Saturday, June 27, 2015

Salo sa Taal: A Taste of the Past with Chef Yana Gilbuena

Just how do you celebrate the birthday weekend of a national hero? Drive up to the historic heritage town of Taal, immerse yourself in history in an elegantly restored ancestral hone, and savor an authentic, austere, yet elegant lunch prepared by Chef Yana Gilbuena, recreating the flavors of the Filipino revolutionary movement.  And on one memorable weekend, we did exactly that... 

There's no better way to celebrate Dr. Jose Rizal's birthday than a visit to the historic heritage town of Taal for an authentic feast of Filipino flavors by Chef Yana Gilbuena at an ancestral home. Part of Chef Yana Gilbuena's Salo Series, Salo sa Taal recreates the flavors of the revolution for a unique dining experience. And it all began at Villa Tortuga...

Villa Tortuga, an ancestral home restored by noted fashion designer Lito Perez, is located along Calle Marcella M. Agoncillo beside the Pansipit River in the Heritage Town of Taal, Batangas. The 150 year old ancestral home is just the perfect setting for Chef Yana Gilbuena's Salo series, a Filipino-inspired lunch at historic Taal.

Inside Villa Tortuga, one steps back in time, surrounded by the elegantly restored interiors of the ancestral home.  The stately wooden staircase leads to the main reception area, where more artifacts from the past are proudly displayed, including antique furniture and framed family prints. 

Below, one can find a studio where you can try on authentic period costumes for that unique souvenir photo. After trying out some costumes, it was time to go back upstairs to the main dining area for a special Filipino feast prepared by Chef Yana Gilbuena.  

Chef Yana Gilbuena (L) is known for her classic yet innovative approach to Filipino cuisine, highlighted in her Salo Series. Known for hosting fifty pop-ups in all fifty states in the US in fifty weeks, Chef Yana brings her unique style to historic Taal with her take on a Katipunero lunch.

After a taste of authentic and inventive Ilonggo flavors by Chefs Yana Gilbuena and Panky Lopez at Il Ponticello (more on that impressive dinner here at, I get another opportunity to enjoy local flavors on a daytrip to the heritage town of Taal. Our Bayani Brunch begins with a local salad with the freshest tomatoes and radishes with a flavorful vinaigrette. The tart dressing is balanced by the natural sweetness of the vegetables for pure and clean flavors.

Chef Yana Gilbuena draws inspiration from the bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables and seafood from Taal to recreate the simple and austere flavors of the period. The second dish, a delicately poached fillet of fish laid on sweet potato puree and slices of papaya is completed by pouring a richly flavored seafood stock. Chef Yana's homage to Jose Rizal's favorite dish, with her reinterpretation of Tilapia Tinola/Binakol. The flavors are subtle and delicate, with the clean and sweet notes of the fresh fish playing well with the mild salty hint of the seafood broth.

The fresh flavors of Taal continue with Chef Yana Gilbuena's Kinilaw, a local ceviche version with bite-sized chunks of raw fish, mangoes, tomatoes and paper-thin slices of radishes "cooked" and marinated with local citrus. The tomatoes and mangoes add a sweet tartness to the kinilaw, balanced by the sharp vinaigrette for a burst of rich flavors. The rustic simplicity of the dish, with its clean flavors, proves once again that the freshest ingredients are all you need to deliver all the flavors.

Chef Yana Gilbuena then presented her last dish, using the one of the region's iconinc delicacies, dried fish drizzled with a sweet glaze, served with thin slices of carrots and green beans. The sweet glaze complements the natural salty notes of the dried fish, pairing well with a side of coconut garlic rice. The Filipino feast recreates typical flavors from the past, and one can almost imagine the rumblings of a revolutionary movement, igniting the spark for national independence in these same walls of the beautiful ancestral home.

A serving of Manila Creamery's Mangga't Suman with Latik ice cream caps our Filipino feast, with fresh slices of ripe mangoes beneath a scoop of rich coconut-milk and suman-infused velvety smooth ice cream. Another scoop? Absolutely.

After a tour around Taal's historic churches and ancestral homes, we return to Villa Tortuga and find some freshly baked Bonete Bread...

...paired with Liquid Mixologist Kalel Demetrio's Taaleno Mocha, a blend of Cavite Robusta and Mt. Atok beans from the north with local chocolate and fresh Batangas dairy milk for that perfect afternoon snack before the drive back to Manila.  Filipino-inspired cocktails using premium spirits from the country's oldest distillery were also served by Kalel Demetrio, more on the unique cocktails here on my next post at The flavors, the ambiance, the elegantly restored ancestral home and hospitality of the team made my Salo sa Taal one memorable experience.

Villa Tortuga is located at Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo, Taal, Batangas, or call +63927-975-1683 for inquiries.

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