Utzurrum: What’s cooking, showing at Design Center of Cebu?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WHEN proprietress Agnes Huettel invited us to her expanded, streamlined, spanking-new showroom, named Allison Tyler Luxury Home Furnishings, we prepared ourselves for a tour of some of the finest, original, hand-crafted pieces available hereabouts. We were not disappointed!

Named after her two children, Allison and Tyler, the showroom is located at the third floor of Design Center of Cebu (DCC) and this is where hubby designer/builder Greg holds court.

Media interviews were conducted as the host couple obliged with a smile. As guests milled about the cocktail area, which was set up among the fine furniture, praises were heaped on the fabulous spread of canapes, pasta and, hmm, dessert. Guess what?


Host Agnes proudly proclaimed, “Just prepared at home.” Why the lady’s a terrific chef too.

Spotted amidst the art pieces were Gina G. Atienza of Sun.Star Cebu (how’s your house going, Gina?), A-List dried mango exporter Frances Siao, furniture enthusiast Tamsin Booth, other interior décor consultants and just about everyone who loves beauty and world-class design. More power, Greg and Agnes!


So what else is new at DCC? A few steps away from the showroom is a genuine Labanese restaurant called Beqaa. It is run by a team of seasoned chefs and managers, whom we met at a media dinner recently.

Who else is behind this revolutionary dining haven (first in Cebu, so I heard) but the Abaca Group headed by owner, Jason Hyatt, who is joined by Abaca Group executive chef Wade Watson, and restaurant manager Lebanese Mark Salem.

Beqaa, named after the most fertile valley of Lebanon, combines contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine and traditional flavors, with a wide array of clean, healthy, and tasty mezze. Vegetarians in particular, will have a wide selection of over 15 veggie dishes.

As with his other restaurants, (i.e. Maya, Tavolata, Phat Pho, etc), owner Hyatt believes that a diner wishes to “feel at home,” so he took this into consideration.

The 75-seater restaurant features hardwood floors, dim lighting, with wrought iron accents.

Another Abaca Group signature is the open kitchen, which allows you to peek at their charcoal-fired meats, and handmade Phoenician breads cooked over a saj. So appetizing to the taste buds!

For starters, we had an appetizer called batinjan, composed of roasted eggplant, chickpeas, crushed garlic and tomato. The main course was kafta, a mouth-watering spice-minced lamb and beef with onions and parsley. Another must-try dish is the all-too-familiar beef kebab, but with a Lebanese touch—US Angus beef rib-eye with traditional spices.

Try one, try them all. We did. I am not an adventurous food writer, so it took time for this exotic cuisine to sink into my taste buds, but sink it did and now, I have become, ehem, adventurous. Only at Beqaa.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 23, 2014.


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