I had the privilege to attend the inaugural Savor Filipino event in San Francisco yesterday. It was a joyous union of several Filipino restaurants across the Bay Area—and across the nation. As a Bay Area Filipino chef, first I want to applaud the event in general as a great step in promoting Filipino cuisine.
Second I want to highlight some of the dishes which stood out to me among the offerings.
Binka Bites – Ube Bibinka
I tried Binka Bites’ Classic bibinka and Ube bibinka. The Ube was presented as a cupcake topped with meringue. It didn’t look like any bibinka I had ever had, but the flavor held true to the spirit of the dessert and added an insightful twist which made it quite exciting.
Sugar Spun – Polvoron Cotton Candy
I had to agree with the group ahead of me in the dessert line that cotton candy was a puzzling addition to a Filipino dessert menu. But when I got to the head of the line and saw that Polvoron and Ube flavors were offered, I decided to give it a shot. Polvoron cotton candy sounded like a great idea. I like cotton candy in general, so I was interested to see what Sugar Spun would have done to make it special. The Polvoron did not disappoint. Not only did it truly carry the classic Polvoron flavor we all love, but it had actual Polvoron powder which gave me the sensation of eating the top crumbly layer of the Polvoron—my favorite part—and skipping the rest. I finished the tub.
Lahi – Summer Lugao
Lugao/arroz-caldo/goto is close to every Filipino’s heart. In this dish, Lahi did an exceptional job of taking a beloved classic and infusing it with a daring nouveau perspective. First, the lugao was cold – perfect for the hot day – and it was green. The dish was incredibly refreshing while still being savory and delicious. I have to applaud the Lahi chefs for the daring triumph. Filipinos are very critical of Filipino chefs when they recreate dishes from home. This dish stayed true to the spirit of the Filipino favorite while offering us something tasty and new. I had a chance to speak with the chefs and proprietors of Lahi, Justin and Erbille, and congratulate them on their dish. They came all the way from Seattle to share in Savor Filipino with us, and you can be sure I will be visiting Lahi during my next trip up north.
I also met Chef Marvin Gapultos, author of the food blog Burnt Lumpia and more recently, The Adobo Road Cookbook: A Filipino Food Journey – From Food Blog to Food Truck, and Beyond. I had read his blog before and in fact, his quiche recipe in The Adobo Road was the inspiration for my own Longanisa Quiche. Marvin hails from Southern California and he spent the day at Savor Filipino signing copies of his cookbook and taking a few minutes to talk Filipino food with me during the cooking demonstrations. Marvin is a great guy and I look forward to more from him. As for Adobo Road, my mom took the book from me and kept it.
Chef Dom Ainza made a good point during his cooking demonstration with Chef Aileen Suzara. Filipino food has a vast landscape; recipes change from barrio to barrio and even family to family. If you go in looking for the adobo your mom used to make, you are likely to be disappointed. But if you go in looking for the taste of home in the spirit of the dish, you will be happily surprised. Think of it as the Chef sharing a bit of his or her family’s home with you. You wouldn’t go over to your friend’s house and insult their grandma’s adobo—whether it tasted like your mom’s or not. You would note the differences—potatoes? Milk?—and appreciate that the dish probably means as much to them as yours means to you, and that it is special that they are sharing such an intimate part of themselves with you.
This was a great set up for the following cooking demonstration by celebrity Chef Allen Pineda, or Apl De Ap of the Black Eyed Peas. Chef Apl prepared a two-pot adobo, choosing to finish the sauce separately in a saucepan with fresh garlic, onions, patis, and fried potatoes. Chef Apl, rightly, drew a large crowd, but his down to earth demeanor, Tagalog references, and familiar mannerisms were a delight to the audience. His food embodied these same warm characteristics and showed an impressive amount of heart for such a famous face.
And so I returned to the East Bay stuffed and toting my “KEEP CALM AND EAT SINIGANG” T-Shirt. I toast the healthy beginning of the Filipino Food Movement and look forward to supporting and participating in its future endeavors.
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