As La Cocina de Tita Moning makes her final bow to the general public this coming 31 May 2016, I can only help but remember and be thankful for the savory family recipes I was able to try myself in the numerous visits I made in the former home of Dr. Alejandro Roces Legarda and his wife, Ramona Hernández or Tita Moning to her family and friends.
In another post about La Cocina de Tita Moning’s role in my tours, I shared that the owner of the restaurant, Suzette L. Montinola generously came up with a customized merienda menu for my tour groups. The menu was quite hefty for merienda but it was what my guests needed after hours of walking: toast bread with queso de bola spread (a signature La Cocina de Tita Moning product), sotanghon guisado, chicken relleno (that reminds me of so many Christmas meals), leche flan and pandan iced tea.
On other occasions, I was fortunate to have feasted on La Cocina de Tita Moning’s elaborate menus, which were reasonably priced considering the set choices covered soup until coffee/tea in the end. My personal favorites were:
The Molo Soup with papayas.
The baked Lapu-Lapu with lemon, garlic and butter sauce.
Their roast pork with crispy cracklings.
And the best of all: Tita Moning’s wonderfully fluffy, decadent and unapologetically sweet bread and butter pudding with candied pili nuts, a hit among Manila’s society matrons from way before.
One of the most sublime features of food is that it provokes memories. Tastes, aromas, textures, temperatures, presentation – all these can evoke stories from the past. In La Cocina de Tita Moning, nothing was more palpable for me but that strong feeling of eating the labors of love of one’s Lola or grandmother. My Lola herself was an excellent cook who specialized in Fil-Hispanic food. Her morcon, galantina, rellenos, embotidos, roast chicken, kare-kare, Pio Nonos, rostrillos, pancit palabok, steamed fish, home-made pancake and waffle mixes – oh my, the list is long – all those were prepared with much intensity and yes, good taste. The reason why my family loves to cook and eat is precisely her.
Whenever I visit La Cocina de Tita Moning, I always remember my own grandparents’ house – LIFE magazines, the reproduction paintings, the first Holy Communion photographs, bottles of old perfumes, the centrality of the dining table – all these were old Manila family house staples.
With La Cocina de Tita Moning closing, I can’t help but feel that yearning for a place where I can eat dishes strongly associated with that generation of women who were born to a Manila of fine manners, exceptional taste and a proud Fil-Hispanic heritage.