Monthly Archives: August 2015

Local Beer #lifehack

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Proudly #pinoy San Miguel Pale Pilsen

If there’s one thing my foreign friends could agree on (historical rivalries notwithstanding), it’s the love of our local beer.

Our French friend capitalized on this statement by seeking out a bottle of San Miguel the moment she returned to Manila. Even our British friend (who doesn’t drink, gasp!) has told me about her husband’s San Miguel beer consumption.

Despite the fact that our British friend doesn’t like alcoholic beverages, she knows a better use of San Miguel: tanning lotion.

I got over the scandal (I couldn’t wrap my head around the waste of perfectly good booze, or stop my imagination from running wild with disgust) just long enough to ask how she knew about this.

A friend of hers came over from England and checked into one of the hotels in Makati. As her friend sipped drinks in the hotel bar, the bartender struck up a conversation with her. She told the bartender she was going to sun herself by the pool the following day, so the bartender suggested trying San Miguel Pale (after a little sunblock) in place of tanning oil.

The following day, the woman ordered a margarita and a bottle of San Miguel, then took the bartender’s advice… She spent the afternoon tanning by the poolside with her San Miguel concoction, and ended up with the best tan she has ever had in her life.

Fair warning though, it’s still best with a little sunblock underneath to avoid too much UV exposure (and a bad burn).

This got me thinking about other uses for beer. After some research, I have discovered a few interesting ones:

  • Hair rinse (for added volume)
  • Highlighter (for hair)
  • Coffee and tea stain remover (for fabric)
  • Pot polisher (brass)
  • Fruit fly trap (and slug killer, bee killer, roach killer, mice killer…)
  • Jewelry cleaner (gold)

What other #lifehack do you know that uses beer? Cheers!

Sweet Things are Paired With Cheese

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One of the biggest questions people have when being invited to a wine and cheese gathering is this: What wine do I bring?

There are so many rules when it comes to wine and cheese pairing (hard wine for hard cheese, soft wine for soft cheese, regional pairing issues, etc.). This is further complicated by the fact that most of the time, people bringing wine to the party don’t really know what cheese is going to be served during the dinner.

A bit of a cultural context to be able to get us Pinoys to understand this better: In Europe, cheese is served towards the end of the meal. To be able to compensate for the sharp flavors, sweet wine is served with cheese. It sounds bizarre, but trust me on this: flavourful cheese is divine with elegant sweet wines.

My ultimate failsafe wines for these occasions can be any of the following:

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Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer from Germany

  • Gewürztraminer (from Germany or Alsace) – these babies are hard to miss in a store: by law, these are bottled in what I lovingly call the “ramp models” of the bottling world (tall, skinny ones). Gewürztraminer has feminine floral notes of roses, lychees, cinnamon, lilac, citrus (along the lines of oranges, lemons, and kumquats), tea, and honey.

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    Delicious Tokaji that can also go well with créme brulée

  • Botrytis Wines – carefully selected grapes infected by the noble rot are used to make these. As there is immense difficulty in the production, they can be a bit pricey in some regions (such as Sauternes in Bordeaux, where production can be made trickier by strict laws). An affordable and decent alternative is the Monbazillac (also from Bordeaux).
    You can go to a different country altogether and try a Tokaji (from Hungary). The more expensive Tokaji wines will have a higher puttonyos (sweetness level, ranging from 3-6) level or be labeled as Aszú Eszencia (these are made from 100% botrytis wines, therefore extremely difficult to produce, and PRICEY). The late harvest (or késöi szüretelésü) wines are not saccharine sweet, but can hold its own against cheese.
    Essentially, botrytis wines have notes of apricots, peaches, and honey… All neatly packaged in a golden, slightly thicker liquid.

What’s your favorite wine and cheese combo? Cheers!

Désolé!

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French regions represented (L-R): Burgundy (well, Beaujolais if you’re strict about it), Loire, and Bordeaux

I’m sorry for being gone for a while.

Last week, we were busy preparing for and conducting one of our first wine-lifestyle talks in our home. As you can see from the photo, the topic for the evening was French wines.

The middle wine is a favourite of mine, hailing from the same area as our friend does (who stayed over with us, correcting my French), a gorgeous Sancérre. The ultimate chismis wine, the acidity provides enough refreshment for a night of conversation with my ladies.

That being said, admittedly, this isn’t my post for the week. I’m working on an article about beer, and an article on wine and cheese.

See you tomorrow! Cheers!

Regional Pairing: Segunda Parte

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I was thinking about the best ways to do a proper Chilean wine pairing (to further substantiate my previous article), and I realised… I can’t do an authentic version at home. The ingredients in that part of the world are unique to their climate and surroundings, that admittedly, what I attempted to do was not as genuine (no matter how many times I hit it with merkén).

