As you may know (whether you believe it or not is another thing), I work for a living. And I don't work downtown so I have missed out on the explosion of food carts and other food related things that are happening currently in great numbers that I believe are referred to as trends. This trend of food carts and trucks has gotten a little out of control for my tastes, but every once and awhile, something good comes along. Something like a Filipino food cart.
The first menu item on owner and Chef Kathy Gietl's A Taste of the Philippines menu is chicken adobo. Adobo is a Filipino standard just like a tortilla would be to many Spaniards, or ratatouille to the French. There are many versions and every Filipino's mother, grandmother or other matriarch makes the best one. Gietl's was very good, but true to a my Filipino roots, I must say that my Auntie Cora's is better. Partly I say that so there is no chance I will have my adobo withheld from me this Christmas, but also because adobo is so deeply personal that the one you had all your childhood and life is without a doubt the best one. Still, like I said, Gietl's adobo was very good-- a comforting blend of the strong usual suspects like vinegar, soy and garlic. The meat was tender and the portion large. It would be an excellent introduction to Filipino cuisine for anyone.
Adobo: brown, proud and up front.
The same goes for the lumpia, or fried egg rolls. Auntie Cora's is the best. She makes a lighter but thicker version and uses no meat; while Gietl's is thin, tightly rolled and stuffed with yummy pork. She even makes her own dipping sauce (Gietl, that is). Lumpia is something that everyone likes--and this one is stuffed fried with pork, after all. Don't forget to order a pair if you go.
I missed out on the pancit that day, which was gone after the lunch rush. We did have, however, manok sa gata, a sort of coconut curry a la adobo. My wife, who loves diverse flavors was not a fan of the overall combinations in the dish but I really liked it. All Filipino food is not for everyone.
Gietl was born in Quezon City and her mission, she told me, was to educate as many people as she could about Filipino Food-- and then of course, win them over with her cooking. Seems simple, but I think the problem with Filipino food being more mainstream is that it can be quite obscure, and the diverse flavor profiles can be very different than what the average American palate is used to. That being said, Gietl's cart has a nice variety of introductory Filipino foods that should appeal to just about everyone.
One problem many of the failed Denver-area Filipino enterprises share in common is that they might have tried to market to a Filipino population that really wasn't there. I admire Gietl because she doesn't seemed concerned with that at all. Her mindset seems to be that she is going to open Denver's eyes to the good of Filipino food one person at a time. She's cooking not to fill a niche in a cultural demographic, but rather because she loves it and she is passionate about the cuisine. I for one enthusiastically endorse this mission and will continue to punch my frequent diner card there as often as I can.
Regardless of the loyalties we Filipinos inevitably have to our home cooked meals, A Taste is serving up good versions of tried-and-true Filipino standards. And I, for one, don't get to eat my aunt's food but once or twice a year if I'm lucky, so to have A Taste here in my backyard is a blessing and a big step forward for our cuisine. Check her out. I think you will like it. If you do, go back. Learn. Embrace. Filipino for all!
Check out A Taste of the Philippines on twitter for the latest updates or just get on down there to 16th and Champa.