Date Night at Masseto

One of my favorite things to do is go on dates. My husband and I have been together for almost 11 years, but every week, one of us still asks each other out on a date. Sometimes to see a movie, other times a quick lunch in between work, but more often than not, on a romantic dinner sampling all the best our city has to offer. These are the dates I love the most because asides from further exploring our passion for food, I get to dress up and strap on a pair of heels (no makeup required)!

Tonight we are trying Masseto by Chef Tippi Tambunting. Though we have come for wine and bar chow before, we have never really sat down for a full meal. I really love the ambiance of this place. Though it is not too bright, it is still very well lit.  The place is also very spacious so that even if it has hit a full seating capacity, noise levels are controlled which makes for a more intimate setting.

We were seated at the bar while our table was being prepared. I liked that it had an almost sexy vibe. While there, we were told of their whisky bar next door, which boasted of many different brands from around the world, in various ages and types. This, of course, excited my husband, who asked for a tour later.

As we sat, we excitedly went through the menu and made our starter selection. I went straight for the Cheese Soufflé, one of my favorite dishes. This one was light, which was a perfect contrast to the warm cheese sauce that was poured over it. We also sampled the Scallops, Baked in a Shell and the starter portion of the Tagliolini, simple with cherry tomatoes and slivers of garlic. The scallops were fresh and delicious simply dressed with a garlic butter while the pasta was nicely seasoned.

Warm Soft Roll with Butter

Cheese Souffle

Scallops, Baked in a Shell

Tagliolini with Tomatoes and Garlic

On to our mains, we started with the Crispy Duck Leg, which was nice, beginning with that perfect crunch then making way to the tasty and tender meat. We also sampled the Braised Short Rib, which was really flavorful, hitting both sweet and salty notes.  Lastly, we wanted to try a few specials. They had fresh chanterelles flown in from France that week so we ordered the Chanterelle Tagliolini. This pasta was rich, creamy and really highlighted the chanterelle’s woodsy flavor. You can also order that same cream over a beautiful juicy rib eye (which I was lucky enough to snap a photo of) but we saved the little space we had left for dessert.

Crispy Duck Leg

Braised Short Rib

Chanterelle Tagliolini

Ribeye Steak with Chanterelles

Capping off the meal satisfying the sweet tooth, I ordered a Mango Pavlova and he, the Chocolate Tart.  Both were good enough, but not at par with the rest of the meal. And as you can tell, I have a bias toward more homey desserts.

Mango Pavlova

Chocolate Tart

After my husband’s much awaited tour of the whiskey room, a few friends met up with us for some cocktails. Again, this place transforms well from a fine-dining restaurant to a savvy bar for a more relaxed crowd. I was able to sneak a taste of the Masseto Pizza, found on the bar menu, which was thin and tasty.

Masseto Pizza

It is truly the perfect choice for a fun date or a night out with an intimate group of friends. Masseto is located in the SB Card Building, 114 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati. Call (02)8103565 for information and reservations.

Fluid for the Flooding

It is that time of year again when the rainy season is in full swing.  Though I live in a gated community, I am no stranger to the floods. My house is in a street that fills up pretty quickly when a bad storm hits. Though many see it as unfortunate that floodwaters have risen as high as 6 feet inside my home, I always have a safe and dry place to go when I evacuate. I am still one of the lucky ones. My heart truly breaks for all the victims that lose so much and don’t have the means to replace them or worse, fall into sickness, injury and sometimes, even death in the most severe of cases.

Though we see terrible typhoons every year, Ondoy hurt us more than ever before. Since then, it is only the recent typhoon Maring that has been comparable. This is a personal account of how it affected me:

