Cultural Potpourri | Dining with a Manila Gourmet

More than a month has passed since the Marco Polo Davao led by its wonder women, GM Dottie Wurgler-Cronin and Director of Sales and Marketing Pearl Peralta-Maclang, joined the celebration of Philippine Airlines’ “4-Star Global Airline” certification with PAL executives from Imperial Manila.

Unfortunately for me, one beloved PAL executive was unable to attend that time.

It made me wonder why it’s only recently that the PAL AVP Babyruth Chuaunsu came to Davao.  “It’s for my rest and relaxation that I am here.  I also want to check on what’s new with Davao City’s culinary scene,” the lady with the “kutis mala porcelana” stated without hesitation.  Why, it’s almost a year ago when Babyruth came to Davao and we, including manong Rene and Inday Chona Lizada, joined her in her quest for Davao’s best restaurant.  This woman has all the delicious reasons and unique stories of unforgettable memories for celebrating haute cuisine from renowned 5-Star hotels to provincial homes’ comfort food lovingly prepared by the family’s devoted cocineras.

Dining at the Lotus Court with Babyruth E. Chuaunsu, Pearl P. Maclang and chef Alex Destriza with the Lotus Court staff

Dining at the Lotus Court with Babyruth E. Chuaunsu, Pearl P. Maclang and chef Alex Destriza with the Lotus Court staff

It was last Saturday, June 23, 2018, when Babyruth, along with Marco Polo Davao’s tiny-waisted Pearl Peralta-Maclang, invited for lunch at the Lotus Court which Babyruth loves to check on for its culinary development whenever she is in town.  I must admit that I was rather confused to refer to the PAL AVP as a gourmand rather than a gourmet in the past.  The dictionary defines a gourmand as “someone who is extremely fond of eating and drinking;” while a gourmet “is a person with refined tastes who enjoys and knows a lot about fine food and drinks.”  Definitely, Babyruth E. Chuaunsu is a gourmet by any culinary standards.

When it comes to Chinese cuisine, PAL’s AVP is, unquestionably, a connoisseur.  She has stayed for years as PAL representative in Mother China, the land of her ancestors.  Her presence at the Lotus Court is enough to make Marco Polo Davao’s Exec. Chef Alex Destriza and his culinary minions shake, rattle and roll done with a diplomatic smile.  For lunch at Davao’s reputed finest Cantonese restaurant, Babyruth ordered the favorite dishes of her former PAL boss who is now the Secretary of Finance of the country, Carlos Dominguez III.  The Lotus Court dishes included hot and sour soup, hakaw, pork buns, silken tofu with assorted mushrooms and veggies, lemon chicken, sauteed beef with shiitake mushrooms, salted fish fried rice, and steamed pampano.  It was a feast for just three people.  As expected, Babyruth listed her suggestions for chef Alex to ponder on.  Indeed, it has been a long time since the Lotus Court added something new to its menu.  The Cantonese restaurant used to invite foreign Chinese chefs to update its culinary offerings.  “And I am wondering why the Lotus Court doesn’t have high end, special dishes included in its menu for its VIP diners,” Babyruth asked.  Oh yes, both Babyruth and Pearl wore red, as red as the face of chef Alex when Babyruth started her culinary inquisition.

After the filling lunch, we were on our way to Halifax Davao Hotel, Inc. President Francis Rasay Ledesma and Jocy Tagle-Ledesma’s Saddleback Haven located in Baracatan, Toril, Davao City.  Earlier that day, dear Jocy sent me this loving message, “I pray you will enjoy Saddleback Haven and feel God’s presence there.  Bing Dakudao Locsin and I already had our retreat there with our Bible study group…God bless you, Michael!”  Indeed, Saddleback Haven offers a communion with nature as Babyruth described the place.  It’s a fitting haven to recharge in for a wearied soul of an urbanite exposed to all sorts of stresses in a concrete jungle.  Saddleback Haven reminds me of Baguio of yesteryears when it wasn’t that densely populated as it is now.

Upon arrival at Saddleback Haven, Francis and Jocy’s devoted cocinera, Ruby Gelasque, and her assistants prepared banana with langka turon and a refreshing drink of lemon grass juice with lots of lemon slices.  We had our tour of the place and before we knew it, Ruby had us prepare for dinner she herself cooked.  “I had my training at Marco Polo Davao and of course, with ma’m Jocy,” revealed Jocy.  Dinner consisted of corn soup with native mushrooms, oxtail and pork knuckles kare-kare, grilled pampano, and fried lumpia ubod.  Home-cooking at its best from Jocy’s recipes.  I left Saddleback Haven by 8:00 p.m. leaving Babyruth and Pearl for a friendly overnight bonding.

As Ruth was leaving on a night flight back to Manila on Sunday, manong Rene and Inday Chona Lizada joined us for an early dinner at chef Patrick Co’s Fat Cow.  “I like the look and feel of Fat Cow.  The restaurant is well-lighted, simple, and has tasteful furnishings…The meal started with its crusty, sliced bread with butter and tomato jam.  The tomato jam was cooked down to release its own sweetness which mixed perfectly with the tomato flavor.  I wish I had some pink Himalayan salt with me so I could sprinkle some of it on the jam to make it perfect.  The mesclun salad boasted of fresh greens, prosciutto, shrimps and its well-balanced vinaigrette blended just deliciously. The salad featured the burrata cheese.  Chef Patrick’s classic bacon and potato croquette was well complimented with his mushroom-onion puree with truffle oil.  I kept the excess puree anticipating it to be used with the chef’s additional dishes and I was right.  The Wagyu striploin with garlic confit and a duo of mustards came next.  The Wagyu was done right and it was yummy topped with the puree,” commented the Manila gourmet which had chef Patrick smiling from ear to ear.  As if chef Patrick’s well thought of set menu for the group wasn’t enough, Babyruth still ordered additional dishes like the osso buco and the unagi aburi maki.  We ended our dinner with chef Patrick’s blueberry cookie tart.

Thank you, Babyruth, for the enlightening culinary experiences you’ve been sharing with me.  It is always such a delight (complete with stress, too) to be with such an unpretentious and lovable Manila gourmet.


Posted in Lifestyle