I have a problem with food.
No, let me re-state that. I have a problem declining food being offered to me, especially when it’s FREE (!). Hehe! So when my friend Blogie Robillo of Davao asked me to join them in the Davao Food Appreciation Tour (FAT) last weekend (where a group of bloggers try out the menu and offerings of various restaurants in exchange for reviews online), I had to cancel all my appointments and agreed to go.
Owing to bad luck though (losing my wallet & my cash, ATM, cards, etc with it last Friday nite), I only joined them on the 3rd day of the gourmet fest, Sunday, March 16 which luckily, as I found out from the other food bloggers with us, was their most fun-filled day.
Since Ria (whom I met in January at the Socsargen Blog Seminar) who coordinated this whole FAT kept reminding me that I have to be in Davao by 9am that Sunday, I set up my phone alarm at 4:15am to be able to catch the 5:30 trip aboard Yellow Bus. So, with my companion Mars (who could harldy keep his eyes open as I dragged him out of bed) in tow, we boarded Aircon Bus #72 at the city terminal. Once seated and after paying for our fare, we slept all along the 150-km. ride to the Durian Capital.
We were in luck. We arrived at McDo Matina, the meeting place before 9am. In a little while, Ria showed up and immediately introduced us to the other Davao-based bloggers like Migs, Dom, Tiara, Winston, Gwing, Andrew and Angel. Later on, Blogie arrived followed by Google exec and Manila-based Aileen with Jay.
Then off we went up the mountains of Davao for our first stop, Eden Nature Park, the region’s most famous mountain resort owned by the Ayalas, located at the Toril District.
After a pleasurable 30-minute ride on board Dom’s vehicle, we arrived at Eden and were greeted by a welcome sight of greenery and the sweet scent of pine trees all around us. In a short while, we were herded into an open multi-cab for a tour around the 40-hectare resort.
The 1st time I took this tour was 3 years ago and during that time, I kept falling asleep so I couldn’t remember much about it. This time, I was wide-eyed and all ears to Ryan, our amiable guide who fed us bits and pieces about the abundance of nature’s beauty all around us.
The 35 minute or so tour took us to places like the Fishing Village, the Hydroponic Vegetable Garden (where veggies are amazingly grown sans soil), Holiday Lodge, Prayer Garden, Flower Garden (and its natural ampitheater), Lola’s Garden, the organic Vegetable & Herb Garden (where our guide gave us a sampling of the some of the herb’s aromatic leaves) and the upcoming Tinubdan Park (featuring art sculptures depicting the various tribes of Davao and the Mythic Mountain with its take on the creation of mankind from different folklore).
What took my breath away though is the site from various stops during the tour of Davao City and the Davao Gulf down below from where we were 30,000 feet above sea level.
Before the much-awaited buffet at the Eden Kiosk, my younger friends (now including fellow “general” Mikko who arrived late) tried the rope ride ala-Indiana Jones, at the Kid’s Playground nearby. I only ventured on it once but I was so heavy that I bounced so hard when I reached the end of the ride, a feeling that I had to endure when riding a bump-car when I was little. But the other guys? Gosh!!! They didn’t want to stop. Consider this pic…
Finally, laughing and panting and all the more famished from the running and jumping, it was time for us to join the 7 or so family groups inside the Kiosk for our lunch.
The kiosk which was more like a large green house to me had no airconditioning but was comfortably cool since it had screens for walls. The L-shaped hall was colorfully decked with what were like yards and yards of multi-hued cloth adding a festive touch to the place.
Near the main doors of the kiosk was the two-way buffet table (and its interesting tribal-themed centerpiece, shown below) filled with all sorts of Filipino dishes. Beside it was a separate and smaller table for salads and dessert.
I first tried the greenish pumpkin soup which despite its icky color, had just the right flavor to it, not too salty and not too sweet. I liked it so much that I had a 2nd serving later on.
Not wanting to fill myself up too much, I skipped on rice and headed next to try the half-carved cucumber stuffed with chopped tomatoes, onions and other spices. It needed to be seasoned a little but was a good complement to the “tortang bangus” which Migs (who was seating beside me) was also eating with relish. We both agreed that this spanish dish was a “must-try” not only for its taste which it owes to the spices in its marinade but also to its tender and boneless meatflakes.
Later, I tried the breaded pork ribs (but not before asking for forgiveness to my God being the Lenten Week). This one did not disappoint either and reminded me of my Kapampangan Dad’s cooking, since he liked dressing up his meat with flour. The batter had the sufficient thickness to it and did not steal the thunder away from the meat.
For my main dish, I opted for the Filipino specialty, the chicken adobo. Eden’s version is pan-dried with almost no sauce at all, sprinkled with bits of fried crispy garlic. I was expecting the meat to be very salty due to its semi-dry nature but lo, and behold, it was not.
What impressed me most though was the abundance of salads and greens at the separate buffet table. I learned that all of these are from Eden’s gardens, organically grown! I lost no time in having my fill of these healthy spread as my final intake and even before I finished it off, was already planning mentally my next trip there, this time along with my family from GenSan.