I remember the rains beginning to get strong as early as Saturday, continuing on to Sunday. I came home from the whole day spent in my parent’s house to a part of the village already flooding slightly in some of the lower streets. Knowing the drill, we parked our vehicles in some of the higher streets and moved some furniture from the first floor to the second in case water levels rose in the night. And in deed, they did. Our street flooded but luckily the water just barely came into the house. On Monday, I came home early because the rains came at a steady pace. I wanted to cook something warm and hearty that we could continue to heat up and serve over the next few days. (More about this later) We enjoyed this meal for dinner and went to bed early. At around 3am Tuesday morning, I just knew that the rain would not let up. I had our guard dogs moved upstairs and my husband and I brought up a few more valuables. We tried to go back to sleep but the thunder and lightning together with the relentless rainfall kept us worrying. By around 7am the water had already become around 2 feet high inside our home.  It did not take much time before it doubled and decisions had to be made. Do we wait it out with not enough food and water for our family and staff or try to leave while we can? (Meaning before our front door gets completely covered) I, being what my husband calls a “high-strung and panicky woman”, had to get my children out. So calls were made and it was decided that we would go with whoever rescuers made it to us first.  My cousin Fred Gonzales lives a few streets down. He arrived (and when I say arrived, I mean he swam to us) with a blow up boat. My husband put our 2 older daughters in first, then I together with our youngest. The 2 men then swam us out to safety. I will forever be grateful to Fred for being so gallant and I will always see him as someone who truly saved us. When we were clean (doused in alcohol and a hot bath) and dry, I found out the VP Jejomar Binay and his son, Mayor Junjun Binay also came to our house with the intention to rescue us. Though we were no longer there, I would like to send my deepest gratitude. I know he did save many others who reside in my village.

I may have suffered, but nothing in comparison to those that are left helpless. I have added a link below to rappler.com where you can find all the relief efforts to assist those who need it most. Please send whatever goods you can, whether it is food, old clothes, blankets, pampers  or sanitary pads, medicine, first aid materials… ANYTHING. All will be a appreciated.

http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/33-editors-pick-moveph/36764-reliefph-help-typhoon-maring-victims

As promised earlier, here is my recipe for one of the most comforting dishes, a local version of Chicken Noodle Soup. This is always perfect to serve when the weather turns cold and a good way to include vegetables into your children’s meal.

Chicken Sotanghon

  • 3 bone-in Chicken Breasts, cleaned, skins removed and set aside
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 2 Celery stalks, one whole and one sliced
  • 1/8 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 handful of Atsuete (Annatto) Seeds
  • 1 Chicken Cube
  • 1 medium sized Red Onion, chopped
  • 1 Leek stalk, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 2 medium sized Carrots, julienned
  • 1 head of Cabbage, shredded
  • 1 package Sotanghon (Vermicelli) Noodles
  • Patis (Fish Sauce)
  • Salt & Pepper

I begin by placing 1 full celery stalk and 3 bay leaves in around 6 cups of water over high heat. Once it is boiling, I drop the chicken breasts. It usually takes the chicken around 20 minutes to cook.

While waiting, I proceed to make my atsuete oil, atsuete water and soup base. In a small pan, heat around 1/8 of a cup of vegetable oil and fry the left over chicken skin until golden brown. Once crisp, remove from heat and set aside on paper towels to drain oil. Lower heat, add a handful of atsuete seeds and sauté until the chicken oil becomes a rich orange-red color. Replace the small pan with a large soup pot, retaining the low heat then strain the atsuete chicken oil into the pot. While the oil heats, take the left over atsuete seeds and place in a bowl. Take a cup or two of the chicken stock (from the pot where your chicken is boiling) and put in the bowl with the seeds to make your atsuete water. Dissolve the chicken cube in the same bowl and set aside.

If chicken is cooked, remove from heat, shred and set aside. Keep the left over broth as it will be the stock for your soup.

By now, your atsuete oil is at a perfect low heat and you can add your red onion, leeks and garlic. You may add salt and pepper if you wish. Once tender, add celery, carrots and shredded chicken. Strain your atsuete water into this along with the left over chicken broth and bring to a boil.

While waiting, prepare your noodles. Soak the vermicelli noodles for around 5 minutes in water. Once tender, transfer to the pot along with the shredded cabbage. Season with patis, salt and pepper and let flavors come together for around 3-5 minutes. Mince the chicken skin set aside from earlier. Turn off the heat and serve immediately, topped with the crispy chicken skin.

Girl’s Night at Premio

My girlfriends and I try to see each other at least once a month. It started when we would watch our husband’s (or boyfriend’s) soccer games. Initially I would go with just my best friend and notice other ladies in the stands wearing their respective jerseys. It didn’t take long before we all got to know each other and formed a group. Not expecting anything, I was pleasantly surprised at how close we all became in such a short amount of time. Then on Tuesday nights when the boys had late night training, we began meeting for dinner and wine. It became a fun reason to get dolled up and really get to know each other. I remember the time clearly, I would put my kids to bed, put on a cute outfit and go to whatever new place just opened. Though it doesn’t happen as often anymore, we still remain close and try to meet up whenever we are all in town.

On this night, we ate in Premio which was recommended because one of the girls new the young chef. This night was quite memorable for me and I am so happy to share the beautiful meal that was prepared for us.

