As someone who cooks at home almost every day, I am delighted every time a supermarket opens in town. It means more food sources, new discoveries, and the possibility of trying untested recipes.
As I walk down the aisles of a new supermarket, I take my sweet time examining the canned goods and their places of origin, checking the freshness of the produce, looking for the day’s specials, and imagining what I could create out of them.
That was how the people of Iloilo must have felt, too, when The Marketplace by Rustan’s opened its first branch in their city last week.
At Festive Walk Mall, it’s the first in Western Visayas, an honor not to be taken lightly as it speaks volumes about the confidence this purveyor of fine foods has in the residents of this city.
“Iloilo is considered a progressive city,” Marketplace CEO Arleen Aldaba said. As such, the company believes it’s ready for the sophisticated goods The Marketplace has to offer.
“With our unbeatable assortment of quality products from here and all over the world, wide range of fresh choices, beautiful and spacious store, and impeccable customer service, grocery shopping will never be the same,” she added.
She was not exaggerating. A quick peek at the store, just before its doors opened, yielded rich promises of all of the above.
But first there was the opening ceremony, attended by Iloilo City Mayor Jose Espinosa III, Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon, Mayor of Passi City Jesrey Palmares, members of the City Council and executives of The Marketplace. (Gov. Arthur D. Defensor Sr. could not attend but sent a welcome message.)
While “The Voice of the Philippines” finalist Taw Muhammad serenaded the audience, guests enjoyed the sumptuous feast prepared by Ilongga chef Pauline Gorriceta-Banusing of Farm to Table.
On the menu were: chicken yakitori (skewers), quail eggs in barako coffee sauce, smoked salmon with wild honey in puff pastry, grass-fed leg of lamb, United States roast beef belly, artisanal pizzas, ube halaya cake, kalabasa cheesecake, and native tablea chocolate cake.
There were also cheese boards showcasing a sample of the cheeses Marketplace has to offer: cambozola, gouda with truffle, and Parmigiano Reggiano, among others.
When finally the doors of the supermarket opened, guests excitedly wheeled their shopping carts from aisle to aisle, picking from the wide assortment of goods.
“We are happy to have The Marketplace here,” Dr. Sandra Sarabia Gomez said. “Now we no longer have to go to Manila to buy our favorite goods.”
Equally joyful was chef Pauline, who filled her cart with wagyu burgers, lamb steak, Stonewall imported items, Spanish tapas, jamon Serrano and Kit Kat chocolates.
As it was opening day, the store had plenty of specials (available until Oct. 14). Wagyu beef burger patties were “buy one, take one” at P699 per kilo. Greater Omaha US Angus rib-eye steaks were P149 per 100 g (down from P189.90). Also on a “buy one, take one” sale were the fried chicken cuts (P199 per kilo) and breads like French baguette, sesame loaf, dinner rolls and mini ensaymada.
Equally enticing were the full flavored cheeses and charcuterie at the deli, which were 20-percent off: Parmigiano Reggiano, manchego curado, brie, cambozola, chorizo Pamplona and salami Milano.
Not to be outdone, Bakers’ Kingdom offered Black Forest cakes at two-for-one; and discounted ube cake, blueberry cheesecake and chocolate cake. I was really tempted to buy, especially the scrumptious Black Forest cake, but quickly banished the thought when I remembered that I’d have to log them through the airport and the plane ride to Manila.
There were a number of local artisanal goods too, such as Pili-Pino granola, bottles of dulce de leche and tinapa salsa by chef Arnold.
“Of course we also want to celebrate the skill and craftsmanship of Philippine businesses,” Kerwin Legarde, Marketplace vice president for nonfood merchandising, said.
By 9:30 p.m., guests were still busy making their purchases. I suppose they wanted to make the most of the opening day specials (I would too, if I lived in Iloilo). But The Marketplace now being a permanent fixture in their city, the Ilonggos can be sure that tomorrow, and the days after tomorrow, all these high-end products will still be there for them.