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Simply delicious!

Dolly Dy-Zulueta

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In this age of Instagram accounts and social media stardom, an anonymous Instagram account called Masarap Ba? has attracted more than 200,000 followers, who call themselves “kakulto” (cult followers).

Simple and straightforward,the owner of the account simply posts pictures of food — dishes, concoctions, ingredients, products — and answers the question Masarap ba? with a witty one-liner.

Kare-Kare with Gng. Bukid Peanut Butter.

Masarap Ba? goes to restaurants and tries out dishes incognito, checks out weekend markets and tastes artisanal products and homemade goodies, orders online food products and puts them to the test of the palate. She goes a step further by digging deep into the heart and stories of the items she takes a fancy on. In the end, she (yes, she is a she, and she goes by the pseudonym Kat Abaan Jr.!) gives her verdict based on the quality of the products and the circumstances by which they were created.

She gives her “Masarap” (delicious) seal to those that pass her standards and labels those that earn her thumbs-down with “Hindi Masarap.” Given her IG follower base, her review does wonders for the bakers, cooks, chefs, artisans and food entrepreneurs behind those products — and she exerts great effort to use her social media influence to help small and medium enterprises (SME) create awareness about their products online and make their humble businesses actually take off.

Cake Shots’ Tiramisu.

Now, Masarap Ba? takes it a notch higher by collaborating with Novotel Manila Araneta Center for a food promotion at the hotel’s Food Exchange Manila. Using the food products that the social media influencer has identified as “Masarap,” the chefs of Novotel came up with innovative dishes that highlight their unique flavors.

Ongoing until 7 April 2019, Masarap Nga! Meet and Eat features the following local food products: Auro Chocolate, Benedicto Kitchen, Beth’s Chicken Galantina, Buenlago Kitchen, Cake Shots, Cheche’s Gourmet, Gng. Bukid, Halfsaints, La Petite Fromagerie, Le Sucre Club, Mad Meats, Mango Grill Manila, Mishee’s, Papa Bear’s Chili Oil and Tamago Chips.

Consider this list of dishes that the Novotel chefs came up with: Beef Stir Fry, Pork Stir Fry, Szechuan Chicken, Stir Fry Sustainable Seafood, and Indonesian Fried Rice (all using Buenlago Kitchen’s Indie Sauce); Romaine Lettuce Salad, Seared Sustainable Tuna Salad, Spaghetti Alle Acciughe and Pizza Napolitana Style (all using Cheche’s Gourmet Tuyo with Salted Egg), as well as Fettucini con Gamberi and Pizza Frutti Di Mare (both using Cheche’s Pes-tuyo or pesto in gourmet tuyo); Aglio e Olio and Spicy Szechuan Noodles (both using Daddy Mikk’s Chili Crunch and Garlic Crunch); Sisig Paella (using Eddy’s Old Style Chicharrones); Beef Kare-Kare (with Gng. Bukid Peanut Butter); Smoked Salmon Roulade (stuffed with La Petite Fromagerie’s Truffle Cream Cheese Spread); Linguine all’ Amatriciana (with Mad Meats Smoked Bacon) and Pizza Bianco (con Mad Meats Smoked Crispy Pancetta); Mie Goreng (with Mishee’s Crispy Adobo Flakes), Pancit Guisado (with Mishee’s Chicken Adobo Flakes) and Pumpkin in Coconut Milk (with Mishee’s Binagoongan Flakes); Marinated Barramundi, Marinated Pork Loin, Marinated Chicken Breast, Singaporean Chili Crab and Kimchi Fried Rice (all in Papa Bear’s Chili Oil); and Tamagochips Crusted Spicy Tuna Roll, Tamagochips Crusted Prawn Tempura, Tamagochips Crusted Uramaki Roll and Mixed Salad in Yuzu and Citrus Dressing (all using Tamagochips’ Salted Egg Potato Chips).

Mie Goreng with Mishee’s Crispy Adobo Flakes.

Benedicto Kitchen’s Roast Beef and Baked Salmon and Beth’s Chicken Galantina and Baked Salmon are being served as they are.

Among desserts, the ones that are presented on the buffet table as is are Cake Shots’ Black Label Chocoholic, Tiramisu and Baileys Red Velvet; Halfsaints’ 64% Dark Chocolate Tart; Le Sucre Club’s Dreamcake; and Mango Grill Manila’s Big Cheese Cassava Cake. Auro Chocolate Mousse, one of the dining crowd’s favorites among the offerings of Masarap Nga! Meet and Eat, is made with Auro’s Dark Chocolate from Davao as main ingredient.

The buffet also features Masarap Ba?’s personal favorites at Novotel’s Food Exchange Manila, including Homemade Corned Beef, Indian dishes at the Indian station, the Cheese Bread and several flavors of gelato at Indulge prepared by chef de patisserie Manny Sy.

Preferring to remain incognito, Masarap Ba? has simply issued a statement on the collaboration she is having with Novotel Manila Araneta Center. Says she: “I don’t want Masarap Ba? to remain as just another witty account. I want to make this journey more meaningful by lifting others up. And it was through the community of supportive “kakultos” that I found the courage and support to go beyond food reviews and extend help by getting established brands like Novotel to engage these SME and appreciate their concepts and products.”

Singaporean Chili Crab in Papa Bear’s Chili Oil.

For his part, Novotel general manager Mike Brown affirms that the hotel is in support of creatively promoting local players through the property.

“Novotel Manila is not just a fun global brand that provides the best for its guests, but it’s also a cooperative member of the community. We are grateful that Masarap Ba? chose us for this creative collaboration, which also includes some of our food products. This innovative move brings out the best of both local players and out hotel’s global culinary team,” he says.

There is still time to catch Masarap Nga! Meet and Eat at Food Exchange Manila. Buffet prices start at P1,588 net.