Selection of freshly baked Breads and Cookies

Freshly baked Pandesal with Red Wine Butter

Sliders

Smoked Salmon Blinis

Fried Chicken

Pumpkin and Bacon Soup

Chicken Tinola Soup

Mixed Greens

Lazy Braised Shortribs

Corned Beef Brisket

Tenderloin

Olive Oil Poached Salmon

Crispy Porkbelly Kare-kare

Panini

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Coats Milk Pannacotta

With some of my girls – Joanna, Nicole, Ines and Cooper

Premio is located in the G/F Unit C F1 Building, 32nd street, Fort Bonifacio

Turning Things Around at 30

Last June 27 was going to be a bad day. I think I had a pre-conceived notion that it would be because I knew I would be officially removed from my 20’s and (what felt like) thrown into my 30’s. My mind was made up and anyone who knows me can tell you that it is very difficult to reverse that.

As if on point, the day started out roughly, waking up with a terrible hangover from the festivities of the night before. Festivities meaning 2 vodka cranberries, 3 tequila shots, whatever was inside a drink called the lemon-strawberry (2 of those) and wine. I know, who is silly enough to mix all that? Well apparently me. So my head was pounding and my stomach felt like waves crashing. I got out of bed to my girls, excitedly waiting to wish me a happy birthday. Appropriately so since they were the highlight of my day. Then it was off to work where I had to proof read over 80 pages and overlook photos as well. By this point I swear I was seeing double. Finally feeling free of my over indulgent consumption from the cake my workmates so sweetly bought me, things were looking up. Until of course I got into the car and sat through an hour and a half of traffic… the very worst I have endured since I started this job. To make a long story short, the rest of the day continued on in a similar manner.

When I got home, I literally wanted to pass out. But my ever so forceful hubby wouldn’t have it. He told me I had no choice but to get dolled up for some alone time with him. So I did. I guess at that point I was appreciating that he wanted to do something special for me… I just had no idea how special.

I should have figured it out when I was blindfolded. He told me that he didn’t want me to see where we were going until we got there.  I was preoccupied with thoughts of being seen in public and giving people the impression that I was some obsessed ‘50 Shades Of Grey’ fan. When we finally hit our destination, I remember a long walk, which further sparked my curiosity and also built my excitement. Finally, I heard a door open and as I stepped inside, I was allowed to remove the tie I had covering my eyes…

SURPRISE!!!

My whole family and all my in-laws were there to celebrate with me.

He got the team of Cibo di M under one of my favorite local chef’s, Margarita Fores, to prepare a set menu and sit-down dinner for us. I am so happy to share this night with you all. A little disclaimer though: It being a surprise, I didn’t have my camera on me so these photos were taken with an iPhone.

We started with crostini topped with water spinach and gruyere and barquillios cylinder filled with chive mouse and ham crisp. This was being passed around as we enjoyed a light and bubbly prosecco.

As we finally settled down in our seats, the first course that was served was a simple salad of field greens, sliced apple and pear and Parmesan crisp with a guava jelly-balsamic vinaigrette. It was light and delicious.

Field Greens with Apples and Pears, Frico of Parmigiano Reggiano, Guava Jelly Balsamico Vinaigrette

Our second course was my favorite pasta from Lusso, definitely heavier on the tummy with an asiago and mushroom cream sauce over spinach taglierini and topped with parma ham. This is an indulgence I could eat forever.

Lusso Spinach Taglierini with Asiago, Mushrooms and Parma

The third course was slow roasted us beef belly with a pommery mustard glaze and red wine au jus. It was extremely tender and the perfect portion. It came with simple wing beans, red wine tomatoes and skillet potatoes.

Roasted US Beef Belly, Pommery Mustard Glaze, Red Wine Au Jus

Last but not least, dessert! Asides from the delicious birthday cake my mom made for me (Butter pound with expresso cream filling and marshmallow icing) we had a duo of salted caramel gelato and a dainty chocolate tartlet.

Salted Caramel Gelato and Chocolate Tartlet

So this was how my dear husband turned the promise of a very bad day around. If before I was worried about coming into my 30’s, largely due to vanity thinking of a slowing metabolism and the test of my skin’s elasticity, I now look to it with an open mind and so easily realize that all those matters which are on the surface, quite frankly, don’t matter. I have a wonderful family and am constantly surrounded by people who love me. And even if I wasn’t so blessed, this individual who adores me to the point of doing anything to make me happy, is all mine and he is truly one of the best gifts I have ever received.

My Family Table

My lovely husband, Armand.