Looking back at a beloved mother’s recipes is a nostalgic trip that almost every home cook and chef take at least once in their life.
At the Spiral of Sofitel, different chefs recreate their mother’s recipes and share it with diners as a way to honor the hand that rocked their cradles and nourished them to adulthood, and also as a way to share culinary memories and treasures.
Executive Chef Eric Costille presents his mom’s Rabbit cocotte; western chef de cuisine Anne Cecile Degenne makes her mom’s paella; executive Chinese chef Mok Chee Wah prepares his mom’s “slow cooked chicken with Chinese herbs wrapped with lotus leaf;” Indian chef Halim Ali Khan recreates his mom’s egg biryani; Japanese chef Horoaki features his mom’s nikujaga, beef with potatoes, onions, ginger, dashi, sugar, sake and sesame oil; chef de partie and Filipino chef Jojo Babierra serves a version of his mom’s goat kaldereta; and lastly, chef Tweet Obsequio, master chocolatier, makes decadent jasmine pralines, the ganache in the confections unmistakably flavored with tea.
Aside from these creations that transport one to the childhood stoves of the chefs that verily shaped their culinary philosophies, the Spiral buffet spread is always a treasure trove of many undeniably tempting delights.
The fresh seafood selection of king-size tiger prawns, the baby lobsters, curacha crabs from Zamboanga, the New Zealand mussels and oysters can be eaten as a cold cocktail with just lemon and Tabasco or cocktail sauce or grilled in a salamander with butter and lemon.
The French counter features king scallops that are wrapped in bacon and are as big as a dumpling! The sweet saltiness of the sea fruit served with sauteed mushrooms are flame-grilled and so tender it collapses in the palate in a sweet symphony of luxury.
The roast section boasts of truly young lamb that is grilled to tender perfection; pairing it with grilled pineapples with a side of mint jelly is a palate-pleasing, eye-closing moment of joy.
The naan bread baked upon order is a guilt-free carb intake since bread this good is worth the calories. The dough is baked on the walls of an authentic tandoor oven and as the bread begins to pull away from the hot wall, it is ready. It is slightly crusty, cotton soft inside yet substantial enough to pull apart. With or without a curry dip, naan is one of my favorite breads, diet or no diet.
The Cheese Room is another highlight of the buffet, one of its kind with a cheese and dried meat selection that can rival any deli. The aroma in the glass-encased room is creamy and sharp, the dizzying array of condiments that complement the cheeses, from strawberry preserves, tomato chutneys, figs, olives in every color and size, dried tropical fruits and nuts of all kinds makes one feel like it is Christmas when every culinary treasure is laid out to celebrate.
Dessert is always a treat with fresh baked chocolate cookies made upon order. A cup of chocolate from the fountain makes for a double chocolate treat or, for a classic childhood take, one can ask for fresh milk in which to dip the cookies.
The Perey show
To highlight mother-daughter connections and achievements, Sofitel also hosts a fashion show of Manila-based Filipino designer Pia Gladys Perey (PGP) creations, who showcased her first solo show at the Style Fashion Week at The Vibiana in Los Angeles, California.
Perey spent time during vacations not playing with her friends, but watching her grandmother sew.
The PGP label debuted at the Rosemount Australian Fashion Week in 2007. In 2008, it was featured in the New Generation Shows and the Ladies’ Ready To Wear Show in 2009. In 2010, PGP launched in the US at the Miami International Fashion Week and at an off-site show at the New York Fashion Week.
PGP is worn by Angelina Jolie, Gabrielle Union, The Office’s Kate Flannery, Nadine Ellis, Kim Kardashian, Carrie Underwood, Eva Longoria and Camilla Belle. The line is currently being sold in Sydney, Queensland, Perth, Adelaide, Dubai, Singapore, Jakarta, New York, Florida, Texas, Louisiana and California.
Mark Bumgarner, Formula 1 racer turned designer, will also showcase his denim designs on Mother’s Day.
For more information visit www.sofitel.com.
Ingesting Philippine history in Romulo Cafe steeps one in the life of a global Filipino, long before the term was even coined. Carlos P. Romulo, renowned secretary of Foreign Affairs for 17 years, illustrious Philippine ambassador to the United States for another 10 years, infamous aide-de-camp to general Douglas MacArthur during World War II and distinctively elected the Filipino president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1949, had received hundreds of awards, declarations and more than 60 honorary degrees from universities worldwide during his lifetime.
He took with him the highlights of being a Filipino in his time when he carried his voice loud and clear to many nations, showcasing how globally at par and intelligent a Filipino can be. To date, his heritage is preserved in many history books and biographies. Those of his time still remember the badge of pride he gave every traveling Filipino and Filipino immigrants who were struggling to gain respect while working abroad.