So, instead, let me talk to you about the real deal based from my experience in Morandé.

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Funky looking egg-shaped barrels

The store, restaurant, and cellar of Morandé are located in Casablanca, a few minutes drive from the capital, Santiago. It’s an ultra-modern facility, complete with concrete egg barrels. Egg barrels allow for a different mouthfeel with the wine: None of the wooden characteristics from oak barrels, none of the harsh textures from steel vats.

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Taken from Morande’s website

They also have a tienda (store) that I can only describe as a foodie’s dream come true (I was able to take home a bottle of Izzaro EVOO and an apron).

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Delectable amuse-bouche

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Big, fruity, powerful, and delectable

What really struck me about Morandé was their passion for gastronomy. They treated me to a fantastic lunch, a multi-course menu paired with their wines. It was, an epicurean feast: A lively, gentle, perfectly refreshing Morandé Reserva Pinot Grigio for their amuse-bouche, followed by a big, fruity, powerful Morandé Edición Limitada Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon.

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The icon wine, House of Morandé

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…Perfectly paired with roast pork

The showcase for the afternoon was their icon wine*, the House of Morandé. This breathtaking, robust beauty was in a class of its own: It does not beg to be paired with food, but can fabulously compliment red meat dishes. It’s a perfectly blended Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Syrah, and Carmenere wine, which harkens memories of lower-midrange Margaux wines.

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Dessert Sampler: The Perfect Ending

A dessert rule is to make sure that your wine is sweeter than the dessert, and a wine made using botrytis cinerea is perfect for it.

At the risk of sounding like an answer to my wine exam, botrytis cinerea is a fungus that attacks the grape berry, which would either cause grey rot (bad), or noble rot (good). Noble rot concentrates the sugars of ripe grapes, facilitating the production of the finest sweet wines (thanks, WSET textbook).

Technical, but bottom line is, botrytis dessert wines are gorgeous, succulently sweet, and often pricey.

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Morandeé Edición Limitada Golden Harvest

The Morandé Edición Limitada Golden Harvest dessert wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc, and the wonderful end result of having been subjected to the glorious noble rot is some of the most subtle flavors of apricot, honey, and smoke that went beautifully with the dessert sampler I was given.

Heavenly.

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I could have eaten and sipped wine here forever

The view from my seat during lunch was not bad, either. I would have sat there all afternoon, enjoyed glasses of wine, some conversation (in my broken gringa Spanglish), and the environment.

What are your favorite food and wine pairing discoveries? Salud!

*Icon wines are the most expensive, highest quality wines made in a particular wine house, often using classic grapes

        

Grappling Grappas

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It’s lethal.

It’s Italian.

It’s not one of the characters from The Godfather.

It’s… Grappa.

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The other thing that pops up in my head when “Italian” and “lethal” get put together in a sentence

I honestly don’t feel like there’s enough material on this drink for us Pinoys to figure it out, so I decided to share what I know about it.

Grappa is a distilled spirit (the same classification as gin, whiskey/whisky, vodka, etc) native to Italy. It’s made out of distilled pomace (the solid remnants of grapes, olives, or other fruit after it was pressed for juice or oil).

Pomace sounds fancy, but to give you an idea about other uses for it, pomace is commonly used as livestock feed, or fertilizer.

Grappa is traditionally consumed from a shot glass after dinner as a digestivo (Italian term for a post-dinner beverage that aids in digestion). Some people put it in a port glass; some people mix it in a cup of espresso (called caffè corretto or “correct coffee”)…

I smell dehydration.

#poorkidneys

Anyway, I never write about stuff I don’t drink (yes folks, my liver is always made available for “research”), so I decided to buy one from Epicurious.

Armed with a shot glass and a prayer (it’s 38% alcohol), I slowly sipped about a quarter of a jigger of the stuff.

It smells earthy, a little closer to olives, and the taste made me think of having prunes in an antique wooden closet. There was an element of sharp spices too, like hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.

One of these days, I will make bistecca and pomodoro at home, and then serve grappa as a proper after-dinner beverage. Hmmmm…

Taster’s note: I suggest putting a little water in spirits to be objective (and academic) about tasting. This kills that strong alcohol smell (which would overpower the nuances), and allows the fruits, spices, and other different characteristics to come out. This tasting method can be done with any spirit. Of course, drinking them for the sole purpose of enjoyment is entirely up to the drinker (on the rocks, neat, with soda water, etc).

Are you willing to give grappa a try? Saluti!

