Saturday, September 13, 2008

Celebrations at The French Corner

Yesterday, we celebrated a birthday in the family at The French Corner*. (Thank you for the warm greeting and delicious birthday cake!)

"Happy Birthday Robert!!!"

This excellent restaurant in West Gate Center (Filinvest, Alabang, Muntinlupa City) is my favorite dining place when I feel like celebrating an extra special occasion or simply indulging the food lover in me. The ambiance of the restaurant, marked by beautifully engaging paintings, soothing lighting, tasteful music, and comfortable furniture, is elegant and cozy at the same time. The service is professional yet friendly and flawlessly spot on. And the food, right down to their coffee- quite simply superb. We've enjoyed every meal we've had there. They were always expertly prepared and exquisite in taste and texture and I'm pretty sure everything else in the menu is just as gratifying to the palate. While we wait for our meal, we are served with a bread basket of warm ciabatta and dinner rolls, accompanied with butter or minced bell peppers in olive oil. I munch through those deliciously crunchy slices of ciabatta in seconds. Fortunately, the attentive waiters and waitresses always promptly offer to refill our bread basket. Certainly. Seconds please!

The French Corner (read a related article from manilastandardtoday.com here.) also cater to functions like wedding receptions and I can personally attest that they do it impressively well. The staff was very patient and accommodating regarding the preparations, which came as a blessing to me especially during that point when I was at my wit's end as the wedding date neared (I believe every bride knows what I am talking about...). When we first went there to ask about their wedding packages, The French Corner's representative presented us with a number of set menus to choose from, all seemed delectable and reasonably priced. What I think won us over though is the fact that after sitting down with us over a cup of coffee, The French Corner's representative relayed our ideas and inputs to the Chef, who in turn customized a menu especially for us in a matter of minutes. We were so happy with how the menu turned out and how easy it was to make arrangements with them that we forgot all about our other reception venue options- a hotel, a country club, and another restaurant- and we closed the deal with The French Corner right away. Talk about commitment to customer satisfaction, The French Corner has definitely got it down to an art. When our wedding day arrived, this is what our guests were treated to, a piece of the wedding that they raved about long after it was over (Photo credits to Leah Taas for the following photos):

Baked Tuna and Salmon Roulade
With salad petite
in sesame vinaigrette dressing


Mushroom in Filo Pastry
With creamy yogurt-sesame sauce

Fillet Mignon
In bourguignon sauce
Served with gratin of potato and vegetables


Menu
(Dessert: Trio Chocolate Gateau; Drinks: Iced Tea)

On the big day, we were treated like royalty as the service staff made sure that everything ran smoothly during our special day. As if I haven't given you enough reason to want to hold your own wedding reception here- have I mentioned that no less than culinary genius Chef Billy King prepared the food?


*The French Corner
Creative Continental Cuisine
Lot 102-103 Home Precinct West Gate Center
Filinvest Alabang, Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila
Tel. No. (02)771-2345
Tel./Fax: (02)771-0549

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Easy Caldereta Paella

Being under Spanish Colonial Rule for over 300 years, Spanish influence in Philippine culture can be seen until today, despite the onslaught of modern globalization. It's in our architecture, our religious belief system, in our language, and our cuisine. It was this theme that was running in my brain ever since I saw a travel-documentary show on cable a few days ago and it made me crave for Paella. (Leave it to me to think about food during a history lesson...) Paella has developed a reputation for being a difficult dish to prepare and could get a bit pricey especially when you have them in authentic Spanish restaurants. Think saffron, esteemed to be the most expensive spice known to man.

Undaunted, I checked out a recipe online to make my own Paella at home. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of the ingredients on hand. But I did have some stuff in the pantry and ref that I thought would make a decent enough Paella to serve my own purposes. Fortunately, the recipe did well in satisfying my craving. And apparently even those of family members, who went back for seconds.

Easy Caldereta Paella from My Food Notebook

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
chicken pieces wing, thigh, and leg cut in half, and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 pc. cooked porkchop or liempo, sliced (left over grilled porkchop or liempo works fine)
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips (set aside eight strips for garnish)
2-3 chorizo de bilbao, sliced
1 package del Monte caldereta mix
1 tsp. Spanish Paprika
2 1/4 c. water
1/4 k. shrimps
cooked rice (about 6 cups)
1 c. green peas

Procedure:

In a big nonstick pan fry chicken pieces until golden brown. Take out fried chicken pieces from the pan and set aside.

