A roasted pig doesn’t need much to be noticed. It is meant to be at the center of the table, the center of attention, so to make it even more exciting than it already is is nothing short of special.
It is therefore a treat to sit at Dedet dela Fuente’s table. It’s not because of the truffle rice stuffing inside her lechon de leche or the degustation dinners she designed to honor a shared love for pork. It is her, the woman at the head of the table. She is the reason RSVPs to her dinners are almost always a yes and why her private dinners are constantly in demand. Dedet dela Fuente is the heart and soul of her dishes.
There is nothing on her menu that you’ll probably find elsewhere—lechon scones, bone marrow with oxtail marmalade, ginataan brulée—but her hospitality is as Pinoy as you could expect, maybe even more. A dinner with the proclaimed Lechon Diva is an invitation into her life and her home, each perfected course walks you through her journey: from her days as a food lover to all the lessons she took from ace chefs Sylvia Reynoso Gala and Reggie Aspiras (who taught her how to roast pigs) to her personality (she only stuffs her pigs with things she likes) to the present where she is now one of the most respected and well-liked women in the business. The feeling is even more reinforced when you see her daughters flit in and out of the kitchen and dining room, helping their mother come up with recipes, carving the pig, and providing entertainment.
Even a complete stranger would feel at home in her presence. Her degustation dinners—whether it's her original degustation, the Hayop na Degustation, the Richman Feast, or the Dinner at Tiffany's— feels like an overly indulgent Sunday dinner courtesy of the overachieving aunt who does Olympic-level hosting. She once again showed off her flair for hospitality at the press preview of High Street Cafe's Mother's Day special which will feature three of her specialties during Mother's Day Weekend.
In true Dela Fuente fashion, she came up with a custom tasting dinner to kick things off. She calls it a practice run for another tasting set that she's working on—the Miss Celine Degustacion, which she's humorously named after the much-coveted Michelin guide.
The Lechon Sandwich: crispy lechon skin and chicharon hugging a slice of foie gras, cheese, and pickled ampalaya. The latter rounds out the weight of the rest of the elements. While it's tempting to have more than the bite-size serving, it's a tiny reminder that you can't have too much of a good thing.
Oxtail Pizza: This is more like an open-faced taco with crispy shreds of oxtail, more cheese, and nuts.
A beautiful presentation typical of Dela Fuente's style, the South Sea and Pearls is a new version of another dish of the same name, which she introduced at her Dinner at Tiffany's. She replaces the prawns with crab (and a little bit of crab fat); underneath, mini tapioca balls drenched in coconut milk and just a touch of chili oil.
The first of the three dishes being temporarily integrated into High Street Cafe's lineup, the Crab Gulong Gulong. We ask Dedet if "gulong gulong" was some kind of regional culinary technique. It's not. It's a reference to one of her friends who literally rolled on the floor delirious from the flavors. For High Street Cafe, Dedet is keeping a more rustic presentation: a heaping bowl of crab swimming in a thick, creamy sauce.
Then, there's the legendary lechon with truffle rice. It's not the first Dedet lechon creation, but it's probably the one synonymous to her name. Spice lovers would get a kick over her homemade siling labuyo sauce.
Dela Fuente's kare-kare sticks with tradition. She loads it up with beans, eggplant, greens, banana hearts, tripe, and oxtail.
While Dela Fuente's laughter and stories are the best parts of her dinner, you're not exactly unlucky to have a little piece of her (cooking) this Mother's Day. Food plays a huge part of her narrative after all.