His two grandchildren, Sandi Squintillani and Liana Romulo, help preserve that heritage and carry it to the younger generation by showcasing the Romulo family through its cuisine. Enzo Squintillani, husband of Sandi, originally came up with the idea to preserve the memories of Carlos P. Romulo by setting up a restaurant that would house his memorabilia and serve the heirloom recipes of the family. More than just a business, the two grandchildren also felt that it was a way to honor their grandfather and share his legacy.
With Yong Nieva, Ivy Almario and Irene Montemayor as partners, Romulo Cafe was born. The recipes of Virginia Llamas Romulo, Carlos P. Romulo’s wife, are recreated in the cafe and presents how their family serves Filipino cuisine during family gatherings and even diplomatic dinners hosting foreign dignitaries.
The menu ranges from old-fashioned Filipino food, modern Filipino food to vegetarian offerings. The appetizer selection features classic chicharon, crisp and substantial fried pork rinds with a hunk of meat; tuna sisig, a seafood version of pork cheek, liver and pork rind, Pampangan confection; the Spanish inspired mambas, the shrimp sweet and tender with a glazing of butter, garlic and olive, making it savory and addictive; sweet crisp crablets with a vinegar dip; guinataang kuhol, snails in coconut cream, a beloved provincial Filipino dish; and the irresistible crispy squid that ensures a demand for double servings per person each time.
The pomelo salad, a Thai influenced dish, is made Filipino with Romaine lettuce and other local ingredients like salted duck egg and Baguio strawberry vinaigrette.
The monggo soup, a green mung bean dish that is a staple in every Filipino home, is comfort food at its best as it is served in the classic way with malunggay (moringa) and ampalaya (bitter melon) leaves and made modern with crisp chicharon. Sinigang na bangus belly in ripe guava is an indulgent treat for those who love milkfish belly in a soup soured with sweet ripe guavas, another provincial dish that many in the city are homesick for.
Lola Virginia’s chicken relleno — a whole stuffed boneless chicken made savory with secret ingredients I suspect sausage, carrots, eggs, pickle relish, sautéed onions and browned garlic — is the easiest way to eat chicken and certainly very elegant when carved and served. This dish has been served to many a foreign diplomat in the home of Carlos P. Romulo while he was abroad.
Tito Greg’s kare-kare is another hit in the cafe. Many balikbayans rave that this is the best kare-kare in Metro Manila with its thick real peanut and rice sauce and tender oxtail and tripe meat. The crispy pata binagoongan — pork leg with shrimp paste — is another melt-in-your-mouth confection with the shrimp paste sautéed with eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and onion, making the crisp and tender pork dish even yummier than when it is served by itself. White soft fluffy rice is best eaten with this dish, whether or not one is in a diet.
The baby pusit in garlic — baby squid sautéed in olive oil and garlic — is a simple yet perfectly done dish in the cafe. The squid is soft and just slightly chewy, sweet and aromatic. Each bite satisfies and one can close one’s eyes and think how Filipino cuisine merged with a few imported ingredients can be so simple and yet so elevating. In the Flying Tilapia, a fillet of tilapia is not quite severed from the bone but is artfully separated enough just to create wings on both sides of the head, then fried so crisp that one can eat the crunchy bones.
For meat lovers, bagnet pakbet, sweet pumpkin, okra, string beans, bitter melon and tomatoes are combined with salted twice-fried pork belly and flavored with local anchovy sauce, the confection closest to ratatouille made with anchovies. For seafood lovers, ginataang sigarilyas with tinapa, wing beans with smoked fish cooked in coconut cream, is downright delicious and can be eaten as a meal by itself.
The vegetable selection is extensive, with enough appetizing options for vegetarians to choose from. The cafe offers tofu with ampalaya in tausi sauce (tofu and bitter melon in fermented black bean sauce), meatless tortang talong (eggplant in egg), ginataang sigarilyas (the wing beans sans the smoked fish), guinataang kalabasa and sitaw (pumpkin and string beans in coconut cream), and laing (taro leaves in coconut cream).
The dessert selection is both Filipino and Continental — suman latik, steamed rice rolls in reduced coconut cream sauce; leche flan, egg and milk flan; sans rival, meringue torte with butter and cashews; Mango Tango; tiramisu; chocolate cake; New York cheesecakes with either blueberry or raspberry sauces; and mocha mousse.
Dining in Romulo’s is an unforgettable experience, the halls decked with pictures of the great Filipino diplomat with dignitaries from different countries line the walls make’s one feel how great the heights a Filipino can scale. Eating the food his family enjoyed and shared with the world not only sates the appetite for classic and modern Filipino food, it also binds one closer to one’s heritage and affirms that Filipino greatness as well as Filipino food has indeed touched and changed the world.
Romulo Cafe is located at 32 Scout Tuason Street in Quezon City, with tel. no. 332-7273 and mobile no. 0915-6623121 and at 148 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati City, with tel. nos. 478-6406 and 822-0286. For more information, visit www.romulocafe.com.
