“CONQUISTADORES” or conquerors refer to the explorer/soldiers of the Spanish and Portuguese empires. During the “Age of Discovery,” Conquistadores sailed beyond Europe that included Americas, Oceania, Africa and Asia. They colonized much of the world for Spain and Portugal from the 16th to the 18th centuries. A Castilian expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan led to the discovery of the Philippines that became a colony of Spain.
Our country is an archipelago of over 7,000 islands, each region with its local cuisine. The strong Spanish influence on our food and its cookery is something we all share. In fact food historians say that 80% of Filipino dishes are Spanish in origin. Not surprising since we were colonized for over 300 years. The very popular ubiquitous Spanish specialty is the “Lechon”, a whole pig roasted over charcoal. In fact, the word “Lechon” comes from the Spanish word “leche” referring to a suckling pig. The world famous “ Segovia Cochinillo” is an oven-roasted suckling pig between two to six weeks old. Segovia is the “Cochinillo” capital of Spain, 30 minutes from Madrid. The roasted piglet is so succulent and tender that a small plate is used to cut it.
At the Puso Bistro of Quest Hotel & Conference Center located across the Ayala Center, a feast to celebrate Spanish cuisine dubbed “Conquistadores” conquers discerning palates every Tuesday and Friday for the month of March. The opening night saw Flamenco dancers stomping their feet and clicking their castanets while ladies in fiery red “traje de faraleas” escorted guests into the bistro.
It was an exciting night with a new General Manager, Mia Singson Leon, taking the reins of the business hotel.
Executive Sous Chef Nicolas “Nick” Rafols prepared an impressive buffet spread of rich Spanish dishes.
A native of Cebu, Chef Nick learned his Spanish cooking from his experiences abroad. He was also the Executive Chef of Casino Español de Cebu for a few years. The Hot & Cold Tapas were very tempting, a great way to tease our appetites.
I carefully chose what appealed to me: Mejillones Vinegratas (Mussels with Capsicum Vinaigrette), Pulpo ala Gallega (tender pieces of octopus) Croquetas de Atun (tuna croquettes) and Spanish Potato Omelet. My attention was immediately drawn to the carving section with “Cochinillo” eagle-spread on its belly. It was bigger than the lechon de leche but was just as good. The Cabrales Roast Beef ala Pobre (whole Chuck eye) was succulent and juicy. At the center was a huge paellera with Paella Valenciana.
The slow-cooked, hot dishes were traditional Spanish.
Callos ala Madrilena is actually a poor man’s dish, using inexpensive ingredients like tripe (stomach lining of cow) and cow snout and legs. The cooking process is lengthy in order to render the ingredients tender. Today, this dish is considered a rich stew with chickpeas, tomatoes, Spanish sausage and spices. The Lengua Estofado was classic goodness. For the fish eater, there was Pan-seared Pescao ala Viscaina or Sofrito sauce (garlic, onion, tomatoes, paprika cooked in olive oil).
Dessert or Postre was palate sealers of sweetness: Natillas, Amond Torte de Santiago, Crema Catalan. Que Sabroso!