oh yes, i've done a number of adobo entries in this blog, but i couldn't help salivate at the thought of doing the mother of all adobo entries.
the premise is simple enough, marco polo flew in four chefs from all over the philippines to do a limited edition cook off ala iron chef with one theme in mind: adobo. unfortunately, with competitions, there is a single winner and many losers. hopefully not sour (pun intended) losers.
glenda barretto represented samar from eastern visayas, danny de la cuesta brought northern luzon to central visayas, batangas sent myrna segismundo and nancy reyes represented the tagalog region. after going through the spread, sampling 7 dishes, only two came up to my definition of what makes adobo great: should have a strong salty body with the sour undertone of vinegar and that element of surprise. that and copious amount of fat. adobo without the fat is like ice cream without the cream.
first off, i was a bit disappointed to find out that the adobo prawns with taba ng talangka was not served during my visit. seafood adobo is tricky due to the delicate consistency of seafood and i was looking forward to seeing how it would have turned out.
nevertheless, the adobong bagnet sa laoag by danny came out as the winner in the whole spread. the unique use of pig blood cooked to almost dry consistency using the dinuguan method provided the requisite vinegary flavor whereas the bagnet (crispy fried pork cracklings with meat and fat layers) retained it's crunch and salty taste. it is not pretty to look at and hell when you have to maintain conversation while having the dish.
glenda whipped out the deceptively simple pork adobo flakes served with adobo sauce infused with garlic on the side. I prepared a bowl of rice mixed with the adobo sauce and topped with a generous mound of adobo flakes. crispy, crunchy, salty and oh so yummy. gourmet? hardly, but the extra crispness of the flakes didn't disappear with the extra generous amount of sauce added to it.
the mushroom adobo terrine (segismundo) failed to impress me as the bland flavor of the langka dominated the dish. it filled up space in my tummy which would have served a better purpose in getting another dish.
on the other hand, the novelty of having liposuctioned adobo pork caught my attention. cut up into one inch cubes and served in a small dipping dish with a strong soy based adobo sauce, the presentation is impressive - on the other hand, this is a classic representation of picture perfect but left my palate dead. dry, chewy that left me ewwwy.
in an effort to be more "gourmet", segismundo served roast pork rolled with mango and served with balsamic adobo sauce and roast garlic paste. a flop in many ways, the roast pork was bland and the inclusion of mango slices as part of the roll only serve to convert it into a dessert dish that felt mushy on my tongue. the balsamic adobo sauce was too light to give it any flavor and I could hardly taste the roasted garlic. presentation wise it came out a winner but it had the stamp of "hotel food" all over it. bland and blah.
perhaps in an effort to provide a counterpoint to the "gourmet" version, segismundo served a classic braised pork and chicken adobo - nevertheless, the problem with serving classics is that it will be judged according to the classic expectation - bay leaf, peppercorn, garlic bits - ingredients that should be visible as part of the presentation. all i saw was brown sauce. food processors are good but not all sauces should be served as purees.
in my opinion, the challenge was a bit myopic as it limited the adobo possibilities with the standard vinegar and salt base. was it an effort to become purist? hardly, the entry of the excellent adobong bagnet is a clear example of how danny took the idea of incorporating other food elements in the adobo to make it literally a savory experience. unfortunately, i never got to taste his marbled egg and chicken adobo where he used kalamansi - another classic example of using other souring agents aside from the vinegar.
3 out of 6 is hardly stellar but i laud the effort of Marco Polo for staging an event such as this.
before anyone questions my qualification for doing my review, here's one: i paid for it and was not invited to write about the event. on another note, if the chef's feel insulted by the review then here's a suggestion: don't put out yourself to be critiqued.
having a series of titles to your name is not an entitlement to believe everything that is being said about you. if there's any lesson to be learned, take it with a grain of salt. and a dash of vinegar for good measure.
till next time - happy eating.