Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gustare Kitchen -- A Private Dining Experience

It's quite ironic that with the plethora of dining options that have sprouted all over the city, we continue to look for that perfect little place, the next big thing, the undiscovered gem -- and once we find something that makes us say "eureka" or "voila" -- how quickly we lose interest and start off again on another search.
Perhaps other people "discovering" our little hideaway ruins it all for us.  Our little discovery is no longer just ours to enjoy.  

This time though, I am sharing a not yet widely discovered food treasure on this blog.  
Gustare Kitchen in the Fort Bonifacio area is actually a commissary that sells frozen food like lasagna, beef stroganoff, pot roast, various cheese spreads and dips plus luscious baked goodies like cookies, cakes and pies.  
The owner and chef proprietor is Ginny de Guzman, well known restaurateur and cook book author.  In addition to running Gustare, Ginny does consulting for local and foreign restaurants and this is her laboratory/kitchen/bakeshop/business base,  all rolled into one.
Because Gustare is a fully functioning kitchen, Ginny also accepts requests for private lunches and dinners.  The place is just big enough to accommodate 12 to 15 people for a sit down meal.

Gustare was the ideal venue for a lunch that I hosted for friends and family that had been percolating in my head for the past weeks.
Aside from eating -- another thing that I truly enjoy is traveling.  Hence this blog's title.
And while I often travel solo for business, I have been lucky to have had quite a number of travels shared with friends and family.
A lunch at Gustare shared with travel mates, with food that was iconic of special places we had been to was my theme for the occasion.
Could Ginny whip up a meal that would be a culinary journey -- that would take us from local (Ilocos and Negros) to foreign (Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo) all within a  few courses.

Thankfully, Ginny was more that intrigued than put off by my request.  Before the lunch started, she explained the journey our palates were about to take -- and she emphasised that she did not just create a fusion of the different cuisines I had requested for but chose specialties and tastes that would complement each other.

We started our trip with a visit to Ilokos and a taste of a distinctly Ilokano specialty -- poque poque.  While it may sound risqué, it is really just a creamy dish of eggplants, tomatoes and eggs.   To go with this, Ginny deep fried fresh tawilis -- perfectly bite sized so that you could eat each fish whole, from head to tail.

For soup, Ginny took us to Bacolod through this tureen of  KBL or as Ilonggos commonly know it,  kadyos, baboy at langka.  Like poque poque for Ilokanos, KBL is comfort food and a favourite of Ilonggos.  It is a mildly sour soup made with tender pork hocks or pata, kadyos or small beans and unripe langka or jackfruit.  

Time to fly our palates off to Paris! The main dish on the table was something that you would normally find in many french homes -- poulet roti au haricot vert or roast chicken with green beans.  It was perfectly roasted, juicy and redolent of herbs.

Because Hong Kong was part of the culinary trip, it was properly represented by a huge bowl of salted fish fried rice served with a side of XO flavoured chili garlic oil.  Ginny taught us to blend a small teaspoon of the oil with the rice for a bolder stronger taste.
The fried rice was the binding element that tied together all the flavours -- the creaminess of the poque poque, the tartness of the KBL, and the succulence of the poulet roti.
It was quite surprising that putting all these various culinary influences together made for a seamless and enjoyable taste experience.

While Ginny is a wonderful cook -- she is also more famous as a baker.  After all, she used to be the brains behind Sugar House.  Our culinary journey was not yet over.  For dessert, Ginny brought out two cakes specially made for my lunch -- this is a lychee cheesecake.
The cheesecake was infused with the mild and delicate flavour of lychee -- such a sublime pairing!

Who would have thought of a macha or green tea flavoured sans rival?  Only Ginny with her baking chops could pull this off.  The crunchy and chewy layers of sans rival were drenched with green tea goodness -- it was like having a cup of japanese green tea melt in your mouth.  Having this peerless green tea dessert to represent Tokyo, which is home to so many wonderful pastries, was truly inspired.

After almost three hours of non stop talking, laughing and of course, feasting -- our lunch "around the world" was at an end.  Thank you to Ginny and Gustare for granting my request and taking us all on a memorable and delicious culinary voyage!
Travel on!