Davao Food Festival’s Grand Tasting

THE PEPPER MILL - Pepper Teehankee - The Philippine Star
Davao Food Festival�s Grand Tasting
Dusit Thani Davao general manager Christophe Kuch with Carmina and Raffy del Rosario
Pepper Teehankee

All roads led to the Dusit Thani Davao for the Grand Tasting event of the Davao Food and Wine Festival. It was a grand assembly of culinary maestros from all over the Philippines. Despite the rains, organizer Carmina Mapa del Rosario of Mindanao Butchers made sure everything was in order, as people trickled in as early as 5 p.m. to sample the sumptuous spread with refreshing cocktails from Luisita Rum and wines from Boca Juan Filipinas paired by sommelier Cecile Mauricio.

Starters included a Thai-style cured local fish kinilaw with oyster by Dusit Thani Davao/D2 Davao/Dusit Lubi Plantation Resort executive chef Piya Suthasiri. It was worth noting that they had to prepare over 250 of these dishes and each plate it was served on was entirely made of ice to keep the fish and oyster cold. Imagine preparing 250 ice plates!

The Malagos Cheesebar by Malagos Farmhouse was manned by the mother-and-daughter duo of Olive and Ingrid Puentespina, a pioneer of artisanal cheesemaking in the Philippines, who gladly explained to diners each cheese (they now have over 25 varieties of cheese) and condiment on their grand spread and what to take each cheese with.

M Dining chef Tippi Tambunting flew to Davao for this and prepared an absolutely amazing heirloom tomato-and-capsicum ensalada, feta and brioche crisp with micro-basil. I am not fond of vegetables, but Tippi showed me what kind of tomatoes she was using and explained that these were not typically seen in the Philippines but they are grown in limited quantities in Davao. I ended up eating five of her dishes.

In demand chef Jorge Mendez of Modan flew to Davao also to prepare his cured General Santos tuna with paitum tossa and palapa (a sweet and spicy Maranao condiment consisting of thinly chopped white scallions, pounded ginger, turmeric, labuyo chili, and toasted grated coconut) bushi.

Several main entrées were served and people flocked to the Argentinian parillada station where La Cabrera Manila chef Agustin Figueroa grilled chorizo, entraña (skirt steak), ribeye, short ribs, and sirloin. La Cabrera Manila opened its doors in July 2014 in Manila and now has branches in Makati and Shangri-La Edsa.

Cebu-based chef Marco Anzani of Anzani Restaurant hails from Como, Italy, and prepared a superb beetroot ravioli stuffed with osso bucco and stewed in a porcini mushroom cream sauce. Marco has worked with Michelin-starred chefs like Alain Ducasse and Roger Vergé.

The husband-and-wife team of David Thien and Lisa Revilla was based in Singapore but now call Davao their permanent home. Bordeaux-born Thien spent part of his youth in Reunion Island, and has Alsatian, Corsican, Chinese, and Mauritian roots. He helmed the Michelin-starred Corner House and was co-founder of Shelter in the Woods.

Chef Revilla was born and raised in the Philippines and worked in New York before relocating to Singapore working at DB Bistro & Oyster Bar by Daniel Boulud before joining Spago’s opening team as a sous chef. Awarded the 2020 Best Female Chef at the WGA World Gourmet Awards, she helmed the kitchen as the executive chef at the Michelin-starred The Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar of Jean Georges Vongerichten. Revilla prepared a unique and flavor-packed warm crispy sushi with marinated tuna, house-made sriracha aioli and pickled jalapeño, while Thien created the most delectable rustic, crisp, flaky-crusted chicken pie made with local Peppato cheese from Malagos Farmhouse. The two Manila-based chefs prepared entrées as well after serving their starters.

Tambunting also created an entrée of unbelievably delicious beef rendang with Sunmade (a rice brand from Davao) brown rice. Mendez created roasted lamb with a to-die-for pamapa itum curry sauce and a nori (seaweed) chip

Bobby Horrigan and Tomas Lorenzo

Dessert was by Davao-based Joel Rodriguez of Osvaldo Cakes, who chocolate-coated tinagtag (a Maguindanaoan delicacy that looks like a sheet of noodles made from finely ground rice powder mixed with brown sugar and water) on a dark caramel cheesecake with Malagos guava preserve on coconut-kaffir macaroon crust and a Malagos Blush Blue cheese, fig, walnut cheesecake, and honey drizzle. His desserts hit the spot to end a perfect evening.

Chefs Jorge Mendez, Lisa Revilla, David Thien, and Tippi Tambunting


I can truly say that this was the only food festival that I have ever been to where I could not think of anything that disappointed me. I agree with the consensus of most guests that everything was excellent. The turnout was great and the chefs delivered excellent dishes to make the Davao Food and Wine Festival one of the best the Philippines has to offer. We look forward to next year!

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Follow me on Instagram @pepperteehankee.

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