Ultimate gastronomic tour of Laguna and Quezon for National Food Month
This year, in celebration of National Food Month, San Miguel Foods Culinary Center brought back its gastronomic tour featuring two provinces of the Southern Tagalog region – Laguna and Quezon.
I have been living in Rizal since birth yet I haven’t known the region like the way I know my favorite boy group. Having been invited to this event was a great opportunity for me to learn more about my roots.
My father has been staying in Quezon for quite a long time now and he’s been telling me a lot about the province and I wouldn’t miss the chance to see it myself what its towns have to offer. I am also craving to learn more about our national hero’s hometown, Laguna. I knew there was a widespread of things to catch up with these provinces and I guessed, I was right.
National Food Month is a celebration in the Philippines that aims to promote the country’s rich culinary heritage and highlight the diverse flavors and food products from different regions of the country. In line with this celebration, the San Miguel Foods Culinary Center has organized a gastronomic tour that focuses on the two provinces.
Laguna is known for its traditional dishes such as the famous buko pie, espasol, and puto binan. It is also recognized for its freshwater fish, such as tilapia and bangus, which are used in various dishes such as sinigang, paksiw, and grilled fish.
Meanwhile, Quezon is famous for its lambanog, a distilled coconut liquor, and its delicacies such as kakanin, suman, and longganisa.
During the gastronomic tour, participants experienced the local food culture of Laguna and Quezon by visiting various food establishments and participating in cooking workshops. They learned about the different ingredients and cooking techniques used in these regions, as well as the history and stories behind each dish.
“Our last food tour in the region was back in 2012, and we’re excited to be back to rediscover the unique flavors of Southern Tagalog cuisine and explore new food destinations in Laguna and Quezon,” started Llena Tan Arcenas, San Miguel Foods Culinary Center manager.
“In many ways, it’s the pandemic that helped bring about a number of the stops we are featuring. On the other hand, for some that are considered old favorites, it is all about adaptation and innovation, while staying true to the core of Tagalog cuisine,” she continued.
Dubbed “Kulinarya Tagala,” the two-day culinary tour aimed to promote the diverse and dynamic food culture of the region.
“As we promote local food tourism, we also hope to emphasize the importance of sourcing ingredients from nearby farms and producers, and promoting sustainable practices while supporting the local economy,” Arcenas added.
The two-day food tour was tiring yet it was insightful and had given us a glimpse of the kind of life in the province. Not just that, it literally gave us feasts on our table that even the space for desserts was consumed.
Aurora Filipino Cuisine, Santa Cruz, Laguna
After a four-hour trip, we arrived at our first stop – Santa Cruz, Laguna – where we were welcomed by the traditional dances of a local dance troupe. We had our brunch and I can still remember how I was captivated by Aurora Filipino Cuisine’s Inalamangang Baboy.
We were also served mini pancakes and bacon, pan de coco, salmon omelet, chicken adobo sa dilaw, and sinugno na tilapia fillets made with fresh coconut sourced from the restaurant’s backyard.
The meal was perfectly capped off with fresh fruit, pandan iced tea, and L’OR Essenso Brazilian 3in1 Coffee and LÓR Essenso Colombian 2in1 Coffee, which served as perfect accompaniments to Aurora’s torta de pili.
Linang ni LK, Lucban, Quezon
Owned by Chef Francis Ocoma, Linang ni LK is a farm resort founded in April 2019 and is created because of his love for cooking and farming. Known for being the Lakwatserong Kusinero, he named his farm-to-kitchen resort to ensure guests fresh, farm-to-table dishes and a unique “farm-cation” experience.
And, yes, we felt that as we enjoyed our ube taw, glutinous ube-flavored rice balls topped with Magnolia ube ice cream. Of course, a trip to Quezon wouldn’t be complete without having an authentic pancit lucban with longganisang lucban.
As part of the Linang ni LK experience, guests were also treated to a coffee demonstration by its in-house barista who showcased how to make kape salay and kape pandan.
Bukid Amara, Lucban, Quezon
I’m telling you, this trip was in fact a delightful treat for food buddies like me. It’s a snack-after-snack tour.
After a coffee break at Linang ni LK, we were brought for a quick tour at Bukid Amara owned by Michael ‘Mike’ Caballes where we got to see its impressive landscape of edible flowers, a man-made lake, and greenhouses featuring flowering plants, herbs, and edible greens, all with the magnificent Mt. Banahaw as its background.
We also got to try the farm’s floral spring rolls which are filled with chicken, edible flowers fresh from the farm, egg omelet, and vermicelli noodles, partnered with cucumber and citrus quencher.
Rodillas Yema Cake, Tayabas City, Quezon
We’re not done yet! We were also given the chance to have our desserts at Rodillas Yema Cake by Monica and Jett Bakeshop which was owned by Vincent and Juliet Rodillas.
I have been looking forward to having a tour of the plant of its local bakeshop as part of our itinerary since it has now become one of the province’s most iconic local delicacies.
After a quick tour, owner Juliet ensured that we won’t go home without some pasalubong in our hands from her oven such as the all-time favorite yema cake, cheesecake, cheese cupcake, and lengua jar.
Jardin de Pio, Tayabas, Quezon
To end our first day, we had our dinner at Jardin de PIo located in the town of Tayabas.
The cuisine is led by Chef Peter Dellosa who served us with a wide spread of dishes. But my favorites were the gambas aligue, aglio olio pasta, and silvanas.
We were also introduced to Quezon’s cultural brand, the Tagayan Ritual, and enjoyed the rest of the night with rondalla music.
Sitio de Amor Farm Resort, San Pablo City, Laguna
A heartful lunch and merienda plus a “hacienda” tour at Sitio de Amor Farm was a cherry on top as we ended our Kulinarya Tagala trip.
Our table was served with a lunch from Cafe Gaudencio’s menu that features dishes from the provinces of Laguna and Quezon like pako salad, sinigang na hipon sa buko, sinantolan, sinaing na bangus, and believe it or not, a Christmas staple – we were treated with fresh-from-the-bamboo puto bumbong, glazed with butter, leche flan, and macapuno.
The visit to the six-hectare property owned by Amor and George Bondad also comes with a tour of the whole farm resort and among the highlights was the Caluag House of Tomas Morato, Sr.
The tour was long enough to digest what we had for lunch yet our hearts our full in appreciating the man-made lagoon and nature’s beauty.
After an almost two-hour tour, we helped ourselves to enjoy Lucena’s Antonas Bread and Pastries owned by Emmanuel ‘Hobbie’ Enriques who brought his best-sellers chicken empanada, taco turnover, cheese rolls, and eclairs. My personal favorite is the creme brulee tart that literally melts in your mouth.
Overall, it felt really good to be back at events like ‘Kulinarya Tagala’ and see that we’re slowly getting to our life before where we’re free to explore the local cities and provinces and be knowledgeable about its culture, traditions, and food.