THROUGH the years in my culinary journalism career, I’ve sat down to several lunches and dinners prepared by celebrity chefs. Although each one is always an exquisite dining experience, the press banquet lunch that my husband Raff and I attended in Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay last February in connection with its year-long 75th anniversary celebration turned out to be one of the most special and unique. Why? Because it was prepared not just by one celebrity chef but by six celebrity chefs – Sau del Rosario, Babes Austria, Fernando Aracama, Bruce Lim, and Roland and Jackie Laudico.
On top of that, the special 75th anniversary press banquet was set up by the View Deck of Taal Vista Hotel, with the scenic Taal Volcano as backdrop. The long table set under a white canopy tent was clothed with sack cloth as rustic table liner and dotted with various vases and pots of flowers. Orchids, gerberas, statis, carnations… They came in different colors and sent whiffs of refreshing fragrance with every blowing of the wind. The setup, with name plates and individual menus for each seat, felt like a high society dining scene straight out of a foreign movie. There was even live music rendered by a string quartet, playing during lunch service – and each course of the five-course set menu was preceded by a march of waiters. Two rows of waiters, each carrying two covered plates, marched down the entire expanse of the View Deck, all the way from the Magnolia Room end, and as they neared the canopy tent, two stationed waiters removed the covers from the plates held by the marching waiters, who then stationed themselves behind the seated guests. On cue, they placed the plates down before the guests, each waiter serving only two guests for each course. Guests couldn’t help but feel really special.
First course, Lapu-Lapu Rillette Kapampangan, was prepared by Chef Sau del Rosario. Chef Sau, who hails from Pampanga, received his culinary training in Paris, France, and has worked in top hotels and restaurants in Singapore, Shanghai (China) and France. He now serves as executive chef of F1 Hotel and A Taste of France by Alphaland.
The Lapu-Lapu Rillette Kapampangan Chef Sau prepared capitalized on the freshness of the lapu-lapu fish used. It’s light and refreshing, and it was successful in whetting the appetite and getting the palate ready for a full-course lunch. It was paired with a light Beringer Chenin Blanc courtesy of Happy Living, whose wine expert Katherine Yao Santos was among the guests during the press banquet.
The second course was presented by Chef Babes Austria, former executive chef of Malacanang Palace and Taal Vista Hotel, and now a culinary consultant, professor of Asian and International Cuisine and owner of Garden Family Restaurant. Chef Babes served a combination of an aappetizer, Crunchy Cheese Triangles (rice paper filled with fresh water wild fern, prawn, water buffalo cheese, served with a creamy salted egg dip), and salad, Ensaladang Tagalog (shredded fresh green mango, smoked fish, salted water buffalo cheese, encased in phyllo dough).
Tasting it, you’d understand why Chef Babes was chosen as executive chef of Malacanang Palace during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Her dish was accompanied by Beringer Chardonnay.
Chef Fernando Aracama, who hails from Bacolod City and obtained his culinary degree from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, USA, was responsible for the third course, which was Sinanglay en Papillote (baked parrot fish in parchment paper, flavored with kamias and tomatoes wrapped in pechay with coconut milk sauce). This time, it was Beringer Pinot Grigio that rounded out the full flavors of the fish dish.
I loved the fish course prepared by Chef Fern. It was served in its papillote or parchment paper pouch, which kept the steam and heat in. And when the pouch was broken open, the waiters came around one more time to pour a coconut milk-based sauce over the fish.
The fourth course, Pork Napoleon (layered pork and laing served with kamote gnocchi and aligue cream sauce), was presented by Chef Bruce Lim, who has worked in California and Las Vegas before coming home to Manila to put up his own restaurant, Chef’s Table, in Bonifacio Global City. He is now a noted TV personality with a show on the Asian Food Channel.
Chef Bruce’s meat entrée was perfectly matched with Beringer Zinfandel.
Finally, dessert came, courtesy of celebrity chef couple Roland and Jackie Laudico, Chef Roland being a topnotch culinary chef while Chef Jackie is a well-known pastry chef and chocolatier. Together, they established the Chef Laudico Group in 2000, and among the Group’s restaurants is Guevarra’s buffet restaurant in San Juan. The dessert they served at Taal Vista Hotel was Suman Rice Cake with Fresh Ripe Mangoes and Latik Sauce. It’s a modern, gourmet version of the popular native delicacy, suman, paired with Guimaras’ sweet ripe mangoes.
