I have been to Bacolod many times, mostly for shooting competitions and once for my Kangen water demonstration. I had never been there for any food-related business.
But just two weeks ago, I was invited by Café Uma owner chef Jomi Gaston to judge in the yearly Sabor Bisaya cooking competitions and Food Expo.
This was in preparation for the National Food Showdown in Manila. We were met and entertained by the organizers who are not only food production people and restaurant and hotel owners, but also die-hard foodies.
It didn’t take long for us to get along. These people knew all the good foodie spots in the province, so I got to experience Bacolod like never before.
As soon as we arrived, we were driven to one of the prime dining places in Bacolod, Aboy’s. I was surprised that Aboy’s had moved to a much larger and newer place; I remember that the old restaurant didn’t even have cemented floor or real walls.
I also remember the food to be simple but good. Aboy’s is popular for its fresh seafood inihaw. I also learned about the owner’s humble beginnings and the risks he took to bring his resto to where it is today. Aboy should tell his story more often—perhaps in print. It would be interesting to read about it while waiting for the food.
In the competitions venue, the organizers took turns preparing a buffet. The first dish I had was an authentic Bacolod Pancit Molo. With its kulubot wanton swimming in garlicky broth, it brought my molo standards to new heights. This came from Seabreeze Hotel.
There was also a thick crispy lumpiang ubod made by Bob’s Restaurant, with strong garlic dipping sauce.
I didn’t know if I wanted to try the food entries in the competition or just stay in the judges’ lounge. In the convention hall where the competition was being held, I saw how fresh piyaya was made.
A stall was selling delicious siomai and Lumpiang Shanghai made by Luigi Battistuzzi. He also made homemade sausages that were boiled, broiled, then laid into a hot dog bun.
On the first day of the competition, I took a cab to the venue. I wanted to have authentic Bacolod Chicken Inasal, so I asked the driver whether he’d had lunch. He hadn’t, so we both ate at Chicken Deli. It was good, but I was sure there would be better places.
I was right. The original Bacolod Chicken House version was a lot better, with a stick of inihaw na liver to go with the chicken. I love the dark meat. But since I wanted to serve the others first, I gave them the dark meat and I ended up with a not-as-nice breast meat. Pwede na.
We were also experimenting with chef Robbie Goco’s new diet discovery, crack wheat. It has more fiber than brown rice but fewer calories. Masarap!
There were many dining places that deepened my awareness of good Bacolod food. I sampled one of the best cheesecakes I’ve had at Calea. I think it was white chocolate cheesecake.
The Museum Café, meanwhile, makes its own cheeses, mustard and ham. I loved the shaved ham here—smoked perfectly, and goes very well with homemade bread.
The ensaymadas at Felicias left me speechless—simply one of the best-tasting ensaymadas I have come across, soft, slightly sweet, moist and just perfect. I hope the owners make a more expensive version and top it with shaved queso de bola. The chocolate cake is also to-die-for.
I also took some chorizos home that were recommended by another foodie, Manny Torrejon, who grew up in this food paradise.
It would be nice if the Department of Tourism could organize cultural and culinary tours to all our provinces. That way, tourists and visitors will have the best of each province and will be able to tell others about the good food of our country.
To experience the Bacolod food tour, call or text Bambi Borromeo 0918-9090916.
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