Regional Food and Wine Pairing

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One of the basic rules to consider when doing food and wine pairing is to do a regional pair. French wine with French food (you can even go so far as to recommend wines from Burgundy with their food), American wine with American food, and so on.

I’ve been missing Chile for a while now, and I decided to prepare a pseudo-Chilean fare for a dinner with a friend.

OK, so the food didn’t go with the guest (Oli is French)… But to be fair, she has spent some time in South America, so I thought the food would still be interesting to her.

I prepared some jalapeños with feta cheese (an appetizer I learned from my hosts in Uva Dulce), grilled salmon with merkén (a recipe I learned from the funny gentleman who drove me to the airport), some quinoa, and a first attempt at gumbo (ok that one’s American, but we saw The Princess and The Frog over the weekend and I was hankering for some New Orleans food).

Since most of the food was (almost) Chilean, I decided to pair it with Carmenere (click here for a closer look at the grape).

After getting a tip from a chef friend on how to make roux, Schrumpf decided to startle me, making me nearly screw up the gumbo by dropping an unnecessarily large amount of flour (thank goodness the broth saved the day). After momentarily (roughly an hour) having a panic attack because it coagulated, got rescued, then took FOREVER to turn brown, I ended up making a pretty decent (and Chileanized with merkén) gumbo.

The salmon turned out fine (phew), and the jalapeños pleasantly surprised both Chad and Oli.

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Terrapura Carmenere

I would normally pair a predominantly seafood menu with white wine (not to mention something needed to compliment all the spice), but the Carmenere pairing went well. The cherry-strawberry notes cloaked by a subtle touch of black peppers went nice with the food… Made me think of all my adventures in Chile, which we discussed over dinner, along with Oli’s stay in Colombia.

Makes me think of what regional pairing to do next… Salud!

For the Love of Things Austen-tea-cious

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I have been going through a crazy borderline psycho Jane Austen phase (you know who you are, this is your influence). 😉

Chad initially bought us frou-frou teacups because of my Downton Abbey phase a couple of years ago (why did they kill Matthew?!? WHYYYYYYY?!?), but because Jane Austen… I (re-) fell in love with the art of British tea service, this time during the Regency era.

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Rustan’s Makati rocks

That being said, Chad decided to be a super awesome husband and complete our 100 Years of Royal Albert tea set, adding 1950-1990 to our existing 1900-1940 set (yay, Rustan’s Makati).

To fully be immersed in the art of Regency tea, here are some tidbits to read about while enjoying your afternoon cup:

  • Tea used to be expensive during the Regency period. The economic situation at the time (named so because of King George III going “mad”, thus leaving his son, the prince regent to rule the country in the background) was the aftermath of civil war, the beheading of King Charles I, Oliver Cromwell becoming Lord Protectorate of Britain… Chaos, chaos, chaos.
  • However, it was the return of the monarchy that made tea popular in court (and thus aspirational), in the person of Catherine Braganza (the wife of King Charles II). This was part of her dowry.
  • In the Regency period, the popular chinaware was Wedgwood. These were created in the company founded by Josiah Wedgwood, who revolutionized the art of pottery.
    While I was doing research on him, I realized that the antiques Chad and I bought from Bangkal were later forms of his work (not the real ones, these are remakes, I’m sure).
  • The term “high” in high tea was derived from a place. The most common street name in America is Main Street. In Britain, it’s High Street.
    In the beginning, to have “high” tea is to have “mainstream” tea… In fact, for a time, it was attributed to a farmer’s supper.
    So, initially, there was nothing fancy about having high tea.
  • In the Regency era, tea was drunk for breakfast and after dinner. Dinner was late… Around 8-9pm. Because of this, around 1840, the Duchess of Bedford kept feeling very hungry in the late afternoon. So, she came up with the practice of having her servants bring her tea with toast fingers and little cakes. Voila, the birth of having finger food with tea.
  • As this practice of the Duchess of Bedford became fashionable, tea drinking slowly became ceremonial. The lady of the house would serve each guest tea, and the footman would give the cups to each guest. Tea service began with tea sandwiches, sconces, fruit breads, and muffins. Fancy cream cakes and petit fours would follow.
  • Milk tea happened because teacups were so delicate at the time, and they would crack because of the hot liquid. To avoid breakage, milk was first poured into cups, followed by tea.
  • In true romantic Jane Austen style, there was an old British superstition that if a loose-leaf tea goes through the strainer and into a lady’s cup, she would meet her true love that day.
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Milk tea made from an Assam blend tea, cream, and stevia. Did tea leaves go through my strainer? 😉

What is your favorite tea trivia? Here’s to hoping that you get to find your own Mr. Darcy… Or Ms. Bennett. Cheers!

