February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
Davao. Home to some of the country’s pride— the world’s largest bird, the monkey-eating Philippine Eagle and a rare orchid of exceptional beauty, the waling-waling— both found in Mt. Apo, Philippine’s highest peak. But there is more to Davao than these. Let’s not forget the “king of fruits”, durian. The area is known to be the center of durian production, thanks to its rich fertile volcanic soil and until recently, typhoon-free area. But more than durian, Davao is favored with other fresh, quality produce and fruits that are available all year round— pomelo, banana, mangosteen, lanzones, rambutan, mongo, peanuts, cabbage eggplant… among others.
The city is a fascinating mix of small town allure and modern metropolis refinement. A metropolis inhabited by 1.4M people of different ethnic groups, culture and faiths. The city teems with good food and on my not so very recent trip there, I discovered a few worth mentioning.
Along JP Laurel Ave., in Lanang is a deli and restaurant offering fine sausages, cured meats like bacon and hams, a selection of cheese, US and Australian steak cuts and even ostrich meats. Owned by a butcher and a baker, Swiss Deli has been around since 2005 catering at first to expats and Davao’s upper crust. Today, they supply some of the bigger supermarkets nationwide. On my visit, the restaurant was packed for lunch.
Claude’s Le Café de Ville
We drove into a driveway of a well-lit ancestral house. The garden well polished, the interior emulates the facade with old photos gracing the walls and well-appointed antique pieces scattered around.
My favorite part of the house would be the porch— what a wonderful way to be greeted.
This house epitomizes old world elegance through and through. An ancestral home of the Oboza family (also called the Oboza Heritage House) now dwells the only full-service French restaurant in Davao, Claude’s Le Café de Ville.
Complementing its charming home are wonderful dishes served from its kitchen headed by husband and wife team Claude and Tess Le Niendre. I had the Crab Cocktail to start and the specialty of the house, the Fillet of Beef Tenderloin with Pepper Sauce.
The crab appetizer was excellent, and my main, albeit a bit overcooked for my taste (it was more medium well than my preferred medium), was tasty and still juicy.
A pretty authentic French restaurant in Davao was definitely a pleasant surprise.
Malagos Farmhouse Artisan Cheeses
Davao surprises me, I tell ya. After an evening of wonderful French feasting, we were on our way, the next day, to buy artisan cheese. This wasn’t the first time I had tried cheeses from Malagos and so impressed I was, I had to find them and see what else they had to offer.
Olive Puentespina, the woman behind Malagos Artisan Cheeses, has been producing cheeses since 2006. All made from hybrid cows and goats from their dairy farm.
A cheese spread was laid out for us to try over at the farmhouse—from quesong puti, to flavored chevres, to manchego blue—an unbelievable spread, all proudly made in Davao.
Personal favorites are: Queso Rustico (semi-soft cow’s milk similar to a manchego), Blush (Queso Rustico with a tint of blue), La Maria (similar to a camembert), Feta tricolor (feta with chili and rosemary, infused fresh), and the Chevre with mango (a blend of creamy French style goat cheese with sweet mango bits).
For wonderful pasta and pizza, Spirale Ristorante will not disappoint. Thumbs up for the Vongole ai Chorizo (a wonderful combination, don’t you think?) and the pizza, which is cooked in a wood-fire oven. Crust was doughy yet crispy.
Chicco di Caffe
For their Durian Brazo di Mercedes. Yum!!! Anything durian is possible in Davao. I had my first taste of durian in an ice cream in Davao some 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I. Adore. Durian.Swiss Deli JP Laurel Ave., Lanang, Davo City +6382 234 0271 Claude’s Cafe de Ville 29 Rizal St., Paseo de Habana, Davao City +6382 305 2635 / +6382 222 4287 Malagos Farmhouse Bolcan St., Agdao, Davao City +6382 226 4446 Spirale Ristorante Damaso Complex Angliongto Road, Lanang, Davao City +6382 234 6298 Chicco di Caffe Gen. Douglas MacArthur Hwy, Davao City +6382 305 3534 Faura St., Davao City
December 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
Last month was a month of total devastation in my part of the world, devastation that is unexpected by many, me included. The most powerful tropical cyclone of the year hit our shores on November 8. Super typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, smashed into most of the Visayas and some parts of Luzon in central Philippines, affecting more than 10 million people.
Survivors stand among debris and ruins of houses destroyed after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013. Credits: Reuter: Erik de Castro
With winds that clocked in at average strength of 196 mph (314 kph), Yolanda’s rampage left a city and many islands in ruins, a population with no homes, and countless bodies still being found almost a month after.
I am writing this in the safety of my home, 850km away from the disaster zone. I shuddered at the thought of what it would have been like if it had hit the metropolis and I count my blessings. I do my best to help in every little way I can – donations, feeding the volunteers, and eventually feeding the survivors that found their way to Manila. Not enough, if you ask me, but what is enough?
This turn of events has left me heavy-hearted and shaken, and I turned to one thing that always calms me. I baked.
