It’s no secret that Filipinos love to eat. Eating is our family bonding time, an excuse to meet with friends and one of the best things about traveling. It’s as if we believe there’s a foodie in everyone waiting to be unleashed. Being a food writer, I’m always open to new ways of enjoying food. I try restaurants on soft opening, join food festivals, read blogs of both gourmands and the average consumer, visit night markets and even check out establishments that have a lot of parked cars in front.
One of my recent discoveries is, so far, unique to the Filipino dining experience. Through my friend, Chef Namee Jorolan, I was introduced to Pinoy Eats World. Their team, or Team PEW, as they like to call it, is composed of JJ Yulo, Marfee Dizon, Poch Jorolan, Cres Yulo and Namee Jorolan. What they do is not really rocket science, but it’s something that deviates from the normal way of dining out. JJ, who is fondly called the team’s choreographer and GRO (guest relations officer), likes to call it experiential dining.
Pinoy Eats World started out conducting food tours—from Pampanga, to Hong Kong, to Turkey—they showcased these places to other people through sight and taste. Later on, they introduced themed dinners, guerilla dinners and art dinners to their repertoire. Their company is birthed out of their dedication to food culture. Siblings Poch and Namee Jorolan practically grew up in a restaurant, having lived at the second floor of Everybody’s Café—the famous restaurant in San Fernando, Pampanga known to offer the best authentic Kapampangan fare.
Knowing that, I immediately said yes when Namee invited me to one of their themed dinners. “K Night,” or Kapampangan Night promised to showcase hearty cuisine prepared by PEW’s resident Pampanga tour guide—Chef Poch Jorolan, himself.
Apparently, PEW themed dinners are usually held in the house of a generous host. That night, our host was PEW friend and patron, Eddieboy Santos, and the venue is his lovely home at a village in Makati.
Guests slowly filled the dining hall, as JJ and Marfee ushered them to their tables. We were encouraged to talk and interact with each other. After all, we would be sharing and passing platefuls of food later on, like a typical Filipino family having dinner. The fact that we were inside someone else’s home, not just a restaurant in a mall, lent a poignant touch to the whole set-up.
Signing the guestbook
The point of K Night is to educate people with Kapampangan cuisine, and so we were given these:
K Night brochure
While waiting for the main fare, we were also served some tarts from Pampanga.
Then, for appetizer, we were treated to this glorious serving of Pitichan with Hachara, which is bagnet in vinegar with pickled ampalaya (bitter gourd). Perfect beer match! The crisp bagnet is a medley of salty and sour that makes you squirm, but in a good way. Add to that the mild bitterness of the ampalaya, and the sweet and sour vinaigrette the hachara is doused in, and you get an explosion of flavors you never knew you can get from a simple appetizer made of ingredients found in your fridge.
Paku Malutu Naka Ebun
Next starter is a light salad made of pako (edible fern). I absolutely love pako, and I was surprised I was introduced to it only five years ago when a family friend gave bunches of it from Mindoro. With the semi-sweet vinaigrette Chef Poch made, the earthy flavor of the pako is enhanced. Add sliced fresh tomatoes and salted duck eggs for texture and protein—tada!—you get an impeccable, nutritious dish.
I used to dislike anything buro (fermented) because it smelled ridiculous but this dish made me change my mind.
Pritung Itu Miki Buro’t Mustasa
This stuffed roll holds a wealth of flavor and texture—from the crisp, golden-brown wrapper, the tender flakes of fish, the subtle bitterness of the greens, to the distinct sourness of the buro—everything meshes together and no flavor is masked by another. Gourmet lumpia, if you may call it. This one had guests requesting for more.
After platefuls of white rice were placed on our Lazy Susan, this dish made a grand entrance. My companions and I let out a hushed “ooooh” as we inhaled to take in the intoxicating smell of garlic and meat.
Earlier, I saw Chef Poch cooking this dish in batches. Even without proper plating, the slices of meat glistened boldly under the harsh kitchen light, as if laying claim to being the piece de resistance of the night. Served with marble potatoes, the Asado Matua brought back happy childhood memories, which is what good comfort food is meant to do.
For post-dessert (in my world, there’s such a thing), tubs of Carmen’s Best artisanal ice cream were passed around. Thanks to a very generous guest, Paco Magsaysay, for bringing these in and introducing me to one of the best ice creams I’ve tasted. My goodness, Butterscotch Pecan is spectacular. Malted Milk is a close contender. My companions fell in love with the Coffee and Salted Caramel. SINFUL. Indulging in Carmen’s Best ice cream is like having the devil and the angel perched on either shoulder and you can’t seem to decide which one to listen to. It is creamy and decadent, with the right amount of sweetness. Like every spoonful should linger in the mouth, or else you commit a food crime of the highest degree.
The fun doesn’t stop after dinner. In fact, at Pinoy Eats World, it’s when things start to get really interesting.
Poch and Namee Jorolan
Pam Jorolan, sister of Namee and Poch, serenaded everyone with a beautiful Kapampangan song. And just when I thought the night’s over, a balikbayan from New York City—who is a professional singer and dancer—gladly obliged to an impromptu line dancing performance. Before I knew what was happening, everyone from the next table started dancing along with him!
Tables and chairs were pushed to the side to give way to the newly-formed dance group. A small ball of Pinoy pride welled up inside me. Cheesy, I know, but watching these people dance like they’ve known each other a long time assured me that whatever happens, the Pinoy can rise above it. Because in the same way we always find ways to enjoy food, we also find ways to entertain ourselves and make the world an endless buffet of possibilities.
To find out what Pinoy Eats World is cooking, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pinoy-Eats-World
To order Carmen’s Best Artisanal ice cream, call 809-2042 to arrange your order. Pick up points are in Makati and Alabang. Visit their page at http://www.facebook.com/CarmensBest
Photos courtesy of Pinoy Eats World and Mara Bernaldo.