It was the day when Filipino and Mainstream Americans went on a gastronomic adventure, savoring the best dishes of the Philippine Islands as interpreted by the finest chefs in the land.
San Francisco Bay Area residents have once again experienced the explosion of flavors and ingredients in the recently concluded Savor Filipino in Oakland, California.
In this year’s theme “Buksan”, renowned Chefs were able to unleash their cooking prowess as they unlock the diversity of the Filipino Flavors in the kitchen. From traditional, contemporary to fusion dishes, each Chef had their own interpretation of a specific Filipino dish that was then served to curious foodies and Filipino food afficionados who travelled far distances and lined up just to get their Filipino Food Fix.
L-R: PJ Quesada-Chairman Filipino Food Movement (FFM), Ramon Ascalon – Deputy Consul General, Sonia Delen – President FFM, Cecile Ascalon- Deputy Con Gen’s Wife Pearl Parmelee – Director Operatios FFM (Photo credits to Pearl Parmelee)
Savor Filipino was created by The Filipino Food Movement (FFM) as a product of their aspirations of seeing Filipino Food in the mainstream American Food Scene. According to FFM’s Chairman PJ Quesada, “Savor Filipino is the culmination of our combined vision in seeing the food that we grew up with reimagined by today’s most innovative chef talent.”
In 2014, the group hosted the largest edition of Savor Filipino that has attracted 30,000 patrons, possibly the largest Filipino Food Exposition in the US West Coast and/or the United States. This year, 15 Chefs and 15 delectable Filipino Dishes were presented in the entire day of gastronomic festivities at The Overlook Lounge and Rooftop Terrace in the City of Oakland.
Chef Chel of Tselogs in full “rockstar mode” as she prepares a whole row of Chicken Hash (Sisig) sampler plates. (Photo credits to Cynthia Silva Catanyag)
During the event, 10 Tasting stations, featuring 10 Chefs and their corresponding specialty dish were set up during the afternoon leg of the event. In the evening, a 5-course dinner was presented by 5 more Chefs, with each course served with a paired wine.
We were fortunate enough to try each dish served during the afternoon tasting and here is our feedback:
1. Pancit Lomi Soup || Chef Charleen Caabay || Kainbigan – Oakland, CA
It felt nostalgic the moment I digged into the broth of the Pancit Lomi, with the flavor of the chicken stock gliding on every corner of my palate. The flavor, aroma, and the thickness of the soup definitely reminded me of the Pancit Lomi that my mom used to make back home. As an added bonus, the generous toppings and the use of the red cabbage made soup look totally appetizing.
2. Vegan Popcorn Chick’n Sinigang, Pickled Vegetables and Jasmine Milktea Chef JP Reyes & Kristen Brillantes || Sarap Shop – San Francisco, CA
This is probably the most deconstructed Filipino Dish that we have tried. The “Sinigang” started with a bite of the sweet pepper followed by a shot of the Sinigang broth. Then it must be quickly followed by the Crunch fried Soy “Chicken” bites. The myriad of flavors brought about by the sweet chili pepper and tanginess of the broth bursts in my mouth while the right balance between sweetness and sour flavor of the pickled vegetable gave it a refreshing finish.
3. Ilocano Pakbet and Bagnet || Chef Charles Andres || Ocean Pacific Grille – San Diego, CA
Pinakbet is the quintessential Filipino Vegetable dish, so any alteration to this well-loved Filipino veggie medley can either build or destroy the reputation of the chef. We were impressed with Chef’s Charles idea of turning the squash into a puree and placed it as the base of each serving. The veggies were perfectly cooked and the bagnet gave each serving a crunchy texture.
4. Pork Belly Adobo Congee || Chef Garrett Doherty || Kraken Congee
We’ve never thought that congee can be given a major makeover and that’s what Chef Garrett did during the food exhibition. He infused the savory flavor and meat of adobo with the gingery broth of the congee. The result—an addicting concoction that is mildy sweet, mildly salty and gingery broth that got everyone going for a 2nd serving!
