This time of year is exciting for chefs. Many are invited to judge culinary competitions like the National Food Showdown’s “Chef Wars” in Baguio, Cebu, Bacolod and Cagayan de Oro.
It’s not easy work, but when your hosts are foodies, the food trips are so worth it. This year, the Visayas competitions were held in Bacolod and all I can say is, “Wow!”
Our first meal was a buffet spread at Palapala seafood restaurant. There is a table of fresh marine produce—where you point your fish of choice to be cooked. I love the kinilaw with gata, pepper prawns, baked fish, with talbos ng kamote. Wonderful and healthy meal.
That evening, we also went to Tita Pat Cajili’s Bacolod Chicken House. There is a debate on who makes the best inasal: Aida’s or Chicken House. I personally prefer the latter, whose chicken flavors penetrate more and the skin is crunchy. I took home 15 pieces of paa to my family, with garlic rice, of course.
Since it was a welcome event for the visiting judges, lechon was served courtesy of Pat’s son Rico. The roast was obviously made with a native pig—its skin so crunchy and hardly any fat between the skin and the meat. Yummy!
I proceeded to eat, kamayan-style, two chicken thigh inasal, one atay (liver) and half a cup of garlic rice. (But first I went on a 45-day diet and lost 15 pounds.)
In the judges’ lounge, we are often served food from the restaurants of the organizers. This year, I missed Bob’s giant fried lumpiang ubod.
One dinner was at Bob Magalona’s new Azucarera restaurant—a partnership with the Dos Mestizos group of Boracay.
I loved Bob’s paellas, both black and Valencia style. Proof that we enjoyed the black paella with the aioli from our smiles showing our blackened teeth.
Our last dinner was at Aboy’s. I usually focus on a few items like the grilled blue marlin belly, squid ink fat and mushrooms wrapped in banana leaves. But that evening, I discovered a few more yummy dishes: catfish in asado sauce, sisig and baked scallops. I love Aboy’s!
Chef See Yeong Chan of Enderun prepared a lamb biryani with colored basmati rice and gravy. Bacolod produces lamb from the farm of Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr.
I also took home some Felicia’s ensaymada—a must every time I’m in Bacolod. I also love Felicia’s cakes and cookies.
I got some squid and tapa sheets from Tita Celia/Tita Titong Henares (tel. 09189067291). Manny Torrejon’s Bacolod toasted chorizo is likewise a winner.
But the most surprising thing happened while I was busy at the “Market Basket” competitions. The day before, I met a lady who handed me two boxes. She said one box was for my friends, and the other was for me.
As soon as I took a bite, I had to call and personally congratulate her for the best fresh lumpiang ubod I’ve had so far.
Its strong garlic flavor went perfectly with the long spring onion. The ubod was crunchy and tasty, a bit sweet and really delectable.
This new discovery is made by Cecilia Baylon of Mico’s (tel. 09238320581, 09177770223). It will be available soon in Manila.
My Japan food tour of Fukuoka/Hiroshima is on Nov. 5-10, while the Hokkaido food tour will be on Nov. 19-24. E-mail [email protected]
I will forward your e-mail to Pia of the Japan Travel Board and she will coordinate the details. If you join, I promise to break your diet!
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