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A Cebuano Moveable Feast

As the glorious sun slowly set, casting the sky with tints of orange and gold, a gentle drizzle ensued welcoming the tastes and flavors of the 3rd Cebu Food and Wine Festival.

“Let us raise our glasses and toast to the incredible talents and vibrant culinary scene that make Cebu a gastronomic paradise,” said Kate Anzani, the festival’s co-founder.

The stellar 15-day culinary extravaganza event last month was graced by more than 20 amazing chefs from Luzon to Mindanao. They converged with one noble mission—the unwavering aim of food stamping some of the native Filipino dishes under Tatak Pinoy, an advocacy fully supported by the Department of Tourism.

Indulging in the culinary poetry and epicurean ecstasy of the Queen City of the South, guests felt like royalty, at the opening event held at the beachfront of Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan.

Affable Francis Gotianun, the first senior vice president for Filinvest Hospitality Corp., the hospitality development arm of the Filinvest Group, made sure the resort was open especially for the evening. While renovations are ongoing as an aftermath of Typhoon Odette, the resort eagerly anticipates its full reopening in a few months. He was very pleased with the turnout and said, “Our goal is to improve things as we continue to give our full support for the CFWF event in Cebu. This kind of discipline, integrity, and hard work leads to growth and success.”

A round of applause for the brilliant minds behind the CFWF board — the visionary JPark GM Bryan Connelly, the hospitality maestro Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan GM Didier Belmonte, the culinary virtuoso chef Marco Anzani, accompanied by his dynamic wife Kate, and the innovative food business developer, Jovy Tuano. Together, they orchestrated a truly epic food festival that surpassed all expectations.

With a spirit of excitement, guests joined the crowd as they sampled the many food booths headlined by several chefs, including chef Reggie Aspiras, whose booth was beside the famous Talisay lechon roasting deliciously, as organized by the Talisay Tourism Office; chef John Buenaventura, the executive chef of Emirates Airlines catering; chef Tatung Sarthou and many more. It was a fun-filled occasion of swaying to the rhythmic melodies, infectious beats and even fireworks. Blessie Stuart, the secretariat of CFWF, took such great care of our media contingency, ensuring that every aspect of the festival flowed seamlessly.

Upper photo hamachi with caviar by chef John; lower photo duck rissoto prepared by chef Luca at Shangri-La Mactan

This year’s Cebu Food and Wine Festival was part of the annual Cebu Business Month, celebrated in June by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Several pocket events were created, with the chefs collaborating with local restaurants and hotels to create culinary experiences designed to be part of the CFWF.

Another privileged evening, I was able to attend chef Happy Ongpauco-Tiu and chef Mikko Aspiras’ collaborative dinner with the Quest Catering Service headed by chef Jonathan Cuarenta and pastry chef Reign Velandez. The by-invitation dinner was held at the elegant grand lobby of 1Nito Building in the bustling Cebu Business District. The guest list comprised some of Cebu’s power ladies, who banded together to form the Women’s Circle of Cebu.

They meet regularly to discuss business updates and to support each other. “We prefer a circle; it connotes that all of us are equal. Through the ages, the image of women gathered together, free to express themselves and solve problems, is a strong visual we like to emulate,” Eva Gullas, one of the founding members, explains.

Perl Arienza, another member, adds, “We are women entrepreneurs who love to socialize, and yes, we enjoy each other’s company. More than that, we are a positive movement, which aims to inspire and enable other women to be leaders in their workplaces and communities.”

It was only fitting that the very inspiring chef Happy Ongpauco-Tiu, another power lady, was the chosen guest of the night. Happy shared that she set up her first restaurant using her credit card, which she repaid in six months. Today, she has 14 restaurants and is looking forward to opening more.

The appetizer sinuglaw was a Cebuano ceviche with a combination of fish and grilled pork placed on mini savory scones and topped with adobo flakes. The larang soup, was creatively plated in attractive coconut bowls elegantly reminiscent of the dining performance of Chaine Des Rotisseur Philippines.

(Right to left) At the CFWF kick-off at Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan, GM Didier Belmonte, Kate Anzani, Usec Ferdinand Jumapao, Justin Chan and Raffy Rafols

For the main course, chef Happy prepared a Filipino surf and turf featuring sweet and tender lobster meat bathed in delectable butter, complemented by the creaminess of kesong puti and succulent cuts of beef. The sauce was a fresh take on adobo flavors with hints of mango. Dessert was chef Reign’s version of turon de langka with a banana bread base topped with grilled banana and caramelized jackfruit.

Quest Hotel Cebu’s GM Mia Singson-Leon and Mia Sy left no stone unturned as they oversaw the entire event. The colorful tablescape was a beautiful curation of hydrangeas, fresh produce, local baskets and native placemats.

Under a star-filled sky at the Cowrie Cove in Shangri-La Mactan, we were joined by Somik Banerjee, head of hotel operations, executive chef John Buenaventura of Emirates Airlines Catering VIP division and culinary food explorer Clang Garcia as we indulged in the amazing cuisine by chef James Antolin and chef Marvin Ampoloquio. My favorites were the succulent rock lobster in mango cilantro of chef Marvin and chef James’ unique rendition of twice-cooked beef adobo. In Acqua restaurant, chef John and chef Luca D’ Amora whipped up Filipino and Italian masterpieces like delicately cured Hamachi and mouthwatering duck risotto with orange zest and pecorino.

Of all the events, the closest to my heart was the Women’s Circle dinner. I realized that this dynamic effort was much more than a simple gathering, it was a commitment to a life of advocacy, camaraderie and culinary exploration.

As we enjoyed our last bites of epicurean treats and sips of fine wine, we appreciated the tireless efforts of all those who made this dream experience a delightful reality

See you at the 4th Cebu Food and Wine Festival.

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Email the author at [email protected].

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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