A cold, clear sinigang made with tomato water, heirloom tomatoes, and radishes. Grilled shortrib with crispy onions and green garlic. Adobo chicken "lollipops." These are some of the nuevo Filipino dishes that a new dining group named KapaMEALya gathered to taste at the Attic in San Mateo recently. Now they're organizing two more events: One at Mercury Lounge on Sunday, Aug. 21, and
a second at Oakland's No Worries on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Twitter was responsible for the formation of KapaMEALya, which brings together diners passionate about Filipino food, a year ago. "Last year around this time, the Asian Culinary Forum held a Filipino Flavors Symposium," recounts Joanne Boston (@joanneisafoodie), one of KapaMEALya's coordinators. "Bloggers like [former SFoodie contributor] Jun Belen and Arnold Gatilao were there, and I kept seeing all these people on Twitter talking about the event. So I Tweeted, 'We're all at the same event -- let's meet up!'"
They did. And then they began gathering for dinners and picnics, partnering with Dishcrawl and chefs like the Attic's Tim Luym and Mercury Lounge's Dominic Ainza.
"The group we have is passionate," Boston says. "We would have debates about what is 'authentic' and what 'shouldn't' be done to Filipino cuisine. Filipinos are very proud when it comes to our history and where we came from, so keeping the awareness alive is very important to us. At the same time, we have obstacles to face when it comes to promoting our Filipino food events. Some people think Filipino food belongs on Fear Factor. Some think it's 100% unhealthy. Some (especially the old-timers) think that sisig in a burrito is sacrilege." [Ed. note: Sisig is good on just about anything.]
Sometime this spring, the team of organizers gave themselves a name -- KapaMEALya, a play on the Tagolog word kapamilya, or family member -- and set up a website.
The next event Boston and her friends have organized will be "Dinner with Dom," a meal at Mercury Lounge
organized around the theme of coconuts. Tickets cost $35 on EventBrite,
and attendance will cap out at around 30. "We don't want to make it too
big, but keep it intimate so people can see one another and mingle,"
A vegan Filipino dinner with Jay-Ar Isagani Pugao, the chef
of Oakland's No Worries, will follow on August 30; KapaMEALya.org will announce when tickets become available.
Boston says she hopes to organize impromptu get-togethers as well as tasting dinners at restaurants. A more ambitious hope: for the events to raise enough of a profit to donate to charities in the Philippines. "A group of us would love to go to the Philippines next year and hook up with charities as well as with people there who love food," she says.