Friday, February 27, 2009

A Canadian Dinner - and Onwards

One day one of my staff told me that I had a call from the Canadian Embassy. I said, Wait, what has Canadian Embassy got to do with me? I picked up the phone. It’s true. They confirmed if I received the fax invitation. Again, another fabulous invitation. Honestly, these things aren’t common to me… so, when I read the invitation, I was blushing and happy.

Why, it is requesting the pleasure of the company of … yours truly. RSVP. The menu convinced me not to say no- even at the back of my mind, I didn’t know who to drag and what exactly to do there. Smoked salmon crostini...Pacific King Crab... Angus Porterhouse Steak... indeed, how can you say no!

I went anyway. It was held at the El Circulo Restaurant in Makati, one of the restaurants I admire around the city. What I was thinking? Forget the worries and just enjoy the evening!

At the registration, I saw a familiar name. I said, good, someone’s in here, at least.

Over the cocktails, it turned out that it was Chef Ziggy Segunial who got me to this dinner in the first place. Chef Ziggy was my predecessor, the ex- Executive Chef of our company way before my boss hired me. I only heard about Chef Ziggy from my co- workers, saw his name in the files, read about him in food magazines but I have never met him in person until that evening. Just the same, he only heard about me but we’ve never really met. The chef is a bubbly individual five years my senior who could pass as Morimoto’s son. I swear, the resemblance was so close! Thank you chef!

It was a most fascinating evening. Issues on food product safety were discussed with such depth by the guest speakers, and how Canada contributes to the demand for quality food. With the alarming situation that the country is facing about livestock problems such as disease in swine, and, in my experience, shortage of certain ingredients like scallops, the Canadian government presents great options for food professionals to safeguard the consumer and to continue to turn the wheel of the food industry.

While we were listening, getting passed around were smoked salmon crostini, rounds of wine, Canadian oysters with pancetta- all shipped in from Canada. Chef Ziggy was gasping “F***!” after each bite of the smoked salmon, confessed that he has never tasted anything like it. I thought, a few servings more and this man will levitate.

Anyway, a few shots of dinner-

Spinach salad with House- smoked Scallops in Sherry Vinaigrette. Awesome.

Digging the haricot verts. Succulent, sweet, tastes like a spring morning.

Juicy steak with thyme salt.

Caramelized brioche with maple syrup, ice cream and pecans and blueberries. I can't get over this.

I love dinners like these: where everybody's having a great time.
Then, a showcase of true Canadian products.

Marinades, vinaigrettes...

Authentic maple syrup...

Pacific King Crab, which a while ago, some part went into Chef J's Paella Marinara

Oysters and scallops as large as your fist.

A most generous slab...

Maple- glazed pork and apple toast which was ravaged at the cocktails.
I recognized some respectable food professionals in that event, some writers for food magazines, celebrity chefs, Canadian Embassy Officers, the presidential chefs (the Chefs of the Philippine President) but it was a great pleasure to meet the very gracious Malu Gamboa who has such infectious great energy and the very handsome Chef J who gets the credit for the wonderful dinner. I think we were among the youngest chefs there - I was with the Personal Chefs Manila almost the whole evening and enjoyed immensely the company of Chefs Ziggy, Jonas, Harret, Jean, and the very beautiful Hannah. Food was the muse of the conversation, the penchant for chicharon, eating brown rice with sinigang, baklava with phyllo dough and Chef Ziggy's chocolate dreams. It was a great evening, way beyond words.


After dinner, this is my favorite part.

You went back safely to your pad, removed your coat, kicked off those high heels, unbound your hair, and, your head still reeling and on a high and too excited from drinking too much Cabernet and eating oysters , still in your dinner dress …with such passionate intensity by the lamplight , you… you…

- You see what’s inside the package that the host had for you: A cookbook, a directory of local product distributors and, a baby bear with a maple butt! It’s past midnight and you are still poring over your newfound fascination: Canada and its cuisine.

Good evening!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bakery Fair 2009

This is one of the things I love most in life: getting fabulous invitations when you least expect them. Gosh, how lucky can I get.
Here's an official invitation to the Bakery Fair, a yearly event organized by the biggest bakery association in the country. Held at the World Trade Center, it is participated by entrepreneurs local and abroad.

Giant donut billboards by Kerry. There was a demo there conducted by these marvelous chefs. They were making macarons and cakes and ice cream. The ice cream machine of Electrolux was 'like a chef itself', according to the chef doing the demo, "It does its own thing, has its own brain..." Imagine that.

The booth of Puratos was the 'most-flanked' booth. They had such fancy pastries and cool pastry cooks.