Saute garlic, onion, bell pepper, and chorizo de bilbao. Pour in water and caldereta mix and stir until the caldereta mix is incorporated well in the water. Put in the cooked chicken and pork.

Add in shrimps. When the shrimps turn pink, take them out and set aside.

Add the cooked rice and peas, and season with paprika, stir to make sure the rice is evenly distributed in the pan. There should be a very thin layer of the caldereta sauce on top of the rice so adjust the amount of rice accordingly.

Arrange the cooked shrimps and remaining bell pepper strips on top of the paella. Bring heat to lowest setting to avoid scorching. Cover and let steam until the sauce has simmered away. About 20 minutes.

Serves 6

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Great Goulash

There's something about slow cooking food for a long period of time that appeals to me. Explains why anything braised on the menu would almost instantly catch my attention. My favorite bolognese sauce recipe courtesy of everybody's favorite talk show host, Oprah, takes about three hours to slow cook, and that does not include the prep time, sauteeing, and boiling away of additions of two kinds of liquids. That's why when I came across a Halloween episode of Martha a few days ago where she featured a recipe of Goulash (which she so wittyingly gave the monicker "Ghoulash") I decided that's what I want to have for lunch this Sunday. It took about 2 hours to cook but aside from that it looked very easy to make with only a few ingredients and a very short preptime.

I couldn't find the exact same recipe online but I did find a recipe named "Ghastly Ghoulash" from marthastewart.com. Strangely, it's not the same as the one I saw on TV. I chose to stick to the recipe on TV because it was a lot easier although I did make some changes based on some ideas from the Martha Stewart site, also, I added a few ingredients of my own and I got a gem of a Goulash meal.

Goulash

Ingredients:

Oil for frying
1 k. beef cubes (about 1.5 inches) seasoned with salt and pepper or Cajun seasoning
1 k. white onions, sliced
1/2 bottle McCormick Spanish Paprika
water to cover (Martha used prepared beef stock)
rock salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dash of Tabasco hot sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
1 small potato, sliced in 1/16 half-moons
1 carrot, cut in 1/4 inch thick matchstick sizes

Cooked fettucini noodles (Martha used Caraway egg noodles)

Procedure:

Season In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, heat oil until very hot. Sear seasoned beef cubes on all sides. Set aside. In the same pot, saute onions. Add seared beef and paprika.

Pour in water, enough to cover the beef and onions. Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce, and sugar. Stir until well combined. Lower heat to a simmer.

Cover and cook for about 1 1/2 hours. Add in the potato and carrot during the last 15 -20 minutes of cooking. Serve with cooked noodles.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

All-Filipino Beef Tapa, just like mother used to make

Beef Tapa is one of my favorite default meals on days when I can't decide what to eat. A lot of restaurants have their own versions of the Beef Tapa in their menus (flashback to Rodic's where they serve the most delightful Beef Tapa shredded to smithereens which brightened my lunch and dinners at the UP Shopping Center during my college years). Hardly the premium or rare food item, it is quite uncanny that some restaurants mark the Beef Tapa off as a specialty and priced it accordingly. A couple of restaurants, like Don Galo's and Tapa King, even go so far as building their entire food repertoire around this lowly meal. But the best Beef Tapa I've ever had in my life is the one my mom makes at home.

She takes a kilo of good beef sirloin and then soaks it for a good 24-hours in a marinade of crushed cloves of garlic (lots of it), crushed ginger (a big chunk of it), ground black pepper, sea salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and calamansi. The marinated beef is then pan-fried in vegetable oil until brown. You won't believe how amazing this smells when cooking. It's one of those smells of home that I will carry for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, my mom, probably much like most great chefs actually, is never a disciple of the exact cooking measurements school of thought, making sharing this recipe of the Beef Tapa quite tricky to do. But I've promised myself to make this my next cooking mission (and perhaps, a follow-up blog entry)- to quantify (or at least make a passable approximation of) the ingredients in my mother's Beef Tapa Recipe.
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