Fine Dining in the Wild
Dr. Nestor Alonso II (The Freeman) - June 14, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — “Welcome to the wild!” the greetings guests and friends heard upon arrival at the Cebu Safari and Adventure Park, the premier park in the country, a zoological collection of wild animals living in a 300-hectare facility in a world-class habitat.

I am a graduate of Veterinary Medicine where one of the disciplines is Zoological Medicine, the care of captive zoo animals and free-ranging wildlife species. Our class was once assigned to the Manila Zoo, a 5.5 hectare facility that was home to a thousand of animals belonging 90 species. Cebu City also had a zoo in 1957, at the Fort San Pedro; it was managed by a religious sect, The Lamplighter World Peace Mission headed by Fr. Eleuterio Tropa.

Recently, the gourmet society La Chaine des Rotisseurs organized a dinner at the Cebu Safari and Adventure Park, with the theme “Safari Encounter.” Food was prepared by the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, transporting everything to the site; they had 48 hours to prepare the meals.

Welcome appetizers were the Double Smoked Cajun Crocodile and Sweet Potato Relish, Malibu Marinated Prawn in Sugarcane Skewers with Chili Lime, Mango, Black Beans Salsa and the All Spice “Biltong” (Beef Jerky) with Citrus Harissa Dips. It had been five years since I had eaten crocodile meat and the Cajun version served was heavily spiced similar to the taste of the dried beef jerky. I am familiar with the Vietnamese Sugar Cane Shrimp Skewer (Chao Tom) but this was my first encounter with the Malibu version.

I had at hand an enamel cup filled with Crow’s Gin & Tonic Water as I documented the dishes at the seven Food Stations: Appetizers & Salads, Butchers Board, Assorted Chesses, Braai (barbecue in Africa), Roasting, Chafing Dishes, and Dessert. There were at least 40 different cheeses, breads, sausages, salads and complete dishes. Salads served were the Yuka Salad (cassava salad with smoked meats and cheese), Tabbouleh Salad (parsley with tomatoes, onions, mint and lemon juice) and Greens (Romaine, Iceberg, Red Lollo Rosso Lettuce).

The meats at the Butcher Board were the Italian Bresaola (beef), Coppa (pork shoulder) and Turkey ham with condiments. Mozzarella, Gruyere and Gorgonzola chesses were served while the Braai had Seafood Brochettes (skewers), Peri-Peri Chicken, Ostrich Fillet and Sausages (Turkey & Boerewors Sausages). Delicious!

Cebu Lechon was available at the Roasting Section along with the Roast Calf and Ribs of Lamb (my favorite). The Chafing Dishes were the Double Baked Congo Potatoes, Potjie Triple Wild Mushrooms (pot with layers of meat, veggies, carbs and sauce). Desserts were the Tamarind Predator, Safari “Calamansi” Tart, and Chocolate Hedgehog Cake dressed in fancy coats!

Closing the evening was the speech of Michel Lhuillier, giving thanks to the Marco Polo team headed by the GM Brian Connelly for the lovely “Safari Encounter” dinner. He was beaming with enthusiasm as he affirmed that what we saw at the Cebu Safari and Adventure Park was only the, excuse me, soft opening and once it is finished, it will compete with the best of the animal parks and zoos worldwide!

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