When Hermie Esguerra does something, expect it to be extraordinary. When he decided to care for pigs, he picked the Kurobuta or “black pig”—the name given to the Berkshire, a European heritage breed of pork in Japan.
The breed and the Japanese program for raising it guarantees meat that is intense in flavor, tender and juicy. While Kurobuta is a Japanese term for “black pig,” not all black pigs are considered Kurobuta, but all Kurobuta are Berkshire.
Hermie, of course, only tends to pure Berkshire pigs that are raised naturally. His sprawling farm in Lipa is where he raises them in a stress-free environment, with more than ample space for the animals to freely roam and bathe in sunlight.
The hogs are nourished with fermented plant-based feeds, free from any kind of harmful chemicals. No hormones or antibiotics are used to boost their growth and immune system.
Hermie mimics the Japanese method of raising them. By doing so, the flavor of the pork he offers is intense, and the texture, sublime.
The low-stress environment of Esguerra Farms and the strict feeding regimen produce a high pH level that creates maximum marbling distinct to Kurobuta, which is also known as the Wagyu of Pork. This is why some visually mistake Kurobuta pork for beef.
Hermie has gone to great lengths to appropriately butcher them, to sell prime cuts of pork in every conceivable form. He further expanded his operation to include the production of processed meats, ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat pork-based products. On offer are belly and jowl bacon, along with Italian garlic, schublig and classic smoked sausages.
He has two flavored lard variants: herb lard flavored with European spices and red wine, and smoked lard mixed with herbs and bacon bits for texture and smoky flavor.
For Christmas, Esguerra Farms offers three types of ham, made from pure muscle of premium choice cuts: the Round Ham, Pata Ham and their very own Jamon Florentina.
Jamon Florentina is made from a leaner cut of pork, and smoked for a longer period of time than the other hams. It is named after the late mother of Herminio S. Esguerra, the founder of Esguerra Farms.
The cochinillo to try this season is the Esguerra Kurobuta Cochinillo. Just a month from birth, the mostly milk-fed, suckling pigs are brined and roasted for hours until crisp. The Kurobuta Cochinillo is the first of its kind in the market.Patrons claim the Esguerra Cochinillo has a natural, clean, buttery taste, and is juicier and far more tender than the rest. (Tel. 0917-8274428; @esguerra.kurobuta on Instagram)
Ultimate Christmas tray
No one does Christmas like Bizu. Their Ultimate Christmas Tray, filled with their fancy holiday creations, is a feast for the eyes. The tray can be customized. The one I received had the the Noelle, a white chocolate ganache and pistachio mousse cake featuring a crème brûlée and strawberry jelly center with an almond shortbread crust.
There was also a Tower of Joy of French macarons in Bizu’s new holiday macaron flavors, namely Pumpkin Spice, Orange Grand Marnier and Chocolate Mint Macaron de Paris. You may opt for a Croquembouche, a towering tree made of glazed cream puffs.
The Rudolph, edible Christmas Balls, came with my package, too. The Teal Blue Ball was made with pistachio cream and raspberry jelly in between layers of genoise sponge covered in chocolate glaze and topped with silver flakes. The Pink Ball was filled with vanilla cream and strawberry jelly in between layers of genoise sponge covered in white chocolate glaze, praline sprinkles and topped with gold flakes.
There were cake popsicles in butter cake and chocolate decorated to look like Santa, his elves and snowflakes. The ultimate Christmas tray also had chocolate covered pretzels and fruit cake.
I also saw pretty chocolate bars in their Christmas catalog. The eye candy collection with balloons and a Christmas tree is such a joy to receive. (Tel. 0917-6273970; @bizuph on social media)
A curious find is 7/11’s Pizza Siopao. Imagine soft siopao dough stuffed with lots of cheese, pizza sauce and Italian-style chicken sausage. This rendition of the bao is certainly different. It is a surprise upon first bite.
I learned that chicken is used instead of pork to ensure the safety of the product from swine flu. They also have a refined rendition of barbecue chicken siopao.
Pizza Pao is available at all 7/11outlets in Metro Manila. INQFollow @iamreggieaspiras on Facebook and Instagram; reggieaspiras.com