Tag Archives: cheese

L’art du partage (The Art of Sharing)

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Anthony Bourdain once said in his Paris episode of The Layover, the biggest mistake anyone could make (and a surefire way to have a terrible Parisian holiday) is to over-schedule. I made that blunder several times before, which admittedly caused me to fall out of love with the city.

My first trip was in 2012 when I was wide-eyed and touristy, forcing myself to accomplish all the “must-do in Paris” items from a stereotypical guidebook (I climbed the Eiffel Tower and saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre). It made for great photos, but it was a “meh” experience. I had a succeeding trip that I called “disastrous”, which happened when I over-scheduled my itinerary in a similar fashion. My third trip was equally catastrophic, because we decided to cram two days’ worth of activities in one day.

That’s when I gave up. I got tired of Paris. I enjoyed the vineyards (and the people) in the wine regions of France, bien sûr, and saw Paris as just a means to get there. In fact, when I got invited to join one of my culinary BFFs/occasional client/partner in crime for all things gastronomy in Paris to do “research”, I looked at is as simply that: Research. Work.

Oddly enough, that’s when I fell in love with Paris all over again.

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Restaurant de Philippe et Jean Pierre, 7 Rue de Boccador, Paris 8e (photo courtesy of Chef Jonas Ng)

It happened like this: Given that my friend would spend most of his time working in one of the best Parisian restaurants, Restaurant de Philippe et Jean Pierre, I had most of my days free.

That’s when I decided to truly embrace Bourdain’s advice and do as little as possible in Paris.

Oh, and eat and drink my way through the city.

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But first, a café (near the Butte Chaumont park) to spend a few hours like a flâneur

Paris offers endless possibilities to fully immerse oneself in their food and beverage culture: One can live like a flâneur in cafés that have been around for hundreds of years, explore markets for amazing food and wine paring options, or sample endless amounts of epicurean delights…

But what is the key to understanding Paris’ love affair with food and beverage? Is it through immersing oneself in their rich culinary history that somehow seamlessly blends with an eagerness to push the envelope? Is it through the appreciation of their amazing technical and artistic skills? Is it through accessing beautiful fresh ingredients and authentic, regional wines, found anywhere from a neighbourhood Carrefour to an artisanal cheesemonger?

Personally, I think the answer lies somewhere in the art of sharing. As with everything else, the French have a lovely translation for the act of sharing that just rolls off the tongue: “Partager”.

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A carefe of Cahors and a Magret de canard from Chez Papa (our favourite branches are in Madeleine and in Bastille)

I came up with this theory after re-evaluating all my favourite moments in my Parisian trip… There was a time when I took my friend to one of our family’s best-loved restaurants for French comfort food (and thus letting him in on our little Parisian secret): Chez Papa. We split escargot, tripe, and their signature magret de canard with a carafe of Cahors (an appellation in southwest France famous for strong, red wines).

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Truffles and Champagne and Rose, oh my! Maison de la Truffe, 14 Rue Marbeuf, Paris 8e

 

We also shared this discovery: A restaurant that served different interpretations of truffle, Maison de la Truffe. We had a risotto with truffles, and the richest, prettiest foie gras terrine. We paired them a rosé (as a nod to the warm weather), and their house champagne… Then left room for dessert in the form of truffle ice cream. Granted, in books, none of these are classic food and wine pairings, but it all turned out so good. Afterwards, as a welcome respite, we decided to treat ourselves to ice cold Martini cocktails along the Seine.

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Yup, it’s possible to drink along the Seine

On our way to a house party, we saw the tail end of an event along the street. It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever seen: We saw locals having a blast sitting along the road, doling out glasses of impeccable white wine and shells upon shells of oysters to their friends.

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…or along the road. 

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It’s better to drink with good food (photo courtesy of Chef Jonas Ng)…

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…and with good company (photo courtesy of Chef Jonas Ng)

The house party we went to was hosted by people my friend met in Manila. It was an awesome night where opinions on culinary philosophies, tastes in music (where I learned about Wintergatan, a Swedish folktronica band), food, and wine were exchanged. I knew I was in the ultimate spot in Paris because that’s where I had some of the best home cooked vegetarian food I’ve ever had in my life (I’m not too fond of vegetables, but the way they prepared and cooked the food was amazing). We had wine (as one should in France) paired very casually (with none of the frills of making sure they paired accurately with the food). Plates were cleared to make way for delicious cheese… Followed by artistic and delectable pastries from one of the evening’s guests, famous pastry chef Gaétan Husson.

