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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Taal Vista Hotel Presents: Culinary Gems: A Festival of Filipino Flavors


I went nearly addicted to Thali meals while I was in India. I can also tell of similar food-tripping pleasures over spicy dishes that I tried in Sri Lanka, stuffing myself with various stir fried dishes and drowning on tom yum soup in Thailand. While I'm glad to have such an eventful gastronomical adventure so far this year, my heart still belongs to my native land's home-cooked flavors. Each time I would arrive at the airport I instantly imagines what my mom would be cooking at home. Same with every Filipinos in every part of the world, Filipino food still rocks our appetite. That's why when Taal Vista Hotel - as part of their 75th year celebration, invited me to experience their Culinary Gems: A Festival of Filipino Flavors, I was almost flabbergasted with excitement. 
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Reserve your seat for the remaining Culinary Gems dates at Cafe Veranda Taal Vista Hotel
Held at their renowned Cafe Veranda, the series showcases seven famous culinary chefs representing the diverse regional cuisines of the Philippines. The weekend of our visit features Chef Sau Del Rosario and a number of his specialty 'Kapampangan' (Pampanga) dishes which satisfied our small group of travel bloggers starting from its delectable appetizers Maya-Maya Mayonesa, Donya Editha's Chicken Galantine, Kesong Puti Stuffed Kalabasa Florets, Mechico Tamales Shooters, Fried Catfish Buro Pockets Mustasa and Paku Salad, Mixed Ensaladas to a wonderful set of scrumptious main course highlighted by Fried Ox-tail Ravioli with Macadamia Kare-Kare Truffle Sauce, Braised Ox Tongue with Mushrooms and Corn, Pork Sisig Foie Gras, Steamed Lapu-Lapu with Camias, Tomato and Yellow Curry, Pork Ribs Bulanglang and capping it off with sweet and colorful desserts of Tibuk-Tibok, Pandan Crepes with Coconut Floss and Suman Lihiya with Mango and Coco Jam

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Chef Sau Del Rosario
Sounds like a loaded buffet? that's not all. Around a dozen more dishes were laid out on the smorgasbord table all fighting for attention and a space on my plate. There's this can't miss juicy and crispy lechon, Paella rice, a Pho soup station plus a myriad of other fruits, cakes, pastries and vegetable options. 

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Fried Ox-tail Ravioli with Macadamia Kare-Kare Truffle Sauce
Around the middle part of our lunch, Chef Sau joined us on our table excusing himself by telling us about his slight migraine that morning. After a few minutes he returned with a plate asking if he could join us, of course we're delighted to have his presence. After a few exchanges he told us about an interesting story about a former fashion designer during the Marcos years, who showed up at his Rockwell home. "I was at the house when I was told that some monk was looking for me, I thought oh my God, is this the calling I'm destined for" he starts his narration, hinting at a very funny episode. It turns out the monk who showed up is a cousin of his who is charting his family tree who just discovered that Chef Sau is a distant cousin. 

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Pork Sisig Foie Gras
I choose not to reveal the identity and the background story of his long lost cousin and the instances on how he became a monk because I feel, there's no better person who can tell that story than Chef Sau himself. So in any case you see him somewhere, feel free to engage him in a conversation and he might bring it up. Don't worry, he is very accommodating and friendly, something I can't say about Chef Gordon Ramsey of the Masterchef fame, who I haven't met but would love to someday. 

Maya-Maya Mayonesa
So you might think I'm just being a kiss-ass when I say everything served that day was my favorite because in all seriousness, I really did, Monnet did and the other diners look very pleased enjoying the buffet. But mad props goes to the idea of preparing the Kare-Kare with a touch of Ravioli which we later learned from Chef Sau, was borne from the idea of incorporating our own local cuisines with certain touches of foreign influence - as to correlate with the tastes of people from other countries. 
Maya-Maya Mayonesa
Since Chef Sau is a part of a DOT project where they visit countries four times a year to showcase and introduce Filipino Food. He told us that their next stop would be France. Doing so, he came up with the idea of presenting Filipino cuisines to other nationalities by being more imaginative in serving our local food "and the Ravioli Kare-Kare is an example of that" 

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Steamed Lapu-Lapu with Camias, Tomato and Yellow Curry
So as our party consisting of myself, Monnette, Matet her daughter, her mom and Celine digs on our individual bountiful plates, we also savored each bite of these fine tasting local dishes peppered with creativity and colorful ingredients. Next time a clueless travel blogger from another country writes a blog post about 'getting hungry in the Philippines' because of lack of tasty cuisines, show these images to them and say 'eat your heart out'. 

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Fried Catfish Buro Pockets Mustasa and Paku Salad
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Tibuk-Tibok
Donya Editha’s Chicken Galantine
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Pandan Crepes with Coconut Floss
Mechico Tamales Shooters
These are just the Pampanga dishes prepared by Chef Sau, if you want to discover more local cuisines then you better book a seat to the remaining dates of Taal Vista's Culinary Gems: A Festival of Filipino Flavors. (Flavours for my Brit readers)

Here are the remaining weekend dates: 
- October 4-5: Chef Babes Austria (former Executive Chef of Malacanang Palace and Taal Vista Hotel)
- October 18: Chef Edwin Santos (Taal Vista Executive Hotel)
- November 1: Chef Bruce Lim (Asian Food Channel host)
- November 15: Chef's Jackie and Rolando Laudico (Culinary tandem and Celebrity endorsers)
The other chef included in the Culinary Gems is Chef Fernando Aracama (Restauranteur and former Junior Master Chef judge)

Cafe Veranda
Aside from dining with the awesome view of Taal Volcano, Cafe Veranda gives a great vibe conducive to a pleasurable dining experience plus a wonderful conversation with your date, family and friends. Don't kill me if I told you we repeated this experience come dinner time. :)
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Myself. Chef Sau. Monnette
About Chef Sau Del Rosario:
Chef Sau del Rosario, who hails from Pampanga, received his culinary arts training in Paris, France and worked in hotel restaurants in Singapore, Shanghai and France. He served as a Chef in Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, New World Hotel and Manila Peninsula Hotel. He is now the Executive Chef of F1 Hotel Manila. He has hosted and judged several television cooking shows and was an endorser of a famous ice cream brand.  

Special thanks to Taal Vista Hotel, Kilometre 60, Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City, +632.917.8225. For booking and reservations please visit their website and "Like" their Facebook page

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