By Chef Gene Gonzalez
An event like Madrid Fusion Manila has created an avenue of exchanges in ideas among culinarians and suppliers. It has continually spurred the use and development of local products in maintaining the rising standards of Philippine cuisine. The event, which lasted three days, has seen a rise in standard among exhibitors in terms of quality because of the increasing consciousness of the Filipino to take pride in our cuisine.
Here are a few suppliers and exhibitors that have shown true quality and contributed to the upliftment of our culinary standards:
Distileria Limtuaco & Co., Inc. – Their cocktails were a revelation to both international delegates and locals during the gala night. The Manille Mojito made from calamansi liqueur was a great accompaniment to the grand Filipino cocktail buffet. Another spritzer with a unique flavor was the Dalandan Splash with their dalandan liqueur and juice finished with vodka and soda water. A lot of our foreign friends love the LIO Sunset made of mango rum liqueur and mango juice. These definitely are great not only for mixing but also on the rocks.
Regional and Restaurant Eats:
- The Smoking Point and Dino Hizon presented a uniquely tasty pulled smoked goat with coconut syrup sauce on top of flat bread.
- Chef Tatung Sarthou did Tausug junay with utak-utak, a spiced fish nugget, and sticky rice cooked with a Pamapa.
- Davao Del Norte had some tender ostrich tapa partnered with ultra sweet and juicy Del Monte pineapple chunks straight out of a pineapple half. Another delight was a turmeric rice with grilled chicken inasal and banana leaf-cooked wild mushrooms by Hija.
- Alavar surprised everyone on how wholesome and simple flat grilled freshwater imbao clams with brown butter garlic are.
- Olive Puentespina, our master cheesemaker from Davao, gave a wonderful tasting of her Brie type and her classic pepato. What got me coming back for seconds and thirds was this karinnina aged five months with an edible burgundy-colored rind made from soaking in her Bignay wine.
- The ARMM area presented Pagana and showed a display of truly tasty Tausug cuisine: Tawi-Tawi’s syagul pagi, stingray meat delightfully cooked in burnt coco milk and laced with highly roasted palapa; and I love the tiyula itum or chicken in ginger and turmeric in black coconut soup.
- Luz, V, at Minda’s Heirloom Tacos created a tuna tataki laced with calamansi—labuyoaji with guava salsa contained in heirloom black rice tortillas.
- A deliciously refreshing purple corn salad by Homegrown Organics with corn from their Batangas farm was indeed a great vegan surprise.
- Bottled dried dalag in oil called pangus from Lake Buluan is a new tasty Maguindanao treat, which was hidden in one of the DOT’s (Department of Tourism) booths. I bought a couple to top over freshly steamed rice.
- 1st Colonial Grill restaurant of Albay with the success of their new Tagaytay outlet and their dishes of course presented their mild first stage sili ice cream and another flavor called tinutungan ice cream or toasted rice with coconut.
Growers, Processors, and Importers:
- Giant company Nestle was very much in tune with its Filipinized food service products. The most innovative of what they showed was the choco tablea and langka or jackfruit for their soft serve;
- Molinera launched their Ribera del Duero line called Pata Negra, a range of reasonably priced wine.
- For chocolate, the award-winning bar from Davao is the Malagos Chocolate, exhibited with cacao de Davao showing their terroir and potentials for higher awards soon;
Also for chocolate was a booth during one lunch reception that featured an heirloom rice toffee bar by Raul Matias.
- Risa’s Chocolate and Pam Cinco, aside from the creative presentation on pairing chocolates with fermented cacao beverage, showed off a line of coated pili nuts;
The new chocolate bean or bar maker to watch out for is Simone Mastret with his label Tigre Oliva. Simone travels to find cacao beans from good terroir areas such as Davao and Laguna to create an artisanal chocolate of good texture and smoothness.
- Sly Samonte and Kiddo Cosio of El Union, both transplanted beach boys and barista-mixologists from La Union, came up with an impressive Roasted Cacao Horchata with a pettilant or fizzy mouth-feel that explodes on the palate after the textural experience. I was also impressed with the compatibility of their drinks as they mixed a dirty rice horchata with their bottled lambanog lime cocktail. The peak of the experience was having an espresso roasted with tree-dried and ripened beans. This experience of a spicy onslaught was followed by a complexity of nuttiness, and brown, sweet spices finished with creamy, earthy, rich moka, and chocolate flavors all in one small demitasse.
- I was approached by a friendly American lady who owns Radical Organics. Her delightful toasted coconut chips has three variants, including a savory version. With such beautiful packaging, these chips can be proudly marketed as an innovative Philippine product.
The Agricultural Booth was also filled with surprises:
- Malipayon Farms of Gejo and Pinky Jimenez exhibited their organic and naturally grown vegetables and edible flowers. Gejo showed me an almost extinct fruit called hunggo that tasted of a cross between duhat and tiesa. We took the seeds and vowed to turn this forgotten fruit into seedlings.
- Besides them was Kai Organic Farm by Karla Delgado that showed some interesting wild vegetables that they domesticated such as the tart leafed oxalis and the fleshy talerum. Impressive too was a local version of gingko biloba which has gerontologic applications.
- Newcomer to these growers is Enzo Pinga of Earthbeat Farms. Aside from the preservation of rare vegetables such as wild cucumber and calamansi, he sources out wild raspberries or sampinit for high-level tastings or dinners.
- A firm called Animal Genetic Improvement Agri-Resources Inc. presented delicious samples of crocodile meat, duck ham, and black pig. This is certainly a great leap as these products such as the black pig were unavailable before. The duck ham they sampled was a truly tasty experience.
- Bottled curios with great potential are the bottled sauces of Basi Matsi with chilis steeped in various liquids.
- Stanford & Shaw Brewing, which sells ginger ale in organic markets, has decided to sell their refreshing product to the public.
- The Calamansi Association has come up with the calamansi oil, a concentrated natural by-product from calamansi juice extraction that I used in my Madrid Fusion demo. This stuff has great potential not only for food but also for perfumery.
This last Madrid Fusion Manila has given a lot of chefs and food people some very interesting eye-opening lessons on Filipino ingredients. The spark is now a flame and it’s our pride and patronage that can keep it burning.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow my Instagram/@chefgenegonzalez