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Versailles Market

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The feast we prepared from our Versailles Market finds

Speaking of people my friend met in Manila, we also spent one morning in the Versailles market, where we were shown how to shop in a real French marché. I know I’m not talking about Paris anymore, but amazingly, it only takes less than an hour away via train from Paris to get to Versailles… It’s totally worth the travel to purchase some of the freshest produce, the best cheese and charcuterie, and to choose from a large selection of regional wine. We decided to grab some roast, figs, cheese, cold cuts, and a Monbazillac (my cheap alternative to a Sauternes for really strong cheese).

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A feast of thick, juicy steak, paired with a bottle of Pavillon du Glana Saint-Julien, Le Flamboire, 54 Rue Blanche, Paris

Cheese is so ingrained in French culture that they even have an expression for the appropriate consumption: “Pas de bon repas sans fromage”, which roughly translates to, “It’s not a good meal without cheese”. This is something I learned over dinner in Le Flamboire with someone my teacher (and friend) told me to seek out in Paris. Over some of the best, well-cooked steak I’ve ever had (thick as the side of a dinner fork), a bottle of Saint-Julien (in celebration of my return from Bordeaux), and delectable desserts, we swapped stories about how one’s mother’s cooking (whether it’s mousse au chocolat or kare-kare) is universally the best. He also taught me the “correct” way of eating crème brûlée (one should daintily break the crust first before taking a small bite).

 

“They are friendly, the French. They surround you with a civilised atmosphere, and they leave you inside of you, completely to yourself.” – Gertrude Stein, Paris France (1940)

So, what is the secret to understanding French gastronomy? Ask the French, they are more than willing to share it with anyone keen to understand and appreciate. Find someone to share a meal with you and talk about it… Or even listen to a vendeuse as she explains her charcuterie to you (she will most likely let you taste some). The key is to slow down and indulge your senses… In doing so, I discovered, not only did I fall in love with Paris all over again, but with life as well.


Special Thanks:

  • My buddy, Chef Jonas, for sharing Paris, photos, and friends with me (see him on the Lifestyle Channel in his show Chef Next Door, or spot him around his restaurant, Le Jardin, in Fort BGC)
  • Babette Isidro of Jeron Travel
  • Renato S. Dollete, Food and Beverage Manager of Etihad Airways
  • Tim and Justine for opening their home to us
  • Claire for showing us around her hometown
  • Eméric for sharing a beautiful meal with me 
  • Chia for taking me on an epic Parisian adventure

An Excerpt from The Diary of an Alcohol Specialist (Part 2)

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Part 2!


30 July 2016, Saturday

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No rest for the wicked: I got inquiries as to where to get Whispering Angel. Emailed the wonderful people of Premier Wines & Spirits, Inc. (I love working with them, their products are pretty exciting), and got the information… I’ll put it on a blog post on Monday.

Spent the day with Chad… I think we totally needed a weekend together. He has a lot of product launches over the next couple of weeks… A vacation is an absolute must.

I have a secret: People often think that I drink 24/7, but honestly (and especially during the weekends), I avoid alcohol altogether. It gets frighteningly easy for me to get my hands on alcoholic drinks, and I’m trying not to get sick of it or drink to excess.

 

31 July 2016, Sunday

Did I mention having no rest for the wicked?

I received word today that I needed to speak with Chef Jonas Ng for the Metro Magazine event on Tuesday. No complaints, but I knew I need to beef up the research I did on food and spirits pairing.

Thankfully, I got the confirmation when I was in Rockwell. I passed by Shu Uemura to book a makeup session for the event through EJ Mallorca, one of the best makeup artists in the business.

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Harry Potter and a Cognac before I go off to bed!

Got one of the last copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child… Here’s to hoping I could actually sit down long enough to read it.

It’s Sunday, so it’s laundry day… Hopefully I could give the dog a bath later and tidy up the condo.

 

1 August 2016, Monday

Wow. It’s August. Time flies.

