For its 75th anniversary in 2014, Taal Vista Hotel tapped five chefs to cook for the milestone event. But on the hotel’s 80th birthday this year, only one chef took charge of the celebration.
Chef Jayme Natividad of the hotel’s restaurant Taza presented a menu curated by Clang Garcia, whose advocacy is culinary tourism.
The menu reflected high points in the hotel’s history, as well as outstanding culinary figures through eight decades, and food trends through the years.
In 1936, then Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon wanted to develop Tagaytay as a tourist spot. Work began to build Taal Vista, which was inaugurated in 1939.
The 1940s to the ’50s were represented with pass-around appetizers. The shrimp with desiccated coconut was a reminder that American businessman Franklin Baker brought the dried and finely shredded coconut meat to the United States and built a plant in San Pablo, Laguna.
There was also a refreshing bignay wine cocktail.
The ’60s cited Nora Daza’s efforts to bring Filipino food to the world. In his tribute, Natividad made fresh lumpia stuffed with pansit buko. Garcia said that the pancit was a recipe of Ado Escudero of Quezon— since during and right after the war, there was no flour to make noodles.
In 1963, then Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez hosted a luncheon at Taal Vista for Japan’s then Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko.
The soup represented the ’70s—cocido ingredients in clear broth, quite refreshing. The unique presentation was Natividad’s tribute to Glenda Barretto, who was a pioneer in that dish.
The ’80s part cited Myrna Segismundo’s winning recipes at the “Chefs on Parade” competitions of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines, and for making private dining part of the food scene.
There was poached sea bass with potato puree, saffron sauce and foam. It felt great that the Philippines’ delicious apahap (local sea bass) was once again being served. To me, it had more flavor than lapu-lapu (grouper) and maya-maya (red snapper).
The ’90s course was a sorbet of hibiscus tarragon, deliciously cool with a great aroma. Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan were acknowledged for their book “Memories of Philippine Kitchens” (Harry N. Abrams, 2006), and for introducing Filipino ingredients to the dishes at their restaurant in New York.
The new millennium brought dramatic trends to the food industry. Environment sustainability, less carbon footprint, and health alternatives were espoused. Claude Tayag and other chefs cooked regional food. The book “Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine” (Anvil Publishing, 2008) was launched.
The menu offered Bukidnon Wagyu steak cooked sous vide with a sauce made with Amadeo (Cavite) coffee and port.
Taal Vista Hotel served as venue of the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation welcome dinner and cultural presentation, as well as the gala dinner.
Dessert—blue pea (ternate) coconut cheesecake with coconut caramel and dragon fruit coulis—was a representation of new ideas from Madrid Fusion Manila held in 2016 and 2017. I was told it was the winning recipe from a competition among SM Hotels staff.