Growing up with someone then seeing them as adult and successful is an eye-opener on how one can actually make it in the world someday. Archie Rodriguez, president and chief executive of Global Restaurant Concepts Inc., (GRCI) used to be just the younger brother of my best friend, Sean Rodriguez. He would tag along as we would gallivant in Baguio City, where we all went to high school.
Little did I know then that Archie would someday run a chain of international restaurants, launching new brands from the United States into the Philippines. Fifteen years ago, he, along with Griffith Go and Manuel Zubiri, brought the first California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) out of the US. Now GRCI has seven CPK branches in Metro Manila.
To mark this anniversary on Aug. 15, CPK will celebrate with National Pizza Day and give away free pizzas. For more information on this click on http://cpk.com.ph/blog/2013/01/14/prosciutto-pizza-vegetarian-pizza-even-smores-pizza-have-them-all-on-national-pizza-day/.
My first bite of CPK pizza was when I was working as a lawyer in a multinational pharmaceutical near Shangri-La Plaza Mall. My boss was always calling lunch and dinner meetings in CPK and I got to try almost everything in their menu.
The first time I had their Singapore shrimp rolls, I was addicted to the fresh shrimp cooked only until tender. I loved the freshness that the cilantro lent to the dish. The lettuce wraps was one of my boss' favorites and was a hit with all my colleagues. We always ended up asking for more lettuce as their servings of the minced chicken or shrimp were generous.
My favorite pizza at CPK is the BBQ Chicken with Applewood Smoked Bacon. The combination of smoked Gouda and mozzarella cheese, sweet pineapple with tangy barbecue chicken, and smoked salty bacon with fresh made chewy crisp pizza dough hit all the sweet, salty and tangy cravings of my palate. My other CPK favorite is the White Pizza with cheese oozing all over the crust. Made with a melange of mozarella, Fontina, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano with sauced garlic and spinach, the pizza bursts with all the creamy, salty and rustic profiles of said cheeses.
It was over these favorites that Archie and I got caught up with stories of growing up together and how he got to where he is now. After studying in the US and working there, he finally decided to come home and set up his own business. Of course, being the son of Tito Jack Rodriguez, the man responsible for launching a chain of international restaurant brands like Italianni's, Outback Steakhouse, Bulgogi Brothers, Fish and Co., TGIF, to mention a few, helped as it opened Archie's eyes to the potential of bringing more American restaurant brands to the Philippines.
P.F. Chang's opens in W Global Center
One of GRCI's recent projects, P.F. Chang's, was launched recently at the W Global Center, Bonifacio Global City. Archie hosted the launch. And there I got to reunite with Griffith, who I knew while I was in college as he was a close friend of Jackie, Archie and Sean's older brother. Seeing Archie and Grif again in their new restaurant was a deja vu moment for me, bringing back college days when we would all hang out in the Rodriguez Villas in Castilla Street in San Juan.
Partaking of P.F. Changs chicken lettuce wraps made me think of Peking duck lettuce wraps as it was as tasty and savory. The Dynamite Shrimps were cooked to perfection, just right when it turned crystal so it stayed sweet and tender. The spicy sauce coating the shrimps revved up one's appetite and I had more than appetizers as I couldn't stop finishing the entire serving in a cocktail glass. The crab wontons were crisp and filled to the gills with fresh sweet crab. The plum sauce provided the piquant counter-flavor to the creaminess of the crab.
As a main, we were served Chang's spare ribs, an addictive concoction of tender sticky ribs in an Asian barbecue sauce. It was sweet, salty and tangy all at the same time. The Mongolian beef, tender US Angus beef cooked in the searing heat of the wok, is best eaten with white rice, says Archie. I don't heed his advice as I am trying to stay off carbs. The scallions in the beef dish gave a sophisticated Asian twist to the US Angus and made the dish appealing even without rice.
For seafood, we were served shrimp with candied walnuts, a heavenly combination of tender, sweet shrimp, with crunchy walnuts and the deal sealer, refreshing honeydew melon that is tossed with a creamy dressing along with the other ingredients. I can only say everyone finished off their servings of this irresistible dish.
For dessert, the Great Wall of Chocolate with its six layers of chocolate sponge cake enrobed with sticky chocolate frosting and topped with chocolate chips is an indulgent triple chocolate treat!
For more information visit http://www.pfchangs.com.ph.
Looking forward to Gyu-Kaku
Recently, GRCI launched yet another restaurant, Gyu-Kaku, a yakiniku destination that originated in Japan and with branches worldwide. I was not feeling well enough to go to the launch so going there is something I look forward to.
I missed another chance to hang out with Archie as I also missed the experience of the "Thrill of the Grill" as their invitation dubbed the place. I love grilled food, and I'm not too fond of sweet barbecues. Upon hearing that the chef is from the northern part of Japan where the food is not sweet, I am even more intrigued to try it out.
For more information visit http://www.globalresto.com/gyukaku.php
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