Tablea is the Cebuano term for pure chocolate derived from cacao beans. It is a process that requires dedication to obtain optimum results.
Raquel Choa of The Chocolate Chamber is known as Cebu’s chocolate queen. Her tablea has inspired Stefano Verrillo, executive chef of the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel, to come up with “Tout Chocolat,” a six-course dinner served every Friday at the Marco Polo’s Blu Bar & Grill on the topmost floor.
Every dish is flavored with chocolate, from the beef and tuna tataki to the pan-fried grouper with its cocoa hollandaise sauce. Arrangements can be made for special occasions, not necessarily on a Friday evening.
That’s exactly what Dr. Vivina Chiu Yrastorza did as a fundraiser for the Arts Council, of which she is one of the vice presidents, and booked for a Thursday night. She gathered quite a crowd and the results spelled success.
On hand to welcome the guests were the Marco Polo’s general manager Julie Najar, resident manager Xavier Masson, banquets manager Tess Catipay and Joward Tongco, food and beverage manager.
Arts Council president Petite Garcia announced that performing that evening would be Izarzuri Vidal, the Arts Council’s scholar for voice, back from her studies at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila.
Vivina took her turn at the podium to thank all who had come and promised everyone a most enjoyable evening. At her table sat Jade Concepcion, Ricca Mansayac, Roldan Banzon, Melinda Atienza, Ramon Reyes, Genesis Rivera, Danielle Libron, Niel Abapo and Joy Santillan.
Petite Garcia was seated with Arts Council trustee Teresin Mendezona, former president and current adviser Maia Franco and member Yoko Ishikawa.
She gave the cue for the program to start to Izarzuri’s father, painter Mar Vidal, and Arts Council staff Mariz Rallos and Hannilyn Cenarlo.
Truly gifted since childhood with a beautiful voice, Izarzuri effortlessly sang and delighted everyone with her repertory of familiar songs and operatic numbers.
Among them were “La Vie en Rose,” arias from the opera “Carmen” in French, the Chopin classic everyone knows (and hums) as “No Other Love,” the Spanish “Amapola,” and “Love Never Dies” from the sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Seated with vice president Maxwell Espina and trustee Marylou Neri were Kathy Woolbright, Candice Neri, Lizbeth Regner and Vivien Go.
At the table of trustees Angelina Escaño, Rose Hennessy and Alice Plaza were Dr. Clint Escaño, Mike Hennessy, Rosemary Dakay, Meme Dakay and John Jacobe.
They were quite excited about having more fundraisers for the Arts Council. Angelina, Rose and Alice say there should be a once-a-year grand event. Meanwhile, they are busy with the forthcoming Cine Europa on Oct. 9–11 at the Onstage theater of Ayala Center Cebu.
This is the annual film festival celebrated by the European Union delegation, with various films from the different member countries. It has quite a following in Cebu, especially from young students.
As to the Marco Polo Hotel, its calendar of events is quite studded with highlights. The grand inaugural of its expanded ballroom, tagged for Sept. 19, has been momentarily reset for Oct. 10, also a Saturday.
The Indian festival Diwali will be on the evening of Nov. 7, with a program of dances at the lobby. The occasion will open a week-long festival of Indian cuisine at the Café Marco.
Two weeks later, the theme is definitely French, what with the annual observance of Soiree Beaujolais. One week more and it’s time to light up the Marco Polo Christmas tree on Nov. 28.
As we said in an earlier column, Christmas at the Marco Polo in Cebu is a series of exciting events. January will be just as hectic, when all of Cebu stirs up for the Sinulog.
That means the annual “Sugbusug” festival of Cebuano cuisine, for which consultant Jessica Avila is in deep research. The fest usually opens with an exhibit of Santo Niño images at the lobby.
Chinese cuisine then becomes the focus when the Marco Polo marks the Chinese New Year on Feb. 8.