Breads, breads, breads everywhere.

Clockwise: Pastry chefs of Puratos; take a bite, it's alright :) , the cakes of Kerry.

A tree of macarons. Shmancy- fancy pastries.

Belgian chocolates.

Vegetable noodles made by Taiwanese merchants.

And, hopia!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gggrrrecipes by the Numbers...

When you are developing a new restaurant menu and in charge of hundreds plus dishes more at the current one, much is indeed expected of you. Unfortunately, I think my brain capacity is only 1 MB, and therefore I have to cram in a lot of shortcuts.

I am no food genius. I think the accomplishment I can truly be proud of is when, eight years ago, me and a friend played this game at an arcade and the topic was food. Twenty- two years old and just got my first kiss, I didn’t know how I got a 345 points out of a perfect 350. Questions like, a drink that is garnished with an orchid, that dish from a fattened goose… pretty easy, isn’t it?

Just as there are many recipes in the world as in the blog sphere, I am one of these few bloggers who can’t contribute anything more to the civilization of cooking. But here is what I strongly believe in: that cooks must have that innate attentiveness because there’s a lot of hidden maths in the kitchen. For example, when you’re at the REM of sleep, you must still know the conversion formula of Fahrenheit to Celcius and vice versa, and all the other conversions must already be second nature to you. And when your hands are damp in the kitchen and you cant flip through your notes, god, you have to move fast. Your brain too, move it, dammit! This is already an old trick, but it is still very useful to me: Doing the numbers.

The White Sauce Recipe= 2: 2: 2

Any cook would probably guess what each number stands for: 2 T Butter: 2 T Flour: 2 C milk

Bouquet Garni: 4: 3: 6 Name the herbs tied in here and you will know it.

Japanese Rice: 5: 6: 30

French onion soup: 1: ¼ : 1 : 35 – This one includes the cooking time.... and still a number more of other ingredients lined up

California Maki: ½: 100: 1: 1

Curry Sauce: 1: 300

For the Recipe of the Day:

All that my cooks need to do is write the code down on the back of their toques, or, simply pay attention to the numbers:
Bacon and Edamame Pasta In White Sauce

10: 200: 150: 60: 50: 1: 1

I have been making a Recipe Manual these past weeks of over a gazillion entrees and numbers… so, you guessed it, I am too saturated to blog about recipes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Theory of Flight...and a Bratwurst Afternoon (2 of 2)

Lunch at the fete was a strip tent of many cuisines…


Grilled seafood...

But this one really got me:

Hmmm... are we at the Oktoberfest?

Grilling the bratwurst was some sadomasochist hot chick… See…

Oooopss...! Wrong guess!

How cool can you get, monsieur?! Hahaha!

A bottle of that beer, please.

My lunch :)

Laze away on a French afternoon. The table next to us was occupied by some French nationals. I was catching a few conversations… the s’il vous plaits… de quelle…mon dieu!... maman! zhszhshzhzzzz…. well, I understood- only the laughter.

Time to have fun now. And float away like a butterfly...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Theory of Flight... and a Bratwurst Afternoon (1 of 2)

There was a reason why I wanted to go to this event. Something akin to finding answers to things that have been brewing in my mind for the past days. You would know that no matter how far it took, I had to go. Just had to.

But save the profoundities for later and just enjoy The 14th Hot Air Balloon Festival. We drive up north.
Winding roads, hot breeze and even Harley Davidson riders we passed by on the roadside – we really thought we were in Reno.

Somewhere along the way, the two flags on my kitchen jacket are following me…

Tantanaaaan…. Welcome to the fete!

Held at the Clark Field in Pampanga, this event is participated by hot air balloon fliers from all over the world. More of a peace vis-a-vis commercial event, but nevertheless an event for anything that flies.

But have you ever wondered why balloons fly? And kites? And birds? And angels?

There must be something in this theory of flight that could speak to us with more loudness than any form of preaching…

Whatever it is you want to launch, hold on, focus, and, and believe in yourself…

It may not be easy at first...

- lots of pitfalls…

and sad attempts...

- sometimes it gets ruined and you need help, and someone does help you…

- then you face them head- on and let go.

- until at last it is up there.

- flying into the air without restraint, where the winds take you…

- with only one belief that The Force is actually taking charge of your life

That you soar with… a free, reckless passion.

So like the kites, and birds and angels, take yourself lightly…

Fly that Japanese kite, Foodhuntress.

And you will fly too afterwards. That is a promise of The Force.

(Is this a metaphor to something…? )

Reward yourself afterwards. With lotsa hotdogs and sausages… and resign to a French afternoon.

To be continued -