The Bicol Trade Fair at Megamall two weeks ago was pretty pathetic. The number of vendors and the lack of variety and quality of merchandise was truly disappointing. I think the concept of regional trade fairs has had their heyday and Marketman boldly, though sadly, predicts their imminent demise. The Fair had some of the same old products such as abaca bags and placemats and pili nuts but there was no ooohs, no ahhhs, and must haves! I have never visited the Bicol trade fair and purchased less than 2 dozen abaca placemats, this year I got zero. Many of the vendors were already established elsewhere in Manila and the stuff didnâ€™t seem unusual enough to really get you to open your wallet. I did, after much scouring, find one good thing at the fairâ€¦ some tuba vinegar. Made from the sap of a coconut treeâ€™s inflorescence, the freshly collected juice is actually sweet and extremely delicious and thirst quenching. After a few days it begins to ferment and eventually becomes vinegar.
Lola Conchingâ€™s brand vinegar is pretty good â€“ tastes like the stuff I used to have as a kid (as well as the redder version which is the same vinegar but with color added (natural from mangrove bark or artificial color). Lola Conching has several types of organic (meaning free from additives or chemicals) vinegar ranging from â€œVirginâ€ which has all of the sediment floating around in it to show just how natural it is, plus they leave a chunk of â€œmother of coconutâ€ or what looks like a piece of coconut meat floating in the vinegar. Their brochure explains that it is â€œnatural coin-like gels that thicken and float, a natural characteristic of coco nectar vinegarâ€ â€“ whatever that means – is that like nata de coco? In this photo at right you have to look good and hard and you may see the floating mass… They also have vinegars with most sediment filtered out, and flavored vinegars with chillis, garlic, lemon grass and honey. Their packaging and labeling was refreshingly decent. At about PHP85 for the Virgin vinegar in a 750ml bottle, it was a pretty good deal.