I’ve always wanted to make Tarte Tatins – a killer sticky sweet caramel-topped French treat that was originally made with apples. Many, through the years, have twisted the recipes to use different fruits – pears, bananas, peaches, pineapple – I chose to use guavas. Guavas are heavenly when preserved in sugar.
It is one of the easiest to make but likewise one of the hardest. This tart is made upside down by cooking the fruit in butter and sugar in a heavy-based oven-proof skillet, then topped with pastry before baking. That’s the easy part. The hard part is flipping the tart (down side up) without making a mess and burning oneself.
I used two large guavas, which, I think could use more. So depending on the size of the guavas, you may choose to use three large guavas.
Guava Tarte Tatin(recipe adapted from Deb of Smitten Kitchen)
What You Need:
- 2-3 large Guavas (I used Apple Guavas)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter
- 1 1/3 cup (266 grams) sugar, divided
- Puffed pastry, chilled
- A 9-inch ovenproof skillet, heavy enough that you fear dropping it on your toes
What You Do:
- Peel guavas, cut lengthwise into quarters and core (you don’t want the seeds). Then cut a bevel along their inner edge, which will help their curved exteriors stay on top as they rest on this edge.
- Toss guavas with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes to help release the guava’s juices.
- Melt butter in an oven-proofed skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle in remaining (1 cup) sugar and whisk it over the heat until it becomes a pale caramel color.
- Off the heat, add the guavas to the skillet, arranging them rounded sides down in one layer. Lay any more guava wedges left rounded sides down in a second layer, starting from the center.
- Return the pan to the stove and cook in the caramel for another 20 to 25 minutes over moderately high heat. With a spoon, regularly press down on the guavas and baste them with the caramel juices from the pan. If it seems that your guavas in the center are cooking faster, rotate guavas. The guavas will shrink a bit by the end of the cooking time.
- Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Roll out your puffed pastry to a 9-inch circle and trim if needed. Cut four vents in pastry. Remove skillet from heat again, and arrange pastry over guavas. Tuck it in around the guavas for nicer edges later. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- Once baked, use potholders to place a plate or serving dish (larger in diameter than the pan) over the pasty and tip over the pastry and guavas at once onto the plate. If any guavas remain in the pan, nudge them out with a spatula.
- Serve warm with a dollop of whipped crème fraîche, or lightly sweetened whipped cream.
- Try other variations: bananas, pears, apples (of course) — although I haven’t tried making any of these yet.
- If you don’t have an oven-proofed pan, cook the fruit in a heavy based frying pan, then transfer them into a similar sized pie dish and top with pastry before baking.
- You can cook this one day ahead, keep it in the mold and reheat in a preheated oven at 150°C for 20 minutes but it is best 1 hour after cooking when still warm.
August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” — George Bernard Shaw
Have you ever been instantly charmed by a place, its food, that all you want is to share it with everyone that matters to you? Luang Prabang has that effect on me that I was back in no time with Anton in tow.
Set in the confluence of two rivers that almost surround the town, Luang Prabang is a medley of traditional wooden houses and European architecture, one of those cities oozing with charm. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the pressures of mass tourism development have been held at bay, which lends to its allure.
Along with its culture and tradition, one of its greatest attractions is its food. Restaurants line Sisavangvong Road and the roads along the two rivers.
Options include traditional Lao dishes to fine French cooking. A remnant of the country’s colonial era – centuries of occupation and colonial rule by the French, Luang Prabang boasts of some good French restaurants. And this, my friends, is one major reason for a revisit. Four years is long enough.
I went back to relish once again a satisfying gastronomic delight. L’Elephant is a long-standing restaurant pioneering a culinary renaissance in Luang Prabang, serving mainly French food although menu includes local options too. It is housed in a typical 1960’s colonial building, a stone’s throw away from the Mekong. Twirling fans, high ceiling, and wooden chairs look like a set straight out of “Casablanca”. Wonderful ambience paired with good food leaves a lasting impression and so there we had our first leisurely meal.
The owners, French-Lao Yannick and Frenchman Gilles, first opened L’Elephant Restaurant in 1999 when Yannick’s grandmother proposed that he come back from France and open a business in her building. Tourism was on the rise then so he agreed. What was originally supposed to be a guesthouse became a restaurant instead. Three more restaurants around Luang Prabang followed after.
They use fresh local produce grown in their own garden, which is probably why most of what comes out of their kitchen are remarkably delicious.
We had for our starter Carrots from their garden with Orange, Lime and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette. Most refreshing.
Escargots de Bourgogne – French snails baked in parsley and garlic butter. So simple yet it possesses such amazing flavors – a favorite.
For our main: Roasted Boneless Quail stuffed with Luang Prabang mushrooms for Anton. Superb if you like strong flavors.
Fillet of Mekong Perch in Coriander Sauce for me. Laos being land locked and has only rivers flowing through, river fish are almost always on menus. Although they tend to taste muddy, this dish has a clean taste, the coriander sauce adding a nice citrus-herb tang.
