Perhaps scheduling a mini-eyeball on Friday the 13th was just tempting the fates. Anyone who has read 10+% of the posts on this blog knows I am a bit obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive, and leave little to chance. But a confluence of factors led to a final date of June 13th, which was not only a Friday, but around a full moon and just after the rainy season decided to make its appearance with several consecutive days of raging thunderstorms. With folks flying in from the Middle East, Davao, Tacloban, Bacolod, Cebu and various parts of Manila, there was no stopping this party…
On Thursday, MM, family and crew headed to the beach. One car went ahead to visit market sukis in Nasugbu and inform them that we needed lots of seafood the following morning. When we got to the beach, we were told that our sukis had warned that the pickings the following morning could be bleak. Stormy seas, a full moon and a holiday meant hardly anyone would be out fishing, so it wasn’t likely there would be much to buy. Yipes. Meanwhile, we passed by Gejo’s Malipayon Farms and left with a stunning selection of greens and lots of herbs. Just down the road, we stopped at Nacho’s Toscana Farms where they had prepared a stunning selection of tomatoes and bell peppers, and so far, so good.
As soon as we got to the beach, the lights went out, and the blackout continued for 9 straight hours!! Not only did we start to fret about the meats we had brought with us, but I couldn’t bake any tortas or ensaimadas that I had planned to give guests to take home the following day (our stove has an electronic starter mechanism). And forget making any homemade mango or coffee mangosteen ice cream as well. Thunderstorms whipped through the area and our home looked like it was in the middle of a deluge. Our barbecue had no roof over it, and seriously, I was worried I couldn’t pull off a decent lunch the following day.
Early Friday morning, we headed to the Nasugbu market, and while there was absolutely no tangigue or tuna for a starter of kinilaw (with tabon-tabon and dayap fruit sent in from Butuan just for this dish!), I did manage to score 12 kilos of alimango, lots of shrimp and prawns, and squid as well. So at least there would be enough food for the guests, assuming we could cook it.
The rains continued, the crew put up a makeshift tarp over the barbecue grill, and just minutes before 10am, Peterb, our first guest arrived. Betchay, Kasseopeia and Agnes (GreensBlossoms) arrived next, and shortly thereafter the van carrying everyone else. Nacho arrived and 20 of us were now ready to begin preparing lunch. A 5 kilo boneless pork belly was already on the grill, and we proceeded to make two paellas — one a classic red paella with sofritto and chicken and seafood, and a paella or arroz con negro or withs squid ink and squid and prawns. We also grilled some fish, large prawns, experimental sriracha pork, etc.
Meanwhile, we prepped a large salad bowl filled with Gejo and Nacho’s spectacular lettuce, some sliced dried fruit brought by Nacho and dressed this with a simple vinaigrette. Some guests kindly put together the spectacular tomato salad with local white cheese and herbs from Malipayon Farms. It was so nice to have Nacho explain the different types of tomatoes from his farm, and since I had emailed a few days before, we were fortunate to get them totally vine ripened.
I cooked up a ginormous pot of chili crab and we set everything out buffet style on side tables and the kitchen table (out of the rain) and sat down to lunch at about 1230pm. Some tamales from Betchay were also served, spectacular balaw-balaw was the perfect dipping sauce to pork or grilled fish, and it was a veritable feast for the senses and our stomachs, a huge relief given the challenges of the last 24 hours. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and there was much laughter, an impressive amount of food consumed, some rather unusual fruit wines tested and imbibed with critical commentary, and everyone except me taking lots of photos.
Dessert was a smorgasbord of yum. We had fruit, brownies and lemon squares. Betchay brought pinipig, amazing sapin-sapin, Ging brought Belgian lace cookies, Lee some wonderful Bailon’s piaya, Lynell some caramel tarts and I am sure I have missed or forgotten something. I haven’t even mentioned the absolute windfall of delicacies that everyone brought with them for MM and family and I am so overwhelmed by your generosity and thoughtfulness. Bouquets of flowers, a plant, and even a crate filled with nearly two dozen dayap seedlings from Chris, who couldn’t make it as he is currently in New York! Nacho brought rosemary plants to give other guests and Betchay raffled off a copy of her husband’s book on Philippine history.
Previous eyeballs were always done in the safety of restaurants, or on our premises in Cebu, where I had a phalanx of chefs, waiters and crew at my disposal. So this smaller gathering in our small beach house, was something new, and riskier. But despite the hiccups, everything just seemed to fall into place. It was like a huge gathering of family and friends, with such wonderfully varied backgrounds, age groups, occupations, walks of life, and it was a raucous snapshot of the best of Filipino camaraderie. There were the stories, the laughs, the food and all of the add-ons, and the hours whizzed by until folks started to make their way back to Manila close to 4pm. And yes, the rains actually stopped just as the guests arrived. And the sun made an appearance a few hours later.
A huge thanks to all of you who made the effort to get to Nasugbu that stormy Friday morning, and a huge thanks for all the unexpected goodies you brought along. Marketmanila.com is nearly 10 years old, probably the equivalent of 100 man years (almost a dinosaur) in today’s technological landscape, but the best thing to come out of this community, is just that, a community of thousands of people with a common passion for food and a love of life. It was a pleasure to host some 20 folks for lunch, and I look forward to meeting more of you in the future.
P.S., I was so crazed with getting lunch on the table, I have hardly any pictures. If other guests would be kind enough to share photos please do so for the benefit of other readers… Thanks.