#iHAPtoSavorFilipino (Photo credits to Cynthia Silva Catanyag)
5. Manok Sisigsilog ||Chef Chel Gilla || Tselogs
Tselogs Chef Chel made the Sisig more universally appealing by using Chicken meat and later turning it into sa Silog dish. It did not only make Sisig healthier but the flavor of the chicken also blends well with the ginger and jalapeno. It’s a simple tweak that became an absolute favorite by both Tselogs’ customer and Savor Filipino’s patrons.
6. Dueling Relleno Isda || Chef Ellie Tiglao & RJ Tiglao || Sarap Shop
Each serving is a showcase of “East meets West”. The idea of turning the American Black Cod relleno patty into a Kroketa (Croquette) gave each palate a crunchy welcome, followed by a more familiar relleno texture and flavor. Meanwhile, the Philippine Bangus was also impressive after it opted to go traditional relleno and served with tomato sawsawan.
7. Oyster Kinilaw || Chef Russell Lozano || The Curbside Kitchen
While oyster is already addicting by itself, Chef Russel’s idea of introducing coconut milk and citrus flavor to each oyster serving made the whole experience totally exhilarating. Every bite starts with the fishy flavor of the oyster, then the citrusy element of calamansi (or lemon), and finally a creamy finish brought about by the coconut milk. Each serving is like a journey around the Philippine Islands!
8. Grilled Bistek Skewers || Chef Francis Ang || Pinoy Heritage
I have to admit, I had to wait and come back twice in order to get a bite of this dish. This definitely got me wondering what’s causing the buzz. When my time came, Chef Francis Ang and his wife Diane Ang gave me generous servings of Bistek Skewers. I was totally blown away! Each Skewer contains an authentically prepared Filipino Bistek with the right balance of Soy sauce, Calamansi and other spices. But since it is grilled, that barbeque smokey flavor to it made it more flavorful, people lined up for more.
9. Laing sa Bintana || Chef Jerick Ngo || Harana
My Bicolano roots got me totally curious about this dish. Besides, this is one of those dishes that I grew up with. It is commendable that Chef Jerick did not alter the traditional flavor of the Laing. Instead, he used lamb meat together with the shrimp. The interesting part of the dish is the use of “Bintana”, which is basically red heirloom rice cooked in a waffle maker until the “Tutong” came out. This is a delicious vindication for anyone who loves “Tutong”, just like me!
10. Chocolate Dome || Coconut Rice Pudding || Mango Panna Cotta with Coconut Foam Chef Preligen Manaois
This is the only station that served desserts but Chef Preligen was generous enough to come up with three different decadent desserts on one plate. Coconut Rice Pudding had an interesting texture because of the rice in it. It’s like “ginataan” in a pudding form; Mango Panna Cotta is smooth and mildly sweet with lovely mango chunks on top. It was the answer to the Fil-Am’s dire craving for Philippine Mangoes; Lastly, the Chocolate Dome, had a delicious surprise inside – Mango Crème Filling! Just like a cherry on top, it was a perfect ending to this awesome gastronomic adventure.
The event received an overwhelming turn out with participants coming from out of town and even out of state just to savor this event’s gastronomic offerings. Aside from Filipino- Americans, a good number of non-Filipinos were present and were very willing to try various Filipino dishes, beyond the usual adobo and pancit.
L-R: Star Circle Quest Star Michelle Arciaga-Turnbull, Tino Garcia of ABS-CBN Int’l, Adobo Nation Host Joshua Reyes and Julius Calvin Santos, iHAP Founder and Choose Philippines’ Travel Insider
Some of them are already exposed and have fallen in love with the dishes either because of a Filipino neighbor, friend or co-worker who have introduced them to the food or after an island hopping holiday around the Philippines. While others were plain curious and were pleasantly surprised by the flavors and the diversity of the Filipino dishes.
While there is still plenty of work that needs to be done, the Filipino Movement definitely sees a bigger and better edition of Savor Filipino every year moving forward. Besides, big shot foodie like Andrew Zimmern agrees that Filipino Food is the next big thing in the American Food Scene.
The Filipino Movement’s PJ Quesada believes that “Filipino Cuisine is a living work. “ He further added that “one day soon, there will be Filipino restaurants in more cities run by chefs of various backgrounds. We believe the global movement will spawn a spectrum of cuisine, from fast food to Lola’s cooking to Michelin restaurants. There is room for all of it on the global menu.”