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Food Pairing (from What to Drink With What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen A. Page)

 

 

Finalised research on food and spirits pairing and sent it to Chef Jonas.

Here’s what I got: Gin and Bagna Cauda (anchovies and crudités) to play with the dryness of the gin and the saltiness of the anchovies. Chardonnay and Tuna Avocado (because Chardonnay pairs wonderfully with both tuna and avocado). Single Malt with Smoked Salmon Rillette to complement each other’s smoky flavours. Cognac with Boudin Noir as an homage to a classic cognac-Foie Gras pairing.

I spent the morning holed up in my office. Yaya and the plumber had a final showdown. I wrote a play by play on my (personal) Facebook feed… It was hilarious. Needless to say, yaya won, and our toilet is finally working properly.

 

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Tested a food and beverage theory that regional drinks match food from that region (Tteokbokki + Soju = yum!)

Had some time for a proper breakfast (a rarity for me these days) with the last of the pomegranate juice I got from Hong Kong. I had a foot spa in Mich and Myl (their team is amazing), and a Tteokbokki dinner with some Soju. I liked how the extreme spice and touch of tartness paired beautifully with the Soju, but man… It was lethal for my tongue and liver.

Preserving my energy for tomorrow.

 

2 August 2016, Tuesday

It was one of those really, really busy days.

I got to Le Jardin Manila around 11 am for a meeting with Chef Jonas and sample the cheeses Rustan’s gave him. They were exquisite… I’ve always been partial to creamy, stinky blue cheese and goat cheese (some of which were included in the samples); so I knew I was going to buy some more from Rustan’s Marketplace after the event.

I dropped by the new Poco Deli branch in Fort BGC (behind Rox). I’ve always loved the vibe of their restaurants in Kapitolyo and Ayala Triangle, and the BGC branch was just as cozy. Their artisanal sausages were once again on point, paired well with affordable wines and excellent beer.

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The always entertaining Chef Jonas Ng of Chef Next Door (Lifestyle Channel every Wednesday nights!)

 

 

I went back to Rustan’s Marketplace in Central Square BGC for the Fête du Fromage event. I got to meet the CEO, Philippe Olivier Deplanck, who regaled us with wonderful stories about Rustan’s direction on their deli (so many exciting things happening!). Chef Jonas was entertaining during his discussion on cheese and wine pairing.

I went to Rockwell, had my makeup done by the fabulous Irene of Shu Uemura, and headed to 8 Rockwell for the Metro event. It was well attended.

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Deliciously crisp The Botanist Gin (available in S&R, and in Elbert’s, Curator, Mandalay, Exit Bar, Bondi & Bourke, Blind Pig, Pablo’s, and Hooch)

 

 

A few highlights: I fell HARD for The Botanist Gin. Distilled from handpicked juniper berries coming from one specific place in Islay, the gin was deliciously crisp. I went with the evening’s Russian bartender’s suggestion of having it with a slice of lemon and tonic water.

It changed my life.

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Bruichladdich (available in S&R, and in Elbert’s, Curator, Mandalay, Exit Bar, Bondi & Bourke, Blind Pig, Pablo’s, and Hooch)

Then, there was the Bruichladdich. First, I couldn’t pronounce it with the same conviction as Chef Jonas did (while he channeled his inner Sean Connery). Apart from that, it was a beautifully complex Islay scotch. See, whenever one talks about Islay, “intense smoke” and “peat” find their way into describing a typical glass… But this one was different. It was “unpeated”, so it still was floral, but with a subtle hint of smoke characteristic of the region’s scotch.

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A once in a lifetime opportunity to sample Hublot cheese #nomnoms

There was Hublot (yes, the watches) cheese, which we found out never goes on sale. Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot, makes about five tonnes of cheese in his farm in the Swiss Alps yearly, but refuses payment. He only gives the cheese to people or restaurants of his choosing. The cheese was elegant, flowery, and as exclusive as Hublot watches.

Brutally exhausted. Tomorrow, I have to map out a schedule for the blog (hopefully I get to follow it this time, eheh), help a friend move into the neighbourhood, and maybe catch up with my friend, Ines.


Phew! That was exhausting.

Speaking of busy, excuse me while I RSVP to a few events I’m looking forward to in a couple of weeks (all of which will be posted on the blog).

Cheers!