Even if I have long left the mainstream media, people would still ask me what’s it like to work on TV, and how the industry really is.
And add to this two of the more perennial questions. ”Ralph, when you’re out on field, are you friends with reporters of other stations? Does the network war apply to reporters?” Not quite.
I’ve had the pleasure of being good friends with reporters across different channels and across the different media, and I’ve always highly appreciated these connections. Many of these friends continue to work in the industry, while a significant number — which includes this writer — have left the media to pursue new callings, greater vocations.
I had the privilege of working with ABS-CBN’s Timi Nubla in the past. She has left the network to pursue her greater calling, and she’s now a manager at the Peninsula Manila. We got in touch with each other very recently, and it was wonderful getting together again to recall — and perhaps, laugh — about our experiences doing ambush interviews and the like. My girlfriend TJ and I got to meet fellow foodies, which added to the fun. Oh, we got to ask about some of the Hollywood celebrities who stayed at the Peninsula, the most recent being Sarah Jessica Parker.
Of course, it was also a good excuse to eat as if there were no tomorrow. It happened to be June 12, 115th anniversary of our independence, and it was the best timing for the Peninsula to launch its Lasang Pinoy food festival buffet at its all-dining restaurant, Escolta. The theme runs from June 12 to 30, with the menu wonderfully created by its guest chef, Myrna Segismundo.
Compared to its Asian counterparts, Filipino food has largely been underrated; it has largely been seen internationally as a “best-kept secret.” And even among us Filipinos, my personal opinion is, we have at times, taken our own cuisine for granted. Chef Myrna, in her guesting at the Peninsula, wishes to help counter all of this. The managing director of Restaurant 9501 at ABS-CBN also recounted that in her many travels abroad to showcase our cuisine, she says there is no need for tweaking our cuisine. Our cuisine is already good as it is, she says. However, what adds greater flavor and a greater experience are the stories that accompany our food, as well as the conversation, company, and hospitality that also comes with our food. I agree. All of these elements were present that night, plus the fiesta feel which was around us all night.
So, what exactly is part of the showcase? We started off with cocktails — a combination of traditional and modern fare.
To start the fiesta, we had ube martini. Who knew that you ube and alcohol mix very well? It was both creamy and refreshing.
We started off with the celebrated chicharon. It clearly sent the right message: tonight’s not the night to diet. Hahaha.
I personally loved the Dulong in Olive Oil, which you spread on toasted bread/crostini. The dulong was seasoned very well. The contrast between the saltiness of the dulong and the flavor of the olive oil were a feast for the palate.
At first glance, the fresh vegetable lumpia spring rolls looked more Vietnamese than Filipino. But when one thinks about it, there are two things to consider about our cuisine: 1) What’s unique about our cuisine (although some perhaps, would criticize this) is how we are open to foreign influences; and 2) While we open ourselves to foreign influences, we put our own Filipino touch. So where’s the Filipino touch? The vegetables made more delicious by the honeyed patis.
I am very picky about kinilaw. The seafood has to be super fresh, or else I fear that it would upset my tummy. And so, I limit eating kinilaw to trips to different provinces around the Philippines. I did take an exception that night and was happy to do so. The seafood was very fresh and it was kinilaw at its finest element– very fresh.
The main course…
For me, the baked laing with shrimps was a very pleasant surprise. While laing is pretty common in many food outlets, we all agreed that this one is worth attention. It was flavored well. The shrimps were very fresh — and abundant on the dish.
The paella binagoongan was very tasty. We had a sentiment though that it reminded us more about Thailand’s bagoong rice rather than a paella. But there is no question about the bagoong. And if you love bagoong, you will like this dish.
A party is never complete without our Pinoy barbecue. We were treated to an assortment of its different forms, from pork, to shrimp, to squid, which were all very juicy. I got a lot of this. Hahaha.
Yes, we all want long lives, and so, pancit is always served in any fiesta or in any party. It looks very simple and traditional. Traditional it is, but it was flavored very well. Its humble appearance aside, it was a very good dish. It’s proof that we shouldn’t judge pancit…because it is not a book. (Borrowing the Melanie Marquez blooper). Seriously, it’s proof that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
The last three dishes were probably the most talked about that night.
The crusted beef caldereta, presented as a pastel was very delicious. It seemed that they did spend enough time really softening the beef. The pastry was very flaky and buttery.
I will not hesitate to eat the roast beef adobo over and over again. Too bad we were running out of space when we got to this dish. The adobo treatment worked well for the roast beef, which was very tender.
A fiesta, of course, is not complete without the pièce de résistance — lechon! So, how did Chef Myrna present it?
We had boneless lechon de leche, which was presented with a red wine-liver sauce, and also with a fig relish. I absolutely loved this. The lechon had a tasty, fragrant filling (lemon grass?). And yes, the skin was very crispy and crunchy. It was a real treat indeed.
We ended the night with dessert, of course. It was very humble of Chef Myrna to point out that her comfort zone is really with cooking rather than baking or making desserts. She says the only dessert she makes is turon, which we had an abundance of. These had mango, pineapple, and of course, banana as fillings.
We all enjoyed her sense of humor regarding her view of making desserts, which was self deprecating — and endeared her even more to us, her audience. And so, ”to make up” for this limitation — although there was no need to, as we had a wonderful, wonderful meal — she got her friend, the equally-prominent Jill Sandique to prepare additional desserts. We enjoyed her Pavlova, which was very light and sweet.
The Lasang Pinoy food festival runs at the Peninsula Manila in Makati City unti June 30, 2013. I recommend it to those who appreciate Filipino food and want to appreciate it even more. It’s a wonderful treat if you are entertaining balikbayans and tourists alike. According to Timi, the Escolta is buffet is available from Monday to Saturday. It’s P1,450 for adults and P860 for kids 12 and under. Dinner is Sunday to Thursday. It’s P1,550 for adults and P920 for the kids. And on Friday and Saturday — it’s P1,900 for adults and P1,100 for kids. You can call The Pen at 887-2888 for reservations.