Sunday, March 15, 2009

it’s Durian time!

I could not exactly place when I got to be a durian addict. I only got to taste this “king of fruits” when I was already off college and I remembered the first one I had was not really that sweet. The odor did not turn me off. I never am one with a weak stomach anyway. Slowly and incontrovertibly though, morsel by morsel, over several years in my trips around the country and abroad, I tasted the real delectable samples. I was hooked and there is no turning back. I just need to have my fix of the creamy luscious sweet buttery goodness of the durian wherever I am and whenever I can, be it at a bar in Zamboanga, in a night stall in Saigon, or at a mall in Bali.

Before I went to Davao last week, I know I would be in durian heaven. Like a soldier with a war plan, I mapped out what I needed to do. Simple: just try everything durian.

Fri 1PM, durian pie and durian float at Sagay, Casa Leticia

We just arrived by plane from Cebu and I was insistent. We needed to go to Sagay, the banner restaurant of the quaint boutique hotel Casa Leticia. I do not have any particularly strong feelings, positive or negative, for Ilonggo cuisine which was what Sagay is all about but the buzz is that it has the best durian pie in Davao. Lunch was consumed fast as we were famished. But the pie I had to savor slowly. The crust was simple, almost plain to the palate and on the soft side, which set contrastingly the plump and firm durian filling. I was treated with large slivers of real durian which were obviously fresh, delightfully creamy and unforgettably rich. I could not get enough.

Sagay's durian pie at Casa Leticia
Canon EOS 5D Digital, 1/125s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 1600
the durian pie of Sagay (Ilonggo) restaurant, Casa Leticia, Davao City, the Philippines

According to the waiter, the owners of the Casa Leticia hotel have their own durian plantation so fresh fruits never are a concern and the setup pays. This durian pie has a following and count me as a new fan.

For extra measure, I even tried another delicacy, the durian float. Frozen cold, sensibly sweet, it was the denouement to the pie climax.

durian float
Canon EOS 5D Digital, 1/100s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 1600
the durian float of Sagay (Ilonggo) restaurant, Casa Leticia, Davao City, the Philippines

Sagay, Casa Leticia, J Camus St Davao City 8000, tel +6382 2240501

Fri 8PM, durian cake at Jack’s Ridge

Jack’s Ridge is an institution in Davao. It sports a spectacular mountain view that overlooks the Davao cityscape and it is best enjoyed at night. With ambience provided by the flickering lights of metropolitan Davao, food almost became secondary. Not the durian cake though. We ordered several slices and I ended up eating most of them as always. Between the beds of light chiffon were thick layers of durian-rich paste. Highly recommended.

Jack's Ridge durian cake
Canon EOS 5D Digital, 1/160s, f/1.8, 50mm, ISO 1600, -1/3EV
the durian cake of Jack’s Ridge, Davao City, the Philippines

Jack’s Ridge Resort and Restaurant, Shrine Hills, Matina, Davao City 8000, tel +6382 2978830,

Sat 10PM, durian pie, again, at Sagay, Casa Leticia

I told you I am a convert. I figured we might run out of time the next day with our flight scheduled late in the afternoon. We decided not to risk missing out on the delicacy so we passed by Casa Leticia again to get two whole pies (Php 450 each). Handcarrying the boxes was a most welcomed chore.

Sagay's durian pie at Casa Leticia
Canon EOS 5D Digital, 1/125s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 1600
the durian pie of Sagay (Ilonggo) restaurant, Casa Leticia, Davao City, the Philippines

Sun 1PM, durian at the Magsaysay Park

Of course, I need to have the real thing. One of the best places to have the fruit is Magsaysay Park. The row of fruits stalls leaves you spoiled for choice. There are fruits galore, from pomelos to mangosteens and taking more space than any other is not to my surprise, the durian. My friend was rattling off the different varieties. The names were difficult to remember but I caught “basketball” which is said to be quite creamy. For a few minutes, we settled by the roadside, huddling, eating, and there was little between me and durian heaven.

Magsaysay Park
Canon EOS 5D Digital, 1/80s, f/4.0, 17mm, ISO 640, +1.0EV
loads of durian, pomelo and mangosteens on display, Magsaysay Park, Davao City, the Philippines

digging in
Canon EOS 5D Digital, 1/200s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 125
attacking the durian, Magsaysay Park, Davao City, the Philippines

Sun 2PM, durian cake at the Waterfront Insular Hotel

With time to spare, we decided to have mid-afternoon desserts at the swanky Waterfront Insular Hotel. Although I just had my real durian fix, I saw another version of the durian cake. No harm in trying it. Yes, it was creamy. Yes, it was sugary. Too bad, the cake was a sanitized middle-of-the-road concoction. Non-durian lovers might even like it for the flavor is light. Not me. I want my durian to come out strong. I was looking for any durian paste or fruit chunks so I was disappointed.

Waterfront Insular durian cake
Canon EOS 5D Digital, 1/200s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 500, -2/3EV
the durian cake of Davao Waterfront Insular Hotel, Davao City, the Philippines

Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao, Lanang, Davao City 8000, tel +6382 2332881

Sun 3PM, durian at the Buhangin Fruit Stand

Before checking in the airport, we could not bid the city of Davao without buying the obligatory fruit pasalubong. Pomelos became the ready choice. Wistfully, I was eyeing the bound durian hanging at the Buhangin fruit stand but alas, the malodorous fruits are now taboo inside the plane cargo. Some other time and way then.

durian at the Buhangin fruit stand
Canon EOS 5D Digital, 1/400s, f/2.8, 100mm, ISO 1600, +1/3EV
durian fruits on display at the Buhangin fruit stand, Davao City, the Philippines

Besides, we still have our two boxes of the durian pie. It’s all good.

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