Grazing on local favorites : Mooing with Mia


A cocktail of sugarcane juice, rum, and dalandan, spiked with batwan, native darag chicken skewers, locally sourced cheeses, hams, and nuts.

Chef Mia Lizares Gonzaga has never been one to stay on the sidelines when it comes to innovation. Once, she broke standards by offering to cater groups for as little as six. And now Chef Mia is breaking buffet norms with the grazing table a la Negrense.


The grazing table is not new. It dates back to medieval times and is now making a comeback in this century, big time. In Negros, where locals would rather be served than be herded to the buffet table to queue, grazing is a welcome option. The shabby chic styling of the table is a magnet to the senses. It is sophisticated yet cozy. It says abundance, harvest time, fiesta at the hacienda! The tablescape lends well to the landscape.

Chef Mia saw the connection and quickly turned the grazing table into an indigenous Negrense concept. She included traditional food and local ingredients wherever doing so would raise eyebrows in pleasant surprise. Basic elements, like the crudité platter and the charcuterie board, are given higher calling, not just to feed but to feed with a mission.

In Chef Mia’s crudité selection one will find locally sourced vegetables, after all, we have land to plant them so there is no reason to bring them in from outside. Homegrown cucumbers and carrots and singkamas (jicama) are lent artisanal air with dips rich in organic herbs.

Chef Mia Lizares Gonzaga

Meanwhile, her charcuterie board always carries a variety of nuts but also the favorite Talisay peanuts, wedges of cheese from Murcia, cold cuts from butchers who raise their own livestock, native darag chicken skewers, fruits in season, and rustic bread baked fresh from the chef’s “pugon”. For sure there’ll be something on Chef Mia’s table that’s not from the neighborhood, but when 65% are local, you can imagine the impact she makes on backyard farmers and micro-entrepreneurs, not to mention reducing her carbon footprint.

Text by Alan S. Gensoli. Photos courtesy of KusinaMia.

The chef is not quite done. In-between the basic elements she inserts her “manuglibod” basket. The manuglibod is an itinerant food vendor who carries her offerings on a round basket tray. And from that Chef Mia takes inspiration to include local sweets and snacks on her grazing table, like fresh lumpia ubod, panara, piyayas, cassava and rice cakes, and dalandan jelly candies. To wash them all down, that sugarcane-rum-dalandan cocktail with a kick of batwan. How Negrense is that?

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