Chef Earl Briones’ Rice & Mysticism
I am constantly interested and amazed with the many ways people celebrate their culture. Last January, we attended a special culinary event at Filistix Downtown, Rice & Mysticism. Now, Filistix is known for its ‘crossover of traditional and modernized Filipino dishes’. It is a place that features and provides space for other Filipino chefs - the other one I patronized was the one of Chef JP Dublado. Filistix by itself provides exceptional food, but when it presents these pop up events, then be ready for an amazing gustatory experience.
Rice & Mysticism was the brainchild of Chef Earl Briones. It was a six-course dinner that centred around rice, a vital component in Philippine cuisine. It was part food and part history, culture, and memory sharing by Chef Earl for every dish served - a logical approach with his anthropology study background. This facilitated lively conversation around Philippine identity and experience. Chef Earl expressed that this passion project which he has been working on since before the pandemic, was his love letter to the Philippines.
Chef Earl has been working in the hospitality sector for close to 20 years. I met him when I was organizing the Philippine Arts Council (PAC)’s screening of the documentary, Ulam: Main Dish. He was one of the featured artists in PAC’s The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage, for June Philippine Heritage Month 2022. He appeared on Food Network’s Fire Masters Season 3, YEG Food Masters Round One, and works with Make-A-Wish Canada in assisting youths with cooking-related interests. He has been awarded 2019 First Place Steak Category Taste of Canada, 2017 First Place Bacon Category Canadian Food Championships, and 2014 Culinary Services Recipient You’re Welcome Edmonton Awards.
The featured dishes had rice as a unifying factor, representing childhood memories of eating rice for breakfast, lunch/dinner, snacks - whether it be savoury, fermented, sweetened. It presented traditional and pre-colonial dishes prepared with modern technique and contextual plating. The six-course dinner included:
Ebun Buro at Kamatis - salted duck egg yolk espuma | savoury steamed rice cake | marinated tomato | coconut vinegar | chili paste
Burung Asan - fermented rice and whitefish | fish mosaic | latik crumb | coconut cream reduction | smoked fish dust
Bobotu - rice flour tamale | chicken roulade | salted duck egg puree | annatto peanut sauce | cured egg yolk
Bringhe - glutinous rice | salted egg white puree | confit egg | peppers | chorizo bilbao | preserved pork
Adobong Puti - grilled rice cake | cane vinegar braised | pork belly | shallot and chili jam |fried garlic | coconut braised taro leaves
Kakanin Trio - tibok tibok (milk pudding) | ube halaya | biko kalabasa (sweet rice cake) | latik (caramelized coconut cream) | sweetened coconut milk
Vegetarian and vegan options were also provided.
It was really interesting how the dishes didn’t look like your typical Filipino food, but once you taste it, all the flavours come out in a delicious symphony. You remember when and how you first tried, let’s say the tamales and the buro from Pampanga. It was delightful to see Filipino food that’s not just sauteed and put together on a pan, but have sauces that were emulsified, food thoroughly infused, meat that was sous vided then plated to reflect the geography or a story. All these interspersed with stories of rituals performed to the rice gods, the role of women in the rice fields and how certain spices came to the Philippines via the Spanish Armada and the Manila Galleons. It was a tasting menu but the portions were generous. We ended the night very full and satisfied.
Chef Earl has coined this Rice and Mysticism event as the First Rinse. Signifying, hopefully, there are more iterations to come in presenting Filipino cuisine in innovative ways. Aside from this restaurant takeover, he is also at the helm of Carbivore Subs, which you should definitely check out. For more info, Instagram: @chefebriones and @carbivoresubs.
* This article was published in the February 2023 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.
** Do you know of a Filipino, or of Filipino-descent, artist/creative, or an art and culture event that should be featured? Send a message to PhilippineArtsCouncil@gmail.com.