BY JOY ANGELICA SUBIDO
If Baguio has strawberries and peanut brittle, Ilocos its longganisa and bagnet, Iloilo has La Paz batchoy, and Davao has durian, what food is Boracay known for? The responses ran the gamut from Greek to Spanish food, seafood to barbecue, and fruit shakes to Andok’s. One person, coming up with a blank, decided to steer clear of the obvious quandary by saying, “I don’t think you should be thinking about food in Boracay. Do you really want to gorge and ooze out even more from your bathing suits?”
However, it was food and the Unilever Foodsolutions (UFS) Food Business Summit that brought us to Boracay. The two-day activity was both a means of encouraging culinary creativity and presenting valuable insights to enable food service operators to provide even better dining possibilities in the island. The food industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the area, with around 300 establishments contributing 30-40 percent of tax revenue.
“Through culinary tourism, we can make Boracay a home away from home,” says Mayor Ciceron Cawaling and, indeed, excellent and reasonably priced food is one factor that could convince visitors to prolong their holiday.
“The potential of Boracay’s food business is extremely promising,” agrees Pinky Laurena, UFS marketing manager. “Coupled with Boracay’s popularity as one of the best beach destinations in the world, there is a window of immense growth for every food business on the island to make a mark on the culinary map, while maintaining their own cultural flair.”
Thus, Unilever sought to support Boracay’s food entrepreneurs and industry professionals by holding a forum to address such concerns as menu and recipe development, food safety and hygiene. The team of Unilever chefs Joanne Limoanco, Paolo Sia and Martin Kabigting, reinforced by Center Culinary Arts chefs Brando Santos and Mike Yap, held cooking demonstrations for an enthusiastic crowd using Unilever Foodsolutions labels such as Knorr, Lady’s Choice, Best Foods, Lipton, Selecta and Carte D’Or. Chef Binggoy Remedios of Boracay-based Dos Mestizos restaurant that serves excellent Castillian fare spoke on the subject of menu and recipe development, while Bryan Martinez, food safety specialist, emphasized the importance of maintaining hygiene to prevent untoward incidents involving food safety.
One highlight of the activity was a friendly cooking competition where participants applied what they learned to create a “signature Boracay dish and drink.” With not much to do while preparations were going on, our group of intrepid food adventurers roamed the various food establishments to graze on island fare.
Siam Chili Foodbar was an easy walk from the Boracay Regency Hotel where we were billeted and we sampled the tried specialties as tom yum and fresh spring rolls. The best thing going for the outlet was that the flavors were pleasingly authentic and costing was very reasonable. Satisfied by the success of the initial food foray, we headed to Discovery Shores where Chef Kit Carpio prepared a sampler of specialties for the group.
These included tasty bacon-grilled prawns with avocado, passion fruit and mustard sauce, pan-seared foie gras with ginger-apple chutney and baby greens and an excellent spicy seared tuna with kaffir soy syrup. A summer gazpacho of chilled tomato soup was both satisfying and refreshing after venturing indoors and escaping the hot sun, and the aesthetic presentation coupled with excellent quality of food with attention to detail made it even more clear why Discovery Shores is a premier retreat for discerning holidaymakers.
Desserts included chocolate sin from the Greek restaurant Zuzuni and mango cake with tall glasses of iced tea from Lemon Café. What we enjoyed best, however, was Zuzuni’s yogurt and honey combination that was a lovely melding of sour and sweet.
The team from Club Paraw won for “Signature Boracay Dish,” while Bamboo Lounge topped the drink category.
We like Boracay for its laid-back pace, and we appreciated this even more as we enjoyed a massage from Kai Regency Spa. After a long day of eating we soon fell asleep, in our private Asian-inspired spa suite.
We arrived late for dinner at Chef Binggoy Remedios’ Dos Mestizos restaurant. But, we enjoyed generous portions of the delicious paella negra.