A group of friends from all over the country, several walks of life, a broad span of ages, with a phenomenal sense of humor and a love for good food. That is what brought this band of a dozen or so folks to Cebu these past few days. I think it started with the first Marketmanila eyeball, and some attendees from there also went to the second eyeball at Gourdo’s where Chef Chris was at the helm, then they agreed to go to Cebu for the lechon eyeball, and have kept in touch by facebook, email and eventually planned “food trips” to Davao to visit Millet, and to Bacolod to see Lynell, and this year, back to Cebu. This wasn’t an official “eyeball” — just a gathering of friends who decided to continue with their trip despite the earthquake that struck the day before they planned to fly into Cebu. Some of the folks in the dramatic photo above… a graphics designer, chocolatier, veterinarian, chef, “haciendera” (I jest), Zubuchon Manager, Court Jester and Service Professional, Pharmaceutical Executive, Educator, Operations Manager and Chief of Stuff…
The setting couldn’t get much more scenic than this. We had toured parts of Cebu unaffected by the earthquake (lots of plans were junked but everyone remained positive) but I had asked for Saturday evening as the night to bring everyone to cocktails with a view from above, followed by dinner on the Zubuchon terrace. The photo, from the future site of the Verandas at Monterrazas de Cebu, 1,000 feet up above sea level, speaks for itself. :)
A chilled magnum of cava was used for the toast, and bottles of rose were uncorked once the bubbly had run out. Waiters served small sandwiches of prawns with sun-dried tomato spread and chopped marinated artichokes, and we also had some freshly grilled barbecue right on the site. The cool, bordering on chilly breeze was a fresh, welcome departure from the temperatures down below.
The full moon was spectacular, and the light that reflected off the surface of the sea in the distance was surprisingly bright. If you are in Cebu before November 10, you can get this exact same vantage point from about 5pm to 10pm nightly, it’s open to the public on a limited basis, and you need a car to reach the peak. :) After an hour at the peak, we drove down to the Zubuchon outdoor terrace, just 12 minutes away.
There were several advance requests for one dish or the other, so dinner reflected this… To start, we had platters of saguyon, fried discs of tiny freshwater fish, and I suggested this might make a terrific base for some freshly made kinilaw na tanguigue. It did. The ultimate pinoy canape of sorts, though the crisp wafer rapidly softens with the liquid from the kinilaw. But this had texture and crunch, saltiness, richness and a hit of vinegar, coconut milk and chili. I could have eaten a few of these and called it a meal.
But of course we had to have a lechon, in this case, a Zubuchon with a whole chicken stuffed into its stomach cavity. I think the crew knew this was a very special group of guests, and I must say the lechon turned out a solid “10″ or perfect in our internal rating process.
We cut into the skin with a small plate (I usually only do this for lechon de leche) and the skin shattered and crackled like brittle. Inside was the whole chicken, basted in all the stuffing and pork juices, incredibly tender and infused with salt, lemongrass and other flavors.
Rather than lechon meat and skin in one mouthful, I tried a piece of the chicken cooked in the lechon, and some skin and it was yet again another new flavor and texture experience to wake and amuse the palate. :)
Other dishes put on the buffet that evening included roasted talakitok in banana leaves, squid a la plancha, grilled adobo pork ribs, grilled barbecued pork ribs, chicken inasal…
…we also had an eggplant salad, tomatoes and red egg with bangus, a platter of pinangat spicy and another platter of pinangat not spicy, and rice as well as kinilaw and shrimp sinigang. Yes, there was an abundance of food.
For dessert, I had half a serving of cassava cake…
…and guests could also have had biko, budbud kabug, and Marla brought along several flavors of delicious ice cream.
Dinner was served with some chilled chardonnay, a lighter chianti, kamias shakes if you preferred something not alcoholic, and as the meal wound down, some folks imbibed shots of tequila…
…with Mexican beer and wedges of fresh lime from the yard, just a few feet away.
Bowls of large yellow mums for the simply set picnic table.
Post dinner shot of “fed up” guests, friends and foodies. It was so nice to see folks from different periods of this “blog” and from all over the country and different walks of life come together and form lasting friendships and a camaraderie that is so heartwarming.