Here's Where You Can Have Amazing Bicolano Cuisine in Manila
Married couple Carlo and Rica Buenaflor share the same passion: to bring the best of Bicol to Manila and hopefully soon, globally.
For their vision to come to fruition, they established the Best of Bicol, a non-profit group that showcases the region through curated activities, events, talks, exhibits, and trunk shows.
It all started when the couple called Naga their home over a decade ago.
“We were amazed by the talent we saw in different fields and felt the need to create a platform that gave them an opportunity to be known beyond Bicol,” says Carlo Buenaflor.
In 2013, he chaired the annual Bicol Business Week with the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry. That's when they conceived an idea that they called Best of Bicol.
"Little did we know that this idea would grow into an inclusive movement that brings out the best out of Bicolanos out of Bicol," says Buenaflor. "From its conception, Best of Bicol has evolved into a movement that allows Bicolanos to dream big, and realize that collectively, these dreams can come true. We dream together and we make it happen together.”
Today, the group is filled with equally passionate Bicolano entrepreneurs, artists, and craftspeople in the fields of culinary, fashion, visual arts, literature, and photography. Best of Bicol not only showcases the region, but it hopes to sustain a platform that recognizes the many homegrown products and talents.
“Best of Bicol serves as a bridge to connect products, talents, and communities present in Bicol that we feel are worth showcasing to mentors and movers who have the talent, time and most especially, the shared passion. We forge collaborations that help fine-tune products, we help them in brand communications, and promotions,” says Buenaflor.
He says the movement is built on efforts such as creative collaborations. In the past, they've worked with Bicolano illustrator Pen Prestado, Monchet Olives, and Bernadette de los Santos. The group has also stage mini events in A Space and Manila House to “shed some much-deserved spotlight on some of the region’s best.”
This time around, Carlo's wife Rica has collaborated with Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016 Margarita Flores and her farm-to-table organic restaurant Grace Park. Rica, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate, worked with her memories and experiences to feature Bicol's treasured culinary favorites.
Rica says what attracted Fores to the movement is the fact that Bicolano cuisine is “one of the most unique in the country and the most authentic in the sense that it has the least influence from our colonizers.”
‘Grace Park Does Bicol’ features eight dishes including an interpretation of the region's popular Bicol Express to new flavors like the tintungan flan with coco jam.
Libas-brined bacon and laing longganisa with garlic pink rice and fried egg.
Libas-brined corned beef with ginataang santol and grilled cauliflower.
Tintungan na manok made with grilled chicken with green papaya, and sili leaves in roasted coconut milk.
Sinanglay made with tilapia fish wrapped in pechay leaves then poached in coconut milk.
Laing with taro leaves cooked in coconut milk.
Bicol Express cooked in chili in coconut milk.
The tintungan flan with coco jam uses roasted coconut milk.
Ginataang malagkit made of black and white sticky rice, and corn cooked in coconut milk, sprinkled with sea salt and cinnamon.
There are also deli items such as this laing longganisa.
Aside from the Bicol Menu, Bicol Deli products such as Laing Longaniza and Libas-Smoked Bacon are available for retail. “These are products from traditional heritage recipes that have been handed down from generations and are finally being shared with a bigger audience,” Rica shares.
The ‘Grace Park Does Bicol’ menu is available from August 20 to September 30 at Grace Park, Rockwell, Makati.