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At Large

New Spanish cooking

Over the years, we Pinoys have formed certain expectations of “Spanish food.” To us, “Spanish” cooking consists of mostly fiesta fare: paella, cocido, menudo, callos, lengua. Adobo, which is considered an everyday dish, is also supposedly of Castilian provenance. But those who’ve traveled (and eaten) in Spain report that for the life of them, they can’t find any adobo there, especially the familiar Filipino version which consists of pork or chicken steeped in soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaf, peppercorns and garlic.

Indeed, says Andrew Masigan of the Advent Hospitality Group, which is behind the newly opened Oye! Tapas and Grill, even our “quintessential” Spanish dishes are at least 40 years behind current food trends in Spain. It’s as if, having popularized “classic” Spanish dishes and tweaked these to suit Filipino tastes, our local restaurateurs and chefs sat back and let the changing tides of culinary fortune pass by.

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An innovator by heart, Andrew and his wife Sandy have built a network of restaurants and cafés that bring a new twist to the familiar and fondly remembered. Their group’s XO46 Heritage Bistro serves Filipino classics deconstructed and reworked. Arroz Ecija is dedicated to what Andrew calls “hacienda cooking”—old, ancestral and familiar dishes accompanied by different types of rice that were increasingly rare but are now making a comeback.

To explain how he came up with the concept of Oye!, Andrew says that “as a lover of and total geek for Filipino heritage, I feel that all the culinary expressions of Filipino-Spanish heritage were not only dated, but didn’t truly demonstrate how Filipinos have contributed to the pantheon of Hispanic culture.”

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So, in collaboration with Spanish and Filipino chefs, they set out to reflect in Oye! highlights of current “greatest hits” in the Spanish cooking scene, particularly in the northern cities of Bilbao and Barcelona.

At a recent lunch at Oye!, located at the ground floor of the Uptown Mall in BGC, our group of media folk sampled dishes like Spanish Style Chicken Barbecue with Majada Sauce, the latter being a meal staple whose formulation varies from home to home. There were also disks of foie gras served with bread with the added piquant flavor of balsamic vinegar. Instead of paella, we had a relatively simpler rice dish mixed with egg that served as a perfect complement to the rich dishes. Also of note were the drinks, particularly a mixed drink of red wine and cola that was light enough for a lunchtime treat. For dessert, we had the very filling Leche con Galletas, a modern take on the halo-halo with frozen milk and cookie bits. Oye! indeed to the best of the current Spanish culinary scene!

Recently, I spoke at the launch of a new book: “God is Happening: The Art of Paying Attention to Love,” written by Christina “Kitting” Castro-Gelano, edited by Stephanie C. Puno, with painting-illustrations by Kitting and her husband Mikey.

In my “inspirational remarks,” I recalled a conversation with Kitting some months before the Edsa event where I expressed worries about the state of the country, then convulsed by protests against the Marcos dictatorship. Kitting looked closely at me and assured me: “Don’t worry. People are praying across the country about the future. Something will happen soon.”

I had known that Kitting, sister of my dear friend Sandra, was involved in religious movements. But I didn’t know she had the gift of prophecy!

“God is Happening” is “part travelogue, part personal reflection but wholly and overwhelmingly a meditation,” as I wrote in my blurb.
It is ostensibly based on Kitting’s travels around the country and the world, but is filled with insights and reflections on the sights, experiences and visions she experienced while on her travels. Kitting, a spirituality lecturer, also provides Biblical verses for further reflection and space for the reader’s own thoughts.

The paintings used in the book were also on sale, and the happy news is that most were bought on the spot, while there was a brisk sale of the book copies. Blessings and more books, Kitting!

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TAGS: Advent Hospitality Group, Andrew Masigan, At Large, Christina Castro-Gelano, God Is Happening, Oye! Tapas and Grill, Rina Jimenez-David, Spanish cooking, Spanish food
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