A feast of President Manuel L. Quezon’s favorite heritage flavors
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! This was the mantra of Samira by Chele Gonzalez, the distinct luxe dining destination nestled within the lush greeneries of Anya Resort Tagaytay, which recently commemorated the birthday of the former President Manuel L. Quezon.
After late afternoon cocktails, food historians and esteemed guests were welcomed to the dinner for a cause by Pedro Roxas, the chairperson of Fundación Santiago, which aims to cultivate “a strong grasp of national identity by promoting and sustaining historical awareness among Filipinos.”
FS executive director Chaco Molina elaborated on current advocacies and thrusts of the non-stock and non-profit organization, including the renovation of the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite, the site of the Philippine declaration of independence from Spain on 12 June 1898. Funds are also channeled to the Abatan River Tour in Bohol, where former farmers who lost their lands are now part of a village focused on local arts, crafts, food and culture.
The invested crowd was then led to Samira by Chele Gonzalez, where the well-traveled chef of Gallery by Chele fame had concocted a full course meal which derived favorite ingredients and nostalgic flavors from the tasting notes of the first Philippine Commonwealth President. A guest of honor was grandson Manolo Quezon III, a historian and columnist who shared anecdotes on his grandfather’s palate.
The late President enjoyed Spanish-style hot chocolate, salted eggs with tomatoes, adobo, pochero and sinigang, dried deer meat with champorado, plus grilled fish and paksiw. However, it was no secret that President Quezon later had a simple palate, owing to his illness, which limited his diet to egg, milk and coffee.
With his fascination for the bounty of the waters, the hors d’oeuvres consisted of seafood crisp rice crackers — mussels, shrimps and mushrooms topped with strawberry—and buñuelos de bacalao, or cod fritters to you and me. They were paired with foie gras and mango waffles, perhaps his favorite fruit. It must be noted that during Quezon’s vacation-slash-impromptu diplomatic trip to Japan in 1938, he even brought along fresh Philippine mangoes. Finally, the ever-popular bulalo turned into a taco, paired with jalapeños, corn and cilantro.
The next course included compango croquetas, which consisted of blood sausage, chorizo and bacon, and ropa vieja pintxos, classic potato omelette with pulled meat. These were followed by the hearty garbanzos soup, which prepared us for the main features of the evening. Chickpeas with chicken, chorizo, sausages and beef made a reprise in the cocido Español — the winter fare which President Quezon loved so much. That the recipe can actually be found at the Quezon Heritage House at the Quezon Memorial Circle!
Not to be outdone, the stock was incorporated into the cocido paella, together with compango and roasted potato confit. Cochinillo or roasted suckling pig was carved for all to try. Green salad completed the astonishing lineup of savory meals, all lovingly relished by late statesman during his time.
Finally, tocino de cielo, a Southern Spain version of the flan, served as the saccharine conclusion. Interestingly, this dessert achieved similar consistency and taste while only consisting of egg yolks, sugar and water.
The commemorative birthday is part of Anya Resort Tagaytay’s Presidential Dinner series, which showcases the favorite culinary selections of all the 17 Philippine presidents, with their close confidants in attendance.
Anya Resort Tagaytay is located at Buenavista Hills Road, Barangay Tolentino West, Tagaytay, Cavite. Visit anyaresorts.com, email [email protected] or call 0998-9553630.
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