinilaw, as a food preparation method, has been used by Filipinos long before our foreign colonizers came.
Course No. 2 is Inihaw na Kalabaw on a Bed of Coconut and Mango. The beast of burden, the carabao, is seasoned with salt and turmeric and then grilled and served over a buko and mango ensalada.
The third course is Sinigang na Talakitok sa Santol, prepared with santol as its souring agent and served in a wooden bowl. Now, this is my favorite in the 8-course degustation.!
Next comes Pato Tim, with the use of duck again a reflection of how Filipinos ate even before our colonizers arrived on Philippine soil. As early as the 13th century, the duck was already an important part of Philippine cuisine. It’s organic duck with soy sauce, anise and sea salt, served on a bed of vermicelli with shiitake mushrooms.
Binagoongang Baboy-ramo was ingeniously presented in the fifth course. The wild boar’s meat was cooked with rice and wrapped, cone-shaped, in banana leaves.
The sixth course is Ensalada Mexicana or Corn Avocado Salsa, this time showing the Mexican influence on Filipino cuisine with its mix of avocado, tomatoes, onions and roasted corn kernels.
The seventh course and the last of the savory dishes, is Balbacua at Bringhe. The Balbacua is a type of barbecue that is cooked in an open-air flame pit, which is originally from the Caribbean Islands. The Bringhe, meanwhile, is derived from the iconic Spanish dish paella, using malagkit rice, chicken and turmeric as main ingredients.
To cap the unique and historical Filipino food tour is a dessert platter of Buko Pie and Fruit Salad to acknowledge the role of the Americans in Philippine history.
“Filipino cuisine is a cuisine with incredible depth and scope, and that’s what we want to showcase in XO46’s Philippines on a Plate,” explains Andrew, who, having been in the hospitality industry for 20 years, has always had a soft spot for tourism, and whose advocacy has always been to elevate Philippine cuisine and make it not just known but at par with the best in the world.
(XO46 Heritage Bistro is located at the Ground Floor, Le Grand Condominium, 130 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City. To book a Philippines on a Plate food tour, call telephone numbers 553-6635 or 553-6632.)