An indulgence no doubt as this could probably be the most expensive meal we had in Laos but the splurge was worth it.L’Elephant Restaurant Ban Vat Nong, Luang Prabang, Lao P.D.R For reservations: +856 71 252-482
June 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
Armed only with a list of restaurants and a map, we walked the streets of Vientiane one January morning not quite aimlessly but with very loose plans. We inquired at Papaya Spa on their treatments (we might want a massage later in the day), appreciated beautiful art pieces at a gallery (which we can’t afford space-wise and pocket-wise), admired some beautiful houses/guesthouses along the way… then we spotted 2 of the restaurants at the top of our list right beside each other. Divine providence, I say, so we pushed our luck and actually got a table where reservations are usually required.
Makphet is a charitable establishment that trains street children to acquire marketable skills – to cook and to wait tables. Friends International, which also operates in Phnom Penh, teaches them the skills of the restaurant trade in trying to bring a sustainable improvement in their lives. A good cause and more importantly, excellent modern Lao dishes is definitely a formula for success.
The server-students who enthusiastically served and replied to our queries charmed us so that we went for their recommendations. Red Hibiscus & Lime Breeze caught my eye. We call it gumamela where I come from. The tangy, fruity drink is wonderful to quench off the spiciness of the dishes.
Sharing borders with Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, China and Cambodia, Lao food has strongly influenced (and vise versa) the neighboring cuisine of Thailand and Vietnam.
Their Grilled Beef Fillet wrapped in betel leaves is their take on a typical Vietnamese dish. Seasoned beef wrapped in betel leaves and then grilled. The slight peppery aroma of the betel leaves is a wonderful complement to the beef.
Next to arrive was a Crispy Fried Mekong Fish they call Ancient Fish. It went really well with the Sweet and Sour Tamarind sauce (as fried fish always do) and the side of Green Mango Salad that came with the dish.
A winner in my books, the kaffir leaves and the side salad set it apart from all the fried fish dishes I’ve tasted.
Have you ever tasted sticky rice not as a dessert but just as rice? A staple in Laotian cuisine – everything tastes so much better with it. I’m actually missing it now.
The hibiscus (a favorite of the day, I swear) sorbet and coconut ice cream was the way to go to clean the palate after a medley of strong flavors. Topped with delicious meringue, this baby had sweet, sour, cool and crunchy goodness all in one. Love.
Reservations are recommended or like us, be there early and you might get lucky if all you need is a corner table for 2.
L’Adresse Cuisine by Tinay
Being a former French colony, the legacy is apparent in Laos such that French restaurants are common and popular. L’Adresse de Tinay next door is the new kid on the block, so to speak. The French-Lao chef Tinay and French wife Delphine Inthavong are the couple behind this casual French bistro. When we walked over to make our reservations for dinner, Delphine asked us to pick our table.
We were so looking forward to indulge in French food after a tiring afternoon. We walked in at exactly 7pm; we were shown to our table.
Unbeknownst to us, this young gentleman in black who was taking our order was actually Chef Tinay who trained in France and came back home to open his restaurant.
Goat Cheese Rolls: Tinay’s Specialty has 7 crispy Goat Cheese rolls with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Tapenade, Pesto, Thyme, Honey, Cherry Confitures, and Sweet Chili Peppers
He has a seasonal menu, which might include his signature goat cheese rolls.
The restaurant is well-lit and has a modern yet welcoming feel; his seasonal menu is written on a huge blackboard on the wall. A small room houses a selection of wines. The seating outside is more casual and dark with only the light from inside and some candles lighting each table.
We were wowed from start to finish. I thought that the bread with the tomato sauce dip was clever – simple yet divine.
We were ecstatic to see escargot on the menu – it has 6 snails on 3 bruschettas with scrambled eggs and topped with parsley cream.
I had Grandma Lydie’s Special cassoulet with home-made duck confit. The cassoulet is made up of haricot beans, a superb tasting Toulouse sausage and simmered in a sweet garlic cream. Thank you Grandma Lydie, your cassoulet was sublime.
The rack of lamb was juicy, tender, crusty and perfectly pink. Herbs were not overpowering but rather complemented this beautiful piece of fatty goodness.
Need I say more?
And for dessert, we shared a crème brulee with vanilla from Madagascar. I’m not sure now if both crème brulee and ice cream had vanilla from Madagascar. Whichever the case, it was heavenly.
Anyone who serves Limoncello will always have a place in my heart and this one in particular came with the bill with their compliments– homemade by Delphine. Beautiful restaurant, lovely personal service, excellent food, reasonable prices, a nice wine selection – I’m willing to bet that this neighborhood French bistro will go a long way.
Suffice to say that our day in Vientiane went really well particularly in the food department. Only on our first day and we were already wowed.Makphet Parallel to Sethathirat Rd, Chanthabouly District (behind Wat Ong Teu) Opens Mon-Sat 11am-2pm and 6pm-9pm only +856 (21) 260-586 L’Adresse de Tinay Parallel to Sethathirat Rd, Chanthabouly District (behind Wat Ong Teu) +856 (20) 5691-3434