Satisfying (Epi)curiosities

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Chad and I rarely go to Ortigas/Pasig… We have precious few moments to spend with each other during weekends, and somehow, braving the legendary Metro Manila traffic is not the way we want to bond.

What made our trek to Shangri-la Mall last weekend worthwhile (apart from watching the latest installment of Mission Impossible) was Epicurious. It’s a part-restaurant, part-deli concept that sells a surprising selection of items, perfect for the thrifty (read: #kuripot but #hardcore) wino in you.

Here are some of our finds:

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  • Egot (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)

    This bottle made me realize that when it comes to certain wines, I have no EQ. I impatiently opened the bottle the evening after we bought it, just because I heard of the brand ages ago and was dying to find out what it was like.

    The smell and taste had the usual suspects (in relation to what was stated in the bottle): the blackcurrant smells from the Cab, unmistakable hints of raspberry from the Merlot, a touch of masculine scents like cedar and oak (quintessential old world touches)… Stark acids that gave way to a smooth, light bodied texture after a couple of minutes of aerating.

    I checked the back of the bottle and I encountered the word Rubicone for the first time.

    Rubicone (or Rubicon in English) is a river in Northeastern Italy once famously crossed by Julius Caesar (thanks, Wikipedia). This means that it’s in the Emiglia-Romagna region of Italy, famous for making sparkling reds (sparkling Lambrusco, to be specific), and affordable Sangiovese.

    The wine is interesting, multi-faceted, and a good bang for your buck (less than 700PHP for the bottle).

  • La Castellina Wine

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    I am partial to this wine for many reasons:

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    Lovely back alley somewhere in Castellina di Chianti, Italy

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    Accidentally discovered La Castellina’s cellars in the alley… After breakfast 😉

    1. Chad and I actually visited the cellar by accident in Castellina di Chianti during our honeymoon. I find that wines smell like the places they come from, and this particular Chianti (apart from the notes of cherries, violets, vanilla, herbs, and spices from the Sangiovese) is no exception. There’s a tiny whiff of masculine, damp wood and earth that slowly creeps up on you… A scent that reminded me of the actual cellar, and the “I don’t care if it’s not breakfast food” homemade Tagliatelle we had in a little alley (which was where the cellar was located) we randomly picked from our GPS (thanks Tomtom).
    2. Traditional Chianti bottles are made in the Fiasco style, which makes them short, round, and encased in a straw basket. I personally love these bottles because they look so nice to use as home décor. La Castellina’s vintage (year of harvest) is handwritten on the bottles, which adds to the charm.
    3. This is cheap! Under 700PHP for a half bottle. Not bad.
  • Schott Zwiesel Decanters

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    Fancy…


The main purpose of using a decanter (decanting) is to separate sediments (a grainy material that settles on the bottom of a wine bottle over time) from the “clear” portion of wine. Sediments don’t change the taste of the wine, but the grainy texture can be a disconcerting while drinking wine.

I like traditional decanters. Schott Zwiesel is a good brand for glass decanters and wine glasses. It is an investment, but absolutely worth it.

What’s your favourite recent wine buy? Cheers!

Chia!

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When I first encountered the word Chia, it was in relation to things that grow on terracotta figurines (as in Chia Pets, like so).

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Massive jar of Chia seeds

Chad and I stumbled upon Chia Seeds from a booth in Salcedo Market a few Saturdays ago, and we were blown away by the amazing health benefits it has:

  • It has tons of Omega-3 (good for the heart), more calcium than milk (awesome for bones, a healthy alternative for mildly lactose intolerant people, like me), loads of iron (I’m anemic so I’m loving this), antioxidants, lots of potassium (perfect for people who work out and cramp easily), and magnesium (what I need to make my liver healthier)
  • Lowers blood cholesterol
  • Balances blood sugar
  • Enhances energy (the sleepyhead/lazybones in me rejoices)
  • Aids in weight loss (yay!)

A way to introduce this to one’s diet is through adding it to beverages, including juices.

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Pretty colours!

I decided to give it a shot. I juiced dragon fruits (pink and white), pineapples, apples, and oranges. I came up with the most colorful juice I’ve ever seen. It was deliciously refreshing, and (psychosomatic or otherwise) I felt healthier.

How do you use Chia seeds? Cheers!

*Saturdays in Salcedo Market, Sundays in Sidcor Market (Centris Station). Interested buyers (they have a massive selection of health food items) can contact Rich at +639277137977, ostrows7@yahoo.com. Free delivery in Makati. 😉