The press banquet served as a prelude to the series of 75th Anniversary Grand Buffets that Taal Vista Hotel has lined up in the months to come as part of the hotel’s year-long diamond anniversary celebration. The Grand Buffets will be featuring the cuisines of these celebrity chefs – Sau del Rosario, Babes Austria, Fernando Aracama, Bruce Lim, and Roland and Jackie Laudico, joined by Taal Vista Hotel executive chef Edwin Santos, himself a celebrity chef in his own right – albeit on separate days.
The schedule of the Grand Buffets at the hotel’s Café Veranda is as follows:
• Chefs Roland and Jackie Laudico – July 26 and 27, and August 2 and 3, 2014
• Chef Bruce Lim – August 9 and 10, 16 and 17
• Chef Fernando Aracama – August 23 and 24, 30 and31
• Chef Edwin Santos – September 6 and 7, 13 and 14
• Chef Sau del Rosario – September 20 and 21, 27 and 28
• Chef Babes Austria – October 4 and 5, 11 and 12
The 75th Anniversary Press Banquet, held last February 16, 2014, a clear and beautiful Sunday, was just a preview of the series of grand 75th anniversary celebration activities to come. It was also held to coincide with the press conference that preceded the Press Banquet by the scenic Ridge of Taal Vista Hotel. The press conference was held earlier in the day, where area general manager Walid Wafik briefed everyone about Taal Vista Hotel’s 75th anniversary activities. Elizabeth Sy, president of SM Hotels and Conventions Corporation, also joined the press conference and the Press Banquet.
Chef Edwin Santos had a number of Pinoy inspired pica-picas, served pass-around style, during the press conference.
Also to form part of the year-long 75th Anniversary celebration is the opening of the Magnolia Steakhouse in May this year. Located in the Magnolia Pavilion on The Ridge, the new dining establishment will be devoted to prime cut beef served with a selection of sauces, side dishes and fresh homegrown Tagaytay greens. Taking advantage of its scenic location, the steakhouse will feature an al fresco dining area with sweeping views of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano.
Another activity to be held in conjunction with the 75th Anniversary celebration will be the unveiling of the 75th Anniversary Exhibit, a multimedia showcase of Taal Vista Hotel’s rich history, legacy of quality service, and stories of memorable experiences. Come to think of it, almost everyone, spanning different generations, have cherished childhood memories of Taal Vista, from the time it was officially opened as a Lodge in 1939 to the time it played a big role in the liberation of Manila in 1945 to its transition into a favorite vacation place in 1956 following the promotion of Tagaytay as a major tourist destination in the Philippines, to its acquisition from the Development Bank of the Philippines by SM Investments Corporation in 1988. The Lodge has since been renamed into a Hotel, and new wings, an additional ballroom and new guest rooms have been added to the original structure.
The hotel’s rich history will be the highlight of the 75th Anniversary Exhibit, which will tour select SM malls from September to October. The schedule of the tour is as follows:
• September 6 to 17 – Grand Ballroom Lobby, Taal Vista Hotel
• September 18 to 24 – SM Mall of Asia
• September 25 to October 1 – The Podium
• Otober 2 to 8 – SM Aura
• October 9 to 15 – SM Southmall
• October 16 to 22 – SM City Dasmarinas, Cavite
• October 23 to 29 – SM City Batangas
The grand 75th Anniversary celebration will culminate with the Taal Vista Hotel 75th Anniversary Gala Party scheduled on October 11, 2014, at the hotel’s Grand Ballroom. It will feature an Art Deco theme reminiscent of the 1930s, which was the decade when the historic hotel was born.
Cheers to Taal Vista Hotel!
(Taal Vista Hotel is located along Km. 60, Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City 4120. For inquiries and reservations, call +63 (2) 917-8225, +63 (46) 413-1000 or +63 0917 809-1254. Manila Sales Office is located at G/F, One E-com Center, Ocean Drive, Mall of Asia Complex CBP-1A, Pasay City 1300.)