Arriving in London in late May, the Kulinarya team was too early for Wimbledon but not for the strawberries that have become synonymous with the prestigious tennis tournament. In London groceries at the time, one could have two packs for the price of one. Taken with the excellent English cream, they were sometimes enough for lunch or dinner.
Yes, champagne that is traditionally taken with those excellent juicy berries would have been great, but we didn’t need alcohol to make us sleep after the long-haul trip, or after the long working days.
At Den Haag, The Hague’s Dutch name, strawberries were served with poffertjes. These are small pancakes made with buckwheat flour and cooked in a special pan with small molds that look like a bigger version of what the Japanese use to cook takoyaki. White cloud-like cream completed the Dutch treat.
What a wonderful welcome to the third city in the Kulinarya European tour, under the care of Shirley Banquicio, first secretary and consul.
The other delightful reception to the place was when we were treated to a seafood dinner by Ambassador James Ledda and his wife Gina at Catch by Simonis, one of the many restaurants lining the dock of the Marina. Because this capital city of south Holland is located at the coast of the North Sea, the oysters, shrimps and other seafood are superb.
Our Kulinarya chefs must have sensed that the kinilaw course to be served at the dinner would certainly live up to Doreen Gamboa Fernandez’s description of it as a “cuisine of freshness.”
The Kulinarya photo exhibit was done a week before we arrived at the Tong Tong Fair, the largest Indonesian culture event, which attracts thousands of visitors to its food booths and performances of both classical and modern Indonesian arts.
It helped, of course, that Indonesia and the Dutch have a shared history. Reading about the event made me wish that we had a similar annual event in Europe to showcase Philippine arts and culture (and that includes food).
In recent years, the Tong Tong Fair has invited other countries to participate, and that is how some of those who reserved seats at the Kulinarya dinner learned about our event.
Our visit coincided with the celebration of Araw ng Kalayaan (Independence Day). At the Philippine embassy, a simple Filipino breakfast was served—tinapa (smoked fish) and sinangag (fried rice), with Philippine coffee and chocolate.
The Kulinarya talk, cooking demonstration of adobo and our dinner were all held at a hotel and management school, the ROC Mondriaan. It was a good work site for the chefs because the kitchens had complete equipment, but they had to prep early because the culinary school area closed late afternoon.
The talk on Filipino cooking pointed out that the queso de bola cheesecake uses Edam cheese from Holland, the cheese an important part of our Christmas holiday tradition. We could tell the European guests were pleasantly surprised to hear it.
But the cheese we bought to bring home as pasalubong (gift) was a two-year-old gouda from a shop where we spent an hour tasting the many wheels of cheese for sale.
Among the guests were writers and photographers, travel and food bloggers, members of the diplomatic corps and providers of au pair services in the country. The Filipino guests included former Inquirer publisher Raul Pangalanan, who now serves as judge at the International Criminal Court based in The Hague; and the cook of Amsterdam’s football club, Ajax, who said the team loves adobo.
Ambassador Ledda conducted an informal survey among the dinner guests on what they considered the best dish and the best dessert that evening. The pan-fried cod with a sauce of coconut cream and taba ng talangka (shore crab roe) emerged on top; for dessert, the turon, probably because it contained fresh langka (jackfruit).
Filipino kitchen helpers like myself couldn’t resist tasting bits of the perfectly ripe sweet fruit while we wrapped each turon piece.
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