While FPAC was happening on the West Coast, the Pilipino community of Chicago was also gathering together to celebrate their accomplishments and culture. However, our gathering was a bit more focused on one aspect of our culture: the food! The second annual Adobofest was put on by the Filipino American Network of Chicago (FAN Chicago) in order to find the city's best adobo. During his trip to the Philippines, Anthony Bourdain was confused by the fact that there was no clear definition of what identifies Pilipino food, and concluded that it's really defined by its diversity. That was quite clear at Adobofest, where there was everything from traditional chicken and pork adobo to adobo with plantains to tofu adobo.
Apart from the actual food, there was plenty of Pilipino-themed entertainment. The Roxas Brothers provided some mood music as people ate, while a lively eskrima demonstration fended off any food coma. The kids of Samahang Kapatid showed off their tinikling and maglalatik skills, while Hataw Pinoy Chicago (a local Pilipino-American TV variety show) tested the Pilipino knowledge of local college students. There were also a couple of traditional children's games, including hampas palayok (like a pinata, but with a clay pot holding the candy) and pabitin (toys are strung from a wooden rack that is raised and lowered as kids jump to grab them).
Even though adobo is unofficially the national dish, the only really defining features of it are soy sauce, vinegar, pepper and garlic. While twenty competitors showed up that morning with their own twists on that formula, there was only one winner. Although there was a People's Choice winner, the contestants were really trying to impress the panel of judges which included Ron Bilaro (host of "Life...Pinoy Style") and Rey Espiritu (last year's winner and chef of Isla Pilipina). After all the tastings, Vicky Almiron is able to call her adobo the best in Chicago. In describing her own dish, Vicky states:
"I called it Adobo Inspired by Victor. It is in fact inspired by my Dad's Adobo, but with a twist. It is a deconstructed, refried adobo, consisting of a refried boneless chicken thigh, topped with a vinegar and soy sauce reduction, with fried garlic cloves and pearl onion, accompanied by a salsa of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar."
For her win, Vicky earned a bag of Three Horses rice, an Ethnikroots shirt, massage therapy gift certificates from Dr. Jeremy Bonsol, a Mama Sita gift basket, and free balikbayan box shipping courtesy of Cirera Express. Sort of a hodgepodge of gifts, but considering the diversity of the contestant's entries and entertainment, it actually feels a bit fitting.
All proceeds from the event went toward supporting FAN's programming, such as the Chicago Filipino American Film Festival, Passport to the Philippines, and Tagalog lessons. Special thanks to Mike Maravilla of Unscene Media and Vicky Almiron for the pictures and video, and Edgar Jimenez and FAN for allowing me to help out and tag everyone with BakitWhy stickers. Congratulations Vicky!