“OH nononono, these were made by the chef while waiting,” our server cheerily told us.
We had suffered through horrible traffic from road closures in the city, and to make matters worse, the wind had descended determinedly on Paradise Island,
the romantic outcrop of coral by the beach at Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa. Once the cocktail tables were knocked down, we absconded to the confines of Acqua, the venerable Italian outlet of the property.
With time on his hands, Chef Alessandro Dal Zotto had whipped up these dainty little starters, off the menu, and delicately arranged just like their flavors. Prosciutto on top of a melon slice, a departure from the wrapped versions…and salmon, with a sprig of dill. Wine, of course, was poured as soon as I hit my seat. A beautiful rosé perfect for the occasion, after all this was a preview of Valentine’s dinner. And in literally high spirits, we were not to be dampened.
The soup, it turns out, was perfect for the cold. Served cappuccino-style with a potato foam, the pumpkin soup hid a nice surprise at the bottom: a chunk of lobster.
Chef Alessandro’s addition of biscotti drew a nice line between two cultures: Filipinos dunk their bread into their drink, too.
As a novice in photography, beautiful plating on the dish only makes my job easier. Or so you would think. I tend to take too many shots of one dish, and because they all turn out so beautifully, I find myself in a quandary all the time: which one to use? I recommend patience on that night, when the phone cameras come out to capture the chef’s exquisitely Instagram-mable dishes, because someone is bound to take a while before digging into their 5-course dinner. Take the tortelli, the pasta dish for the Valentine’s menu: light because it is stuffed with red snapper, it was laid out like a color palette for some Italian painter in greens, whites, and the rich yellow of saffron.
“You’ve prepared a very expensive menu,” I tease the chef as he pops in between courses, noting his use of black truffle on the seared scallop starter and the saffron cream (one of the most expensive spices) on the pasta. “Well, it’s Valentine’s,” he shrugs, and then disappears to check on the main course.
This, I must say, was a beautiful balance. “It’s apple puree,” notes a visibly delighted Antong Inting. And here, we imitate the judging panel at these ubiquitous cooking shows. Ah, the acid from the apple, which we mistook for mashed potatoes (on no, not in this special menu), cut perfectly into the pan-fried beef. I had mine medium rare, taking after Vanessa Gamus, who does enjoy the finer things when it comes to her cuisine. The marsala wine glaze on that filet, that hint of fruit and bitter, just made everything come together like a great coupling. In keeping with the season, thank you.
But by far our favorite of the night was the little pot of dirt and a sprig of mint set before us.
Our server, with a confident grin that comes before a good surprise, reads my mind and quietly announces: tiramisu.
Valentine’s dinner had now come to a full circle. An evening that typically begins with “pick you up at 7?” ends with the signature dessert that is Italian for, oh yes…”pick me up.”
(Get spoiled with a variety of nooks and packages for Valentine’s dinner at Shangri-La, all priced per couple: the six-course dinner at Paradise Island for P20,000; five-course dinner at the beachfront, Observatory, Gazebo or Acqua Veranda at P15,000; meanwhile, five-course dinners with a glass of wine at Acqua is only P4,000 per couple and P5,000 at Cowrie Cove. Book now to avoid the rush and make that someone special very, very happy. Call 231-8224 now.)
Making the cover for Cebu Living Magazine
THE first issue of Cebu Living Magazine for 2016 is called Young Blood, harking to the popular column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Two days ago, the team from Manila headed by Managing Editor Denise Alcantara flew in for the cover shoot. The Henry hotel’s hip vibe was the perfect backdrop for the three young bloods we have lined up for you. Their stories are as inspiring as their youth is intoxicating: one is passionate about his pizza and a restaurant that is gaining quite the buzz; the other is partnered in a venture that has revolutionized the humble bamboo; and the only girl on the cover is a wisp of one, but has heft in online influencing.
I’m being a tease because we do a big reveal on the 20th of February at another Cebu Living event at 32 Sanson. To keep updated on the details of this sunset party, follow Cebu Living Magazine on Instagram: @cebulivingph.
Meanwhile, here are shots of what goes on in the making of a cover.