The Language of Food

chit juan 2By Chit U. Juan | On a recent trip to Legaspi City in the southeastern tip of the main island of Luzon in the Philippines, I was to attend a dinner with academics who were guests and speakers at the 3rd International Colloquium of the Bicol University Graduate School. As soon as we reached the mall, the rain poured and there was no way I could even alight from the car to join my party. Instead, we made a quick decision to join the dinner of Father Jovic and my colleagues at the Social Enterprise Development Center where I sit in the Board as an Independent Director.

So in the rain we went to find this special place called Iking’s or Mr. D’s Pizza as it is written on the menu.
The menu was no more than 3 pages of typewritten entrees, ranging from Mexican tacos to Fried Chicken and Mojos with nary a fancy description to entice the reader. The place had natural ventilation (no aircon) and a few electric stand up fans. Noemi told me that this place is not for walk ins. You need to reserve and they will buy the ingredients only after you have booked an order.

Ikings Salad

I was getting more curious as we waited for our orders to be served. Then came the salad—lettuce and olives, green peppers and onions drizzled with a vinaigrette dressing. Then a pasta of angel hair with Bolognese sauce. Very good indeed. The piece de resistance is the seared Tuna- so freshly made and in a light olive oil, caper, olives and sundried tomatoes sauce. Now, I understand why people take the time to order ahead and pre-book seats at this “house turned home kitchen” owned by Iking and Marisol. I never even got to get their complete names. (Photos by Chit Juan)

Ikings angel hair bolognese

Seared Tuna at Ikings in Legaspi City

While Iking cooked, Marisol busied herself with bringing us water, and plates and checking if the fans were working well. The music was so fitting to the food ,too. The couple has a whole stack of CDs by their kitchen counter and the choices are many. There is a bread oven which doubles up as the pizza oven.

Legaspi City by dictspace.netWe had the pizza, of course, with freshly-made dough and all the toppings. Fresh is the key word between Iking and Marisol. In fact, I heard that they will even refuse your booking if they think they cannot find the ingredients in the market on that day. I think they believe in Slow Food. Food that is clean, good and fair. And food that respects seasons and nature’s ways.

I was waiting for Marisol to engage us and to probably tell us more about their restaurant, which she said after much prodding, started in the mid90s. Why did I only discover this place now? I have been going to Legaspi almost 4 to 5 times a year for the past few years and it is only now that I had this chance to eat at Iking’s.
Marisol just went about her way, serving , clearing and occasionally asking the Chef Iking about the food or what was to be served next.

I was so looking forward to dessert. A place this humble but this good must have a secret dessert recipe ,too. Maybe Tiramisu? Okay, they say they have got good crepes. However, since we did not order or pre-order it, there was no dessert.

Bicol

So, tell me, are Iking and Marisol marketers? Are they entrepreneurs? But why do they not maximize and upsell other dishes to their customers? They served us water and never offered us drinks. And then now, no dessert. Sounds like the soup nazi in Seinfeld. “This is what you ordered.No more no less”.

My friends agreed with me that the couple did not talk much but would rather speak to us through food. The food spoke millions of words and travel and experience. The food spoke of a soulful chef, who will only cook what is fresh and what is in season. The food spoke of the peaceful union of two people who have the same interest—to entertain through their cooking.

I could almost taste the chicken going to the next table and was tempted to ask for a piece to try. The smell , the aroma kept us guessing on what marinade Iking used, on what went into his chicken gravy. But, no we did not dare ask lest we get disappointed that the chef will not reveal his trade secrets.

I wish many more Ikings and Marisols would be discovered here in Manila or in other parts of our country. This is what slow food is about. You are made to pre-plan, pre-book, pre-order. So the chef can make it according to the standards he himself set but which align to having the best food at reasonable prices.

It is not about scale. It is not about making tons of money. It is about serving real food from real people. Because that is the only language they will speak. The language of food.

ECHOstore has been at the forefront of the Slow Food movement..from sourcing the heirloom rice from the Cordillera, to growing our own vegetables in ECHOfarms.

This is why we love discovering foodies, restaurateurs and home chefs who respect seasonality of ingredients, freshness of materials and providing food that is good, clean and fair. www.echostore.ph

Legazpi photo by: dictspace.net

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