BALE DUTUNG: PAMPANGA’S CULINARY PRIDE BY ARTIST -CUM-CHEF CLAUDE TAYAG
A good meal is always worth the drive. A scant 1 ½ to 2 hours away from the metropolis is Bale Dutung, home of Celebrity Chef Claude Tayag and his gracious wife, Maryan. Open by reservation to groups of 12 or more, the Kapampangan Degustation had me visiting 2 weekends in a row: once with my Singson family, the next with my de Villa family.
Aptly called Kampampangan Degustation, we feasted on the menu that no less than internationally – renown culinary luminary Anthony Bourdaine sampled when he visited the Philippines. We feasted on 12 courses over 3 -4 hours in Claude’s “man cave”, a stand-alone addition to his rustic home with beautiful brick walls, its own brass – accessorized prep counter where you can view items being prepared, peppered with artworks by Claude and his fellow artists.
Every course they served was explained by either Claude, Maryan or their son. And while every single course was sublime, my personal favorites were the Lechon Tortilla, Bulanglang Kapampangan, Kare-Kare Lamang Dagat (thoughtfully featuring salmon to account for my shellfish allergy) and the Paradiso, a dessert offering that will stay with you long after and of which I had 2 servings each time.
Claude considers himself more an artist than a chef. And he toured us in his home strewn with his paintings and carvings. I marveled at a brooding life-sized tikbalang sculpture by Saprid which sat at the lip of a little pond. Claude proudly declared that every single item decorating his house is purely Filipino. And of the beautiful Filipino pieces, the standouts were his own creations. I happily took home a carved narra tray shaped into distinct wave-like curvatures. The ebbs of the curves were meant to house chips and appetizers. In my home, they are fitted with glazed coconut balls which ride up and down the ridges playfully.
Another talking point in Claude’s home is a wall with the signatures of other famous artists, all friends of his. Be sure to have a photo in front of it and a photo with Claude and Maryan too, both gracious hosts who treat each guest as family.
After the repast of almost 4 hours, we drove to Sto Tomas (30 minutes away). Famous for its pottery, we bought pots of all sizes, large ones with 24 inch ++ rims which are hard to find in Metro Manila. We bought upwards of 40 pots! Happily, we took a tourist bus since we all wanted to ride together, so space was not a problem.
Bale Dutung is a feast of all the senses: it fetes your taste buds while being a visual treat as well. It’s strictly by reservation only. 0917 535 9198 , 0917 629 4088 (Gigi).