MY husband Raff and I had a truly enjoyable and engaging lunch last Friday, March 18, 2016, in the company of good friends in the local culinary world. It was such a delightful lunch that we did not want to leave—to think that we were in a hospital environment, as the venue was Via Mare at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
The occasion was the launch of the upcoming Filipino food promotion scheduled at Pico de Loro in Hamilo Coast, Brgy. Papaya, Nasugbu, Batangas, on April 1 to 3, 2016. All four featured celebrity chefs—Glenda Barretto, Myrna Segismundo, Sandy Daza and Jill Sandique—were personally there to present their respective menus.
The doyenne of Filipino cuisine, Glenda Barretto, is the brains behind the successful Via Mare restaurant and catering business. Hailing from Samar, she presents a number of her hometown’s favorite dishes, including Sugpo with Gata and Taba ng Talangka (prawns cooked in coconut milk and crab fat), Humba (pork leg stew cooked with peanuts and black beans), Kinilaw with Lato and Root Crops (ceviche with seaweed and root crops), and Eggplant Salad (with coconut milk and vinegar).
Chef Myrna Segismundo, whose name was synonymous with the award-winning Sign of the Anvil in the early part of her culinary career and with Restaurant 9501 in the later years, turns to her home province of Batangas for her inspiration. She showcases a lot of comfort dishes which she tweaked to elevate their presentation and taste. From her, I learned that monggo soup tastes even better if you add a little vinegar and olive oil to it just before eating it. Her Monggo with Chicharon, Olive Oil and Vinegar, which she presented during the launch in an assemble-your-own mini buffet, is simply awesome! She also has her version of Batangas Chicken and Pork Adobo with Burong Mangga. She uses Pajo, a type of small mango which is in season now, for her Burong Mangga and accompanies it with Burong Santol, too. For her Kinilaw, she combines fresh raw fish with bagoong Balayan (shrimp paste from the town of Balayan in Batangas), red eggs (salted egg, actually) and a medicinal herb called pansit-pansitan. Tinumis is another local dish shared by Batangas and neighboring Quezon. It’s basically banana heart cooked in vinegar.
“I am featuring ‘lowly’ dishes that you crave for and elevating them in presentation,” says Chef Myrna.
Chef Sandy Daza, who inherited his mom Nora Daza’s passion and skill and now hosts a show called Foodprints, focuses his energies on his ‘Familiar Flavors, Unusual Dishes’ thrust in food. His Bistek (beef steak), for instance, makes use of ox tail in place of the usual beef, so he calls it Ox Tail Bistek. His version of Pinangat has fish, shrimps and meat stuffed inside gabi leaves before they are tied and cooked in coconut milk. He also makes a delicious Lumpiang Sotanghon with Tinapa, and his Pancit Langlang is an indulgent stir-fried noodle dish that combines four types of noodles—sotanghon, bihon, canton and miki.
“I like to surprise people who eat food that I prepare,” says Chef Sandy.
Providing desserts for the upcoming Filipino food festival is Chef Jill Sandique, who is one of the best pastry chefs in the country today. Her desserts are something I cannot resist, so I tried all three desserts that she served on the buffet table on launch day—her signature Pistachio Sans Rival, a Classic Chocolate Mousse using Malagos’ gourmet local chocolate from Davao, and a Deconstructed Brazo de Mercedes with dollops of dayap curd and small mounds of burnt meringue to go with fresh strawberries, mango and blueberries, and garnished with mint leaves. I gave in to all the temptation!
Aside from the good Filipino comfort dishes with a twist, Raff and I were in good company, as we shared bites, sips, pleasant conversation and laughter with SM Hotels and Conventions’ vice president Neil Rumbaoa and Pico de Loro’s top honchos—general manager Maggie Garcia, VP for food and beverage Leah Magallanes, AVP for social affairs Mai Mislang and Chef Melchor Lopez. I also had a good time plating some dishes for shoot with Chef Claude Tayag, and sharing the meal with my www.interaksyon.com boss Francine Marquez and her husband Peter Marquez, and other media colleagues Roel Manipon of Tribune, Micky Fenix of Inquirer, CJ Juntereal of Manila Bulletin, Maricris Encarnacion of Cebu, and Vladimir Bunoan of ABS-CBN Online.
Now, you know why we did not want to leave long after lunch was over!
So make sure you catch the Filipino food fest at Pico de Loro this April.